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, September 27, 2011

Bring It On!

The commander of the Iranian Navy is apparently claiming that the Iranian Navy will soon "have a powerful presence" near the United States. Other than the fact that it's very unlikely to happen -- they'd be lucky to limp into some Cuban harbor at the end of a 10 knot journey and lay over for several months of voyage repairs before trying to limp home -- the thought of them doing something like that would be a rude awakening to their crews if they did manage to hang around off our shores.

For those who haven't had the chance to participate during the few instances in the last couple decades when potential adversaries try to "show the flag" off our coast, we tend to drop the niceties we observe when  conducting "freedom of navigation" exercises off Country Orange's shore and start playing at the varsity level. (I was the Sub Guy on the Stennis Battle Group Staff for the Oscar deployment mentioned in the link above.) If the Iranians think we're annoying when we follow all the rules of international maritime law when we're sailing through the SOH, just wait until they're the visiting team.

Since a "powerful presence" for them involves an oiler and a couple of 1400 ton frigates, I'm not too worried if they did end up following through with their "threat". Which they can't, not because they're not brave, but because their equipment isn't worth crap. (Unless you're a Congressional staffer trying to decide if you should tell your boss to vote for more money for the Navy to counter the Iranian threat -- in that case, they're a first-class Navy; Kilos get better with age!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Russian Boomer T-Boned, Drunks Blamed

From RIA Novosti:
A Russian strategic submarine received light damage to its outer hull when a fishing vessel rammed into it early on Thursday, a Pacific Fleet source said. "The Donets fishing ship was maneuvering to avoid collision with the Kormchy fishing boat and did not notice the St. George the Victor nuclear-powered submarine anchored near the Avacha Bay," the source said. "As a result, the submarine received insignificant damage to its outer hull," he said, adding that the sub was undergoing repairs at a dock in Vilyuchinsk. The submarine's nuclear reactor was not damaged. A preliminary investigation suggests that the crew of the Donets fishing vessel is to blame for the collision, as they were reportedly drunk and ignored radio and warning signals.
The article goes on to say that the submarine victimized by the drunk fishermen was RFS St. George the Victor (K 433), a 31 year old Delta III that gets out more than you'd think; it allegedly successfully conducted a test launch last year.

What's the most damage that's ever been done to your boat by the actions of drunk seamen?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seven Years Of Submarine Blogging

I completely forgot that Saturday was my 7th blogiversary. I guess that should tell me something.

In these seven years, I've posted 2709 times and received over 2.3 million individual visits and over 4.5 million page views. I've sent hundred of people the words to the "Submarine Song" and regained contact with dozens of old shipmates. It's been a good ride.

Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Diesel Submarines In The News

Here's an interesting article on Israeli submarines that I though was worth a link. While the Israeli submarine force is often credited by idiots on the right with being able to transcend time and distance, everything I've heard is that they're a pretty good coastal defense force. My boats didn't work directly with many foreign diesels (at least not cooperatively), so I don't have that much direct experience, but I was impressed in the few instances I did with what the more advanced diesel boat operators could do with their limited capabilities.

Do you have any good stories about working with OPFOR diesel boats? Which country do you think does the best job? I've always heard the Chileans are right up there near the top. I'd say that, maintenance-wise, the Canadians would probably have to be near the bottom.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Red Sky At Morning..."

Because recent pictures of my last boat, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) are so rare, I'll post them whenever they show up in the public domain:

From the caption: "The Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) returns to its homeport of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor at sunrise." Welcome home, guys, from whatever you were out doing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

As we remember the attacks of 10 years ago today, I don't have much to add to what I said last year, other than that, when our resolve weakens, I hope we all remember how we felt on that day. God Bless all the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. My faith teaches me that we are supposed to forgive those who attack us. I haven't reached that point yet.

