[[caption-width-right:350: Introducing the [[CoolPlane Avro Vulcan]], one of the main facets of the UK's nuclear weapons program.]]

->''"We must do it. It's the price we pay to sit at the top-table."''
-->-- '''UsefulNotes/WinstonChurchill'''

-> ''The chief difficulty would be to distinguish those who [...] would therefore ultimately die, and on whom it would be wasteful to expend scarce medical resources''.
-->-- 11/3/1955 Cabinet Home Defence Committee report by a Group of Officials: THE DEFENCE IMPLICATIONS OF FALL-OUT FROM A HYDROGEN BOMB (aka 'The Strath Report')

Despite the critical contribution of many British scientists to the USA's ''Manhattan Project'' to develop atomic weapons during UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, the United Kingdom was refused US technical assistance to develop their own atomic weapons after UsefulNotes/WorldWarII as the USA wanted to maintain a monopoly on atomic weaponry. In order to shore up Britain's Great Power status, Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill's governments recognised the need to continue substituting military for economic power; Britain had not had the largest economy of the Great Powers since the 1890s (having surpassed the Empire of the Qing in the 1850s), but she had nonetheless continued to play a significant role on the world stage by virtue of her fleet and alliance with France. Despite being totally broke after the debts of the war and the colossal costs of establishing a modern 'Welfare State', Britain pursued her own atomic bomb project alone (not even collaborating with the French!) and at great cost. She managed to detonate her first atomic bomb in the Australian state of Western Australia in 1952, but, by that time, the USA had already developed 'nuclear' weapons, and, the same year, the USA detonated her first 'hydrogen' thermonuclear device (the latter being several thousand times more powerful again than a roughly equivalent atomic weapon).

Since the British had already proven that they could and ''would'' pursue their own R&D of atomic and nuclear weapons, the USA resigned herself to the prospect of an atomic-armed Britain. Moreover, she reasoned that if she shared nuclear weapons R&D information with Britain then Britain would have far more money to spare for conventional weapons[[note]] and particularly for the development and maintenance of an effective anti-submarine fleet for use in the Atlantic [[/note]]. The conclusions of the ''Strath'' Report of 1955 (official title ''THE DEFENCE IMPLICATIONS OF FALL-OUT FROM A HYDROGEN BOMB'')[[note]] [Assuming the use of ten ten-megaton hydrogen bombs, the minimum number the report thought needed to render the UK militarily useless in a war] Blast and heat would be the dominant hazard, accounting for more than '''9 million fatal casualties against less than 3 million fatal casualties from radiation''' [of a total UK population of 51 million]. [...] On the basis of an attack with ten bombs we also reckon that, in addition to casualties, a '''further 13 million people''' - many of them suffering from radiation sickness - would be '''pinned down in their houses or shelters for at least a week'''. Evacuation would increase this number. [...] It would be quite '''unrealistic to hope to maintain anything like normal medical standards''' [...] the '''chief difficulty would be to distinguish those who''', in addition to having received burns or other injuries, had also been exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and who '''would therefore ultimately die, and on whom it would be wasteful to expend scarce medical resources'''. [...] An attack upon the largest towns with ten hydrogen bombs would totally disrupt the industrial and commercial life of the country. Direct damage would be concentrated near the points of attack but these are likely to contain about one-third of the population and about half the industry. The normal communication and transport systems would come to a stop and the inability to move food, fuel, and material would also stop ordinary social and economic processes. The whole mechanism of money transactions would be disrupted. [...] '''Commercial stocks of food would suffer heavy loss'''. These losses would further deplete available supplies. In the period immediately after the attack the widespread contamination from fall-out would make internal '''distribution of whatever stocks were available virtually impossible''' in large parts of the country. People in areas of severe fall-out would, therefore, have to depend for a week or more on the food which they had stored in their shelters and homes at the time the bombs fell. [...] These considerations suggest that those who survive the attack would have to live for a '''considerable period under siege conditions''', and that the '''risk of starvation would be very real''' unless as substantial strategic reserve of food had been accumulated and distributed about the country in peace. It would, moreover, be essential that the '''Government should be in a position to take immediate and effective control over all food stocks and over their distribution'''. [...] The initial phase of attack would be succeeded by a critical period during which the surviving population would be struggling against disease, starvation, and the unimaginable psychological effects of nuclear bombardment. But provided what was left of the nation could get through that period and the survivors were able to devote their resources to the work of reorganising the country, they should eventually be able to produce a wide enough range of goods to meet ordinary civilian needs. The standard of living of the reduced population, althrough substantially lower than at present, would still be well above that of the greater part of the world. [...] there would be '''no hope of providing anything approaching peacetime standards of medical care''' [...] Research should be carried forward into methods of decontaminating water [even today there are no practical ones] [...] Plans should be made for the emergency distribution of limited supplies of drinking water pending the restoration of mains supplies [...] Plans should be prepared to enable the police and the courts to operate quickly and effectively under the conditions foreseen [...] In some parts of the country, particularly if several bombs fell in the same area, there '''might be complete chaos for a time and civil control would collapse'''. In such circumstances the '''local military commander would have to be prepared to take over''' from the civil authority responsibility for the maintenance of law and order and for the administration of Government. He would, if called upon, exercise his existing common-law powers to '''take whatever steps, however drastic, he considered necessary to restore order'''. [...] The '''ordinary machinery of the courts and prisons could not operate'''. Plans were made during the last war for '''"war zone courts" to function in areas which were involved in military operations'''. These plans should now be examined to see if a simple scheme could be worked out for the prompt dismissal of criminal cases. [[/note]], which were never released to the public for fear of massive panic and anti-nuclear sentiment, gave a particularly large incentive for Britain to develop nuclear weapons and systems of delivering them so that she might deter others from using nuclear weapons upon her.

