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A submarine based solution was announced as the preferred choice in December 2006.  Initial government estimates were that the programme would cost about £20 billion, perhaps about £9 billion of  which is for the replacement of the replacing the four  Vanguards with another  class of 16 tube ballistic missile submarines.   If this money was taken solely from the RN's current share of the MoD equipment budget then no other new ships or submarines could  be ordered for the RN for a period of at least 15 years.


In addition to new build, MOD officials  investigated the costs involved with a service life extension programme (SLEP) for the four existing Vanguard class submarines, and their Trident missiles, re-entry vehicles and W-76 derivative nuclear warheads.  Since 2006 the government and MoD have apparently assumed as a near given a 5 year  extension in the Vanguard service life, from 25 to 30 years.


Developments in the USA indicate that it might be possible for the UK to economically extend         the system to serve for yet another 10-15 years, but this would be very costly.  At the very least the boats would unexpectedly need  another expensive long overhaul period and refuelling [LOPR], and  their hulls and nuclear steam plant would need to be critically  inspected and recertified.  Some UK experts believe that the Vanguards are being worked to hard for a full SLEP (extending their service life by 20 years) to be possible, rather than the 5 year life extension widely discussed.  it's also worth noting that  Vanguard SL would almost inevitably result in the loss of a   national nuclear submarine construction capability, and this will have to be factored into the decision-making.
 


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