Have the RN commission and then maintain a fleet of 12 SSBN's up to the present

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Images L - R (R class, V class & future D class)

Post 1960's have the Royal Navy commission then maintain a fleet of 12 SSBN's up to the present.

Bonus points if you can get Poseidon C-1 in service between Polaris A2 and Trident D-II

Bonus points again if you can even get the UK to develop their own SLBM's

Much obliged!
 
The RN used the Polaris A3TK, not the A2.

12 SSBN is way overkill, 5 was a possibility. I think France had 6 or so in comission at one stage.
 
What are they giving up to fund that? The BAOR was a critical component of NATO's ground forces, so outside of that, you'd probably have to gut the RAF.
 
Well, domestic SLBM development would likely hinge on US-UK relations and the UK's...questionable ability to design a practical ballistic missile. The most likely route I see there is for the Skybolt issue not ending with the Americans selling Tridents to the UK. Which is going to make things tricky, since the Brits were all-in on Skybolt and cancelled their domestic ballistic missile development, and what they were working on was 1) horribly unsuited for submarine use and 2) going to be obsolete within a couple years of Skybolt being cancelled.
What are they giving up to fund that? The BAOR was a critical component of NATO's ground forces, so outside of that, you'd probably have to gut the RAF.
Yeah, actually probably the RAF. Iconic as they are, without a highly-upgraded Blue Steel or Skybolt, the V-Bomber fleet has no standoff capability, and without that the odds start looking pretty ugly for survivability.
 
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Images L - R (R class, V class & future D class)

Post 1960's have the Royal Navy commission then maintain a fleet of 12 SSBN's up to the present.

Bonus points if you can get Poseidon C-1 in service between Polaris A2 and Trident D-II

Bonus points again if you can even get the UK to develop their own SLBM's

Much obliged!
IMHO the only way something like this might have happened would have been if the UK concluded that such a force was the only way to maintain a plausible independent deterrent.

Edit to add:

Maybe for what ever reason (arms controll treaties, technical issues in an alternate time line etc.) MRV or MIRV SLBM warheads are not avaliable in an alternate time line and the UK still wants to have an equivalent number of warheads that their our time line SSBN force had / has.. That might prompt the UK to build more SSBN's.

or

Maybe in an alternate time line the UK needs to deter other nations besides the USSR and at least in the Polaris era they determine they need to keep SSBN's in several different patrol areas at the same time. Once longer range SLBM's capable of carrying more war heads become available institutional inertia makes it politically impossible to down size the SSBN fleet (or maybe they decide they can't actually cover all the targets they need to cover with a smaller number of missiles carrying an equivalent number of warheads as the prior force..)
 
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There are three potential issues that make this ATL difficult.

1. The desire is for SSBNs. One could argue that if (for some reason) the RN decided not to adopt nuclear propulsion, they would rather have to build a larger number of smaller ballistic missile submarines with a smaller missile payload. However, the prequisite is for SSBNs.

2. Building 12 SSBNs is one thing, preserving them until 2021 would demand a whole different threat enviroment / geopolitical situation to justify keeping that many SSBNs in service. The Cold War never ended / limited aggression in Eastern Europe by Russia sometime during the past 20 years? Still, highly unlikely that the RN would be allowed to keep 12 SSBNs in service. The UK MoD budget would also need to be a lot higher to allow for that, meaning a different financial situation in the UK and priorities set by the government. I cannot imagine how the UK is supposed to pull that off...

3. Opting for a fleet of 12 SSBNs would mean for the British to eliminate all other nuclear strike options during the Cold War. Otherwise, it's an overkill.
No V-bombers after the 60s, no Thor IRBMs. I do not see the RN as being able to push that through.


One possible POD would be the early development of very accurate SLBMs, armed with conventional warheads and proven value in conflicts of the past decades. This is quite a difficult POD, since SLBM-launches could easily be mistaken for a first-strike nuclear attack attempt. However, if (by some POD) SLBMs were to become more popular and useful and replace cruise missiles, then 12 SSBNs armed with conventional warheads could become a viable power projection / strike platform. Keeping however 12 SSBNs for power projection in service to replace duties of RN aircraft carriers / destroyers / RAF Typhoons with Storm Shadows would require a whole different doctrine.
Problems with such an approach are certainly the higher costs of SLBMs in comparison to cruise missiles.
However, do look at recent developments in the field of accurate, conventional armed ballistic missiles (DF21-"carrier killer", Iskander platform).
 
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One possible POD would be the early development of very accurate SLBMs, armed with conventional warheads and proven value in conflicts of the past decades.

