Face of Defense: USS Pennsylvania Sets Patrol Record
By Navy Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
Commander, Submarine Group 9
BANGOR, Wash., June 30, 2014 The Trident strategic missile submarine USS Pennsylvania manned by its “Gold” crew returned home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor here June 14 following a 140-day, record-breaking patrol.
Navy Rear Adm. Dietrich Kuhlmann, the commander of Submarine Group 9, right, congratulates the USS Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew commanding officer Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, left, following the Pennsylvania’s successful 140-day strategic deterrent patrol, a new record for the longest strategic deterrent patrol completed by an Ohio-class strategic missile submarine. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Ahron Arendes
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Tridents are nuclear-powered, Ohio-class submarines. The Pennsylvania set a new record for the longest patrol completed by an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.
The Ohio-class submarines have two crews, called Blue and Gold, which rotate patrols. One crew is at sea usually for 60 to 90 days, while the other trains ashore. In this way, the vessels can be employed at sea 70 percent of the time, when not undergoing scheduled maintenance in port.
The Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew patrol, which began in January, is not only the longest for an Ohio-class submarine, but the longest since beginning of the Poseidon C3 ballistic missile program in the early 1970s, according to records maintained by the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Weapon System Evaluation program.
"It's an honor. It was a challenge. The job kept calling for us to stay at sea but we were ready, willing and able. So we stayed at sea and finished the mission," said Navy Cmdr. Tiger Pittman, the Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew commanding officer.
"I'm incredibly proud of my crew,” Pittman added. “I've been amazed by their resiliency throughout the entire time, and not only the crew, but the families. We leave and we serve, but they stay home and they serve as well."
Trident submarines -- nicknamed “Boomers” -- carry as many as 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles. At 560 feet long and 42 feet wide, they are the largest submarines in the U.S. Navy’s inventory.
The Pennsylvania’s Navy hull classification symbol is SSBN 735. The SS denotes “Ship, Submersible.” The B denotes “ballistic missile,” and the N denotes “nuclear powered.”
As Pennsylvania emerged from an extended maintenance period in 2013, the patrol had originally been planned to be longer than is considered normal for Trident strategic missile submarine. The crew spent nearly the entire patrol underway, since unlike most other Navy vessels, Trident submarines don't make routine port visits except when returning to home port.
"USS Pennsylvania ‘Gold's’ patrol is an exceptional example of the flexibility and capability of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. We had always expected this to be a longer than normal patrol and a highly-capable crew made it happen," said Navy Capt. Mark VanYe, chief of staff at Commander, Submarine Group 9. "When operational commitments changed, we knew the exceptional sailors serving on Pennsylvania and their families back home were up to the task.
"They have excelled across their entire mission set," VanYe added. "We are glad now to have them home and congratulate them on a job well-done."
Upon their return home, Pennsylvania’s “Gold” crew was greeted by Commander of Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer, who wanted to personally thank them and congratulate them on a job well-done.
"The SSBN strategic deterrent patrol is the most important unit mission in the submarine force and vital to the defense our nation," Sawyer said. "The Pennsylvania ‘Gold’ crew was on the front line of deterrence, conducting critical missions from the time the ship got underway until returning home and I couldn't be prouder of what they have accomplished."
The USS Pennsylvania, part of the nation’s strategic deterrence forces, is one of eight Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines home-ported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.