The likelihood of the U.S. converting more SSBNs (even the newer ones from SSBN-732 through SSBN-743, which will retire in 2028–39) is essentially reduced to zilch if we consider the fact that the replacement for the Ohio ballistic-missile sub will enter service only from 2029, and reconfiguring more SSBNs as SSGNs will leave America with a glaring boomer “gap”. As a matter of fact, a top U.S. Navy official has argued that the current number of fourteen SSBNs is barely adequate to sustain the minimum of ten operational SSBNs for strategic requirements.
All that being said, it is virtually a cast-iron certainty that the Ohio SSGN will be the sole class of nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine to serve in the United States Navy. The chances of Washington deciding to have a purpose-built SSGN in the near future are extremely remote, to say the least. This state of affairs could change, however, if the international security system were to experience strategic shocks of seismic proportions, and it is the vehement wish of the author that such events will never happen.
Ben Ho Wan Beng is a Senior Analyst with the Military Studies Programme at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and he holds a master’s degree in strategic studies from the same institution.
This first appeared in 2016.