I. Background
II. The Missiles
III. The Functional Elements
IV. The Submarines
V. Personnel, Facilities, and Logistics
VI.United Kingdom Strategic Systems Programs


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 Fleet Ballistic Missile (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.

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.

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 Missiles

The FBM Weapon System Missiles evolved from the single warhead POLARIS A1 and A2 and the multiple warhead A3, through the independently targetable multiple warhead POSEIDON C3 and TRIDENT I (C4), to the current TRIDENT II (D5) missile. Each new design provided successive improvements in range or payload, accuracy, and target flexibility. View more information about the missles.

The FBM System's Functional Elements

The ability to strike a target with a ballistic missile warhead involves a precise determination of the launch point, a computation of the path to the target, and a system aboard the missile that will determine its course along the path to the target. In addition, the SLBM requires a system to launch the missile to the surface of the sea.

The ship's navigation system provides the launch point, the ship's fire control system computes the path equation, the missile guidance system follows this equation to release the reentry bodies that then fall on a predetermined ballistic path to the target(s), and the ship's launcher system stows, protects, and launches the missile from the submarine. View more information about the FBM system's functional elements.

The FBM Submarines

The Navy's Ohio-class SSBN force, often referred to as "Boomers," serve as an undetectable launch platform for intercontinental missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth and the precision delivery of nuclear warheads. SSBNs can operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. There are currently 14 SSBN armed with Trident II SLBMs. View more infomation about the FBM Submarines.

Personnel, Facilities, and Logistics


An FBM submarine has two crews, designated BLUE and GOLD, each of about 150 officers and enlisted crewmembers. While one crew mans the ship on patrol, the other crew is at homeport, training new crew members, undergoing advanced training, and, in general, getting ready to go back to sea. View more Info.


Support facilities include a missile testing site, two missile assembly facilities, material expediting and requisition control offices, and a test instrumentation ship. View more Info.


Because of the high system performance standards required for the complete FBM weapon system, every aspect of logistic support, ranging from item procurement to material disposal (including such related tasks as cataloging, allowance document development, funding, item repair, requisitioning, transportation, and configuration control), is either directed or closely monitored by the Strategic Systems Programs Logistic Support Coordinator. View more Info.

United Kingdom Strategic Systems Programs

United States (U.S.) assistance and support to the United Kingdom's (U.K.) strategic systems programs are covered by the POLARIS Sales Agreement, which was a direct result of the now-historic meeting at Nassau in December 1962 between President Kennedy and Prime Minister MacMillan. SSP has additional responsibilities related to the United Kingdom Strategic Systems Programs. View more information about the British Strategic Systems Programs.

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