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One of Two Variants of Ohio Class Nuclear Submarine Arrives in U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility

One of Two Variants of Ohio Class Nuclear Submarine Arrives in U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility

The two different Ohio Class variants, the SSBN, or nuclear ballistic missile carrying submarine, and the SSGN, or Tomahawk conventional cruise missile/seal delivery submarine, are NOT readily interchangeable.

We have recently reported on the massive buildup of U.S. military power in the vicinity of Gaza: U.S. Military Power In Middle East Grows:

[T]he USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) [has arrived] off the coast of Gaza despite the Ford CSG being near the end of its normally 6-month deployment to the European Command Area of Responsibility (AOR), which encompasses the Mediterranean Sea….

[T]he USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) CSG was [also] deployed from Norfolk, Virginia on October 14 and ordered to the coast of Gaza….

The USS Bataan (LHD-5) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with over 2,000 U..S. Marines, has also been re-directed from the Persian Gulf to the coast of Gaza….The Bataan ARG also includes the USS Carter Hall and USS Mesa Verde, two other amphibious assault ships with embarked marines (approximately 2,500 U.S. Marines total in the Bataan ARG)….

If you’re keeping track, that is two nuclear power aircraft carriers with over 100 tactical aircraft and nine accompanying warships, each of which likely has Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles in hot standby in missile launchers, and three amphibious assault ships with more tactical aircraft and 2,500 U.S. Marines aboard….

Now we have learned that SECDEF has seriously augmented U.S. missile defense forces in theater [with an] anti-ballistic missile defense system, called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense [THAAD] battery, as well as additional Patriot battalions “throughout the region.”

Now the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), whose Area of Responsibility (AOR) includes the Persian Gulf and Israel, has announced the arrival of a U.S. Ohio Class nuclear submarine into the Centcom AOR:

What Centcom’s X post doesn’t say is almost as important as what it does. It turns out there are two different variants of the Ohio Class submarine, and Centcom does not reveal, probably intentionally, which variant has arrived in the Centcom AOR.

From Fox News: US military deploys nuclear-powered submarine in Middle East:

The United States military has deployed a nuclear-powered submarine to the Middle East in a show of deterrence against further escalation. The vessel comes as the Israel-Hamas war nears the one-month mark. Israel declared war after Hamas-led forces slaughtered 1,400 people during a surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7.

U.S. Central Command provided no additional details in a statement Sunday, though it posted an image that appeared to show an Ohio-class submarine in Egypt’s Suez Canal near its Suez Canal Bridge.

The U.S. is intending to send an unmistakable message to its enemies as officials acknowledging the use of these submarines or sharing information about their location is very rare. They represent part of America’s so-called “nuclear triad” of atomic weapons — which also includes land-based ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs aboard strategic bombers.

Ohio-class submarines can carry nuclear ballistic missiles as well as cruise missiles. It is not immediately clear if the submarine now operating near Israel is carrying nuclear ballistic missiles.

What the Fox News article doesn’t make clear, and what several X commenters have confused, is that the two different Ohio Class variants, the SSBN, or nuclear ballistic missile carrying submarine, and the SSGN, or Tomahawk conventional cruise missile/seal delivery submarine, are NOT readily interchangeable:

The 1994 Nuclear Posture Review determined that the United States needed only 14 of its 18 SSBNs to meet the nation’s strategic force needs. Therefore, the Navy decided to transform four Ohio-class submarines into conventional land attack and SOF [special operations force] platforms….

The SSGN Program Office refueled and converted four SSBNs into SSGNs in a little more than five years….

USS Ohio (SSGN 726) entered the shipyard on Nov. 15, 2002, completed conversion in December 2005 and deployed for the first time in October 2007. USS Florida (SSGN 728) commenced its refueling and conversion in August 2003 and returned to the fleet in April 2006. USS Michigan (SSGN 727) started its shipyard availability in October 2004 and delivered in November 2006. USS Georgia (SSGN 729) completed conversion in December 2007…..

Combined, the four SSGNs represent more than half of the Submarine Force’s vertical launch payload capacity with each SSGN capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles….

The SSGNs have the capacity to host up to 66 SOF personnel at a time. Additional berthing was installed in the missile compartment to accommodate the added personnel, and other measures have been taken to extend the amount of time that the SOF forces can spend deployed aboard the SSGNs. The two forward most missile tubes were permanently converted to lock-out chambers that allow clandestine insertion and retrieval of SOF personnel. Each lock-out chamber can also accommodate a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS), enhancing the SSGNs’ SOF capabilities.

The fact that the SSBN to SSGN conversion took five years in the shipyard in each case indicates that the two types of boats are not interchangeable without major, years-long shipyard time (and expense).

A post from X user OSINTtechnical suggests that the sub-Centcom posted about is an SSGN:

It is important to note that this more detailed information has NOT been confirmed by Centcom or DOD.

It would make the most sense, however, that the Ohio Class sub entering Centcom’s AOR is probably an SSGN, not an SSBN, for several reasons.

First, there is no need for an SSBN to go to Centcom’s AOR to launch its nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, no matter what target in Centcom’s domain it is trying to hit, because the range of those missiles is approximately 6,500 nautical miles. Second, as noted, the SSGNs are special forces covert delivery capable, which could come in handy for hostage rescue or a high-value target strike. Third, it seems much more likely that a precision conventional missile strike would be used in the current situation, rather than a nuclear weapon strike, unless this war goes totally haywire.

The Times of Israel cites an anonymous DOD official who claims that the sub is in fact an SSGN and does not carry nuclear weapons:

US defense official says Navy submarine deployed to Mideast is not carrying nukes:

The Ohio-class submarine that US Central Command announced had sailed into Middle East waters yesterday is an SSGN, a guided missile submarine variant that is not capable of firing nuclear weapons, a defense official tells The Associated Press.

The official speaks on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter. The vessel was photographed as it transited the Suez Canal into the Red Sea, the defense official says.

Earlier today, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the submarine would provide “further support our deterrence efforts in the region.”

This is unofficial, obviously, but it seems to confirm that the sub is an SSGN, not an SSBN carrying nuclear missiles. Of course, an SSGN still packs quite a punch, consisting of up to 154 extreme precision Tomahawk conventional cruise missiles, each carrying a 1,000 pound warhead and having a range of approximately 1,000 miles.

A review of Centcom’s recent X posts reveals the massive scope of U.S. military power in the area near Israel and Gaza:

That is a lot of U.S. military firepower concentrated in a relatively localized area of the world.

My take is that the announcement of an Ohio Class sub arriving in the Centcom is all about deterring Iran from taking action in support of Hamas and against Israel.

From a CNN article on the subject: In rare announcement, US says guided missile sub has arrived in Middle East, a message of deterrence to adversaries

Each SSGN can carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 50% more than US guided-missile destroyers pack and almost four times what the US Navy’s newest attack subs are armed with.

Each Tomahawk can carry up to a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead.

“SSGNs can deliver a lot of firepower very rapidly,” said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center told CNN in 2021.

“One-hundred and fifty-four Tomahawks accurately deliver a lot of punch. No opponent of the US can ignore the threat.”

The magnitude of that firepower was shown in March 2011, when the guided missile sub USS Florida fired almost 100 Tomahawks against targets in Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn. The attack marked the first time the SSGNs were used in combat.

We will keep you updated.


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Just a general question….has it become more common to talk openly about our subs and their movements?

This can be a convincing warning to Iran, but I’m more worried about the threat lingering in the White House and State Dept.

    TheOldZombie in reply to Whitewall. | November 8, 2023 at 9:38 am

    No. It’s not common.

    But we wanted to send a message so sending one of these beasts through the Suez Canal and telling the whole world does that loud and clear.

    Every government in the Middle East is thinking of that sub anytime they want to make a decision on what to do.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to Whitewall. | November 8, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    No, and if it had been of the SSBN variant, there would have been no announcement.

It’s an SSGN.

They wouldn’t be able to use an SSBN since those are strategic level weapons.

Also the SSBN have plenty of range so there’s no need to be that close to the Middle East. It’s way too dangerous to have such a submarine in the Mediterranean. They’d keep them in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian Ocean. Lots more room to run and hide.

SSGN’s with 154 Tomahawks make for a nice hammer and some of those missiles can be or are already nuclear tipped if they really wanted to get stupid and use nukes. I don’t see any scenario that would call for such a thing. Not yet anyway.

Still makes for a good PR to that part of the planet. Keep’s on everyone’s mind that there is a big hammer out there we can use.

Rattling sabers with all of these navy ships makes for a nice display, but, if it’s all for show, this is a waste of time and credibility. The time for engaging in effective deterrence was October 6th and prior. The entire point of deterrence is to prevent brazen enemy action, in the first place.

