Lots of Navy brass have been wearing a bright glow of triumph recently. The best defense news of the year may well be the successful on-target detonation of a nuclear weapon fired from the submarine Ethan Allen in the Pacific. Reports have it that the missile traveled almost 1,400 miles, and that the nuclear warhead went "right down the pickle barrel."
Although numerous Polaris missiles have been rocketed successfully, none before carried an armed nuclear device. Now the last remaining doubt—and the Navy really has had no doubts—is erased. Polaris missiles and Polaris subs have been operational for some time. From now on no one—including the Kremlin—can discount them.
Funds for twenty-nine Polaris submarines had been provided through the current fiscal year. Another six are proposed for fiscal 1963, beginning July 1st of 1962, and still another six for fiscal year 1964. Thus by mid-1964 this nation should have forty-one Polaris subs completed or under construction. Each of these can carry sixteen nuclear missiles—656 for the entire fleet. One of these warheads equals about 500,000 tons of TNT.
Multiplied to its full potential, the Polaris fleet could rain far-flung destruction on an enemy with little fear of retaliation. One Polaris sub costs American taxpayers about 115 million dollars. The planned total of 41 will require a supporting fleet of 5 tenders, 6 resupply ships, several floating drydocks and other supporting ships. Missile and warhead costs add millions of dollars more to the over-all cost.
Yet in the Pacific test on May 6, the expense was justified. In the successful Polaris missile-sub, we have purchased one of our mightiest deterrents to war with the Soviet Union. And as yet the Soviet has nothing like it.