Posts Tagged ‘SSBN’



Originally uploaded by Code20photog

I *think* I saw one of these yesterday afternoon.

I was waiting to board my return flight to Phoenix at Orlando (MCO), and I thought I saw one of these parked on the cargo ramp (the satcom hump on the top of the fuselage is the giveaway). Since boarding was about to start – and it was a full flight – I didn’t stop and get my camera out to snap even a crappy picture of it.

I actually had a window seat – so once I got seated I got my camera out and waiting for the plane to push back. Once we did – and I got a view of the cargo ramp – it was gone.

Let me explain a little about the E-6 Mercury. This is considered a strategic asset – in that it is responsible for relaying orders to the US Ballistic Missile Submarine fleet. Even though it is Boeing 707 airframe – it has a modern glass cockpit from the 737 next generation, and was only delivered to the Navy between 1989 and 1992.

There are 16 of these aircraft total – and at least one (and more likely two) are airborne at any time. So if you happen to see one of these outside of Offutt Air Force Base (in NE), stop what you are doing and take a picture of it.


One less SSBN cruising the high seas

During a speech the UN today – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposed taking one of the four UK Trident ballistic missile nuclear submarines out of service to jump start Nuclear Non-proliferation talks.

Will this change the UK deterrent posture? Probably not. The normal cycle – is one on active patrol, one just coming back from patrol, and two in workups ready to go out on patrol. So instead of two in workups – there would be only one in workups.

It makes sense from a budgetary standpoint – one less submarine (and crew) to have to maintain (i.e. pay for). And in that the Trident’s on both sides of the Atlantic (American and British) are nearing their end of life (the first US Ohio class is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2029, and the design studies for the next generation SSBN have already begun) – reducing the requirement for the follow-on class will reduce the money required for that project.

[It is possible that this has been something that has been under consideration since earlier this year – when HMS Vanguard was involved in an ‘incident’ with a French SSBN. It is possible that the damage from that ‘incident’ along with the current economic crisis has just made the decision to reduce the force – more politically viable]

What is disconcerting about this – is that with only one boat on patrol – and one boat close to patrol – the UK deterrent force is vulnerable.

But let’s be clear. Today’s announcement really doesn’t change the vulnerability in any way. It just may be the first step in its elimination at the hands of a future government.


HMS Vanguard vs Le Triomphant

HMS Vanguard

Originally uploaded by forargyll

Earlier this month – and first reported this morning (since both sub’s are now back at base) – the British and French SSBN’s on deterrent patrol collided with each other.

Unlike the larger US SSBN fleet – the UK and France each have a small SSBN fleet, such that usually only ONE boat is at sea at a time.

The SSBN fleet are the only strategic nuclear force that either country still maintains. The French decommissioned their land based missiles (S-3’s) in 1996, and the British bomber force lost their nuclear role in 1970 (when the first British Polaris SSBN was commissioned).

Besides the general uproar when something happens to a nuclear asset – what else does this event tell us?

– The British and French SSBN’s have overlapping area’s of operation

Beyond that – everything else is a guess – and will probably never be known publically;

– Were both submarines trying to avoid detection by a 3rd submarine or other ship?
– Was either submarine trying to ‘hide’ behind the other?
– Was either submarine able to detect the other?
– Did they forget that they drive on different sides of the road?