Thursday, September 13, 2012


HMS Ambush finally going for sea trials. 

The second submarine of the Astute class is finally about to go out to sea for her trials. It'll leave Barrow in the coming days. 

The Successor SSBN moves ahead steadily and without fuss. That's how it should be! 

The US Navy signed on August 31 the document with the final key specifications of a vital element of the Common Missile Compartment (CMC) that will be employed both by the new US submarine replacing the current Ohio class and by the "Successor" vessel that will replace the Vanguard class in UK service.

The document freeze the specifications relative to the Missile Tubes and their associated equipment. The tubes, with all associated machinery, are to be built and delivered in quad packs that, assembled, will make up the missile compartment.
The US variant of the CMC is now expected to have 16 tubes, so 3 quad packs will be needed, while the UK's submarine, following the decisions of the SDSR 2010, is expected to have only 8 tubes (a 50% reduction from 16 on Vanguard, but it must be noted that already now several tubes on each submarine can be expected to be regularly empty).
The latest START treaty leaves the US the possibility to fit a max of 20 tubes to each SSBN (down from 24 on the Ohio), should it wish to, and there is some internal call for taking the maximum number, but the Navy is concerned with costs and deems 16 tubes sufficient. And, personally, i think they might even be too many already. Consideration to a 12-tubes design was given.  

Jointly funded work on the CMC has been ongoing since 2008, with the UK's participation very significant, both at technical and at financial level. According to the US Government Accountability office (GAO), the UK has provided some 329 million dollars as of March 2011, the "vast majority" of upfront design costs. The UK has also "established a significant presence in Electric Boat’s Shaw’s Cove CMC design office in New London, CT." 

It is not yet clear what the final decisions were about the specifications. One option on the cards was the adoption of wider tubes (diameter of 3.04 meters each, compared to 2.21 meters in the current SSBNs) offering greater certainties of compatibility with future requirements and with the future missile they will eventually carry (possibly to be called Trident II E6, but with the current Trident II D5 planned to live on until 2042, a lot of things can still happen). Built-in flexibility for use of the tubes for special forces insertion, unmanned vehicles and multiple all-up rounds canisters for conventionally-armed cruise missiles was also an option, likely to have been exercised.  

It is known that the famous "review of options for Trident replacement" being conducted by the LibDems in the UK includes the option of "dual-role" SSBNs with significant conventional attack capability.
The current 2.21 meters tubes can readily be fitted with 7-cell canisters for Tomahawk missiles as done by the US on the Ohio subs converted to SSGN. One of them, the USS Florida, reportedly fired, alone, some 60 Tomahawk in the first strike against Libya last year.
Personally, i'm in favor of the Dual Role SSBN, especially considering the sharp, dramatic drop in numbers of the SSN fleet of the Royal Navy.
This of course presents some additional operational challenges and risk, however, because in order to maintain continuous at sea deterrence the UK's "Dual Role" submarines would have to carry Trident and Tomahawk at the same time.

Obviously, the SSBNs could venture in conventional attack roles only against determinate classes of enemies, such as Libya: countries that, putting it simply, have no chance of finding and damaging the SSBN.
This is a complex subject, on which i'll eventually write a specific article at some point. 

By the way, the 2012 Handbook of the Royal Navy reports that under current thinking and planning, the Successor SSBN will combine the CMC to the new PWR3 reactor as propulsion system, but will also draw heavily from the legacy equipment of the Astute SSN: the sonar fit will be the same, with the excellent 2076 system fitted. The tactical torpedo system will also be the same, so that the SSBN will likely have the full fit of 6 tubes and extensive attack capability.
The similarities will be so important that crews will be able to move without trouble from an Astute to an SSBN and vice versa.
Due to the larger reactor, to the expectation of larger tubes and better internal accommodation, despite having half of the missile tubes the new SSBN is expected to be slightly larger than Vanguard. The difference however will be minimum, and the current port infrastructure will continue to be used for the new vessels. 

HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey are now property of the MOD

As announced as part of the 10-years Equipment Budget, the 3 River-class OPVs used by the fishery protection squadron have been bought outright from BAE. So far, they had been leased at a cost of 7 million pounds per year.
The lease was due to be renewed next year, reportedly at higher cost, so that the MOD deemed more effective to acquire the vessels.
They will be in service for another 10 years at least, and i would not be surprised to see them soldiering on even further into the future.

The Goalkeeper CIWS will be out of service in 2015

With the Type 22 Batch 3 frigates withdrawn, the Goalkeeper is currently in service only on HMS Illustrious, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. In 2014, with the retirement of HMS Illustrious, there will only be four systems in the Navy, and only two of them will be active at any one time, if the policy of keeping one LPD in "low readiness" on rotation is not abandoned.

As a consequence, the RN has decided that it makes no economic sense to continue supporting the complex CIWS system after 2015.
Interestingly, in 2016 the two LPDs should change position, with HMS Albion returning into full service and readiness and with HMS Bulwark "going to sleep". Both ships will face works, as they enter and exit active service respectively, and my guess is that in these maintenance periods the ships will lose their Goalkeeper pairs, hopefully replaced by Phalanx 1B or by other, more modern CIWS systems.
The removal of Goalkeeper will create some more free space aboard the LPDs, as the 30mm gun, differently from the Phalanx, has a significant below-deck penetration of 2.5 meters, evidenced by the presence of a one-floor structure under the Goalkeeper mounted on the bow of the LPDs.

The large and powerful Goalkeeper system was originally acquired in 15 units: one on each of the 4 Type 22 frigates, 3 on HMS Invincible and 3 on HMS Illustrious (HMS Ark Royal was given Phalanx) and a set of 2 on each of the two LPDs, Albion and Bulwark. The last gun is shore mounted system for training.

The Royal Air Force has taken delivery of the first upgraded Puma 

Eurocopter handed the first Puma HC2 back to the RAF. The upgraded helicopter, is part of an order for 24 machines, upgraded to HC2 standard by fitting new Turbomeca Makila 1A1 engines, more powerful and less fuel thirsty; glass-cockpit avionics; a new secure communications suite, new defensive countermeasures and ballistic protection for crew and passangers. According to some reports, the new engines and fuel tanks will allow the Puma "to carry twice the payload on a distance three times greater".

The helicopters are upgraded under a 300-plus million pounds order signed in 2009 and will stay in service until 2025. As of 2011, the NAO expected the expenditure to be 326 million pounds, with a budget approval of 339.
The IOC is described as "6 helicopters at Theatre Entry Standard" ready to deploy.
By October 2014, all 24 Puma helicopters and an upgraded simulator are due to be delivered. The 24 machines will sustain a Forward Available Fleet of 22 helicopters, with 22 crews being trained. 

The Puma HC2 is intended to "cover the gap" that will be created by the much awaited modernization and mid-life upgrade to the Merlin HC3 and HC3A, which should include navalization features and turn the Merlin into "HC4". The availability of the Puma will allow the Merlin airframes to go back to factory for the upgrade.

The Merlin HC4 is the intended replacement for the Sea King HC4 employed by the Commando Helicopter Force. Naval personnel is being trained on the Merlin and the first flight with a fully-navy crew happened this month.
The Business Plan of the MOD for the next years says that the Merlin MK4 (or HC4) will be in service in January 2017, with the Sea King HC4 out of service by April 2016. There will likely be a "mini-gap" in which the Commando Helicopter Force has very few Merlin helos available for use, if these are the dates.

