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.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

An Oldie But A Goodie

A while back, I posted about a humorous MRC floating around the 'net that purported to be the instructions for taking a crap on a submarine, using approved PMS techniques. The original link is gone, but luckily the good folks at Goatlocker saved a copy. Excerpts:
1. Preliminary
a. Inform Work Center Supervisor of personnel’s desire to remove himself from an able status. Ensure permission is granted.
b. Ensure person performing D-1R is not on watch, maneuvering watch is not set, and decontamination station is not set (as denoted by copious amounts of yellow material).
c. Verify that Sanitaries are not pressurized as noted by signs hung stating, “WARNING! BLOWING SANITARIES.” If pressure exerted on lower abdominal region is too great, consider performing R-5 (Emergency Bowel Movement Using Plastic Bag)
WARNING: Entering stall before verifying stall is empty may be hazardous to continuation of life.
2. Verify stall empty
a. Knock three times on stall door and ask potential occupants of their presence.
b. If stall is occupied, move to next stall and repeat step 2.a.
c. If all three stalls are occupied, wait until an occupant has removed himself from the stall, and then continue to Step 3. Remove reading material and review while waiting.
NOTE: Stall #2 has shown signs of becoming clogged during performance of D-1R. If emergency, perform PM using stall #2. Otherwise, continue to wait until either stall #1 or #3 are clear.
d. If greater than 5 minutes have passed and all three stalls remain to be occupied,
reperform Step 2 in its entirety to verify occupants are awake. Use colorful language such as “Hey. You. Pinch it off. I need to drop a deuce.”
3. Entering stall
a. Open door to stall by moving handle either clockwise or counterclockwise from the centerline position.
b. Inspect stall for presence of toilet paper. If none, do not continue with maintenance action. Inform WCS.
WARNING: Do not substitute any other material such as kim-wipes, socks, and magazine pages for toilet paper. Your anus will thank you.
c. Open door 90 degrees until door rests flush with wall.
NOTE: Maintain positive control of head door. Releasing door will potentially cause a “noise transient” denoted by a loud banging noise. If “noise transient” is heard, back out of MR, inform the Chief of the Watch (COW), and proceed to Step 1.
d. Position yourself between toilet and door.
e. Move door 90 degrees back to original position and ensure Primary Locking Device(PLD) mates with Frame Locking Mechanism (FLM).
f. Slide Secondary Locking Device (SLD) until it mates with the FLM. The stall is now secure from unauthorized entry.
WARNING: Opening bowl flush valve while sanitaries are pressurized will cause loss of cleanliness, friends, and respect.
g. Open toilet drain valve. Verify that water exits the bowl with no “burping.” If burping exists, or water does not drain at all, inform A-Division LPO and proceed to Step 2.
WARNING: Performing bowel movement while having a waterless bowl will lead to “stinkbowling” the occupants of the FCML Head, and will cause your reputation to diminish.
h. Open toilet fill valve until proper level in the bowl is seen. Experience has shown that 3 – 4 inches above the bowl bottom is required.
4. Disrobe
a. Using Inventory Sheet (Table 2), take inventory of all items in port and starboard, forward and aft pockets (including breast pockets), belt, and all items attached to belt.
b. While maintaining positive control of belt buckle, unclasp belt buckle. If belt does not maintain it’s position while unclasped, remove all tools, articles, and TLD from belt, remove belt, replace all items removed back onto belt, clasp belt buckle and hang belt from a convenient location.
NOTE: Visually note that TLD is present throughout this step. If TLD is not present, exit stall and inform LELT/Corpsman.
This, more than almost anything else, helps me explain to others what submarine life is really like -- that guys will take their rare off-duty time to write up a humorous PMS card to their own and their shipmate's enjoyment. Submarining is truly a unique profession.

