U.S. announces the dispatch of a nuclear ballistic missile sub to Scotland as thinly-veiled warning to Russia

Monday, September 21, 2015 by

(NationalSecurity.news) A nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine made a port call to Scotland last week amid growing tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine and the build-up of Russia’s strategic weapons, The Washington Free Beacon (WFB) reported.

The sub, the USS Wyoming, arrived at the British naval base at Faslane, Scotland, the morning of Sept. 15 for what officials at U.S. Strategic Command [STRATCOM] claimed was a routine visit.

That said, ballistic missile submarine movements and port visits are normally not announced publicly by either STRATCOM or the U.S. Navy, which indicates that the Wyoming’s port call is likely strategic messaging to Russia, the WFB’s Bill Gertz reported.

The sub’s visit “demonstrates the closeness of the U.S./U.K. defense relationship and our commitment to the collective security of all NATO member states,” STRATCOM said in a brief statement.

The Wyoming’s visit follows an earlier, unannounced, call to its home port in Kings Bay, Ga., by a British missile submarine.

The Wyoming is an Ohio-class “boomer” that carries 24 Trident II nuclear missiles. These subs form the backbone of the United States’ strategic nuclear arsenal because they are stealthy, maneuverable and have lots of firepower.

A defense official said the Wyoming deployment is part of efforts to provide strategic assurance, bolstering so-called extended nuclear deterrence that U.S. nuclear forces provide for NATO, the WFB reported.

STRATCOM officials said the port call had been planned more than a year ago and is in no way related to regional events or “directed at any particular potential adversary.”

“The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates our commitment to our allies through forward presence and operations of strategic forces, including SSBNs,” he told the WFB.

Naval analyst Norman Polmar observed that the Wyoming port call is unusual but not unprecedented.

“More British SSBNs visit Kings Bay than U.S. subs make port calls in the UK because [the British] test fire Trident missiles on our Atlantic missile range,” Polmar said. [SSBN stands for “Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear.”]

The Wyoming’s announced visit follows an earlier report noting that Russia was developing a drone submarine called the Kanyon that would be capable of stealth delivery of megaton-rated nuclear weapons to U.S. coastal cities and ports.

NationalSecurity.news reported that officials familiar with the Kanyon program have said it will be capable of autonomous strike using a nuclear warhead that ranges in size to “tens” of megatons in yield. One megaton is equivalent to 1 million tons of TNT.

Follow NationalSecurity.news editor Jon E. Dougherty on Twitter and Google+.

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