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Nuclear subs and US strategy

Nuclear subs and US strategy

By James J. Wirtz*

Today is an age of acceleration, a time when Moore’s Law is creating profound changes at diminishing intervals, making it difficult to anticipate strategic, social and technological developments. Some organisations facing these cascades of change, however, continue to plan for the Keynesian long term by adopting programs intended to endure for many years. One of those organisations is the US Navy, which sails a steady course, stabilised by personnel and program cycles and equipment lifetimes that unfold over several decades.

As a result, the United States has a plan and an existing program to maintain a nuclear deterrent onboard a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet until the end of the 21st century. Unless strategists truly encounter a black swan at sea—an unanticipated event that shifts the course of history in significant ways—the US Navy will have 12 nuclear-capable Columbia class submarines by the early 2040s.

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