Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Commander In Chief" Does Submarines

I always hesitate to mock and belittle things I haven't seen, but I have a feeling that, had I seen last night's episode of "Commander in Chief", I probably would've done just that. It's apparently a two-parter, though, so I'll have a chance to watch next week's episode, and belittle that.

A reader wrote in to let me know about tonight's episode, and said that the plot unfolds thusly: "USS Seattle", an SSGN on patrol in the northern Pacific, hits an uncharted seamount off the coast of North Korea and sinks to the bottom with the crew still alive -- basically, the San Francisco grounding and Kursk sinking rolled into one. The North Koreans find out about the sub at the end of the episode, setting the stage for next week's "thrilling climax".

Did anyone see the show? Any technical nits that you saw that we can use to laugh at the haplessness of Hollywood writers who try to come up with a script about subs? Or was it actually fairly good? Let me know...

Update 1645 11 Jan: The TV critic for US News has his opinion...

Update 2302 11 Jan: Someone who appears to be a JOC assigned to a billet within the Sub Force in Norfolk posts his critique of the show at NewsBusters:

"Last night, ABC's "Commander-in-Chief" was about a U.S. submarine in trouble after doing covert operations off the coast of North Korea, forcing the President to ask the Chinese for help in performing rescue operations. The entire premise was laughable and insulting to the entire U.S. Submarine Force (to which I am currently assigned).
"After the Russian submarine rescue this past Summer, you'd think the writers at ABC would do a little research. We have an organization called the International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO), an organization created after the Russian submarine Kursk went down in 2000. ISMERLO is based here in Norfolk, Va., and consists of an international team of submarine escape and rescue experts. When a submarine, of any nation, is in trouble, the call goes out around the world. Through the internet, each country shows what assets they have available to assist in the rescue and sends help where needed. With such an organization in place, why would we need to go to the Chinese for help?"...

Again, without having seen the show, I suppose it could be believable that, if the sub was in North Korean waters, a U.S. President would decide to go through the Chinese, simply because of the political issues involved. Still, it looks like this particular episode is drawing lots of attention; ratings should be higher for next week's conclusion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll look for the episode in two weeks, LOL.
But, I do know that a trident has far more reserve buoyancy onboard in tanks than a 688. I'm pretty sure they still use the missle comp tanks to adjust to what load they are carrying, and those tanks are massive, something like 500,000 pounds or more combined. I wonder if they still maintain the capability to blow them immediately?
I will be waiting to see the first gn out here, it should be interesting on what they have done to them and how they ballasted them with only tomahawk clusters in the tubes.
Sorry, that's the DOOW coming out in me...LOL. I'm still amazed at driving a trident compared to a 688. Mebbe compare it to a porsche and a winnebego, LOL.

1/11/2006 12:48 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Interesting post, BH. Never watch the horror show at all - the mere premise of a low gravitas puss as prez scares the heck out of me.

Tried to find a "USN advisor" in many pages of the show's credits. No luck. Somehow felt if there had been one, you would know something about him.

Just had a thought: will see if the Gena Davis character is a lawyer.

1/11/2006 1:19 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

Well, not a lawyer (because Gena Davis's character is not a Democrat):

Mackenzie Allen: Chancellor at University of Richmond (Va.); Middle East expert. An Independent placed on the Republican ticket as vice president to attract women voters.

Sounds like a Condoleezza Rice type the libs pair with John McCain in 2008.

1/11/2006 1:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I didn't see the episode. But the obvious fopa that the Boat's name is a City instead of a State, really does give out that warm fuzzy.
The amount of buoyancy in the T-hulls are amazing. We had all of our tubes full of water and our Missle comp tanks dry to be turned over to the ship yard. We still had to go out for 3days to finish getting things ready for the ship yard. We opened the the ballast tanks to dive and it took us over a hour to get down and have a level trim. You can imagine the nav et's answer to opening up Missle comp...... "NO!!!!" LOL!!!!

1/11/2006 2:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"scrubbers extract O2 from

the seawater" WRONG!

1/11/2006 12:15 PM

Blogger MT1(SS) said...

