Trident Support of the Guided Missile Submarine Fleet

     In the fall of 1993, the Department of Defense underwent a comprehensive analysis of America’s nuclear posture that was intended to focus on the deterrent, rather than the warfighting, capabilities of America’s nuclear weapons in the wake of the Cold War.

Team TRF makes it look easy!  TRF loggies orchestrated the transport of more than 30,000 pounds of gear, luggage, tools, parts and material to Diego Garcia in support of USS Florida (SSGN 728).

Team TRF makes it look easy! TRF loggies orchestrated the transport of more than 30,000 pounds of gear, luggage, tools, parts and material to Diego Garcia in support of USS Florida (SSGN 728).

     This review, known as the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), ultimately revealed that the United States needed only 14 of its 18 Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs) to meet our nation’s needs for the Navy’s role in support of the nuclear triad.

     As a result of the NPR, the decision was made to transform four Ohio class submarines into conventional land attack and Special Operations Forces (SOF) platforms that would allow the Navy to leverage existing submarine technology, while at the same time expanding capability to meet the current and future needs of U.S. combatant commanders.  The result from these conversions from SSBN to guided missile submarines (SSGN) is the USS Ohio (SSGN 726), USS Michigan (SSGN 727), USS Florida (SSGN 728), and USS Georgia (SSGN 729).  Two of these newly developed assets were assigned to each coast, with Ohio and Michigan porting on the West Coast, and the Florida and Georgia porting on the East Coast.

     In the place of their nuclear strike capability, these four submarines are now some of America’s premier strike warfare assets as each is capable of housing 154 Tomahawk or Tactical Tomahawk Land-Attack Cruise Missiles (TLAM) in 22 of their 24 missile tubes.  Additionally, they are able to house up to 66 special operations force personnel with additional special warfare capabilities and equipment incorporated into the remaining two missile tubes.  The SSGN is proven in battle, as the USS Florida recently took part in the 2011 strike assault on Libya with more than 100 successful TLAM launches as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

     So, how do these former Trident submarines that are no longer a part of the Strategic Nuclear Weapons Navy fit in when it comes to the Supply intensive operations of maintenance and overhaul?  The answer is one of the best-kept secrets in the logistics realm that the Supply Corps orchestrates.

     The remaining 14 SSBNs would stay in their traditional schedules with two crews (Blue and Gold), 110-day deterrent patrol cycles, and 40-day “Refit” (maintenance) periods in their homeport.  The SSGNs would need a different, more dynamic maintenance strategy, requiring them to take a portion of their maintenance on the road, literally!

USS Florida (SSGN 728) pierside in Diego Garcia.  (Official U.S. Navy Photo)

USS Florida (SSGN 728) pierside in Diego Garcia. (Official U.S. Navy Photo)

     The tiny horseshoe-shaped island of Diego Garcia (DGAR) and the strategic territory of Guam are now home to a multitude of Supply-oriented services to support the SSGN Fleet.  In those areas, the SSGNs go during the course of their deployment schedule to conduct either a Voyage Repair Period (VRP), conducted in a highly compressed 21 days, or a Continuous Maintenance Availability (CMAV) which is a little more in depth than a VRP, and takes about 28 days to complete.  Florida and Georgia conduct their deployed maintenance in DGAR while their West Coast sister ships, Ohio and Michigan, conduct their availabilities in Guam.

     In addition to any necessary maintenance, the SSGNs receive a full food on-load, all of their stock DTO material, any required SIM items, and a resupply of any high usage submarine consumables, as well as crew swap outs and any other equipment or supplies needed in order to support their mission.

     The list of players involved in these undertakings is quite extensive, and literally spans the globe.  The Supply facilities from each homeport provide the lion’s share of support for these VRPs, and preparations begin months in advance with help from the NAVSUP Global Logistics Support (GLS), NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Centers (FLC) and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).  Orders are placed for repair parts, consumables, major/minor equipment, and everything in between.

     Material arrives in the SSGN’s homeport where it is staged and packaged for shipment to DGAR and Guam, via maritime and air shipments.  Last minute items and other high-priority material are expedited and flown to the VRP site with the assistance and coordination of NAVSUP FLC Yokosuka, NAVSUP FLC Sigonella, Detachment Bahrain, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 53, CTF 63, and Submarine Tenders USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) and USS Frank Cable (AS 40).

     At the end of each VRP or CMAV, the workforce, both military and civilian, deployed in support of the SSGN’s deployed maintenance period returns home with many thanks from the crew of the submarine that they “kept on the road.”  While many Sailors within the Navy are aware of the SSGN’s capabilities, few in the Navy, and even within the submarine fleet know the “how, who, and what” makes them go while they are away from homeport.

     The SSGN is a key element of the Navy’s fighting force, and the men and women of the Trident Refit Facility, Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, and a myriad of other commands around the globe, are responsible for providing the logistics, planning and support to ensure the SSGNs remain one of the critical elements in keeping America’s Navy the greatest the world has ever known.

By Lt. Cmdr. Roger Bruce, SC, USN, Material Officer, Trident Refit Facility, Kings Bay, Ga.