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 30, 2009

Submarines To Represent The Final Four

I was very proud back in 1991 to be on USS Topeka (SSN 754) when the University of Kansas made the Final Four that year. The Navy had decided that since Topeka, KS, was only about 20 miles from Lawrence (where the university is at) that the Topeka would be the "namesake" boat for the Jayhawks. They sent a photographer to the boat and got a picture of a bunch of us with a KU banner hanging off the brow as I, a recent KU grad, taught the crew how to "wave the wheat".

This year for the Final Four, there are some "no-brainer" picks for which boats can be the namesake representative. The most obvious ones are for the University of North Carolina and University of Connecticut, which are represented by USS North Carolina (SSN 777) and USS Connecticut (SSN 22), respectively. Since Villanova University is located near Philly, she could be represented by USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) or USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735). Michigan State University is best championed by USS Michigan (SSGN 727), one of the newly-converted Tomahawk shooters.

I note that the five suggested namesake ships represent the five major types of submarines in the fleet: the three classes of SSN, the SSGN, and SSBN. So who would win in a mythical submarine "Final Five". Of course, I'm biased, so I predict USS Connecticut would come out on top due to her unmatched speed and offensive firepower. In the real world Final Four we have coming up, though, I think the team being championed by the newest submarine, the North Carolina, will come out on top.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Those Russians Sure Are Funny!

Check out this CNN article about the announcement made by the Russians that they plan to build six new nuclear-powered submarines:
Russia will build at least six nuclear-powered submarines with long-range cruise missiles for its navy, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry told the Itar-Tass news agency.
The missiles can potentially carry low-capacity tactical warheads, the news agency reported Friday...
...The Severodvinsk-class submarines are being built at the Sevmash shipyard, the center of Russian nuclear submarine production, according to Global Security's Web site.
The new subs will be put into service for the Russian navy in 2011, the source told Itar-Tass.
Those wacky Russians owe me a new keyboard! Those of us familiar with Russian claims of when their new submarines would be ready for sea compared with actual ship-delivery performance can see how humorous that last line is; the odds of the Russians completing an entire submarine from the ground up in anything less than about seven years are just about zero. I wonder if there's any part of the Russian press that's still free enough that they can call the Navy on their ridiculous claims? My guess is, the answer is "no".

Update 0533 29 March: Turning off comments. For the record, non-troll commenters of all politicaly persuasions are welcome to comment here, as long as they're not tinfoil hatters.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Annapolis On Ice

USS Annapolis (SSN 760) visited the Ice Station for ICEX-09, resulting in a lot of pictures on the Navy website; this one is my favorite:

I think that surfacing through the ice is one of the coolest things Submariners do that we can talk about publicly. One of my main disappointments in my submarine career is that I never made it under the ice. What's your favorite story from operating in the Arctic?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

GMA Covers Esophageal Cancer

"Good Morning, America" today had a very informative segment on what they called America's "fastest-growing" form of cancer, that of the esophagus -- they type with which I've become very familiar over the last five months. If you're in your 40s or above, you should read the article to become aware of the symptoms of this type of cancer.

[Note to my regular readers: This post is mostly for those who come looking for information on this cancer and its treatment from search engines -- there won't be any submarine stuff here.]

It's been five weeks now since I had the life-saving surgery to remove the tumor from my G-E Junction, called an esophagogastrectomy. I was able to return to work (although at a reduced energy level) 20 days after surgery, which was a week after I got out of the hospital -- my stay there was a little longer than it needed to be because I developed pneumonia. I'm still getting most of my calories from tube-feeding, even though I moved from the "pureed" diet to the "post-surgical soft" diet about a week ago. There are two main reasons for this: 1) My stomach seems to have problems re-learning how to digest, so I'm vomiting a lot, and 2) everything just doesn't taste very good. My doctor said to expect the problem with food tasting different, and that it should get better over time. Also, the surgery results in the patient having lifelong acid reflux, so I find that I can only sleep on my back now; any other sleeping position results in really bad reflux attacks. This is all a small price to pay, however, for the complete removal of the cancerous cells from my body that the surgery provided. If you're looking into this surgery, make sure to ask your doctor about the post-operative side effects, but don't let them deter you from getting the treatment.

For another testimonial, here's a story from another survivor who had the surgery 15 years ago and is now doing great.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Personal Thoughts On The Hartford Collision

As we discussed in my original thread on last week's collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18), this wasn't the only incident Hartford has suffered; she also ran aground off La Maddalena in 2003, causing severe damage to her rudder. That grounding was very personal for me, because I had orders to be XO on USS Hartford in early 2003; only my medical disqualification from submarines kept me from being the boat's XO during that deployment.

It's been my observation that the best submariners, as a rule, are very self-confident; I think we have to be in order to be successful, like pilots and professional athletes. When we see something bad happen to another boat, we tend to think: "If I'd have been there, I would have kept that from happening." The thing is, the people who get caught up in the incidents have the same training and mindset the rest of us do. As I thought about the Hartford grounding, and if I would have prevented it had I been there as XO, I originally thought "Of course I would have. I always knew I'd recognize danger courses and put in time limits for dangerous piloting legs." Then, as I thought about it more, I decided a better attitude was, "There but for the grace of God go I."

I don't know if I could have prevented the original Hartford grounding, and I never will. I'm just glad no one was badly hurt, and the boat returned to full duty. Regarding this most recent incident, I don't know if Submariners onboard the boat made mistakes, and I don't know if I would have done any differently were I in their shoes. I'm just glad that they had the skill to return to port safely, and that none of the crew was (reportedly) injured seriously. When the Navy comes out with an official report, I'll see if there are new lessons to be learned. Until then, I'll just marvel at the technological wonders the Navy has made that travel beneath the waves and can survive unimaginable forces, and I'll be thankful for the men who man these vessels.

Friday, March 20, 2009

USS Hartford Collides With U.S. Amphib Off Iran

CNN is reporting that USS Hartford (SSN 768) collided with USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday, and that there were injuries aboard the submarine. Here's the news release from Fifth Fleet:
A U.S. Navy submarine and U.S. amphibious ship collided in the Strait of Hormuz early Friday morning, March 20, 2009.
The collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18) occurred at approximately 1:00 a.m. local time (5:00 p.m. EDT, March 19).
Fifteen sailors aboard the Hartford were slightly injured and returned to duty. No personnel aboard New Orleans were injured.
Overall damage to both ships is being evaluated. The propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision. New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank, which resulted in an oil spill of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel marine. Both ships are currently operating under their own power.
The incident is currently under investigation.
Obviously, there are no specifics out yet, but if the submarine had that many people injured, it's safe to assume she was going faster that you might expect a submarine to go at periscope depth; or, if she was at PD, that she got spun over fairly far onto her side before righting herself.

Our prayers are with our fellow Submariners and their families.

Staying at PD...

Update 0806 21 March: Here's a detail from a picture of USS Hartford on the surface released by the Navy:

Based on what we see in the picture (no 'scope up, lots of damage to the port side of the sail, possible twisting towards the starboard side), and based on the statement by the Navy in this Navy Times article that the Hartford was "submerged but near the surface", I'd say that the evidence is pointing towards the submarine being either at or transitioning to or from PD when the collision occurred. The fact that neither 'scope is up in the picture indicates that they can't be raised, so does this mean they were lowered when the collision occurred? This would make sense if the OOD had spotted the New Orleans and called for an "emergency deep"; the 'scope gets fully lowered much more quickly than the boat is able to get very deep (especially in shallow water.) If she got hit in the sail, then Hartford would have rolled on her side; the number of injuries make it seem that she would have rolled pretty far. Some commenters have guesses in the comments that I'm not able to refute at this point.

Staying at PD...

Update 0827 21 March: In this picture released by the Navy (check out the hi-res version for more detail), they appear to have the bridge manned, and have the National Ensign attached to the BRA-34 mast. That is really good news; no one wants to do a completely blind landing in Bahrain or wherever they're heading.

Update 1545 21 March: The Navy website has some more pictures of USS Hartford arriving in port at Bahrain, and all I can say is... wow; U.S. warships are certainly designed to keep operating even with substantial damage. You can see the pictures of the Hartford here, here, here and here. Pictures of USS New Orleans, which don't show any obvious damage like the ones of the Hartford, can be found here, here, and here. BZ to the Navy for releasing these pictures; if we have nothing to hide, as is the case here, there's no reason we can't let everyone know that's the case.

Update 0510 23 March: Strategy Page has a summary of the three "recent" submarine collisions in the SOH/Arabian Gulf. The comment thread here is becoming unwieldy, so I'm closing it; I think we've pretty much covered everything there is to discuss, absent more actual information being put out by the Navy.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

March Madness

Unless we get some sort of submarine news (Anyone hear anything? Word on the street says there might be something...), I probably won't post much tomorrow, since I'll be going to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament games in Boise.

My bracket seems to be surviving the first few games. I only picked two 1st round upsets, and one of them came in (Maryland over Cal). I'll be at the other one I picked (Wisconsin over Florida State), although I'll have to be circumspect about actually cheering for the Badgers, since my sister-in-law, an FSU grad, will be sitting with us at the game. Oh, what a tangled web March Madness can lead to...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ice Camp Blog

Once again, they'll be blogging from the Ice Camp for the ICEX; here's the first entry for ICEX-09. For those who are interested, you can check out the archives from ICEX-07.

While you're at it, you could check out the recently-posted Summer 2008 edition of Undersea Warfare magazine; lots of good articles in this one.

Regarding the recent light posting, I went back to work last Monday, so that's been taking most of my energy. I expect posting to return to normal as I do over the next few weeks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pier Mustering

Last month, USS Scranton (SSN 756) had an "All Hands" muster on the pier / personnel inspection to celebrate becoming the first submarine to get the entire crew kitted out with the new Navy Working Uniform; here's a picture:

The Navy website also has a picture of a Scranton Topside Watch in his new duds. I for one always liked the "all hands calls" on the pier. One of the things that always struck me as strange about submarining is that, unless you went to a lot of trouble and qualified guys from other boats, you never got to have the entire crew together in one place from the time the first watch was manned for the entire life of the ship. Even getting 90% of the crew in one place was a tough thing to do, but I thought it was nice when we did. Do you have any good stories from All Hands Musters? And what do you think of this picture of an entire crew in the NWU?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

China Testing New Administration At Sea

Just like they did with the EP-3 forcedown at the beginning of the Bush Administration, it appears that the Chinese military is seeing how far they can go with the new Obama Administration with respect to keeping the U.S. military out of international waters near China. Excerpts:
China lashed out Tuesday at the United States, accusing a U.S. Navy ship of violating international law during a tense confrontation near a secret Chinese submarine base.
The Pentagon said five Chinese vessels blocked and surrounded a U.S. surveillance ship, the Impeccable, in international waters on Sunday. One of the ships came within 25 feet, or 8 meters, of the U.S. boat, the Pentagon said...
...The encounter on Sunday was the latest in a series of recent incidents in which Chinese ships shadowed the towering, twin-hulled Impeccable. The Pentagon said the confrontation took place in the South China Sea, about 120 kilometers, or 75 miles, from Hainan Island, where China has an underground naval complex with submarine caves.
A U.S. Navy photograph obtained by The New York Times showed a Chinese sailor holding a long pole, and a navy spokesman confirmed that the Chinese had used a grappling hook to try to snag a cable that the Impeccable was using to tow an underwater listening device known as a Surtass array.
Information Dissemination, as expected, has much more on this story. Since China isn't even able to claim we're violating their coastal waters, but rather their 200 nm "exclusive economic zone", it's clear we need to do whatever is needed to ensure the freedom of navigation for all in these international waters. I suggest sending a destroyer or two, with a Carrier Strike Group within range to provide support if needed. This is one case where President Obama can't afford even the perception of weakness. If history serves as a guide here, once he demonstrates his will, the Chinese will back down. If he doesn't, it could get ugly, and fast.

Update 1007 12 March: It has happened as I foretold:
The Navy has assigned a heavily armed destroyer to escort the U.S. surveillance ship that got into a high-seas confrontation with Chinese ships last weekend.
A defense official says the Hawaii-based destroyer "Chung-Hoon" is keeping a close eye on the unarmed sub-hunting ship "Impeccable" as it continues operations in the South China Sea. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe sensitive ship movements.
The official says the escort ship joined the Impeccable on Wednesday.
USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) was last in the news for being a "Love Boat" back in 2005. I'm guessing that President Obama did exactly what he was supposed to do in this case-- approve the recommendation of his military advisors to not back down and let the Chinese know our policies with respect to freedom of navigation haven't changed. I'm calling this a good sign of things to come.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Submarine Coins

I was happy to see this story about how the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce is launching a series of coins to support the commissioning of what will be USS North Dakota (SSN 784). Excerpts:
A battle coin to commemorate the new USS North Dakota was unveiled Thursday, the first in a series of four that will be produced until the submarine is commissioned in 2014.
Fifty of the silver battle coins will be minted, with the first one going to the North Dakota Heritage Center. They will be available for $100 each. An additional 1,500 verbronze coins also will be for sale at $20 each.
Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce president Kelvin Hullet said proceeds from the coins will go to activities to help promote the submarine...
...Gov. John Hoeven, flanked by Admiral Bill Owens, Vice Admiral Jeffery Fowler and Judge Robert Wefald, helped unveil the design of the coin.
Fowler, the superintendent of the Naval Academy and a Bismarck native, said after heading for Annapolis years ago that it's an honor to see the state have a ship named after it.
Seeing such high-level support for the submarine so early in the building process bodes well for the initial manning crew of the North Dakota. In my experience on two newcon boats, it makes the commissioning parties a lot better when there's a lot of financial support from the namesake.

Did you old (or current) boats make a big deal out of ship's coins? It seems to me they've gotten to be a bigger deal in the last 10 years or so.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Return Of "The EM Log"

[Intel Source: Decks Awash!] It looks like one of my favorite submarine blogs, The EM Log, has returned to posting after an unexplained hiatus. The archives aren't up, but I expect we'll continue to see the same high quality posts we saw previously. Welcome back, FTN!

Back Home!

Finally made it back home from the hospital in Seattle yesterday; I don't think I've ever been so happy to leave a place. I got held a few days extra because some post-op pneumonia developed, and just lying there waiting for anti-biotics to work bordered, to me, on being a soul-destroying experience. I understand now why people don't like the hospital. On the other hand, Southwest Airlines was very good to me, changing my cutrate ticket return date with no extra payment required. Thanks, Southwest! (Plus, they don't even charge to check a bag.)

Now that I'm home, I noticed that USS Helena (SSN 725) has left home in San Diego to take part in ICEX-09, reportedly along with USS Annapolis (SSN 760) from LANTFLT. ICEX has been in the news during this decade because of the tragedy aboard HMS Tireless (S 88) during ICEX-07, and the pictures of the polar bear "eating" the rudder of USS Connecticut (SSN 22) during ICEX-03.

I'm surprised to see Helena participating; I remember always being told that the non-688I Los Angeles-class submarines (before SSN 751) couldn't normally operate under ice due to sail hardening issues. Does anyone know if the older 688s got a shipalt, or did they redo the calculations with real-world data?