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.)

Saturday, April 30, 2005

I Got Nuthin'

Not much in the way of submarine news this week, so I figured I'd just throw out some random statements that I believe to be true... no links, no assertations that "I know this but can't say because it's secret", nothing but things I think based on life experience:

1) Anyone who says that Pres. Bush intentionally lied about believing that Iraq had WMDs before the war is an idiot. Sen. Kennedy said that he "lied" about it for political advantage. Does Kennedy really think that finding out there were none is a political advantage? We used the WMD argument because we thought it was the best of the many, many reasons for getting rid of Saddam that would win over world opinion. Every indication we had was that Iraq still had chemical weapons.

2) Of course Pres. Bush got "preferential treatment" to get into the National Guard. Not that his Dad called anyone up and said "get my son into the Guard", it's just that those "in the loop" take care of each other without anyone having to ask... it's a given. However, this makes absolutely no difference on whether or not he's a good President.

3) Yes, the BRAC will unfairly target "blue states". Politics does invade all processes, and BRAC is a political process much more that it is a military efficiency process. The more I think about it, the more I think that Groton will probably be on the base closure list, in addition to Portsmouth.

Comments are welcome...

Update 2357 02 May: Oh, yeah, another thing; for all you celebrities out there who think that people are "stifling dissent" when they call you an idiot for saying idiotic things, they're not violating your 1st amendment rights; they're exercising theirs. The 1st Amendment says that the government can't censor you unreasonably; people can say they're not going to see your stupid movies all they want. I know that starring in weird movies may make you an expert on international affairs, but that doesn't mean we want to pay money to hear your political beliefs.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Staff Officer Quotes 4

Hungary is pulling their troops out of Iraq. Here are some quotes that show what a joy it was to get them into Iraq in the first place:

“I guess the next thing they'll ask for is 300 US citizens with Hungarian last names to send to Iraq…”
MAJ (Joint Staff) on the often-frustrating process of building the Iraqi coalition for Phase IV

“Working with Hungary is like watching a bad comedy set on auto repeat…”

“Between us girls, would it help to clarify the issue if you knew that Hungary is land-locked?”
CDR to MAJ (EUCOM) on why a deployment from Hungary is likely to proceed by air vice sea

And, in honor of our Latin American allies:

"It is nothing for US soldiers to be in the desert for a year without a woman. It is different for us, though, because we are Latin…”
LTC (LATAM country) on one of the differences between Latin American soldiers and their US counterparts

"Mawhwidge... Is What Bwings Us Togewhwer..."

A most interesting web site addressing the needs of the love-starved women around the world. Democratic Underground is predictably shocked.

Polish Submarine Returns from Med Deployment

I worked very closely with our Polish allies when I was at CENTCOM last year, so I'm always happy to see their armed forces demonstrate how much progress they've made in the last 15 years. The return of ORP Bielek (ORP means "Okret Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej", Naval Ship of the Polish Republic) from a three month Mediterranean deployment is another example of how far they've come (Intel source: The Sub Report).
Bielek is one of Poland's four new Kobben-class submarines imported from Norway. (They've also got one older Kilo-class boat left.) The Polish Navy has an interesting history over the last 70 years, including fighting with the Allies in the European theater throughout WWII. (The story of the Polish submarine Orzel gives evidence of their fighting spirit.) From their official web site, you can see how well they've integrated into NATO since they joined in 1999.

To the crew of the Bielek... Welcome home!

BEQ Room From Hell!

CDR Salamander has lots of good stuff over the last couple days, including lots of photos of what has to be THE worst barracks inspection of all time. While the BEQ room is in Groton, and the good CDR postulates that it might be a sub Sailor who has the interesting "habits" revealed in the picture, I feel obliged to point out that there are lots on non-Sub Sailors on the base as well, especially among the more senior guys who would have a room of their own (as this guy hopefully did).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

"...Dominant Over The Less-Equipped Engineers"

