The American tried to develop underwater boats and some were successful during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. But those underwater boats were perceived to do more harm than good to their crews and their targets. By 1890, John Holland and Simon Lake developed practical submersible boats. On the foundation of the US Submarine Force in April 11, 1900, the US Navy purchased its first submarine from Holland. Submarines were quickly adopted by nations worldwide, influencing world wars. But submarines remained essentially surface ships capable of hiding temporarily under water. During World War, the US force of large, fast, long-range fleet submarines played a major role in the Pacific war and helped the Americans win against the Japanese shipping.
Ten years after the war, a series of technological innovations led to the invention of nuclear propulsion, the transformation of the submarine into a true underwater boat, which is much faster beneath the surface than above and could remain submerged indefinitely.
The Cold War dominated international affairs by the end of World War II in 1945 and by the time the fall of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was not only fought on the battlefields, it also involved political affairs and sports, foreshadowing the threat of nuclear war. The United States’ policy was to threaten future attacker with nuclear annihilation. The United States developed the “Strategic Triad” of nuclear forces – long-range bombers, land-based missiles and submarines, each of which could inflict devastating blow to the enemy. The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines which are the least vulnerable of the Triad, have played a key role in the Cold War.
Nuclear submarines have three main missions. First is nuclear deterrence, on which the threat of one’s own weapons prevent enemies from launching their own. Second is anti-submarine warfare, wherein a submarine detects and is ready to destroy enemy submarines at the first signs of a missile launch. Lastly, special operations, ranging from reconnaissance of enemy activities to placing specialized troops in targeted areas for specific tasks.
Submarines have a long history before the Cold War began. The first American submarine built was during the Revolution and the first successful sinking of a surface vessel by a submarine dates to the Civil War. However, the development of the nuclear-powered submarine in the 1950s by the United States and its incorporation into the strategic triad of defensive weapons altered global politics significantly. Today, submarines remain a powerful deterrent nuclear warfare.
Nuclear submarines carry a wide array of offensive and defensive weapons, both nuclear and conventional, with which secret operations were conducted. Ballistic missiles are the most powerful and far-reaching of the submarine weapons, having great defensive ability to hide and seek, as well as going for the offensive.
Submarines continue to play an important role in US foreign policy. Recently, commissioned missile and attack submarines remain in active service and new ones are being designed and built, even though many older submarines are being decommissioned and scrapped. Submarine development continues despite the end of the Cold War.