The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama (SSBN 731) conducted a full crew change while at sea that concluded May 24, 2022. This previously uncommon underway change of crew demonstrates how the Navy and its strategic forces have evolved to think, act, and operate differently in order to meet deterrent mission tasking while simultaneously executing necessary ship lifecycle events. Each ballistic missile submarine has two crews, a blue crew and a gold crew, which alternate manning. Previously, the crews would alternate and resupply between patrols while in port. The ability to change crews while underway adds a new dynamic of flexibility and sustainability while the submarine is executing their mission.
“This event demonstrated our ability to completely change out the crew of an SSBN at sea and in a location of our choosing. The readiness and flexibility we demonstrated today adds another layer of uncertainty to adversary efforts to monitor our SSBN force, and continues to send a strong message to our adversaries that ‘Today is not the day,” said Rear Adm. Robert M. Gaucher, commander Submarine Group 9 and Task Group 114.3.
“This provides an opportunity to keep the nuclear deterrent at sea survivable by exchanging the crews and replenishing the ship’s supplies in any port or location across the world,” said Capt. Kelly Laing, director of maritime operations at Commander, Task Group 114.3.
Alabama is one of eight Ohio-class submarines homeported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the eighth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. The class is designed for extended, undetectable deterrent patrols and as a launch platform for intercontinental ballistic missiles. USS Alabama (SSBN-731) is the seventh United States vessel to be named for the state of Alabama. The boat’s motto duplicates the state’s motto, Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere (“We dare defend our rights”). The contract for Alabama’s construction was awarded on 27 February 1978 and her keel was laid down on 14 October 1980 at Groton, Connecticut, by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. She was launched on 19 May 1984, and commissioned at Naval Submarine Base New London at New London, Connecticut, on 25 May 1985.
The Ohio class of nuclear-powered submarines includes the United States Navy’s 14 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and its four cruise missile submarines (SSGNs). Each displacing 18,750 tons submerged, the Ohio-class boats are the largest submarines ever built for the U.S. Navy. They are the world’s third-largest submarines, behind the Russian Navy’s Soviet-designed 48,000-ton Typhoon class and 24,000-ton Borei class. The Ohios carry more missiles than either: 24 Trident II missiles apiece, versus 16 by the Borei class and 20 by the Typhoon class. Like its predecessor Benjamin Franklin- and Lafayette-class subs, the Ohio SSBNs are part of the United States’ nuclear-deterrent triad, along with U.S. Air Force strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.