How the Tory’s Trident deception undermined UK security

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It was revealed last week that a Trident missile test failed just a few days prior to a vote in Parliament about Trident renewal. However, news of this failure was suppressed by Theresa May and her government. They’ve tried to spin it since then that they kept it secret, not for fairly obvious political reasons, but on grounds of “national security”. Well this is a complete lie and worrying too as it hints about how the current government works and no doubt how it will handle Brexit negotiations.

Firstly, keeping the results of this test secret from the other nuclear armed states would be virtually impossible. They have early warning satellites, spy satellites, subs (often sent out to shadow nuclear missile carrying subs and report on their activities) and long range radar systems, all of which allows them to track missile launches like this. On some occasions the other powers will have been told in advance about such test, as a launch might endanger any space based assets they have passing overhead….or a test might be mistaken for a sneak attempt at a first strike (potentially prompting a retaliatory strike).

So the other nuclear powers would have been watching and observed the results of this test. And this is largely the point of testing missiles like this. Testing a trident missile is the equivalent of the UK walking in front of the other nuclear powers and performing a Haka. It reminds them that the UK has a fully functional nuclear deterrent. There is in short, not much point in testing such a missile (and wasting tens of millions of tax payers money) if the other states aren’t watching.

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Trident missiles have failed before

So the other powers saw the missile test and saw it fail. This not that an unusual occurrence. Even the best rockets are only about 92% reliable (meaning 1 in 12 of them will fail). This is the whole reason why a Trident sub carries more than one of them. So by itself this was a little embarrassing, but its happened before.

But the other powers know that the UK isn’t North Korea (granted the Tories seem to want to turn it into NK with brexit, but we’re not there yet). They would have waited for the press release from the MoD and tried to read what they could out of it to try and figure out what went wrong…..only they were greeted by silence. Why, they will have thought, are the British being silent? They know we saw the missile fail, why keep it a secret?…..Unless of course there’s something they are trying to hide? i.e. that the trident isn’t quite as reliable as claimed!

Keep in mind that while the other powers will be in a position to observe live missile tests, they won’t know what’s going on in the labs and engineering firms that build the missiles. Its possible that individual parts of the missile have repeatedly failed tests, but by luck the live firings of the assembled missile have always worked. Only now these problems have escalated to the point where the entire missile is failing in flight.

Case in point, Orbital (a new space start up) and their Antares rocket. For years there were rumours that they were seeing failures and burn outs of the rocket’s Russian built engines during ground tests and inspections. But any time they launched, everything seemed to work- Until in 2014 when a rocket blew up on the pad (or more precisely it blew up the pad!). As a result Orbital have essentially gone back to the drawing board and switched to a new engine. SpaceX too has had problems with the use of LOx in combination with composites, but any issues in testing never carried over to endanger a launch – Until a few months ago when a rocket exploded on the pad.

Now I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with the Trident missile. But my point is, that by trying to suppress news of this rocket failure it may have created the impression that there is. In short Theresa May wasn’t protecting UK security, she was undermining it for selfish political reasons. It raises the risk that the other major powers would have seen the test failure, put two and two together and decided it equalled five. And if a shooting war broke out in the mean time, they might actually take action they otherwise won’t consider.

And it gets worse. The supposed reason for this failure was to do with the GPS guidance system of the rocket. GPS signals can be interfered with. This is why most ICBM’s have a backup guidance system that relies on alternative principles (inertial, celestial, etc.) that should step in if the primary guidance failed. We must consider the possibility that the missile went of course because one of the other powers was at the time jamming GPS signals and the backup guidance failed. By failing to report anything for several weeks this would have sent the message to that other state that the British were still scratching their heads clueless as to what had happened. And that in the event of a shooting war, Trident was little more that 20 billion worth of useless hardware.

So let us be clear, Theresa May was quite happy to undermine British security just because she was scared of a confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn on an issue where she was already guaranteed a majority. Frankly if she can handle Corbyn, waving a ban the bomb petition (while wearing one of his dodgy tracksuits), how does she propose to handle Putin, the Chinese or the Europeans during Brexit? And her reaction to Trump banning UK citizens from the US? Silence because she’s afraid of the big bad bully with the mad hair. I mean how spineless is she! If Brexit mean brexit, it means the UK becoming the 51st state of Trump land.

This episode also implies that the government will suppress important information and keep it from Parliament during Brexit negotiations. We’ll only find out when its too late to change anything. If there weren’t enough reasons for MP’s to vote against this article 50 bill, this is clearly another.

And of course, ironically enough, the suppression of this test failure also creates a compelling case against trident renewal, probably more so than it would, if the incident had been reported earlier.

The Case for Space?

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Figure 1: Could space travel and eventual colonisation help solve some of the world’s environmental problems?

I’ve been doing a bit of speculation recently on my energy blog about who space policy and sustainability might interconnect. In short, can space colonisation offer a possible solution to resource shortages or over-population? I’ve broken the answer down across three posts below:

Space a sustainability solution? A critical review

In the first article I look at the goals of space colonisation as well as the technical obstacles involved, notably in terms of propulsion technology and launch vehicle design. And to be clear, we are talking about space colonisation here, not space exploration, that’s two entirely different things.

