"Sic Semper Tyrannis"
Over at our new group sub-blog, Ultraquiet No More, WillyShake discusses the news that USS Virginia (SSN-774) is progressing faster than expected, and may deploy later this year. (A longer-lasting version of this story can be found at the top of today's Rontini's daily Sonar-Sub.) Excerpt from the story:
"The Virginia conducted its initial sea trials last July 27-30, and came back with everyone involved raving about its performance. But the strongest testament to its readiness came when it departed just three days later on its secondary sea trials, which lasted more than three weeks. "In the past, first-of-a-class boats have often come back from initial sea trials with a long list of items that needed to be repaired or adjusted, and it could be weeks or months before they went on the secondary trials.
"The Virginia was commissioned Oct. 23, 2004, and has been out to sea several times since then. Typically, it would have been in a shakedown period until next year and would have entered a months-long PSA repair period, during which time any repairs or necessary modernizations would have been finished. It also would have been outfitted with a full sound-absorbing “skin” known as mold-in-place, or MIP."
I admit that I was one of the skeptics when it came to Virginia coming out of the shipyard on schedule and ready to roll. My expectations were shaped by being in the sub coming out of the yards behind the Seawolf -- there's a boat that didn't meet her commissioning schedule. First of all, she was delayed right at the beginning of sea trials when they figured that they didn't have enough data on the properties of titanium to figure out if their titanium components met the Sub Force's safety standards. (A funny story behind that -- the Navy went to the airplane industry for data on titanium, figuring that they worked with it the most. The airplane people came back and said that they had gotten all their data from the Navy in the late 50s.) Then, then had to get a lot of modifications after pieces of the sub started falling off during Bravo trials; this led to the Seawolf Sailors coming up with the acronym "S.F.F.S.F.O" to describe the boat -- "So (Flippin') Fast (Stuff) Falls Off". (USS Connecticut, btw, came out almost to the day that the schedule we had when we reported on board said they would -- although the schedule admittedly moved left, then back right, during those 30 months...)
Back to the main point: I figured that with all the new things on Virginia -- the modular construction, the two shipyards, the new ship's control system -- there'd be at least one thing that would pop up at the end to slow them down. I tip my hat to all the design engineers, crewmembers, and shipyard workers who kept ahead of everything to get this very capable, but slow, boat out on the front lines where she belongs.