Ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska returns from first patrol after 41-month overhaul

The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) has returned from her first strategic deterrent mission since 2013.

USS Nebraska (SSBN 739) transits the Hood Canal as it returns home Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following the boat's first strategic patrol since 2013. Photo: US Navy

The submarine deployed with the Blue crew and returned to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor on July 12.

Nebraska recently completed a 41-month engineered refueling overhaul (ERO) to extend the life of the submarine for another 20 years.

“Nebraska’s return to strategic service represents an important milestone in the life of the ship,” said Capt. Nicholas Tilbrook, Commander, Submarine Squadron 17. “When the decision was made to extend the Ohio-class submarines from a 30-year ship life to 42 years, midlife refueling overhauls became an important part of that strategy.

“During the lengthy shipyard period, extensive maintenance is accomplished in addition to refueling the reactor. Numerous critical pieces of equipment and systems are refurbished, replaced or modernized so the submarine’s reliability and operational capabilities at the completion of the overhaul are increased.”

After completing the overhaul, the ship and both crews – Blue and Gold – completed three major certifications. The first was the command and control exercise, which demonstrated the crew’s ability to execute the mission and accomplish all required tasking.

The second major certification was the Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASO), which validated both the ship’s strategic systems and the crew’s ability to effectively operate the strategic weapons systems. During this certification, Nebraska successfully launched two D5 Trident missiles off the coast of San Diego.

Finally, the Nebraska crews completed a nuclear weapons acceptance inspection, which certified that the crew could safely, securely, and effectively maintain the strategic weapons system.

“Restoring a submarine to service is one of the hardest jobs we ask a crew to accomplish,” said Tilbrook. “Nothing is routine. Everything has to be done for the first time. The launch of two ballistic missiles during their certification was performed flawlessly and showed that Nebraska was back and ready to join the rest of the SSBN submarine force to ensure our nation’s strategic deterrent remains credible.”

The mission of the SSBN force is strategic deterrence, which is the act of deterring a nuclear attack with a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent force. SSBNs serve as an undetectable launch platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. They are considered the most survivable leg of the strategic deterrent triad; the others legs being long-range manned aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The keel for Nebraska was laid July 6, 1987 and the boat is one of eight ballistic-missile submarines stationed at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Since the boat’s commissioning, Nebraska has completed 63 strategic deterrent patrols.