U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky (SSBN 737) departed Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor March 13, for its first strategic deterrent mission since 2011.
Kentucky recently completed a 40-month Engineered Refueling Overhaul (ERO) to extend the life of the submarine for another 20 years.
Commander Jeffrey Smith, Engineering and Readiness Officer assigned to Commander, Submarine Group Nine (CSG 9), who served as Kentucky’s commanding officer while the boat was in the shipyard, said: “By the time the Engineered Overhaul started in 2012, over 25 years after the keel was laid, the boat had been worked hard. It was well-maintained by its crews, but the reality is that things break and get old.”
“When I took command in December of 2011, the ship and the crew were tired. They desperately needed the Engineered Refueling Overhaul because it is a rebirth for both the ship and the crew. We looked at the whole process as a recommissioning.”
The keel for Kentucky was laid December 18, 1987. Since the boat’s commissioning, Kentucky has completed 91 strategic deterrent patrols. Kentucky is one of eight ballistic-missile submarines stationed at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
After completing the overhaul, the ship and crews had to successfully complete three major certifications. The first was the command and control exercise, which demonstrated the crew’s ability to execute the mission and accomplish all required tasking.
The second major certification was the Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO), which determined whether or not the crew could effectively operate and maintain the weapon’s systems. During this certification, Kentucky launched two D5 Trident Missiles off the coast of San Diego, California. Finally, there was the nuclear weapons acceptance inspection, which certifies that the crew can safely, securely, and effectively maintain the strategic weapon system.
The mission of the ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) force is strategic deterrence, which is the act of deterring a nuclear attack with a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent force. Ballistic-missile submarines serve as an undetectable launch platform for intercontinental ballistic missiles. They are considered the most survivable leg of the strategic deterrent triad; the other legs being long-range manned aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.