Normally, whenever a foreign newspaper has an article about U.S. submarines, they're quite humorous from the standpoint of having lots of errors. That's why I was so surprised to see an article on a Korean website
about the visit of my old boat USS Connecticut (SSN 22) to Pusan, South Korea -- the article was more factual than many you see in the U.S. papers (although that admittedly isn't very high praise most of the time. Check out these major points in the article:
1) The world's most powerful nuclear submarine is currently anchored at the Yongho-dong naval base in Busan.
Korean military authorities said on Monday that the USS Connecticut, the second of three U.S. Seawolf-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, has been moored at a pier of the Korean Navy's 3rd Fleet in Busan since Wednesday for an eight-day stay for maintenance and replenishing.
The Seawolf class was developed in 1990 to replace the Los Angeles class, the U.S. Navy's main nuclear-powered attack submarines. The ultramodern subs are considered the world's most powerful, far superior to the Los Angeles-class vessels in terms of attack and underwater operational capabilities.
Actually, we started developing the Seawolf
-class in the mid-80s, but they are correct in pointing out that the Connecticut
is the world's most powerful nuclear submarine (in a non-strategic sense). The blurb above would have been more accurate if they'd pointed out that the Seawolf
-class boats are also far superior to Virginia
2) Los Angeles-class subs have anchored at Korea naval bases before, but this is the first visit by a Seawolf-class vessel, provoking much public curiosity. Some experts believe that the Connecticut, which is under the command of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Fleet, may have made its sudden appearance at the Korean Peninsula on a special mission. Typically only U.S. Pacific Fleet submarines stop in Korea.
OK, so this blurb isn't as accurate, in that lately many LANTFLT boats have been doing WestPacs; additionally, Connecticut
is conducting a change of homeport to Bremerton
during this deployment, so she pretty much is a Pacific Fleet boat already. Still, that's a fairly recent development, so the Korean author can be easily forgiven for not knowing that.
3) The Connecticut is expected to depart Busan on Wednesday. There is much speculation as to why the submarine entered the Yongho-dong base, where it can be easily seen by the public, instead of other bases such as Jinhae where submarines can be shielded from public view.
"It seems that they decided to give their crew time to relax, including a little tourism, to help them get over the fatigue of an extended period underwater. They also seem to intend to show something to North Korea and China," a Korean military officer said.
That's pretty much the best point of the whole article. Submarines almost always pull into Chinhae when they go to South Korea; I've never heard of a boat pulling into Pusan. (I'm pretty sure that the sub would have to anchor out in Pusan, while you can pull into the pier in Chinhae.) While it could be that the Navy was too embarrassed to send a boat to Chinhae so soon after the USS Chicago's "van-borrowing" incident
, I think it's more likely that they wanted more publicity for this trip, for the last reason indicated above. For those worrying about the crew and how pegged their fun meter might be, I've pulled in both places, and Pusan is definitely the better liberty port -- even if you don't go to Texas Street
(which now mainly caters to a Russian clientele anyway).Update
0855 28 Nov: A reader who was in Pusan sent a picture of the Connecticut
at the pier (yes, it turns out she did get to pull up to the dock):
Another picture from the visit, of the CO greeting some locals, can be found here
. Also, as a commenter points out, it's likely that the reason the boat went to Pusan instead of Chinhae is because Seawolf
-class boats draw several more feet than does an LA
; she couldn't pull into Chinhae without risking running aground.