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Subject: Trident Class Submarine Conversion
NuclearRenegade    2/12/2004 11:50:10 PM
The USS Michigan is the third Trident class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine to be converted to launch cruise missiles. The conversion will allow each Trident class submarine to carry 154 cruise missiles. Originally equipped, Trident submarines were armed with only 24 ballistic missiles (besides torpedoes). The conversion process takes three years to complete, the Navy plans to convert a total of four Trident submarines. This will provide the US military with more than 600 stealthy, first strike cruise missiles at their disposal. Is this accurate? The cruise missiles are nuclear capable, no? Is this the ultimate first strike combination? Does the US believe it is possible to WIN a nuclear war?
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Thomas    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   2/13/2004 4:49:53 AM
You can have cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, but You are missing the point. 1. Ohio class subs need their ICBM to have their range into the central Russia and China, where their ICBM's are. If the US started a nuclear war with cruise missiles, all the rocket birds would have been out of their silos and have landed in the US - BEFORE the cruise missiles reached their target. 2 What the US need is more conventional cruisemissile firepower and their ability to hit point targets from a safe and undisclosed distance. There has been rumours of the subs running out of cruisemissiles. In total you have your compas exactly 180 degrees wrong! It is in fact nuclear DISarmament!!!!!
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bsl    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   2/13/2004 6:15:55 PM
1)While there is a whiff of inter-agency politics in this program, the main point of converting some ballistic missile submarines to cruise missile carriers is that it allows sending a large missile force to within range of the vast majority of potential targets anywhere in the world totally covertly, and leaving them in firing position for extended periods of time. 2)Conversions are not going to be seen as "nuclear disarmament". To the contrary, there is substantial potentional for messing up existing strategic arms agreements and making future agreements, between any parties, more difficult. How confident can a country be that an SSBM is a conventional, rather than nuclear platform? There is a heavy inclination to count such platforms as strategic, where there is any ambiguity.
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Carl D.    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   2/22/2004 4:02:57 PM
Adding further to the confusion that bsl posted is the proposal for sub launched IRBMs that will fit in those Trident tubes as well, either singlely or in pairs. Since throw weight and range are proportional to one another, you could see one of these boomers with a full mix of SLCMs, SLIRBMs and SLBMs with conventional and "special" ordinance fits of ICM, FAE, PGM and nuclear. This will really give "fits" to anyone trying to keep track of what's what for START verification purposes. And that doesn't even address the Minuteman Elite plan. In the final analysis, the spectrum of options that will soon be available to quick strike an adversary, whether it be a nation-state or a non state adversary will be such that you will see this option used in the near future, for better or worse. One senario that comes right to mind would be two or three of these boats parked on the east "blue water" side of Taiwan, and in the event of an attempt to invade by the PRC, a salvo of SLCMs, SLIRBMS and SLBMs, both land attack and anti-shipping, hammering embarkation ports, airfields and IRBM sites. Something to consider, how big or how many ATAM ICM type payload/warheads could a Trident launch either in the IRBM range band or its current range band? Any thoughts?
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Carl D.    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   2/23/2004 8:32:56 PM
Meant ATACMS not ATAM.
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vok    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   12/22/2004 4:11:26 PM
Ohio class SSGN can't launch nuke-tipped missiles. The torpedo tube is too small and incompatible for launching ballistic missiles, not even IRBM. SSGN is designed for conventional precision strike on well-defend hard-hit land targets. It can only use the newest Tomahawk missile, Block IV(aka TacticalTomahawk). Block IV is very different from earlier model of Tomahawk family. It’s not backward compatible thus can’t be launched from more recent u.s. ship design such as SSGN or Virginia class SSN. As for ATACMS being launched from a submerged platform. It maybe compact enough to be fit into a modified torpedo tube. But with a range of only 300km, it is not a robust option. Few years ago, US Navy had a proposal of having a naval version of ATACMS, NTACMS installed on surface ships and launched from VLS. But the ideal never passed beyond discussion table. I think the navy should consider of having a modified JASSM on SSGN. JASSM has few nice advantages: small size (4m long compare with 6m Tomahawk), stealth technology, same payload/warhead. A sub probably can carry significantly more JASSM than Tomahawk. JASSM’s weakness is its range, which is only about 360km. But Lockheed already have an upgrade on the table, JASSM-ER can go beyond 950km, which puts it in par with Tomahawk.
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vok    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   12/22/2004 4:17:41 PM
I make a correction. Block IV can be launched from most Tomahawk platform. But the launch sytems installed on more recent u.s. ships (SSGN, Virginia SSN, DDX, etc) can't launch older variants of Tomahawk, including those with nuke warheads. They are designed for BlockIV and future missile only.
