The top US military commander for the Middle East boarded a US ballistic missile submarine in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, a rare move that highlighted US nuclear undersea capabilities during tense times with Iran and Russia.
Gen. Erik Kurilla was shuttled out to the USS West Virginia and went aboard for about eight hours as the submarine rose to the surface in an undisclosed location in international waters in the sea.
The West Virginia is one of the Navy’s Ohio Class, long-range submarines, known as boomers.
They are stealthy and, as one leg of America’s nuclear triad, can launch nuclear missile strikes and are considered a key strategic deterrent.
The US seldom advertises the location of its nuclear-powered submarines, and doesn’t often have them patrolling in the Middle East.
In a statement Wednesday, US Central Command said Kurilla met with Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, on the submarine.
It said Kurilla also got a “hands-on demonstration of the capabilities of the vessel.”
“These submarines are the crown jewel of the nuclear triad, and the West Virginia demonstrates the flexibility, survivability, readiness, and capability” of the US forces at sea, Kurilla said in the statement.