The British Government is indicating great concern today after it was realised that the country's complete nuclear deterrent was unavailable.
Britain's nuclear arsenal is formed by the Trident submarine system. There are supposed to be four Vanguard Class submarines in constant rotation, but it seems one is currently seconded to the Portuguese Navy for a training exercise. Two of the others are in dry-dock being fitted with a new Submarine Vicinity Warning System, leaving a single seaworthy submarine.
Unfortunately, this was involved in last week's collision, and is currently locked in at Jack's Sub-Contract Maintenance, awaiting the go ahead for repairs from a French insurance company. It appears that there is a hold-up regarding 'knock-for-knock' decisions on no-claims-discounts when in international waters.
Gordon Brown, who at all times carries the launch codes with him in a 'Nuclear Tiddlywink', was extremely displeased. If had he needed to 'push the button' a red light would have come on in the submarines, but nobody would have noticed. He said that it amounted to "a gaping hole in the nuclear armour" for NATO.
The US Defence Department is so concerned about the loss of Britain's contribution to the west's nuclear deterrent that they have sent a memo which one insider told me was marked 'Urgent'.
As we went to press there was talk of a worldwide news blackout on the issue due to concerns about national security. More as we get it.