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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


SSBN-726 Ohio-Class FBM Submarines

Background

The STRAT-X study in 1967 recognized that the submarine-launched ballistic missile system was one of the more survivable legs in the Triad strategic nuclear deterrent system. However, it also recognized three important facts concerning American strategic defense capabilities which had assumed central significance in deliberations of U.S. defense planners. First, the submarine-launched ballistic system was recognized as the most survivable element in the triad of strategic nuclear deterrents. Second, though the POSEIDON missile provided an important upgrade of the system, the SSBN force itself was aging and would require replacement. Third, the threat of improved Soviet ASW capability made an enlarged SSBN operating area highly desirable.

The Navy (SSPO) commenced studies of a new Undersea Long-range Missile System (ULMS), which culminated in the Deputy SECDEF approving a Decision Coordinating Paper (DCP) No. 67 on 14 September 1971 for the ULMS. The ULMS program was a long-term modernization plan which proposed development of a new, longer-range missile and a new, larger submarine, while preserving a nearer-term option to develop an extended range POSEIDON. In addition to the new ULMS (extended-range POSEIDON) missile, which was to achieve a range twice that of POSEIDON, the SECDEF decision described an even longer-range missile to be required for a new submarine, whose parameters it would, in part, determine. This second missile, subsequently termed ULMS II, was to be a larger, higher-performance missile than the extended-range POSEIDON and to have a range capability of approximately 6000 nm. The term TRIDENT (C4) replaced the extended-range missile (Advanced POSEIDON) nomenclature in May 1972, and the name TRIDENT II was used to designate the new longer range missile.

On 14 September 1971 the Deputy SECDEF had approved the Navy's DCP No. 67, which authorized both a new, large, higher-speed submarine and the TRIDENT (C4) Missile System. It was also constrained to fit in the circular SSBN cylinder launch tube which just contained the C3 so that the new missile could be used in then-existing POLARIS submarines.

A Navy decision was made in November 1971 to accelerate the ULMS program with increased funding for the ULMS SSBN. The SECDEF Program Budget Decision (PBD) of 23 December 1971 authorized the accelerated schedule with a projected deployment of the ship in 1978.

The President signed the FY74 Appropriations Authorization Act providing funds for the first TRIDENT submarine on 15 November 1973, and on 25 July 1974 the Navy awarded a fixed-price incentive contract to General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division, for construction of this first TRIDENT SSBN.

In 1974 the initial Ohio program was projecte to consist of 10 submarines deployed at Bangor Washington carrying the Trident-1 C-4 missile. By 1981 the program had been modified to include 15 boats, and at least 20 boats were planned by 1985. In 1989 the Navy anticipated a total fleet of at least 21 boats, while plans the following year envisioning a total of 24 boats, 21 of which would carry strategic missiles with the remaining three supporting other missions, such as special forces. However, in 1991 Congress directed the termination of the program with the 18th boat, citing anticipated force limits under the START-1 arms control agreement and the results of the Bush Administration's Major Warship Review, which endorsed capping the program at 18 boats.

The first eight Ohio class submarines (Tridents) were originally equipped with 24 Trident I C-4 ballistic missiles. Beginning with the ninth Trident submarine, USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), all new ships are equipped with the Trident II D-5 missile system as they were built, and the earlier ships are being retrofitted to Trident II. Trident II can deliver significantly more payload than Trident I C-4 and more accurately. All 24 missiles can be launched in less than one minute.

Ohio-class/Trident ballistic missile submarines provide the sea-based "leg" of the triad of U.S. strategic offensive forces. By the turn of the century, the 18 Trident SSBNs (each carrying 24 missiles), will carry 50 percent of the total U.S. strategic warheads. Although the missiles have no pre-set targets when the submarine goes on patrol, the SSBNs are capable of rapidly targeting their missiles should the need arise, using secure and constant at-sea communications links.

The Clinton Administration's Nuclear Posture Review was chartered in October 1993, and the President approved the recommendations of the NPR on September 18, 1994. As a result of the NPR, US strategic nuclear force structure will be adjusted to 14 Trident submarines -- four fewer than previously planned -- carrying 24 D-5 missiles, each with five warheads, per submarine. This will require backfitting four Trident SSBNs, currently carrying the Trident I (C- 4) missile, with the more modern and capable D-5 missile system. Under current plans, following START II's entry into force, the other four SSBNs will either be converted into special-purpose submarines or be retired.

SSBN 726 Class Submarine shipboard equipment which requires significant maintenance during the planned operating cycle, industrial level maintenance, which is beyond the capability of Ship's Force, and which cannot be accomplished during the refit period (without unacceptable impact on other refit requirements), is supported by TRIDENT Planned Equipment Repair (TRIPER) program. TRIPER equipment is removed from the ship for refurbishment ashore, replaced with pre-tested, Ready for Issue units and the affected system restored to full operational condition prior to completion of the refit period. Replacement is accomplished on a planned basis at intervals designed to preclude the failure of the equipment or significant degradation of its associated system.




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