About - Strategic Systems Programs Facts

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The Facts/Chronology provides an overview of the United States Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) weapon system. It includes a brief history of the evolution of the system spanning a period of 50 years and comparison of six models of Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) and four classes of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).

The chronology starts with the technological advances and events that led to the development of the SLBM and details its failures and its triumphs.


The nation’s mix of strategic deterrent weapons known as the TRIAD has a purpose unique in the history of warfare: to prevent nuclear war.

The FBM weapon system is the Navy’s major contribution to this mix. The system consists of time-proven, operational, nuclear-powered submarines, each capable of carrying nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. Hidden, mobile, and ready, this formidable undersea deterrent force ranges the oceans of the world, assuring a potential enemy that a nuclear attack on the United States will be answered by a devastating nuclear blow.

The FBM Weapon Systems

In addition to missiles and submarines, the FBM system covers the entire spectrum of activities from research, development, building of hardware, training of crews, and construction of facilities, through the continued operational support of the deployed weapon systems, including inactivation, dismantlement, and disposal of the system.

Operational FBM and Strategic Weapon System (SWS) submarines are under the control of the Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), who exercises authority through the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (SUBLANT), and the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SUBPAC). Selection of targets and their assignment to operational FBM and SWS submarines are under the control of STRATCOM. System development and production are managed for the Navy by the Director, Strategic Systems Programs. Assisting him is an imposing team of Navy missile experts, scientific leaders, universities, and more than 20,000 industrial contractor and Government agency personnel.

The Concept

With almost unlimited cruising range and with endurance limited only by the crew, the FBM nuclear submarine is capable of extended submerged operations in the international waters of the world, which comprise about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface. Free of the need to surface or extend a snorkel above the surface for continuous operation, FBM nuclear submarines remain hidden by an oceanic curtain, their locations unknown to any potential enemy. The TRIDENT missiles, powered by solid propellant rocket motors, are ready for launch within minutes of receiving the command, without the need for a long countdown. Authority for launch command rests with the President. Mobile, hidden, and ready for instant action (or carefully delayed action), the FBM system provides the U.S. with a powerful deterrent against a global war.

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