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.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

In Idaho: Big Navy = Grinch

[Intel Source: Huckleberries Online] Up in northern Idaho, a retired Marine has organized a program whereby area Navy and Marine Reservists who served in Iraq or Afghanistan are given a personalized Buck Knife (which are manufactured in Post Falls, Idaho). It's a great example of private citizens showing their support for our brave Servicemen and Servicewomen serving in the war zone. And now some "senior officer" says it's a no-go:
Veterans of the Iraq War are being told they can't receive a commemorative Buck knife as a "thank you" for their service and sacrifice.
"Someone put up a red flag and said we can't do it," said Lt. Troy Gilbert, a member of the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion based out of Hayden. "There's a $20 limit in value that a service member can accept as a gift. These knives are valued at $103."
Gilbert said roughly 40 reservists were going to each receive a special knife made by Buck Knives during an April 5 ceremony.
"I am trying to see what can be done," Gilbert said. "I know the Navy JAG is looking at the legality of it. We might be able to get around this rule."
Graham Crutchfield, a retired Marine, organized the commemorative knife program by raising money for the knives and is incensed with the Navy's edict.
"It makes no sense and it defies logic," Crutchfield said. "A private citizen can't give one of our troops a gift for putting their lives at risk because of some bureaucratic nonsense. It's an insult to the American people."
The problem began when Gilbert was trying to get some positive publicity from the Navy on the program. His efforts backfired when a senior officer said the gifts violated Navy regulations.
Needless to say, members of the community are rightfully flabbergasted by the decision of the "senior officer" (who probably hasn't stood a watch at sea in decades, if ever). Luckily, the story is gaining traction (even if it is WorldNetDaily), so I'm hoping the Navy will overrule the unnamed senior orifice quickly. Since Servicepeople are allowed to receive gifts for "meritorious public service" [5 CFR 2635.204(d)], they'll hopefully be able to get out of this PR kerfuffle by citing that reason.

Update 2303 02 April 2008: The Commander of Navy Reserve Readiness Command Northwest -- a submariner, btw -- did the right thing and ruled that the Servicepeople can accept the knives. BZ, Captain Kidd! Hopefully he will also mock and belittle the idgit who made the first idiotic determination.

Now This Is Namesake Support

USS Georgia (SSGN 729) marked her return to service last week with a show of support from her namesake state that is nearly unprecedented. I was most impressed with the initiative that took a Georgia state flag through all 159 counties for subsequent presentation to the ship.

I think a good relationship between a submarine and her namesake can be a great thing for the morale of a crew. The Georgia's CO was my first XO on PCU Connecticut (SSN 22) when she was being built at EB, and I know he learned a lot there about how to make the namesake state excited about having their own submarine.

One advantage of being stationed in the state for which you're named -- the public will buy lots of ballcaps and t-shirts from you, which results in a windfall for your Rec Fund. On Connecticut, we gave away trips and nice TVs as door prizes at the ship's parties; Georgia should be able to do the same if they handle their Ship's Store correctly. I recommend they forget about training during off-crew and just send the guys out to sell shirts at the mall.

Update 2339 02 April 2008: Here's some video of the Return To Service ceremony.

SubGru SEVEN Website Revisited

Everyone knows they can get the latest compilation of submarine news from The Sub Report, but did you know that the Submarine Group SEVEN website in Japan has a new "news" section? It focuses on "official" military news, and looks like it's well on its way to becoming the best source for finding archives of Navy-approved stories about submarines. Check it out!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Honoring The Elite Eight

Although my brackets were left in shambles fairly early in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, I'm still set up to have a fairly good overall point total -- all of my projected Final Four teams are still alive, and I correctly picked five of the Elite Eight teams.

The "Elite Eight" is an interesting moniker; while it represents all the teams that make the Regional Finals, the group itself exists for only about 20 hours, from the end of the last Sweet Sixteen game until the first of the eight teams loses the next night. Despite the short-lived nature of the grouping, it really is a mark of success in college basketball for any team -- even a #1 seed -- to get to this group. That all four #1 seeds made it this year is pretty impressive, especially seeing how quickly the #2 seeds fell.

I'm sticking with my picks for the Final Four (Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA, and Texas). I think it'll be a fantasic next 9 days of basketball...