The full extent of the navalization process is currently unknown. The Assessment Phase for the navalization process as been announced as part of the 10-years budget, and this will decide the full extent of the changes. Already in 2010, however, it was reported that, while a folding rotor is required, the Navy might do without a folding tail, since the Merlin won't need it to fit on the lifts of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers from which it is expected to fly.
It remains the fact that the tail, unfolded, means a larger deck footprint, which in turn means less helicopters carried.
Then again, with only 25 Merlin HC3/3A planned to be upgraded and retained, full hangars are unlikely to be a pressing issue... 

Surprising: according to British Forces News, the UK is in talks to acquire the V22 Osprey

Reportedly, Boeing confirms that british officers have flied on the V22 and, more significantly, that talks are underway for an order.
[NOTE: the above link no longer works. British Forces News removed the article and associated video from their website. This could possibly be an indirect confirmation that negotiations are effectively underway, but it could also be an epic case of about turn caused by a firm denial of Boeing or the MOD about the reported news.] 
I still find it hard to believe, but... it's worth linking this article of mine, looking at the proposed uses of the Osprey aboard aircraft carriers.

There is also another possible destination for the V22 Osprey if it was ever acquired by the UK: special forces use. And, indeed, the Wildcat Light Assault Helicopter that was supposed to go to the Special Forces, into 657 Squadron Army Air Corps, has vanished from the radars... Can it be because of the Osprey?
I repeat, i remain skeptic. The "4 new, 4 converted" Wildcat solution was costed at little more than 30 million pounds of net additional cost by the NAO, while an Osprey solution would cost possibly up to 40 million per each airplane.
Do you think a switch from option A to option B is possible, in time of cuts? Or better, justified?

I've asked minister Peter Luff about this news, and his kind reply on Twitter says:

I can honestly say we had no plans whatsoever - but Boeing, being good salespeople, kept on offering!

A forecast, i'll dare making, though. If the V22 Osprey is acquired for the Special Forces, 657 Sqn Army Air Corps will die, and the Osprey will go to a RAF Squadron.
Remember my words!

BAE and EADS might merge; France and Germany to collaborate on the MALE 

There is apparently no way to keep EADS out of the Telemos MALE project. BAE and EADS are in merger talks, with BAE that would control only 40% of the resulting colossus.

And France has just signed a deal with Germany to collaborate in the development of a Medium Altitude, Long Endurance unmanned aircraft, while "respecting the commitment to bilateral collaboration with the UK".

Say what you want, but it looks like it is a trinational effort now. And EADS is in, in any case.

I'm not sure if the MOD will be happy for this. Very possibly, it won't be.

For sure, Italy's Alenia won't be amused, and will seek a way in as well.


  1. When I click the link about the V-22 for the RN I get a "Permission Denied" message from the website.

    How would I go about reading this article?

    1. It would appear that British Forces News has taken down the article and associated video, i can no longer find it on their website.
      Weird. Perhaps the MOD ordered them to remove the news.

    2. Yes, i can confirm: a quick google search shows that other sites that linked to the BFSN article also are having a link problem.

      The article has been taken down and is no longer accessible.

  2. Hi
    If the V22 is considered i am not sure it will be the end of 657 squadron, rather the current 7 squadron RAF who currently use the chinook who might swap aircraft, also i believe SF favour the Puma for certain roles so that may be in the mix.
    The Wildcat's small size and discrete profile could still be of use to the sneaky beakies.

    If as you stated (more than likely) the RAF get the v22 then the maintenance bill for a best 12 aircraft would be huge, so i can see the V22 for crowsnest be more justifiable but as a RAF squadron and would join sentry,sentinal,and shadow as the RAF's ISTAR fleet.

    As for COD etc they would be too much of a luxury and something the RAF definitely doesnt want.

    1. Crowsnest as a RAF Squadron? I very much hope not, personally.

  3. me too, but even i can make a sound case for it. It makes more sense than the case for the F 35 unfortunately. The Royal Navy has caught by its own success in Astan, the RAF can rightly make the case its not just an early warning bird for the fleet but a multi role ISTAR asset and they should operate it and dispence it to the carriers when needed. And i cant think of a good counter argument that the RN can give.

