Don’t cut conventional arms spending to fund nukes

Jane’s has reported that the UK is having to cut spending on conventional arms, in order to pay for the new Successor class ballistic missile submarines.

HMS Vanguard, a Trident missile submarine
HMS Vanguard, a Trident missile submarine

I believe that the money spent on the nuclear deterrent would be better spent on the rest of the armed forces. One reason given for continuing Trident is that a lot of jobs depend on it. I don’t want those people to lose their jobs, but I’d much rather they were employed building and maintaining nuclear-powered attack submarines, such as the current Astute class, instead of ballistic missile submarines.

Ballistic missile submarines have one purpose. They stay hidden until called upon to deliver a nuclear strike. Nuclear-powered attack submarines, on the other hand, can perform a variety of roles, and can be of use during a conventional war. They can even help to defuse situations so that war is avoided. In 1977, Argentina pushed its claim to the Falkland Islands, and an armed invasion looked likely. The deployment of a nuclear attack submarine along with two surface ships helped to defuse the situation.

In 1982, nuclear attack submarines once again proved their worth during the Falklands War. The simple announcement that they were being deployed restricted the Argentinian navy’s freedom of movement. They provided useful reconnaissance for the British task force, and HMS Conqueror sank ARA General Belgrano. Trafalgar-class submarines have launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Ballistic missile submarines were of no help in any of these conflicts.

Well-trained and well-equipped conventional forces are versatile in a way that ballistic missile forces never can be. They could even be used to mount attacks on nuclear research or launch facilities, should that be considered necessary. Spending on conventional forces should not be cut in order to keep a nuclear deterrent.