The SDR has confirmed that in a changing and uncertain world, Britain continues to require a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent based on the Trident submarine force. This has provided Britain's only nuclear system since the withdrawal of the last of the RAF's free-fall nuclear bombs earlier this year, performing both the strategic and sub-strategic role.
We will therefore continue to maintain a posture of continuous deterrent patrols with a total force of four Trident ballistic missile submarines. The last Trident submarine, VENGEANCE, will enter service as previously planned around the turn of the century.
Our Trident force will continue to be allocated to NATO in both the strategic and sub-strategic roles. It will however remain operationally independent and available for use by the United Kingdom alone in a case of supreme national need.
But continuing improvements in the overall international environment allow us to maintain our nuclear forces at reduced readiness and to make reductions in warhead numbers.
The SDR has concluded that we can maintain a credible deterrent while making the following changes in our nuclear posture:
We have also taken an initiative to increase openness about our nuclear capabilities by releasing details of our defence stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
In parallel, the Government will press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons. British nuclear weapons will be included in such negotiations when the Government is satisfied with verified progress towards the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons.