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.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's Going On

Ninme was kind enough to drop by with her iBook, so I'm able to post some actual content with links. Unfortunately, I developed a touch of post-operation pneumonia, so I'm probably stuck here at the hospital for a while longer. Here's some news of interest that you might want to discuss in the comments:

1) Space Submariner CAPT Stephen Bowen was in Groton yesterday discussing his recent trip into space.

2) Eighteen senior Sailors aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) were disciplined for cheating on the ORSE written exam. Show of hands -- who thinks that providing the exams to the ship ahead of time is just setting people up to fail in a high profile situation?

3) SubRon FOUR is leading the way with "Warrior Wednesday", wherein the Squadron leadership dons the new Navy Working Uniform. Excerpts:
Every Wednesday, Capt. Robert E. Clark II, CSS4 Commodore, the Commanding Officers and Chiefs of the Boats don the grey and blue digital camouflage Navy working uniform (NWU).
"The idea behind Warrior Wednesdays is twofold," said Clark in a recent interview.
"First, it's a great way to show the uniform to the Sailors who will eventually be wearing it. And secondly, it allows us to reflect and honor the sacrifices of our shipmates who are forward deployed, whether they are on or under the sea as well as on the ground."
When Sailors see the uniform, Clark noted, they ask questions: What does it feel like? How does it wear? When do we get to wear it?
"Not a day goes by that I don't get stopped with a 'Sir, is that the new uniform?'" he said. "And to answer the questions, I am very satisfied with this uniform. It's comfortable, wears well and is right for the times. It is a warrior's uniform."
The effects can already be seen from the warriors on the waterfront.
"Besides giving the crew the opportunity to see the new uniform, it also makes us feel like we are more closely related to combat operations," said Cmdr. Dennis Boyer, USS Miami (SSN 755) commanding officer.
Since I'm still kind of drugged up, I won't go off on a rant about this story; I'll leave that up to you in the comments. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Update From Room 1674

Some quick notes from my first few days at the hospital recovering from cancer surgery:

1) Everything is going as well as could be expected. The pain from the 36"+ incision ( ! ) is getting more manageable, and they've pulled the most annoying tubes out. (I've decided there are few things more annoying than a nose tube.) The pathology report from the surgery shows that the cancer hadn't spread to any local lymph nodes, and that the radiation had done its job in killing the tumor.

2) I had a wonderful visit from the inimitable ninme and her husband yesterday. Before that, I was really in no condition to have anyone visit. This has given me a much better appreciation of how major medical issues can really make people weak.

3) I'm surprised that, at least at this hospital, they don't encourage more interaction between patients. For some reason, I thought there'd be more than just nodding at each other when doing out mandatory walks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Still Alive

My surgery is done, the doctor says it went very well. I'm still in a lot of pain, but they're giving me some good drugs so I love everybody.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

French, British Boomers Collide

Last week, I noticed a small story about the French SSBN FS Le Triomphant (S 616) returning to port after colliding with what was described as likely being a "shipping container". Today comes word that the collision wasn't with a piece of nautical junk -- it was with the British ballistic missile submarine HMS Vanguard (S 28). Excerpts from this article:
French Navy sources confirm that Le Triomphant, one of four strategic nuclear submarines of the ‘Force de Frappe’ (Strike Force), was returning from a 70-day tour of duty when it collided with HMS Vanguard.
During heavy seas in the middle of the night between February 3 and 4, French sailors heard a loud ‘bang’ that all but destroyed the submarine's sonar dome.
This part of the boat should have detected the Vanguard in the first place, but Le Triomphant’s crew of 101 neither saw or heard anything before the collision.
Between them the submarines had 250 sailors on board...
...The French last night also tried to play down the collision, with a Navy spokesman saying: ‘The collision did not result in injuries among the crew and did not jeopardise nuclear security at any moment.’
Le Triomphant took at least three days to limp back to her home port, although she did not have to be towed.
HMS Vanguard, by contrast, apparently had to be towed back to her home base in Faslane, Scotland.
As expected, the British press is trying to make the potential consequences of the accident as scary as possible, as they normally do whenever the word "nuclear" is used. Submariners know that accidents like this are always possible when countries that don't coordinate waterspace management for certain boats operate in the same waters, but the "big ocean / little ship" theory normally keeps it from happening. In this case, it apparently didn't.

And I'm not sure whether this means that the British and French boomers are both really quiet, or their passive sonar isn't quite as good as advertised, or a little of both.

Update 0414 16 Feb: Here's the CNN story on the reported collision. I love how it mentions that "Royal Navy Vanguard Class submarines are equipped with collision avoidance radar, according to the Royal Navy Web site", as if the radar would have been any use in an underwater meeting between two submerged submarines. For more updates, this post by Chap over at the USNI Blog looks like it might be a good place to go.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

TSSBP Open Thread

While I'm off getting surgery and recovering in Seattle, feel free to use the comments here to post your best sea stories, or whatever else strikes your fancy. (Nothing too controversial, please!) I'll hopefully be able to post occasionally from my phone, but I probably won't be able to include links, like this one to a story about "Hey, Shipwreck" creator Pat Hrabe setting up shop in Kitsap County now that his recruiting tour in northern Idaho is done. As always, The Sub Report is the best place to get your submarine news links, and all the submarine bloggers listed on my blogroll to the right will have great commentary while I'm indisposed.

Going deep...

We Shoot... We Score

I've never been to a really big sporting event live; however, that will change next month. We just received our tickets to the 1st and 2nd round games of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament that will be held in Boise March 20-22:

[Edit 2305 15 Feb: Redacted photo of tickets due to concerns mentioned in the comments that someone could copy them and render our ticket invalid.]

I'm way psyched; in my opinion, March Madness is the best annual sporting tournament in the world. In order to get the right to buy these tickets (for $61 for each person for each session, plus fees) we had to buy season tickets for last season's BSU Men's BB season. It was totally worth it.

What's the biggest sporting event you've ever attended live?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

USS Pittsburgh Returns From Deployment, Rigs Shore Phone Line

USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720) returned from a Southcom/Africom deployment last week, missing out on watching their namesake city win the Super Bowl by only a few days. In addition to a story about their return, the official Navy website had five pictures of the homecoming, including two of a submarine evolution that isn't appreciated nearly as much as it should be -- hooking up the shore phones. The non-shore phone pictures are located here, here, and here. The first shot that really grabbed my interest was a rare action shot of a "heavie" being thrown from on top of the sail to bring aboard the shore phone line:

I think he's got pretty good form.

The second is of a Submariner trying to untangle the inevitable knot the shore phone cable had when it was brought aboard:

In the days before everyone had a cell phone, shore phones always resulted in interesting conflicts aboard submarines. It seems that every duty section had one or more girlfriends or wives who would call up the boat several times a night and expect whichever poor soul answered the phone to go find their Submariner. As the newer phone systems replaced the old "MJ" system in the late 90's/early 00s, you ended up with the resulting problem that there was nothing preventing a well-meaning but clueless coner from transferring a call from a wife/girlfriend to the on-watch SRO in Maneuvering -- as Eng, I ended up conducting personal training on that issue with everyone who checked into the command.

What are your favorite shore phone stories?

(Edited 0957 13 Feb to add photos.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One Million Visitors

Sometime yesterday morning, my Sitemeter showed that TSSBP passed the 1,000,000 visit plateau over the last 4+ years. Thanks to all who've visited and commented over the years! I'm also closing in on the 2 million page view milestone, which we should pass sometime early next month.

While we're on the subject of blog admin, I figured I'd fill you in on what'll be happening the next few weeks. We fly to Seattle on Monday for my cancer surgery on Tuesday; I expect that blogging will be light while I'm recovering in the hospital, since I'll probably only be able to post from my phone. If anyone in the Seattle area would like to visit me at Virginia Mason Medical Center downtown between about the 18th and 25th, please drop me an E-mail [joel(dot)bubblehead(at)gmail(dot)com], and I'll send you my cell phone number. As Toby said in this season's opening episode of The Office, "It's nice to have visitors."

Finally, moving on to the "Proud Parent" portion of this post. We found out yesterday that our middle child is officially a National Merit Scholarship Finalist, which means his out-of-state tuition to Washington State University should be substantially covered next year. Hooray!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

USS Port Royal Hard Aground

USS Port Royal (CG 73), the last of the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, is hard aground off the coast of Honolulu in 17-22 feet of water; the ship's normal draft is 33 feet. The first attempt to refloat her failed, so they're removing weight (people and fuel) in an attempt to get her off the bottom so they can pull her off the reef. There's much more analysis over at the USNI blog; that's probably a good link for updated information and knowledgeable discussion. One thing they noted is that this is the CO's first underway with his new command; he was last at sea in command on a frigate in 2004. Between his commands, he served as Reactor Officer on USS George Washington (CVN 73). The ship just came out of an overhaul, and this was reportedly her first underway since at least October.

