During World War II, Britain collaborated with America to build the first atomic bomb. After the war, it developed its own nuclear weapons following a US decision to stop sharing information on its weapons programmes with other countries.
The first independent British nuclear test took place off the north-west coast of Australia in 1952. A further 44 tests followed, the last taking place in 1991.
The UK developed a strategic bomber force and sought to build a range of intermediate-range ballistic missiles - cancelled due to spiralling costs in the early 1970s. In the 1970s and 80s, the UK switched emphasis to missile-carrying submarines, initially the US-built Polaris and later the Trident system.
The 1998 Strategic Defence Review recommended that Britain should retain its nuclear weapons - in the form of Trident submarines - as an ultimate guarantee of national security.