By Rear Adm. Dave Kriete
Commander, Submarine Group 9
Today marks an important milestone for our Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) force – the 30th anniversary of the commissioning of USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730). The ship, its crew and the ship’s sponsor, Anna Marie Laurence, are hosting a celebration in Bangor, Wash., today to give this day a fitting acknowledgement.
This anniversary is particularly noteworthy because USS Henry M. Jackson is now entering uncharted territory; service beyond the originally-planned 30-year service life for an Ohio-class SSBN. When the Navy first launched the ship back in 1984, Oct, 6, 2014 was an expected decommissioning date, not a birthday celebration with an eye on what is yet to come. Back in the 1990s, Navy leaders began looking at the lifespan of the Ohio Class, and after exhaustive engineering analyses by Commands across the Navy the service life of our “boomer force” was extended by 12 years to a total service life of 42 years.
The Ohio-class submarines of today have proven to be stealthy, flexible and capable of patrolling in vast open ocean areas well beyond the reach of any potential adversary, making them the world’s most effective and credible deterrent force over their entire service life. Just last month, we celebrated the 4,000th strategic deterrent patrol of our ballistic missile submarine force. Though ships like Henry M. Jackson are getting up there in age, they are still highly-effective, well-maintained platforms that can deliver incredible second strike capability from anywhere in the world.
A historic day like this is a result of countless hours of hard work and preparation to lay the groundwork for the U.S. Navy to send ballistic missile submarines to sea, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The credit for this success belongs with the engineers, designers, maintenance technicians, shipbuilders, and many others who originally helped develop the idea of the Ohio Class. Many have passed on, and I can only wonder how they would marvel at their legacy and the resulting confidence we have in the sea worthiness and material condition of these ships.
The entire world has benefited from the continued sacrifice of so many Sailors, civilians and families who have either patrolled on an Ohio-class boomer or served in other ways to enable and support those who have. This includes the technical staffs, repair personnel, shipyard workers, trainers, personnel experts, and many others who have contributed their brainpower and sweat to this mission. The SSBN mission is also made possible thanks to the gracious support we receive from elected officials, local leaders and the communities where these ships are stationed in Bangor and Kings Bay, Ga.
Going forward, we need to maintain our focus on replacing today’s Ohio-class SSBNs with a new SSBN that can provide the necessary sea-based deterrence our nation needs into the 2080s and beyond. To meet our mission requirements, the first Ohio Replacement ship is scheduled to begin construction in 2021 and is projected to go on patrol in 2031. Until the lines are cast off for that first patrol, the Sailors and civilians supporting the strategic deterrence mission will keep ships like USS Henry M. Jackson at the highest state of readiness, silently patrolling in defense of our nation and its allies.