The Royal Navy's contribution to the alliance has been praised as it approaches 45 years of continuous submarine nuclear deterrent patrols.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond this week to thank the UK for its nuclear commitment to the alliance as the Royal Navy completed the 100th patrol by a Vanguard Class submarine.
In his letter, Mr Rasmussen wrote that NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our territory and populations against attack. He stated that a great example of this has been the UK’s independent strategic nuclear forces which, through their constant vigilance and professionalism over these past 45 years, have helped ensure the freedom and security of the allies.
Philip Hammond said:
I welcome NATO’s acknowledgement of the UK’s continuing commitment to our collective security. Our ballistic missile submarine force forms a key part of the NATO security umbrella which protects the whole alliance.
Just because the Cold War is over doesn’t mean we should drop our guard or weaken our deterrent. No one knows what threats we may face in the future: powerful nuclear arsenals remain while a number of non-nuclear states are attempting to acquire nuclear weapons that could threaten us.
The Royal Navy’s continuous patrols beneath the oceans are vital to deterring our adversaries and key to reassuring our allies.
The Prime Minister said:
As I visit HMS Victorious to welcome home her returning crew, I want to thank all those who provide our deterrent: the submariners, the families who support them and the 20,000 people who work onshore. All play their part in maintaining this nation’s ultimate weapon of defence.
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, said:
Through the professionalism and commitment of its personnel operating and supporting Resolution and Vanguard Class ballistic missile submarines, the Royal Navy has played a fundamental role in the delivery of the independent strategic nuclear deterrent for the nation.
I congratulate those who have undertaken this landmark 100th patrol of the Vanguard Class and recall with great pride their forebears, who have maintained continuous at-sea deterrence for some 45 years.
This week also marks the 50th anniversary of the UK-US Polaris Sales Agreement, the deal which enabled the UK’s purchase of the Polaris weapons system, and subsequently the Trident weapons system, with elements of the associated technical support.
The government is committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based deterrent using the Trident ballistic missile system. There are 4 Vanguard Class deterrent submarines, one of which is always deployed on patrol.
Full text of Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s letter
Dear Secretary of State,
As our most recent strategic concept highlighted, the greatest responsibility of the alliance is to protect and defend our territory and populations against attack, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
A great example of this has been the UK’s independent strategic nuclear forces which, through their constant vigilance and professionalism over these past 45 years, have helped ensure the freedom and security of the allies.
These important UK capabilities will continue to play a crucial role as part of NATO’s appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces that both deter and defend against threats to our alliance.
With that in mind, I would wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the UK on the successful conclusion of the 100th patrol undertaken by the Vanguard class of submarine under Operation Relentless.
I would be grateful if you could please pass on my thanks to all those Royal Navy personnel who undertake these patrols, their families and those who support this operation for their dedication to this vital mission.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen