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The US Navy’s Ohio-class SSGN submarines are massive missile carriers

Resume: The 1990s marked a transformative period for the US and Russian military forces, especially in the field of nuclear weapons, due to the dissolution of the USSR and the subsequent Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START). START I, ratified in 1991, and the unratified START II aimed to drastically reduce both countries’ nuclear capabilities. The 1994 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review further adapted U.S. nuclear strategy to the post-Cold War environment, leading to significant cuts in bombers and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). This included converting four Ohio-class SSBNs to SSGNs equipped with Tomahawk missiles and special operations capabilities, illustrating a strategic shift and repurposing of U.S. military assets.

-These treaties and changes underscored a global movement toward nuclear nonproliferation and a shift in military strategy that reflected the new geopolitical reality.

Ohio-class SSGNs: A strategic shift in U.S. naval capabilities post-launch

The 1990s marked a radical change in the force structure of both the American and former Soviet armed forces.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War caused national leaders to reassess their priorities and military composition.

One of the most significant areas of change concerned the nuclear weapons of the US and Russia. The START I and II treaties imposed limitations on the nuclear forces of these two countries, necessitating drawdowns. The Ohio-class SSGN is a unique result of this process.

START Treaties and Ohio-class SSGN

Leadership in both the US and USSR recognized the incredible destructive power of their nuclear arsenals and the great potential for nuclear destruction that existed during the Cold War.

Bilateral Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) began in the 1960s and led to the landmark SALT I treaty, the first to set limits on the two countries’ nuclear disposal.

Although SALT II was never ratified, it was another important stepping stone to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

START I was ratified between the US and the Soviet Union in July 1991. The collapse of the latter in December of that year did not hinder enforcement, which came into effect in 1994 in Russia and several other former Soviet satellites.

The first phase imposed restrictions on ICBMs, both in number and in the warheads carried, while the second phase focused on strategic bombers and other systems. START II was intended to further the reductions of START I; Although it was ratified in 1997, it ultimately never entered into force, but was replaced by another treaty.

1994 Nuclear Posture Assessment

Recognizing the need to adapt and address new threats at the end of the Cold War, the Department of Defense conducted a Bottom-Up Review aimed at “shifting America’s focus from a strategy designed to confront a global Soviet threat to a strategy focused on the new threat. dangers of the post-Cold War era.”

This brainchild of then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin inspired him to order the first Nuclear Posture Review, aimed at achieving similar goals for the US nuclear forces.

The review concluded the following: a reduction in the number of SSBNs from 18 to 14, a reduction in the number of B-52s from 94 to 66, no requirement for additional B-2 bombers, all B-1 bombers converted to a conventional role, and the retention of three wings of Minuteman III missiles with single warheads.


As a result of the overhaul, the U.S. Navy was left with four Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines for which it had no use. Since all 18 were already on order, Navy leadership decided to convert the first four rather than scrap them or cancel subsequent orders.

Ohio Class

This process resulted in the four Ohio-class SSGNs. Although these boats look the same as their SLBM-armed sisters, they carry 154 tomahawk missiles instead of 20 Trident Is. Additionally, they can house a platoon of special operations forces and their equipment, such as the Dry Combat Submersible mini-sub.

The START Treaties marked a major turning point in nuclear non-proliferation around the world. Having fewer nuclear warheads has undoubtedly made the world safer and more stable.

In addition, the START treaties were responsible for the Ohio-class SSGNs, a unique boat in the Navy inventory that may soon be decommissioned.

About the Author: Maya Carlin

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer at The National Interest, is an analyst at the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has had bylines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.