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#41 Adam_S

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 0400 AM

 

Im not sure how viable it would have been to adapt to a SLBM if we went to drastic extremes like the Soviets did with the Hotels and Golfs. As a temporary lashup it might have worked if they went in for surface launching. Or for that matter, use a surface ship to launch it from, like the Italians were going to do with Polaris with the Giuseppe Garibaldi.

 

 

Blue Steel used cryogenic oxygen as the oxidiser which would have been horrible from a safety standpoint on an SSBN.



#42 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 0411 AM

Blue streak, but yes, I take your point about SSBNs.

 

Bear in mind it was clearly designed with silo placement in mind. Its difficult to believe surface ship basing at the very least would not have been achievable, if only as an interim solution. After all, the entire V force was an interim solution looking back on it, and that was even more expensive and in fact, probably just as dangerous. Blue Steel was not a safe weapon by any imagination, nor were some of the interim British atomic weapons which couldn't be armed in anything other than wartime conditions because they might go off on the alert ramp. So we tolerated just as grave risks previously.

 

 

Polaris was clearly a better option all round, and from the Silent Deep book, it didnt seem to take much encouragement by the navy for the Pm to see the sense of it. Id be surprised if they even got a chance to seriously look at alternatives after Skybolt got canned. I mean, the Americans first told us of Skybolts impending cancellation in November 1962, and we had the Polaris deal signed in December 1962, which looks remarkably fast to me.

https://en.wikipedia...assau_Agreement



#43 Chris Werb

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Posted 19 September 2017 - 1801 PM

Stuart, the Blue Streak silo system was enormous, expensive and badly outmoded compared to Minuteman which was entering US service at the time. If they were willing to sell us Skybolt, surely they would have sold us a cut down Minuteman or even a land-based Polaris. We bought the A3 version of the latter with a 2500 mile range which would have been plenty for deterrent purposes vs the Soviets. Survivability of a silo based version would have become increasingly dubious with time of course.



#44 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 0330 AM

Yes, but what im saying is, what if they didnt want to sell us anything?  You will recall that at that precise moment, Macnamara was trying to convince Kennedy to not give us anything, and push into the European MLF.

https://en.wikipedia...tilateral_Force

It was only after reading the recent Niall Ferguson book on Kissinger I realised how serious this really was.We would have got Polaris as part of that, but as far as an independent deterrent it would have been curtains, we would have been level pegging with the West Germans and the Italians in the alliance. Thankfully the Americans saw sense, but if we couldnt have got Polaris or Skybolt off them, what options were there left? It would have been Blue Streak as an interim or try and build our own SLBM, which would have took years on the best evidence of the French doing the same thing. The V force would have been long obsolete by then.

 

Blue Streel Mk2 might have been an alternative if we had kept the plans and tooling, but as said that was not going to be any more survivable than an IRBM would have been when sat on the pad. We were even losing Thor in 1963 because the Americans wanted it as a satellite launch system.

 

So If the Americans had pulled the plug in 1963, we would have had a good 10 years scrabbling around trying to find an alternative delivery system, and it would have had a prodigious effect on the rest of the conventional armed forces. Ok, maybe Blue Streak was nobodies idea of an ideal alternative, but it was a lot better than nothing at all, which is what we would have had.

 

I think we look back with the idea that because we got a deal, we were certain to get a deal. Its pretty clear looking at some of the evidence there was a colossal shitstorm going on in Parliament at that time because the myth of an independent deterrent was teetering, and Macmillan knew it. It would have brought his Government down a year early most like. Which makes his Nassau deal a pretty extraordinary accomplishment. He deserves more credit for it than he gets.


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 20 September 2017 - 0337 AM.


#45 Chris Werb

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 0441 AM

I think then it would have come down to did we really need a strategic nuclear deterrent. Given the shit state the country's economy was heading into at the time, that question might have taken some answering.



#46 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 0454 AM

The thing is, the reason WHY we got a nuclear deterrent in the first place is not the reason people think it is. I gather that it came down to a meeting in the late 40s where the Labour committee decided they would NOT fund a bomb programme. Then Bevin, whom arrived late to the meeting, was deeply surprised, and pointed out the nuclear weapon was necessary for Britain to sit at the top table when the decision making was made with the big powers. In short, lacking an Empire, having a bomb was a short cut to big power status. No surprise, after all, North Korea is trying to do exactly the same thing today.

