The U.S. military made an unusual disclosure Wednesday, revealing the presence of one of its submerged nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines in the Persian Gulf in a move likely to make waves across the region.
The U.S. Central Command released photos showing CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla onboard, in a rare decision to reveal the vessel’s location.
The U.S. military seldom, if ever, acknowledges where its ballistic missile subs are operating, particularly when they are stationed near an adversary's shores.
Kurilla praised the submarine and its crew, calling submarines like it “the crown jewel of the nuclear triad.”
“The West Virginia demonstrates the flexibility, survivability, readiness, and capability of USCENTCOM and USSTRATCOM forces at sea,” he said in a statement.
Kurilla's visit may be seen as sending a message to U.S. adversaries in the region, including Iran, of Washington's capabilities, including submarines that can carry up to 20 ballistic missiles with multiple warheads.
A defense official said Kurilla’s visit was not a response to any recent event or provocation, but is more a signal after months of mounting tensions, which have included attacks against locations housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.
In June, U.S. officials said attacks by Iranian proxies against bases housing U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria were increasing, while Washington had not responded with force since 2021.
Iran has not appeared to publicly comment on Wednesday's submarine visit.
The visit also came as Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons amid Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, with Iran becoming more involved in the war, including supplying drones Russia has used to strike targets in Ukraine.
Kurilla’s trip included a helicopter ride to a large ship, a ride to a smaller boat, then crossing a rope bridge to step onto the submarine, a U.S. military official said. He also visited with the head of Naval Forces in the region, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, they said.