Fewer delivery systems, but all noteworthy enough to make this a separate entry. British spy fiction likes to point out sometimes that we aren't totally dependent on the Americans and there are some cool looking platforms in British military history.

Nominal authority for firing missiles rests with the Prime Minister, but one of the powers of the Monarchy is the right to veto that (in the event, say, of the PM turning out to be a madman) or take over themselves. Submarine captains also have the authority to launch on their own, due to the historic nuclear threat being from Russia, which is close enough to erase Britain from the map before the sub can receive its orders.

Many of the weapons are referred to by their Rainbow Codes, a UK CodeName system.[[note]]A colour and a noun are randomly combined to make a code name, such as 'Blue Streak', to ensure there is no logical connection between weapon and name. This was instituted after Britain's experience fighting the Nazis in World War 2, when Nazi code names were incredibly obvious. For example, a radar system was codenamed 'Wotan', after a one-eyed god in Germanic mythology, meaning British scientists worked out that it was based around a single radar beam and actually developed a countermeasure before the Germans deployed Wotan itself![[/note]]

As you will see, there are a lot of weapons that never saw squadron service, due to Government defence cuts.


The missiles- Polaris and Trident are of American design and are discussed under UsefulNotes/PeaceThroughSuperiorFirepower.

!!''Resolution'' class
With the V-force becoming rather vulnerable, the UK Government decided to go SSBN instead, with US technological help. Four of these subs were built. Containing 16 Polaris A3 missiles, they were in service from 1968 to the mid-1990s.
* ''Film/TheSpyWhoLovedMe'' features HMS ''Ranger'', a fictional example.

!!''Vanguard'' class

The successor to the ''Resolution'' class, entering service in 1996. Carrying 16 Trident D5 missiles, with a theoretical maximum of 192 warheads. However, what it actually has on board now (which could be as low as 12 sub-strategic warheads) remains classified and the government claims that readiness is now a matter of days rather than minutes. Four built.

!!As-yet-unnamed ''Vanguard'' successor, currently dubbed the "Future Deterrent Submarine"

The current system is getting a bit old and creaky and is due to be replaced around 2020. There is some Parliamentary support for the policy, although not as much as several years ago. Before the 2010 election, both [[UsefulNotes/BritishPoliticalSystem the Conservatives and Labour]] planned to replace Trident; the existence of the anti-deterrent Liberal Democrats in the resultant coalition government meant that other alternatives were being looked at, such as deferring the decision another few years, or even sharing the weapons with [[UsefulNotes/TheUltimateResistance the French]].

!Other Naval Nukes

Britain ditched its tactical sea-based nukes along with the land-based ones in 1998. The below-listed carriers are all light ones under 25,000 tons displacement; the UK is only now building its first super-carriers.

!!''Centaur''-class aircraft carriers (''Albion'', ''Bulwark'', ''Centaur'', ''Hermes'')

Started in the closing years of the [[UsefulNotes/WorldWarII Second World War]], the second four of these eight planned carriers were cancelled. Due to their design (non-angled flight decks), they proved unable to handle jets and were ultimately converted into "commando carriers", basically amphibious assault ships, before being retired, with one notable exception...

