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The British Nuclear ExperienceThe Roles of Beliefs, Culture and Identity$

John Baylis and Kristan Stoddart

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198702023

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198702023.001.0001

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(p.226) Appendix 6 DASB/B397/81 Brief for the Chief of the Air Staff, 1981

(p.226) Appendix 6 DASB/B397/81 Brief for the Chief of the Air Staff, 1981

The British Nuclear Experience
Oxford University Press

Committee: Presentation of SofS on Strategic Nuclear Targetting

No. & Date of Meeting: Monday 26 October 1981 at 10.30

Material for brief provided by: VCAS

Subject and Paper No: British Strategic Nuclear Targetting Policy

  1. 1. Following the presentation on British Strategic Nuclear Targetting to your Committee, CDS suggested to SofS a further comprehensive presentation on the principal target options. SofS accepted this recommendation and thus a presentation will be the main item at your meeting on Monday.

  2. 2. You will recall that the earlier presentation was very useful and comprehensive. Both the presentation and discussion confirmed that Moscow was the core of the UK deterrent posture. The debate centred around the availability of additional assets accruing from C4 and D5, their use for additional targeting options and the political utility of these wider options.

  3. 3. When the minutes of your meeting were published and a draft submission prepared, it became apparent that the agreed line was open to slightly different interpretations in respect of the launch of additional missiles against additional targets.

  4. 4. In clearing the submission the main issue of contention was reference to ‘a single target list’. Implicit in the reference was CNS’s contention that the employment of a single list ie Moscow plus, involved a ‘one-button-push’, simultaneously to release all the assets. A further issue was an AFD proposal to incorporate reference to the prospective but in extremis use of the Tornado in a strategic role.

  5. 5. CDS considered that the revised submission still did not meet the requirements adequately to represent the consensus of opinion of your Committee and therefore circulated his own re-draft. This re-draft still incorporated reference to ‘a single target list’. Following AFD representations the word ‘single’ was deleted from the final submission.

  6. 6. You will note that reference to the Tornado was not incorporated. Doubtless you will wish to make reference to the Tornado’s strategic capability in the critical situation of a UK nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. Indeed you may (p.227) wish to emphasise that it would be an ideal weapon system to demonstrate resolve against military targets.

  7. 7. On the main issues, you may wish to confirm that Moscow must remain our core criterion and that we should preserve assets to meet the requirement. With the improved accuracy of the new systems we should plan to attack specific key areas rather than built up areas as a whole. Additional assets should be targeted in accordance with an agreed priority list. Release of weapons to targets should not irrevocably be linked to a single push-of-a button: options must be made available. Finally, the impression we give to the Soviet Union is vitally important and therefore it could degrade our deterrent posture if any lesser options were made public.

    (R.A. Miller)

    Group Captain


23rd October 1981

UK Eyes A

Top Secret

Source: AIR 8/2846, DASB/B397/81 Brief for the Chief of the Air Staff, 23 October 1981.