President Donald Trump may have disclosed highly sensitive information on the most secretive part of the US’s nuclear arsenal to the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, in a phone call last month.
“We have a lot of firepower over there,” Trump said of the Korean Peninsula, according to a transcript of the call obtained by the New York Times and verified by White House officials.
“We have two submarines — the best in the world,” Trump said, according to The Times. “We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.”
The incident appears to mirror previous reports that Trump divulged a highly classified sort of intelligence to Russian officials, but it’s not as clear.
While the locations of the US’s nuclear-armed submarines have to remain a secret to even the highest commanders in the US military, the US also has nuclear-powered submarines. It’s unclear which type of “nuclear submarine” Trump was referring to.
Business Insider previously reported that the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine would head to North Korea’s coast, joining the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group. The Michigan has Tomahawk missiles — the same type used in the April 7 strike on a Syrian air base. It also carries special forces, and South Korean media has reported that Navy SEALs are in the region and may be training to take out North Korea’s leadership.
However, at any time, the US has four or five nuclear-armed submarines on “hard alert, in their patrol areas, awaiting orders for launch,” Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider.
The submarines make up the most secretive part of the US’s nuclear deterrent. Essentially, even if an attacker could somehow neutralize all the US’s nuclear weapons on land, they’d be unable to find the submarines. As a matter of national security, only the captains and crew of the submarines know for sure where they’re located.
“In fact, we don’t even know where they are — they run silent,” Schwartz said.