!!!Let's do the conversion again: ''Hermes''

A modification of the ''Centaur''-design, completed in 1959, this was able to carry Buccaneers and Sea Vixen fighters, but not Phantoms. Converted into a "commando" carrier, then an ASW helicopter carrier, then getting a ski-jump to become a Harrier Carrier, In the last configuration it participated in the Falklands as the flagship of the Task Force, carrying up to 26 Sea Harriers and 4 ground-attack versions--Sandy Woodward[[labelnote:*]]The Rear Admiral in charge. He's advised on some works of fiction[[/labelnote]] commented that losing ''Invincible'' would have been very bad, but losing ''Hermes'' would have ended the war right there.

Following that war, it was converted to commando carrier and back again. With ''Invincible'' no longer on the table post-Falklands, Australia was offered ''Hermes'' to replace HMAS ''Melborne'', but declined after the Hawke government was elected in 1983. So they sold it to India instead, where it is nearing the end of its career as INS ''Viraat''.

!!HMS ''Victorious''

A WWII-era ''Illustrious''-class aircraft carrier, she was selected for a full modernization in 1950, a modernization that took eight years due to a combination of rapidly advancing technology and [[WhatAnIdiot a major cock-up on the Royal Navy's part]]: namely, realizing that her machinery needed to be replaced ''after'' rebuilding much of her upperworks, which necessitated tearing it all down and starting over.

In many respects a completely new ship afterward, she operated first Scimitars and then Buccaneers, before a minor fire and cuts to the defense budget conspired to retire her early.

Appears as both herself and HMS ''Ark Royal'' for the movie ''Film/SinkTheBismarck''.

!!''Audacious'' class aircraft carriers (''Eagle'', ''Ark Royal'')

Armored carriers designed during WWII to carry both a full airgroup and the most modern of carrier aircraft [[note]]The preceding Illustrious class lacked the capacity of a full fleet carrier, while the Implacable class, which did, were limited by low hangar height in what aircraft they could carry.[[/note]], making them the Royal Navy equivalent of the American ''Midway'' class, albeit a fair bit smaller. Their construction was protracted, and they both had to be modernized shortly after commissioning, but for many years they were the best carriers not part of the US Navy.

Both carried Buccaneer strike planes and Sea Vixen fighters, and Ark Royal was modified to carry Phantoms. By the 1970s, however, their age and relatively small size were finally catching up to them, and with their replacements (the below-mentioned CVA-01) strangled in the crib first Eagle and then Ark Royal were retired and scrapped.

!!''Invincible''-class STOVL aircraft carrier (''Invincible'', ''Illustrious'', ''Ark Royal'')

The three purpose-built "Harrier Carriers" that entered service in the 1980s- the first seeing service in the Falklands (just after it was proposed to be sold to Australia!). These vessels carried nuclear depth bombs until 1998 and used to carry Sea Dart SAM systems (also removed). The Illustrious was the last still in service, withdrawn in 2014.

* ''Illustrious'' is hit by a "[[ReportingNames Shipwreck]]" missile in ''Literature/RedStormRising''.

!!Blackburn Buccaneer

A naval two-seater strike fighter, this was designed as a response to a Soviet cruiser type of the early 1950s, the ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sverdlov_class_cruiser Sverdlov]]'' class. Carrier and land-based versions were developed. The former were transferred to the RAF when ''Ark Royal'' left service. Subsonic, but ''very'' good at low-level (the RAF used to operate them at speeds of over 600mph, only 50ft off the ground. Over the sea, the Navy could fly them even lower!) this two-seater aircraft stayed in service until 1994. Turned up in the Gulf War, where its laser designator capability was pretty handy. Exported to South Africa (only), who used it in their bush wars - and would have carried their nuclear bombs if they ever used them.

!!Sea Harrier

A definite CoolPlane, this STOVL fighter could carry a nuclear depth bomb. Proved to be brilliant in the Falklands with a 22-0 record in air-to-air combat and was later upgraded for AIM-120 AMRAAM, much like the USMC Harriers. They also served in the Gulf War and Bosnia.

These fighters, although still in Indian service, were retired from British service in 2006, it not being deemed cost-effective to upgrade for only six years' more service (i.e. until the UsefulNotes/YanksWithTanks finally delivered the F-35. Now that it's 2016 and the thing hardly any nearer to getting off the ground than it was five years ago, Parliament may be regretting this decision, as well as their rejection of the proposal for retrofitting the Sea Harriers' radar nosecones onto the Harrier GR.9 fleet). The remaining Harriers are of the GR.7/GR.9 variety.

* An experimental two-seater Sea Harrier for ASW work features in the novel of ''Literature/TheHuntForRedOctober''.

