Submarines: February 15, 2003


Navy SEALs are training aboard the USS Florida (SSGN 728) to work out how they will operate on this new class of submarines. Actually, the SSGN isn't new, as they are converted ballistic missile subs (SSBNs). Nuclear arms reduction treaties mandate that many American SSBNs be broken up or converted (and inspected by Russian monitors) to other uses. When conversion of four SSBNs is complete, the SSGNs (as they will be called) will carry 154 cruise missiles, and as many as 60 SEAL commandos. To support the SEALS, the SSGNs will carry exercise equipment and a laser firing range so the SEALs can stay in shape. In the past, SEALs would ship out in smaller SSNs (attack subs) which could not carry as many SEALs or much special equipment for them. It will cost over a billion dollars to convert each of the four SSBNs to SSGNs. There is some question of how useful this will be. There aren't many situations where you need to sneak in a large force of SEALs, especially when existing SSNs can carry 16 or more SEALs for any special missions. Cruise missiles are now less urgently needed because of the introduction of JDAM and (longer range) JSOW GPS smart bombs. But the SSGN program has been approved, so the SEALs will have better transportation, and 154 cruise missiles to call on if they find some choice targets ashore.


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