The Future of the Undersea Deterrent: A Global Survey

Rory Medcalf, Katherine Mansted, Stephan Fruehling, James Goldrick

    Research output: Book/ReportBook


    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. 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. To illuminate these critical issues, the National Security College at The Australian National University, with the support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is conducting an international research project on strategic stability in the Indo-Pacific. The project's focus is on new technologies and risks relating to undersea warfare and nuclear deterrence over a twenty year timeframe. The present volume is the project's second publication, bringing 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 represents a significant contribution to the field of nuclear deterrence and strategic stability. Its 22 authors span seven countries, and reflect world-leading academic and operational experience across nuclear strategy, deterrence and arms control, maritime operations, and the trajectory of emerging technologies. 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. Support for this publication was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationCanberra
    PublisherNational Security College, Australian National University
    Number of pages90
    Edition1st edition
    ISBN (Print)9781925084153
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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