Photo: US NAVY / copyright
An unusual “visitor” has just emerged from the depths of the ocean in Guam, the US territory in the Pacific.
Over the weekend, one of the most powerful US nuclear submarines was spotted on the island, at a time when tensions between China and Taiwan are heightening, and while North Korea is carrying out several missile tests.
It is the USS Nevada, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine carrying 20 Trident ballistic missiles (equipped with multiple independently steerable re-entry vehicles) and dozens of nuclear warheads.
According to local media, it is the first time in more than six years that a US Navy nuclear-capable submarine has been sighted off Guam and the second since the 1980s.
In a statement, the US Navy assured that the visit sought to “strengthen cooperation” with regional allies and show the country’s commitment to the security of the area.
“The visit to the port strengthens the cooperation between the United States and its allies in the region, demonstrating the capacity, flexibility, readiness and continuous commitment of the United States with the security and regional stability of the Indo-Pacific”, indicated the text published on the page of Facebook of the military institution.
The fact that the Navy has made public the visit of a nuclear submarine is totally unusual, since the trips of these are usually secret operations and their locations are not usually known when they are sailing.
For the media and security experts in the country, it is a message that the Pentagon wants to send amid growing tensions in the South China Sea.
What is known about the USS Nevada
The USS Nevada is one of the most powerful weapons in the US Navy and one of only 14 nuclear-armed submarines in the US Navy.
In fact, on several occasions, it has received the Battle Efficiency Award, which is given to the best submarine in its respective squadron for its performance in inspections for tactical dispositions and nuclear reactor safety.
It was built in the 1980s by the Electric Boat company, a division of General Dynamics, and its main ports are the Kitsap Naval Base, in Washington, in the Pacific, and Kings Bay, in Georgia, in the Atlantic.
With a capacity for more than 150 crew, it is an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, an undetectable launch platform.
Initially, it carried up to 24 independently guided multi-warhead ballistic missiles, but following the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty agreements, four of its missile tubes were permanently deactivated and it now carries a maximum of 20.
The submarine’s strategic weapon is the Trident II D5, an intercontinental ballistic missile with a long range and precision.
The USS Nevada is more than 170 meters long, almost 13 meters wide and can submerge up to 240 meters. Being powered by nuclear power, it can stay submerged for weeks.
According to Navy data, Ohio-class submarines can spend up to 77 days in the deep sea.
When they do get afloat, they typically spend 35 days on repairs or resupply operations. However, their location is usually kept very well guarded when they are not at their home ports.
And it is that ballistic missile submarines are considered by experts on military issues as the most important section of the so-called “nuclear triad“, which also includes silo-based ballistic missiles in the continental United States and others carried by strategic bombers.
Of all of them, submarines are the most difficult to locate.
The public appearance of the nuclear submarine in Guam comes after weeks of North Korea conducting various missile tests and after months of tensions between China and Taiwan.
Joe Biden‘s government has assumed a position of defense of the Taiwanese island and several political forces in Washington have asked the president to send a stronger message to Beijing to dissuade it from a potential attack.
The nuclear power of US submarines is considered the largest in the world.
North Korea’s ballistic submarine program is still in very early stages and many experts doubt the country’s ability to develop it.
According to estimates of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), China only has six ballistic missile submarines and, according to that organization, their level is far below that of the Americans.
A study published by CSIS last year notes that Beijing’s Type 094 ballistic missile submarines make twice as much noise as those of the US and have less missile and warhead capacity.
This makes them more easily detectable and reduces their ability to attack.
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