Chapter Two

Provision of an Effective Independent Strategic and Sub-strategic Nuclear Capability

202. The United Kingdom's strategic and sub-strategic nuclear capability is currently provided by a force of three ballistic missile submarines and Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft equipped with the WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb. HMS Victorious, the Royal Navy's second Trident submarine, joined HMS Vanguard in operational service at the end of last year. The last of our Polaris submarines will be withdrawn from service later this year when Trident will fully take over the strategic deterrent role. The third Trident boat, Vigilant, will enter service in 1998 and the fourth, Vengeance, around the turn of the century.

203. The Royal Air Force's WE177 bombs are being progressively withdrawn from service. This process will be completed by the end of 1998, when the sub-strategic role will be wholly undertaken by Trident. With the entry into service of HMS Victorious, Trident now provides a continuously-available sub-strategic capability; this will become fully robust when Vigilant enters service. The four boat Trident fleet will ensure that we can maintain continuous strategic deterrent patrols and a continuously-available sub-strategic capability throughout the life of the Trident force. More information on the Trident programme is provided at [refer].

Figure 2: Nuclear Weapon Holding States: Strategic Nuclear Forces [14k]

Provision of a Nuclear Accident Response Organisation

204. In March, the Department published the second edition of its document "Local Authority and Emergency Service Information on Nuclear Weapon Transport Contingency Plans" (known as the LAESI document). This edition has benefited from significant input from local authority associations and representatives of the emergency services. As part of the process of amending the first edition, two major seminars were held for elected members of local authorities and their officials.