Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


The recent dissolution of the Soviet Union into severalĀ  autonomous states and the consequent transfer of sophisti-cated Soviet weaponry and technology to potentially belligerent Third World countries reflect a clear threat to U.S. security. Strategies to deter or to suppress biological or nuclear black-mail must be continuously upgraded to deal with these threats.

With the exception of somewhat limited capabilities of cruise missiles, the United States currently lacks an effective vehicle for deterring and if necessary, neutralizing terrorist threats without use of nuclear weapons or the introduction of manned aircraft and personnel into a hostile state. The resulting exposure of U.S. Forces personnel to risk of capture and loss of life, likely escalation of :he crisis, and resulting adverse world reactions frequently preclude taking really effective action in response to terrorism or aggression. Sea launched and air launched cruise missiles provide reasonable effectiveness against some types of Third World or terrorist threats, but can not be used in many cases due to their several limitations which include such factors as obtaining permission to overfly adjacent nations, difficulty in mapping target approach routes (especially in non-descript desert terrain), masking of targets by adverse weather conditions and shootdown by point defense systems in the target area. Range limitations of cruise missiles further preclude their use in many inland areas.

Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles carrying maximum payload conventional warheads (CSLBMs) offer the best capability to deter and respond to specific threats to world peace during the next one or two decades.

CSLBMs offer:

  1. Superb deterrence credibility from the perspective of a potential terrorist leader or third world aggressor leader because:
    a. The CSLBM provides no warning of approach (is undetectable).
    b. The CSLBM cannot be intercepted/destroyed (DO effective defense)
    c. The CSLBM can strike anytime, day or night irrespective of environmental conditions in the target area.
    d. A CSLBM with several maximum payload high explosive warheads ( approx. 400 pounds TNT equivalent per warhead) can, Ia fad, destroy an ladivfdual or soft tlareat fac:llity (biological weap-ons plant, terrorist headquarters/training camp, etc.)

2. No iDtroductlon of U.S. Forces into the host state.

3. Low (or zero) risk of capture or loss of life to U.S. Forces personnel.

4. Ability to penetrate heavily defended areas and reach the targeted individual or facility.

5. Capability to surgically neutralize soft taqets near populated areas without excessive collateral damage to surrounding environment and innocent personnel.

A limited CSLBM capability can be deployed using existing Trident submarine hulls, crews, maintenance and training facilities for a surprisingly small cost. The only significant costs are those associated with development and manufacture of the conventional warheads and minor fire control systems software changes. One CSLBM Trident submarine on each coast, each manned by a single crew would provide an adequate conven-tional deterrent capability. Given the current euphoria that we have finally made the world safe for democracy it is likely that some of these highly capable Trident submarines will be decommissioned and scrapped, since they may be deemed to have no immediate strategic: nuclear deterrent mission. CSLBM Trident submarines will not only result in retaining additional capable submarine(s) for training and submarine services; they could also be modified to support NayY Seals aad other special operations as the current Special Operations submarine hulls reach mandatory retirement criteria.

Strategic arms limitations should not preclude CSLBM development; Trident launchers (tubes) are already included in the United States allowable numbers; the fact that CSLBMs are not carrying nuclear warheads can be easily verified by on site inspections (without physically going aboard the Trident hull by use of radiac equipment). Nor should there be valid concern that a CSLBM launch might be mistaken for a surprise nuclear strike. We routinely launch submarine ballistic missiles (without nuclear warheads) as part of operational testing. Pre-launch notification procedures have and should be used to notify other nuclear-capable nations of a CSLBM launch. Furthermore, the ICBM/SLBM detection capabilities of major nuclear powers are capable of early confirmation that the trajectory of a CSLBM is not a nuclear or conventional threat. By trading off missile range for maximum conventional warhead payload and using pattem footprints to optimize blast at DGZ, credible soft target kill can be realized. Additional accuracy (above system design CEP) can be achieved using empirical off-set data from test launches. If even more capability is desired, multiple missiles can be in-lined or programmed for simultaneous impact on the target.

We should deploy CSLBM systems now to deal with the possible threats of tomorrow. Conversion of one or two Trident submarines to carry conventional warhead missiles will provide a cost-effective deterrent/countermeasure to the next increasingly sophisticated threat to good order and world peace. Since no one can predict who will perpetrate or where the next confrontation will occur, CSLBMs offer the only credible, affordable system that can reach any hot spot on the globe without insertion of United States Forces. CSLBMs primary value would be to provide an overwhelmingly credible deterrent to terrorist operations. What terrorist leader could continue to operate from his headquarters (even his home in a sanctuary state such as Lebanon) if he knew he could be annihilated anytime day or night without any warning?!!!

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League