President Donald Trump may have disclosed highly sensitive information on the most secretive part of the US’s nuclear arsenal to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a phone call last month.
“We have a lot of firepower over there,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the call obtained by the New York Times and verified by White House officials.
“We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.”
The incident appears to mirror previous allegations that Trump divulged the most highly classified sort of intelligence to Russian officials, but it’s not as clear.
While the locations of the US’s nuclear-armed submarines have to remain a secret to even the highest commanders of the US military, the US also has nuclear-powered submarines. It’s unclear which type of “nuclear submarine” Trump was referring to.
Business Insider previously reported that the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine would head to North Korea’s coast, joining the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group. The Michigan has Tomahawk missiles — the same type used in the April 7 strike on a Syrian air base. It also carries special forces, and South Korean media has reported the presence of Navy SEALs in the region, perhaps training to take out North Korea’s leadership.
However, at any given time, the US has four to five nuclear-armed submarines on “hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch,” Stephen Schwartz, author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider.
The submarines make up the most secretive part of the US’s nuclear deterrent. Essentially, even if an attacker could somehow neutralise all of the US’s nuclear weapons on land, there’s no way they’d be able to find the hidden submarines. Only the captains and crew of the submarines know for sure where they’re located as a matter of grave national security.
“In fact we don’t even know where they are — they run silent,” said Schwartz.
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