Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nuclear Navies in the News

Nuclear navies have been much in the news as of late. The biggest item has, of course, been the launch of India's first nuclear sub, but other navies have also been in the news.

* The French navy's carrier Charles de Gaulle will no longer carry nuclear weapons on board in "normal circumstances." (The principal weapon would be the ASMP cruise missile, presently carried by Super Etendards, due to be replaced next year by the upgraded ASMP-A version, to be carried by navalized version of the Rafale.)

In the view of analyst Hans M. Kristensen, "The French acknowledgment marks the end of peacetime deployment of short-range nuclear weapons at sea" (the U.S. and Soviet Union having declared such withdrawals early in the post-Cold War, and Britain also retired its nuclear depth bombs about the same time).

However, there remain plenty of long-range weapons, including the SLBMs deployed by French subs-as well as the ballistic and cruise missiles carried by American, Soviet, British and Chinese ones-and perhaps Israeli and Indian ones as well, if not now, then soon. And,

* Russian nuclear submarines have been reported patrolling the western Atlantic, a few hundred miles off the U.S.'s east coast. Long-distance operation is, of course, one of the main reasons why nuclear subs are built, and such activity was routine back in the Cold War when the Soviet fleet. Like the resumption of long-range bomber flights, it seems to be an attempt to show that Russia is back as a military superpower, mainly by operating old assets out where people can see them (an issue I touched on in the Space Review last November, and on this blog in December and May).

Rather than any real elevation of belligerence, my worry would be the consequences of an accident.

No comments:

Subscribe Now: Feed Icon