OHIO-CLASS SSGNS PROVE WORTH IN
IRREGULAR WARFARE, SPECIAL OPERATIONS
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
This spring, USS Georgia, an
(SSGN) will deploy, taking the fourth
and newest boat of the class into real-world operations and training exercises in its new configuration.
Loaded with scores of Tomahawk
cruise missiles and dozens of special
operations forces (SOF) personnel,
such as Navy SEALS, the SSGN —
converted from a ballistic-missile
submarine (SSBN) — will quietly
and covertly proceed to undisclosed
areas of the world, performing missions assigned by combatant commanders and participating in exercises with U.S. and allied joint forces.
The SSGN provides the theater commander with a
highly capable strike asset and a stealthy launching
platform for special operations.
Georgia will relieve USS Florida, just as USS Michigan
last year relieved USS Ohio, the first of the class to
deploy. Ohio deployed for 14 months, an unusually long
“cruise” for a Navy ship in recent decades. Deployments
of similar durations will become routine, facilitated by
the Navy’s practice of operating the submarines with
two alternating crews, designated Blue and Gold.
With Capt. Chris Ratliff commanding, Ohio’s Blue
Crew departed Bangor, Wash., Oct. 14, 2007, on the
class’ first operational deployment. The Blue Crew
alternated with the Gold Crew under the command of
Capt. Andy Hale, who was succeeded in April 2008 by
Capt. Dennis Carpenter.
Ratliff said the submarine conducted four mission
periods: three months with the Blue crew, then three
with the Gold crew, then four months with the Blue
Building on Success
The four Ohio-class SSGNs provide combatant commanders with
improved capability and capacity, freeing attack submarines for
■ SSGNs have supported special operations in the global war on
■ Alternating crews allow for extended deployments.
■ SSGN missile capacity enables destroyers to devote cells to
crew and a final four months with the Gold, returning
to Bangor Dec. 22, 2008.
Nominally, the Navy schedules SSGNs for 12-month
deployments. Because Ohio was ready for deployment
a month ahead of schedule, it departed early and
extended an additional month to minimize the gap
before Michigan’s deployment, Ratliff said.
“We did everything the boat was built to do,” he
said. “We proved the worthiness of SSGN to the combatant commander. In specifics, we did several [SOF]
real-world missions and exercises. Both crews got to
participate in those.
“We didn’t launch any Tomahawks, but we did
cover theater strike commitments,” Ratliff said. “We
certainly deepened the U.S. Navy’s relationship with
the allies, specifically the Republic of Korea, Republic
of the Philippines and Japan. We contributed significantly to the global war on terrorism and other theater
“The first deployment of USS Ohio [as an SSGN]
was a tremendous success and we’re just building on
As part of their conversion from ballistic-missile submarines (SSBNs) to a guided-missile configuration (SSGN), two missile
tubes on the Ohio-class SSGNs were converted to lock-in/lock-out chambers that can serve as docking stations for Dry-Deck
Shelters or submersibles, such as the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, to give them special operations capabilities. At left,
a film crew checks out one of the chambers aboard USS Florida prior to its return-to-service ceremony in May 2006.