A SLBM with conventional warheads is absurd in an economic sense : far too expensive for the result.

The cost of SLBM are only barely justified if, and only if, they are fitted with nuclear MIRV.

For anything else, the capablity cannot justify the cost.



The only way I think the Royal Navy could have a fleet of 12 SSBN was if the boats were in fact modular : the center segment of the boat could receive various modules, including SLBM. (and the number of missiles carried in SSBN configuration is smaller than the 16 carried on the R and V)

So when not needed as SSBN, the boats could be configured as SSN, SSGN, spec ops transports, ....
 
For reference France started at 4 SSBN in 1974, went to 5 in 1980, 6 in 1985, back to 5 in 1991, back to 4 again in about 1997 and remained there ever since.

While I don't think it's unreasonable that Britain matches this I also think one reason France had more boats was because it's missiles were shorter range and less warheads.

One solution considered in the leadup to the Chevaline project was to build another SSBN to get more warheads to sea, perhaps France took this route rather than better penetration aids back in the day.
 
For reference France started at 4 SSBN in 1974, went to 5 in 1980, 6 in 1985, back to 5 in 1991, back to 4 again in about 1997 and remained there ever since.

While I don't think it's unreasonable that Britain matches this I also think one reason France had more boats was because it's missiles were shorter range and less warheads.

One solution considered in the leadup to the Chevaline project was to build another SSBN to get more warheads to sea, perhaps France took this route rather than better penetration aids back in the day.
Or maybe in an alternate time line the ABM treaty allows for more effective ABM systems and the UK decides the need more missiles (perhaps fired from more than one location to have war heads approaching at the same time from multiple directions) to overwhelm such an ABM system.
 
Not quite on point here, but if the RAF equipped it's V bombers with Skybolt, how long would they have remained viable? The continuous airborne alert they were planning would have been terribly wearing on airframes and engines. Were there any long term plans to upgrade or replace Skybolt assuming it entered service in the early/mid sixties?
 
Not quite on point here, but if the RAF equipped it's V bombers with Skybolt, how long would they have remained viable? The continuous airborne alert they were planning would have been terribly wearing on airframes and engines. Were there any long term plans to upgrade or replace Skybolt assuming it entered service in the early/mid sixties?

~15 years, as long as polaris and minuteman 1.
 
If the US had pulled back from Europe following the Marshall plan's implementation, you might see the Western European powers build, outnof necessity, much larger nuclear inventories.

Regardless of the cold war ending, if the UK had the tradition of American or Soviet SSBN numbers, they would be quite unlikely to scale back to anywhere near the level they have.
 
Continuous airborne alert? That's a new one on me. Were they wanting to do it permanently, or just during periods of high tension?
It seems unlikely as it's something the RAF never did. While they had aircraft on the ground loaded with nukes other than for the Nuclear tests in the 50's no RAF aircraft ever flew with a live nuclear device on board.
 
I recall Derek Wood's Project Cancelled had a chapter on Skybolt. The plan was to keep 48 missiles airborne at any time with Vulcans loading out with 2, 4 or 6 Skybolts on missions from 2 to 12 hours duration. If I remember right the annual utilization per aircraft was going to be about 3000 hours so i assume they wouldn't have lasted long.
 
It wouldn't have been enough to make them affordable, but here goes...

12 Resolution class SSBN and 210 Polaris missiles aught to cost less than three times the OTL cost of 4 Resolutions and 70 Polaris missiles due to economies of scale. The R&D cost of Chevaline would have been the same and the production cost might be less than three times the OTL cost.

Similarly the unit costs of the Vanguard and Dreadnought classes of SSBN and their Trident missiles should be less if they were purchased in three times the OTL numbers.

However, having read what @Riain has written in his A series of assumptions: a Britwank on a budget? thread on British plutonium production it might not be possible to make the extra warheads.
 
If I remember right the annual utilization per aircraft was going to be about 3,000 hours so I assume they wouldn't have lasted long.
I seriously doubt the programme would have gotten of the ground no pun intended. The RAF might have liked the idea of copying the USAF but it would chew through aircraft and engine lifespans, the amount of fuel used, the necessary personnel – both aircrew and ground grew – required etc. making it way too expensive.
 
If I remember right the annual utilization per aircraft was going to be about 3000 hours so i assume they wouldn't have lasted long.
That's clearly incorrect - every single aircraft in the fleet, flying eight hours every single day of the year?

No.

Besides, when it comes to FI, cycles matter far, far more than hours. Plus, you'd be at FL350 and above, not in the turbulent and denser air at FL 'In the weeds'.
 
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