U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) recently demonstrated the capability to replenish U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarines operating at sea using different types of aircraft to deliver supplies. During the months of July and August 2022, U.S. Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft, and U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft delivered supplies by ‘vertical replenishment’ to the USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) and USS Nevada (SSBN 733) while operating off the coast of southern California.
Replenishing our ballistic missile submarines at sea increases the range and survivability of these strategic platforms and demonstrates our ability to resupply SSBNs anywhere in the world while underway, ultimately enhancing readiness.
“What this shows to our allies and adversaries is that we have the ability to keep our [submarines] at sea,” said U.S. Navy Captain Kelly Laing, director of maritime operations for commander of Submarine Group 9 at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Washington. “This allows us to maintain an unpredictable forward presence and continued demonstration of the unmatched strength of our strategic forces… This shows them that we are ready.”
In addition to the vertical replenishments, USS Henry M. Jackson and USS Nevada also conducted communications exercises with strategic aircraft that included a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber and a U.S. Navy E-6B Mercury “Take Charge And Move Out,” or TACAMO aircraft. The E-6B TACAMO provides Nuclear Command, Control and Communications (NC3) for SSBNs. These events validated the interoperability between the SSBN, the B-52, and E-6B and exercised established tactics, techniques, and procedures to explore alternative methods of communications.
Ballistic missile submarines are one leg of the United States’ nuclear triad that also includes the U.S. Air Force’s land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and B-2 and B-52H nuclear-capable strategic bombers. Each part of the triad provides unique capabilities and advantages. SSBNs are an undetectable launch platform and are the most survivable leg.
USS Henry M Jackson and USS Nevada are homeported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, Washington.