A US Navy Ohio-class submarine theoretically capable of carrying up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles has appeared in the Middle East, sending a signal that the US is continuing to bolster its defenses amid the war between Israel and Hamas.
US Central Command, the Defense Department combatant command responsible for US troops in the Middle East, West and Central Asia, posted a photo of the submarine passing through the Suez Canal towards the Red Sea, saying it had arrived in its area of responsibility.
Although they did not name the vessel, a Navy spokesperson told Insider that it is a guided missile submarine (SSGN) and not a ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), which is what most Ohio-class submarines are.
On November 5, 2023, an Ohio-class submarine arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility. pic.twitter.com/iDgUFp4enp
— US Central Command (@CENTCOM) November 5, 2023
CENTCOM said the ship was heading south toward the Red Sea. It follows the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group, which the Navy said arrived in the area a day earlier. The disclosure of the submarine's location is somewhat unusual, as it is usually kept secret for security reasons.
The announcement of the submarine's movement, like other assets stationed in the Middle East amid the war between Israel and Hamas, appears intended to send a deterrent message to other state and non-state groups in the region that might try to take advantage of the conflict.
The submarine's deployment coincided with high-level diplomatic visits by Antony Blinken to the region, where the US secretary of state met with senior Israeli leaders, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and officials from Jordan, Cyprus, Lebanon and Qatar.
Last month, the Pentagon sent two US Navy carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean, the USS Gerald R. Ford and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the latter of which was subsequently redeployed.
The moves brought significant amounts of American firepower into waters near Israel amid growing fears that the country's war with Gaza-based Hamas militants could escalate into a regional conflict.
The massive display of U.S. firepower in support of one of the country's closest allies is said by military officials to contain hostile forces in the region, including Iran, which provides financial and strategic support to Hamas and Hezbollah, the militant group based in Lebanon.