I don't like to toot my own horn, but... actually, that's a lie. Like all submarine officers, I do like to let others know when I've done something right, but do it in a self-deprecating way that makes it look like I'm not too full of myself...
Anyway, when I started this blog, I hoped that someday it would be considered good enough to join the MilBlogs ring. I'm very proud today to join my good friends Chapomatic, Alexander Hamilton, and many others on this webring. If you'd like to read some other military bloggers have a lot of great things to say, please explore the webring under the MilBlogs icon to the right. Thanks, as always, to Greyhawk of The Mudville Gazette for starting the MilBlogs webring.
I'm also happy to report that I've been chosen as an Authorized Field Reporter for The Sub Report. I'm still not quite sure what I'll have to do extra, but the webmaster there assures me that "there's no money involved".
Also, you should check out Joe at Sgt. Foley's Fire-Eaters; he's starting Navy OCS in about five months, so those who have BTDT should head over and let him know that it won't be very tough at all *grin*

Going deep...

711 FSG "Thank You"

The USS San Francisco Family Support Group sent out this open "Thank You" letter that I think says a lot about the sense of togetherness that submariners and their loved ones feel.

USS San Francisco Says Thank You

Immediately upon hearing that something had happened to the USS San Francisco, we were consumed with worry and fear. Our lives stopped. We were sickened with anxiety while we waited to hear who was injured, who was ok, and how long we would have to wait to see our sailors. But then strangers, co-workers, and friends started coming out to give us hope and encouragement. People from all over the world have offered prayers, kept us in their thoughts, and sent many cards. The submarine family and community of Guam opened up to us and gave us anything we needed to make it through this trying time. They cooked meals for us and selflessly volunteered their precious time to help us. Family and friends, here and back home, gave us their love and support. There will never be an end to our thank yous and appreciation to all of these wonderful people who helped us in our time of need.

We would like to give special thanks to the staff of the Guam Naval Hospital who dedicated themselves to ensure that each wounded sailor had proper medical attention. COMSUBRON 15 who coordinated meetings, kept us informed, arranged for phone cards and phone lines on the pier to allow our sailors to call their loved ones, as well as the many families who cooked meals, provided childcare and opened their homes and hearts to the families of the USS San Francisco making certain that our wellbeing was a top priority. The chaplains who listened to our fears and concerns, held our hands, and were with us through the entire process. Fleet and Family Services and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society understood how much we needed little things and made themselves readily available to help us. We give thanks to the US Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island, USNS Stockham, USNS Kiska , HC-5, and all else who assisted in the safe return of our sailors. We also thank the medical staff that courageously went aboard the USS San Francisco to help our injured sailors. We would like to include the USS Frank Cable, USS City of Corpus Christi, USS Houston, and ComNavMar whom stood with us on the pier to welcome home our sailors, grieved with us, and reminded us that we are all part of the Navy family. Everyone supported us and allowed us to concentrate on the things that mattered most, our sailors. All of their efforts are greatly appreciated. You were all so wonderful and we thank you so much.

A special thank you must be extended to Admiral and Mrs. Sullivan for bringing Mr. and Mrs. Ashley to us here in Guam. Mr. and Mrs. Ashley are remarkable people who opened up their hearts to the USS San Francisco and accepted us a part of their family. After meeting with the Ashley’s it is easy to understand why Joey was such an awesome person and dedicated sailor. It means so much to each of us to have been given the opportunity to meet with you, share our stories with you, cry and laugh with you. Your sacrifice is felt by us all. We will continue to keep you in our prayers and in our hearts.

In honor of MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley, a scholarship fund has been created by his high school. If you would like to make a donation, please send it to:

MM2 Joseph A. Ashley Memorial Scholarship Fund
Manchester High School
437 West Nimisila Road
Akron, OH

The USS San Francisco family took a hard hit, but we are strong and resilient. We will continue to thrive. Our wounds will heal, our hearts will mend, and our moment in history will never be forgotten. So from the bottom of our hearts, with all of our gratitude and appreciation, thank you to everyone who helped us through and made us stronger.

USS San Francisco Family Support Group

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sub Report Looking For Field Reporters

It looks like The Sub Report is looking for field reporters. It looks like it might be fun for anyone who's ever thought "I wonder if I could be a writer" and is interested in submarines.

Going deep...