From what I understand, the aft missile comp and hovering tanks have been merged together, retaining the hovering capability with a much larger tank capacity. Fwd missile comp does nearly the same purpose as before, just on a more permanent level, depending on specops loadout and stuff (tubes 1 and 2).

The reason it was so hard for anonymous to submerge, is because on the D5 boats the tubes cannot hold enough water to match the weight of the missile that just left. With a missile weight of approx. 130,000 pounds, and a tube capacity of only 100,000 poundsish, you can imagine the difference in buoyancy. (24 tubes x 30K = 720,000 pounds)

With the conversion, the amount of reserve buoyancy on the T-hulls is going to be rediculously large. Gets me wondering what the flood limits are going to be, hehe. With birds, the missile compartment could be ~1/3 full of water and we would still have enough buoyancy to surface.

1/11/2006 2:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saw it. Problems I was able to spot:
1. SSGN named after city. I was surprised that they either had the knowledge or spent the time to find out about the impending existence of SSGN's (they apparently knew what they were talking about since they correctly stated that it was carrying 154 cruise missles, though I thought I heard them call them "cruiser" missiles) but couldn't or wouldn't figure out that they're all named after states, especially since they identified it as an "Ohio class SSGN".
2. Scrubbers get oxygen from seawater. Um, no.

Possible problems that I don't have enough knowledge about to state for certain that they screwed up:
1. Is the water deep enough only 15 miles off North Korea for a sub to run submerged, let alone hit a sea mount?
2. They deployed a bouy to enable voice communication from ship to Washington, DC, apparently on ULF frequency. Can they or would they do that?
3. CO called Captain. They showed a picture of him but couldn't tell if they actually made him a Captain, or if he was a Commander being correctly refered to as Captain of the boat.
4. Some iffy bits about number of compartments and whether entire crew could get aft with no fatalities into only unflooded compartment.

1/11/2006 3:02 PM

Blogger Chap said...

As if the city of Seattle would admit it was part of a nation that had warships...

1/11/2006 5:13 PM

Blogger ninme said...

Hey, I'm in Seattle! Remember how I was asking, since the San Francisco and the Philadelphia had such rotten luck, and I'd lived in both, there were any Spokanes or Seattles we should warn?

Now don't I come off like the freaking psychic of the century?!

1/11/2006 5:41 PM

Blogger MT1(SS) said...

Voice over ULF?! I think not!

The US ELF signal has 76 Hz centre frequency, with +/- 4Hz shift, 80Hz for "1", 72Hz for "0". At that frequency, and an antenna efficiency
(ERP) of about 3 watts, you can imagine the bandwidth. (about nil... trigraphs are sent over ELF to alert subs of incoming message traffic or other, predetermined codes. About 5 minutes per character I think.)

ULF, however, covers the range of frequencies below 5 Hz (ELF is 30-300 Hz) and are commonly referred to as geomagnetic pulsations, or having to do with the magnetospheric ion gyrofrequencies. These frequencies are the lowest the magnetospheric cavity can support.

We're talking about wavelengths of 200 million meters+. The wavelength is comparable to the circumference of the earth. For example, at 8Hz, the wavelength is exactly equal to the circumference of the earth; at 2Hz, the wavelength is exactly 4 times the circumference of the earth.

Sorry... a bit off-topic there. The buoy on Tridents is designed as a constant communications device. When in an alert posture, we are charged with maintaining constant communications with NCA. The buoy is the main tool that does that. However, the buoy is limited to VLF through VHF frequencies, iirc. In order for the SSBN to be able to receive (not transmit) ELF, we deploy a floating wire of sufficient thousands of feet in order to capture those signals generated by the shore stations.

It takes literally miles of antenna to transmit ELF, so submarines aren't equipped for that. Voice communications will normally occur on VHF frequencies and up, depending on the type of comm.

1/11/2006 5:58 PM

Blogger MT1(SS) said...

I just reread my post... I'm such a geek.

1/11/2006 6:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

While they were in the situation room talking to the CO over the ELF link (see last commentor), you could hear the active sonar pings in the background. I don't think they did a sonar mod when they went SSGN...

