A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine capable of deploying submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with nuclear warheads. The United States Navy's hull classification symbols for ballistic missile submarines are SSB and SSBN – the SS denotes submarine (or submersible ship), the B denotes ballistic missile, and the N denotes that the submarine is nuclear powered. These submarines became a major weapon system in the Cold War because of their nuclear deterrence capability. They can fire missiles thousands of kilometers from their targets, and acoustic quieting makes them difficult to detect (see acoustic signature), thus making them a survivable deterrent in the event of a first strike and a key element of the mutual assured destruction policy of nuclear deterrence. Their deployment has been dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union / Russia, with smaller numbers in service with France, the United Kingdom, China, and India.
The first sea-based missile deterrent forces were a small number of conventionally powered cruise missile submarines (SSG) and surface ships fielded by the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1950s, deploying the Regulus I missile and the Soviet P-5 Pyatyorka (SS-N-3 Shaddock), both land attack cruise missiles that could be launched from surfaced submarines. Although these forces served until 1964 and (on the Soviet side) were augmented by the nuclear-powered Project 659 (Echo I class) SSGNs, they were rapidly eclipsed by SLBMs carried by nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) beginning in 1960.
Imperial Japanese Navy I-400-class submarines are considered the strategic predecessors to today’s ballistic submarines, especially to the Regulus missile program begun about a decade after World War II. The first nation to field ballistic missile submarines (SSB) was the Soviet Union, whose first experimental SSB was a converted Project 611 (Zulu IV class) diesel-powered submarine equipped with a single ballistic missile launch tube in its sail. This submarine launched the world's first SLBM, an R-11FM (SS-N-1 Scud-A, naval modification of SS-1 Scud) on 16 September 1955. Five additional Project V611 and AV611 (Zulu V class) submarines became the world's first operational SSBs with two R-11FM missiles each, entering service in 1956–57. They were followed by a series of 23 specifically designed Project 629 (Golf class) SSBs completed 1958–1962, with three vertical launch tubes incorporated in the sail/fin of each submarine. The initial R-13 (SS-N-4) ballistic missiles could only be launched with the submarine on the surface and the missile raised to the top of the launch tube, but were followed by R-21 (SS-N-5) missiles beginning in 1963, which were launched with the submarine submerged.
The world's first operational nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) was USS George Washington with 16 Polaris A-1 missiles, which entered service in December 1959 and conducted the first SSBN deterrent patrol November 1960 – January 1961. The Polaris missile and the first US SSBNs were developed by a Special Project office under Rear Admiral W. F. "Red" Raborn, appointed by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke. George Washington was redesigned and rebuilt early in construction from a Skipjack-class fast attack submarine, USS Scorpion, with a 130 ft (40 m) missile compartment welded into the middle. Nuclear power was a crucial advance, allowing a ballistic missile submarine to remain undetected at sea by remaining submerged or occasionally at periscope depth (50 to 55 ft (15 to 17 m)) for an entire patrol. A significant difference between US and Soviet SLBMs was the fuel type; all US SLBMs have been solid fueled while all Soviet and Russian SLBMs were liquid fueled except for the Russian RSM-56 Bulava, which entered service in 2014. With more missiles on one US SSBN than on five Golf-class boats, the Soviets rapidly fell behind in sea-based deterrent capability. The Soviets were only a year behind the US with their first SSBN, the ill-fated K-19 of Project 658 (Hotel class), commissioned in November 1960. However, this class carried the same three-missile armament as the Golfs. The first Soviet SSBN with 16 missiles was the Project 667A (Yankee class), the first of which entered service in 1967, by which time the US had commissioned 41 SSBNs, nicknamed the "41 for Freedom".