!Ballistic Missiles

Due to the shorter distance between the UK and Moscow, Britain has never felt the need for an ICBM programme. All of these programmes were cancelled before entering service.

!!Blue Streak

Intended to be a silo-based deterrent for the UK, with a range of 3,700 kilometres/2,300 miles. Took half an hour to fuel, which with "four-minute warning" et. al, would have been a bit of a problem had it not been silo-based. Went way over budget, was politically unpopular (you have to remember the South-East of England is not Nebraska and is in fact one of the most densely populated regions in the world, even more so than Taiwan) and not supported by the services. Cancelled in 1960 before a full flight-test. Attempt to use it as part of a space launcher didn't work because the parts that weren't Blue Streak kept not working.
* Test launch footage was used in ''Series/ThePrisoner'''s final episode, appropriately titled "Fall Out".

!Airborne Early Warning aircraft (AEW)
!!Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod

The UK's answer to the USA's E-3 Sentry, although the Nimrod came first. Developed from the UK's coolest of [[CoolPlane cool airliners]], the DeHavilland Comet. While designed primarily as a Airborne Early Warning aircraft, this plane also served as a strategic bomber. It could carry plenty of conventional bombs in its belly, as well as nuclear weaponry if necessary. Unfortunately, the Nimrods were retired by the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition in 2010, much to the ire of the general public.
!!Boeing E-3 Sentry
!!Boeing P-8 Poseidon

!The V-Force (so called because they all began with V)

Britain's first (and as it turned out, only) strategic jet-powered nuclear bomber force was made entirely up of their so-called "V-Bombers," from the fact that each bomber design was named with something starting with the letter "V." If the Cold War ever got nuclear, the entire "V-Force" would be assigned to support USAF Strategic Air Command, and would report directly to SAC whenever nukes were carried.

The RAF's nuclear weapons were removed from service in 1998.

!!Vickers Valiant

The first of the "V-Bombers" and one of Britain's first jet bombers, the Valiant entered service as a low risk alternative to the aerodynamically more advanced Vulcan and Victor. The Valiant was the only V bomber to actually drop a nuclear weapon when it was used in Britain's nuclear tests. Designed to fly higher and faster than contemporary fighters, technology (namely the S-75/SA-2 SAM) quickly caught up to it and it had to fly low and and slow to avoid Soviet radar. The extra turbulence from such flying meant that their structures were prematurely weakened, leading to an early retirement. Saw service during the Suez Crisis of 1956, being employed in the classic conventional carpet bombing role.

!!Avro Vulcan

The second "V-Bomber" and the longest-lived as its large delta wing was best suited of the three designs for low-altitude flight, although this was by accident as again it was designed to fly higher and faster than contemporary fighters (but once again technology caught up with it). Severely embarrassed the USAF in the 60's during Operation Skyshield 1 and 2, when pretty much all the Vulcan bombers involved in the exercise (to test the US' air defences) got in and out unscathed. The only time it dropped weapons in anger was also one of the most interesting bomber operations in history: during the Falklands War, the RAF barely had enough time to hastily cancel the Vulcan's retirement, retrain the crews in air-to-air refuelling, and sent them on what was then the longest bombing mission in history, Operation Black Buck, to bomb Argentinian positions on Stanley Island. The modifications necessary for this operation involved tons of engineering improvisation. [=XH558=] has recently been restored to flying condition and has been flying airshows, though it was permanently grounded in 2013 due to the [[AwesomeButImpractical ruinous costs of its upkeep]].

* A Vulcan and its nuclear warload ends up being the main plot device of the ''Film/JamesBond'' film ''Film/{{Thunderball}}''.
* Three appear in the climax to ''Literature/DevilMayCare''.

* Vulcans are the stars of Creator/DerekRobinson's Cold War era novel ''Literature/HulloRussiaGoodbyeEngland'' which deals with Britain's primary nuclear deterrent.

!!Handley-Page Victor

The final member of the "V-Bomber" trio, the Victor was the fastest (in fact the ''only'' supersonic of the V-force, albeit only-just, and even then, not intentionally, but it remained flyable after landing from a supersonic sprint) and most advanced but was edged out in service as a bomber by the Vulcan - allegedly because Handley-Page refused to cooperate with the Government sponsored amalgamation of the British aero-industry. Nevertheless, it was the longest-serving of the trio as a tanker, last seeing action in Desert Storm. Had a distinctive crescent wing design that was once again optimized for high-altitude, high-speed flight, and like the Valiant did not fare too well at low altitudes. The Victor looks so futuristic that tankers stopping over at US air displays have reputedly been mistaken for a new British "stealth bomber," despite not remotely resembling any "stealth" aircraft ever built or flown.

