Home » News & Analysis » SECNAV Mabus to Officially Designate First ORP Boat USS Columbia (SSBN-826)

SECNAV Mabus to Officially Designate First ORP Boat USS Columbia (SSBN-826)

The Blue crew of the ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) transits the Hood Canal as it returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a routine strategic deterrent patrol on Sept. 30, 2015. US Navy photo.

The Blue crew of the ballistic-missile submarine USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730) transits the Hood Canal as it returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor following a routine strategic deterrent patrol on Sept. 30, 2015. US Navy photo.

The Navy will formally name the first-in-class ballistic missile submarine USS Columbia (SSBN-826) in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

The Columbia-class boats, formerly-dubbed the Ohio Replacement Program, will replace the aging Ohio-class submarines, some of which are still going through mid-life upgrades but the first of which is set to decommission in 2026. The future Columbia is on a tight schedule to be designed, constructed and tested in time for a maiden deployment in 2031 to maintain a fleet of 12 SSBNs capable of providing continuous global nuclear deterrence.

USNI News first reported the Columbia-class name in July, but the submarine community has been hesitant to use the new name until Navy Secretary Ray Mabus made it official, which will happen at Wednesday’s ceremony. Lawmakers such as Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who serve on the House Armed Services Committee, have begun using the name in recent weeks to refer to the new class of ballistic missile subs.

USNI News reported in July that while other Navy ships and NASA space shuttles have been named “Columbia” before, this will be the first time a ship specifically pays homage to the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia. The ship number, 826, also acknowledges the previous class of ballistic submarines, with USS Ohio originally being designated SSBN-726, before it was converted to a guided-missile submarine to carry conventional weapons and re-designated SSGN-726.

Also at the ceremony, Mabus will also name the 11th Expeditionary Fast Transport (formerly called the Joint High Speed Vessel) Puerto Rico (T-EPF-11) and the third ship in a new class of oilers Earl Warren (T-AO-207) in honor of the former chief justice on the United States Supreme Court.

  • Bailey Zhang

    So only 32 Virginia class? (SSN774-825)? only 4 block5?

    • El_Sid

      That looks like 51 to me, which is a similar number to the total of 49 suggested by CBO in 2012 – but these things are pretty flexible. They fitted the Ohios into the LA numbering scheme, between Helena (725) and Newport News (750), but didn’t use 744-9 at all. And then of course there are the Seawolfs!

      See also fiddling the numbers so that the Zumwalts didn’t quite follow on from USS Hayler ( DD-997), let alone trying to fit into the Burke/DDG numbering….

      • Bailey Zhang

        Oh, got it thanks. They should do same like DDG and CG to separate SSN and SSBN, it’s confusing

        • Beomoose

          They added a B….

  • Marcd30319

    Interesting. Exactly 100 hull numbers separate the USS Ohio (SSBN-726) and the USS Columbia (SSBN-826).

  • Western

    I am pleased and surprised that Mabus did not name it after Bruce Jenner or Jill Stein. Fair seas, Columbia. Mabus, ah, Merry Christmas.

    • Aubrey

      In my mind, it will always be honoring the city of Columbia….there is no conceivable case for honoring the fetid swamp that is DC.

  • SolidBro

    Great – name a sub after a space shuttle that blew apart in flight due to structural failure and killed all hands on board. Can’t these people think up some original names? And no, not Scorpion, Thresher, Kursk, or Arizona either.

    How about calling it the Compton, Watts, or Encino? The Newark or Camden maybe.

    • Paul

      There have been several USS Columbias over 200 years. There is a Los Angeles SSN right now by that name in fact.

    • Rexford L

      Because the Navy doesn’t want the ship to do drive by shootings every night..

  • VOnDC

    Bailey Zhang, what isn’t confusing that Mabus has done? 20 Jan 17 can’t happen soon enough! Why is EVERY ship class in the Navy named after a city? I guess because of Mabus’ incessant political pandering.

