Born of the Cold War and launched with enough firepower to destroy well over a dozen Soviet cities in a single salvo, the USS Ohio, the largest submarine the United States Navy has ever put to sea, has been stripped of its nuclear missiles. But it still may be the most fearsome and versatile US weapons platform operating in the Pacific.
As the Biden administration is demonstrating its commitments to US allies and protecting a free and open Indo-Pacific, it has been making statements with naval hardware. In the past two weeks, Washington has sent a guided-missile destroyer through the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating the US’ continued commitment to the self-governed democratic island. The same destroyer then continued to the Paracel Islands to challenge Beijing’s island claims in the South China Sea. Washington also deployed two of its massive aircraft carriers for exercises in the same waters and dispatched one of its newest destroyers to Japan.
And last week it gave the region a fresh look at the Ohio, showing off the 18,000-ton guided-missile submarine as it participated in exercises with US Marines around the Japanese island of Okinawa.
Sidharth Kaushal, a naval expert at London’s Royal United Services Institute, describes the USS Ohio and its sister boats, the USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia, as one-stop shops for getting missiles and troops in close to an adversary’s territory.
And that could be significant when compared to adversaries like China, which maintains a robust anti-ship missile capability but whose defenses against submarines are still being upgraded and refined.