Britain is “exposed” to the threat of Russian hypersonic and ballistic missiles and has “much to learn” from the Ukraine war, according to a retired Air Marshal. The comments come amid spiralling concern over escalation by Vladimir Putin as Russian forces struggle on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Retired Air Marshal Edward Stinger told The Telegraph that the UK’s air defences were limited without a long range air defence system.
He added that the only way to protect London against strikes by Russian hypersonic or ballistic missiles would be to positions a Type 45 destroyer equipped with Sea Viper missiles in the river Thames.
“Nuclear weapons did not disappear at the end of the Cold War, and that nuclear powers do not just hold these weapons as an act of deterrence,” Air Marshal Stringer added.
It is believed that Russian hypersonic missiles are capable of carrying nuclear war heads.
In a paper for the UK think tank the Policy Exchange, Air Marshal Stringer urged the UK to review its nuclear and deterrence doctrines in light of the war in Ukraine, something he said the United States had already begun doing.
Although the UK uses submarines as a strategic nuclear deterrent, Air Marshal Stringer says, the rest of the military has reverted to “the very comfortable position of assuming the battlefield is now solely conventional.”
He said: “We are the outliers here, and our position has been found wanting if an adversary calls our bluff.”
“We should consider how our armed forces are configured to deal with and deter use of nuclear weapons; not just the deterrence of a strategic exchange, but also the use of tactical nuclear weapons that our adversaries see as a legitimate rung on the escalation ladder,” Air Marshal Stringer added.
Rhetoric from Moscow about the use of nuclear weapons has also skyrocketed in recent months.
Following the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions after sham referenda, Putin warned that Russia would “use all the means at our disposal” to protect Russian territory.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also warned that Russia could use hypersonic missiles against the West.
Although many experts still consider the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict unlikely, nuclear tensions are likely higher than any time since the cold war.