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Nuclear Deterrent

Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2024

I am today informing the House of HMS Vanguard’s recent Demonstration and Shakedown Operation.

A Demonstration and Shakedown Operation is a routine operation which takes place when a ballistic missile submarine completes its planned deep maintenance period. It involves a comprehensive series of complex weapons system and sub-system tests, assesses the performance of the submarine and its crew. It culminates in a test fire of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile.

It is long-standing practice not to comment on the detail of submarine operations. However, in recognition of the level of interest in the recent Demonstration and Shakedown Operation, this statement seeks to provide as much information as possible while protecting national security.

On 30 January 2024, HMS Vanguard and her crew conducted their most recent test operation.

The test reaffirmed the effectiveness of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, in which the Government have absolute confidence. The submarine and crew were successfully certified and will rejoin the operational cycle as planned. On this occasion, an anomaly did occur, but it was event specific and there are no implications for the reliability of the wider Trident missile systems and stockpiles. Nor are there any implications for our ability to fire our nuclear weapons, should the circumstances arise in which we need to do so.

The Trident missile system remains the most reliable weapons system in the world, having successfully completed more than 190 tests.

The Government have absolute confidence that the UK’s deterrent remains effective, dependable, and formidable.

That is why we are continuing to invest in the next generation of Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines, in extending the life of the Trident missile and in replacing the warhead, to keep us safe for decades to come.

Sustaining the deterrent and renewing it for the future is a truly national endeavour. It is the culmination of the dedicated efforts of thousands of people, not just in the Ministry of Defence but at locations across the country, from the nuclear laboratories at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire to the BAE Systems dockyards at Barrow-in-Furness.

Our continuous at-sea deterrence posture has been maintained for nearly 55 years by generations of highly dedicated and professional submariners. We owe them, and their families, our thanks for their sacrifices and outstanding service, which is often out of sight but should never be out of mind.

The nuclear deterrent deters the most extreme threats to our national security, keeping the UK and our NATO allies safe. It is the ultimate security insurance policy.

The UK’s resolve and capability to use its nuclear weapons, should we ever need to do so, remains beyond doubt.