Pentagon: Just FYI, We Have a Nuclear-Armed Submarine in the Arabian Sea

U.S. Central Command just dropped the location of a powerful nuclear weapon in a tweet.
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CENTCOM photo.

The Pentagon just let everyone know that it’s got a nuclear-armed submarine in the Arabian Sea, for no particularly stated reason. Just in case you were curious. The movements of nuclear submarines are usually secret, but U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the part of the Pentagon that oversees operations in the Middle East, just tweeted it out.

The purpose of the announcement, according to a press release, was to highlight a visiting general. “On October 19, General Michael ‘Erik’ Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM, conducted a visit aboard the USS West Virginia, a U.S. Navy Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, at an undisclosed location at sea in international waters in the Arabian Sea,” the press release said. But the seemingly random press release comes the same day the U.S. announced that Iran is not only supplying Russia suicide drones for its invasion of Ukraine, but that Iranian “military personnel” are on the ground in Crimea training Russians in how to use them.

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The location of nuclear submarines is a closely guarded secret. America’s nuclear weapons operate on what’s called a triad. The three legs of that chair are intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS) that reside in underground missile silos, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and bombers. The idea of the submarine is that, should an enemy knock out the bombers and ICBM silos, the submarines can still launch nukes. The idea that an enemy has no idea where and if a submarine will launch a nuke is meant to deter them from launching nukes of their own.

"I was thoroughly impressed with the crew of the USS West Virginia; these sailors represent the highest level of professionalism, expertise, and discipline across the U.S. military,” Kurilla said in the press release. “These submarines are the crown jewel of the nuclear triad, and the West Virginia demonstrates the flexibility, survivability, readiness, and capability of USCENTCOM and USSTRATCOM [U.S. Strategic Command] forces at sea."

The U.S. has 14 of these submarines, what Kurilla called the crown jewel, in waters all over the world. The Arabian Sea borders Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, and Iran. It’s very weird for the U.S. to talk about the location of these subs and hard to read it as anything more than a flex on Iran and Russia.

As the war in Ukraine continues to escalate, Russia has continued to rattle the nuclear saber but has stopped short of making a direct nuclear threat. Iran has been selling weapons to Russia to use in its war, including suicide drones that recently devastated apartment buildings in Kyiv. On October 19, the White House said it had intelligence indicating that Iran wasn’t only selling weapons but had sent a few people to Crimea to assist Russians in using the weapons.

Tweeting out the location of a nuclear submarine is a provocation that stops just short of being a direct threat. Much of Putin’s rhetoric has been about reminding the world that Russia has nuclear weapons and will use them if directly threatened. Surfacing a nuclear sub just south of Iran the day after it’s announced the U.S. thinks Iranians are helping Russians in the war in Ukraine is a not-so gentle reminder of America’s nuclear capabilities.