Parents Of The EOM

Our daughter, who's back home now going to school at BSU and working part time, was just named Employee of the Month at the local Toys R Us where she works; her proud parents are very excited!

Friday, March 28, 2008

You May Be Rich!

Back in 2003, the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Submarines" came out; I remember seeing copies of it in the NEX book section, but decided not to get it -- I figured I wasn't an Idiot when it came to submarining. (I did thumb through it, however, and was amused by the chapter on "Phoning the Eng at home", having just come off my "bonus" 2nd Eng tour.)

It turns out I actually was an idiot when I didn't buy the book; it's now out of print, and the cheapest used copy readily available on the 'net is priced at $424.99. And it's just not an Amazon pricing algorithm thing; other web-based booksellers all have it in the $450+ range. So, if you have a copy hanging around at home, you have the makings for a couple of really fancy restaurant dinners for the family! (And if you see a copy in your local used bookstore, you should snag it up and eBay it.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Crew's Messes On Parade

I always enjoy it when the Navy website posts a photo of some sort of briefing in the Crew's Mess on a submarine. It's one of the few spaces that a boat can personalize, and I like to see what the various subs have done with their freedom of expression. Earlier this week, a picture of a briefing on the mess deck of USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) was published:

From this angle, there seems to be a disappointing lack of uniqueness. If you look at the hi-res version of the picture, you can see they've put engravings of submarine-appropriate rating symbols on one glass locker door, and another glass door has what appears to be a silhouette of the bucking bronco symbol you see on Wyoming license plates. Overall, OKC's Crew's Mess isn't very impressive in terms of personalization.

The COB's haircut, on the other hand, is extremely impressive. Low maintenance, low drag... the perfect underway hairstyle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Midwatch Discussion -- Worst Toilets

Remember the discussions you'd have on the midwatch in Control or Maneuvering? The ones where you always knew deep down that you really should be going over the stuff in the Night Orders you were supposed to be discussing, but instead got into a 3 hour conversation about something like "things on a submarine named after animals" ("White Rat", "Bear Trap", etc.)? The incomparable ninme posted about Asian toilets a few days ago, and that got me thinking it would be a good topic for conversation...

The first time I ever saw a "squat toilet" was in a bar in Korea. Luckily, I only had to stand while using it; I never did actually use it for #2. I still have no idea about what the unwritten code is for their use (there were three holes in the floor of the bar's bathroom) -- do you just drop you pants around your ankles and squat in the middle of the room?

So the topic of discussion is: what's the worst / most interesting bathroom you've run across in liberty ports around the world?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

VADM Stufflebeem Fired

VADM "Boomer" Stufflebeem, an aviator who was Director of the Navy Staff and former Sixth Fleet Commander, was fired late last week for lying to the Inspector General about an "inappropriate relationship" he had 18 years ago when he was Naval Aide to former President Bush.

So here's the questions -- why would an Admiral get investigated for a relationship that happened 18 years ago? One reader suggests that maybe the product of that relationship was applying to get into Annapolis. Any other suggestions from the peanut gallery? And who will now inherit the title of "Admiral with the most humorous name"?

Monday, March 24, 2008

PCU North Carolina News Reports

PCU North Carolina's recent media availability resulted in three reports from a Wilmington TV station; the first one is here:

The next two are here and here. Some good footage of the inside of a new Virginia-class boat can be seen. And, as expected, some mistakes by a well-meaning reporter who did the voice-over based on quickly-written notes are evident -- such as in the 2nd video, which opens with a Submariner getting pinned with his "fins". I suppose "fins" and "fish" are kind of similar...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Submarine VMS Running Behind?