1/11/2006 6:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The president gave the CJCS, SecDef and some one else an order about how to act in the future. The CJCS, General schmotz, responded: Noted.

No one got madQ

1/11/2006 7:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the show – I rarely watch primetime network TV, and after suffering through countless commercial breaks, now I know why. Ironically, the last network TV show I watched was 60 Minutes II back in May.

The scenario is vintage San FranKursko as previously posted. Obviously, one of the screenwriters did a little homework. They correctly identified the number of SSGN missiles at 154, although in reality SSGN will deploy with about a third fewer (8 tubes will be used for SOF stowage and are unavailable if ASDS is embarked). The reference to satellite photos showing the misplaced sea mount sounds familiar as well. Lots of minor incorrect technicalities: the scrubber thing was hilarious really. In an overly dramatic manner, someone informs the President that the scrubbers are broken – she nods knowingly as O2 levels are then reported. Then Donald Sutherland states with semi-questioning inflection that the scrubber make oxygen from seawater – there’s a pregnant pause and I half expected Senior Chief A—hole to emerge and yell “no, you dinq m----f----, somebody scratch his atmosphere control block signature!” Of course this didn’t happen, and suddenly a big screen TV appears showing deceasing oxygen levels with an Armageddon-style digital countdown clock. Kinda lame. They could have done the Apollo 13 scenario of increasing CO2 levels, but things were complicated enough, so I’ll spot them this one.

General Schmotz does all the briefing to the Prez – unlikely a Green-suiter would be doing this. And yes, Schmotz does say “noted” in a disrespectful tone early on after being upbraided. But by the end of the episode, he gives the Prez a hearty “ma’am, yes ma’am” after she (The Prez) has successfully negotiated help from the Chinese. Specifically, our Communist friends are going to tow their DSRV-equivalent into DPRK waters and save the crew of San FranKursko, which is lying on the ocean floor at a 50 degree angle…hmm, I think Isaac Newton might disallow such a rescue maneuver.

One other BS item has the Prez moving the Situation Room up to the Cabinet Room (her home turf – the earlier altercation with the military brass pissed her off). So here they are briefing TS codeword stuff with the sun shining through the windows. Stupid. I sort of liked the bit where the sub skipper chatted briefly with the President even if it’s not currently possible with our boomer comms buoys. It’s not technologically unfeasible either and it was a nice touch, I thought. The Prez showed genuine concern for the crew and she made no reference to the CO’s upcoming dismissal and guilty verdict. No worries, Captain, our investigating teams are good at prosecuting. Root cause determination, not so much.

Lots of other nit-noids and I’m sure our political-military and national security experts could shoot even more holes in it. The diplomacy seemed totally unbelievable and there is ridiculous hyperbole throughout. Overall, it was entertaining, if not a bit cheesy. Challenging topic, really. Record or TIVO the second part. The commercials are unbearable.

P.S. I think I know how the North Koreans found out-the Chinese told them. Either that, or they found the comms buoy. Or maybe, just maybe-------the White House gardener looked through the window and wrote he saw in his favorite North Korean blog.

1/11/2006 9:08 PM

Blogger ninme said...

Jeez, this is the fifteenth comment on this. If we all tune in next week, viewership should double.

1/11/2006 11:28 PM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Ok, I admit it, I almost called beadwindow on MT1 - but I decided to double check. Soooooo, if anyone is really interested, check this out, if you want to see what different frequencies are capable of, how subs use 'em, a "typical" radio room layout(ok, a little laughable - no two radio rooms are alike, in my exp.), and the crypto equip used(!).

1/12/2006 5:17 AM

Blogger MT1(SS) said...

No sweat, PBS. I had to double-check msyelf after I posted and reread it.

1/12/2006 10:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Norfolk based criticism misses a key point. Realistic or not, in the C-in-C scenario, the U.S. is trying to do a covert rescue since the boat is in DPRK territorial waters.

1/12/2006 1:27 PM

Anonymous Eleanora said...

Thank you for this post, really worthwhile data.

8/24/2012 9:20 PM


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