Washington (AFP) – The US military commander for the Middle East boarded a US ballistic missile submarine in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, in a rare move that highlighted US undersea nuclear capabilities during troubled times with Iran and Russia.
General Eric Corella was transferred to the USS West Virginia and boarded for eight hours as the submarine rose to the surface at an unknown location in international waters at sea.
West Virginia is one of the Navy’s long-range Ohio-class submarines known as the Boomers. It is disguised and, as part of America’s nuclear triad, can launch nuclear missile strikes and is a key strategic deterrent. The United States rarely announces the location of its nuclear-powered submarines, and does not often make them patrol the Middle East.
US Central Command said in a statement on Wednesday that Corella met Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, on board the submarine. She said Corella also got a “hands-on demonstration of the ship’s capabilities.”
“These submarines are the crown jewel of the nuclear triad, and West Virginia demonstrates the resilience, survivability, readiness, and capability” of US forces at sea, Corilla said in the statement.
The extraordinary submarine visit by the commander of Central Command comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons as his ground forces are lost in the war in Ukraine. Iran – located in the Central Command area – has become more involved in the war, supplying waves of drones that Russia uses to strike targets in Ukraine, including power plants, apartment buildings and other key infrastructure.
Central Command leaders often visited US Navy ships in waters around the Middle East, including the huge aircraft carriers that were routinely sent to the region as a deterrent to Iran. Since the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy has not had a frequent presence of aircraft carriers in the region.
Corella’s submarine tour also comes as NATO begins its long-planned annual nuclear exercises in northwest Europe. 14 of the 30 NATO member states were due to take part in the exercises, which take place around the same time every year and last for about a week.
The exercises include fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but not any live bombs. US B-52 long-range bombers take part in the exercises.
Russia usually conducts similar exercises on the nuclear force this month and is expected to start soon.
Ohio Class submarines are equipped with Trident II D-5 missiles. The US submarine fleet, divided between bases in Bangor, Washington, and Kings Bay, Georgia, is one of the phases of the US nuclear “triad”, along with B-2 and B-52 long-range bombers and ground-based bombers. Minuteman 3 missiles.
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