!Bombs and Stand-Off Missiles''

!!Blue Danube

Yes, that was its CodeName- you can just imagine a video of nuclear explosions to that tune)- the first British air-dropped weapon to become operational. Had a 16-KT yield (close to Hiroshima size), but appears to have suffered from reliability problems. Informally referred to as "Smallboy", because it was pretty big. Withdrawn after only four years in 1960-61.

!!Blue Steel

The primary means the British had at striking far-off targets with a nuke; a huge missile (looking somewhat like a vastly overgrown Bullpup) with an equally huge warhead over 1 megaton and capable of speeds over Mach 2 with a range of over 150 miles. Designed to give the Vulcan a bit of an edge in survivability by allowing the launching craft to stay outside of Soviet defenses; the Victor was more or less designed around it. Soviet defenses caught up with it though, despite its long range, and it was retired in favor of the aforementioned Skybolt; Vulcans and Victors were pressed to use free-fall "dumb" nukes after the Skybolt's cancellation.
* Carried by one Vulcan in the climax of ''Literature/DevilMayCare''- [[spoiler: it does not have to use it]]


!!F-4 Phantom

Not much more needs to be said that is not in UsefulNotes/SuperiorFirepower. Carrier and land-based versions. The former had the problem that the ''Ark Royal'' was just a bit smaller than the US carriers and was retired with that carrier in 1978 as the Fleet Air Arm (the Royal Navy's aircraft section) went STOVL.

!!SEPECAT Jaguar

An Anglo-French project to build a supersonic air support aircraft, which started off as separate trainer ideas. Not fitted with a radar, it was Sidewinder-capable. It was exported and is still under licensed production in India. In RAF service, it underwent a number of upgrades. However, the aircraft was controversially retired in 2007 as the Eurofighter Typhoon came in to save money- those in favour argued it was obsolete, those against disagreed..

!!Panavia Tornado IDS ([=InterDictor=] Strike- GR.1/GR.4 in RAF service)

Developed as part of the multi-national Multi-Role Combat Aircraft programme, this variant (there are electronic warfare and interceptor versions too, the latter about to retire) is in service with a number of countries. Successor to the Vulcan, this is a swing-wing two-seater strike aircraft. All remaining now converted to GR.4 standard and used solely in the conventional role. One notable squadron they serve with is 617 Squadron- "The Dam Busters".

First used in combat in the Gulf War, where it got handed the very dangerous task of attacking Iraqi runway. 6 aircraft were lost during this, with seven crew being killed. Two were captured by the Iraqis, getting the full "Baghdad Hilton" treatment.

!The ones that didn't quite make it

Possibly one of the plug-ugliest aircraft in history (perhaps excepting only some Soviet designs), the TSR-2 was to the British equivalent to the US F-111. It got as far as a flying prototype and to all appearances would have been an entirely successful aircraft before it was cancelled, officially due to spiralling costs. Unofficially, there is a conspiracy theory that the US used economic blackmail to ensure its cancellation. The TSR-2 would have been in direct competition with the F-111 for export sales and it looked like was going to end up being faster, more capable and probably cheaper. A generation of British aviation fans resent its loss to this day.


A planned pair (at least) of 55,000 ton displacement fleet carriers that would have carried Phantoms and Buccaneers, as a replacement for the ''Centaur''s. They got canned, with the TSR-2, in 1966.

!The fictional etc

* You think "Chicken-powered nuclear land mine" is too silly to be an actual weapon? [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Peacock Blue Peacock]] consisted of a seven-ton tactical nuclear anti-tank mine, to be buried in northern Germany in the event of a land war against the Soviets. To keep the thing at a working temperature in the winter, the designers suggested sealing a live chicken in the case, with enough food and water to keep it alive for the week or so that the weapon would be viable. Fortunately, it never went into production over concerns of fallout and the apparent willingness to contaminate allied territory. The existence of this idea was declassified on [[AprilFoolsDay April 1]], 2004, causing it to be mistaken for a joke.
-->''It does seem like an April Fool but it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes.''

With thanks to:
* The Creator/Channel4 website
* [[http://www.migman.com/ref/2000_combat/AirPowerColdWar/NATOac.htm MiG Man]]
* The book ''Vulcan 607''.
** ''Hell yeah!''
* Wiki/TheOtherWiki
* ''AIRInternational''.
* Mountbatten Centre for International Studies, University of Southampton.