  4. Some very interesting updates.

    Ditching Goalkeeper and standardising with Phalanx sounds sensible to me, especially considering the lower numbers and deck penetration of the former. It would be good to see some progress made on updating or replacing Phalanx with something a bit more powerful though.

    I couldn't agree more that the successor SSBN has to have as much commonality with Astute as possible. It is indeed a complex subject that presents some serious operational challenges, but I still think these issues are worth overcoming to bring about dual role capability.

    Any word on the rumour of 2 new OPV's being built at Portsmouth?

    Good news on the Puma upgrades, and as for Osprey....not a chance!

    1. Unfortunately, nothing new to report on the plan for new OPVs to be built, at least for now.

  5. Gaby

    Like you, I am very sceptical about the possibility of the V22 Osprey being acquired for British use.

    There is just the possibility, I suppose, that so much has been invested in the two large CVF carriers that the MOD and/or Navy might wish to obtain the maximum protection from any AEW system that is purchased. Seeing that the V22 would ofer superior range, speed and, above all, payload, to the Merlin AEW system, it may be that they are looking into the possibility of Osprey, which could fit much more powerful radars in order to protect the two invaluable capital ships.

  6. I was wondering do you know if any CIWS have proven themselves in combat? Personally i have doubts of the effectiveness of many of these systems.

    You suggest using tomahawk in in our SSBN fleet. Why? We need 4 ships to maintain a constant deterrent and we may end up with only 3, how can we spare even one to be used to launch tomahawk missiles? Surely just putting tomahawk on the type 45 is more cost effective and sensible.

    Personally I'm not a fan of the V-22, I don't think its cost effective, though I agree not having CATBOR carrier does put us in a awkward position.

    As for the merger or should I say takeover of BAE by EADS is terrible news for both Europe and the UK defence market.

    A tri-national effort for MALE, great.... a repeat of the Eurofighter fiasco.

    1. I suggest using the SSBNs on actual patrols more akin to those ran by the SSNs, instead of just hiding the SSBNs in the middle of the Atlantic or under the North Pole like when there was a realistic threat of sudden russian attack.
      With just 7 SSNs, when 8 was seen as the bare minimum to achieve the tasks assigned, the SSBNs will need to do more than just "hide with pride" as the US say.

      As for the CIWS, i honestly don't know if they ever actually had to shot down a missile in a war. I'd need to make some research to say it for sure.

    2. Thank you for your reply. I agree SSN numbers are low. By using your SSBN's in a more active role would be cost effective in many ways. The problem is its much harder to "hide them" and therefore it means an enemy could destroy them. Then proceed to launch a nuclear attack on the UK and we would have no way of a retaliatory strike. Therein making the nuclear deterrent irrelevant and so not worth the cost which could be diverted to conventional forces.

    3. There are undoubtedly additional risks, but, realistically, how many enemies could find and destroy a british submarine?

      If HMS Vanguard had had tomahawks and used them on Libya last year in place of HMS Talent, it would have run no effective additional risk.

      I'd be more concerned about political awkwardness of using a sub carrying nuclear missiles, or the relatively low but real additional risks of incidents such as hitting a ship or underwater obstacle due to operations in waters likely to be much busiers and shallower than the SSBNs would normally use to hide.

      My personal opinion is that it is "an acceptable risk", as long as done with some obviously necessary prudence and good planning.

      Obviously, in a war against China the SSBN would not go near the shore to fire Tomahawks or torpedo ships.
      But against most lower-tech enemies, i see no real show-stoppers.

