Washington has shown its support for South Korea, which is once more threatened by missile tests conducted by its northern neighbour. In response, the United States Navy has deployed the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS ‘Michigan’ (SSGN 727) with cruise missiles to the port of Busan.
The arrival of this potent U.S. Navy asset, capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, was officially announced on June 16th, one day after North Korea resumed its weapons tests in response to U.S. and South Korean military exercises.
According to South Korean officials, the arrival of the USS “Michigan” in South Korea, the first of its kind in six years, is part of a recent bilateral agreement to increase the “regular visibility” of U.S. strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear programme advancements.
The conventional attack capabilities of these modified Ohio-class submarines are devastating, and Washington intends to deter North Korea and demonstrate its military strength by deploying and displaying them.
The SSGN 727 is the second of the 18 Ohio Class submarines constructed between 1979 and 1997. In 1982, the ‘Michigan’ entered service. The displacement of these submarines is 18,750 tonnes, and their length is 170 metres. During the Cold War, they were constructed as ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), each with 24 VLS tubes for launching Trident II D5 missiles. There are 14 MIRVs, or nuclear warheads, on board each missile.
In 2007, the SSGN 727 and three other submarines of its class were converted into guided missile submarines capable of launching conventional cruise missiles, namely the BGM-109 Tomahawk. This modification resulted in the submarine’s reclassification as a Submarine Ship Guided Missile (SSGN-727). It can carry and deploy up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, arranged in 22 groups of seven missiles and four 533 mm Mk-4 torpedo tubes. As seen in the image, it also has a Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) module affixed on the top of the hull just behind the sail. This system is utilised for the stealthy infiltration and exfiltration of personnel, especially special operations forces such as the legendary United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) teams.
According to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Defence, the USS “Michigan” submarine will participate in an air-naval exercise between the U.S. Navy and the South Korean Navy to enhance their joint capabilities in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea.
In response to Pyongyang’s provocative missile tests, which have escalated over the past year, the militaries of Seoul and Washington have expanded their joint exercises. The dictatorial regime of North Korea asserts that it is compelled to increase these test launches in response to the military exercises, which it views as invasion preparations. In addition, Pyongyang hopes to improve its arsenal of ballistic missiles with varying ranges and increase its influence in preparation for a potential new round of diplomatic negotiations using these tests.
Thursday, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles from its eastern coast towards Japan. According to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Defence, the missiles landed in the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) approximately 250 kilometres northwest of Hegura Island (Ishikawa Prefecture) after travelling 850 kilometres and 900 kilometres, respectively.
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