 

So lets look at the time. Britain increasingly decolonizing. Its got no relationship with Europe worth a damn. Its not sure it can really trust the US anymore. Russia is increasingly bellicose. And British manufacturing is in the doldrums and the economy is on the slide. Well all I can say is, im glad none of THAT has happened again :D

 

Britain needed the bomb for security, because it couldnt be sure that if we were attacked, the Yanks would have our back after Suez.  We needed the bomb just so we were assured of retaining the UN security council seat we had earned during the war. We needed it for lots of things, not least because the West Germans would dominate the NATO alliance, as they are now dominating the EU one. We needed the bomb for national pride, or the precipitate slide in British power since the end of WW2 would have been even steeper than it was. One thing is for sure, if we ever lost it, it would be self evident all the good it did fo us, and by then it would be too late. We take the bomb for granted for the position it gives us in the world. A threadbare position its true, but it does still count for something even today.

 

 

 

Personally I think the best solution all round would be to ban the damn things because they are unusable and take up a pile of money. But that's a case for multilateral disarmament, not unilateral disarmament. Even most Labour MPs, other than Corbyn, seem to understand that. So for that matter did WIlson, whom pledged to ban the bomb in the 64 election campaign, and ended up building four Polaris Submarines. Much to his surprise, and everyone elses for that matter.


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 20 September 2017 - 0456 AM.


#47 shep854

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 0751 AM

Paying war debts to the US didn't help either.  I was a bit shocked when I learned what a drain that was on the post-war British economy.



#48 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 0847 AM

Well in fairness you DID give us part of the Marshall plan to get our economy up and running again. That said, lend lease didnt help get the country set up again. Then on top of that there was that act of congress that denied us access to the bomb project secrets that we helped build, so we had to go ourselves (expensively) and build the damn thing ourselves, just to get the US to assist us. It was all so bloody unnecessary.

 

The point is, America was doing what it thought was right, and I have no criticism of that. It equally could have taken the view that nuclear proliferation would not be helped by selling new delivery systems about, and we would have been in extreme trouble. It damn near broke us standing the V force up, doing it again for Sea Launched weapons was probably beyond us. And yet, we would undoubtedly have took the decision, and cut the conventional forces to pay for it. With the consequent reduction in front line strength NATO was counting on in West Germany. Ive a strong suspicion Macmillan must have pointed this out to Kennedy, and Kennedy, not being an idiot, must have realised it.

 

We got lucky in having 2 national leaders whom were smart enough to talk through a problem that could have damn near have broke the alliance if it had been pressed. As it was, it arguably cost America's relationship with France.



#49 RETAC21

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Posted 20 September 2017 - 1320 PM

Well in fairness you DID give us part of the Marshall plan to get our economy up and running again. That said, lend lease didnt help get the country set up again. Then on top of that there was that act of congress that denied us access to the bomb project secrets that we helped build, so we had to go ourselves (expensively) and build the damn thing ourselves, just to get the US to assist us. It was all so bloody unnecessary.

 

The point is, America was doing what it thought was right, and I have no criticism of that. It equally could have taken the view that nuclear proliferation would not be helped by selling new delivery systems about, and we would have been in extreme trouble. It damn near broke us standing the V force up, doing it again for Sea Launched weapons was probably beyond us. And yet, we would undoubtedly have took the decision, and cut the conventional forces to pay for it. With the consequent reduction in front line strength NATO was counting on in West Germany. Ive a strong suspicion Macmillan must have pointed this out to Kennedy, and Kennedy, not being an idiot, must have realised it.

 

We got lucky in having 2 national leaders whom were smart enough to talk through a problem that could have damn near have broke the alliance if it had been pressed. As it was, it arguably cost America's relationship with France.

 

The same nation that sold the Soviets the MiG-15 engine?



#50 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 0151 AM

Come on, that was not a reason. We also gave the jet engine and radar to the Americans, are we going to get censured for that as well?

 

Its instructive to look at the Joint Intelligence Committee documents for the postwar period, as late as 1947 they were still saying Stalin could be worked with. So even Whitehall were patting Attlee on the back and saying the soviets could, and should be worked with. Even Truman seemed to believe much the same thing till the Berlin crisis proved otherwise. Its only retroactive people are saying how could they be so stupid. The immediate postwar period was not the echo chamber of Churchill's Iron Curtain speech people believe. Clearly they thought the Soviets could be reasoned with and worked with. They were just wrong is all.

