History of SUBPAC
The Pacific Submarine Force came to Hawaii in 1914 when four F-class boats were towed from San Francisco to Honolulu. They operated out of Honolulu Harbor until they were replaced by four K-class submarines that operated from Kuahua Island in Pearl Harbor from 1915-1917 when they were recalled to the mainland with America’s entry into World War I. Submarines returned to Hawaii in 1919 when six R-class boats arrived at Pearl Harbor. The inventory in Hawaii continued to grow and by the outset of World War II, 22 of the 51 American submarines in the Pacific were homeported at Pearl Harbor.
World War II
The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor decimated the surface fleet, but left the submarine force intact. It was up to submarines to take the fight to the enemy. By war’s end, submarines had supported all major fleet operations and made 488 war patrols. Pacific Fleet submarines accounted for 54 percent (5 million tons) of all enemy shipping sunk during the war. Success was costly. Fifty-two submarines with 374 officers and 3,131 enlisted men were lost and are considered to be still on patrol.
Submarine design and development moved ahead rapidly during the war and continued into the 1950s. In 1958, the era of nuclear power came to the Pacific Fleet with the arrival of USS Sargo. Nuclear power revolutionized submarine operations by combining improved operating capability with increased speed and remarkable endurance.
In 1959, the Navy commissioned USS George Washington, the first of 41 POLARIS ballistic missile submarines. These ships put strategic deterrence at sea in both the Atlantic and Pacific.
The next major change in submarine capabilities was in 1978 when USS Los Angeles joined PERMIT and STURGEON class ships operating in the Pacific.
In August 1982, America’s newest ballistic missile submarine, USS Ohio, arrived in the Pacific. Commonly referred to as TRIDENT submarines after the type of missile they carry, these ships are a follow-on to the POSEIDON ships. The TRIDENTS of SUBPAC operate out of their homeport of Bangor, Wa. The TRIDENT system is the most secure leg of America’s strategic triad, offering the ultimate in stealth technology; they are virtually undetectable in the opaque oceans of the world.
The evolution of submarines from purely sea-oriented weapons to multi-mission sea and land strike platforms makes them ideally suited to keep pace with a rapidly changing global mission, and they have become increasingly involved in response to regional tensions.
The speed, stealth, endurance and firepower of today’s nuclear submarines were demonstrated in 1991 during America’s participation in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Used primarily as surveillance platforms, USS Chicago and USS Louisville operated in conjunction with Allied Naval Forces in the Red Sea. On January 19, 1991, USS Louisville made the transition from passive surveillance to active combatant, becoming the first submarine in history to launch a Tomahawk cruise missile against an enemy target.
A year and a half later, USS Louisville wrote another chapter in the history of submarine operations when in July 1992 she became the first attack submarine to work up and deploy with a carrier battle group in the Pacific. A few months later, USS Topeka deployed to waters new to submarine operations as she transited the Strait of Hormuz into the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf.
Throughout the rest of the 1990s, U.S. Pacific Fleet submarines were routinely operating independently and with aircraft carrier battle groups, surface combatants, amphibious ships and special operating forces and navies of other countries in deep and shallow waters throughout the Pacific, Indian and Arctic Oceans and the Arabian Gulf. However, submarine operations went from routine patrols to aggressive strike on August 20, 1998. Submarine and surface ships of the USS Abraham Lincoln Battle Group launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against Sudan and terrorist training camps in Afghanistan 13 days after terrorists bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Then on December 16, 1998, USS Columbus (as part of the USS Carl Vinson Battle Group) participated in cruise missile attacks against military targets in Iraq in Operation Desert Fox.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, USS Key West was within the Fifth Fleet Operating Area and was the first ship to arrive off the coast of Pakistan, firing Tomahawk cruise missiles into Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
When Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced in March 2003, USS Cheyenne became the first U.S. warship to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles into Baghdad. Three other SUBPAC submarines, USS Louisville, USS Columbia, and USS Key West, also participated in the very successful strike mission responsible for the early successes of coalition forces.
The legacy of the Pacific Submarine Force, established in World War II, continues today. Armed with the finest ships in the world, manned by the most professional Sailors, the Pacific Submarine Force will continue to ensure America’s critical access to the world’s ocean trade routes, provide credible defense against any hostile maritime forces, and project power from the sea to the shore when needed.