Off topic, here's an opinion piece in the New York Times by a "former nuclear submarine officer" that advocates using explosives to stop the oil leak in the Gulf. Here's an excerpt:
But control of the well itself should fall to the Navy — it alone has the resources to stop the flow. For starters, the Office of Naval Research controls numerous vehicles like Alvin, the famed submersible used to locate the Titanic. Had such submersibles been deployed earlier, we could have gotten real-time information about the wellhead, instead of waiting for BP to release critical details.
The Navy also commands explosives experts who have vast knowledge of underwater demolitions. And it has some of the world’s finest underwater engineers at Naval Reactors, the secretive program that is responsible for designing nuclear reactors for nuclear submarines.
The last excerpted sentence is where I stopped reading. Sure, there are really good engineers at NR, but I wouldn't by any stretch call them "underwater engineers" -- they're engineers who work on a system that happens to operate underwater. Since the readers here probably know as much about the Navy's capabilities for operating at such extreme depths as any other forum (the Navy's capabilities are "virtually none" for those who were wondering) I figure I'd give you guys a shot at ripping the article apart -- or agreeing with it, if you feel like it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

USS Florida On National Geographic Channel Sunday

USS Florida (SSGN 728) will be featured on a repeat of the Naked Science episode "21st Century Stealth Sub" on Sunday morning at 0800 (I think that's MDT; you'll have to check your listings to see what time it's on in your area). The episode appears to have been filmed back in March. Here's a video from the show:

Another highlight video is here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Commander Relieved

No, this isn't a post about GEN McChrystal having his resignation accepted and being replaced as Allied Commander in Afghanistan by GEN Petraeus, it's about a frigate CO who got relieved earlier this week. Excerpts:
The skipper of the frigate John L. Hall was fired Tuesday morning for hitting a pier roughly one month after taking command.
Vice Adm. Harry Harris, 6th Fleet commander, relieved Cmdr. Herman Pfaeffle for loss of confidence in his ability to command, 6th Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton told Navy Times.
There was no mast, and no injuries resulted from the April 16 incident, which occurred in Batumi, Georgia.
The incident happened during a port call held amid joint drills conducted with Ukrainian naval pilots and the Georgian coast guard in the Black Sea. Walton said the ship sustained some damage, but was able to continue with its mission...
...Pfaeffle is a mustang from the submarine service who enlisted in 1983, according to his official bio. He entered the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps through the Navy’s Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training Program and received his commission in 1993.
[Emphasis mine] As expected, the CO bio page on the ship's webpage is down, but here's the Google cached version, which show that Pfaeffle served on USS Guitarro (SSN 665) during the mid to late 80s. His picture is here, if that jogs any memories:

I guess I shouldn't be amazed that Big Navy would fire a CO who hit the pier after only one month in command, and maybe the CO overrode the crew's recommendations and ordered them to do something stupid that caused the collision. If that's not the case, however, I'm wondering if the deskbound senior officers who decide this kind of thing really expect that a new CO can fix all the problems on a ship after only a month in command -- especially in the middle of a deployment. If it turns out that the crew had a share of responsibility for the incident, will the shore-based squadron who signed off on their deployment preparations suffer any repercussions?

OK, you can stop laughing now. As has been shown repeatedly in the past, Big Navy knows that it's much easier just to blame the CO and crew than to actually look into any problems the shore-based infrastructure might have with training and certifying ships during pre-deployment cycles. That would be too hard, and would interfere with their busy schedule of going to clambakes and conferences. Anyway, they're not ever going to sea again, so why should they worry if they end up with a bunch of timid COs who spend all their time covering their butts instead of training their ships to actually fight a war?

USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) Decommissioning

The decommissioning of USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) is going on today, the 33rd anniversary of her commissioning. Anybody have any good stories about the old girl, or any stories about being on a decomm crew?

Update 1530 25 June: Here's a story about the ceremony, with pictures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Miss Virginia Visits USS Virginia

I know it's only been a month since I wrote a "beauty queen visits submarine" post, but I had to write about the visit of Miss Virginia, Chinah Helmandollar, to USS Virginia (SSN 774) because of this picture:

Not only is it about the most detailed picture of the Virginia-class Ship Control Panel I've yet seen (especially if you enlarge the picture at the link), you have to admit that the crown really sells the whole thing. Plus, I like how the Eng got the Good Deal by getting to stand next to the pretty girl in this picture; normally, Eng's are reduced to just giving the "here's how the toilets work" portion of the VIP tour.

(Off topic, and because a bunch of people have E-mailed me about it, here's a story about an apparently drunk yahoo off the coast of Florida who thought he saw a submarine periscope take off at 20 knots and "blow ballast" to submerge.)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New Scrubber Design?

