The ballistic-missile submarine force is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first strategic deterrent patrol by an SSBN. On November 15, 1960, USS George Washington (SSBN 598) departed Cape Canaveral, Florida, on the first strategic deterrent patrol.

Ballistic missile submarines can either be attack or cruise missile submarines. Attack subs are geared for combat against other vessels, including enemy submarines. Cruise missile submarines are designed to target large warships and land targets. But the primary mission of all ballistic missile submarines is nuclear deterrence. Acting as the “third leg” in the United State’s nuclear triad — alongside land missiles and aircraft — nuclear submarines rely on remaining undetected rather than maintaining an aggressive posture.

SSBN submarines (SS denotes “submersible ship,” or submarine B denotes “ballistic missile,” and N denotes that the submarine is nuclear powered) are designed for stealth and aim to avoid detection at all costs. The nuclear powertrain permits these submarines to conduct their entire patrol submerged, allowing them to maneuver into strategic locations undetected.