By Thomas Foster
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Humiliation for the British military as its Trident missiles fail

In an embarrassing week for British imperialism, a Trident nuclear missile test didn't come off
Issue 2894
HMS Astute off the coast on Scotland (Picture: Paul Halliwell)

HMS Astute off the coast on Scotland (Picture: Paul Halliwell)

 
A British nuclear missile test has failed in an embarrassing flop for British imperialism, as revealed last week. The Trident weapon boosters didn’t ignite during a test on 30 January—putting the wastefulness of the warmongering weapons on show.
 
A missile from Trident—Britain’s nuke-armed submarines—was intended to land in the Atlantic Ocean after flying thousands of miles. But it dropped into the ocean on the east coast of the United States near the submarine it was launched from.
 
Grant Shapps—Tory defence secretary—was on board the submarine to witness the failure. Yet Shapps said he has “absolute confidence” in Trident’s submarines, missiles and nukes. What happened was “an anomaly”. He said the failed “test reaffirmed the effectiveness of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”. Shapps has to keep up appearances—deterrents don’t deter when people know they aren’t working.
 
The Trident nuclear submarines were purchased from the United States in 1980 and began patrol in 1994, replacing the Polaris nuclear submarines that were active from 1968. Adding to the humiliation, the Trident submarines recently finished a £500 million refit in May 2023. 
 
And the yearly running cost of Trident is about £3 billion, with an estimated cost of £205 billion for renewing it by 2030. That £205 billion could be spent on hiring 1.2 million nurses in the NHS for five years. Or it could nearly double the British state pension for all pensioners for a year. Trident is a prime example of capitalist wastefulness. It is ridiculous that money is spent on arms that fuel our rulers’ imperialist aims, rather than things that actually benefit ordinary people.
 
The general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Kate Hudson slammed Trident, saying, “Voting for parties that support nuclear weapons means taking away money from healthcare, education, transport and energy security.”
 
Nuclear weapons—even when working—don’t protect us. They perpetuate the idea of using military methods to solve political problems, normalise warmongering and embolden states wanting to boost their interests.
 
But the test failure gave Labour an opportunity to varnish its own warmongering credentials. Shadow defence secretary John Healey demanded assurances that there was “no impact on the effectiveness of Britain’s deterrent operations” and stated that Labour’s support for Trident “is total”.
 
The test comes as our rulers are increasingly beating their war drums. Recently, the parliamentary defence committee called for a greater focus on Britain’s “war-readiness” and Shapps himself stated Britain is entering a “pre-war world”.
 
We need to take on the capitalist system that drives the world to war and nuclear weapons. Getting rid of all of Britain’s nukes is one place to start.


 
Fight against the system that produces nukes      
Nuclear weapons are created for the defence of profit—not to deter war. The way to prevent war isn’t more deadly nuclear weapons, it’s changing the system that spawns war. Atomic weapons are part of a capitalist society that encourages war. They are the endpoint of a system where economic competition spills over into military competition.
 
When ruling classes fight among themselves for a bigger slice of the capitalist cake, they arm themselves with the deadliest weapons they can get their hands on. The result is spiraling arms spending, the amassing of weapon arsenals and the devotion of huge amounts of money to developing means to destroy life, rather than improve it.
 
There currently are 12,512 nuclear warheads in the world. Use of these warheads in nuclear war would mean the total destruction of human life. Nuclear war has only been avoided so far because of rulers’ fear of their own death. But the failure of nuclear weapons to deter war can be seen just by looking at recent history.
 
This is because the world is dominated by rival ruling classes, who have economic and political power themselves, but are in relentless competition with each other.
 
And rival ruling classes become greedy for more wealth or become fearful of losing it. So ruling classes try to outdo each other’s military strength. There is no stopping this military competition as each ruling class imagines new weaponry that the others may have and then develops such weaponry itself.
 
The horrors of nuclear weapons don’t stem from the horrors of ideologies or individual rulers. Nuclear weapons exist because of the struggle between different rulers in a competitive capitalist system. To get rid of nuclear weapons, we need to get rid of the system that sustains them. That means mass resistance from below against imperialism and capitalism.

Failure built into process
The failures of arms systems is a product of the process of arms production. Using weapons means they need replacing. Not using them also means they eventually need replacing, as competition drives new technologies of death.
 
The built-in incompetence can be seen by the test failure being only the latest mishap for the British military.
 
Trident failed its last test in 2016, when the missile veered off course and to prevent disaster had to self-destruct. The last “successful” Trident missile test was in 2012. At the start of February, Britain’s only two aircraft carriers malfunctioned within a week of each other. 
 
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s propeller failed as it was due to take part in a Nato war drill. And then HMS Prince of Wales failed to set off after technical problems. Two British Royal Navy warships collided at a port in Bahrain last month. HMS Chiddingfold reversed into HMS Bangor off the coast in the Middle Eastern port.

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