The Hybrid Missile Submarine
My thinking on the line of what may be an affordable Trident Ballistic Missile Submarine replacement, for both the US and UK, has been the cruise missile submarine. Since both nations are nearing decision time for their respective replacement programs, both also are forecasting impending doom to their respective fleets for the enormous expense of such an undertaking ($30 billion for the UK and $100 billion for the US). Each Navy has stretched themselves very thin in terms of shipbuilding resources, heavily invested as they are in the “5 Battleships“, there is no room left for extras.
Admittedly, the Tomahawk land attack missile (TLAM) is not the most desirable choice, it being principally a tactical weapon, though its range is much like that of the early Polaris missiles deployed by the RN and USN into the 1970s. Another plus is the fact that American and British boats already operate TLAM, so the transition with a nuclear version would be the simplest route to go. Problems of course, being the US plans to dispose of the last nuclear TLAM which were deployed off Japan, and the British has never utilized this version.
An alternative would be an exiting new technology New Wars reported on and which Heretic reminded us in the comments:
And, I have to wonder if Mike’s link to Navy Tests Advanced Sub-Missile Launcher might not be involved in any design of a Trident Follow On SLBM system to increase reliability and reduce the “cost” to the SSBN launcher (ie. sub) in terms of required volume of systems and so on.
The beauty of this new system recently tested by the USN in the above photo, is almost any type missile can be launched in an ascending cone of air to the surface, without, if I understand the concept correctly, any major adaptation. Anyway, this seems to take the deployment of ballistic missiles at sea, out of the box. If all new submarines, or others so converted can carry the new systems, this would not limit you to the missiles you carry, meaning, it doesn’t have to be Tomahawk on board standard SSNs like Astute or Virginia. Why can’t they carry about 4 Tridents each onboard, which are already geared for nuclear payload and can carry many MIRVs?
Still leaning toward nuclear TLAM as the most affordable and practical route, but this seems to hold merit if the retro-fitting isn’t too costly. Just a thought. I am interested in your opinion on this subject.