Staff Officer Quotes 3

“There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots.”
“Some people dream of success, while other people live to crush those dreams.”
“Much work remains to be done before we can announce our total failure to make any progress.”
“None of us is as dumb as all of us.”
“It takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile, but it doesn’t take any to just sit there with a stupid look on your face.”
Excerpted from a brief (EUCOM)

“Things are looking up for us here. In fact, Papua-New Guinea is thinking of offering two platoons: one of Infantry (headhunters) and one of engineers (hut builders). They want to eat any Iraqis they kill. We’ve got no issues with that, but State is being anal about it.”
LTC (Joint Staff) on OIF coalition-building

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Choke Yourself!

El Capitan reprints a list of "213 Things You Can't Do In The Military". Here's a sampling:

48. I may not use public masturbation as a tool to demonstrate a flaw in a command decision.
49. Not allowed to trade military equipment for 'magic beans'.
50. Not allowed to sell magic beans during duty hours.
51. Not allowed to quote 'Dr Seuss' on military operations.
52. Not allowed to yell 'Take that, Cobra' at the rifle range.
53. Not allowed to quote 'Full Metal Jacket ' at the rifle range.
54. 'Napalm sticks to kids' is *not* a motivational phrase.
55. An order to 'Put Kiwi on my boots' does *not* involve fruit.
56. An order to 'Make my Boots black and shiny' does not involve electrical tape.
57. The proper response to a lawful order is not 'Why?'
58. The following words and phrases may not be used in a cadence- Budding sexuality, necrophilia, I hate everyone in this formation and wish they were dead, sexual lubrication, black earth mother, all Marines are latent homosexuals, Tantric yoga, Gotterdammerung, Korean hooker, Eskimo Nell, we've all got jackboots now, slut puppy, or any references to squid.

As they say... read the whole thing.

Going deep...

Staff Officer Quotes 2

(For an explanation of this series, click here.)

“Our days are spent trying to get some poor, unsuspecting third world country to pony up to spending a year in a sweltering desert, full of pissed off Arabs who would rather shave the back of their legs with a cheese grater than submit to foreign occupation by a country for whom they have nothing but contempt.”
LTC (Joint Staff) on the joys of coalition building

“That was a typo. Instead of “pot of money,” it should have read “pot money.” It refers to money spent by OSD after smoking a joint. We have a similar fund we can tap into for financing many of our own ideas. In fact, that's how we got the name ‘Joint Staff.’”
LTC (Joint Staff) in an email describing the amount of money available for use on a given project

Nice Kursk Tribute Page

Via Martini's BBS, I found a link to a nice tribute page to the submariners of the RNS Kursk, on eternal patrol since August 2000. If your speakers are on, you'll get a surprise!

Looks Like Naval Reactors Might Be Busy

I don't think this thing'll ever fly (for political, not technical, reasons), but it looks like something that'd be exciting to work on. From this Slashdot update on Project Prometheus, I learned that Naval Reactors had signed up to do the space-going reactor design work. (For those not familiar with Naval Reactors, they're like the Gestapo of the Navy Nuclear Power world... whatever they say, goes...)

I Hate Revolutionary Jargon!

...but I love a collection of Naval Terminology, Jargon and Slang (Intel Source: Rontini's BBS). Here's the entry for "bug juice":
"Bug juice - A substance similar in appearance to Kool-Aid which is served as a beverage aboard USN ships. Its color has no bearing on its flavor. Largely composed of ascorbic acid. Used extensively as an all-purpose cleaner/stripper for bulkheads, decks, brass fire nozzles, and pipes."

Going deep...

Noonan... Noonan...

Earlier, I discussed a challenge that Willyshake had sent my way. bothenook got his homework turned in earlier, so I figure I'd better get started. Here's what I came up with:

If I could be a musician... I would totally be a great back-up singer. I'd start my own tribute band, "... and the Pips". We'd go from town to town, singing only the back-up parts: "...Leavin' on a midnight train... Ooh, ooh... I know you will... Woo, hoo!"

If I could be a professor... I'd forget about trying to get off the island, and work on getting Mary-Anne off behind the palm trees.

If I could be an athlete... I'd be a golfer who revolutionizes the game. Just imagine the advantage you had if you were taunting all your opponents, setting off firecrackers during their backswing, and hiring a big-ass caddie to body-check them on the green.

If I could be a back-up dancer... I still wouldn't be able to top what bothenook came up with.

