“THE NAVY SEALS [ARE] A VERY ADAPTABLE GROUP OF YOUNG GUYS
AND THEY DID VERY WELL ONBOARD. I’M SURE THEY WERE ANXIOUS
TO GET THEIR JOB DONE, AS WE ALL WERE, BUT AS FAR AS ADAPTABILITY
TO THE SUBMARINE ENVIRONMENT, THEY JUST DID A GREAT JOB.”
— CAPT. CHRIS RATLIFF, COMMANDING OFFICER OF USS OHIO’S BLUE CREW.
that success with other subsequent deployments,” said
Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly, commander of the Navy’s
The four SSGNs were converted by General
Dynamics’ Electric Boat from the first four boats of the
18-submarine Ohio class. In each boat, all but two of
the 24 tubes designed to accommodate Trident
nuclear-tipped missiles were converted with the
Multiple All-up-round Canister (MAC), which allows
the tubes to house seven Tomahawk missiles, for a
maximum of 154 Tomahawks for strike missions.
The MACs can be removed and replaced by gear
stowage containers to equip up to 66 SOF personnel.
The remaining two tubes — the forward-most — have
been converted to lock-in/lock-out chambers that also
serve as docking stations for Dry-Deck Shelters or
submersibles, such as the Advanced SEAL Delivery
A Navy diver and special operator from SEAL Delivery
Team (SDV) 2 perform SDV operations with the Ohio-class
guided-missile submarine (SSGN) USS Florida off Key
West, Fla., in July 2007. With their ability to house dozens
of special operations forces personnel and related equipment, the SSGNs have proven to be a stealthy platform
for irregular warfare operations.
The SSGNs also are equipped with enhanced
command-and-control facilities in the form of the Common Submarine Radio Room and the Battle Management Center.
“The SSGN is the Navy’s premier irregular warfare platform,” said Donnelly. “It has the capacity and the capability that the combatant commanders need. What
we’re finding is there is a great demand for their capabilities in theater.
“It’s because of the size of those ships that we can
house all of the SOF personnel with their equipment,”
he said. “We can maintain their physical readiness and
capabilities because of the size of the ship and all the
exercise equipment we put on board. They’ve proven
to be very, very useful in theater in the irregular warfare operations that we engage in.”
“What we bring is the ability to do an SOF campaign
because of the volume of the submarine, the number of
SOF and support forces we can embark and their
command-and-control element,” Ratliff said. “Because of
the volume of the boat, the special operations forces can
stay ready to do their job for an indefinite amount of time.
We can stay on station for a very long time and just keep
doing the SOF missions over and over again. We’re the
only platform that has that SOF campaign capability.”
As part of the conversion, 66 extra bunks were
installed, so each SOF member was assigned his own
bunk. Ratliff said the SEALs were able to sleep well and
had plenty of room to exercise. The SSGN provided
ample storage space for their equipment and room to
break out the equipment for missions.
The SEALs were not given normal submarine onboard crew responsibilities such as damage-control
assignments, but maintained their own spaces and
“established camaraderie by helping out in the galley
on the mess decks,” Ratliff noted.
“They had a lot of mission planning work to do that
we did with them,” he said. “Of course, when they
were doing their mission, they were very busy and very
focused. I wouldn’t classify them as just riders at all.
They were certainly good shipmates and certainly fully
engaged in the mission at hand.”