By Wyn Rees and Azriel Bermant, Published in The Strategist, 20 May 2021
In March, the United Kingdom took many nuclear policy experts by surprise with its announcement that it was increasing the cap on its nuclear stockpile from 225 to 260 warheads. This reversal of decades of reductions of the UK’s nuclear stockpile was spelled out in the government’s ‘integrated review’ of security and defence policy.
When Britain obtained the Trident D5 missile from the United States in the early 1980s, the capability exceeded UK military needs and the decision was taken not to deploy the maximum number of warheads on the missile. The Trident submarines could carry more warheads and strike more accurately than the UK believed was necessary.
The size of the UK nuclear force has been guided over the years by considerations of what constitutes a ‘minimum deterrent’. The UK has sought to put a certain number of enemy targets at risk.
Dr Azriel Bermant
Foreign Policy and International Security Analyst, Historian, Lecturer, Author