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Speaking with sailors: force master chief (ss) kirk saunders, commander, submarine force Atlantic.

Hello, Shipmates!

Our submarine force was established 111 years ago when inventor John Holland sold his newest design of the submersible Holland VI to the U.S. Navy, April 11, 1900, for $150,000. Even though the 64-ton submarine wasn't commissioned as USS Holland (SS 1) until October 1900, the world's most technical and most powerful sea service had been born.

The submarine force has constantly evolved during the 11-plus decades since its inception. Whether powered by diesel engines or by nuclear reactors, the fast attacks submarines, ballistic submarines and guided-missile submarines continue to deliver unique value to our nation. With stealth being the key, our submarines bring mobility, persistence, agility and firepower to the battlefield enabling us to execute Chief of Naval Operation's Maritime Strategy in supporting national security interests and Maritime Security Operations.

With 53 fast attack submarines (SSNs) currently in the submarine fleet, both the Los Angeles- and Virginia-classes have multifaceted missions. They use their stealth, persistence, agility and firepower to deploy and support special force operations (SOF), disrupt and destroy an adversary's military and economic operations at sea, provide early strike from close proximity and ensure undersea superiority.

While the Los Angeles-class is the backbone of the submarine force, it is the Virginia-class that is the most technologically advanced. It's the first attack submarine designed for battle space dominance across a broad spectrum of regional and littoral missions as well as open-ocean, "blue water" missions. Land, sea and undersea firepower, advanced sensors and other special features enable this class of submarine to execute numerous warfighting tasks simultaneously, including their seven primary missions of antisubmarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; mine warfare; SOF support; battle group support; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

There are currently 14 Ohio-class Trident ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) in the submarine force arsenal. With each carrying a payload of 24 Trident missiles, strategic deterrence is their sole mission, and has been since their inception in 1960. The Ohio-class replaced the aging, fleet ballistic missile submarines built at that time and is more capable. Providing the sea-based leg of the triad of U.S. strategic deterrent forces, they carry 50 percent of the total U.S. strategic warheads. The SSBN provides the nation's most survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability. While the SSBNs have no preset targets when they go on patrol, the submarines are capable of rapidly targeting their missiles should the need arise, using secure and constant at-sea communications links.


The first four Ohio-class submarines were converted to guided-missile submarines (SSGN) with an additional capability to transport and support Navy SOF. Their primary missions are land attack and SOF insertion and support. Secondary missions are the traditional attack submarine missions of ISR, battle space preparation and sea control.

But, it is the men and women of our fleet who are our most treasured asset, because without them our submarines would be lifeless and rudderless technical marvels. Our cache of 18,509 officers and enlisted Sailors are the most highly trained, motivated and dedicated professionals. They remain vigilant and able to complete any contingency operation worldwide - ashore or at sea.

In closing, I want to note the historical significance that CY 2010 yielded for the submarine community. There was a cultural change as the smoking lamp was extinguished on all submarines, and the ban on women serving aboard submarines was lifted. We currently have 24 women in the nuclear-training pipeline, and they are scheduled to report to the eight crews aboard USS Ohio (SSGN 726), USS Georgia (SSGN 729), USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) and USS Maine (SSBN 741) at the conclusion of this year or at the beginning of 2012.

I know the future and the legacy of the submarine force continues.
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Publication:All Hands
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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