    4. Gabby

      A couple of drawbacks with the above scenario is that once a SSBN rises to a shallower depth to fire cruise missiles it will be easier to detect by those that are able and interested and furthermore once it's fired it's cruise missiles it's position is clear to even those militaries without sophisticated surveillance means. The whole point of an SSBN is that it is so deep and so quiet that nobody know's where it is.
      Similarly, mixing conventional and nuclear payloads runs the risk of possible confusion of intent when the submarine rises to attack depth and opens a launch tube, who's to know what's coming out? A serious risk to run, and a mistake you wouldn't want to make even once!
      Both of the above are reasons why the US Navy has converted 'surplus' SSBNs and do not use mixed payloads.

    5. In order to be found, the submarine launching the Tomahawks need to have an airplane right above, a ship close by, or a submarine listening for it.

      No submarine commander is idiot enough to be caught that easily. They check their surroundings before the launches. And i don't think there ever was an SSN caught firing its missiles, or located at all by the enemy.
      It is not at all that "clear" where the submarine is, unless you are looking at the right spot of sea in the right moment.

      As for the "confusion", it is grossly overstated.
      No one will know when the submarine opens the launch tube.
      And if a Tomahawk comes out, no one will be alarmed. It is not a ballistic weapon. It cannot be mistaken for a nuke. It won't even appear on anti-ballistic radars.
      Just as now, the name and type of submarine that fires the missile is likely to be revealed only when it returns to its homeport.

      There is much higher risk of confusion with the nuke on cruise missile option.
      THAT would be a real risk.
      If you don't make your conventional and your nuclear cruise missiles very well distinguishable, then you are in for trouble for real.

      That's why a nuclear Tomahawk these days is no longer viable.
      Who would be able to tell if the TLAM was a nuke or not?
      Using conventional Tomahawks would suddenly become politically much hotter an issue.
      That's why i believe that, was the UK to even ask, the US would absolutely say no to any resurrection of the TLAM-N.

      While ideally you'd want to have SSBNs and SSGNs well separated, i continue to see no real show-stopper.

    6. Hi Gabriele, just thought you may want to know about some more news going on in regards to the British Armed Forces in case you missed it personally.This stuff is from the Royal Navy. As you may know, Ark Royal is now off to the breakers yard, that is news part one. News part 2 and along similar lines is that Illustrious on the other hand has won a reprieve and is to be preserved come the end of its service life.

    7. I know, i talked about it on Twitter as soon as the news came out. But that was a big enough news that, i suppose, everyone heard about it even without reporting it here.

    8. Have to get up early to beat you to the mark I see. Unfortunately the latest somewhat unrelated news is that Bastion has just been attacked with IDF presumably rockets or mortars probably both. Reportedly the runway and aircraft facilities were the primary target and thus were subjected to the greatest levels of damage. No reports of aircraft damage or injuries to personnel as of yet, lets hope it remains so. Ties in nicely with your recent priorities post concerning C-RAM uses within the British military and the potential needs for such system within the core budget perhaps. Knowing the MoD however, this particular incident is unlikely to provoke much in the way of action on that front.

    9. According to Sky News it is actually worse: two US Marines dead, "several" aircrafts and buildings damaged.
      It wasn't just an undirect RAM attack, apparently, but still, my article was sadly an easy prophecy.

      Also, such a successful attack on Camp Bastion, none the less, is not a good spot to "progress" in Afghanistan.

    10. Mick, not sure, but during the Iran-Iraq ar, CIWS may have been used by US ships against anti-ship missiles.

    11. Hi jeneral

      Yes i heard about that instance. Though in that case it ended up firing on the chaff of another US warship causing damage to that ship. The missile was shot down by a sea dart fired from HMS Gloucester.

    12. HMS Gloucester did not have CIWS and that was the first Gulf War. G shot down Iraqi Silkworms with its anti-air missiles.

    13. Second the idea of a Tomahawk V Boat. A reduction in the number of SSBNs would be much better to suit the RN's strike needs.

  7. Hi Gabriele,

    Sorry I have not posted any comments lately, been busy.

