The Final Clock is Ticking on the Ohios

The massive 18,500-ton Ohio-class Trident ballistic missile submarines– the largest subs constructed outside of Russia’s Typhoon and Borei-class boats– are bigger than Great White Fleet-era battleships and can carry enough firepower to practically erase a country from the map in a salvo.

However, they are also aging, with the first of class ordered in 1974 and the final vessel commissioned in 1997. While 24 Ohios were planned, only 18 were completed and the first four of the class later converted to SSGN Tomahawk throwers. The Ohio-class submarines were designed to have a service life of 42 years (two 20-year cycles with a 2-year midlife nuclear refueling period), which has been stretched a bit.

The 14 “boomers” left in service range in age from 24 to 37 years on active duty. The youngest of these, USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) just completed an outrageous 818-day overhaul and refueling at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard that required 6.5 million man-hours of labor to pull off.

Bremerton, WA – USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) undocked Dec. 7, 2021, at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, as part of an Engineered Refueling Overhaul, the final ERO for Ohio-class submarines.

Now set to run another 20 years on that core, at which point she will be 44 years old, “Big Lou” and her sisters will need to be replaced within the coming decade by a fully-fleshed new SSBN, the Columbia class.

While the class leader of those new Tridents, USS Columbia (SSBN-826), was ordered in 2016 from Electric Boat, she was only laid down last October and is not scheduled to leave on its first deterrent patrol until 2031 at a cost of $10 billion with a “B.” Meanwhile, the oldest remaining Ohio bomber, USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730), is set to begin recycling in FY27, although the Navy may try to slow roll that.

However, there is only so much juice you can squeeze from a submarine hull built during the Reagan administration. 


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