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HJ    SSGN and Arsenal Ship legacy   12/27/2004 11:03:55 AM
The purpose of the conversion of the Ohio Class subs was to produce a submarine based variant of the "Arsenal Ship" concept espoused by the late Admrial Boorda when he was CNO. That concept ran afoul of warfighter sponsorship issues. Even the CNO can't just build something without some "buy-in" from warfighters under the Goldwater-Nichols construct that turned the serive chiefs into Force Providers working primarily with the Geographical oriented Joint 4 star Combatant Commanders PACOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM and SOUTHCOM. Meanwhile, the submariners were loath to give up 4 very expensive subs with plenty of life left in them (required under disarmament agreements) and very quietly (while Arsenal Ship concept was still alive) began circling the notion of sub that would do the same thing as Arsenal ship. The concept was to provide the Joint CinC, now called a Combatant Commander or COCOM (Boorda had been the Naval component (then called CINCUSNAVEUR)of a "COCOM" and brought that perspective to his DC posting as the Chief of Naval Operations. He envisioned a platform with hundreds of cruise missiles and minimal crew (Boorda envisioned as few as 35 which got almost more attention than the number of launch tubes due to reduced manning costs and started the new wave of manning reduction trade studies for existing and new ships under development). Arsenal ship and the SSGN concept was always geared towardds as many conventional, that is CONVENTIONAL, cruise missiles that could carried. At the time, cruise missile strikes in Balkans and later Middle East were in vogue hence the notion of an Arsenal Ship available in theatre unlike a carrier that wasn't always available to the local CinC and always subject to tug of war between the competing CinCs. This got Boorda thinking about a substitute power projection platform with Tomahawks being the weapon of choice in those days. This solved the problem with existing Tomahawk shooters expending all their cruise missiles in a couple of salvoes and having to return to CONUS for reloading. He just sprang the idea a little too quickly on the "establishment". The submariners are a very DC savvy crowd and when Arsenal Ship looked like it they played their cards exactly right and took their proposal a stwas headed towards the shoals, they expertly rolled out their version further adding an expanded Naval Special Warfare capability to the SSGN concept. This idea was refined and blostered even more after 9/11 and experiments with Naval Special Warfare community bgan in 2003 (using surrogate SSGN) under Giant Shadow and continued in 2004 under Silent Hammer. Each SSGN will be capable fo carrying the new Advanced SEAL Delivery Submarine and hosting a great deal more Special Operaters and their equipment gaining a powerful advocate in the process.
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bsl    RE:SSGN and Arsenal Ship legacy   12/27/2004 11:41:24 PM
There's certainly an element of the submarine sailors looking to find reasons to retain as many boats as possible while total numbers of the fleet are shrinking. There are, however, some at least plausible arguments in favor, if you ignore the line of issues relating to such platforms being confused with nuclear delivery platforms. The big problem with the Arsenal Ship proposals I saw is that it seemed to contemplate a very vulnerable, yet very high value platform. It was proposed to create a ship which would contain a high percentage of the total surface to surface conventional missile arsenal of the country in one place, making a target a dead enemy couldn't miss or mistake, yet configure the ship with limited defensive abilities. It was an invitation to disaster on many levels. Substituting a submarine for the surface ship proposals, whatever else is true, would sidestep a couple of the worst limitations of the original proposals. Using a genuinelly stealthy platform would go a long way to addressing the vulerability issues. And, because such a platform would not be noticable, it might also avoid a set of political problems inherent in any actual deployment of an Arsenal Ship in a region of potential conflict. Basically, the political implications of deploying an Arsenal Ship would be that we were threatening attack. This, in turn, would tend to be provocative, and might push a crisis to the boiling point where it might otherwise not inevitably lead to fighting. This might not be the Navy's concern, but, in the real world, it would affect the willingness of civilian leadership to deploy the platform. A system whose presence is itself destabilizing is a system which may turn out to be a waste of money because it won't be used as envisaged. Also, given the previous kind of considerations, it's arguable that the combination of extreme offensive power and limited defensive ability inherent in the original proposals for Arsenal Ships created a real incentive for potential targets to preemptively attack, to try to take out the greatest conventional risks to the before they can be used. It may not be quite as obvious in the present context, but, when the Arsenal Ships were proposed, the military budgets and arsenals were shrinking. We were looking, taking everything literally, at a possibility that we'd wind up with virtually all our offensive missiles on the things. Thus, a country which could destroy the Arsenal Ship would actually score a sort of Mission Kill. A war kill. America would have had to retool and rearm to fight them. Let's skip all the possible arguements, here. Just think, "Saddam Hussein-quality reasoning". Pack the same punch in a sub, and you avoid all these weaknesses. Low vulnerability to either preemption or simple attack. Low political presence. You don't have to reveal your presence if you don't want to. That, in turn, makes the platform more likely to be deployed, since civilian leaders won't feel that mere deployment, in secret, would unnecessarily pressure a potential enemy. We could reveal the presence, but wouldn't have to. So, there would be no reason not to deploy, early in a crisis, as a contingency. And, since subs don't stand out, they wouldn't need a large escort force, as an Arsenal Ship certainly would have, so it was arguable that the real cost would have been far less. The real cost of a Carrier Task Force, for instance, is not just the hull of the carrier, but must include the whole task force which surrounds it. I'm not saying that I favor this. Just that there were some not-irrational justifications.
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HJ    RE:Trident Class Submarine Conversion   12/28/2004 12:30:04 AM
Very astute reply. I totally agree with your points especially with Arsenal Ship being vulnerable (imagine 35 sailors trying to defend it against a Terrorist seizure). If Admiral Boorda had asked for a "capability" based analysis of alternatives, an SSGN alternative would have likely came out on top for all the reasons you mention. His error was dictating the answer (perhaps his Surface Navy affiliation and desire to preserve command slots, if not increase their role to a primary one rivaling that of a carrier instead of following one around). Enjoyed your reply, happy holidays, HJ
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