US mulls nuke cruise missiles on subs to deter China – Asia Times

US mulls nuke cruise missiles on subs to deter China - Asia Times

In light of rising tensions with China and Russia, the US has a crucial decision to make regarding whether to install nuclear-armed cruise missiles on boats.

The US is considering the use of nuclear-armed submarine-launched cruise missiles ( SLCM-N) from modified Virginia-class nuclear submarines ( SSN) as reported by USNI News this month.

Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the US Navy’s director of corporate networks programs, addressed the difficulties and complexities surrounding the changes of Virginia-class attack submarines to accommodate SLCM-Ns in a US Senate hearing board this quarter. Wolfe emphasized the program’s need for mobility and the primary nature of cost estimates.

Senator Mark Kelly expressed concern about the potential benefits of such changes, particularly the effects on bomb abilities and other proper weapon programs. The evidence highlighted the delicate balance between the limited number of experienced federal personnel and the damaged state of the nuclear weapons industry base, which is necessary to successfully carry out the SLCM-N program.

USNI News discusses the implications of the UK’s SSBN modernization effort and the necessity to carry out the” no fail” mission on the Ohio-class SSBN through 2042 as a result of delays in the Columbia- class ballistic missile nuclear submarines ( SSBN). In contrast, Senator Deb Fischer emphasized the need for different options in the face of radioactive- armed enemies.

The US is grappling with its nuclear deterrent approach as China and Russia raise the bar with low-yield defensive weapons as it is caught in a nuclear tug-of-war.

Asia Times reported in June 2023 that America’s sea-based nuclear weapons currently only consist of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missiles ( SLBM ). China and Russia have been putting their stamp on the creation of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, which are meant to help regular military operations and are considered to be below the proper level.

The US and its closest competitors may have had a deterrence gap because the SLCM-N offers a tactical nuclear hit capability to balance China and Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons because the special emphasis is on proper deterrence.

The SLCM-N may be brought up as a result of the effort to highlight wider deficiencies in US regular deterrence, with low-yield nuclear weapons making up for gaps in conventional capability.

As a barrier to China’s expanding military capabilities, the US might consider changing its naval plan in light of rising tensions.

Joe Varner claims in a May 2024 content in Real Clear Defense that the US does use low-yield nuclear weapons at water to deter China and other possible oppressors. According to Vanner, the US must follow a doctrine of warfighting by putting forward-deployed tactical nuclear weapons on ships.

He notes that move is crucial given China’s increasing regional states and military risks toward its companions, including US allies like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. He also points out China’s significant military advancements, such as expanding its nuclear warheads, missiles, navy and air force.

Varner claims that the US is in a pickle when it comes to fortify its forward-deploying forces against Chinese missile attacks or retreat from less risky positions, potentially exposing its Asian allies. He criticizes and calls for the US warships ‘ use of theater-level nuclear weapons to improve deterrence.

He contends that China’s” no first use” nuclear policy is unreliable, and that the US would have no choice but to deploy nuclear weapons at sea to stop escalation and deter aggression without using strategic nuclear arsenal. He adds that the US must rebel against its allies and take tactical nuclear weapons into account when planning a war.

The SLCM-N’s potential pivotal role in strengthening US nuclear deterrence would represent a significant shift in nuclear strategy since the Cold War.

Robert Soofer stresses the value of the SLCM-N in a February 2024 Atlantic Council article how crucial it is to maintain a trustworthy nuclear deterrent. Soofer claims that the SLCM-N would be the first fresh nuclear weapon from the US since the Cold War, sending a clear message to allies.

Soofer gives important recommendations for Congress to take into account in order to ensure the success of the program, including examining the effectiveness of existing submarine deployment, avoiding excessive military requirements, and ensuring effective submarine deployment. He also makes a point about how important leadership and management are to other nuclear modernization initiatives.

Critics argue that US plans to deploy SLCM-N may be more harmful than advantageous, and they advise sticking to diplomatic relations and maintaining strategic stability.

In an article from August 2023, The Washington Post claims that putting SLCM-Ns aboard US submarines would take up the submarines ‘ primary task of detecting enemy vessels and use up valuable space that is needed for anti-submarine warfare. Additionally, it asserts that the presence of nuclear cruise missiles would stifle naval engagement with allies and port calls to nations opposed to nuclear platforms.

The US Post also makes an economic point about the SLCM-N’s financial implications, claiming that US$ 10 billion would be required to maintain the missile and its warheads over the course of ten years. The report says the US already has three tactical nuclear delivery systems: the B61 gravity bomb, the W80- equipped air- launched cruise missile ( ALC M) and the Trident W76- 2 SLBM, thereby making the SLCM- N redundant.

Moreover, the Washington Post report points out readiness issues in the US submarine fleet, saying that 40 % of US fast- attack submarines are currently waiting for maintenance. It refutes the SLCM-N’s revival and instead advocates modernizing the US nuclear triad while addressing the maintenance concerns of the US Navy.

Andrew Facini claims in a Bulletin of Atomic Scientists article from October 2023 that the US’s obsession with military and hardware to combat China’s growing nuclear arsenal could lead to instability and a nuclear war because of the stability-instability paradox. Facini advises that the US should instead establish risk-reduction strategies and mutual understanding with China to prevent escalation.

He criticizes the use of SLCM-N and other tactical nuclear weapons, which, he claims, make conflict resolution more difficult and increase the risk of quick nuclear counter-attacks. He also makes mention of the dangers of escalation dominance efforts, which Chinese allies might think will set off quick responses.

Facini advocates for a strategy that acknowledges potential weaknesses at various levels to stop worsening conflicts and emphasizes the value of communication and arms control for strategic stability. He claims that the US should work with China to lessen tensions and prevent nuclear war, underscoring the need for continued investment in civil society and administrative processes to maintain deterrence.