Meatball Subs, Not Nuclear Subs Or How To Deliver 16,128 Hiroshimas
Groton and New London, Connecticut, are home to about 65,000 people, three colleges, the Coast Guard Academy, 15 nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarines capable of destroying the world many times over, and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat, a multi-billion-dollar private corporation that offers stock options to its shareholders and mega-salaries to its top executives as it pockets taxpayer dollars and manufactures yet more of those stealthy, potentially world-ending machines. Whew! That was a long sentence!
Naval Submarine Base New London stretches along the east side of the Thames River, straddling the towns of Groton and Ledyard. Occupying at least 680 acres, the base has more than 160 major facilities. The 15 subs based there are the largest contingent in the nation. They’re manufactured just down the river at Electric Boat/General Dynamics, which once built the Polaris and Trident nuclear submarines, employs more than 12,000 people in our region, and is planning to hire another 2,400 this year to meet a striking “demand” for the newest version of such subs.
Some readers might already be asking themselves: Are submarines still a thing? Do we really still put men (and women) far beneath the ocean’s surface in a giant metal tube, ready to launch a nuclear first strike at a moment’s notice? At a time when the greatest threats to human life may be viruses hidden in our own exhales, our infrastructure is crumbling, and so much else is going wrong, are we really spending billions of dollars on submarines?
Back in 2010, the Department of Defense’s Nuclear Posture Review called for a “recapitalization of the nation’s sea-based deterrent,” as though we hadn’t been spending anything on submarines previously. To meet that goal, the Obama administration, the Trump administration, and now the Biden administration all agreed that, on a planet already filled with devastating nuclear weapons, the U.S. must begin construction of a new class of 12 Columbia ballistic missile submarines.
The Navy’s 2021 budget submission estimates that the total procurement cost for that 12-ship class of subs will be $109.8 billion. However, even a number that big might prove nothing but rough back-of-the-napkin figuring. After all, according to the Navy’s 2022 request, the cost estimate for the first submarine of the 12 they plan to build, the lead ship in its new program, had already grown from $14.39 billion to $15.03 billion. Now, that may not sound like a lot, but string out all those zeros behind it and you’ll realize that the difference is more than $640 million, just a little less than what Baltimore — a city of more than 600,000 people — will get in federal pandemic relief aid.
Swirling around those submarines are descriptions citing “strategy” and “capability.” But don’t be fooled: they’ll be potential world killers. Each of those 12 new subs will be armed with 16 Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, or SLBMs, which have a range of 4,500 miles and can carry 14 W-76-1 thermonuclear warheads. Each one of those warheads is six times more powerful than the atomic bomb that the U.S. military detonated over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Start multiplying 12 times 16 times 14 times 6 and there isn’t enough world to destroy with math like that. After all, the single Hiroshima bomb, “small” as it was, killed an estimated 140,000 people and turned the city into rubble and ash.
The best way to understand the Columbia class submarine, then, is as a $100 billion-plus initiative that aims to deliver 16,128 Hiroshimas.
Submarine Capital of the World
My family and I live in New London and evidence of the military is everywhere here. There’s a cannon planted amid the roses at the entrance to the motel right off the highway near our house. And another in front of the laundromat. Huge American flags flap at the car dealership that offers special financing to Navy personnel.
Signs declaring New London/Groton to be the “Submarine Capital of the World” festoon the highways into town. The huge naval submarine base and the General Dynamics/Electric Boat yards dominate the Groton side of the Thames River. There’s a massive garage for half-built submarines, painted a very seventies shade of green, that chews up most of the scenery on the Groton side of the river, alongside cranes and docks and industrial buildings in various hues of grey. It’s dismal. New London’s waterfront homes and private beaches look out on three generations of military-industrial-complex architecture. We wouldn’t want to live in Groton, but at least they feast their eyes on our quaint downtown and the parks that stretch along our side of the river.
On the New London side, General Dynamics/Electric Boat looks more like a corporate campus than a shipyard. It employs a lot of people, but there are still plenty of New Londoners who work at jobs that have nothing to do with the military or the business of building
Article from LewRockwell