Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Fleet's New Capital Ship

Much like the Iowa battleships of the Reagan Era, these Navy missile subs conversions are a bargain with a bang. From the Navy Times:

The Ohio is the first of a new class of submarine created in a
conversion from 1970s vessels by trading nuclear-tipped ICBMs for conventional
cruise missiles and a contingent of commandos ready to be launched onto
virtually any shore through reworked missile tubes — against conventional forces
or terrorists.
The sub’s cruise across the Pacific comes as China builds its
submarine fleet into the region’s largest as part of the bulking up of its
military. The voyage is the Ohio’s first deployment since the makeover, and
(Capt. Andy) Hale is in the odd position of showing the ship off.
It’s odd
because the sub is all about stealth.

Unlike the entire surface fleet, these premier underwater battleships are impervious to the primary threat in modern sea conflict: the cruise missile.

...over the next few months, the Ohio will be making a very public
statement, training intensively in some of the world’s most crowded and
contested waters and joining in exercises with America’s Asian allies. Instead
of hiding them, the Ohio will be showcasing its abilities to elude detection and
operate too deeply and quickly to be tracked.
Then it will likely do what it
does best — vanish.
“Submarines are the original stealth platform,” Hale told
the Associated Press, the only news agency allowed on board. “Submarine forces
have always viewed the Pacific as a very important strategic area ... it’s
certainly grown in importance in the last 10 years.”

The "public statement" comment struck me because the carrier advocates often contend their $20 billion battle groups are all the USN needs to make "show of force" to intimidate the nation's foes. The USS Ohio, her 100+ cruise missiles and commandos proves this assumption is a false one!