Vultures Row: But is it Worth it?

But is it Worth it?

USS FLORIDA (SSGN-728) has been re-commissioned. Built as a Cold War trident missile carrier, the 18,750 ton submarine is as larger than some World War II era heavy cruisers. She was laid down on May 6, 1977 and was commissioned into active service June 18, 1983. Not a lot is known about the operational career of FLORIDA as a boomer (a nuclear ballistic missile submarine) due to the inherent need for secrecy. It is known that FLORIDA conducted herself well, carrying the tools of war that no sailor would ever want to have to use.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, many in Washington were looking at the “Peace Dividend”. The theory states now that the war is over we can cut the military to the bone as there is no need for it and spend the money elsewhere. The Boomers were slated to be decommissioned and scrapped, however the War on Terror started and a reprieve was issued for four of the boomers, including FLORIDA.

She can no longer fire the nuclear tridents, all of the launch tubes have been removed. In their place are tomahawk missiles. Florida can lob up to one hundred and fifty four of them at her targets, hence the designation change from SSBN to SSGN.

Her new offensive capability ends not with the venerable Tomahawk, but with the new capability to steam with and deliver on the beach, more than sixty Special Forces troops. More space on the ship has been allotted to transport, train and lead the troops. A battle center allows commanders to fight their battles locally.

The billion dollar conversion is not without its detractors. "There appears to be no operational concept for using this," said Norman Polmar, noted author and recognized expert on the ships of the United States Navy. “It is true that the converted Ohio-Class subs can carry more Special Forces troops than other subs, but the additional capacity has never been a pressing need. When was the last time we landed more than a dozen SEALs from a submarine in a real operation?" A valid concern, sixty plus troops would be more suited to Marine Raiders than a small special forces team.

Mr. Winslow Wheeler at the Center for Defense Information, Brings up another point he states that he is concerned that a potential adversary might mistake the converted subs for vessels carrying nuclear weapons. "What if the Chinese spot this in the straits of Taiwan?" he said. "What if they don't want to wait to find out if it has nuclear or conventional missiles?"

Again we ask; but is it worth it? We say yes. Despite the cost of conversion and operations, the conversions of OHIO, FLORIDA, MICHIGAN and GEORGIA and the 240 SEALs and the 616 tomahawk missiles they can carry add a much needed punch to America’s arsenal.


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