Re: Rationale behind US SSBN force size?
- From: DeepSea <deep_sea01@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2006 21:17:30 -0600
kolinatrix@xxxxxxxxxxx wrote in
Kevin Brooks wrote:
<kolinatrix@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote in message
Just wondering, why is the US keeping 14 sub SSBN force when UK and
France are apparently managing (and apparently managed even during
the cold war) with a 4 SSBN force.
Because we have greater responsibilities vis a vis deterrence than
either of those two nations had, or have?
Yep, I put my question up provocatively since I haven't seen rationale
the size of US nuclear forces. I'm no pacifist and I understand the
of strategic nuclear deterrent. And I can see the point of having some
tactical capabilities as well to deter against use of primitive
nuclear weapons. But still, what's the point of maintaining a very
expensive strategic deterrent of limited use and vastly outsizing any
potential opponents? I can see the point of US having ca. 7-10 SSBN's
for 2-3 SSBN constant presence, but 14?
Even Russia is maintaining a SSBN force of only 6 Delta III's and 6
Delta IV's. Unless
the USN efficiency has significantly declined the availability of
those boats is significantly
lower than USN SSBN's.
And also, SSBN's are very expensive. First, you can't use them for
anything else but
deterrence duties and perhaps for listening the whales. If the
proposed conventional Trident will go ahead the subs can be used for a
very limited conventional role, though. Each one of them uses little
over 300 men for crew duties alone. That's quite a lot of trained,
high quality manpower to be trained and recruited. Manpower better
used for littoral use, or in larger picture, perhaps for ground combat
either in USMC or in the US Army.
Are theres SSBN bases in key voting districts or what is behind this?
We have reduced the nuclear detterent force. We had eighteen SLBM's;
four of them are being converted to cruise missile carriers. At the
end of the Cold War we had a bit over one-thousand land-based ICBM's;
we now have something like 500, and DoD has announced a further
decrease down to 450.
Even Russia does not have such a number of ICBM's anymore. Is there a
USAF fighter pilots to spend some time in silos or why is there so
If your adversaries start to build significant strategic weapon
capabilities you will have
years of lead time to upgrade or mobilize your strategic weapons.
While you pose a fair (and interesting) question, the few people here
that are in a position to do anything more than speculate about the
rationale are unable to discuss it to any great detail. I think you have
a good line of reasoning, but you don't have the hard data necessary to
back it up. Consider the following:
The number of BNs required is a function of several factors. The first
is the size of the target database. While it may have shrunk due to the
end of the Cold War, I'm sure you can think of why the database might
increase in size somewhat as well. Even so, I would grant you for the
sake of argument that the total target database got considerably
There is also the fact that you need to have more than the number of BNs
required simply to cover the targets to allow for transit to/from
patrol, maintenance, refits, upgrades, etc. If Fred is right, and we
have determined that our needs require us to keep in the neighborhood of
half a dozen on patrol at any given time; you can easily get to 14 by
saying, ok, for every one at sea, we need one in-port getting ready to
go to sea to relieve a patroling boat. That gets you to 12. Having two
more to cover long term maintenance or refueling cycles isn't a real big
One would also need to look at how nations are responding to the START
treaty. The Russians, have never had a great deal of faith in their
boomers relative to their land-based strategic rocket forces. They
appear to have taken your proposal and while the size of their strategic
rocket forces has shrunk precipitously, I would offer that the largest
percentage of cuts has been in their boomer force. The US, on the
otherhand, has chosen to stick with the BNs - the most survivable leg of
the triad, and shrunk the land based rocket forces by over have if you
count missiles, and I would suspect, by over a great deal more if you
count warheads. Additionally, the bombers seem to have been all but
removed from strategic duty completely.
Finally, one should consider the possible presence of a simple solution
- such as the possibility that when you actually have numbers rather
than supposition, even with the high cost per Trident submarine, they
may offer a lower total cost of ownership and higher reliability per
target covered than the land based rockets/bombers, and are certainly
more difficult to target against.
This is a neat question to tackle, but because the actual data required
to determine the real need is classified we are grasping at air. For
every reasonable proposal for shrinking the size of the deterrent fleet,
at least one equally reasonable counter-proposal for keeping the current
size or increasing the size of the force.
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