Ohio-Class Submarines: A Closer Look At America's Underwater Fortresses

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Ohio Class submarine

On November 5, United States Central Command tweeted that an Ohio-class submarine had arrived on the scene at its "area of responsibility." That area encompasses portions of the Middle East, Eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and more. According to the U.S. Central Command, the central region of that area of responsibility is "among the least secure and stable places of the world." The Ohio-class's presence on the scene is related to the U.S. Navy's recent movement of both the Dwight D. Eisenhower Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier to the same region. U.S. Central Command did not name the specific submarine.


Most Ohio-classes are nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, as defined by the United States Navy's Submarine Force Pacific, meaning that each serves as a delivery and launch platform for nuclear weapons. There are 14 in active service, with an additional four that were converted to guided missile submarines designed to carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Each ballistic missile submarine can be loaded with upwards of 20 Trident II missiles. Each missile has an effective range of over 4,000 nautical miles and carries a nuclear MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) warhead. The Ohio-class is the Navy's equivalent of a stealth bomber. It's designed to be as quiet as possible until needed.

Designed to stay at sea for months at a time

Ohio-class submarine

For specifications, there are many details that are still classified, but the Ohio-class has been in service since 1979 when the USS Ohio was first launched. Each Ohio-class submarine is 560 feet long and has a beam (width) of 42 feet. The United States Navy states that it is powered by a nuclear reactor that, through two turbines, generates 60,000 horsepower at the propellor shaft. It can reportedly travel faster than 20 knots (23 miles per hour) when submerged at depths over 800 feet and 12 knots (14 miles per hour) while cruising on the surface. Given its nuclear powerplant, the operational range is listed as "unlimited."

Each Ohio-class is crewed by 140 enlisted service members and 15 officers. That crew can spend upwards of 77 days at sea before returning to port for maintenance and supplies. However, the submarine does possess onboard hatches that can be used to supply necessities like food and water to the crew while on mission if needed. This feature allows the Ohio-class to stay at sea for essentially as long as the mission requires, as the nuclear fuel allows it to operate for reportedly more than 15 years before it needs any kind of refit or overhaul, according to the U.S. Navy.

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