An article in The Virginian-Pilot about a press availability to which the crew of PCU North Carolina (SSN 777) was subjected last week talked about the boat's navigation team, and goes into some detail about the upcoming installation of the Submarine Voyage Maintenance System (VMS). Excerpts:
The Navy has begun equipping submarines with a computerized program called VMS, or voyage management system. The program will do with microprocessors what Mason does by hand, allowing navigators to spend less time estimating where they are and more figuring out what's ahead.
The switch, which began last year on the Norfolk-based submarine Oklahoma City, will redefine one of the most basic tasks of mariners for centuries: determining, or "fixing," a ship's position using various environmental clues...
...Davis said planners originally were going to build all Virginia-class subs with VMS. Instead, the fifth boat of the class - now being built in Connecticut - will be the first to leave the shipyard with electronic navigation capabilities.
Five older submarines - Ohio, Florida, Houston, Buffalo, and Oklahoma City - have been retrofitted and are now certified to use VMS.
I'm not sure how accurate that list of submarines currently certified for VMS really is. According to this Navy website article from last year, USS Norfolk (SSN 714), who's currently deployed, was supposed to get it next. In any event, at this pace, it looks like the Sub Force's goal to have it certified on all boats by the end of next year will be kind of hard to meet.

Personally, I like the idea of VMS -- as long as we have enough paper charts on hand to get back home if the thing craps out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dolphins On Non-Qual Submarine Caps: Yea Or Nay?

The official Navy website has a couple of photos from a tour USS Scranton (SSN 756) gave to a Brazilian dignitary today, here and here. The 2nd one is most interesting to me; it shows the topside Force Protection Watch:

Check out the ballcap on the Scranton watchstander. I'm assuming this watchstander is qualified Submarines; the text with the picture identifies him as an STSSA(SS), and the hi-res view appears to show something over his left dungaree shirt pocket. Here's a closer view:

Back in my day (and I'm assuming for a while before that) we'd occasionally have fairly heated discussions on whether it was appropriate for a non-qual to wear the "traditional" submarine ballcap with the ship's name and hull number surrounding the appropriately-colored dolphins. Some said "No" -- a Sailor shouldn't wear any representation of dolphins (even on a belt buckle) until they'd earned them. Others (myself included) figured that if the official ship ballcap had dolphins representing the sub's Submarine Warfare mission, it was OK for any crew member to wear it. When I retired, it seems like a lot of boats were moving away from the controversy by putting the ship's crest on the ballcap and issuing the same hat to all crewmembers.

Based on this picture from last year, it appears that Scranton, at least back then, had "traditional" ballcaps with dolphins. So is this new picture evidence that the "controversy" is back and boats are taking dolphins off their hats completely? Or is it more likely that this Sailor only recently earned his dolphins and didn't get a new hat yet? Or was it something "special" for the VIP tour? And where do you stand on the "non-quals wearing hat dolphins" question?

I Love The 21st Century

I'm posting this from my phone! How cool is that?

Once Again, It Is The Time At TSSBP When We Dance

Expect a lot of basketball discussion for the next three weeks here. Let's face it -- the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament is the best annual series of contests in the world. (Yes, it's even better than the NFL Playoffs.) Here are some other posts I've written on NCAA Basketball in the past for those who are new to TSSBP.

This year I decided to throw away my fail-safe method of filling out my brackets and go with the old standby: gut instinct. In the 1st round, I picked the higher seeds except: all the 9 seeds, 3 of the 10 seeds (all except South Alabama), the 11 and 12 seeds to win in the East Regional, 13 seed Siena to beat Vandy, and two (!) 14 seeds to win: Cornell over Stanford and Georgia over Xavier. My Sweet 16 consists of UNC, WSU, Louisville, and Butler in the East; Kansas, Clemson, USC, and Georgetown in the Midwest; Memphis, Pitt, Marquette, and Texas in the South; and UCLA, Drake, Purdue, and Duke in the West.

I've got UNC beating Louisville in the Eastern Regional Finals, Kansas over USC in the Midwest, Texas getting by Pitt in the South, and UCLA eating Duke's doughnut in the West. After Kansas makes traitor Roy Williams cry like a pussy in the national semifinals, I say my alma mater beats UCLA in the Finals 88-82.

What say you?

