World War 3: The £250m plan for UK nuclear sub east of Suez to ‘engage China immediately’

During the Sixties, the world arguably came the closest to all-out nuclear war in its history as the US and Soviet Union tussled over ultimate supremacy both on the ground and in space. These tensions reached their pinnacle in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to fulfil Fidel Castro’s request to place nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to a 13-day stand-off as the pair threatened to obliterate each other with nuclear warheads. Two months later, the UK’s first submarine-based nuclear weapon system was born – POLARIS – and less than two years later China stepped on the scene with its first nuclear test, sending a signal to the world that it too could be a superpower.

Harold Wilson had just narrowly won office and he needed a strong policy if he wanted to gain a majority, therefore quashing any Soviet threat apparently seemed like a good start.

Papers obtained by show exactly why heavy consideration was therefore given to the possibility of basing POLARIS submarines in the Far East.

Taking by a secretary to the Chief of Staff Committee, they read: “Ministers decided in December 1967, to keep open the option to deploy UK POLARIS East of Suez from 1972.
“They were informed that the additional capital cost of deployment would amount to some £15million (£255,552,147 today), including contingencies with extra running costs of £400,000 (£6,814,724 today) a year.