This is a huge honor to be invited to speak tonight at your symposium. This honor reflects the special relationship that endures between our two countries. At the political level many other European nations might claim to have a special relationship with you. Indeed, America must sometimes feel schizophrenic when talking to Europe these days, but as far as the submarine programmer is concerned the Royal Navy knows it enjoys a very special relationship with the United States Navy. That is reflected tonight in the honor you pay me by listening to me and it is about that special relationship that I am going to speak.
I want to take this opportunity to look back over the past 50 years of collaboration, between the United States and the United Kingdom before looking forward to the next 50 years. Much of what I will say will help build a foundation for tomorrow’s discussions, but before I do that I would just like to congratulate you on your future submarine programmer. As you are all aware, the Virginia Class SSN is now growing rapidly, built by Electric Boat and Newport News, five already commissioned and the sixth christened in December. You are now in the enviable position of making the transition to building two per year-we look on jealously, but ASTUTE, our latest SSN, should go to sea this summer with six to follow. Having had a memorable day at sea on VIRGINIA, I can only say she is a remarkable advert for your submarine enterprise- and by enterprise I mean your Navy and your Industry.
Here I pause just to remind you that we share a common bond but we are divided by a common language, for example, the word availability to you means a maintenance opportunity, to us, it means quite the opposite, that a submarine 1s available for operations. I will do my best tonight not to confuse, which reminds me of a plain English campaign which has been run by one of our broadsheet personalizing – packet of nuts .. .. Warning “this packet may contain nuts” – deodorant stick – instructions – remove lid, push up bottom.
I also need to congratulate you on Secretary Gates’ announcement last month that “in Financial Year l 0, we will begin the replacement programmer for the Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarine”. As we will discuss tomorrow this announcement is of equal importance to the UK, we announced our replacement SSBN programmer in 2007 but we need your support in particular for the missile compartment, just as we have done in the past. And it is that past that I am now going to tum to.
As is so often the case, understanding the past hist01y helps plan for the future and I can think of no better example than our joint submarine programmer. I deliberately use the word joint because it is two way enduring and solid. We can put a number of markers down to trace the long history of cooperation in our submarine programmed. More than 100 years ago we started our submarine programmed using the same design derived from HOLLAND’s original work, although it has to be admitted that the Royal Navy contracted with the American Electric Boat Company to build their five Holland design submarines under license at the Vickers Maxim shipyard in Barrow-in-Furriness. These submarines cost £35,000 (or $50,000) each. Electric Boat supplied drawings and components for an improved design that was bigger and more powerful than the US Navy’s first submarine, the Holland Type 6. They also agreed to send some experienced submariners to train the first British crew. Eight months later Britain’s first submarine was pushed out of Yacht Shed No. I and down the slip way. And with it slipped a long-term opportunity to collaborate. So let’s pick up the story just after the Second World War. The start of the Cold War was vividly portrayed by Churchill, here in the US, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, in his famous Iron Curtain speech. Let us not forget he was very proud of his American mother, and thus his strong family links. What Churchill said was:
” From Stetting in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “iron curtain” has descended across the Continent. Be- hind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a ve1y high and in some cases increasing, measure of control from Moscow.”
At the heart of the Cold War was deterrence and thus the race to develop and deploy nuclear weapons. It also was the start of the nuclear submarine navy. But for the UK there were two absolutely key agreements forged with the US that would prove crucial to the UK’s submarine programme. Called agreements, they were, in fact, international treaties and, of course, they still endure today. The first was the imaginatively nick-named 1958 Agreement, to avoid having to use its proper title, the Agreement Between The Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defense Purposes. There were two key elements to this agreement, firstly it built on the Quebec Agreement of 1943, which made Britain a junior partner in the Manhattan project, recognizing the UK’s “Tube Alloys” programme that had been running since 1940. Forty UK scientists were assigned to the project and 18 of those were at Los Alamost. The 58 Agreement allowed British delivery systems to be fitted with warheads based on US designs. Quite the opposite to where we are today with the US designed Trident missile fitted with a UK designed warhead. The agreement also gave UK access to the Nevada Test Site and also enabled the transfer of the US Skip jack submarine design to the UK, lock, stock and reactor, to become HMS DREADNOUGHT our first nuclear powered submarine, launched on Trafalgar Day 1960. This Nuclear Propulsion element was the result of a prolonged negotiation essentially between Admirals Rickover and Lord Mountbatten, contrasting characters but they had mutual respect.
