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Does the USA still need SLBMs/SSBNs?

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posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 06:50 PM
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Ballistic Missile Submarines are the most effective nuclear deterent we have: they're just about impossible to find, and their missiles can bypass most defenses. The downside: they're far and away the most expensive way to deliver nuclear war.s.

So do we really need our SSBNs? Or would we be better off relying on more cost-effective delivery systems, and using all those resources in other areas?

As for maintaining our nuclear deterent:

The only country that could threaten our ICBMs right now is Russia, and with the array of sensors we've got in place, the chances they could execute an effective "first strike" before we spotted it and retaliated is somewhere around zero: with today's communications we'd likely have our ICBMs in the air before the incoming missiles hit.

And we've got other choices for nuclear dlivery: Cruise missiles, bombs, standard missiles... even without SLBMs (or ICBMs) we can almost certainly get enough weapons through anyone's defense to "ruin their day."


Quick Math: delivery systems costs.

Producuring an SSBN w/24 tridents costs $2,750,000,000,* and can carry up to 192 war.s. At full capacity, that's $14,300,000 per war. delivered (in a nuclear exchange, we probably only get to fire once...).

* I included the cost of the submarine because it's not intended for anything but launching its SLBMs, unlike most systems which can also be used in conventional wars.

Minuteman missiles are priced at $7,000,000 each (again, according to globalsecurity) and cary 3 war.s = $2,300,000 per shot.

Cruise Missiles cost ~$1,300,000 (Tomahawk) or $720,000 (Harpoon/SLAM). Because the launch platform (ship or aircraft) is also going to be used for conventional warfare, I'm leaving that part of the cost out (that, and it would be darn hard to calculate).

Standard Missile (proposed as a nuclear-armed weapon at one point): $400,000.

JDAM Kit = ~$20,000.




posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 07:08 PM
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Well, long-range ballistic missles sure aren't worth a poop against a terrorist with a car bomb. So I guess it depends on what kind of war you think you're going to fight.

Back in the 1980s, when I was co-commander of a Minuteman III flight, I pretty much understood that the basic philosophy behind having nuclear weapons handy was not so much Mutually Assured Destruction, but rather Global Suicide. Very few nuclear scenarios involved dropping one triple-war. missle on somebody and having them give up. Most escalated to the point of world destruction, with the message you're sending to your enemy being, "You'll never invade us, because we'll turn the whole world into a smoking cinder before then." That's a pretty effective deterrent.

But if your wars are all about going into some dirtwater little country and fighting insurgents, that kind of threat is useless. They don't want to invade or take over the U.S. They couldn't do it even if they wanted to.

So, if you're putting it up for a vote, I guess I'd vote to get rid of the long-range nukes. I's still keep a few smaller, tactical nukes on hand, though. Something you could launch from a truck. Those might still be handy.

(Then, as my luck would have it, the aliens would show up, and we'd be caught with our pants down.)



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 07:46 PM
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Originally posted by Enkidu
Back in the 1980s, when I was co-commander of a Minuteman III flight, I pretty much understood that the basic philosophy behind having nuclear weapons handy was not so much Mutually Assured Destruction, but rather Global Suicide. Very few nuclear scenarios involved dropping one triple-war. missle on somebody and having them give up. Most escalated to the point of world destruction, with the message you're sending to your enemy being, "You'll never invade us, because we'll turn the whole world into a smoking cinder before then." That's a pretty effective deterrent.


I've seen some arguments for "pre-emptive" nuclear war, but they're not very convincing. I always assumed it would come down to "Global Suicide" (how is that different from M.A.D.?). From there it's a mater of, "how much do we want to invest in weapons we'd really rather not use."

And because SLBMs are the most expensive system, I'd figure we can simply eliminate them as we approach the "1,700-2,200" war. limit we've agreed to with Russia. I figure current resources - LGM-30 Minutemen and AGM-129 ACMs - alone would be enough to "destroy" a country (population dead, infrastructure destroyed).

If we're putting this to a vote (not what I'd intended, but oh well :p):
1,500 W78/W87= 3 x 500 LGM-30s
460 AGM-129 ACMs
240 UGM/RGM-109 Tomahawks.

... that strikes me as "sufficient deterant." And we've already got all that "in stock."

[edit on 28-7-2006 by RedMatt]



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 08:18 PM
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Nukes aren't necessary, well if you look at it they're the only thing that's keeping the world from going into WWIII until now. well of course there might be a world wide war without nuclear weapons right now if it was agionst a country such as iran or so. but no really major war like WWII or WWI would happen, unless a government is stupid enough to use it's nuclear stockpiles!



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 08:32 PM
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Originally posted by RedMatt
Ballistic Missile Submarines are the most effective nuclear deterent we have: they're just about impossible to find, and their missiles can bypass most defenses. The downside: they're far and away the most expensive way to deliver nuclear war.s.

So do we really need our SSBNs? Or would we be better off relying on more cost-effective delivery systems, and using all those resources in other areas?

As for maintaining our nuclear deterent:

The only country that could threaten our ICBMs right now is Russia, and with the array of sensors we've got in place, the chances they could execute an effective "first strike" before we spotted it and retaliated is somewhere around zero: with today's communications we'd likely have our ICBMs in the air before the incoming missiles hit.

