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British Trident programme unaffected by test ban

BIELEFELD - The US moratorium on nuclear testing will not effect Britain's Trident warhead programme: testing is completed and the warheads are already in production, writes Christopher Bellamy.

A ban on testing from 1996 could further influence British plans for a 'sub-strategic' nuclear deterrent. The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that if all testing were banned from 1996 they would 'use the intervening time to ensure our deterrent is in good order for the 21st century' - meaning that sub-strategic warheads would have to be tested in that time. They added that a comprehensive test ban had always been a British objective and that as long as other nations complied, they had no problems with it.

The sub-strategic air-to-surface missile to replace the WE-177 freefall nuclear bomb has been under pressure for some time. The difficulty of testing warheads between the end of a moratorium and the comprehensive ban coming into force might contribute to killing the project.