Ohio-Class Ballistic-Missile Submarines: The U.S. Military’s Ultimate Weapon?

    Kyle Mizokami

    Security, North America

    They could take the prize.

    America’s Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines are some of the quietest, stealthiest submarines in the world. The Ohio submarines represent America’s ace in the hole, megatons of nuclear firepower quietly patrolling the world’s oceans, ensuring that any nuclear attack on the United States will not go unpunished. In addition to the fourteen ballistic-missile submarines, four have been converted to missile carriers, capable of unleashing more than 150 conventionally armed cruise missiles against the most heavily defended of targets.

    The Ohio-class submarines were the result of a early 1970s requirement for a larger missile submarine capable of carrying the next generation (and beyond) of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Submarine-launched missiles were growing longer and wider, due to the demand that they carry multiple-warhead reentry vehicles while maintaining and even extending their range. The U.S. Navy’s older submarines of the George Washington and Ethan Allen classes were physically unable to accommodate the newer Poseidon and the projected Trident series of missiles.

    The Ohio class was initially meant to be a simple upgrade of the Lafayette-class submarines, but the Navy was anxious to include advances in nuclear propulsion quieting learned from the USS Narwhal submarine and its Natural Circulation Technology reactor, the S5G, and ultimately decided in favor of a clean-sheet submarine design. The submarines were designed to be 560 feet long, with a beam of forty-two feet able to accommodate two rows of twelve Trident C-4 (later D-5) missiles each. The hulls were constructed of HY-80 steel for strength. The submarine displaces 18,750 tons submerged, and has an operating speed in excess of twenty knots.

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    The National Interest

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