Photo by Randy Datu/Rappler
ZAMBALES, Philippines – As fresh tensions erupted between the Philippines and China over an incident in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) off the coast of Zambales, a US submarine arrived in Subic Bay on Tuesday, March 22, as part of its deployment to the Western Pacific.
Captain Michael Lewis, commanding officer of the USS Ohio, described the US presence in the region as a "stabilizing force."
“Our presence in the region provides a stabilizing force and through engagements with our partners, such as this port visit to Subic Bay, we aid in maintaining that stability,” Lewis said.
The US submarine arrived at the former US naval base a week after a Chinese coast guard vessel rammed the boat of Filipinos fishing in Bajo de Masinloc, their traditional fishing ground which is 124 nautical miles from Zambales. Beijing claimed that the fishermen retaliated with fire bombs.
Lewis said the mission of the USS Ohio is to "support the 7th Fleet commander in a multitude of operations and the crew of 165 came to the region fully ready to accomplish any and all missions."
With its 150 crew members and officers, the USS Ohio will conduct missions and showcase the latest capabilities of the US Navy’s submarine fleet.
It is the latest US submarine to make a port call at Subic Bay this year, after the USS Texas, a fast-attack submarine, in January.
Measuring 560 feet long and displacing more than 18,000 tons of water when submerged, the USS Ohio is one of the largest and most versatile submarines in the world.
It is capable of supporting a vast multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, tomahawk strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The submarine is equipped with advanced sonar, fire control, and weapons systems and state-of-the-art sound silencing equipment allowing it to conduct its missions while remaining completely undetected.
Commissioned in 1981 as SSBN-726, the USS Ohio was once the lead boat of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.
From 2002 to 2005, the USS Ohio underwent an extensive refuel and overhaul and was converted from a ballistic missile submarine into a guided missile submarine. It was re-commissioned in 2005 as SSGN-726.
Equipped with dual drydock shelters, the vessel is uniquely capable of supporting extensive naval special warfare operations.
It is armed with up to 154 tomahawk cruise missiles, far more than any other submarine or surface warship, and can launch its entire payload in a matter of hours while remaining submerged.
The USS Ohio is homeported at Naval Base Kitsap in Bangor, Washington but remains forward deployed out of Apra Harbor, Guam, for most of its 16-month operational cycle. – Rappler.com