THE ROYAL AIR FORCE will lose its nuclear capability in 1998, nine years earlier than planned, with the withdrawal of the WE177 tactical free-fall nuclear bomb.

The bomb is being replaced by a variant of the submarine-launched Trident missile to give the Royal Navy what the UK Government terms a "sub-strategic" nuclear capability.

The UK Ministry of Defence will say only that the WE177 is being withdrawn from service because of "good progress" with the Trident. Maintenance issues are also likely to have played a part in the decision, however.

Source: Flight International