USS Ohio makes visit to South Korea
By Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes
BUSAN, South Korea — The revamped USS Ohio introduced itself to South Korea on Tuesday, marking the first time a nuclear-powered submarine has docked alongside the nation’s shores.
Both U.S. and South Korean special forces will use the submarine during the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise happening throughout March in South Korea, said 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Doug Crowder.
The Ohio now has more conventional weapons than any other submarine in the world, Capt. Andy Hale told a large contingent of mostly South Korean media at Busan’s naval port.
However, it didn’t begin its life that way. The Ohio carried Trident ballistic nuclear missiles until just a few years ago, when it launched in 2006 with its current array of Tomahawk missiles.
The Ohio also can launch special operations vehicles directed by Navy SEAL teams.
“The Navy had the foresight to anticipate the shift from the Cold War to regional conflicts,” Hale said.
Tuesday’s visit was the Ohio’s first foreign port visit in its current incarnation. Last fall, Ohio left its port in Bangor, Wash., for a yearlong tour of the Western Pacific.
The Ohio carries 160 crew members when not housing special operations teams, officials said.
Because of its Trident-class design, the Ohio is about 200 feet longer than other attack submarines — it takes 17 laps around the ship to make a mile, Hale said. The sub’s fancy new upgrades include saying goodbye to paper charts — it’s all digital now, said Command Master Chief Mitch Erhardt.
Fire control, sonar, communications and imaging systems are also new, officials said.
“The ship was actually training the crew to operate the new systems for well after a year after the ship was converted,” Hale said.
But while the insides are among the most modern in the world, the hull is still creeping up on its 28th birthday.
“It’s had an extreme makeover,” Hale said.
Photos: Erik Slavin / S&S
Stars & Stripes (Posted 3/2//08)