US Submarine’s Tethered Buoy Helps in Stealth Communication

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The US Navy’s Ohio class ballistic missile submarines are equipped with tethered buoys- a critical piece of technology that ensures the submarines receive crucial transmissions of nuclear strike orders while deeply submerged.

Trident Refit Facility (TRF) recently unveiled images showing the remarkable importance of the AN/BRR-6/6B Communications Buoy System- an integral component used by Ohio class ballistic missile submarines for receiving essential nuclear strike orders.

According to a release by the TRF, the ‘Buoy Fly’ is the final certification in a series of post-repair tests for the AN/BRR-6/6B Communications Buoy Systems, certifications that are essential to ensuring the system’s functionality in critical operations.

According to Interesting Engineering, each Ohio-class Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) is equipped with the AN/BRR-6/6B Towed Buoy Antenna system, housing two towed communications buoys that operate as a passive receiver, allowing for operational flexibility and minimal impact on the boat’s maneuverability or detectability while receiving communications at significant depths.

Practically, very-low-frequency (VLF) transmissions are the primary means for dispatching Emergency Action Messages (EAM), which are critical for issuing orders to execute or abort nuclear strikes. The system receives transmissions in the low-frequency (LF), VLF, and medium-frequency/high-frequency (MF/HF) bands.

This intricate AN/BRR-6/6B Communications Buoy System is an extremely integral part of the extensive communications suite on the Ohio SSBNs and plays a crucial role when other communication options are restricted. It maintains essential communication links for the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines, ensuring their covert operations during strategic missions.

The US Navy is currently in the process of acquiring a new aircraft for the critical airborne strategic communications mission, while there are also plans to replace Ohio-class submarines with the new Columbia-class SSBNs. The USS District of Columbia is expected to be operational in 2031, although there are still concerns about potential delays.