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Professional Knowledge Week 8: The Submarine Warfare Community

professional knowledge Oct 15, 2019

Each week, plebes are tasked with learning various professional knowledge information.  Week 8 is the second week the plebes will learn about one of the naval service communities, and this week is all about submarine warfare. 

Plebes are first tasked with learning the mission of the U.S. Submarine Force, which focuses on achieving Naval missions in the undersea domain based on their warrior’s ethos of strict adherence to procedure, intellectual capacity, and rigorous training and certification programs.

I can attest to the rigor of the submarine warfare training and certification program, which leads to an immense pride in the donning of “Dolphins” or “Fish,” terms used to reference the gold submarine officer warfare pin and the silver enlisted Sailor pin.  There is no more pride I have ever seen from a Sailor than when wearing his or her Fish for the first time.

The next section covered is the history of American Submarine warfare, starting in the American Revolution. Interestingly, the first military submarine was the Turtle, built in 1775. The egg-shaped submarine failed in its attempt to sink the British warship, HMS Eagle in the New York Harbor.  

The plebes will also learn about the role of submarines in the Civil War, World War I (where submarines first made a significant military impact), World War II, and the Cold War.

Plebes will then learn about the various submarine platforms and must identify them by picture and understand the platform mission and capabilities.

Submarine Platforms

Fast Attack Submarines (SSN)

SSNs are designed to seek and destroy enemy surface and subsurface assets, conduct precise strikes with Tomahawk cruise missiles, support Special Operation Forces missions, conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and support Carrier Strike Groups.  East coast SSNs are located in Groton, CT, and Norfolk, VA. West Coast SSNs are home-ported in Pearl Harbor, HI, San Diego, CA, Bremerton, WA, and Guam.

There are currently three classes of SSNs currently in service, the Los Angeles Class, Seawolf Class, and Virginia Class.

SSN-688 Los Angeles class Attack Submarine, also known as “Straight Eights,” are the first generation of modern attack submarines.  The USS LOS ANGELES (SSN 688) was commissioned in 1976.

The third flight of the Los Angeles Class submarines are known as SSN-688I Los Angeles Class attack submarines, or “I-boats.”  I-boats, while very similar to the straight eights, do not have fairwater planes (the big things on the side of the submarine sail) but rather bow planes and a couple other small differences.

The SSN-21 Seawolf Class Attack Submarine only has three submarines as members of its class, the USS SEAWOLF (SSN 21), the USS CONNECTICUT (SSN 22), and the USS JIMMY CARTER (SSN 23).

The Seawolf class submarines are slightly shorter than the LA class submarines, but have a broader beam and are fitted with bow planes.  These submarines are extremely high performing, but were also incredibly expensive to construct.

The SSN-774 Virginia Class Attack Submarine is the new and improved, long term and sustainable solution to enhanced submarine warfare. 

Among various other improvements, Virginia Class Submarines are longer than LA class submarines, are designed for improved performance in shallow-water operations, have enhanced special operations forces support systems, and contain photonics masts that provide enhanced camera capability.  

Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN)

SSBNs, also known as Boomers, have a main and primary focus at all times, providing the United States with a survivable and enduring nuclear strike capability to ensure the strategic deterrence principle of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). 

This is a picture of the USS RHODE ISLAND (SSBN 740), which I was lucky enough to get underway with during my PROTRAMID summer training during my Second Class summer.


Boomers can carry up to 24 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), and are home ported in Bangor, WA, and in King’s Bay, GA.  While fast attack submarines have a singular crew at all times, SSBNs use two crews, the “Blue” and “Gold” crew, which alternate being on-patrol.

Guided Missile Submarines (SSGN)

The first four of the Ohio Class SSBNs were converted into guided missile submarines, which provide the Navy with precision strike and Special Operation mission capabilities.

In addition to carrying a tremendous amount of firepower (up to 154 Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles), they have additional missile tubes that are used as lockout chambers for Special Forces personnel, and can use them to launch Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and SEAL Delivery Vehicles.

Identical to SSBNs, SSGNs also use two crews and are home ported in Bangor WA and King’s Bay, GA.

Submarines are an extremely important component of the Naval mission, and this professional knowledge lesson may be a plebe’s first exposure to their eventual service community. 

But I’ll leave you with an insight into the Submarine Community… they take the game of cribbage very seriously and are definitely the best cribbage playing community in the Navy!