I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones
-Albert Einstein (contemplating nuclear devastation)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Trident Replacement: "Essential Investment"... or Omnicide?

From the Editor:  The Navy is pushing hard to build 12 new ballistic missile submarines that will sail into the end of this century, loaded with missiles armed with thermonuclear warheads.  Should the unspeakable ever happen - and continuing deployment of Trident increases that probability - the devastating humanitarian consequences would be beyond imagination.

In the article below, Rear Adm. Bruner creates an argument that attempts to place the subject of disarmament securely in a coffin and start nailing the lid shut: 

"As long as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of potential adversaries, our nuclear forces must provide a safe, secure and credible deterrent to prevent the United. States, our allies and partners from being coerced by the threat of nuclear attack."

Should those in government who are responsible for carrying out our nation's responsibilities under our treaty (and other) obligations accept this argument at face value we are all doomed to the inevitability of nuclear war and the subsequent end of civilization as we know it 

Our nation's continuing deployment and associated threat of use of nuclear weapons does not keep our nation or any other nation safe or secure, and only increases proliferation and the risk of nuclear war.

Our inescapable task is to either move beyond the Cold War thinking that led to the development of the Trident nuclear weapons system in the first place, or continue to cut away at the fraying cord by which hangs the nuclear Sword of Damocles that threatens humanity.

There is NO military solution to the issue of nuclear weapons.  Moving the world toward disarmament will require a major paradigm shift, and that will require massive citizen engagement of this issue to counter arguments such as Rear Adm. Bruner's.

Is the replacement of Ohio class submarines an "essential investment" or Assured Omnicide???


Ohio Replacement Class SSBNs an Essential Investment

By Rear Adm. Barry L. Bruner
Director, Undersea Warfare Division (N97)
(originally published at NAVY LIVE: The Official Blog of the United States Navy, March 19, 2003, http://navylive.dodlive.mil/2013/03/19/ohio-replacement-class-ssbns-an-essential-investment/)

As our nation debates future defense spending, a healthy dialogue concerning future capabilities, size and value of the nation’s nuclear weapons and the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine force continues to grow. As long as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of potential adversaries, our nuclear forces must provide a safe, secure and credible deterrent to prevent the United States, our allies and partners from being coerced by the threat of nuclear attack. As part of this credible deterrent, the Navy’s continuous at-sea deployment of SSBNs provides the ability to mount an assured response and impose unacceptable costs on potential adversaries.

The current SSBN fleet and the future 12 Ohio replacement class SSBNs support our nation’s deterrent mission by ensuring survivability. In fact, there is little debate that they are the most survivable leg of our nuclear triad. What is often lost in translation is the major roles stealth and the size of the SSBN force play in our sea-based deterrent survivability. In addition to allowing operational flexibility, numbers matter when it comes to survivability. With a large enough SSBN force, adversary planning becomes complicated. SSBN operations are less predictable and operational intervals (time between underway and return to port events) can be varied as well as the nature of at-sea patrols. Simply said, a sufficient number of SSBNs allows their dispersal across wide ocean areas, making it exceedingly difficult to locate and destroy them. In this case, it is the number of ships, not warheads that preserves the deterrent value. As we reduce our operating warhead numbers to comply with the New START Treaty, our SSBNs are scheduled to assume a larger role in our nation’s nuclear deterrent capability. Reducing our SSBN force structure potentially invites adversaries to consider the likelihood, e.g. the risk, associated with attempting to hold that smaller force – at risk.

Logistics Specialist Seaman Kevin Simpson helms the
Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN 734)
while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Feb. 19, 2012.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist
1st Class James Kimber/Released)
We have already significantly reduced our SSBN force size – from the 41 for Freedom boats of Cold War fame, to 18 Ohios taking us through the end of the Cold War to the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom – to 14 Ohios (after we converted the four oldest SSBNs to guided missile submarines) to the planned fleet of 12 Ohio replacements. The number of Ohio replacements will be less than a fourth the size of the SSBN fleet of the 1970s.
To ensure the survivability of the SSBN force it must be stealthy, which is almost exclusively a function of its as-built characteristics. This means that an appropriate amount of research and development effort must be expended early in the design phase to ensure the SSBN’s ability to remain undetectable for the entire 42-year hull life. The credibility and effectiveness of our deterrent are undermined if we make the mistake of accepting degradation in stealth that an adversary can in the future exploit.
The Ohio replacement class SSBN is an essential investment for our nation and will continue to be a national imperative that will ensure stability and security for our country and our allies. We cannot slide this program any further to the right. We must invest in designing and building the class now. The commitment that the Ohio replacement team makes is that they will do everything available to design and build this critical ship in a responsible way. They will drive down costs at every logical opportunity – of that, you can be sure. But, we must resource this program appropriately – we cannot hesitate or delay any further.

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