Strategic Deterrence


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In 1998, the lead ship of the class, USS Ohio (SSBN-726), celebrated her 50th deterrent
patrol while returning to homeport in Bangor, Washington.

Because of the near-invulnerability of nuclear submarines operating in vast ocean areas, they provide U.S. strategic deterrence more cost-effectively than any alternative. Our TRIDENT submarines (SSBNs) now carry 54 percent of the Nation’s nuclear deterrent (including 100 percent of our survivable warheads), with less than 1.5 percent of U.S. Navy personnel and only 34 percent of the strategic budget. These Navy capital ships will continue to be the backbone of the Nation’s strategic nuclear force well into the 21st century.

The year 1998 saw a number of significant events within the TRIDENT force. Among these were two major readiness tests for the C-4 and D-5 missiles. On 10 February 1998, USS Nevada (SSBN-733) successfully launched four TRIDENT I C-4 missiles in the 49th Follow-on CINC Evaluation Test (FCET). Just a month later, on 10 March 1998, USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) conducted two dual-launch TRIDENT II D-5 missile FCETs. The successful launch of all four of these missiles brought to 81 the number of consecutive D-5 firings without a failure.

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This was the 81st consecutive successful TRIDENT D-5 missile test flight.

More importantly, the lead ship of the class, USS Ohio (SSBN-726) completed her 50th TRIDENT patrol this year, and on 18 April 1998, USS Michigan (SSBN-727) completed the 500th patrol of the whole TRIDENT series. With an average patrol length of 77 days, this equates to over 105 years of on-station strategic deterrence for the entire TRIDENT fleet. In addition, SSBN crews showed the flag during 27 port visits in 1998 – 15 in the Pacific and 12 in the Atlantic.

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Purposeful complexity: the Ballast Control Panel on a typical TRIDENT SSBN.

In November 1998, USS Alabama (SSBN-731), homeported in Bangor, Washington, became the first ballistic missile submarine to act in the opposing force (OPFOR) role for a Carrier Battlegroup work-up. Both Pacific- and Atlantic-based SSBNs will perform these duties regularly in the future, both reducing the demand for scarce SSN services and providing additional tactical engagement opportunities for the SSBNs.