The conversion of four Ohio (SSBN-726)-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) into guided missile submarines (SSGNs) has rightly been offered as a shining example of military transformation. As celebrated by one of America's senior submarine officers, Admiral Edmund Giambastiani, the SSGN is "a model for how to rapidly inject major transformational capabilities into the Joint Forces" and "an example for others to follow." Specifically, Giambastiani said, "Our SSGNs will provide covert strike capabilities—from a SOF contingent of up to 104 troops for surge ops to as many as 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. . . . These four ships will embark a variety of unmanned vehicles and ISR [intelligence surveillance reconnaissance] sensors to enhance the Joint Force Commander's knowledge of the battlespace."1 Because the SSGN is manned by two alternating crews, its operating tempo is advertised at up to 70 percent. But, as in most ambitious transformations, the devil is in the details.
Hype, Hope and Hard Facts: Getting a Fix on SSGN SOF Capabilities
The SSGN is worth the expense, even though its SOF capability may have been oversold.
By Commander Michael J. Dobbs, U.S. Navy (Retired)