US Navy SSGN - SEAL support
Navy SEALs have long had the reputation of appearing suddenly and unexpectedly to unleash their destruction on their enemies. They have had many means at their disposal for doing so, including delivery by submarine. But when the US Navy retired the former missile boats Polk and Kamehameha the SEALs were left with the smaller attack submarines as deployment platforms; and while the crews of these boats were dedicated to getting the SEALs to where they needed to be these smaller SSNs were not great platforms for storing large groups of special operators and their equipment. Enter the Ohio class Trident submarines and the SSGN conversion.
The Ohio class boats were designed in the late 1970's as extremely quiet ballistic missile submarines with a large capacity and ability to stay on stations for long periods of time. During the 1990's the decision was made to reduce the compliment of boats by four for treaty purposes, and the idea was floated to modify them and keep them in the inventory as opposed to simply scrapping these powerful weapons. These modifications centered around two main missions; the launching of cruise missiles and the support of Naval Special Warfare.
The change in mission involved many changes to the submarine and requires years of work in the shipyard. The Tomahawk missiles that will replace the Trident are much shorter and require less room, allowing for not only more weapons to be carried but also for enough room to carry four platoons of up to 66 SEALs for extended periods of time or up to 100 SEALs for shorter periods. Two of the missile tubes will be replaced not with Tomahawk VLSs but with diver lock-in/out chambers and mounts for the SEAL DDS (Dry Dock Shelter) and newer ASDS vehicle.
In addition to berthing and storage, the SEALs will gain a command center that allows them to plan their missions on the boat using current intelligence. This command center contains a much-upgraded communications suite similar to that found in the new Naval Special Warfare capable Virginia class submarines. Future plans may include the ability to launch and recover autonomous underwater and aerial vehicles as well.
These enhancements allow the submarines and SEALs to serve Navy task groups as not only a powerful deterrent but also as a crucial backbone that will allow the dispersal of other forces to cover broader regions with the same number of ships.
The four boats chosen for the conversion are the oldest in the Ohio class; Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Georgia. Each submarine will undergo conversion at the same time that their nuclear reactors are refueled. Ohio and FLorida began their conversions first, in October of 2002, while Michigan and Georgia began in October of 2003. The first two SSGN's are scheduled to re-enter service in late 2007.
Giant Shadow test
In January of 2003 the Navy ran a test named Giant Shadow designed to test the viability of the SSGN concept as designed. Giant Shadow presented a scenario where access to a country was denied to US forces and military action was necessary. SEALs were attached to the USS Florida (before her conversion) and sent to help scout out and destroy a suspected bio-terror plant. An EP-3 simulating a high-altitude Global Hawk unmaned reconnaissance aircraft first located the building and vectored the submarine in. A remotely controlled underwater reconnaissance vehicle was launched from the Florida and scouted the approaches to the island for the SEALs, ensuring that there were no mines or other weapons obstructing their progress.
Using a raft to simulate the then-unfinished ASDS, the SEALs made landfall and approached to within fifty yards of the suspected building and set up remote sensors to watch and gather information while they gathered soil samples from rain water run-off areas and returned them to the submarine via the unmaned Underwater vehicle that had earlier been used to scout for mines. Data from the sensors was sent back to the Florida via a wireless network and was examined along with the soil samples in a simulated lab aboard the submarine and the findings transmitted back to the Pentagon.
With the determination that the simulated factory was in fact a legitimate target for the excercise the Florida was ordered to destroy it with cruise missiles, and a simulated launch brought the excercise mostly to a close. Before it was totally over however, the SEALs destroyed teh building with C4 charges to evaluate how well their remote sensors could report post-attack analysis.
Key improvements to the SSGN submarines
- Ability to embark over twice as many SEALs as current attack SSN's for longer periods.
- Command center with high data-rate connectivity for mission planning and joint command/control operations.
- Same mission capacity as SSNs, such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISRT); anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and mine warfare.
- 20 times the cruise missile payload of an SSN, opportunity for payload experimentation and development.
USS Ohio SSGN-726 - Official Page
USS Michigan SSGN-727 - Official Page
USS Florida SSGN-728 - Official Page
USS Georgia SSGN-729 - Official Page
SSGN Provides Powerful Tool for Navy SEALs -Navy Newsstand
SSGN: A Transformational Force for the U.S. Navy - Undersea Warfare Fall 2001
Charting the Course of the Future Navy - Undersea Warfare Spring 2003
Ohio-class SSGN-726 FAS
Giant Shadow Giant Success
USS Ohio SSGN-726 Illustration
SSGN interior Illustration