Rare announcement reveals Ohio-class submarine’s deployment to US Central Command
Stars and Stripes November 5, 2023
The U.S. military revealed Sunday that an Ohio-class submarine has deployed to U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, which includes the Middle East.
It’s rare for the Defense Department to publicize its submarines’ movements. The short announcement, made via X, formerly known as Twitter, provided few details, including the name of the vessel and whether it is carrying cruise missiles or nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
The notice comes two days after the Navy announced that two carrier strike groups — the Gerald R. Ford and Dwight D. Eisenhower — launched aircraft and practiced missile defense during a three-day exercise in the Mediterranean Sea.
The show of strength coincides with high-level diplomacy aimed at preventing a wider war in the Middle East.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the Middle East on Sunday for diplomatic talks with regional leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad.
Blinken stressed the United States “supports Israel’s right to defense against Hamas” but noted that how it accomplishes that goal “matters.”
“Israel must take every possible measure to prevent civilian casualties,” Blinken said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at Amman on Saturday.
Arms Control Association director Daryl Kimball said Central Command’s short announcement about the submarine was not entirely clear.
“At a time of significant tension in the region, vague announcements of nuclear-force movements are not necessarily helpful and could be misconstrued by adversaries,” he said in an email to Stars and Stripes on Monday.
This is not the first time a U.S. ballistic missile submarine was deployed to Central Command. Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, the Central commander, boarded the USS West Virginia at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea, according to an Oct. 20, 2022, command news release.
The Ohio-class vessels come in two variants that carry either guided missiles like the Tomahawk cruise missile or those that carry nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
Four Ohio-class guided-missile submarines can carry up to 154 Tomahawks with a range of 1,000 miles. Fourteen nuclear-capable submarines can carry up to 20 ballistic missiles with ranges of 4,000 miles.
The U.S. last publicly announced a submarine visit in July, when the USS Kentucky deployed to South Korea for a port call, marking the first visit of a nuclear-capable American submarine to the country in 42 years.
Meanwhile, the Eisenhower, along with the cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the destroyer USS Mason, transited the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea on Saturday, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet said in a statement the same day.
The group joins the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group, including the dock landing ship USS Carter Hall and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which are already in the Red Sea.
The Italian frigate ITS Virginio Fasan, which was to deploy with the group and had trained with Eisenhower earlier this year, remained with the Ford in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Stars and Stripes reporter Alison Bath contributed to this report.