    I am not surprised to hear about the Army withdrawing manpower support from 3 CDO.
    My answer would be one combined army regiment, to support 3 CDO, which would include an HQ, 1 Battery 105, 1 Squadron RE, I Squadron R SIGS, 1 Battery fire direction teams. This would be supported by reserve batteries and squadrons to raise to the strength to full regiments if required. In my view 16 AA should go the same way. But I sense your going to disagree with all the above J

    I still have a bad feeling about infantry companies being reduced to 2 platoons; it goes against everything the infantry is about. Has this come from how the US Marines work, or is it simply cutting numbers to make savings?

    Its good news to see both the completion of the destroyer building programme and the progress in the submarine building. I still have grave doubts that 6 destroyers and 13 frigates are enough. On paper that number may fulfil the RN deployment requirement, but is there any room for losses due to enemy action?
    The loss of a single platform, for what ever reason could cause a whole operation to fail, as there is simply no replacements available.
    If the RN has any spare cash, it shouldn't spend it on V22, but on another frigate in my humble opinion, another aircraft type we don't need, and a Marlin with a search radar of one type or another is a far better option.

    Keep up the good work

    1. You are right, we cannot agree on the rationale of a single gun battery for a brigade. It's absurd.
      As for Royal Signals, i don't think that's needed. 30 Commando IX has the communications and even EW personnel. Royal Signals aren't needed.

    2. Hi Gabriele,
      Well, it looks like 3 CDO will only have 16 guns in 2 batteries. I would suggest 1 battery with 3 troops of 12 guns. One troop could be deployed per CDO unit.
      As things stand, I can't see 3 CDO being deployed as a brigade. I think this is the way the MoD is thinking too, and I also think that 16 AA is heading that way also.
      I take your point on R SIGS, I was thinking more on 16 AA in that case.
      Don't know how the J ended up on the end of my reply, it was ment to be a smiley face!

    3. Anon, I suppose the key Response Force will be 16 AA then.

  8. RE: new SSBNs--do you know how many MIRVs for US and UK?

    1. The SDSR mandates 8 missiles and 40 warheads for submarine. That's 5 warheads per missile.

      Total stock will be around 120 warheads in the forward fleet, available for use, and no more than 180 in total.

      The US carry both more missiles and more warheads.

    2. thanks. Did the UK confirm 3 SSBNs or 4 to replace the V boats?

    3. There will be no confirmations until at least SDSR 2015, if not only at Main Gate point, expected in 2016.
      For now, it could be 3 as it could be 4.

  9. Gabby

    We already knew that neither 3 CDO nor 16 AAB were to be deployed at brigade level in their new "reaction force" mode - they are only to provide "battalion plus" size battlegroups, hence no doubt the cost cutting of providing less artillary.

    V22 is not in the same Class of aircraft size / weight than Wildcat, and thus can't actually meet the same operational requirements. However it is an SF support purchase, then maybe Wildcat (4 + 4 in Light Transport role) have been sacrificed in order to help pay. Chinook in SF role is RAF, so you would rightly expect V22 to be RAF in that case; not that I think we will actually end up with any !


    1. I do not think it is half as rational, logic or acceptable that, just because the brigade is not intended to be at high readiness as a whole, it is emasculated by removing certain elements.

      The reality is that Army 2020 is full of nonsense where political interference has stopped the Army from making the changes it actually wanted to do.
      Capbadges have won the day once more, and logic has been thrown to hell again.

      As for the Wildcat/V22 situation, i wonder exactly what the requirement is, and how much the budget is determining the reaction to said requirement. If we are to believe certain sources, before the Wildcat LAH came into spotlight, consideration had gone into the NH90 TTH.
      It might well be that the Special Forces do not really have a requirement for a Wildcat, but for something different and, crucially, with space for more troops.

      But i agree on considering any V22 purchase more than unlikely.
      I look forwards to the NAO Major Projects Report 2012 and to the 10 Years plan, to see what the hell is going on...