We’re in the present situation in the middle east because of an abject failure of American deterrence, born of decades of feckless, strategically stupid, morally bankrupt and indefensible dhimmitude, kowtowing, appeasement, deference, funding and enabling of the Iranian Islamofascist regime and its innumerable Muslim supremacist/terrorist proxies — all policies carried out during the utterly destructive tenures of wretched and incompetent Dhimmi-crat presidents Carter, Clinton, Obama and Biden.

Real U.S. leadership in the mold of Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, Nixon, Reagan and Trump would’ve seen the U.S. issue an October 8th ultimatum to Qatar to turn over all Hamas leaders residing in the country and enjoying its protection, for prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and, to immediately cease all funding of Muslim supremacists and terrorists, or, face total destruction.

More serious reprisals delivered to Iran, itself, for its decades of brazen terrorism waged against the U.S. and its allies, are also long overdue.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to guyjones. | November 8, 2023 at 10:11 am

    “More serious reprisals delivered to Iran”

    Break Iran’s back so that they have no resources of terror.

      guyjones in reply to JohnSmith100. | November 8, 2023 at 10:25 am

      A reckoning is long overdue, but, won’t happen on a Dhimmi-crat president’s watch. The U.S. has been stupidly playing footsie with Iran’s despots for decades, despite innumerable attacks on U.S. servicemembers and allies, since the 1980’s.

      The Dhimmi-crats simply refuse to treat Iran as the transparently and brazenly hostile, malignant and belligerent threat to global peace and stability that it plainly is.

      diver64 in reply to JohnSmith100. | November 8, 2023 at 3:29 pm

      For Brandon and the Hamas lovers in his administration “more serious” means cutting $10 Billion in terrorist aid to $5 Billion

AOC and Kamala think that these subs should be all electric since they are built by Electric Boat.

First things first: How will correct pronoun usage be monitored and enforced on these submarines? Shouldn’t Biden assure the American people on that issue before sending them so far?

Recall the worry over possible nuclear holocaust Ukraine. People howled themselves hoarse about it. Then Putin reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to Iran.

Kindly Uncle Putin baring his teeth in support of Hamas. Iran is his proxy, and we’ve got carrier and Red Sea groups bobbing about nearby. So, N-QB3.

Institute for the Study of War. Slightly dated 2012 Backgrounder on the Russian Naval Base Tartus in Syria.

    Tiki in reply to Tiki. | November 8, 2023 at 12:31 pm

    Keeping sailors on high alert for weeks on end? I’ve read time and again how focus fades. People make mistakes. No one can remain hyper vigilant.

    Naval vigilance analysis is embedded in historical surface warfare books from Iron Bottom Sound through to today.

    Tiki in reply to Tiki. | November 9, 2023 at 1:44 am

    Just weeks after the Biden administration allowed sanctions on Iran’s missile program to expire, a collection of its supported terrorist proxies operating collectively as the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq” announced that it now has a “medium-range missile” intended for strikes against U.S. troops on bases around Iraq and Syria

American Human | November 8, 2023 at 1:06 pm

One other thing about the Ohio class submarines. Once the sub dives, there is no platform anywhere capable of detecting it.
They are huge too (for a sub).

This is ridiculous and some Obama/Brandon staffer trying to make the US look tough with no intention of doing anything because the only fight they ever had was with hair gel to get that cowlick to behave. Not one person in the most unserious administration in history has the gonads to lob a missile anywhere there is a chance of civilians being hit. Because that includes all of the terrorists hiding behind moms and kids it’s an empty threat and they know it.

There are always two subs sneaking around each air carrier at all times. So if the air carrier arrived 10 days ago so did 2 subs. It used to be followed by a Russian sub just in case yankees got too excited, but there is no need anymore since the hypersonic capabilities of Russia will make that into a pile of rubble within a few minutes.

These Boomers converted to TLAMs would operate independently. With 154 Tomahwks they probably have more strike capacity than all the escorts in the carrier strike group (many of the missile tubes on the destroyers and cruisers have rounds for ballistic missile, anti-air, and antisubmarine defense). The dry deck shelter for a SEAL delivery vehicle makes it obvious to the bad guys that it’s a “G” not a “B” boat.
During the Libya implosion, there was no carrier in the Med- one of these subs performed Tomahawk strikes..
This is intended to demonstrate over the horizon firepower to Iran (that’s why it’s going to the Gulf of Oman).