Researchers in the UK and U.S. have been looking at ways to build a new CO2 scrubber for possible submarine use. Excerpts:
Professor Stan Kolaczkowski and his team from Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath are collaborating with mechanical engineers from Duke University in the US to develop a chemical-free way of removing carbon dioxide from the air inside deep sea human habitats.
They are developing a system that uses sea water and Dixon rings in deep sea submersible vehicles and other submersible human habitats. The project is funded by a three year grant worth £380,000 from the US Office of Naval Research (ONR).
At present, chemicals such as calcium hydroxide are used to chemically react with the CO2. Although it is known that sea water has potential to absorb CO2, the aim of this project is to develop a system that will be compact and work in a submersible environment where space is very limited.
Based on technology developed in 1948, Dixon rings consist of a fine wire mesh folded into a ring, approximately 3 mm in size. The space in the wire mesh provides an extended surface area for the absorption of the CO2.
Not sure if it would be able to replace the chemical scrubbers we currently use, but if they could miniaturize it enough, it seems like it could work for smaller submersibles.

Does anyone have any good stories about the atmospheric control equipment on their boats? (Stories about how your wife threw out all your deployment clothes because of the amine smell are always good.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It's time for the Defense Bill markups, so that means it must be time for the Gary Hart-inspired brigade of diesel submarine enthusiasts to put out another article saying the U.S. should invest in diesel submarines. Here's an article in Proceedings from a Naval War College professor (not surprisingly, a European) who claims, once again, that we need diesel submarines because they're "cheaper" and "more maneuverable" in littoral waters. Among other issues, here are some of my problems with the concept:

1) The author claims cost savings by comparing the prices of American SSNs with European SSKs. This is comparing apples to oranges, since the Europeans don't have the same SUBSAFE standards we do, and their combat systems are significantly less complex than ours. For an American-built SSK, since it would be politically- and morally-impossible to build it with reduced SUBSAFE ("Sure, Mrs. Navymom, I'm sure you wouldn't mind sending your son off in a submarine that isn't as safe as it could possibly be"), the cost of such boats would be much higher than the 25% of the purchase price of an SSN the author claims.

2) The author of this piece at least points out that diesel submarines have a hard time getting across large oceans rapidly. Were the U.S. Navy primarily interested in defending our coast, then sure diesel subs would make sense. However, since the U.S. military in the real world is built around keeping threats far from our shores by threatening the homeland of our potential adversaries, money from a shrinking shipbuilding pool that went to diesel submarines would move the U.S. towards a model where we aren't "forward focused" (or "imperialistic", depending on the arguers point of view). Which, I believe, is what they really want. If so, they should at least be honest and come out and say it, so we can have a debate about that.

3) The theory that "it's better to build more of an inferior weapons platform" was pretty much shot to hell in the two recent wars against Iraq. Many progressive "Reformers" (including Sen. Hart aide William Lind, famous for becoming a conspiracy-mongering nutball in recent years) argued during the 80s that we could get more bang for the buck by building more units of obsolete weapons. Consider the tank -- their theory seemed to be that increasing the lethal range of your weapons system such that you could kill at 2000 yards when your enemy could kill at 1500 yards, you'd get a 4:3 kill ratio. In actuality, in both tank and air warfare, recent conflicts have shown that the better American weapons have about a 100:1 kill ratio, or better. I would guess (based on no real data other than participating in exercises against allied diesel boats) that the kill ratio of an SSN vs. SSK conflict would be greater than 10:1, which kind of argues against the theory that SSKs are "cheaper" in a hot war scenario. Sure, diesel submarines could kill surface ships who blunder into their area, but they sure can't run them down very effectively. In modern submarine warfare, speed is life (or death, depending if you're the hunter or the hunted).

The true aim of those who want the U.S. to shift to diesel submarines is to stop, or at least drastically reduce in an era of limited shipbuilding budgets, the production of nuclear submarines. Those who want the U.S. to "dumb down" their weapons systems (as proponents of diesel submarines such as the writer of the Proceedings article want to do) seem mainly interested in making the U.S. less powerful militarily. I'll leave it to the reader to determine what their motive for that may be.