The short range of the early SLBMs dictated basing and deployment locations. By the late 1960s the Polaris A-3 was deployed on all US SSBNs with a range of 4,600 kilometres (2,500 nmi), a great improvement on the 1,900-kilometre (1,000 nmi) range of Polaris A-1. The A-3 also had three warheads that landed in a pattern around a single target. The Yankee class was initially equipped with the R-27 Zyb missile (SS-N-6) with a range of 2,400 kilometres (1,300 nmi). The US was much more fortunate in its basing arrangements than the Soviets. Thanks to NATO and the US possession of Guam, US SSBNs were permanently forward deployed at Advanced Refit Sites in Holy Loch, Scotland; Rota, Spain; and Guam by the middle 1960s, resulting in short transit times to patrol areas near the Soviet Union. With two rotating crews per SSBN, about one-third of the total US force could be in a patrol area at any time. The Soviet bases, in the Murmansk area for the Atlantic and the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky area for the Pacific, required their SSBNs to make a long transit (through NATO-monitored waters in the Atlantic) to their mid-ocean patrol areas to hold the continental United States (CONUS) at risk. This resulted in only a small percentage of the Soviet force occupying patrol areas at any time, and was a great motivation for longer-range Soviet SLBMs, which would allow them to patrol close to their bases, in areas sometimes referred to as "deep bastions". These missiles were the R-29 Vysota series (SS-N-8, SS-N-18, SS-N-23), equipped on Projects 667B, 667BD, 667BDR, and 667BDRM (Delta I through Delta IV classes). The SS-N-8, with a range of 7,700 kilometres (4,200 nmi), entered service on the first Delta-I boat in 1972, before the Yankee class was even completed. A total of 43 Delta-class boats of all types entered service 1972–1990, with the SS-N-18 on the Delta III class and the R-29RM Shtil (SS-N-23) on the Delta IV class. The new missiles had increased range and eventually Multiple Independently-targeted Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV), multiple warheads that could each hit a different target. The Delta I class had 12 missiles each; the others have 16 missiles each. All Deltas have a tall superstructure (aka casing) to accommodate their large liquid-fueled missiles.
Although the US did not commission any new SSBNs from 1967 through 1981, they did introduce two new SLBMs. Thirty-one of the 41 original US SSBNs were built with larger diameter launch tubes with future missiles in mind. In the early 1970s the Poseidon (C-3) missile entered service, and those 31 SSBNs were backfitted with it. Poseidon offered a massive MIRV capability of up to 14 warheads per missile. Like the Soviets, the US also desired a longer-range missile that would allow SSBNs to be based in CONUS. In the late 1970s the Trident I (C-4) missile was backfitted to 12 of the Poseidon-equipped submarines. The SSBN facilities of the base at Rota, Spain were disestablished and the Naval Submarine Base King's Bay in Georgia was built for the Trident I-equipped force.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union commissioned larger SSBNs designed for new missiles in 1981. The American large SSBN was the Ohio class, also called the "Trident submarine", with the largest SSBN armament ever of 24 missiles, initially Trident I but built with much larger tubes for the Trident II (D-5) missile, which entered service in 1990. The entire class was converted to use Trident II by the early 2000s. When the USS Ohio commenced sea trials in 1980, two US Benjamin Franklin-class SSBNs had their missiles removed to comply with SALT treaty requirements; the remaining eight were converted to attack submarines (SSN) by the end of 1982. These were all in the Pacific, and the Guam SSBN base was disestablished; the first several Ohio-class boats used new Trident facilities at Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Washington. Eighteen Ohio-class boats were commissioned by 1997, four of which were converted as cruise missile submarines (SSGN) in the 2000s to comply with START I treaty requirements.
The Soviet large SSBN was the Project 941 Akula, more famously known as the Typhoon class (and not to be confused with the Project 971 Shchuka attack submarine, called "Akula" by NATO). The Typhoons were the largest submarines ever built at 48,000 tons submerged. They were armed with 20 of the new R-39 Rif (SS-N-20) missiles. Six Typhoons were commissioned 1981–1989.
New SSBN construction terminated for over 10 years in Russia and slowed in the US with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991. The US rapidly decommissioned its remaining 31 older SSBNs, with a few converted to other roles, and the base at Holy Loch was disestablished. Most of the former Soviet SSBN force was gradually scrapped under the provisions of the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement through 2012. By that time the Russian SSBN force stood at six Delta IVs, three Delta IIIs, and a lone Typhoon used as a testbed for new missiles (the R-39s unique to the Typhoons were reportedly scrapped in 2012). Upgraded missiles such as the R-29RMU Sineva (SS-N-23 Sineva) were developed for the Deltas. In 2013 the Russians commissioned the first Borei-class submarine, also called the Dolgorukiy class after the lead vessel. By 2015 two others had entered service. This class is intended to replace the aging Deltas, and carries 16 solid-fuel RSM-56 Bulava missiles, with a reported range of 10,000 kilometres (5,400 nmi) and six MIRV warheads. The US is designing the Columbia-class submarine to replace the Ohio-class; and expects to begin construction in 2021.