    • El_Sid

      Yeah, the Burkes and Nimitzes and Americas and Ticonderogas and Zumwalts are all named after cities.

      Most navies have named ships after cities and regions going back to before there was a democratic process – and that also means such names tend to have more history than most. I’ve got no problem with it – in fact I think the USN has been rather unpolitical in naming “invisible” assets like submarines after states rather than more high-profile surface ships.

      • KellyJ

        Well, those ships were built before Mabus came on the scene and have historical precedence in the naming of the new ones of those classes.
        The glaring example of pandering being USS Shameless Cynicism…otherwise known as Gabrielle Giffords. Certainly that 1 bullet had much more in the naming of that ship than anything she ever did while in Congress.

    • yo

      honoring taxpayers, like yo mama.

  • The Plague

    Maybe they named it Columbia as the boat`s first intended target is the DC-Swamp… 🙂

  • NavySubNuke

    Mabus yet again trampling over tradition and decency to make a political statement. Sure supporting DC statehood is nice – the Dems could use 3 extra guaranteed electoral college votes after all – but do we really have to name an entire class of SSBNs after a parasite infected swamp?
    Really the biggest strike against this farce is that the SSN 771 COLUMBIA is in service right now and will remain in service while SSBN-826 is in construction. She (771) may even still be in service when 826 is launched.

    • Bill

      D.C. already has 3 electoral votes. It’s the Senators the Dems really want from “statehood.”

      • NavySubNuke

        Oops, that is what I get for typing comments before coffee —- thanks for the reminder!

    • Beomoose

      We’ve had 6 ships/boats named after Florida, so the parasite infected swamp precedent is already in place.

      826 likely won’t be in service before 771 is out, but even if there’s a short overlap it’s not the end of the world. During the Revolution we had at least 4 ships simultaneously named WASHINGTON, after all, and nobody’s made Washington State or the towns named “Columbia” change to avoid confusion with DC.

      • NavySubNuke

        I don’t have a problem with reusing names — I just have a problem with two boats having the same name at the same time. Even if SSN Columbia is retired before SSBN Columbia goes on patrol they will still overlap for several years since SSBN Columbia starts construction soon.
        Making two boats share the same name is almost as bad as naming a boat or ship after someone who is still alive.

        • El_Sid

          Making two boats share the same name..

          ..has happened a lot through history, it’s not the end of the world. The ship that took Captain Cook to Hawaii was one of three HMS Resolutions at the time, and during the 19th and 20th century it was reasonably common to rename a ship to make way for a sexy new one. Heck, even this century the US had three Enterprises – the carrier, a training ship and a stone frigate.

          • NavySubNuke

            Of course it is not the end of the world. He** even naming a little crappy ship after Giffords or a amphib after someone as dishonorable as Murtha isn’t the end of the world —- I just wish we could have done better.

  • John B. Morgen

    I would use the names like Zeus or Apollo, if not Mars, for the destructive power of these SSBNs will have on the high seas.

    • El_Sid

      Lets face it, the RN is so much better at this stuff than the USN – Vengeance, Audacious, Dreadnought, Revenge

      Don’t forget you need 12 god names – and their power in the USN has been rather reduced by the fact they’ve traditionally been given to tenders and cargo ships.

      • Exactly

      • John B. Morgen

        I would have to agree because the United States Navy has not learn how to project ominous fear to its enemies.

  • aztec69

    I hear Sir Donald’s first act as president will be an executive order to change the national anthem to “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”

  • USS Malia Obama, USS Chelsea Clinton, USS Al Gore… tee hee….

  • US_Auslander

    Guess we’re lucky it wasn’t named “Red Shoe Diaries”. Disgusting what P/C has done to the Navy.

  • mrbinga

    The USN needs to go back to naming attack subs after fish, carriers after battles and noteworthy historical ships tied to USN history, and destroyer type vessels after deserving Naval and Marine Corps servicemen.

