In apparent anticipation of direct threats from Iran, Iranian-backed militants against U.S. forces in Iraq, or even any Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw, the Pentagon has surged U.S. naval forces into the region. And it is doing it very publicly.
Earlier I wrote about the pair of B-52 Strategic bombers that flew round trip from the U.S. to the Iranian coast and back, escorted, part way by Saudi and other allied Arab jet fighters. Before that, the USS Nimitz strike group went into the North Arabian Sea, on the other side of the Strait of Hormuz.
As The Drive explained, Nimitz was there “ostensibly to be in a position to support the troop withdrawals from both Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The Nimitz supercarrier is currently operating farther south off the coast of Somalia to support the U.S. troop withdrawals there, but still in close proximity to respond to other scenarios.
Now, we see a very public — and rare — display of U.S. submarine power entering the Gulf, in the form of the USS Georgia — one of four impressive Ohio class guided-missile submarines, or SSGNs.
Georgia transited from the Gulf of Oman into the Persian Gulf, on the surface where it was clearly visible, by way of the tense Strait of Hormuz.
Guided-missile submarine USS Georgia (SSGN 729) transits on the surface of the Arabian Gulf.#AmericasAwayTeam is always on watch – ensuring maritime stability & security in the critical waters of the Central Region. pic.twitter.com/fOGeBIXvsg
— U.S. 5th Fleet (@US5thFleet) December 22, 2020
These multi-mission submarines are massive, converted ballistic nuclear missile subs (SSBNs). They are in high demand and provide significant capabilities. They are also very rarely seen in the Gulf. The Drive adds:
The Ohio class SSGNs are best known for their ability to carry up to 154 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. However, they typically only carry around 100 of these weapons – a still impressive amount – and are actually multi-mission platforms capable of carrying special operations forces and other highly specialized equipment, including various unmanned platforms, all while acting as discreet underwater intelligence fusion nodes and command centers.
In the pictures of the boat heading into the Persian Gulf, a dry deck shelter, primarily for deploying special operators underwater, including in mini-submarines, is visible mounted behind Georgia’s sail. The SSGNs can carry up to two dry dock shelters at one time to support relatively special operations contingents that can be deployed aboard.
What can these impressive boats do? The Drive explains:
Georgia’s diverse capabilities give the Navy a powerful tool to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions along the Iranian coastline, as well as throughout the rest of the body of water, while remaining largely hidden from potential adversaries. This is extremely beneficial given the constrained nature of this body of water, which inherently presents greater risks for ships operating on the surface. Iranian forces, including shore-based anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles, small boat swarms, small submarines, and naval mines, among other capabilities, present very real threats to American and other warships in the region.
Should a conflict arise, Georgia could engage a wide array of targets with Tomahawks, including ones deep inside Iran or those belonging to Iranian proxies, while remaining better protected below the waves. Basically, draw a 1,000 miles circle around the boat’s location and any suitable targets that lay inside of it are potentially within reach of its cruise missiles. The submarine could also launch special operations teams to conduct raids, gather intelligence, or conduct other missions ashore, as well.
With President Trump’s demonstrated resolve to strike Iran boldly when U.S. forces are attacked, the Mullahs in Tehran, and its proxies are officially on notice. Attack at your own peril.