Arihant-class submarines are nuclear powered SSBNs built under the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project by India. They will be the first nuclear submarines designed and built by India.
Ballistic missile submarines differ in purpose from attack submarines and cruise missile submarines; while attack submarines specialize in combat with other vessels (including enemy submarines and merchant shipping), and cruise missile submarines are designed to attack large warships and tactical targets on land, the primary mission of the ballistic missile is nuclear deterrence. They serve as the third leg of the nuclear triad in countries which also operate nuclear-armed land based missiles and aircraft. Accordingly, the mission profile of a ballistic missile submarine concentrates on remaining undetected, rather than aggressively pursuing other vessels. Ballistic missile submarines are designed for stealth, to avoid detection at all costs. Nuclear power, allowing almost the entire patrol to be conducted submerged, is of great importance to this. They also use many sound-reducing design features, such as anechoic tiles on their hull surfaces, carefully designed propulsion systems, and machinery mounted on vibration-damping mounts. The invisibility and mobility of SSBNs offer a reliable means of deterrence against an attack (by maintaining the threat of a second strike), as well as a potential surprise first strike capability.
In most cases, SSBNs generally resemble attack subs of the same generation, with extra length to accommodate SLBMs, such as the Russian R-29 (SS-N-23) or the NATO-fielded and American-manufactured Polaris, Poseidon, and Trident-II missiles. Some early models had to surface to launch their missiles, but modern vessels typically launch while submerged at keel depths of usually less than 50 metres (160 ft). Missiles are launched upwards with an initial velocity sufficient for them to pop above the surface, at which point their rocket motors fire, beginning the characteristic parabolic climb-from-launch of a ballistic missile. Compressed air ejection, later replaced by gas-steam ejection, was developed by Captain Harry Jackson of Rear Admiral Raborn's Special Project Office when a proposed missile elevator proved too complex. Jackson also derived the armament of 16 missiles used in many SSBNs for the George Washington class in 1957, based on a compromise between firepower and hull integrity.
SSBN is the US Navy hull classification symbol for a nuclear-powered, ballistic missile-carrying submarine. The SS denotes "Submarine" (alternatively "Ship, Submersible"), the B denotes "ballistic missile," and the N denotes "nuclear powered." The designation SSBN is also used throughout NATO under STANAG 1166.
In the US Navy, SSBNs are sometimes called Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines, or FBMs. In US naval slang, ballistic missile submarines are called boomers. In Britain, they are known as bombers. In both cases, SSBN submarines operate on a two-crew concept, with two complete crews – including two captains – called Gold and Blue in the United States, Starboard and Port in the United Kingdom.
The French Navy commissioned its first ballistic missile submarines as SNLE, for Sous-marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engin (lit. "nuclear-powered device-launching submarines"). The term applies both to ballistic missile submarines in general (for instance "British SNLE" occurs ) and, more technically, as a specific classification of the Redoutable class. The more recent Triomphant class is referred to as SNLE-NG (Nouvelle Génération, "New Generation"). The two crews used to maximise the availability time of the boats are called "blue" and "red" crews.
The Soviets called this type of ship RPKSN (lit. "Strategic Purpose Underwater Missile Cruiser"). This designation was applied to the Typhoon class. Another designation used was PLARB(«ПЛАРБ» – подводная лодка атомная с баллистическими ракетами, which translates as "Nuclear Submarine with Ballistic Missiles"). This designation was applied to smaller submarines such as the Delta class. After a peak in 1984 (following Able Archer 83), Russian SSBN deterrence patrols have declined to the point where there is less than one patrol per sub each year and at best one sub on patrol at any time. Hence the Russians do not use multiple crews per boat.
On 4 February 2009, the British HMS Vanguard and the French Triomphant collided in the Atlantic. Vanguard returned to Faslane in Scotland, under her own power, and Triomphant to Île Longue in Brittany.