And we've got other choices for nuclear dlivery: Cruise missiles, bombs, standard missiles... even without SLBMs (or ICBMs) we can almost certainly get enough weapons through anyone's defense to "ruin their day."


Quick Math: delivery systems costs.

Producuring an SSBN w/24 tridents costs $2,750,000,000,* and can carry up to 192 war.s. At full capacity, that's $14,300,000 per war. delivered (in a nuclear exchange, we probably only get to fire once...).

* I included the cost of the submarine because it's not intended for anything but launching its SLBMs, unlike most systems which can also be used in conventional wars.

Minuteman missiles are priced at $7,000,000 each (again, according to globalsecurity) and cary 3 war.s = $2,300,000 per shot.

Cruise Missiles cost ~$1,300,000 (Tomahawk) or $720,000 (Harpoon/SLAM). Because the launch platform (ship or aircraft) is also going to be used for conventional warfare, I'm leaving that part of the cost out (that, and it would be darn hard to calculate).

Standard Missile (proposed as a nuclear-armed weapon at one point): $400,000.

JDAM Kit = ~$20,000.

Although I think you are raising a very legitimate question and raising some good points, I think you have made a wrong assumption; Russia is not the only country that can threaten the US. UK, France and China are equally untouchable - even a single incoming ICBM getting through is more than enough to make USA hell on earth - nuclear war really isn't something anyone can win - having better/more ICBMs is a moot point.

But that actually supports your analysis - how many ICBMs are required to guarentee sufficient deterrent? - far fewer than US fields IMO.

I'm anti-nuclear but reality sucks doesn't it. The US has by far the most WMDs, spends the most on procurring them (IIRC).



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 08:33 PM
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Actually the Navy is reducing the number of SSBNs as we speak. They are converting some of the Ohio class Trident subs into SSGNs (cruise missile boats). The USS Ohio and the USS Florida have been converted so far. They are removing the Trident missiles and are replacing them with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as accomodations for up to 102 Sprcial Forces troops and SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDVs). The USS Michigan and USS Georgia are also to be converted.

Tactical Trident



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 08:37 PM
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Originally posted by RedMatt
Quick Math: delivery systems costs.

Producuring an SSBN w/24 tridents costs $2,750,000,000,* and can carry up to 192 war.s. At full capacity, that's $14,300,000 per war. delivered (in a nuclear exchange, we probably only get to fire once...).

* I included the cost of the submarine because it's not intended for anything but launching its SLBMs, unlike most systems which can also be used in conventional wars.

Minuteman missiles are priced at $7,000,000 each (again, according to globalsecurity) and cary 3 war.s = $2,300,000 per shot.



Why don't you include the cost of the Minuteman launch facility, because that's all it is good for and would probably be used once as well?



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 08:47 PM
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Originally posted by JIMC5499

Originally posted by RedMatt
Quick Math: delivery systems costs.

Producuring an SSBN w/24 tridents costs $2,750,000,000,* and can carry up to 192 war.s. At full capacity, that's $14,300,000 per war. delivered (in a nuclear exchange, we probably only get to fire once...).

* I included the cost of the submarine because it's not intended for anything but launching its SLBMs, unlike most systems which can also be used in conventional wars.

Minuteman missiles are priced at $7,000,000 each (again, according to globalsecurity) and cary 3 war.s = $2,300,000 per shot.



Why don't you include the cost of the Minuteman launch facility, because that's all it is good for and would probably be used once as well?


1) We already have the silos, and because they don't really wear out it's a one time (already done) investment. SSBNs have a limited lifespan (30 years?), and if you want to have them around you'll need to keep buying them.

2) More importantly, I couldn't find the pricetag


Not much of an excuse, I know... sorry 'bout that.

[edit on 28-7-2006 by RedMatt]



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 08:58 PM
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Originally posted by planeman
Although I think you are raising a very legitimate question and raising some good points, I think you have made a wrong assumption; Russia is not the only country that can threaten the US. UK, France and China are equally untouchable


I left the UK and France off the list because they're usually regarded as allies. Their nukes could do alot of damage, but I don't think they've ever been pointed at us.

China got left off for a different reason (I made a mistake). I thought their missiles were liquid propellant, which would mean a long fueling period during which we could move in and destroy the launchers. It turns out (I just finished reading up at sinodefense) they've got road-mobile solid-fuel ICBMS, and an SSBN. So you're right, they're definitly "untouchable."

India and Pakistan also have nukes, but I think they're to busy brandishing them at each other to bother sending one our way.


even a single incoming ICBM getting through is more than enough to make USA hell on earth - nuclear war really isn't something anyone can win - having better/more ICBMs is a moot point.


There I agree completely.



posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 09:10 PM
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You talk of alturnative cheaper means of delivering nuclear war.s than ICBMs. It think we will see "new" nuclear powers like Israel, India and Pakistan - maybe Iran/Korea - thinking along similar lines. Submarine launched (from a conventional SSK such as a Kilo) cruise missiles seem like the optimum choice - they may not be as effective as ICBMs but they are (IMO) sufficient to offer a deterent.

Modern SSKs are cheaper and almost as good as nuclear subs in terms of endurance (AIP etc).

And it is currently infeasible to protect the whole US coastline against sub launched cruise missiles. You'd need a GBL (laser) literally every 8km - or litterally hundreds of Patriot sites constantly manned.

And stealth cruise missiles are feasible too.



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