Nuclear Cruise Missiles to be Added to Virginia Class Subs
Virginia class submarines currently fire conventional warheads such as the Tomahawk Cruise Missile, and have torpedoes. The Navy plans to add nuclear missiles to their arsenal after the Administration’s recent nuclear review recommended an “additional deterrence posture.”
A low yield nuclear warhead on a Cruise Missile
“While Virginia-class submarines can use conventional deterrence to keep adversaries in check, a sub-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead would be incorporated into Virginias and give national command authority additional escalation control… Because of its stealth, the submarine provides unique intelligence and warning as well as ISR type data. Without this, the crew is less informed moving forward which provides additional strategic risk.” Rear Adm. John Tammen, Director, Undersea Warfare Division
According to Warrior Maven,
Small, agile high-tech attack submarines are able to approach high threat areas due to on-board sonar and other quieting technologies. These undersea platforms are, in many cases, able to access high-risk areas and coastal regions not typically reachable by surface ships. This enables Navy forces to assess enemy defenses, conduct reconnaissance and even launch attacks while less detectable to enemy forces.
Given this scenario, bringing a nuclear deterrence option to these submarines could enable commanders to hold more areas at risk of nuclear strike from closer-in proximity, thereby strengthening the threat posture.
The Virginia class attack submarines would eventually be equipped with a low yield cruise missile with a nuclear warhead. This would not require the creation of a new warhead- we already have them. Previously the Navy had what are known as TLAM-N (Tomahawk land-attack missile-nuclear). Because it’s not new, it would not violate any treaties, according to the USNI in 2017.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis believes that being prepared against enemies that are actively pursuing new technologies is imperative. And since Russia has been in violation of an international treaty since 2012, he feels this would pressure them to get back in line.
“We have an ongoing Russian violation of the INF. We want our negotiators to have something to negotiate with because we want Russia back in compliance…” Secretary of Defense James Mattis