Friday, September 09, 2011

HMAS Farncomb's Recent Loss Of Propulsion: "Bad" On The Good/Bad Scale

I had read this article a couple of weeks ago about the Australian submarine HMAS Farncomb (SSG 74) saying that the boat had been forced to surface after a loss of propulsion, and decided there really wasn't enough to the story to make it a good topic for discussion here. This new article that came out today with new information, however, changed my mind. Excerpts:
For the 60 men and women aboard the Collins-class boat, the next few minutes would be among the longest of their lives. Like a Hollywood thriller, the sailors found themselves grappling with a double engine failure followed by a terrifying, powerless descent towards the bottom of the Indian Ocean, stemmed only by the cool actions of a veteran commander. This real-life drama, which took place at 12.30am on August 23 about 20km off the northwest coast of Rottnest Island, was not revealed by Defence at the time. When quizzed by The Australian the following day, officials gave only a brief, sanitised version of the incident, omitting key facts while praising the competence and training of the crew for following "standard operating procedures"... ...What is undisputed is that Farncomb was conducting operational training in the waters northwest of Rottnest Island soon after spending a month in dry dock where it had its emergency propulsion unit replaced. In charge that night was veteran submarine commander Glen Miles, a ruddy-faced archeology and rugby enthusiast who once served on the old Oberon submarines and who was dux of his submarine officer's course. Also on board was a Sea Training Group assessing the crew's competence. Shortly after midnight, the Farncomb was gliding at a periscope depth of 20m while undertaking a routine known as "snorting", where air is drawn into the submarine to run the diesel motor in order to recharge the boat's batteries. At 12.30am, without warning, a fault in the control switchboard of the submarine's electric motor caused the motor to stop. "Propulsion failure, propulsion failure" rang out across the Farncomb's address system, as crew ran to emergency stations... ...According to several crew members' versions, the Farncomb slowed to a virtual halt, tilted nose up and began to slide backwards towards the ocean floor. The tilt was so steep that sailors eating in the mess room had to grab their dinners as they slid off the table. Those in the sleeping quarters found themselves "on top of each other". In the control room, Commander Miles was not panicking, but was watching the sliding depth gauge hoping that the propulsion motor would restart before the Farncomb sank too deep. He knew that, as a last resort, he could take the dramatic step of blowing the submarine's ballast tanks to stem the descent... ...Crew accounts of how deep the Farncomb sank differ. The consensus is that it plunged to between 150m and 190m. If so, this is uncomfortably close to the submarine's permissible deep diving depth, the actual figure of which is classified. At some point during the Farncomb's powerless descent and without any sign of life from the motor, Commander Miles ordered a partial blow of the submarine's main ballast in which air expels water from the ballast tanks, making the boat lighter. "Because the submarine was still heavy as compensating water was being pumped (out), the commanding officer chose to blow main ballast to arrest descent," a Defence spokesman said. What happened next depends on whose account you believe. Defence says that the initial ballast blow stemmed the descent and that the Farncomb actually began to slowly rise. Some crew members maintain the submarine was still sinking, although at a slower rate. Either way, Commander Miles then decided to take the most drastic step available to a submarine commander: to order a full emergency blow of all ballast tanks.
The story is written in such a way as to make it seem more dramatic than I'm sure it really was, but there's no doubt that finding yourself left with no option other than an EMBT blow makes for some interesting stories to tell around the grill. Have you ever been scared sh*tless on the boat? The one time I had non-expected flooding called away on my boat, I was kind of surprised at how calm I remained -- partly because I knew everyone was looking at me, I'm sure. (Long story short: Alpha Trials on SSN 22, I was in Maneuvering, flooding in the Machinery Room called away when we first started changing depth from PD to the next deeper depth on the initial controlled dive. ADM Bowman (NR at the time and in charge of the Sea Trial), in Control, told the CO/OOD not to do an EMBT blow. It ended up being overflow from a trim tank.)

Selectivity -- A Good Thing?

A reader wrote in to ask if I had any insight into the best way to increase one's chances of getting into the Navy as an officer. Excerpt:
I have been trying for over a year now, increased my GPA, lost over 50 pounds, and added additional community services to my resume. From my understanding, there just aren’t any spots for young men and women who are just getting out of college.
To be honest, I hadn't realized just how picky the Navy had become. I knew the services had been meeting their accession goals recently (I'm sure the state of the economy contributes to that), but didn't know just how few slots there really were. Some entries from this blog by a New York Navy Officer recruiter has some interesting posts, including this one and this one, excerpted:
Today I saw NRD NY's goal or quota for Fiscal Year 2012 which starts this October. I did a double take. Active Duty General Officer (Pilot, NFO, SWO, Intel, Nuke, CEC, Supply, SEAL, etc.): The goal for ALL of NRD NY is ten. That's right, T.E.N. Out of those ten four were Nukes. What does that mean to me? Well to put it into perspective last year my personal goal was 24, the year prior 31 while the goal for the district has been 65 and 71 respectively. It means that I highly doubt there will be a board for any of these designators until September of next year. There are twenty-six NRDs in the US. Do the math and you'll see they only need 260 Officer Candidates this year which is a joke, in the past it has been well over a thousand.
I knew the Navy was drawing down, but this sounds much more serious than I'd realized. Sure, it seems like it would be nice to be able to pick and choose which people you want to join your organization, but I'm worried that we'll end up with several year groups in a row composed only of the people who the recruiters think would make the best Officers -- which, to be honest, might not reflect the characteristics and personality types with whom the non-recruiters among us would most like to serve.