And finally,
If I could be a linguist... I'd try to figure out why the hell "you" and "ewe" are pronounced the same way. It does not make sense!

At this point I'm supposed to assign three other people to do this, but I'm really not as good as meme-blogging as I should be. However, I do think that Ninme would do a really good job at working through this...

Going deep...

Update 1900 07 May: I got tasked to do this again by Liberal Larry at Blame Bush!, and the results are quite disturbing. (For my regular readers, remember: BlameBush is a satire site.)

"Submarine Town" Down Under

An article in The Border Mail tells the story of Holbrook, in southern New South Wales, and their special relationship with submarines. How did this special relationship develop?

"The story begins during World War I. Then Holbrook was known as Germanton. Given that our country was engaged in war with Germany, the town elders wisely decided that a name-change was in order.
"At about this time Lieutenant Norman Holbrook became the first naval Victoria Cross winner of the war for his gallantry in sinking a Turkish battleship with the submarine he commanded.
"It was soon decided that the town could do no better than be named after a great war hero, and so in 1915, Germanton became Holbrook. Ever since then it has maintained a special link with submarines."

The town has the above-the-waterline section of the ex-HMAS Otway on display in their town park. One more example of our friends the Aussies doing it right.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pictures of Lily

OK, these aren't pictures of a girl the protagonist in the song by The Who fantasized about, but they are my first attempt to put pictures on my little blog. I've already added a picture to my profile (it's of me becoming a shellback -- I've just had eggs broken on my head, and am about to drink the "truth serum") and now I'll try to put them on the web page. Here goes:

Here's a picture of PCU Texas immediately after her recent launch:

And here's a picture of one of my cats molesting a blanket:

We'll see how this works...

Bravely Ran Away, Away

So there I was... on liberty in Hobart, Tasmania, while on the good ship Topeka in January 1993. We were anchored out, so the nukes were standing port and starboard port and starboard, while the JOs were 3 section. We had three non-qual Ensigns on board, and didn't feel that it was right that they skate out while we were standing duty, so we put them on the beach guard. As such, the officer on beach guard duty had to wander around town making sure no crewmembers were getting into trouble. One young ensign took his duties very seriously; as he wandered into one bar (in his Service Dress Blues, of course) looking for any crewmembers in trouble, he found instead... a bachelorette party.
The young ladies saw him walk in as well, and the bride-to-be somehow got it in her head that this young ensign was supposed to be the entertainment for her party. The party-goers called him over, and proceeded to try to take off his uniform; one even presented him what he described as a "big-ass rubber" that they said he'd be needing later. Now, there were no other crewmen in the bar, so he probably could have done whatever he wanted to, but, being dedicated, he stopped the young ladies after they'd gotten his jacket and shirt off, and before they got his pants completely down. He said he was engaged, and couldn't do this to his girlfriend, or while he was on duty. The girls seemed disappointed, but let him go.
This ensign was dedicated, but also inexperienced. It was at this point that he made his greatest mistake. I had just gotten back from a quiet night of liberty (I remember at one point standing on top of the bar and screaming to the crowd, "Hey, I'm free-balling", and being rewarded with tumultuous applause) but I still had some sound advice for the young ensign when he related the events of the previous evening. I said, "Dan, if you're in that situation again, you've got to either completely protect your uniform, or go for it. The second worst thing you can do is get halfway undressed and then back out. The absolute worst thing you could have done, though, is to back out halfway through, and then come back and tell your friends about it."

He was knows as "Brave Sir Robin" by the entire crew for the rest of the deployment...

Simulating Submarine Life at Home

Nordberg adds a few of his own to the classic list of "Ways to Simulate Submarine Life at Home". My favorite new addition (familiar to anyone who's done Reduction Gear inspections) is this:

"When trying to retrieve that sock that fell behind the washing machine, take everything out of your pockets, put duct tape over all the buttons, rivets, and zippers on your clothes, and tie a string from your flashlight to your wrist to make sure nothing else falls down there."

"What a Maroon"

Why in the world would someone wear high heels when they were planning on walking on ice?

Bell-ringer 1907 25 Apr: From the comments, a video of the incident pictured above can be found here.

He Tasks Me...

