U.S. Seeks Successor to Trident SLBM Submarine
– The U.S. Navy has started the process to find a 21st-century successor to the Trident strategic missile submarine, senior Defense Department officials said here yesterday. Left to right, Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter; Navy Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of Naval Operations; and Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, meet with reporters at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Ga., Feb. 19, 2009. The USS Rhode Island, a Trident strategic... snip
U.S. defense planners are now seeking "to tailor our deterrence for the types of actors that were not present during the Cold War but are going to be present in the future," Cartwright said.
And, "it will be the sailors that will make the difference in deterrence, not necessarily just the platforms," Cartwright said of the Navy's future nuclear-deterrent mission.
The 14 nuclear-missile carrying Trident submarines based here and at other Navy ports provide more than half of America's strategic deterrent capability, King's Bay officials said.
"The application of deterrence can be actually more complicated in the 21st century, but some fundamentals don't change," Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said. "And, the underlying strength of our deterrence force remains the nuclear deterrent force that we have today."
The Trident submarine strategic missile force "is absolutely essential" to America's nuclear-deterrent capability, Chilton said.
"And, it's not just to deter nuclear conflict," he said of the Tridents' mission. "These forces have served to deter conflict in general, writ large, since they've been fielded."
The U.S. government agreed to reduce the number of its strategic-missile submarines as part of the 1992 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Consequently, four of the Navy's 18 Trident submarines were modified to exchange their nuclear missiles for Tomahawk-guided cruise missiles. These vessels carry the designator SSGN. In 2006, the USS Ohio was converted into a guided-missile submarine.
At the news conference, Roughead said the Navy is "really pleased" with the converted Trident submarines, which also carry a contingent of special operations troops, as well as the Tomahawks.
"That [type of] submarine has performed extremely well," Roughead said of the cruise-missile carrying Tridents.