In a rare announcement, the US military said a guided missile submarine has arrived in the Middle East, a message of deterrence clearly directed at regional adversaries as the Biden administration tries to avoid a broader conflict amid the Israel-Hamas war.
US Central Command said on social media Sunday that an Ohio-class submarine was entering its area of responsibility. A picture posted with the announcement appeared to show the sub in the Suez Canal northeast of Cairo.
The social media post did not name the sub, but the US Navy has four Ohio-class guided missile submarines, or SSGNs, which are former ballistic missile subs converted to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles rather than nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
Each SSGN can carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 50% more than US guided-missile destroyers pack and almost four times what the US Navy’s newest attack subs are armed with.
Each Tomahawk can carry up to a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead.
“SSGNs can deliver a lot of firepower very rapidly,” said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center told CNN in 2021.
“One-hundred and fifty-four Tomahawks accurately deliver a lot of punch. No opponent of the US can ignore the threat.”
The magnitude of that firepower was shown in March 2011, when the guided missile sub USS Florida fired almost 100 Tomahawks against targets in Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn. The attack marked the first time the SSGNs were used in combat.
The military rarely announces the movements or operations of its fleet of ballistic and guided missile subs. Instead, the nuclear-powered vessels operate in near-complete secrecy.
Read more about the sub.
This post has been updated with additional details.