  10. "Due to the larger reactor, to the expectation of larger tubes and better internal accommodation, despite having half of the missile tubes the new SSBN is expected to be slightly larger than Vanguard"

    I guess the 2x2 quad-pack scuppered any chance of a common fleet of SSN(B) boats.

    I like the idea of a 1x4 CMC across the fleet.

    1. Well, it is a complex matter. The idea of an Astute-with-Trident was considered, as the US considered a Virginia-with-Trident, but the idea wasn't quite as good as it sounded, and was abandoned on both sides of the Atlantic.
      For the Royal Navy we also have to consider that the choice of an evolution in terms of propulsion was mandated, and the choice of the PWR3 means that a lot of designing is needed.

      This said, the news seem to suggest that the SSBN will still have a lot in common with Astute, nonetheless.
      It sounds like it'll almost be an "half-Astute" (ahead of the conning tower) and "half-new design" (from the conning tower to the propeller).

  11. RE: V-22, is it good for SFs--SAS and SBS? Any proven record with US Special Forces? I thought they still prefer their Blackhawks.

    1. Special Forces have their own variant of the V22, and as far as i know it is very much a prized capability.
      A squadron of them is about to be based in the UK.

      To say how good it would be for SAS and SBS, we should have access to the requirement, and see what exactly the SF want.
      But in general, V22 has some great performance.

  12. A thought about the numbers needed for the future SSBN.

    My understanding is that you need 3 conventional ships to have one deployed at all times. This compares to 4-for-1 for a deterence platform. My understanding is that this difference is because 3-for-1 is "nearly all the time", which is good enough for a conventional requirement, but not for a deterence platform.
    Specifically, is it the mid-life-refit time period that consumes the extra platform?

    So, that being the case, how about: a common "SSGBN" design, that can be fitted with either Trident, or cruise missile hept-packs, at short notice.
    The 1st one build would be fitted as an SSGN, and the next 3 as SSBNs. When it comes time for the mid life refit for the class, the first one gets changed to an SSBN when it comes out of its refit. So during the refit period, there would be 4 SSBN platforms. When the last one comes out of refit, it gets changed to an SSGN.
    So, for time periods in which one can be confident that 3 platforms will be sufficient, then one gets converted to the SSGN role.

    (Further, one could even build 5 or 6 SSGBNs, with 2 or 3 fulfilling the requirements for conventional platforms - aren't we a bit short of SSN numbers at the moment? - This would not only increase the conventional capability - it would also increase the resillience of the deterrence to the loss of one of the boats to an accident.)

    1. That's an interesting way to look at it. Building four boats will already be a miracle, so unfortunately any plan above 4 is definitely only a dream.

      But fitting one of four boats out with conventional weapons only, and use it as SSGN/attack submarine, while delivering CASD with 3 boats, is a way to go "dual role" while minimizing the political risks due to mixing of nukes and conventional warheads.
      It delivers additional utility, over and above the certainty that the Navy can deploy a SSBN at all times.
      That's one possible way to get more bang from the bucks.

  13. I am a little worried by the plan to reduce to only 8-missile SSBNs.
    By concern is: what if Russia does what the US has done, and deploys a national ABM system? 200 - maybe even 400 - ABMs facing the Atlantic.

    For ABM to make sense, the expense of the required ABMs (4-5 per target?) must be less than the ICBMs.
    MIRVs significantly reduce the cost of the ICMBs.
    However, for a submarine based deterence, you also need to factor in the substantial cost of the submarine, and of the 3 additional SSBNs needed to ensure that one is available.

    More specifically for our situation, ABMs can be built much faster than additional SSBNs.
    So, whilst 8 Tridents are sufficient now, I would want our SSBNs to be able to quickly scale and react to any possible Russian ABM system.
    So, the ability to quickly and cheaply increase the warheads per missile, missiles per boat, and ideally the number of boats assigned to the SSBN role.


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