But as ever with Rickover, things were not simple. He believed that the UK had to own its design. That the British must understand it and be able to stand on their own two feet. So in 1958, UK received the design, we also received training for our nuclear plant operators and that was essentially the end. He was absolutely right- whilst it might seem hard-nosed, we recognized we could not be like Oliver and ask for more. We became self sufficient- and learnt quickly. To ensure we really did stand on our own two feet Rickover tried to insist that all UK officers attending US training were to be interviewed by him to consider their suitability. Mountbatten refused, stating it was for the Royal Navy to decide. For once, Rickover, conceded. The 1958 Agreement prevented foreign nationals, and this included USN personnel, from visiting the reactor or propulsion compartments. We were conjoined twins, separated at birth not to be fully reunited until 2000. It is only under Bowman’s and Donald’s leadership that the technical exchanges between our nuclear propulsion teams have approached the breadth and depth of those within the weapons programmer. Just returning to DREADNOUGHT there were, of course, many parallels with the building of Dreadnought and that of Holland. Both US Electric Boat designs, both built in Barrow and both genuine firsts for the UK.
Exchanges on weapons design principles went forward apace under Joint Working Groups (or Jo Wogs), many of which still exist today.
One of the earliest fruits of the weapons collaboration was the ability to adapt the US W28 warhead design to fit in the UK’s Blue Steel standoff bomb, but even the 1OO-mile range of that weapon was hardly sufficient to protect the aircrew from their own weapons. The UK Air Staff really had their eye on an upcoming US system, Skybolt. With its range of more than I 000 miles, this nuclear cruise missile would fit the UK’s V-bomber force. So in May 1960 Prime Minister Macmillan and President Eisenhower signed a deal for the UK to buy 144 Skybolt missiles. A little published quid pro quo was that the US could base a Polaris tender in UK waters so that they could patrol in the western Atlantic without having to return to the continental USA between each patrol. The US had a tender in Holy Loch from I November 1960 to l June 1992. The greater range and endurance of Trident submarines and missiles rendered the forward basing unnecessary. And Dunoon slipped back to being a sleepy town with a golf course.
But only 2 years later, in 1962, the engineering challenges of the Skybolt programme became insuperable and the programme was cancelled. The UK was left in a difficult position. It had planned for Skybolt to provide the delivery vehicle for a continuing airborne deterrent and now did not have a fallback. Britain quickly realized it could not go it alone. However, the only alternative seemed to be Polaris and this led to some major internal conflict between the Navy and the Air Force. However, these internal rivalries were pushed aside and Britain sought an opportunity for discussions at the highest level. This came with a planned summit in Nassau in late 1962. This just two months after the end of the Cuban Missile crisis and the discussions between these great statesmen covered:
- Aftermath of Cuba
- East-West relations including the status of Berlin, one year after the erection of the Wall
- Test ban treaty negotiations
- Chinese invasion of India and the continuing tension between India and Pakistan.
- The Congo
- UK membership of the Common Market
- Nuclear Defence Systems
Many of these are still very much alive.
Importantly for us the offer of Polaris was made on the condition that it contributed to the Atlantic Alliance. The same generous offer was made to the French in December 1962 but was characteristically rejected by General de Gaulle during a press conference in January 1963 when he also rejected the UK’ s application to join the Common Market. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake, huge mistake!”
