‘Doesn’t matter what weapons you carry, if you can’t turn the ship in time to attack or evade, you are dead,’ William Toti, former XO of USS Florida (SSBN-728).
The Ohio-class SSBN was conceived in the early 1970s and at 560 feet, they became the largest submarines ever built by the US Navy.
USS Ohio (SSGN 726, the first of her class of ballistic missile submarines [SSBNs] and guided missile submarines [SSGNs], and the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name) joined the US Navy on Nov. 11, 1981.
With the end of the Cold War, the first four Ohio-class SSBNs – Ohio, Michigan, Florida and Georgia – were scheduled to be decommissioned in the early 2000s. The other 14 would remain in service as SSBNs carrying the Trident II D-5 missile. But another plan was in the works – to use the versatile Ohio seaframe to carry Tomahawks or other payloads in lieu of ballistic missiles. The result would be four platforms capable of supporting strike or special warfare missions around the world.
Under then plan, 22 Trident launch tubes were reconfigured to carry either canisters containing seven Tomahawks each – for a total of up to 154 missiles – or special operations weapons or equipment. The other two launch tubes were converted to lockout chambers, allowing for the embarkation and deployment of special operations forces such as Navy SEALs.
Giving these unique features, the Ohio-class submarines provide the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities.
But would it be possible using an Ohio-class SSBN as a hunter-killer?
‘Actual former XO of an Ohio class SSBN (USS Florida SSBN-728) then CO of a Los Angeles-class SSN (USS Indianapolis SSN-697), then commodore of an SSN squadron, answering. In other words, someone who has fought both classes of ship and knows what he is talking about.
‘Short answer: no.
‘Reason: maneuverability. Doesn’t matter what weapons you carry, if you can’t turn the ship in time to attack or evade, you are dead. Think of an F/A-18 engaged in a dogfight with a B-2. Even if the B-2 carried air-to-air missiles, it’s not gonna prevail.
‘I used to joke with my crew on the Trident: “Put the rudder over. I’m going to take a nap. Wake me up when we are on course.”’
‘On the Ohio-class we were required to conduct ASW missions as part of our Tactical Readiness Evaluation (TRE), but we all knew this was for self-defense only. No commodore or admiral in their right mind would send a Trident out to hunt/kill an SSN.’
Photo credit: Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Lynn Friant / U.S. Navy