The US and the UK hold joint training for ballistic missile nuclear submarines.
A picture released by a website affiliated with the US Department of Defense attracted the attention of many foreign media and commented that it was exceptionally rare. The caption shows that the Ohio class ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee held a joint training with a British Vanguard class ballistic missile submarine on November 22. An E-6B Mercury aircraft and an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter of the US Navy also participated in the training.
Although the US military did not announce the location where the picture was taken, foreign media believed that it is likely to be in the Atlantic Ocean, especially in the waters near Florida based on two reasons. First, the picture was provided by the Submarine Force Atlantic of the US Navy, which is responsible for the deployment of the US Navy’s ballistic missile nuclear submarines in the North Atlantic. Second, the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter in the picture belongs to the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72 of the US Navy, and the base of the squadron is located at the Naval Air Station Jacksonville in Florida. At the same time, on the day the picture was taken, an E-6B Mercury aircraft conducted a long flight in Florida waters while other E-6B Mercury aircraft has no public sea flight records. In addition, according to the usual practice, the Vanguard class ballistic missile nuclear submarines of the British Navy go to the Atlantic waters near Florida to perform training and other tasks regularly.
Analysts pointed out that the US Navy rarely announced the deployment of ballistic missile nuclear submarines in the past, and the British Navy was also tight-lipped about the whereabouts of Vanguard class ballistic missile nuclear submarines. This is because ballistic missile nuclear submarines can only provide an effective second-strike deterrent capability if they can effectively disappear during deployment.
However, the US Navy has announced the movement of Ohio class ballistic missile nuclear submarines five times in 2022. The picture of the joint training of ballistic missile nuclear submarines between the two countries this time is even more “unusual”.
The reasons can be seen from the caption accompanying the picture, “designed to validate tactics, techniques, and procedures which strengthens the relationship between uniquely close allies in support of deterrence and collective security.” According to foreign media, the essence of this joint training is a show of force aimed at potential adversaries and a demonstration of both countries’ commitments to each other, as well as their respective allies and partners. It’s also a very pointed display of the powerful second-strike nuclear deterrents the two nations possess.
It is worth noting that the joint training took place in November, but the picture was released just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that Russia might formally abandon the no first use policy.
Military experts believe that this move by the US and the UK is of no benefit to maintaining global strategic stability. Take the low-yield nuclear warheads equipped by the USS Tennessee ballistic missile nuclear submarine as an example. The W76-2 nuclear warhead has an equivalent of only 5,000 tons, while the W76-1 and W88 nuclear warheads have 90,000 tons and 455,000 tons respectively. Previously, many international experts on nuclear issues expressed concern about this as the W76-2 nuclear warheads greatly lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and could easily trigger a nuclear war and lead to a nuclear disaster.