In the mid-1990s, a handful of defense intellectuals hatched the idea of converting older ballistic-missile submarines into SEAL platforms and cruise missile shooters. They found some allies in Congress, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the submarine community, and now that program—the conversion of Trident submarines to SSGNs—is taking shape.
The SSGN is transformational. It offers stealth and access, and unlike surface combatants, as the attack on the Cole (DDG-67) as she refueled in Yemen reminds us, the SSGN has no need for force protection for close-in platforms. A perfectly good Cold War asset can be used for new missions.
With the SSGN, deterrence no longer is a solely nuclear decision. This stealthy, nuclear-powered platform, with up to 154 cruise missiles on board, will work as a campaign opener, like the first strikes of Iraqi Freedom on 21 March 2003. And it also will be an effective instrument for suppression of enemy air defenses, preparing the battle space for Navy and Air Force tactical aviation. The giant undersea boat will hit its targets from a safe, secure location so you do not have to tip your hand.