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April 14, 2020

Coronavirus Aboard Ballistic Missile Submarines and Aircraft Carriers

Coronavirus seems to be everywhere lately, even aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and ballistic missile submarines. To date, the virus has turned up on Russian, Dutch and American warships and effectively removed these heavy hitters from the game.

Navies worldwide are testing their sailors for coronavirus. Many sailors are testing positive. Infected crew members are being quarantined and ships are being locked down and sent home. Deep underwater, other submarine crews may know nothing of the virus at all.

Fourteen ballistic missile submarines comprise the U.S. fleet. Eight or nine subs are typically out on patrol at any given time. Four or five are stationed and under “hard alert.” They are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. Once deployed, they may be gone for 90 days at a time.

A former French Navy commander believes that his country’s submarine crews have probably not been told about the current pandemic. The commander added that strategic nuclear submarine crews may spend over two months on underwater patrol. They are kept in the dark about current world events to help them stay focused on the business of nuclear deterrence.

In Russia, the cruise missile submarine Orel has been locked down following a visit from an infected civilian. A Dutch ballistic missile submarine has reported that eight sailors out of 58 have tested positive for coronavirus. The Dutch submarine is presently headed home to the Netherlands early.

Sailors on two U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers have tested positive for coronavirus. Two cases were detected aboard the USS Ronald Reagan which is currently stationed in Japan.

Aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the virus was detected after the nuclear aircraft carrier had visited Vietnam. It was ordered to dock in Guam and have the ship’s personnel tested for the virus. As many as 200 sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have now tested positive for COVID-19. That’s roughly three to five percent of the total crew.

Captain Brett Crozier, the ship’s captain, wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle in protest. He said that his warship was ill-equipped to quarantine so many sailors. He appealed to his commanding officers to remove the infected sailors instead. Crozier said that “Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

On the other hand, it must be asked whether it is practical to completely evacuate a nuclear aircraft carrier with munitions, planes and a nuclear power plant on board.

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