US Mulls Nuke Cruise Missiles On Subs To Deter China

(MENAFN- Asia Times) The US faces a pivotal decision on whether to deploy nuclear-armed cruise missiles on submarines, a move that could reshape its deterrence strategy amid rising tensions with China and Russia.

This month, USNI News reported that the US is considering the deployment of nuclear-armed submarine-launched cruise missiles (SLCM-N) from modified Virginia-class nuclear submarines (SSN).

In a US Senate hearing panel this month, Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the US Navy's director of strategic systems programs, addressed the complexities and uncertainties surrounding the modification of Virginia-class attack submarines to accommodate SLCM-Ns. Wolfe highlighted the preliminary nature of cost estimates and the need for flexibility in the program.

Senator Mark Kelly expressed concerns about the potential trade-offs of such modifications, particularly the impact on torpedo capabilities and other strategic weapon programs. The testimony underscored the delicate balance required to execute the SLCM-N program effectively considering the limited pool of experienced government personnel and the degraded state of the nuclear weapons industrial base .

USNI News mentions the implications of delays in the Columbia-class ballistic missile nuclear submarines (SSBN) for the UK's SSBN modernization effort and the necessity to maintain the“no fail” mission on the Ohio-class SSBN through 2042. In addition, Senator Deb Fischer emphasized the need for diverse options in the face of nuclear-armed adversaries.

Caught in a nuclear tug-of-war, the US is grappling with its nuclear deterrence strategy as China and Russia up the ante with low-yield tactical weapons.

In June 2023, Asia Times reported that America's sea-based nuclear weapons currently only include strategic submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). Meanwhile, China and Russia have been focusing on developing low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, which are considered to be below the level of strategic nuclear weapons and are intended to support conventional military operations.


Asia Times

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