The Columbia-class submarine, formerly known as the Ohio Replacement Submarine and SSBN-X Future Follow-on Submarine, is an upcoming class of nuclear submarines designed to replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in the United States Navy. The first submarine is scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and enter service in 2031.George Washington-class submarine
The George Washington class was a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines deployed by the United States Navy. The George Washington, along with the later Ethan Allen, Lafayette, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes, comprised the "41 for Freedom" group of submarines that represented the Navy's main contribution to the nuclear deterrent force through the late 1980s.Golf-class submarine
Project 629, also known by the NATO reporting name of Golf class, were diesel electric ballistic missile submarines of the Soviet Navy. They were designed after six Zulu class submarines were successfully modified to carry and launch Scud missiles. All Golf boats had left Soviet service by 1990. All have been since disposed of. According to some sources at least one Golf-class submarine is operated by China, to test new SLBMs.JL-3
The JL-3 (Chinese: 巨浪-3; pinyin: Jù Làng Sān; literally: 'Giant Wave 3' is a Chinese third-generation intercontinental-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in development. It will likely deploy on the Type 096, a predicted future class of Chinese ballistic missile submarine.The missile is solid-fueled and has a reported range of 7,400 mi (11,900 km), thus able to reach all U.S. mainland targets. The JL-3 is expected to carry multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles—warheads capable of targeting numerous separate locations.The first test flight occurred on 24 November 2018 in the Bohai Sea; it was likely a test of the launch tube's cold-launch ejection system. On 2 June 2019, U.S. intelligence agencies assessed another test off the coast of northern China to be a JL-3 missile.Jin-class submarine
The Type 094 (simplified Chinese: 09-IV型核潜艇; traditional Chinese: 09-IV型核潛艇; Chinese designation: 09-IV; NATO reporting name: Jin class) is a class of ballistic missile submarine developed by China for the People's Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force. The Type 094 succeeds the Type 092 submarine.Lafayette-class submarine
The Lafayette class of submarine was an evolutionary development from the Ethan Allen class of fleet ballistic missile submarine, slightly larger and generally improved. This class, together with the George Washington, Ethan Allen, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes, composed the "41 for Freedom," the Navy's primary contribution to the nuclear deterrent force through the late 1980s. The James Madison and Benjamin Franklin classes are combined with the Lafayettes in some references.List of Russian Navy equipment
This is a list of the Russian Navy equipment:
Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier
Delta-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine
Typhoon-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine
Borey (Dolgorukiy)-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine
Oscar-class nuclear cruise missile submarine
Sierra-class nuclear attack submarine
Victor-class nuclear attack submarine
Akula-class nuclear attack submarine
Yasen (Severodvinsk)-class nuclear attack submarine
Tango-class diesel-electric submarine
Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine
Improved Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine
Lada (Petersburg)-class diesel-electric submarine
Burevestnik (Krivak)-class frigate
Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate
Buyan (Astrakhan) class corvette
Bora-class guided missile hovercraft
Alligator-class landing ship
Ropucha-class landing ship
Polnocny-class landing ship
Ivan Gren-class landing shipOhio-class submarine
The Ohio class of nuclear-powered submarines is the sole class of ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) currently in service with the United States Navy. Fourteen of the eighteen boats are SSBNs, which, along with U.S. Air Force strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, constitute the nuclear-deterrent triad of the U.S. The remaining four have been converted from their initial roles as SSBNs to cruise missile submarines (SSGNs). The Ohio-class boats, each displacing 18,750 tons submerged, are the third largest submarines in the world, behind the 48,000-ton Typhoon class and 24,000-ton Borei class of the Russian Navy. The Ohio class replaced the Benjamin Franklin- and Lafayette-class SSBNs.The lead submarine of this class is USS Ohio. The 14 Trident II SSBNs together carry about half of U.S. active strategic thermonuclear warheads. Although the Trident missiles have no preset targets when the submarines go on patrol, they can be given targets quickly, from the United States Strategic Command based in Nebraska, using secure and constant radio communications links, including very low frequency systems. All the Ohio-class submarines, except for USS Henry M. Jackson, are named for U.S. states, which U.S. Navy tradition had previously reserved for battleships and cruisers.
