A Tour Of USS Virginia
Over at Rontini's BBS, a friend of mine from Groton posted an E-mail he had gotten from an old submariner who had just toured USS Virginia (SSN 774) in Kings Bay; Virginia is down there as part of her "deployment". Here's part of what he had to say:
"To say this is a revolutionary vessel would surely be to miss something. Imagine working everyday with a DOS 6.0 computer workstation and then one day be "upgraded" to Windows XP. That would probably be the experience of this old 613 and 648 submariner:
-- There are no "log books" in the traditional sense. Either all watchstanders have PDAs where they take logs, or the data is fed directly into the computer for readout and output. This enables the EOOW, EDO, and others to do have the computer do analysis on the data -- i.e. trends on Tave vs pzr level, etc etc.
-- There are no more diving officer of the watch, chief of the watch, helmsman and planesman watchstanders. These have all been consolidated into two watches -- the Pilot and the co-Pilot. Between the two of these (usually chiefs or a senior first class), they will trim the ship, steer it, dive it, surface it, etc etc. No longer do they rely on gauges and analog readouts.
They have several large digital (probably 19" flat screen and touch screen) graphical displays that allow them to move water from one trim tank to another, type in the ships course and also type in the ships speed and depth. If they need to go "emergency deep", they simply push the "emergency deep" button on the display and the computer will take over and bring the ship to a preplanned depth unless overidden. However, I was thankful to see that the "chicken switches" were still there above the watchstanders and were not simply a touch screen display button :-)
-- Remember when you were afraid to go to the head if the ship was at PD because you were not 100% confident that the san tanks were NOT pressurized and the aux of the watch just forgot to hang out a sign on the head (or you looked for the bubbles in the toilet water before opening the ball valve), well, fear no more! The designers of the Virginia put in two san tanks -- one as the "inner" tank which would flow to the "outer" tank that will be pressurized at the right time in order to be blown overboard.
-- You have probably heard about the periscope. This is something else. I had heard about it and I had been wondering how clear the display in control really was -- I mean I think that it could never be as clear as the naked eye physically looking thru the glass. I remember the periviz!
Well, I am here to say that the display was as clear as a bell -- similar to my HD TV at home -- very high resolution. Since there is no direct hull penetration for the periscope, control is actually aft of the sail. The OOD will sit (or stand) at the periscope station and from there he can operated a little toggle switch which will raise and lower the scope. Since the scope is 360 degrees, he can, if he wants to minimize mast exposure, simply raise the scope for a second, it will take a 360 degree picture, and the scope will be lowered. Then he and the JOOD and other watchstanders can look at the pictures and see what is outside. No more dancing with the one-eyed lady
:-) We all remember, I am sure, going to PD during a fire drill with your EAB on and trying not to get tangled up in your hose as you rotate with the scope. This scope really has alot (and I mean ALOT!) more features that are just awesome that I can't really go into detail on here. Suffice it to say that these features make warfighting on the VIRGINIA something that really will give these guys additional tactical advantages (like we need more? haha) in any engagement with surface ships. I was reading about this month being the 200th year anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar and had read that one of the advantages the Brits had over the French and Spanish combined fleet was that they could reload and fire their cannons every 2 minutes, whereas it took the French/Spanish ships about 5 min to reload and fire. This was a huge tactical advantage in that engagement. I think the scope on the Virginia class gives them an advantage on a similar scale -- just my opinion.
Some other quick items:
-- Separate weapons shipping hatch for loading weapons
-- Escape trunk design much much better -- entry through the side rather than thru the bottom -- more room for seals and others
-- no more hot racking for the crew. Also the crew is generally in several 6 man berthing spaces. -- every watch station has a laptop hooked up to the ships LAN -- Ship has its own "help desk" for computer support issues. -- wardroom looks similar -- except there are RJ 45 jacks above the table that you can plug in your laptop for network access.
-- no more RPM, SOP, SORM paper manuals -- these are all on those laptops I mentioned at each watchstation. -- Paperless (supposedly) work environment.
Anyways... I enjoyed my tour on one of our newest warfighting machines."
The Seawolf class boats have a lot of these improvements, but many of them are unique to the Virginia-class boats. All in all, they're truly a "submarine for the 21st century".