There are many indications that the final agreement between Prime Minister Macmillan and President Kennedy was achieved during a classic walk in the woods with no officials or advisers present. This agreement marks the start of our hugely successful co-operative deterrent programme that of course still endures today. With the signature of the Polaris Sales Agreement in 1963, an agreement that has remained remarkably little changed for 46 years. We have steadfastly maintained a submarine deterrent force. But, having got the Nassau Agreement, matters moved swiftly.
- In Jan 1963 a very senior group was sent to Washington to open negotiations.
- The lead negotiator and author of the Polaris Sales Agreement was J M MacKay, a high civilian in the Admiralty.
They were not authorised to enter into any long-term financial or contractual commitments but had £2M in their back pocket to show good faith and to commission any urgent studies. Now remember this was 1963 and there was no Satellite Communication (Tel star had actually failed terminally on February 21 1963 after only a few months service use), e-mail had not been invented and fax, although earlier patented as a concept, did not become commercially viable until the mid-70s. The only secure system was by telegrams through the embassy.
By the 6th of March an impasse had been reached relating largely to the R&D levy that the US Sec Def Robert MacNamara insisted on. MacKay got revised instructions from the Prime Minister 1 week later.
Here I pause for a second on our joint history, just to contrast what it was like in the 1960s with today. Having been informed of his new role by the First Sea Lord on Boxing Day 1962 Admiral Rufus Mackenzie, the then Flag Officer, Submarines, was appointed project leader for Polaris and given an office in Whitehall and told he can have the pick of the Navy and to get on with it. No budget is set, timescale five years to get a submarine to sea. So he stands his team up in January 1963. By February, they are thinking about needing a naval base to operate these new submarines from. Recognizing this would be a critical path, two Commanders were tasked on a Monday to write a paper for the Admiralty Board on where to site the new base. So armed with nothing more than an AA road atlas, a free road atlas given to members of an automobile breakdown recovery organization (large scale maps only), they set off to drive around the UK to visit all potential deep water ports. They conclude, based on very little apart from it had a Submarine Tender there already, that Faslane, in the West of Scotland, is the place and start writing a paper over the following weekend. Mackenzie approved it and it went to the Admiralty Board and was approved. Two weeks to approval and funding. E-mail and other technology may have seeded communications but the human processes have become more labyrinthine and almost terminally slow. We would take at least 5 years to do this now with public inquiries, economic and environmental assessments and much more. Who had it right?
Work on the programmer proceeded apace and RESOLUTION conducted its first DASO on 15 February 1968 (less than 5 years from the signing of the PSA). She sailed on its first patrol in April 1968 from the new Faslane Naval Base. She was joined a year later by HMS Repulse and the Royal Navy has maintained Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASO) since then, celebrating 40 years only last month.
Whilst the US will undoubtedly have at least one SSBN in each of the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans you also have the land and air based components of the TRIAD contributing to the deterrent posture. The SSBN-bome Trident system is UK’s only nuclear deterrent force and maintaining Continuous At Sea Deterrent [one submarine always at sea at the required state of readiness to fire] and we do this with a minimum practical number of boats and that is a significant challenge, and motivator, to our people. Who would want to be the first man or woman to break CASO, especially after 40 years.
But time marched on and although the UK had a shiny new outfit of Polaris missiles on her submarines, production had ceased in 1968 and you were deep in the Poseidon development programmer. It became apparent that the Soviets were developing a serious ABM system to protect Moscow and there were real fears in the UK that our Polaris force would be insufficient to penetrate those defenses and would lose its deterrent value. Whole books have been written on the indecision and politics of whether the UK should seek to buy Poseidon but suffice it to say now that we adopted, typically, a different British approach, still with US roots in their Antelope programmer. We developed a very complex system of penetration aids and hardened warheads to fit to our Polaris missiles. But that programmer could not have gone forward, UK-unique though it was, without the concentrated and deeply professional assistance from the US programme office. Having got this Chevalier system into service we soon realized that the main rocket motors were rapidly running out of life and although Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had by then agreed to the sale of Trident II, a very expensive re-motoring programme was needed to bridge the gap from the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s. That programme required all the skills the US could muster to re- commission production lines that had been dominant for almost 20 years.
