The first eight Ohio-class submarines were originally equipped with 24 Trident I C-4 ballistic missiles. Beginning with the ninth Trident submarine, USS Tennessee (SSBN-734), all new ships are equipped with the Trident II D-5 missile system as they are built, and the earlier ships are being retrofitted to Trident II. Trident II can deliver significantly more payload than Trident I C-4 and more accurately.
The Ohio-class submarines are specifically designed for extended deterrent patrols. To decrease the time in port for crew turnover and replenishment, three large logistics hatches are fitted to provide large diameter resupply and repair openings. These hatches allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, significantly reducing the time required for replenishment and maintenance. The class design and modern main concepts allow the submarines to operate for 15+ years between overhauls.
Original plans called for Ohio (SSBN-726) to be retired in 2002, followed by her sisters. However, Ohio, Michigan (SSBN-727), Florida (SSBN-728), and Georgia (SSBN-729) will be modified and remain in service as conventional missile submarines (SSGNs).
Beginning in 2007-2010, 22 of the 24 88-inch diameter Trident missile tubes will be modified to contain large vertical launch systems (VLS), one configuration of which will be a cluster of seven Tomahawk missiles. If the maximum of 154 Tomahawks were loaded, one Ohio-class SSGN would carry an entire Battle Group's equivalent of cruise missiles. Other payload possibilities include new generations of supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), the ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, sensors for anti-submarine warfare or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, counter-mine warfare payloads such as the AN/BLQ-11 Long Term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS), and the broaching univeral buoyant launcher (BUBL) and stealthy affordable capsule system (SACS) specialized payload canisters.
The other two Trident tubes will be replaced by swimmer lockout and equipment pods. For special operations, a minisub will be mounted on the bow and the boat will be able to transport around a hundred Navy SEALs or other Special Operations Forces. (Such a large team of special forces is not expected to be frequently needed, however.)
On September 26, 2002, the Navy awarded General Dynamics a more than US$442.9 million contract to begin the first phase of the SSGN submarine conversion program. Those funds cover only the initial phase of conversion for the first two boats on the schedule. Advance procurement has been funded at US$355 million in fiscal year 2002, US$825 million in the FY '03 budget and, through the five-year defense budget plan, at US$936 million in FY '04, US$505 million in FY '05, and US$170 million in FY '06. Thus, the total cost to refit the four boats is just under US$700 million per boat.
In November 2002 Ohio entered drydock, beginning a 36-month refueling and conversion overhaul. She is scheduled to rejoin the fleet in 2007, followed by Michigan (SSGN-727)), Florida (SSGN-728), and Georgia (SSGN-729). These four SSGNs are expected to remain in service until 2023-2026.
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Homeported at the Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington
(Pennsylvania and Kentucky were originally homeported in Kings Bay, Georgia, but moved to Bangor in 2002. Further shifts will undoubtedly follow.)