The Future of the Undersea Deterrent: A Global Survey (ANU NSC)

Amid rapid geopolitical change at the start of the 2020s, nuclear weapons manifest grim continuity with the previous century. Especially persistent is a capability that has existed since the 1960s: the deployment of nuclear weapons on submarines. The ungainly acronym SSBN represents nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines: the most destructive armaments carried on a supposedly undetectable, and thus invulnerable, platform.

This complex maritime-nuclear dynamic brings deterrence but also great risk. Yet the intersection of undersea nuclear forces, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), geostrategic competition, geography, and technological change is not well understood.

In the new nuclear age, many nations are investing in undersea nuclear deterrence. In the Indo-Pacific region (the centre of strategic contestation), four major powers – the United States, China, India, and Russia – have SSBN programs, while Pakistan and North Korea are pursuing more rudimentary forms of submarine-launched nuclear firepower. This complex maritime-nuclear dynamic brings deterrence but also great risk. Yet the intersection of undersea nuclear forces, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), geostrategic competition, geography, and technological change is not well understood. This has a major bearing on peace and security, in terms both of crisis stability and arms race stability.

The present volume [brings] together the insights of leading international scholars and next-generation experts to produce a comprehensive and authoritative reference. The edited volume examines the interplay of strategic issues, including nuclear strategy and deterrence; maritime operational issues, including ASW; and technology issues, including new and disruptive technologies and potential game-changers in relation to deterrence.

This volume will help to advance critical conversations about undersea nuclear deterrence in the Indo-Pacific – a region of intensifying complexity, and uncertainty – and is of value to the policymakers and governments who must chart a course through these dynamics.

Read the full description or download the publication (pdf 1.3MB) (external links to Crawford School of Public Policy – Australian National University – website.