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The second failed Trident test: Time to scrap or expand Britain’s nuclear capabilities?


The potential nuclear threats posed by Russia and China are complicated by the possibility of a second Trump presidency.

Grant Shapp’s confirmation of the failure of a British Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile has resulted in much speculation. Failures in such high-profile events are inevitably embarrassing, but claims that this proves the Trident system is no longer working and that it does not represent value for money are both alarmist and miss the point.

At one level this failure may, as the UK’s Ministry of Defence states, not be the cause for much concern. What is certain is that the missile was safely launched from the submarine HMS Vanguard, thereby confirming that it was in a position to fire missiles in the future if required. Moreover, the MoD has argued that if the missile had been fired operationally, the launch would not have been aborted. 

Whether that is true is subject to speculation. Whilst it is the second failure in succession for the British, the last being in 2016, other US tests have been successful. Given that the US and UK share a common pool of missiles, it isn’t a peculiarly British fault, and the US tests would appear to confirm that the missiles are still generally in working order.

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