But the decisions on Trident meant a very different relationship had to emerge. The UK bought a design for a missile compartment that was identical in all significant respects to the one built by the US. The only differences detectable being that we have 16 tubes in our boats and a paint scheme to which we are endearingly attached. We were to operate a mingled stockpile of missiles (and certain other related components) and a single base, Kings Bay, would support it. So we contributed to the capital cost of Kings Bay and we continue to pay a proportion of its operating costs. But we estimate that saved us a huge amount of money, at least £3Bn. We signed up to the Life Cycle Cost Control programmer to ensure we remained in step with the equipment and software updates that SP were fielding in the US fleet. Our financiers objected to the short-term costs of keeping in-step but were soon put back in their boxes when we rehearsed the costs of UK-uniqueness over the life cycle (as represented by Chevalier and re-motoring).
Of course both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan must be given immense credit for driving and overseeing an end to the Cold War. The mid-80s were tense times with the tussle over medium range weapons in Europe, Land-based Cruise missiles, Pershing, SS20s all were well fixed in our minds. But the focus in the UK was much more mundane. Having signed up to Trident, Margaret Thatcher was keen to see it deployed time and to cost. She had regular reviews with senior staff and any sign of deviation was rewarded with a serious reminder of one’s incompetence. One of her fellow Tories 1 (but one to whom power was elusive) coined the phrase hand bagging for this ordeal, in deference to the size and sturdy nature of her handbags. And that phrase has passed finnly into the English language, if not the American variant, where I understand it has a rather different meaning in popular culture, and another sign of our division by a common language.
So, with some bruises, my predecessors ensured Trident entered service in late 1994 and since then we have seen closer and closer working between our operational navies and between the government offices that support those navies. And of course this led to a great number of transatlantic flights.
So what have we achieved in that 50 years of co-operation under the 1958 Agreement, the 47 years of the PSA and the 40 1 h year of CASO – Firstly the end of the Cold War – Secondly an enduring, hugely successful deterrent programme – highly visible when it needs to be – 126 consecutive US and UK successful flights of Trident 05 missiles does that. And we look forward to the 127 UK flight very soon. But the quiet, but slow ticking pulse of SSBNs sailing on patrol to continue to sustain the UK’s Continual At Sea Deterrent operational profile and the USN deterrent patrols also act as a genuine reminder. Pivotal to this has of course been the role of the Director SM and his team.
Common interest and reducing resources have stimulated increased levels of cooperation on a wide range of important topics between our weapons labs, the NNSA and the UK MoD And since 2000 we have revitalized our exchange on nuclear propulsion under the auspices of the 58MDA, underpinned by the exchange of letters between Prime Minister Blair and President Bush. With great personal support from Admiral Donald we now have a vibrant two-way exchange programmer. There are 36 US engineers from the naval reactors programmer in UK, supporting our design team for our next generation nuclear propulsion plant, which will power our new deterrent submarines and almost certainly our next class of Attack submarines. So many parallels with our acquisition of Dreadnought back in 1958, but the difference is that we now have our first RN officer to pass the Donald interview – Admiral Donald has declared Lt Ralph Coffey RN suitable for nuclear power training through the US programmer and he started last month, and he’d better pass.
We have shared two SSBN missile compartment designs, we are now working on our third (our means joint US I UK) – much more of that tomorrow.
There are real opportunities to expand that joint working and to expand the opportunities for industry – again more tomorrow – I am just whetting your appetite. And of course there are a number of things we still do differently. Hull designs for one, where we design to withstand collisions with the French. But to be serious, ladies and gentlemen the US has been a truly outstanding ally and partner. You have been instrumental in helping the UK sustain its nuclear submarine and deterrent programmer – and we hope that in a small but important way we have helped you.
And finally, to quote Admiral Steve Johnson ‘We have already entered the second half of a century of co-operation with certain partners in an uncertain world’.