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Ships carrying nuclear weapons are nowadays always also nuclear powered, but not all nuclear-powered ships carry nuclear weapons.
Admiral Hyman Rickover
Admiral Hyman Rickover, (1900 - 1986), of the United States Navy, known as "Father of the Nuclear Navy" was an electrical engineer by training, and was the primary architect who implemented this daring concept, and believed that it was the natural next phase for the way military vessels could be propelled and powered. The challenge was to reduce the size of a nuclear reactor to fit onboard a ship or submarine, as well as to encase it sufficiently so that radiation hazards would not be a safety concern.
Post war development
Soon after World War II, Rickover was assigned to the Bureau of Ships in September 1947 and received training in nuclear power at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In February 1949 he received an assignment to the Division of Reactor Development , Atomic Energy Commission and then assumed control of the United States Navy's effort as Director of the United States Naval reactor in the Bureau of Ships. This dual role allowed him to lead the efforts to develop the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, Nautilus (SSN-571), which was launched in 1954. As Vice Admiral, from 1958, for three decades Rickover exercised tight control over the ships, technology, and personnel of the nuclear navy, even interviewing every prospective officer for new nuclear powered navy vessels.
The concept was revolutionary in the annals of naval warfare as it would mean that ships at sea, or under the oceans, would not have to stop to take on fuel, as with the fossil fuels of petroleum oil or coal as in earlier times.
Philip Abelson (born 1913), also known as the "Father of the Nuclear Submarine" contributed to the first nuclear powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), launched on January 21st 1954, which was the first vesel to travel under the North Pole ice cap .
US naval reactors
At the present time, many important vessels in the United States Navy are powered by United States Naval reactors.
Nuclear ship designations
United States Naval reactors are given three-character designations consisting of a letter representing the ship type the reactor is designed for, a consecutive generation number, and a letter indicating the reactor's designer. The ship types are "A" for aircraft carrier, "C" for cruiser, "D" for destroyer, or "S" for submarine. The designers are "W" for Westinghouse, "G" for General Electric, "C" for Combustion Engineering , and "B" for Bettis Laboratory.
Military nuclear navies
By 1989, there were over 400 nuclear-powered submarines operational or being built. Some 250 of these submarines have now been scrapped and some on order cancelled, due to weapons reduction programs. Russia and the United States had over one hundred each, with the United Kingdom and France less than twenty each and China six. The total today is about 160. The United States Navy has the most nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (10), while both it and Russia have had nuclear-powered cruisers. Russia has eight nuclear icebreakers in service or building. The US Navy has accumulated over 5400 "reactor years" of accident-free experience, and operates more than 80 nuclear-powered ships.
Submarines and ships are used as floating or underwater launching platforms for ballistic missiles which usually have no wings or fins, with a prescribed course that cannot be altered after the missile has burned its fuel, whereafter its course is governed by the laws of ballistics. In order to cover large distances ballistic missiles must be launched very high into the air and often to low earth orbit altitudes. Ballistic missiles are generally designed to deliver nuclear warheads because their payload is too limited for conventionally-armed ballistic missiles to be efficient, and because the extreme heat of re-entry would damage chemical or biological payloads.
US Naval nuclear missiles
- Submarine-launched ballistic missile, modern variants usually deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) each of which carries a warhead and allows a single launched missile to strike a handful of targets.
- Trident missile or Trident fleet ballistic missile is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which is armed with nuclear warheads and is launched from submarines, making it a SLBM, and planned to be deployed past 2020.
- Polaris missile was a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) carrying a nuclear warhead developed during the Cold War for the United States Navy. The missile began to be replaced by Poseidon beginning in 1972, in the 1980s both were replaced by the Trident I.
- Poseidon missile was the second US Navy ballistic missile system, it had improved accuracy and up to 14 W68 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV) in its warhead bus.
- Cruise missile is a guided missile which uses a lifting wing and most often a jet propulsion system to allow sustained flight. Cruise missiles are, in essence, unmanned aircraft. They are generally designed to carry a large conventional or nuclear warhead many hundreds of miles with excellent accuracy.
- Tomahawk missile or Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) is a long-range cruise missile. It was designed as a medium to long range, low altitude aircraft that could be launched from a submerged submarine. It was subsequently deployed both on submarines and surface vessels. The Tomahawk can be used against surface ships, as the Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM), or land targets, employing several different types of warheads.
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