Submarines: July 1, 2001

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For over a decade, U.S. navy planners have urged that older ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) be converted to carry cruise missiles instead of ICBMs. As the Cold War ended, the U.S. and Russia signed a treaty to gradually reduce their long range missiles. This included taking missile subs out of service. Or, according to the fine print, removing their ICBM capability. President Bush has proposed spending $100 million in the new budget to begin converting two SSBNs to carry cruise missiles. With fifty or more cruise missiles each, a SSMN (nuclear powered cruise missile submarine) could ignore enemy air power, and to a large extent naval forces, while approaching a hostile coast to launch its missiles against enemy targets. This move also has a political component. The subs to be converted, or taken out of service, are based in Georgia. Doing a conversion would save a thousand well paying jobs in Georgia. Local Republicans would benefit from this, as would the president when he runs for re-election. According to the treaty with Russia, four U.S. SSBNs must be decommissioned soon. 

 


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