US Nuke Technology to Make British Trident Missile More Accurate

Global Security Newswire
April 7, 2011

A U.S.-manufactured nuclear weapon’s improved firing mechanism is expected to increase the targeting accuracy and effectiveness of the United Kingdom’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the London Guardian reported on Wednesday.

The apparent planned incorporation of the W-76-1 warhead into the British nuclear deterrent was revealed in a March report by the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. Testing of the warhead technology has been successful, the report said. Production of the enhanced warhead is under way at the Pantex Plant in Texas.

Defense insiders acknowledged the firing device for the W-76-1 would give the British nuclear-armed submarine fleet enhanced capabilities.

The British Defense Ministry has been cagey in the past about publicly discussing moves to incorporate U.S. nuclear-weapon technology into the nation’s strategic deterrent, which is comprised of four Vanguard-class submarines that carry Trident missiles.

The ministry said the U.S.-developed arming device is a “non-nuclear part” within the re-entry vehicle that carries the warhead while the weapons themselves were designed and manufactured entirely by the United Kingdom. The Vanguard vessels are developed in-country while the Trident missiles are on loan from the United States.

Sources with the U.S. Navy say the enhanced W-76-1 firing system would increase the Trident missiles’ precision targeting capabilities. That assertion is quietly accepted by British defense insiders, according to the Guardian.

These views indicate “a significant improvement of the military capability of the weapon,” Federation of American Scientists nuclear weapons expert Hans Kristensen said. “The fuse upgrade appears to be modernization through the back door.” …

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