The cost of modernizing the W88 Trident II ballistic missile warhead and the B61-12 gravity bomb in the US have increased to nearly $11 billion. In terms of the Trident warhead, this is a massive 11 percent increase from its original reported cost.
This has the potential to increase the cost of replacing the UK’s own Trident nuclear system. Whilst these figures are for the US warheads, due to the extensive nuclear sharing agreement between the US and the UK (a joint US-UK working group has been set up, with new warheads already tested at Sandia National Laboratories in the US), it is possible that these increased costs may also befall the UK. It’s expected that the UK’s current warhead stockpile will last until the late 2030s. While Parliament is yet to decide on whether to build new ones, millions of pounds are already being spent each year in preparatory work.
This latest possible cost increase comes in a long line of already mounting costs. Less than two months ago the UK government’s Public Accounts Committee highlighted a £20 billion spending shortfall in the MoD’s overall equipment programme. This follows on from the £2.9 billion affordability gap already identified for replacing Trident submarines.
Trident costs are clearly out of control, and it seems that the UK is set to face yet more money wasted on an obsolete nuclear system.