Trident costs 'could rise by 200m' pounds

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The Independent Online
TRIDENT missiles could cost Britain pounds 200m more than planned because the United States is building fewer in the wake of superpower arms cuts, according to new research. Any increased cost would add to the pressure on the 1993-94 UK defence budget.

If the cost increase resulting from the smaller order is not passed on, however, Britain could end up paying as little as half the cost of the last 20 or so missiles - an idea unlikely to appeal to Congress members desperately trying to cut US defence spending.

Yesterday the MoD denied the report, published by the British American Security Information Council (Basic), an independent research group, saying that it was 'satisfied any such change in the US plans will not have any significant impact on the cost of the UK missile programme'.

The global cost of the British Trident programme was estimated at pounds 10.676bn in January, so an extra pounds 200m is only 2 per cent of the total. But Dan Plesch, Basic's director, said yesterday: 'No one is claiming it's a major percentage increase but in this country, today, it's still a lot of money. The costs have obviously gone up and down, the exchange rate notwithstanding, but it's another 200 million quid, now.'

MoD sources said the missiles were bought on a 'fixed-price' basis, and the programme estimates accounted for such 'minor perturbations'. Basic's costs were artificial because missile construction facilities exist and the cost of maintaining them is divided by the number of missiles produced.