 

Basically there were those in congress that believed that to the victor belonged the laurels, and they wanted to maintain a monopoly on the bomb. In 1945, I can perhaps, just about, see their point. By 1949 it was absurd. By 1950 it was beyond understanding.


Edited by Stuart Galbraith, 21 September 2017 - 0153 AM.


#51 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 0951 AM

.



#52 R011

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 1325 PM

There were also legitimate concerns that the British project was insecure - concerns that turned out to be justified.

 

https://en.wikipedia...oviet_espionage

https://en.wikipedia...iki/Klaus_Fuchs



#53 Dawes

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Posted 21 September 2017 - 2259 PM

Yeah - where are Jack Bauer and CTU when you really need them? :D



#54 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 0156 AM

There were also legitimate concerns that the British project was insecure - concerns that turned out to be justified.

 

https://en.wikipedia...oviet_espionage

https://en.wikipedia...iki/Klaus_Fuchs

 

Wholly academically as it turned out, because the Manhattan project was about as secure as Miley Cyrus's underwear. :)

https://en.wikipedia...i/Theodore_Hall

https://en.wikipedia...wiki/Lona_Cohen

 

Sure, some of the spies were British, its beyond denying. Most however were not.

https://en.wikipedia...ki/Atomic_spies

 

More to the point, it doesnt explain why the US didnt assist the French with their bomb programme either. The explanation, which is the only reasonable one, is that the US, or some US politicians, wanted a monopoly on the Bomb. A monopoly that turned out in a few years to be wholly counter-productive when the Soviets got theirs, and the US had locked itself into a process of denying allies nuclear technology. Can you Imagine how much of a mess could have been avoided in Indo China if the French had dropped the bomb at Dien Bien Phu?

 

The only good news is that when the USSR got the bomb, they were initially keen, then wholly reluctant, to give Red China the bomb also. Whether that is because they wanted to follow the example the US left, or more likely because they were scared shitless of a nuclear armed China, seems impossible to know.



#55 shep854

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 0752 AM

Maybe not at Dein Bein Phu (thought that would have also taken care of some former SS ;) ), but you have a point.  Remember, Curt Le May expressed a similar sentiment...



#56 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 0809 AM

The central problem I think was this. The Americans (im not saying all Americans, but clearly the state department at least) were of the opinion Empires were a very bad thing. Which is fair enough with their history. What they did not thing thorough was that by decolonizing in a hurry, you were effectively making areas of the world unstable at best, at worst open to Communist infiltration. Or there is the example of Aden, turning parts of the world into a bottomless pit of anarchy for evermore. Its clearly not realistic to suggest that we would ahve used the bomb very often (I think Dien Bien Phus is perhaps the rare example when it would have worked). But making European Governments pay over the odds for a weapon system the Americans could quite clearly have helped them build themselves still to me looks a crackpot idea, and clearly lead to problems with the gradual withdrawl from colonial holdings. Its the same idea that lead to the MLF, that you would bully Europeans into making a security decision for their own good. European security decisions only really worked when Europeans made them off their own bat, which is what lead to NATO.

 

Lets just say it was a very unfortunate decision that has lead to many problems, not least the Franco American estrangement, which might have been healed for good by this process.



#57 JWB

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 1138 AM

 

 

More to the point, it doesnt explain why the US didnt assist the French with their bomb programme .....

Was "That son of a bitch" still in charge of France?



#58 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 1239 PM

 

 

 

More to the point, it doesnt explain why the US didnt assist the French with their bomb programme .....

Was "That son of a bitch" still in charge of France?

 

 

He was. But he didnt really fall out with the US until much later. In part I suspect because Kennedy gave us Polaris and didnt offer it to France too.



#59 Dawes

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 1432 PM

IIRC, the UK never adopted Poseidon. Not enough of an upgrade to justify the cost?



#60 DB

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Posted 22 September 2017 - 1625 PM

We had a programme called Chevaline which would have been a MIRV upgrade to Polaris. Canceled in favour of Trident IIRC

Edited by DB, 22 September 2017 - 1626 PM.





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