Update 3/22/2008 2217: Well, my bracket is in shambles, but it's still always nice to see Duke leave the tournament early.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Submarine Book

The New York Times has a review of a new book, Unknown Waters, on the 1970 Arctic deployment of USS Queenfish (SSN 651), written by her CO during that time. Excerpts:
As the book recounts, the sub repeatedly ventured within periscope range of Soviet land. In the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, its crew examined the October Revolution and Bolshevik Islands.
The Queenfish also spotted a convoy. “I was able to see and identify all six ships as Soviet,” Dr. McLaren writes. “They consisted of an icebreaker leading a tanker and four cargo ships on an easterly course that slowly weaved back and forth through the chaotic ice pack.”
The main mission was to map the seabed and collect oceanographic data in anticipation of the Arctic’s becoming a major theater of military operations. The sub did so by finding and following depth contours, for instance, by locating the areas of the Arctic Basin where the seabed was 600 feet below the surface. A result was a navigation chart that bore the kind of squiggly lines found on topographic maps.
Looks like it might be a pretty good book.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Request For Information (RFI)

I think as I'm getting older, I'm either starting to misremember things, or starting to remember things I never knew. Anyway, I'm hoping some smart person out there can help me out.

Here's the background -- my niece is moving down to San Diego to join her new husband, who's a Sailor on a cruiser there. He joined the Navy about a year ago, and after boot camp and "A" School got transferred to a ship in San Diego last summer. He and my niece got married here in Boise over Christmas when he was home on leave. She's now getting ready to move down to San Diego to be with him.

Here's my question: For some reason, I thought the Navy would pay to move the HHGs of a new wife from his Home of Record or closer to where the service member was stationed. They're saying that they're being told you can only do that in conjunction with a PCS move. Is that right, or is there something that everyone does to get around that restriction? Any help (with OPNAVINST reference if possible) would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Update On Submariners In Afghanistan

Last September, I wrote about LT Kenneth Cooke, a submarine officer assigned to a PRT in Afghanistan. His IA tour is finishing up, and it looks like he continued doing the good work that proves the flexibility of submariners -- here's a picture of his awards ceremony:

The accompanying caption states:
CDR Eduardo Fernandez presents LT Kenneth Cooke with the Bronze Star for service while serving as an IA in Afghanistan. Cooke, an N3 officer from Commander Submarine Force, Norfolk, is an engineer for the Provincial Reconstruction Team, Sharana, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, building hospitals, roads, schools, dams and bridges. At one point, the engineering teams Cooke worked with were managing over $70 million worth of reconstruction projects. While deployed, Cooke experienced several direct and indirect fire attacks, as well as several IEDs. He was also awarded the Army Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon for his service.
(CDR Fernandez was one of my shipmates on USS Topeka on our JO tour.) Thanks to all the submariners on IA assignments -- it's a heck of a way to spend your shore duty!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Boise State Going Dancing

For the first time since I was a student at the University of Kansas, we bought college basketball season tickets this year. I guess I'm a good luck charm (KU won the national championship when I was a senior there) because the Boise State men's team is going to the NCAA tournament on the back of a 107-102 triple-overtime win in the WAC championship game.

The 25-8 Broncos have four senior starters, and traditionally senior-led teams do well in the tournament. On the other hand, BSU has had some really bad losses this year (including at home to Loyola-Marymount, who ended up 5-26). I'm just gonna enjoy their victory (along with my beloved Jayhawk's domination of Texas tomorrow) and root them on in the Bronco's first Tournament appearance since 1994.

As long as they're not playing Kansas in the first round...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Things I Miss While I Nap

This car chase ended about 1/4 mile from my house while I was taking my afternoon siesta:
The chase began at about 1:24 p.m., after a routine stop on Interstate-84 at milepost 48. The suspect was driving a Chevrolet pickup truck with large, off-road wheels.
He led police on a wild chase from Interstate 84 through West Meridian subdivisions, on sidewalks near Chaparral Elementary School and ripping out chain link fence and before heading back onto the highway -- driving eastbound in the westbound traffic lanes. Speeds reached up to 100 miles per hour.
The suspect also took out a sign at nearby Fuller Park that read "No Motorized Vehicles," according to Eric Exline, spokesperson for Meridian School District.
The suspect crossed he the median and exited at Meridian Road, where he struck Hays' SUV. An ISP officer hit the suspect's truck, which slammed into the concrete guard rail on the roadway.
[Emphasis mine] I'm glad he didn't make it into my subdivision, which is probably where he was headed next. Thanks to the Idaho State Police for stopping this one when they did.

"Paddles" On A Submarine

When I did a deployment on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in 2000, I learned a lot about flight deck operations. One of the things I found most fascinating was the job of the Landing Signal Officer, or "Paddles" -- the officer on the carrier deck (actually in a bunker) who helps the pilots land. I always figure, "Well, there's one job a submariner will never have to learn".

