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Trident Capability

What is the Trident System and what is it capable of?

The Trident system consisted of 4 Vanguard class submarines 1 at sea permanently. Each submarine can carry 16 Trident D5 missiles each missile having up to 12, warheads of 15 to 100 Kilotons. Hiroshima was 15 Kilotons. The navy originally insisted they would only carry 96 warheads on 8 missiles. Since the strategic defence review this has been further reduced to 48 warheads on 4 missiles. The MOD has now indicated that only 1 warhead per missile is carried. This would make sense given that when one fires a missile one needs to use all the warheads it is carrying.

One 100 Kiloton warhead will ignite fires and cause second degree skin burns at a range of up to 3 miles, the vast majority of burns victims would die eventually in this radius. The blast wave front followed by 160 mile per hour winds would leave massive urban destruction and about 50% immediate fatalities up to about 2 miles. Prompt nuclear radiation would result in 100% fatalities up to 1 mile but blast would also ensure death at this range. Clear weather could enhance thermal effects.

3 miles down wind fallout would result in severe radiation sickness Initial symptoms including vomiting would occur within 2 hours and last for 2 days. There would then be a latent period of 1 - 14 days when symptoms would be less obvious. After 2 weeks the victims would suffer from hair loss, diarrhoea, fatigue and uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth. Around 50% of healthy adults would die within 2 - 12 weeks from infection and internal bleeding.

Delayed fallout effects could be fatal to 25% of healthy adults caught out in fallout 50 miles down wind.

The following is an estimate of the total deaths within 12 weeks resulting from the detonation of one Trident warhead at ground level on the Defence Ministry in Moscow; 125,000 deaths from blast, heat and direct radiation, 28,000 additional deaths from fall out, totalling 153,000 of which around 30,000 would be aged under 15. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of radiation, especially infants.

Hiroshima was 15 Kilotons and killed 140,000 people.

One submarine fully loaded with 192 warheads can cause 29,376,000 deaths. As they are loaded at the moment with potentially only 16 warheads that is only 2,448,000 deaths.

Sakue Shimohira was close to the epicentre of the Nagasaki bomb when she was a schoolgirl. She described the scene: "there were mothers crying for their children and children crying for their mothers and no matter how far they stretched their arms they could not be comforted."

Trident is a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) and is intended to be used in that way. The governments white paper states “In terms of their destructive power, nuclear weapons pose a uniquely terrible threat and consequently have a capability to deter acts of aggression that is of a completely different scale to any other form of deterrence. Nuclear weapons remain a necessary element of the capability we need to deter threats from others possessing nuclear weapons.”

The question is, whether to extend, this capability of causing 30 million deaths, from 2020 to 2050.

(C)2010 Tom de Havas. The information under this section is my own work it may be reproduced without modification but must include this notice.