The opening salvos of Operation Odyssey Dawn not only harkened the return of high-end fights not seen in years, they also served as the combat debut for several new weapons that didn’t exist the last time the West kicked off a similar adventure.
First, let’s look at the modified Ohio class ballistic missile submarine USS Florida, now dubbed a guided missile submarine or SSGN. Florida was one of three subs and two destroyers firing cruise missiles at Libyan air defense sites and command and control centers at the very beginning of the campaign on Saturday.
Florida and her sister ships USS Ohio, USS Michigan and USS Georgia all started life as Ohio class ballistic missile subs carrying 24 Trident nuclear missiles. Over the last ten years however, the four boats were stripped of their nuclear missiles and 22 of their 24 launch tubes were reconfigured to carry as many as 154 of the much smaller Tomahawk Cruise missiles in circular canisters. The remaining two tubes were converted into wet-lockers meant to launch a team of Navy SEALS and their gear underwater. Those two lockers can even be used to launch remotely operated vehicles. Odyssey Dawn marks the first time the new SSGNs have fired the Tomahawks in anger.
Speaking of Tomahawks, this campaign is the first time the Tomahawk Block IV or TLAM-E has been used against real targets. Both British and American ships carry this latest variant of the near-30 year-old cruise missile. The Block IV has datalinks allowing commanders to have it rerouted in-flight, take pictures of a target area and send them back to command centers and even loiter for a while over a target.
The fighting is also the combat debut of the Eurofighter Typhoons that the Royal Air Force has deployed to participate in the action. The jets are among the most advanced fighters flown by European air forces and can be used for everything from air superiority to ground attack missions.
The Navy’s newest electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-18G Growler also made its combat debut, working to jam Libyan communications and radars while supporting Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jets as they took out Libyan tanks.
So, a quick recap of the weapons that made their combat debut this week:
- The guided missile submarine, USS Florida (SSGN-728)
- The Block IV Tomahawk cruise missile otherwise known as TLAM-E
- The Eurofighter Typhoon jet.
- The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare plane