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Policy brief | 11 December 2020

Quantum technology and submarine near-invulnerability

We are currently facing a second quantum revolution which is set to become a game-changer in defence and security. Although quantum is yet to make it into broad public security debates, it is vital to have a conversation on its possible impact on security and defence, especially on nuclear weapons.

This paper, by ELN Senior Policy Fellow Katarzyna Kubiak, looks at how quantum technology applications might affect nuclear weapon capable submarines (SSBN) near-invulnerability. It finds that, while the technological importance of quantum technology applications, in general, could be very high, its potential for increasing submarines vulnerability to detection and limiting their range and effectiveness in the near future, remains relatively low. Nevertheless, the development of quantum technology applications warrants a discussion of the consequences of their possible use. Especially in a crisis, tracing submarines could potentially undermine deterrence and risk unacceptable escalation.

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The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.

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