US Underwater Supremacy: Invisible Guardians of the Ocean
US Underwater Supremacy: Invisible Guardians of the Ocean”: this article explores the critical role of US Navy submarines in maintaining dominance beneath the waves.

The United States Navy leads this field with an unparalleled fleet of 71 submarines distributed in four classes: Ohio, Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia.

Breakdown of the Ohio, Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia classes, pillars of the United States maritime strategy.

Evolution and predominance of submarines in contemporary naval warfare

US Underwater Supremacy: Invisible Guardians of the Ocean
USS Virginia

Since their introduction into the theater of operations during World War I, submarines have evolved significantly, culminating in a central role in current maritime military strategies. The United States Navy leads this field with an unparalleled fleet composed of 71 submarines distributed in four distinct classes: Ohio, Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia.

These vessels are classified as fast attack, ballistic missile, and guided missile submarines, each designed to fulfill specific missions, although with certain overlapping capabilities.

US Underwater Supremacy: Invisible Guardians of the Ocean
Seawolf Class Submarine

The largest category, fast attack submarines, has the primary task of annihilating and disrupting enemy naval traffic in times of conflict. Armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Mk48 torpedoes, the Los Angeles,  Seawolf, and  Virginia classes are preeminent examples of this typology.

On the other hand, ballistic missile submarines, primarily the 14 Ohio class with Trident II configuration, constitute the lynchpin of the US maritime nuclear deterrent.  Capable of carrying 24 nuclear ballistic missiles each, they represent a substantial part of the country’s nuclear deterrent arsenal.

Versatile capabilities and support for fleet special operations

The S-81 Isaac Peral submarine carries out surface navigation for the first time in the bay of CartagenaMarcial GuillénAgencia EFE

Although less numerous, the third category, guided missile submarines, plays a crucial role in projecting firepower. The conversion of Trident I, which configured Ohio-class vessels to this type, has resulted in an impressive vertical missile launch capability, with each submarine capable of firing 154 Tomahawk missiles. This arsenal represents over 50% of the Navy’s submarine missile vertical launch capacity.

US Underwater Supremacy: Invisible Guardians of the Ocean
Tomahawk missile via USNI.

All of these submarines operate with nuclear propulsion, allowing them virtually unlimited operational capacity, restricted only by the need to replenish supplies and routine maintenance.

Additionally, certain submarines, such as the Ohio-class and some Virginia-class guided missile submarines, provide vital support to special operations forces. These ships have reconfigurable torpedo rooms capable of housing many elite operators, such as Navy SEALs and Green Berets, thus enhancing their effectiveness in both war and peace missions.

The integration of submarines and special operations forces is not a recent concept, dating back to World War II, where it played a critical role in the success of Allied missions in Europe and the Pacific. The combination of these capabilities exponentially multiplies the strategic options available to the US Navy, consolidating its supremacy in the global submarine domain.