An effective nuclear deterrent to prevent attacks on the U.S. from countries armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is a national security imperative. Since the end of the cold war, traditional nuclear powers, new nuclear powers and the potential for non-state actors to acquire nuclear weapons makes a reliable, flexible and ready nuclear deterrent force more vital than ever.
The U.S. nuclear triad of land-based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers is a deterrent force which for decades has provided a survivable and manifestly-capable deterrent. The triad has shown, in its combination of basing modes, delivery systems, and warhead types, an overall capability which ensures that no enemy attack could prevent effective U.S. retaliation.
Nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are the most survivable strategic component of the United States’ nuclear triad. Hiding deep in the ocean, with virtually unlimited endurance, SSBNs are capable of reaching almost any target at the direction of the President. While today SSBNs carry over half of the U.S. operational nuclear deterrent arsenal, under the new START treaty that percentage will grow to 70%.
Today’s U.S. SSBN force consists of 14 Ohio Class submarines and will begin to retire in 2027. 12 new Columbia Class SSBN, with initial construction in 2021, will maintain the U.S. Navy’s nuclear deterrent force into the 2080’s.
To learn more about SSBN programs click on the links below.