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Submarine Orbital Defense

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I finally looked into the possibility of using SSBNs as part of a nuclear defense system and it's actually possible (which I did not expect at all).

The only number I saw on the velocity of the Trident II is that two minutes in it is going 6 km/s. It is ambiguous whether that is at the beginning of the third stage firing, or after it is done, although the former seems to be implied. I will ignore that and chalk third stage maneuverability to aiming and closing with target.

I happen to have some software that models this sort of thing so lets get this party started. The exact altitude this missile can attain varies with how much of an arc you are shooting at, the higher you want it to go the closer the sub has to be to the target. (It can't go into orbit, just a nice high lob).

Here are my results: (Note that these numbers are a little conservative because I said that the missile was going 6 km/s immediately, so 2 minutes in it is going significantly slower, however if I tried to adjust for that with some basic methods I would probably overcompensate so I left it) I also put the sub at the north pole so that the Earth's rotation wouldn't affect it much. 6 km/s missile:


Elevation (deg)_____Max Alt (km)_____Ground Track at Max Alt (km)__(deg)


90_______________2560____________000_____0.00


80_______________2500____________635_____5.70


70_______________2340____________1250____11.25


60_______________2075____________1800____16.20


50_______________1725____________2290____20.61


45_______________1525____________2460____22.14


40_______________1310____________2575____23.18


35_______________1090____________2630____23.67


30_______________865_____________2630____23.67



I want to stress that this is completely un-augmented RL 2005 technology. We actually get out past LEO with a significant amount of range! It actually would have been useful during the Pirate attack, and when I get around to finally writing up some sub stuff I'll mention that. Of course with our nuclear shield Mk 2 this sort of thing will only be useful as a last resort, we will be hoping to kill these guys significantly before they get to that point, although a little insurance policy never hurt anybody. And as a point of reference on these ranges the Trident II missile has a range of 7400 km when attacking ground targets.

Lets look at a medium term solution, the sort of thing that would be ready by 2010. I see two big ways to increase the missile effectiveness, BT materials would make a lighter and stronger hull, and BT propellants would be more powerful. I could come up with some better estimates if needed but for now we'll say that we hit 7 km/sec.

7 km/s missile:


Elevation (deg)_____Max Alt (km)_____Ground Track at Max Alt (km)__(deg)


90_______________4075____________000_____0.00


80_______________4000____________860_____7.74


70_______________3775____________1720____15.48


60_______________3410____________2540____22.86


50_______________2915____________3350____30.15


45_______________2630____________3610____32.49


40_______________2315____________4010____36.09


35_______________1985____________4220____37.98


30_______________1643____________4370____39.33

This is a really significant amount of coverage. A dozen of these could guard almost the entire world, but we are still talking about the last line of defense.

Now we get to the long term possibilities. These things are 13.4 meters long, 2.1 meters wide, and mass 58.5 tons. The shape is a little odd but I am sure someone could whip up some believable stats for a kick-ass automated sub launched ASF. An Ohio would be launching 24 of them. They would either be disposable or would splash down to be recovered, rearmed, and refueled.

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