Article in the Plymouth Herald 1st April 2020. See https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/ex-royal-navy-commanders-question-4011611
They say spending billions deploying and modernising the nuclear Continuous At Sea Deterrent is ‘completely unacceptable’ when UK faces COVID-19 threats
Three former Royal Navy Commanders are among those calling into question the deployment and replacement of Britain’s nuclear ‘Continuous At Sea Deterrent’in a letter sent to MPs.
Commander Robert Forsyth RN (Ret’d), a former nuclear submariner and a signatory to the letter, commented: “It is completely unacceptable that the UK continues to spend billions of pounds on deploying and modernising the Trident Nuclear Weapon System when faced with the threats to health, climate change and world economies that Coronavirus poses.”
Commander Forsyth was second in Command on a Polaris submarine, Trident’s predecessor, commanded two other submarines and the Commanding Officer’s Qualifying Course
Tom Unterrainer, Director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation which circulated the letter, commented: “This pandemic and the inability of the British government to either prepare for or effectively respond to such an immediate threat to life demonstrates the twisted priorities at the heart of nuclear weapons spending.
Rather than work to guarantee real security this government prioritises the acquisition and deployment of weapons of mass murder.”
Other signatories with Royal Navy backgrounds include Commander Robert Green RN (Ret’d) – a former nuclear-armed aircraft bombardier-navigator, Staff Officer (Intelligence) to CINFLEET in Falklands War – and Commander Colin Tabeart RN (Ret’d), a former Senior Engineer Officer on a Polaris submarine.
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation says its hopes that efforts to question the nuclear ‘Continuous At Sea Deterrent’ “will encourage politicians and the wider public to begin to question the morality and the feasibility of nuclear weaponry”.
The Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation Ltd letter
RE: Covid-19 and Continuous At Sea Deterrent
The increasing cost of Coronavirus will require decades to recover. Meanwhile, the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system remains on Continuous At Sea Deterrent patrol costing some £2 billion a year and using scarce military assets to protect the on-patrol submarine.
This is despite Trident missiles having been de-targeted since 1994 and stood down at ‘several days’ notice to fire (HMG website) since 1998. Furthermore, recent public statements by the Chairs of the Defence Select and Public Accounts Committees advise that two out of four Vanguard class submarines that carry Trident missiles have been unavailable for more than a year, placing what must be considerable strain on the remaining two (normally three) submarine crews now having to carry out patrols of up to four months at a time.
The morale of the submarine crew on patrol, understandably worried about their families at home and knowing their weapon system is stood down, must be a concern, as is their own state of health and exposure to the virus.
In these circumstances, and lacking any foreseeable threat of a ‘bolt from the blue’ nuclear weapon attack on the UK, is it appropriate for the Government to continue spending billions of pounds on Continuous at Sea Deterrent, as well as building new nuclear warheads and the submarines to carry them?
Commander Robert Forsyth RN (Ret’d)
2 in Command Polaris submarine, commanded two other submarines and the Commanding Officer’s Qualifying Course
Commander Robert Green RN (Ret’d)
Former nuclear-armed aircraft bombardier-navigator, Staff Officer (Intelligence) to CINFLEET in Falklands War
Commander Colin Tabeart RN (Ret’d)
Former Senior Engineer Officer, Polaris submarine
Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP
Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, SNP Westminster Group Leader
Lord Green of Deddington
Professor Nick Grief
Kent Law School and Doughty Street International
Canon Christopher Hall
Church of England General Synod 1972-1985, speaker in ‘Church and the Bomb’ debate 1985
Dr Nick Ritchie
Senior Lecturer, University of York
Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation
Public Interest Case Against Trident