Support 110 years of independent journalism.

What is Trident?

The UK's nuclear fleet.

By New Statesman

Britain’s fleet of nuclear submarines is called Trident. There are four submarines (called Vanguard-class submarines), each with the capability of carrying 16 nuclear missiles. It’s the missiles themselves that are actually called Trident (Trident II D-5 ballistic nuclear missiles). Each missile has the ability of delivering eight warheads. The missiles are capable of reaching targets 7,500 miles away.

Like a relay system, at any one time there is always one submarine constantly patrolling the seas, while one undergoes maintenance. The other two are used for training in carrying out manoeuvres.

Trident is based in the river Clyde in Scotland.

The current generation of Trident submarines are coming to the end of their working lives. Construction of the first submarine of a new fleet (known as the Successor) will need to begin in 2016 to be operational by 2028, with the current fleet being phased out by 2032. So the big vote in parliament on whether to renew Trident, or to disarm, will be next year.

Trident has always been politically contentious, with some arguing that it is a wasteful expense and a pointless throwback to the Cold War era. Lib Dems have traditionally opposed it (thought they’ve diluted their stance on it during this parliament), and some left-wing Labour MPs are also in opposition. The CND and other such groups oppose it both ideologically and because of the cost. Greenpeace puts the cost of replacement at £34bn, though the government estimate is £20bn.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

The SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru are firmly in favour of scrapping Trident. The SNP has managed to nudge the issue up the political agenda, by insisting it would be a “red line” in negotiations with Labour to form a government.

Content from our partners
Resolving the crisis in children’s dentistry
Planetary perspectives: how data can transform disaster response and preparation
How measurement can help turn businesses’ sustainability goals into action

However, unilateral disarmament is a bold stance and there is no appetite for it from a government that has been criticised for drastic defence spending cuts. Most Labour and Conservative MPs would vote in favour of renewing Trident, so it is unlikely the SNP will succeed in its aim.