Do you have any advice for the reader about what he might be able to do to impress the recruiter? (Input from current and recent recruiters would be especially useful.) And do you have any concerns about potential blowback from the Navy's new-found freedom to "pick and choose"?

Off topic, kind of: Also on the recruiters blog, here's a report of an E-mail he got from a young officer in the middle of the Nuke pipeline that I thought was interesting. Excerpts:
As it turns out nukes are much needed in the fleet but huge holds are building up in the pipeline. If you recall I was attached to NRD NY for 15 weeks and that was shorter than most people who graduated OCS and were designated as sub nucs (There were ensigns who were on hold for up to 24 weeks). Throughout the 24 weeks here in Charleston no one knew where or when we would be going to prototype or SOBC. For my class, we were issued 3 sets of orders the week before graduation which changed constantly. As of now, everyone took 2 weeks of leave and the sub nukes have to report back to Charleston for 2 months of quality assurance training (some assignment they're experimenting with so we don't go back to OHARP or just sit around and muster daily). Most of us are going to prototype in NY after we report to SOBC with a few who are staying in Charleston (mainly those with families who do not want to keep moving around).

Monday, September 05, 2011

The "AwCrap" Moment

So there I was... onboard USS Topeka (SSN 754) in November 1992, where the boat had just pulled into Mina Salman, Bahrain, for a mid-deployment upkeep. Before we could go out on liberty, however, we had a few items to take care of. I was responsible for making sure that a couple hundred packages got signed over to the Defense Courier Service from the "special" mission we'd been doing -- the tender guys and gals couldn't come on board to start the upkeep until it was all gone.

I had inventoried everything the night before, and rounded up a working party of about 8 guys to get all the packages moved out to the government van; I checked off the items on the inventory list with the local DCS rep as they were loaded in. When the guys brought out the last load, every block was checked... except one. That caused a little bit of excitement as we ransacked all the places these items had been kept, and after about a half hour we found the package (a 9 x 12 inch envelope); it had fallen behind a bench in Radio. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and headed off to the Alcohol Support Unit at the base to start to unwind from being so vital to national security over the previous several weeks, in preparation for heading out into town to see what Manama had to offer.

Anyone care to share their favorite "Aw, crap" moment?

Update 1155 08 September: Going back through my archives, here's a story that falls under the category of "Stupid JO Tricks" more than "AwCrap". And as a "bell-ringer" (moving a link from the comments up to the main story) here's the story of the CO of USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) becoming the 18th Navy Commanding Officer fired this year for mistakenly targeting a civilian fishing vessel with inert training rounds during deployment workup.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Submitted For Your Approval...

One of my Facebook friends had a patch made up that I think is absolutely great:

What do you think? Isn't that just about the best patch ever? What are your best stories of off-crew? (Or, for us Fast Attack heterosexuals, what are your best stories of being "left behind" when the boat went out to sea?)

Update 1409 02 September 11: The maker of the patch has agreed to make some available to TSSBP readers for $5 (including shipping). If you want one, send me an E-mail [joel(dot)bubblehead(at)gmail(dot)com], and I'll forward it to Jan.

Update 2244 05 September 11: I ended up forwarding 17 orders for probably 40-50 patches to Jan, so it looks like they were pretty popular!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Adventures With Skimmers

This picture of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) pulling into Pearl Harbor yesterday caught my attention:

It got me thinking of my time on a carrier, the Millennium deployment of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) as the Submarine Ops guy on the Carrier Group SEVEN staff. While we were in the Arabian Gulf, one of the assigned submarines was tasked to do one of those "special" missions we all know about, the ones where they bring on extra Sailors who eat four meals a day and monopolize the best tables in Crew's Mess between meals. The boat wanted to make some room, so I arranged for them to send some extra nukes over to the carrier to ride for a few weeks. Being the gung-ho Submariners they were, they decided they'd make the best use of their time by earning the Enlisted Surface Warfare Insignia. As I remember, six of the 9 Submariners met that goal within 4 weeks. As they were getting ready to leave, I asked them what they'd remember most, and they said they learned that 1) administrative tasks you routinely see E-5s doing on submarines are done by O-4s on the carrier, and 2) skimmers aren't very bright.

Have you ever had to interact with skimmers on their home turf?