Is it possible to significantly reduce the costs of launching payloads into space? The answer I suspect is, yes, which could make exploration cheaper and easier, but probably not by enough to make colonisation possible any time soon.

Space a sustainability solution – Part 2: Living on the high frontier

Not least because, as discussed in this second article, the problems associated with getting into space are small compared to the issues that come with living in space. Certainly, its possible for humans to live for extend periods on world’s like Mars or the Moon. But its far from proven if permanent habitation is possible.

And its also far from proven that we can sustain life support off earth for any colonists without regular resupply from earth, so any such colonies wouldn’t be a “backup” earth, as they’d be wholly dependant on earth for survival.

And one also has to question the motivations. With the exception of low level extraction of rare earth or precious metals, its difficult to build a credible and economically viable plan for space colonisation. I doubt we’ll be moving large number of people off the planet any time soon.

The case for space – Part 3: Martian delusions

Finally, I look at the recent announcements from groups such as Mars One, the Mars Society and Elon Musk’s proposals for Mars exploration and colonisation.

In short, one is left to ask if Mars one is an outright scam or merely a textbook example of the Dunning Kruger effect.

Bob Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan has some merit, although there are some holes in it, notably as it relies on a number of untested elements.

Unfortunately Elon Musk’s plans, which are based on Mars direct (just on a larger scale) also has a number of possible holes and potential show stoppers. Its possible they might be able to overcome these issues, but my guess is that it will take a lot longer that he proposes to get such a program off the ground and cost an awful lot more. And again, the jury is out as to whether Martian colonisation is even possible, or even a good idea.

Things I missed while on Holiday

I’ve been on holiday for a few weeks with another wee break coming up. So I thought I’d comment on the stories I’ve missed while away.

Olympics closing ceremony…which I missed, which was probably just as well as it featured the spice girls, not exactly my favourite people!

Julian Assange gets Asylum – To be perfectly honest, the only asylum this guy should be in is the type that hands out strait-jackets and free drugs :DD . But as the expression goes “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” has to apply doubly to Assange. Now on the one hand if the Swedes just issued a declaration saying that he would only be charged/interviewed with regard to the rape charge (possibly we could allow the Ecuadorian government to participate as a neutral observer). This would resolve the current crisis, but I get the impression that even this would not sufficient for Julian. On the other hand, it seems odd that such an offer hasn’t been made, which sort of suggests Julian has good reason to fear going back to Sweden as it might turn into a mere pit stop on his way to Gitmo!

Will the British police storm the embassy? I hope not or they’ll be making it open season on every UK diplomatic mission in the world. They will have set a legal precedence that the likes of Assad, Putin or Mugabe will drive a bus thro. Diplomatic immunity is a 4,000 year old tradition going back to the time of Rameses the Great. One possibility is the Ecuadorian government trying to sneak him out in the boot of a car (considered diplomatic territory) and onto a plane…one assumes the cops have a few special branch officers at Heathrow waiting to rugby tackle him as he runs from the car to the plane!

Virgin loses West Coast Train franchise – I’m not surprised by this, I’ve had many bad experiences with Virgin (and I’m still waiting for my refund btw). Branson said he’d run it like an airline. Unfortunately he succeeded. They seemed to have turned the West Coast line into a case of Ryanair service for British Airways prices.

Will First Group do any better? Hardly! As I’ve discussed before the problems with rail travel in the UK are more fundamental, i.e. we have a “fake” private rail system that needs more in subsidies than British Rail pre-privatisation needed. Changing the livery on the side of the train or the coffee cups isn’t going to achieve a thing.

Neil Armstrong Dies – The first man on the moon makes his final “giant leap”. He was the perfect guy for the job. What many people don’t know was that things started to go badly wrong in the last few minutes of the moon landing. The LEM’s computer crashed unexpectedly due to the volume of data coming in and the astronauts realised they were heading for a dangerous boulder field. The manual said in such a scenario they should abort, but Neil switched the LEM into manual mode and with the guidance and help of Aldrin, he got the LEM down on the ground with seconds of fuel left remaining (both have often wondered if anyone goes back to the moon could they check the tanks and see how much fuel was actually left!). He and Aldrin were in essence the right people in the right place at the right time.

That said, Armstrong represented a different era of America. The US space program is caught in the doldrums, with no manned launched capability nor clear mission. It is possible that private space launchers will, as Obama hopes, provide a service. But that to me is a bit of a gamble. In any event I would argue the current world priority in space should be science missions, such as a new generation of space telescopes and long range space probes (notably to Jupiter and its moons). At some future date, the time will come for further manned missions, both to the moon and Mars (to stay perhaps?). But its pure speculation how long it will take for that day to arrive. Neil Armstrong might be remembered more as our “Eric the Red” rather than “Christopher Colombus” in that it might be centuries before anyone goes back to the moon again.