(In discussing this article, there's probably no need to talk about how much water you've actually had under the keel during various missions. You can just laugh inwardly at the numbers the writer provides.)

Saltpeter In The Food

I know I'm probably going to regret posting this, but Stars and Stripes went to the trouble to ask the military services about the age-old rumor that the military puts saltpeter in the food at boot camps. As expected, the answer is "no". (It's the same answer I got when I was in boot camp, as I asked the question due to the "change" I noted in my normal biological processes, particularly when I woke up. As it turns out, I "returned to normal" during the last week of boot camp, when the pressure let up a little bit.)

Off topic, can I ask again for a little more civility in the comments in general? We just lost another long-time commenter due to general dickishness of a few other commenters. I try my best not to delete too many comments, but honestly, it seems like we could disagree with people's opinions without going after them personally. Thank you.

Update 0757 17 Jun: Also, here's a link to some quizzes from the Military Channel; I got 10/10 on the submarine one (which I expect most readers here could duplicate, as long as you don't overthink the anechoic coating question).

Monday, June 14, 2010

CNO Visits USS Hawaii

ADM Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, toured USS Hawaii (SSN 776) last week. Here's a picture of the CNO in front of Hawaii's Lock Out Trunk:

I'm glad to see they still have sound-powered phones on the Virginia-class boats. Of course, if you're going to have them at all, the escape trunk seems like the one place you'd need them the most.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Notre Dame Accepts Invitation To Join MAC!

Remember, if you read it on the Internet, it must be true...

Update 0830 12 June: Speaking of cool things you can find only on the Internet:

[Intel Source: Right Mind] Here's the actual picture this one was based on.

Regarding college conference expansion, I've been against the move of my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Big T(w)e(lve)[n], but I recently decided that it probably had to be done. As only Nixon could go to China, only Dr. Tom Osborne could take Nebraska to such a whiny conference. Now, I'm left hoping that when everything clears, my alma mater Kansas ends up in the Mountain West, where I'll at least be able to see their basketball team come to Boise every two years.

Submarine Stuff In The News

A few items that have shown up in the news since I last posted:

1) Here's an article about a female Academy midshipman who wants to go into submarines. It has an interesting story about when she was out on a boat for a middie cruise:
In addition, the sailors made the young midshipmen feel at home because while they were on the cruise, they missed their ring dance. That’s a formal affair in which students receive their class rings and dip them in a bowl containing the water of the seven seas.
To make up for the loss, the senior officers held a “dance” for the eight female midshipmen and allowed them to dip their rings in water from the nuclear reactor.
I'm sure that the crew told the middies, who will pretty much believe anything, that the water was actually from the reactor. They probably told them that they store it in the locker with the gig line and the relative bearing grease.

2) Fidel Castro says Navy SEALs actually sank the South Korean corvette! And there are useful idiots who believe this crap.

3) Here's an analysis by a retired Pakistani Admiral on the reports that the Israelis plan to keep a nuclear-armed submarine off the coast of Iran. I've written before about the logistical problems of trying to do that with a three-boat squadron (especially if they can't transit the Suez Canal), but if they have a deal with the Egyptians then it would be doable. Here's what Strategy Page has to say about it.

4) Looks like the Navy lost several underwater Remotely-Operated Vehicles in Thimble Shoals Channel. So, anyone out there on Chesapeake Bay should keep their eye out for them; I'm sure the Navy would be happy to get them back!

5) Finally, here's a picture of USS New Mexico (SSN 779) arriving in her new homeport of Groton:

Update 1000 10 June: Speaking of Middie Ops, here's a picture from USS West Virginia (SSBN 736) of Midshipman Ops last week:

No deck harnesses? I'm impressed!

Update 0740 17 June: Here's an update on the missing UUVs. Dolphins found one of them, and they've suspended the search for the others.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

FY11 Submarine CO/XO Screening

Here's the message listing the officers who were screened for Submarine CO and XO, along with other assorted screenings. Since Submariners tend to be the loudest at complaining about who did and didn't screen (resulting in these lists not being made public until just a few years ago), I'm sure there will be lots of complaints. Fire away (but please don't make any unsubstantiated allegations of puppy molestation or whatnot for people on the list).