The Ohio-class boats are the largest submarines ever built for the U.S. Navy. Two Russian Navy classes have larger total displacements: the Soviet-designed Typhoon-class submarines have over twice the total displacement, and Russia's Borei-class submarines have roughly 25% greater displacement, but the Ohio-class boats carry more missiles than either: 24 Trident missiles apiece, versus 16 by the Borei class (20 by the Borei II) and 20 by the Typhoon class.Redoutable-class submarine (1967)
The Le Redoutable-class submarine was a ballistic missile submarine class of the French Marine Nationale. In French, the type is called Sous-marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engins (SNLE), literally "Missile-launching nuclear submarine". When commissioned, they constituted the strategic part of the naval component of the French nuclear triad, then called Force de frappe (the aircraft carriers Clemenceau and Foch constituting the tactical part).
The class entered active service in 1971 with Redoutable, six submarines were built in total. All have since been decommissioned. The structural changes in Inflexible have seen it regarded as a different class from the early boats. The class has been superseded by the Triomphant class, firing the larger M45 missile (M51 from around 2010).Russian submarine Knyaz Pozharskiy
Knyaz Pozharsky (Russian: АПЛ Князь Пожарский) is a Borei-class ballistic missile submarine under construction for the Russian Navy. The submarine is named after Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and is the eighth vessel in total, and the fifth of the upgraded Project 955A to be built.Sinpo-class submarine
The Sinpo class submarine, also called the Gorae ("whale") or Pongdae class, is a new class of submarine produced in North Korea. Only one submarine has been observed in service. It is the largest submarine designed and built for the Korean People's Navy.Submarine Cargo Vessel
The Submarine Cargo Vessel (Russian: Подводное транспортное судно) is a proposed idea from the Russian Rubin Design Bureau. The idea is to use decommissioned SSBNs (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine) from the Russian Navy to carry cargo under the Arctic Ocean. The reason for this solution is that it would be considerably cheaper than designing and producing an entirely new type of submarine.Typhoon-class submarine
The Project 941 or Akula (Russian: Акула, lit. 'Shark') class submarine (NATO reporting name: Typhoon) is a type of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine deployed by the Soviet Navy in the 1980s. With a submerged displacement of 48,000 tonnes, the Typhoons are the largest submarines ever built, able to accommodate comfortable living facilities for the crew when submerged for months on end. The source of the NATO reporting name remains unclear, although it is often claimed to be related to the use of the word "typhoon" ("тайфун") by General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev of the Communist Party in a 1974 speech while describing a new type of nuclear ballistic missile submarine, as a reaction to the United States Navy's new Ohio-class submarine.The Russian Navy cancelled its Typhoon modernization program in March 2012, stating that modernizing one Typhoon would be as expensive as building two new Borei-class submarines. With the announcement that Russia has eliminated the last SS-N-20 Sturgeon SLBMs in September 2012, the remaining Typhoons have reached the end of service.USS George Washington (SSBN-598)
USS George Washington (SSBN-598) was the United States's first operational ballistic missile submarine. It was the lead ship of her class of nuclear ballistic missile submarines, was the third United States Navy ship of the name, in honor of George Washington (1732–1799), first President of the United States, and the first of that name to be purpose-built as a warship.USS John Marshall
USS John Marshall (SSBN-611) was an Ethan Allen-class submarine, the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for John Marshall (1755–1835), the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Originally a fleet ballistic missile submarine designated SSBN-611, she later was reclassified as an attack submarine and re-designated SSN-611.USS Kentucky (SSBN-737)
USS Kentucky (SSBN-737), is a United States Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine which has been in commission since 1991. She is the third U.S. Navy ship to be named for Kentucky, the 15th state.USS Maine
Four ships of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Maine, named for the 23rd state:
USS Maine (ACR-1), was a battleship whose 1898 sinking precipitated the Spanish–American War.
USS Maine (BB-10), launched in 1901, was the lead ship of her class of battleships. She participated in the voyage of the Great White Fleet, and was decommissioned in 1920 to be sold for scrap in 1923.
USS Maine (BB-69) was a Montana-class battleship, and was cancelled in 1943.
USS Maine (SSBN-741), launched in 1994, is an Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine, in active service as of 2019.USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609)
USS Sam Houston (SSBN-609/SSN-609), an Ethan Allen-class submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named after Sam Houston (1793–1863), president (1836–1838, 1841–1844) of the Republic of Texas. Sam Houston was the US Navy's seventh ballistic missile submarine.
SSBN classes in service
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