Question for Navy Nukes

Question for all you navy nukes out there…
What is the process for starting up an SSBN after docking for maintenance and repair?

Like if I wanted to start up an Ohio class sub, what would I have to do? What is the process for getting a reactor up and running at the level needed for acceleration, etc?

That’s classified.

You’d need a team to accomplish it, though.

Need answer fast?

How many team members? One to turn the key, one to tap on the gas, who else am I missing?

I served on an SSN, not an SSBN, but after a normal instance of in-port maintenance, the crew just starts up the reactor using the normal start-up procedure. Details are indeed classified.

Oh come on, it can’t be all that different from starting up an ordinary run of the mill household reactor.

So do you flip a coin to see who uses the starting crank?

Well, it’s the military so one more is needed at all times to shout at the others to do the things they’re already doing.

Actually, I take that back - that position also exists in the civilian world :).

Complete instructions for starting up a submarine were given in the book version of Yellow Submarine.

The three swimmers at the rear pushing the sub up to starting speed.

All procedures are confidential of course, but I think you are vastly underestimating the complexity of a vehicle such as a submarine. It’s not a car. You don’t just “start the reactor” and put in gear. There are a ton of systems, electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, and electronic that are needed to successfully make it go.

If you are just trying to move it away from the dock, an ax and tug boat would be the easiest way. But tug boats probably aren’t as simple as you think either.

Three swimmers, huh? Way to go dude, that was the classified part.

No no. They use dolphins and sea lions to push it. What do you think the Navy marine mammals are for?!

Using them for security is just a distraction from their real job.

Just prime it three times and give a good pull on the string.


Even starting something simple like a piston engine airplane is a bunch of steps… no way would a random person off the street be able to do it. Starting a nuclear submarine is going to be vastly more complex.

Step 1. Push the Big Red Button that says “Main Reactor Start”.
Step 2. Be sure to disengage the “Automatically Launch All the Nuclear Missiles At Russia When Main Reactor is Started” System first.

Plus, starting up or failing to start up even one of the subsystems in the incorrect order could make it glow red hot and possibly go boom.

No, Step 1 is to make sure the “Automatically Launch All the Nuclear Missiles At Russia When Main Reactor is Started” Cancellation button is not out of order.

You’d hope not. You’d hope that each subsystem has internal safety cutouts, alarms, etc, so that you can’t simply flip the wrong switch and it goes kaboom.