How times have changed. Here's a recent picture from USS Ohio (SSGN 726) that shows they have their own version of "Paddles":

Other pictures of the helo PERSTRANS are here and here. Having an inordinate fear of getting shocked, I'm glad I never had to be on the team that received a transfer from a helicopter.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

USS Jefferson City Returns Home

USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) returned home to San Diego on Monday from a six month deployment, which included port visits to Yokosuka, Sasebo, Guam, and Saipan -- (no comment). Here's a picture of their return:

Anyone know what the deal is with the red cleats? Is that now part of the standard 688 paint scheme, or just something the crew did to personalize the boat? I kinda like it...

Mary Ann With Mary Jane

You can't say Idaho doesn't get its share of celebrity hijinks:
A surprise birthday party for Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann on "Gilligan's Island," ended with a nearly three-hour tour of the Teton County Sheriff's Office and jail when the 69-year-old was caught with marijuana in her vehicle while driving home.
Wells is now serving six months' unsupervised probation for the crime. She was sentenced Feb. 29 to five days in jail, fined $410.50 and placed on probation after pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving...
...According to the sheriff's office report, Gutierrez pulled Wells over after noticing her swerve across the fog lines and center lines of State Highway 33 and repeatedly speed up and slow down.
"I exited my patrol vehicle and immediately was able to smell a strong odor of burning marijuana," Gutierrez wrote in his report. "As I approached the vehicle I noticed all four window (sic) of the vehicle were lowered and the female driver was not wearing a jacket."
When Gutierrez asked why he could smell marijuana, Wells reportedly told him that she'd just given a ride to three hitchhikers and had dropped them off when they began smoking something...
Gilligan totally would have bought that excuse...

"Submariner In Space" Program Delayed

With last night's launch of Endeavour, I was wondering how close the planned launch of the first "submariner in space" was, so I went to the NASA website -- and found that we'll have to wait a little while longer. CAPT Stephen Bowen was originally scheduled to go on the next flight, but he got pushed back two flights when he lost his rack to a "rider" -- astronauts for the ISS. Now we'll have to wait until September for CAPT Bowen's flight.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

USS Hampton Investigation Report Released

Last fall, the Submarine Force was abuzz with discussion on the problems USS Hampton (SSN 767) had been having with nuclear integrity. Today, a heavily-redacted version of the official Command Investigation was published by the San Diego Union-Tribune today, and, as expected, laid a lot of the blame on the former CO. From the story:

Four officers and seven enlisted sailors have been disciplined as a result of the investigation, said spokeswoman Lt. Alli Myrick of Destroyer Squadron 11, the San Diego-based command that includes the Hampton. The squadron commander dismissed the submarine's commanding officer and chief engineer (sic)...
...A wider investigation also revealed dozens of integrity violations aboard the submarine, according to the report released yesterday. An officer whose name is redacted from the report alleged that he and others had falsified test scores or received answers in advance for exams to certify various officers...
...“Commander Portland set unachievable standards for his crew, was intolerant of failure and publicly berated personnel,” wrote Rear Adm. Joe Walsh, commander of the Hawaii-based Pacific Submarine Force.
These and other leadership lapses, Walsh said, “directly contributed to problems identified in this investigation . . . (and) his failure to identify these problems for over one year.”
Clearly, there were a lot of problems with the boat. Just as clearly, however, some of the problems mentioned in the Investigation are little more than "piling on"... things that you could find even among the most squared-away submarines (e.g. changing Fire Control solutions so you didn't have to report a contact). The majority of the report deals with Engingeering Department exams, especially qual exams. When I was Engineer, I was lucky enough in NewCon to have big classrooms where I could give proctored exams, and have exam banks from previous ships to give new exams out. Normally, though, it's just about impossible to give senior people requal exams that they haven't had a hand in preparing or reviewing; nevertheless, the report takes the boat to task for doing that.

