The Ministry of Defence plans to sell back to the US some Trident missile parts which it has to buy despite cancelling the programme’s final seven missiles.
The sale is intended to keep Lockheed Martin’s production programme running, the MoD said.
Defence secretary George Robertson admitted last week that ‘to safeguard production capabilities, we will continue with the planned procurement of missile components’.
The parts would have gone to produce a final batch of missiles ordered by the previous government.
Robertson said that plans to cut potential Trident missile numbers from 65 to 58 would save about £50m; another £40m of past spending is being written off.
Some components will be needed as spares, Robertson said, but ‘the remainder we will sell back to the US in future years for use in their continuing production programme’.
The MoD said Trident’s original production schedule had been decided years ago and could not be upset without creating problems for the US missile acquisition programme hence the idea of selling back some surplus parts.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the US to manage this change to the UK’s Trident purchase.
The last of Britain’s WE177 freefall nuclear bombs will be dismantled this month by the Atomic Weapons Establishment.