The U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740) returned to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., Sept. 12, after successfully completing their first at-sea period in two-and-a-half years.
The 15 days at sea tested every aspect of the boat’s integrity after its 33-month Engineered Refueling Overhaul (ERO) at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Va. The EROs are a complex, major shipyard availability during which the submarine will be refueled and upgraded before returning to support the country’s nuclear deterrence strategy, extending the life of the submarine more than 20 years.
“I am very proud of the crew’s performance over the past three years,” said Cmdr. Nirav Patel, the commanding officer of Rhode Island. “The crew accomplished amazing feats to deliver our strategic asset. Everyone is very excited to be back on the waterfront.”
Preparing for sea trials requires the crew to work long days including fast cruises, where the boat stays inport but the crew drills like they are at sea, testing their ability to respond in scenarios like damage control and combat systems drills.
Sea trials recertifies the hull at test depth and also tests and certifies their tactical weapons and propulsion systems. The crew also continues to work on the proficiency and training.
Rhode Island will undergo more system upgrades and certifications to be ready for a full patrol in about one year. The crew will soon complete a crew split, where the boat divides into a submarine’s usual “blue” and “gold” crews, from their one “green” crew that was maintained during their shipyard period.
“The crew performed admirably and put in a lot of hard work to battle through sea trials without issues,” said Master Chief Yeoman David Wright, Rhode Island’s chief of the boat. “It was a great feeling having the boat out to sea and watching the crew operate underway.”