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Since 2006 work has been underway on several programmes that will maintain the UK’s nuclear deterrent beyond the life of the current system. Much of the focus in that time has been on the delivery of a new class of ballistic missile submarine (the Dreadnought class), which are expected to enter service from the early 2030s. However, a decision on replacing the UK’s Mk4/A nuclear warhead was also awaited and work on possible options had been ongoing. After a decision was deferred in 2010, one was widely expected to be taken as part of the Government’s Integrated Defence and Security Review in 2021.

In February 2020, however, a US official disclosed the existence of a UK replacement warhead programme, which the Government subsequently confirmed in a Statement to the House. That revelation prompted widespread criticism that a decision appeared to have been taken without an official Government announcement or appropriate Parliamentary scrutiny.

The programme is currently in its concept phase (the first phase in any Ministry of Defence procurement project). Details on timeframe and costings are expected to be matured as the programme progresses.


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