I've always admired my friend WillyShake's ability to find the appropriate quote from Shakespeare to use as the titles to all of his blog entries, and felt sad that I was not literate enough to do something cool like that. Then, I had an inspiration. I don't have to use worthwhile literature -- I can use crap popular culture references! So, from now on, I plan on using applicable quotes from such worthwhile sources as Caddyshack, The Princess Bride, Animal House, Monty Python, and Wrath of Khan (as I did in this one -- if you click on the title, you'll get the .wav file) as the title of my non-sub related and non-recurring topic type entries. I figure it'll last until I forget, or it gets too hard.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Willyshake "tagged" me to do an assignment, and then pass it on to three other bloggers. I normally don't do chain mail, but he was so nice in the way he asked, I figure I should do it. Here's the assignment:

Following there is a list of different occupations. You must select at least five of them. You may add more if you like to your list before you pass it on (after you select five of the items as it was passed to you).
Of the five you selected, you are to finish each phrase with what you would do as a member of that profession. Then pass it on to three fine bloggers.
Here's that list:
If I could be a scientist...
If I could be a farmer...
If I could be a musician...
If I could be a doctor...
If I could be a painter...
If I could be a gardener...
If I could be a missionary...
If I could be a chef...
If I could be an architect...
If I could be a linguist...
If I could be a psychologist...
If I could be a librarian...
If I could be an athlete...
If I could be a lawyer...
If I could be an innkeeper...
If I could be a professor...
If I could be a writer...
If I could be a backup dancer...
If I could be a llama-rider...
If I could be a bonnie pirate...
If I could be a midget stripper...
If I could be a proctologist...
If I could be a TV-Chat Show host...

Anyway, I'll work on my responses, and get them posted hopefully sometime tonight.

Staying at PD...

Staff Officer Quotes I

In addition to being a submarine officer, I did a stint as a staff officer at U.S. Central Command in the aftermath of the major combat phase of the Iraqi theater of the Global War on Terror. The stuff I did there was really interesting, and I'd love to be able to blog about it (since it's all really relevant to what's going on in the world) but CENTCOM is just as efficient as the submarine force in slapping a "secret" label on just about everything they do, so I'm kind of out of luck. Basically, all I can say is what's on my fitrep and award.
I was the Coalition Finance Officer for OIF at the CENTCOM Coalition Coordination Center. As a result, I worked with all of the coalition governments, our embassies, lots of people in D.C., and the other combatant commanders, especially EUCOM. It was a nice job in that I was the only person doing what I was doing, and my bosses didn't really want to get involved with the money side of the house, so they pretty much let me do what I wanted, as long as I did it right. (At one point, I was making all these calls, making lots of "drug deals" on how to deal with a several hundred million dollar pot of money where there weren't really any procedures in place on how to deal with it, and one of my co-workers said, "Why do I have a feeling that Oliver North started the same way you are now...".) Anyway, I made it out with my integrity intact, and in addition to having a sense in having done a little good in the GWOT, I came out of it with a really great quote log.
I've hesitated to use it before, since a lot of the people quoted were probably still in their jobs, but I think most of them have moved on now, so I think I'll share some of the more interesting quotes. If you haven't been a staff officer, they probably won't be as funny to you as they are to me, but trust me: they are funny.
The first is an old standard, the "Power Point Rangers Creed":

“This is my PowerPoint. There are many like it, but mine is XP.
My PowerPoint is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master my life.
My PowerPoint without me is useless. Without my PowerPoint, I am useless.
I must format my slides true.
I must brief them better than the others who are trying to outbrief me.
I must brief the impact on the CDR before he asks it of me. I will.
My PowerPoint and I know that what counts is not the number of slides, the colors of the highlights, nor the format of the bullets. We know that it is the new information that counts. We will brief only new information.
My PowerPoint is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as my brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its fonts, its accessories, its formats, and its colors. I will keep my PowerPoint slides current and ready to brief. We will become part of each other. We will...
Before God, I swear this creed.
My PowerPoint and I are defenders of our country.
We are the masters of our subject. We are the saviors of my career.
So be it, until victory is ours and there is no enemy but peace."