  • DieselBoatMan

    The boats have been a testing ground for the ridiculous PC nonsense coming out of Washington DC for the last 8 years (minimum), and perhaps a lot longer. Example? Women on submarines, which doesn’t seem to be working out all that well even though it’s limited to officers only at this juncture. It definitely wouldn’t work in the enlisted sector, especially the engineering areas; where the work is far to demanding physically.

    Maybe I’m just a dated old diesel boat guy, and I’m talking about things I no longer know about, but I have a hunch that I just might know about these boats. It kinda stays in your blood, much like Marines feel about their fraternal connection …. it’s for life for us as well.

    Last note: go back to naming the boats after predator fish, and amphibians.

    • El_Sid

      go back to naming the boats after predator fish, and amphibians.

      The SSNs maybe, but I don’t have a problem with naming SSBNs after states (and almost-states) – they are the capital ships of our time, so should use “battleship” names. They’re going to run out of state names soon anyway – the change to VPM would have been a good opportunity to make the break.

      The only bad thing is that by necessity they keep a low profile, so you miss out on the voters of that state having a visible connection with the Navy. Probably makes sense to name them after inland states and save the names of coastal states for major surface units – the Zumwalts would have been ideal; and legitimate if they’d been classified as BM’s following on from USS Wyoming (BM-10). As it happens BM-10 is an example of a ship being renamed (to USS Cheyenne) in order to clear the name for a new ship (BB-32).

  • old guy


    • LKG

      That honor goes to the Virginia-Class Attack Subs.

  • honcho13

    I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all Senior Chief, but I don’t think a lot of you folks know that “Columbia” was a nickname used back in the 1800s for the good ol’ USA! (ie: the song “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”) This is from Wikipedia:

    “Columbia” was a common poetic nickname for the United States of America in the 19th century. The United States was often represented in illustrations and cartoons as a heroic female figure named Columbia dressed in flag-like bunting. Other nations used similar figures, notably the
    French Marianne and the British Britannia.

    Historical sources generally agree that, in the autumn of 1843, an actor named David T. Shaw wanted a new patriotic song to sing at a benefit performance. He gained the assistance of fellow performer Thomas A. Becket, Sr. (1808-1890), who wrote the lyrics and melody for him.

    Evidently, Shaw published the song under his own name, but Becket was able to prove his authorship by means of his original handwritten composition. There remains some disagreement as to whether other versions of the song predated Becket’s composition or followed it.

    Hope this helps! Fair winds and following seas, MMCS(SW), U. S. Navy (ret)

  • Marjus Plaku

    my only worry is the missile/warhead load out. the stupid treaties that we signed with russia, which i don’t trust one iota to follow a treaty, let alone one on the number of strategic warheads and delivery vehicles, limits us to something like 1,550 warheads or some asinine and arbitrary number like that. it would be a criminal act to not only design the next boomers with 1/3 less missile tubes, but also to procure only 12 of them and potentially either reduce the number of warheads in each trident or leave tubes empty altogether. thankfully these treaties expire before the columbia class comes online but you never know what future restrictions future idiotic politicians will agree to and concur.

    if we assume half the ballistic sub fleet will be on patrol at any given time, that’s 6 boats with 16 missiles each having in turn 10-12 warheads. this is the bare minimum in my humble opinion because let’s face it, the sub based leg of the triad is the best one when it comes to survivability, presence and delivery time. the bombers are no good for anything other than a first strike/sneak attack. the minutemans are fixed in location, old tech and carry a single warhead, plus they cannot get to russia or china faster than 25-30 minutes. tridents fired from the north atlantic or indo pacific on the other hand can reach both moscow and beijing in 17 minutes or less. and they are there 24/7365/366 but no one knows exactly where.

  • LKG

    What of the OTHER USS Columbia (SSN-771) ? She is still in active service and not even 25 years old.