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Ballistic missile submarine: Wikis


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The French SNLE Le Redoutable at Cité de la mer museum)

A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles (SLBMs).



Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident. Although some early models had to surface to launch their missiles, modern vessels typically launch while submerged at keel depths, usually less than 50 meters (164 feet).



Ballistic missile submarines differ in purpose from attack submarines and cruise missile submarines; while attack submarines specialise in combat with other naval vessels (including enemy submarines and merchant shipping), and cruise missile submarines are designed to attack large warships and tactical targets on land, the primary mission of the ballistic missile is nuclear deterrence. Accordingly, the mission profile of a ballistic missile submarine concentrates on remaining undetected, rather than aggressively pursuing other vessels. Ballistic missile submarines are designed for stealth, to avoid detection at all costs. They use many sound-reducing design features, such as anechoic tiles on their hull surfaces, carefully designed propulsion systems, and machinery mounted on vibration-damping mounts.

Ballistic missile submarines equipped with nuclear warheads serve as the third leg of the nuclear triad. The invisibility and mobility of submarines offer both a reliable means of deterrence against an attack (by maintaining the threat of a second strike), and a surprise first-strike capability - particularly given the range of the weapons they carry.


United States

SSBN is the United States Navy's hull classification symbol for a nuclear-powered, ballistic nuclear missile-carrying submarine.[1] The SS denotes a "submersible ship", the B denotes "ballistic missile," and the N denotes "nuclear powered." In US naval slang, ballistic missile submarines are called "boomers". They operate on a "Gold" and "Blue" two-crew concept.

United Kingdom

In Britain, ballistic missile submarine are referred to as "bombers". The two crews are called 'port' and 'starboard' crew.


The French Navy commissioned her first ballistic missile submarines as SNLE, for Sous-marin Nucléaire Lanceur d'Engin (lit. "nuclear-powered device-launching submarines"). The term applies both to ballistic missile submarines in general (for instance "British SNLE" occurs [2]) and, more technically, as a specific classification of the Redoutable class. The more recent Triomphant class is referred to as SNLE-NG (Nouvelle Génération, "New Generation").

The two crews used to maximise the availability time of the ships are called 'blue' and 'red' crews.

Soviet Union

The Soviets called this type of ship RPKSN - РПКСН Ракетный подводный крейсер стратегического назначения (Raketny Podvodnyy Kreiser Strategicheskogo Naznacheniya) which can be translated as Strategic Purpose Missile Cruiser Submarine, this designation was applied to the Typhoon class. Another designation used was PLARB ( «ПЛАРБ» - подводная лодка атомная с баллистическими ракетами) which is translated as Nuclear Submarine with Ballistic Missiles, this was applied to smaller submarines such as the Delta Class.

Active classes

Classes under development

Retired classes

(The above five classes are collectively referred to as 41 for Freedom.)


External links

  • Video showing various SSBNs in action.


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