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Indo-Pacific: The front line of US and China next-gen submarines

Ballistic missile 'boomers' are undetectable, but drones and geography hinder use

A rendering of America's next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine: The planned Columbia class is slated to replace the current vessels in 2031. (Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat)

NEW YORK -- Life on a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, or SSBN, can be dreary.

"There's no Wi-Fi, no TV, no radio or anything like that. When I first joined, everybody got very excited when the Navy's movie service sent you a new box of videotapes or DVDs," former submariner Tom Shugart, who served on three vessels, including as commander of the nuclear-powered fast-attack sub USS Olympia, told Nikkei Asia.

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