The USS Ohio was originally commissioned in 1981, as the first of the Ohio class nuclear submarines, carrying the Trident nuclear missile system. Both the missiles and the submarines are commonly known as Tridents.
When the Ohio was deployed in 1982 to the then new Trident base in Bangor, Washington, on the Hood Canal, it was greeted by protests. Among other actions, a flotilla of boats met the Ohio at Port Townsend as it entered Admiralty Inlet on its way in to Bangor. The Bangor base has been the subject of anti-nuclear protests for 30 years, from the construction of the base to the present. For the past several years demonstrators have nonviolently attempted to block the main gate three times each year: on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Martin Luther King’s birthday and on Mother’s Day. The Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (www.gzcenter.org) has more information.
The Ohio and three other Trident submarines were scheduled to be retired in 2002. However, they were converted from the SSBN (Submersible Ship Ballistic missile Nuclear powered) configuration into SSGN (Submersible Ship Guided missile Nuclear powered). The Ohio has been on active duty as a SSGN since 2006. As a nuclear powered submarine it is capable of continuous operations for unlimited periods.
The Trident SSGNs, including the Ohio are capable of carrying 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruise_missile). The Tomahawks have a range of 1500 miles and are capable of carrying either nuclear or conventional warheads, although the Navy says that they are not currently deploying the nuclear warheads. The submarines are also able to launch a mini-sub and Navy SEALS commando squads through a modified launch tube. These capabilities make the Trident SSGN submarines ideal vehicles for launching a surprise attack or secret commando raids. They can lie hidden just offshore of whatever country they choose to target and launch their attacks without warning. If the Administration wanted to launch a surprise nuclear attack, they might well choose to use a submarine launched cruise missile that could fly under the radar from an undetected source and hit their target without warning. Such an attack would be extremely dangerous because it could provoke a response either against the US or against another country mistakenly suspected of launching the attack. Futhermore, since it is impossible to tell if a cruise missile is armed with a nuclear or conventional warhead while it is in flight there are endless possibilities for a conventional missile to be mistaken for a nuclear one.
Submarines are used for this kind of mission, because, unlike other kinds of forces, they are largely invisible. Covert missions are used to carry out policies without the knowledge or consent of the American people.
From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_submarine):
The Ohio class submarines were specifically designed for extended deterrence patrols. Each submarine is complemented by two crews, Blue and Gold, with each crew operating on a 100-day interval. To decrease the time in port for crew turnover and replenishment, three large logistics hatches are fitted to provide large diameter resupply and repair openings. These hatches allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, significantly reducing the time required for replenishment and maintenance. The class design allows the vessel to operate for 15+ years between overhauls. The ships are purported to be as stealthy at 20 knots (their cruising speed) as previous subs were at a dead crawl of 6 knots, although exact information remains classified.
The Ohio has just returned from Hawaii, where they practiced a “forward crew swap” in which they complete the transfer from one crew to the other without returning to their home base in Bangor. This is the first forward crew swap in 20 years. The plan is to make these crew swaps in Guam, so the Ohio can remain at sea longer, only returning to Bangor about once a year.
According to the Navy: (http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=27392)
While the gold crew is in Hawaii for this crew swap, they will be going through a qualification process, testing the crew’s and the submarines ability to conduct different types of special operations forces (SOF) operations.
The cruise missiles will be loaded at Naval Magazine Indian Island, near Port Townsend.
Indian Island is the largest munitions depot on the West Coast, supplying weapons for Iraq and operations in the Pacific Ocean.
Recent protests at Indian Island include a weekly vigil outside the gates and a demonstration on September 23, 2006, when 500 people marched on the base and 37 were arrested. Their charges were reduced from a misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct, carrying a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail, to an infraction Pedestrian on Roadway, carrying a penalty of $76. The case has not yet been decided with a hearing scheduled May 29 in Jefferson County District Court on a motion to dismiss the charges.
For more information: Liz Rivera Goldstein 360-379-9094 firstname.lastname@example.org