On a U.S. Nuclear submarine, is the Xo higher ranked than the Captain?

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I just happen to be watching Crimson Tide and was wondering if it was accurate. Thanks for your clarifications!

18 Answers

  • Absolutely not, and there’s a good reason that Crimson Tide was officially blackballed by the Navy. It is the most inaccurate, BS work of pure, unadulterated nonsense I’ve ever seen in a military movie, submarine notwithstanding. I couldn’t believe Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington got involved in the project, particularly Hackman, who’s a former Marine.

    Strictly speaking, the XO (Executive Officer) is the second in command on any Navy vessel or shore command; the position is similar to a Chief of Staff in other branches. While there are times when an XO can relieve a Commanding Officer of duty or take over as the CO, those instances are specifically laid out in regulations, and the crew and XO better have their $hit together if it actually happens (which it never will).

    It doesn’t matter if they are the same rank either; a submarine CO will always be senior in rank to the XO by virtue of his command position, but the way the selection process goes CO’s are always senior either in rank or time in service. You’ll very rarely see a CO and XO of the same rank, and not for very long. If an XO gets promoted to the same rank, he’ll be transferred soon thereafter and sent to PCO (Prospective Commanding Officer) school before gaining command of his own boat (assuming he passes).

    Submarines in general, and boomers in particular, have strict protocols to follow forrelease of nuclear weapons under orders from command. In real life, Denzel Washington’s character would’ve been relieved of his duty and confined to his stateroom under guard; his duties would next fall to the Engineer Officer, who is ranked 3rd in command on any nuclear submarine.

    Hackman’s character is likewise uncharacteristic of most submarine commanders; they are not stupid idiots who just blindly follow orders (though some of them these days are just stupid idiots). In the real world, if there was a question about the order, the CO himself would’ve made the call not to launch until confirmation was made by other methods, of which there are quite a few.

  • No. The Captain is the highest ranking person in the crew. In Crimson tide, Gene Hackman was the commanding officer with the rank of captain and Denzel Washington was the XO with the rank of lieutenant commander.

    Most submarine COs are hold the rank of commander (sometimes a captain) and XOs are usually lieutenant commanders.

  • Here is the skinny on this.

    The only rank that can be the C.O.,on a Nuclear Powered vessel be that a submarine or other surface ship Must be a Captain or Admiral . The C.O.,on all ships greater than and including Assault Ships and Cruisers must be a Commander. The now defunked Battleship had to have an Admeral or Captain as the C.O. All ships carrying Nuclear Weapons must have a Captain or Admiral as the C.O.

    As a rule any ship less than these can have a Captain, Commander, Lt.,Commaner or Leutenant as the C.O.,and a junior officer as X.O.

    As for the C.O, and X.O.,of any ship they are picked by the Admiralty as to meet the quallifications of the ship they are assigned to and rank. The X.O.,must be of lesser rank than the C.O.,on any vessel.

    There are many officers who do not have Seagoing Courses completed and are not qualified to command onboard vessels such as Doctors,Lawyers,Dentists,Engineers Etc. whom do not go to sea.

  • XO is bastardized slang for Executive Officer or Second in Command

    the “Captain” in Command of the boat could be anything from a warrant officer to an Admiral

    depending on the size of the boat and what officers are available

    in that sense Captain is a title not a rank

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    On a U.S. Nuclear submarine, is the Xo higher ranked than the Captain?

    I just happen to be watching Crimson Tide and was wondering if it was accurate. Thanks for your clarifications!

  • That movie was so stupid and far off it was pathetic as well as embarrassing to those who are on submarines.

    The CO is THE Commanding Officer and will usually be Captain or Commander. XO is Executive Officer or 2nd in Command and is usually a Commander, occasionally can be a Lt Commander but not often.

  • Denzel Washington Submarine

  • Xo Military

  • No. And in that movie, the Captain was a higher rank than the XO anyway.

  • Yes they are all nuclear now but no they are not all the same. Some carry missiles, some hunt down subs carrying missiles. As for the largest, the physically largest belongs to the Russians, it is almost as big as an aircraft carrier. The missiles subs are bigger than the attack subs. A missile sub is about 300 or so feet long. Most nuclear subs can go to about 1000 feet or so. The actual depth is highly classified. Depth is not what is important, stealth and the ability to detect your opponent before they detect you is! There are some Navies of the World that still use diesel subs, they can not go as deep nor stay down as long. Nuclear subs can make and clean their own air at depth and since they do not “burn” fuel they can stay down a LONG time!!

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