One paragraph in particular jumped out at me. Although the identity of the subject is redacted, it looks like they're talking about the former Eng. Here's what they said:
"The ________ purposefully maintained an appearance of ignorance of the integrity violations happening in his departmect and on the ship to preserve culpable deniability."
That's gotta win some sort of award for best characterization ever in a Command Investigation. Rather than just say "The guy was a weasel", the investigator finds just the right buzzwords to make the guy look like an even bigger sh*tbag than he might actually be. BZ, [redacted]!

So what do you think? Was it overkill or a fair report? Will anything actually change in the Force because of the problems found on the Hampton? Will lessons actually be learned? I'm guardedly optimistic.

Update 0530 17 March: Here's the Navy Times story on the report.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Now These Are Good Liberty Ports!

I've always defined a good liberty port as "someplace warm where people don't automatically hate Sailors because a bunch of skimmers pull in there all the time". The crew of USS Annapolis (SSN 760) just returned from a deployment that featured what I consider one of the best collection of liberty ports I've seen in a long time:
USS Annapolis (SSN 760) returned home to Naval Submarine Base New London Feb. 28 after a regularly scheduled six-month deployment.
Annapolis completed a wide range of joint requirements supporting national security in the U.S. European Commands' area of responsibility, including playing a vital role in African Partnership Station (APS) 2007...
...Annapolis' crew served as ambassadors for the U.S. Navy during port visits to Rota, Spain; Toulon and Brest, France; Praia, Cape Verde; and Ghana. The Cape Verde visit marked the first visit to Africa outside the Mediterranean by a U.S. submarine.
The part about that being the first visit by a U.S. sub to Africa outside the Med kind of surprised me. Back in '92, we were supposed to pull into the Seychelles on the Topeka, but it got cancelled. (We went to Phuket instead.) During the planning for the visit to that group of islands just off the eastern coast of Africa, I'm pretty sure I remember the SubGru SEVEN commander telling us that there were plans to have boats pull into Mombasa, Kenya, at some point. I guess those plans must have fallen through...

Buzzword Bingo!

As those of us who have been on active duty know, the Navy has two separate chains of command: Operational, and Administrative. The Chief of Naval Operations is the senior Sailor in the Administrative chain of command, and although he's an Admiral, he doesn't actually command any warfighting assets. That's probably a good thing; otherwise he might be distracted from writing papers full of humorous buzzwords like his "new" Diversity Policy:
Diversity has made our Nation and Navy stronger. To derive the most from that diversity, every individual, military or civilian, must be encouraged and enabled to reach his or her full potential. They must be inspired and empowered to attain the most senior levels of leadership. That empowerment today is unleashed by involved, thoughtful, proactive, and enlightened leaders. As leaders, we are all entrusted with the duty and responsibility to set and live the example by creating an environment where every individual’s contribution is valued and respected. Future empowerment is cultivated by that same leadership and mentorship and an active commitment to attracting and recruiting the very best. We will foster an environment that respects the individual’s worth based on his or her performance regardless of race, gender, or creed.
As the Chief of Naval Operations, I will lead diversity initiatives in the Navy. I challenge all who serve to do the same through leadership, mentorship, service, and example. Our involved, proactive leadership will create and enable an environment and a Total Workforce that values uniqueness, different perspectives, and talent. Workforce character and professionalism is a priority in our Navy. Accordingly, we will support a culture of professional and personal development ensuring our people are trained and educated to accomplish our mission, with opportunities available to all in an equal manner.
We must not be locked in time. As leaders, we must anticipate and embrace the demographic changes of tomorrow, and build a Navy that always reflects our Country’s make up. We must lead in ways that will continue to draw men and women to service to our Country and to our Navy. Diversity of thoughts, ideas, and competencies of our people, keeps our Navy strong, and empowers the protection of the very freedoms and opportunities we enjoy each and every day. The vast talent, diversity, and experience of our citizens will continue to be our strength, and will ensure our Navy’s relevance and our Nation’s security and prosperity.
As we enhance and empower our diversity, we will remain a global force for peace, and epitomize the ideals that make our Navy great and our Nation the best hope of freedom. We will sustain our force through the fair, equal, and ethical treatment of every member of the United States Navy.
Reading this over, some questions come to my mind: Is the CNO implying that our old policy was not to do those things? Why doesn't he ever define "diversity"? Is "mentorship" really a word? Why does he even waste the ink to say "opportunites (will be) available to all in an equal manner" when he knows that there are certain communities that women just aren't going to be admitted to in the foreseeable future?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two-Way Submerged Communications

