US Navy Virginia attack submarines will now fire nuclear weapons, marking a dramatic shift

Tomahawk cruise missile is fired. (Credit: Raytheon)

The US Navy is the Virginia-class attack submarines to be armed with nuclear warheads, marking a history shift in the way the submarines can be used.

“While Virginia-class submarines may make use of conventional deterrent to keep opponents in check, a sub-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead, would be included in the Virginias and give the national command authority additional escalation control,” Rear Adm. John Tammen, Director, Submarine Warfare Division, told Congress.

The new weapon, a part of the Trump administration’s recent Nuclear Posture Review, is likely to be a new element to the Pentagon’s current nuclear weapons deterrence. At this time, only the Ohio-class and the emerging Columbia-class are capable of firing nuclear weapons.

The Virginia submarines can currently fire Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes, but by the addition of nuclear weapons, it would give the combatant commanders of the new options and the extension of its mission, Tammen added.

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