Thesis Title

Nuclear Smuggling in a Terrorist Midget Submarine: Impeding the Operation

Date of Graduation

Spring 2008


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Robert Joseph


nuclear smuggling, midget submarine, terrorists, deterrence, interdiction

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


Who expected terrorists to fly airplanes into buildings? Seeking to get ahead of terrorists' scheming, this thesis examines when and how terrorists, on acquiring a nuclear device, might choose to deliver it against the United States in a midget submarine (or SSM, as the U.S. Navy designates it). If determined nuclear smugglers think the United States will uncover their plan and try to stop them, they will likely look for a delivery vehicle to elude interdiction. Terrorists may believe that, given the large area the Coast Guard patrols, an SSM has a good chance of avoiding sensors and thereby interdiction. Likewise, terrorists may imagine that, even if an SSM is picked up by sensors, sensor operators will be unable to distinguish the tiny submarine from similar-looking contacts. After outlining a potential terrorist concept of operations, this paper recommends steps by which the United States can make this smuggling undertaking more risky. American authorities should track acquisition of platforms or support equipment, receipt of training, and conduct of SSM operations. If the United States receives a report that terrorists are attempting to smuggle a nuclear device in an SSM, this information may help analysts assess what type of SSM terrorists may be using, how proficient their crew is, and what route the craft may be taking. Such assessments, in turn, may help the Navy and Coast Guard narrow their search area, recognize their target SSM, and customize their interdiction strategy. If authorities do nothing to make SSM smuggling more difficult, terrorists will have a free pass to bring their weapon to U.S. soil.


© Melanie Sarah Inglis


Campus Only