So what do you think? Will this cause a lot of people to come out and say that surface nukes should stick to nuclear power and not try to command ships? (Answer: Of course it will. I don't think they're right, however. Surface nukes are, I'm sure, no worse at shipdriving than the normal skimmer officer. It's the Navigation team that I'm wondering about.)

Based on initial reports this whole episode sounds like it should have been really, really avoidable. I'm hoping that SURFPAC will take a really hard look at what they're doing to keep skimmer Nav Teams proficient during overhauls.

Update 0519 09 Feb: Here's the latest update; she's still hard aground.

Update 0527 10 Feb: The ship got freed yesterday by several tugs after they removed about 600 tons of fuel and anchors; the CO was relieved soon thereafter.

Update 1141 11 Feb: Lots of really good comments on this thread. Here's the latest from the Navy, after the Port Royal made it back into port.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

New "Hey, Shipwreck" Video

The 7th episode of Season 2 of the submarine-themed space video series "Hey, Shipwreck" has been posted over at TubeDaze. Here it is:

Rickover Stories Needed

I got an E-mail from a middle schooler, thusly:
I'm an 8th grader and live in Eau Claire Wisconsin. I'm doing a project in school on an individual in history and I chose Admiral Rickover. I was wondering if you could post a blog on your site asking people to donate any stories or recollections about the Admiral. I would appreciate it very much. I realize that this is not the purpose of your blog but I thought that other people might find the recollections interesting as well as being useful to myself.
Actually, this is exactly the purpose of this blog, so I'm glad to help. What are your best stories, either from direct knowledge or scuttlebutt, about the KOG?

Snowy Weapons Move

Check out this photo of a Mk 48 torpedo offload on USS Annapolis (SSN 760) in Groton last month:

That looks cold. What're the worst conditions you've ever seen for a weapons move?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Chinese, Russian 2008 Sub Patrols Revealed

I'm running late for work, so I'll just post some excerpts from an article that hit the wire this morning:
China nearly doubled the number of patrols by its fleet of attack submarines last year, surpassing Russia but still far behind the United States, the Federation of American Scientists reported Tuesday.
The report, based on declassified information provided by US naval intelligence, said Chinese attack submarines conducted 12 patrols in 2008, compared to seven in 2007, two in 2006 and none in 2005.
"While the increase in submarine patrols is important, it has to be seen in comparison with the size of the Chinese submarine fleet," said Hans Kristensen, director of the organization's nuclear information project.
"With approximately 54 submarines, the patrol rate means that each submarine on average goes on patrol once every four and a half years," he said.
The patrols may have been carried out by just the most modern and capable types of submarines in the Chinese fleet, the report said, noting that a new class of nuclear-powered Shang-class attack submarines is replacing the aging Han-class...
..."The patrol rate of the US attack submarine fleet, which is focused on long-range patrols and probably operate regularly near the Chinese coast, is much higher with each submarine conducting at least one extended patrol per year," it said.
"But the Chinese patrol rate is higher than that of the Russian navy, which in 2008 conducted only seven attack submarine patrols, the same as in 2007," it said.
China has yet to conduct a single patrol by a ballistic missile submarine, according to the report.
Here's the FAS report on which the article was based. So what do you think? Are we right to be worried about rival submarine forces that are, basically, operating at the junior varsity level right now?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today

I just realized it's February 3rd; that means that 20 years ago today, I graduated from OCS in Newport with class 89001 and was commissioned an Ensign in the U. S. Navy. For some reason, it doesn't seem like it's been that long...

Free Breakfast!

My sons are getting up early this morning to go to the Denny's "free Grand Slam breakfast" promotion today with their high school "crew" -- I predict chaos. Luckily, they've got a back-up plan to offer rain checks to people who can't get served.

What's your favorite story of free giveaways that ended up causing more hate and discontent than anything else?

Update 0559 04 Feb: It looks like they handled the rush without too many problems. My family had a really good time when they went.