What happens in Vegas….well I’m quite sure the Royals would like to add “…stays in Vegas”. Unfortunately the tabloid press would disagree. The newspapers initially agreed to keep the photos of a naked prince Harry under raps…of course they forgot about this thing called “the internet”. Here’s a link if you’ve missed it. The Sun tried to portray its decision to publish as a moral one regarding press freedom and striking against censorship. Ya right! If that’s so I dare the Sun to publish those cartoons of Mohammed? Or how about pictures of the Tienanmen square massacre? (Murdoch’s been cosying up to the Chinese for years) Or how about those pictures of Bush doing coke? The only reason why the Sun published them is because they were salivating at the cash they could pull in.

I also did see this odd article on the Beeb which tried to suggest it was normal for people to take their clothes off when they were drunk. I’m Irish and therefore I think I can call myself an expert on drunken activity and while it happens to some people it is certainly not “normal” in anyway. Generally if you find yourself starkers you’ve either drunk way too much or have had your drink spiked, or simply can’t handle you’re liquor.

Lance Armstrong gives up fight against drug allegations – Meanwhile another Armstrong appears to be in trouble. Lance Armstrong appears to have decided to stop trying to defend himself against doping allegations. While he’s not admitted to anything, this has quite serious implications.

It essentially means that between 2010 and the last win by Miguel Indurain in 1995 every single tour winner has had either been disqualified or had some cloud of doubt placed over his win. Indeed numerous winners in the pre-Indurain era (its widely believed that Indurain had a natural physical advantage compared to other cyclists and that if he was taking drugs, then he was an idot!) are also under suspicion, right back to Eddy Merchx (Merchx regularly won stages by a margin of ten minutes or more, so again if he was taking drugs, he was an idot!).

Indeed if the authorities do decide to strip Armstrong of his titles they are left with the problem of who to award them too, as a number of the 2nd and 3rd place finishers behind him are also at the centre of various doping controversies.

This to me is the real problem with drug taking in sports, it ruins things. Sure the athlete gets the medals and the sponsorship endorsements, but we’re left speculated over who would have actually won a clean race. Take the example of the women’s 100m final in Sydney, where the top two athletes have since tested positive, as also happened with the men’s 100m in 1988 (while Johnson got caught, allegations have swirled since then regarding Carl Lewis). Then there was all that speculation over a Chinese swimmer during the Olympics, and I’m sure some are even wondering about whether Phelps performance was “enhanced” in some way. Like I said it ruins the sport.

To my mind, the solution is simple – take the money out of sports. Athletes can only participate in major events such as the Olympics or Tour de France if they agree to some sort of wage cap on earnings. An athlete who knows that once their sporting career is over that they’ll have to go out and get a job is less likely to cheat.

Alternatively its a case of throwing in the towel, accepting the fact that athletes are going to dope, but instead trying to manage the problem, i.e. make it legal, if carried out under careful supervision. Naturally, some athletes will choose not to dope, but this could be solved by using a handicap system (doped athletes have to wear a belt of small weights, or have several seconds added to their time).

Wheels Come off Ron Paul’s “delegate strategy” – One story I covered a while ago was the “undemocratic” tactics of Ron Paul’s Tea Party supporters (often referred to as “Paulestinians” within the Republican party). They had been planning to rig the delegates who went to the up coming Republican National Convention. They would then vote for Ron Paul, even though the state they represented may well have voted for Romney (oddly enough internal rules of the Republican party allowed this). Unsurprisingly, the GOP leadership has now closed this absurd loophole and the “Paulestinians” are going nuts about it.

Now while I’m no fan of Romney nor the Republican party, what Ron Paul and his cult of personality were up too was an attempt to circumvent the democratic process. This I would argue disqualifies him and his Tea Party supporters from holding high office, as like the nazi’s or many religious fundamentalist parties, they clearly see the democratic process as merely a means to an end. How ironic that Ron Paul is constantly going on about liberty when he and his supporters seem to be dead set at denying millions of their fellow conservatives their liberty.

Micheal D Higgins take down of Tea Party goes viral – Speaking of the Tea party, about a year or two ago, Micheal D. Higgins, Ireland’s new president, had a debate with a Tea Party loon and basically knocked chucks out of him. It has recently gone viral over the internet.

I think what this demonstrates is the vast gulf between politicians in Europe and those in the US. Can anyone see a politician like Higgins, a heavy weight intellectual, a poet laureate and a writer winning an election in the US? No chance!America, and increasingly the UK, is run by handsome millionaire politicians whose main election strength is their ability to pose in front of a camera. Party conferences are increasingly not about meeting and discussing policies but presentation and spin. Is it any wonder that the world is in the mess its in when photogenic politicians get elected in place of people with something resembling “intelligence”.

The Euro crisis….rumbles on, nuff said! The problem is as more political than economic and until the politicians, notably Merkel, get their finger out of their ass, nothing will get done and it will just keep going from bad to worse. At some point soon its likely the euro will be beyond saving, I’m sort of hoping an election in Germany or an asteroid hit (in Athens or Berlin) or something else (revolution or a military coup in a eurozone country?) comes along to save the continent in time.