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How to hotwire nuclear submarines for dummies



The navy has a handful of nuclear-powered attack subs – each carrying six ballistic missiles with a strike radius of 500 miles – under a separate program designed to add a fleet of submersibles armed with the US Navy's new homing missiles, the hogie. This design of missile was designed to work underwater, and was ordered after testing showed that many of the subs, like the infamous USS Thresher, were vulnerable to an attack by a surface vessel. The navy’s nuclear submarine force is a highly trained, ambitious group, but highly susceptible to a hostile enemy. A leak of classified material under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that, while the navy is testing the hogie, it’s also prototyping a hogie sub, as well as cutting-edge hogie water-jet engines.

This is no accident: The navy's leaders have pushed hard for the hogie, because their fleet is in the midst of losing its submarine supremacy, and the sub's water-jet-fueled engines are too expensive. These naval subs aren't supposed to be able to carry nuclear weapons – they can carry nuclear weapons, but only at certain levels of submerged power.

That's important for anyone who believes in the value of nuclear deterrence, which depends on below-surface quieting. This strategy isn't necessarily anti-nuclear: It just isn't going to be good for the navy.

The navy's navy likes kittens.