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China Freaked: The US Navy Surfaced Three Missile Submarines as a Warning

2010 US Navy Submarines Surfacing
The guided missile submarine USS Florida (SSGN 728) arrives in Souda Bay, Greece, May 21, 2013, for a scheduled port visit. The Florida was underway in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Farley/Released)

What history has shown is that nations with nuclear powers typically don’t go to war against each other. The potential loss would just be too great.

However, know that doesn’t necessarily mean that a country won’t go to huge lengths to threaten an all-out war.

‘Crisis Stability’

In fact, according to Forrest Morgan, an analyst for the RAND Corporation, military posturing has become an integral part of how countries deal with one another. In effect, this is all about “crisis stability”—which is “building and posturing forces in ways that allow a state, if confronted, to avoid war without backing down.”

In a 2013 study for the U.S. Air Force, Morgan contended that long-range heavy bombers are considered to be some of the best forces for “crisis stability”—as they are powerful, highly mobile, and conspicuous. These qualities make them a perfect combination to showcase eagle-eyed intent and overall strength.

On the flip side, the U.S. Navy’s submarine-launched cruise missiles are less effective—and perhaps even counterproductive—in achieving crisis stability because they largely can’t be seen at all.

“SLCMs could contribute to the instability,” Morgan wrote.

“(T)he opponent’s anxieties might be magnified by the ability of SSGNs (cruise missile subs) to posture in stealth nearby,” he added.

Morgan, though, took time to point out one particular instance when the Navy’s Ohio-class SSGNs did, in fact, bring about crisis stability.

“In July 2010, three SSGNs surfaced nearly simultaneously in Western Pacific and Indian Ocean waters, allegedly to signal U.S. displeasure over Chinese missile tests in the East China Sea,” he wrote.

Message for Allies and Others

There are several other instances of submarines helping to showcase America’s military might abroad.

As Greg Torode reported for the South China Morning Post: “The appearance of the USS Michigan in Pusan, South Korea, the USS Ohio in Subic Bay, in The Philippines and the USS Florida in the strategic Indian Ocean outpost of Diego Garcia not only reflects the trend of escalating submarine activity in East Asia, but carries another threat as well.”

He continued: “Between them, the three submarines can carry 462 Tomahawks, boosting by an estimated 60 percent-plus the potential Tomahawk strike force of the entire Japanese-based Seventh Fleet—the core projection of U.S. military power in East Asia. One veteran Asian military attaché, who keeps close ties with both Chinese and U.S. forces, noted that “460-odd Tomahawks is a huge amount of potential firepower in anybody’s language.”

Torode concluded that “it is another sign that the U.S. is determined to not just maintain its military dominance in Asia, but to be seen doing so—that is a message for Beijing and for everybody else, whether you are a U.S. ally or a nation sitting on the fence.”

2010 Ohio-class Surfacing

Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Wash. (Aug. 14, 2003) — Illustration of USS Ohio (SSGN 726) which is undergoing a conversion from a Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) to a Guided Missile Submarine (SSGN) designation. Ohio has been out of service since Oct. 29, 2002 for conversion to SSGN at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Four Ohio-class strategic missile submarines, USS Ohio (SSBN 726), USS Michigan (SSBN 727) USS Florida (SSBN 728), and USS Georgia (SSBN 729) have been selected for transformation into a new platform, designated SSGN. The SSGNs will have the capability to support and launch up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, a significant increase in capacity compared to other platforms. The 22 missile tubes also will provide the capability to carry other payloads, such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and Special Forces equipment. This new platform will also have the capability to carry and support more than 66 Navy SEALs (Sea, Air and Land) and insert them clandestinely into potential conflict areas. U.S. Navy illustration. (RELEASED)

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Clifford Nelson

    September 23, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    This was a decade ago. Not sure China really was freaked…that is an unproven assertion. Just proves that the US has been threatening China for over a decade starting with Obama. So China now has a navy larger than the US, and is rapidly improving the quality of is its ship so that the newest ships are on par with American. If China does not now have regional hegemony, it will in the next few years, and is working to extend that hegemony into the Indian Ocean. The US has ignored Churchill’s quote “Beware the sleeping dragon. For when she awakes the Earth will shake On China.”

  2. David Cowardin

    September 24, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    The 4 Ohio Class Submarines that are mentioned being converted to Tomahawk Missiles Platform The same as Cruise Missiles. They have a range of 1000 miles. The Navy made a treaty that removed the 4 ships and left a contingent of nuclear trident weapons in the original ship designed as the OHIO CLASS The Trident II has a range of 7500 miles

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