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U.S. Sub Sends Message With Rare Surfaced Transit Through Hormuz

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By The Maritime Executive 12-21-2020 07:03:00

In an unusual show of force, the guided missile submarine USS Georgia sailed through the Strait of Hormuz while surfaced on Monday, escorted by the cruisers USS Philippine Sea and USS Port Royal. U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) are a regular occurrence in contested waters around the world, with surface warships sailing through hot spots in the South China Sea on a regular basis - but the "silent service" of the submarine force typically remains hidden from view.

USS Georgia has some specific capabilities that are only shared by a handful of other subs in the fleet. She was laid down in the 1980s as a nuclear ballistic missile submarine, but was later converted into a platform for conventionally-armed cruise missiles and for special operations. Thanks to the modification of 22 out of her 24 ballistic missile tubes, she has enough room for 154 Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles - the kind typically deployed by the U.S. for limited strikes on strategic targets, like the 2018 missile attack on Syrian chemical weapons facilities. 

Her two remaining ballistic missile launch tubes were converted into lockout chambers for special operations, increasing her ability to insert and extract tactical teams in non-permissive environments. The modification program also added berthing for up to 66 special operations personnel at a time. Photos of the Hormuz transit released by the Navy on Monday showed her surfaced and carrying a removable dry deck shelter, used to deploy raiding craft like the  submersible SEAL Delivery Vehicle or SEAL rubber raiding boats. 

"Georgia’s presence in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) demonstrates the U.S. Navy’s ability to sail and operate wherever international law allows," said 5th Fleet in a statement.

The show of force followed the day after a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, which the U.S. State Department has blamed on Iranian-backed militia forces. One Iraqi civilian was killed in the attack and the compound was damaged, according to the agency. 

"Iran-backed militias once again flagrantly and recklessly attacked in Baghdad, wounding Iraqi civilians. The people of Iraq deserve to have these attackers prosecuted. These violent and corrupt criminals must cease their destabilizing actions," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Sunday.