For all those guys who ever thought it was a pain in the butt to have to spend so much time at PD when doing Battle/Strike Group ops, check out this article:
The Navy has developed systems using floating radio antennas and buoys that will provide submerged submarines with two-way communications for the first time in history, a top official at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center said at a news briefing on Tuesday...
...SPAWAR's Communications Speed and Depth program will use floating antennas to provide two-way communications to submerged submarines over high-frequency radio systems adapted to handle Internet protocol traffic as well as floating buoys to communicate with military and commercial satellites, said Capt. Dean Richter, program executive officer for the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence's submarine integration program.
Richter said the Navy completed an operational test of the High Frequency Internet protocol system in December 2007, allowing the USS Montpelier attack submarine to exchange two-way message traffic with eight ships in the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group at a date rate of 9.6Kps.
Even at roughly one-fifth the speed of a standard 56Kpbs dial-up modem, the system allowed the submarine to be fully integrated into strike group operations and Navy networks to share situational awareness, plan collaboratively and execute missions with joint forces, Richter said.
SPAWAR also has developed floating buoys that connect to submerged submarines by fiber-optic cables to provide two-way satellite communications, he said. The buoys can exchange data with the commercial Iridium satellite system at a rate of 2.4Kpb and with military ultra-high frequency satellite systems at 32Kpbs, soon to be boosted to 64Kpbs, according to Richter...
...The Navy plans to install the High Frequency Internet protocol and buoy systems on attack and guided missile submarines. Ballistic missile submarines will be equipped with buoy systems, and all 73 boats in the fleet will get two-way communications in one form or the other, Richter said. The program is fully funded with installations to continue through 2015, he said.
SPAWAR also has Sea Deep, a project to equip manned and unmanned aircraft with lasers to penetrate the ocean depths and beam high bandwidth information to submerged submarines. Sea Deep can transmit data at 1Mpbs, Richter said, and he views it as the holy grail of submerged submarine communications. SPAWAR plans to demonstrate Sea Deep in an exercise later this year, he said, but added that the program is not funded.
The "fully funded" part is what's exciting to me. As far as "Sea Deep", I'm not sure how the laser is going to be able to actually find deep submarines without knowing where they are to start with, and how it wouldn't give away the sub's location if they did find them. ("Hey, look, that airplane is randomly shooting a laser into the ocean! Those crazy Americans!") I don't see myself running out to invest money in that one...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Submarine Involved In Somalia Attack?

There's an interesting tidbit in this AP report on today's attack against a High-Value Target in Somalia:
Another defense official told The Associated Press that the strike used one or more Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a U.S. submarine off Somalia's coast. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss details.
Normally, at this point I'd go through the open source reports of submarine movements and write about which boat may have actually been involved in the attack, but it turns out that Galrahn has already done that. He names USS Norfolk (SSN 714) as the most likely firing platform, with USS Montpelier (SSN 765), deployed with the Harry S. Truman Strike Group, as another candidate. Since Norfolk was described in December as leaving on a six month "independent deployment" to the CENTCOM AOR, I'd say he's probably on the mark.

USS Virginia Update

The New London Day has a decent article giving an update on USS Virginia (SSN 773 774) and her plans for a deployment next year. Excerpts:
Hurt, the leading petty officer in the torpedo room, was confident in the crew's abilities to take on the Hartford.
“The only enemy a submarine has is another submarine,” he said. “We know each other's practices, so it's who's got the upper hand, who's faster at the draw, like a showdown at the O.K. Corral. We're going to win.”
There is no comparison acoustically between a Virginia-class submarine like the Virginia and a Los-Angeles-class submarine like the Hartford, Hurt said. He refers to other classes as “Brand X.”
“In the submarine world, if you're the quiet guy you'll come out on top all the time,” he said. “Acoustically we'll tear them up.”
I like to see confidence among young submariners -- I'm sure the crew of the Hartford is looking forward to schooling the crew of the Virginia as well. While the newer boat should have the advantage, I would caution them that there are three submarines out there that are just as quiet, and a lot faster. Quiet is good in submarine combat, but speed is life.

Edited 2156 03 March to correct a typo.