Reports out of Bangor Wash. are that Guam will have one or two guided-missile- nuclear submarines forward deployed to the island.

A story in the Bangor Sun credited Capt. Robert Schuets commodore of Submarine Squadron 17 with the information that “one and possibly two of the Bangor-based SSGNs will be forwarded deployed to Guam in the coming years.”

The Sept. 16 story went on to say “That means the sub with rotating crews will mostly remain in Guam. … Similar to the Navy’s experiment with several of its smaller ships two rotating crews will fly back and forth between Guam to man the submarine.”

Lt. William Willis supply officer for Submarine Squadron 15 told the Journal “Right now there are a total of four SSBN submarines that are being converted to an SSGN submarine platform. They won’t be ballistic missile submarines any more —they’ll be guided missile submarines.” He said that meant that rather than a nuclear deterrent the submarines would have a potential combat role. SSGNs can carry up to 154 Tomahawk missiles and 66 special operation forces.

SSBN is a Ballistic Nuclear powered ship while the SSGN is a Guide Missile Nuclear powered ship. All current SSBNs (Ohio Class Submarine) are Trident Submarines.

Timing and outcomes Willis said were not certain. “The final homeporting of the submarines won’t take place until anywhere from six to 12 months after final completion of the conversion. The plan right now is to homeport two of the SSGNs on each coast — the East Coast and the West Coast. Two would work out of the Portland area and two would be in the area that is referred to as [Bangor Wash.].”

Willis said “Right now there are several scenarios that are being pitched around on what to do with the SSGNs. The current plan is for two of those SSGNs to be homeported out of Kitsap [Kitsap Base Bangor Wash.]. There are a couple of different scenarios as to how they will deploy those submarines. One of them could be to deploy the submarines out of Guam and rotate the crew — or they could be completely deployed out of Kitsap and do their maintenance period here in Guam. Right now those are just planning stages. Guam is a very strategic location. There are numerous scenarios but nothing has been confirmed for additional submarines at this time.”

Willis said the conversion of SSBNs was as a result of planned reduction in nuclear power. “They have two of the submarines up there in Kitsap that are being converted. I don’t expect a lot of changes for at least a year.” Willis said that was his estimation of events. “This is a major expenditure of money to convert the ships and they have to make sure that the crews are fully indoctrinated. This is not the same submarine any more. You have a lot of training that you have to do to make sure that the guys are ready to make any sort of deployment whatsoever.”

Guam presently has two nuclear submarines — the USS City of Corpus Christi and the USS San Francisco. The USS Houston is due to arrive in Guam mid-December.

The Bangor Sun story also credited dredging in Guam’s harbor as preparation for an SSBN Trident submarine.

A $6.3 million dredging of the harbor is under way and due to be completed in May 2005. Reliable Builders were awarded the project on Sept. 30 2003. It will involve removal of 101 000 cubic yards of dredge materials.

“A U.S. territory Guam is already home to three fast-attack subs and is dredging its main harbor to make room for a Trident ” the story said. A Trident submarine would the story said “bring with it two crews with a combined size of 336 sailors and a payroll of $20 million.”

Willis has been on Guam for seven months and is enjoying the posting. “The role the community plays has a role in how the Department of Defense looks at putting assets here. The community is very supportive. It’s enjoyable to be some place where you get support from all levels. I am extremely happy to be here and I speak for everyone in the squadron.” MBJ