The UK is preparing to announce plans to scrap its Trident nuclear submarine fleet by the end of the decade, the BBC understands.
Trident’s last deployment was in 1986.
The Royal Navy will be required to build new submarines to replace the ageing nuclear-powered vessels, which will include a number of nuclear-capable ships, the agency said in a statement on Monday.
The BBC understands that the decision to scrap the submarines is being discussed with the UK’s partners in the European Union, the European Commission and the UK government.
The UK’s nuclear-armed submarines are in place for a number in the decades to come, including submarines for the European Space Agency (ESA), which will eventually include a spacecraft.
UK defence secretary Philip Hammond, speaking in Brussels on Monday, said he wanted to see a transition to a more modern naval force in which more ships could be built and deployed more quickly.
He said he would be looking at whether to give the defence secretary a more flexible role, or a more hands-on role, in the future.
A British submarine is seen in a storage facility at Faslane, Scotland, in 2012.
‘New era’ The announcement follows a meeting in London last week between the defence chief and ministers of the 27 member states of the EU, including the UK, as part of a package of reforms to the bloc’s nuclear deterrent.
The deal was aimed at helping the bloc to move ahead with its plans to cut the UK nuclear weapons stockpile by a third over the next 20 years.
In recent weeks, the UK has announced that it is considering scrapping the nuclear-missile submarines that have been stationed at Faslan, near Edinburgh, and that have served the country for more than a century.
During the past two years, the Royal Navy has been working with the European Naval Command (ENCOM) to build a fleet of five new nuclear-equipped submarines for future deployment.
Britain is one of a number Nato nations to be exploring the use of nuclear submarines for naval operations.
Earlier this month, the defence chiefs of the 28 countries of the European Defence Community (EDC) agreed to begin the process of re-equipping all its nuclear-qualified forces by 2023.
“We need a new era, where our nuclear deterrent is not reliant on the United Kingdom,” a defence ministry statement said at the time.
Following the announcement, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The UK is in the best position to lead in this new era of nuclear defence.”
The new generation of nuclear armed submarines will allow us to deliver on our commitment to the European people to deliver a more effective deterrent than ever before.
“They will ensure we maintain our commitment in Europe to remain committed to our security, to our allies and to Nato.”
It will be in the national interests of the UK to continue to contribute to this new age of nuclear deterrence.
“In the past, the government has sought to build support for the development of the nuclear deterrent by highlighting its close links to the United States.
At the time, Defence Minister Gavin Williamson said he was confident that the UK would “continue to be an important player in the global nuclear security arena”.”
I think that the way we are doing it right now is the way that we are going to do it for the next 40 years, and it will be our legacy,” he said at a time when the UK had just declared that it would leave the European Economic Area.