Here's an entire web page on the importance of Power Point Rangers.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


I saw a commercial on TV tonight where they are bringing back the old Oscar Mayer song from 25 years ago ("My bologna has a first name..."). That caused a flashback to a song we used to sing in Nuke School:

"My reactor has a first name, it's N - A - V - A - L,
My reactor has a second name, it's classified as hell;
Oh, I love to scram it everyday,
And if you ask me why I'll saa-aa-ay --
'Cause radiation has a way of messing up your DNA."

OK, we used a word other than "messing", but this is a family-friendly blog...

New Submarine Documentary Tonight

Tonight at 8pm ET/PT on Discovery Channel is a new documentary that discusses the construction of USS Virginia -- Submarine: Hidden Hunter. (Also, this morning, they're showing three episodes of Sharks of Steel. When they show the "Battle Stations" clip on the Topeka, you'll be able to see me getting up out of my chair in the Wardroom. I'm the one who carefully pushes my chair back under the table; after all, stowage for sea is important!).

Saturday, April 23, 2005

From Someone Who's Been There...

A reader who is fairly familiar with the unclassified portions of the San Francisco grounding and investigation sent in some clarifications to reports that have been going around the 'Net and mainstream media (mostly Bob Hamilton, since he's the MSM guy that submariners read most). Here's what the reader has to say; what he writes "passes the smell test" from my end, but you are obviously free to make your own decision:

Chart E2202 was corrected and up to date by the ship - the report does not state otherwise. In fact, of all the charts reviewed by the investigation team (and they reviewed A LOT), none were missing ANY corrections (in a TRE, that would make you AA in this particular regard)

Read the report comments carefully (it's written a bit inexactly) - where the ship screwed up was in believing the E2202 chart was an accurate chart because it was based on extensive surveys. My opinion: every U.S. submarine would have been using E2202 (a nice bottom contour chart) for this transit submerged. How many submarines would have found the discolored water spot on 81023 and transferred it to E2202? We'll never know. However, open ocean navigation common practice for most ships had been to compare charts and then select the best chart, just like the SAN FRAN did (I'm not condoning this, but this is my belief based on talking with many people). Stated in another way for redundancy...The bottom contour charts (like E2202) were widely thought to be superior to the general nautical charts (like 81023). And oh, by the way, the SUBNOTE writer used E2202 as well, thank you very much. We all saw the pictures of SAN FRAN in drydock and we all signed Joey Ashley's guest book - we know NOW the bottom contour charts suck. And oh, why wasn't the discoloured water on the E2202 chart to begin with? Truthful answer: no good reason; a clear error on the part of NGA, who made the chart and lacks the fortitude and decency to admit this critical error. God bless the boys on SAN FRAN, who at least had the integrity to admit their faults, take their licks, and support each other.

There was one, repeat, ONE sounding that did not check with chart prior to the grounding - it was 22% off and in about 6000 feet of water, and it was about 5 hours prior to the grounding. An alarm bell? Maybe, or were the investigators reaching? Certainly some good lessons to be learned, but a screeching red/yellow (or even minumum expected) sounding it most certainly was not! And oh by the way, the soundings for the 4 hours up to the grounding tracked just about precisely with the chart.

You'd be hard pressed to find a QM (even one of those 20 year born and bred types) to raise big alarms over these indications. But hey, maybe I'm wrong - that's why it's an OPINION!

General Comments:
Does this investigation report highlight legitimate errors by the ship? You betcha - they should have been more careful in navigating and more thorough in their preparations. The report wastes no ink in dumping on the crew, and even stretches the boundaries of reason and fairness in doing so. And as we all know, they were punished. I'm sorry, but I read the report and I see their mistakes but I don't see gross dereliction of duty. How about the other organizations? With the exception of some minor comments, they get a pass even though they put all the pieces in place to make the grounding happen! They gave the ship the doomed track (BTW, a first time track, never used before - deviated significantly from numerous past "good" tracks - yes, several boats had done this milk run before) and then gave them a chart that made it look safe. A great ship would have recognized the ambush and steered clear - but how many ships really could have avoided this debacle? We'll never know.

Anyone with other opinions can feel free to so state in the comments. But as for me, the facts stated above are the best data I have, and I'll treat them as unquestioned until shown otherwise.

TS Sub Tactics Revealed (?)

Strategy Page has a short article up on modern submarine intelligence gathering that is provided without comment. Excerpt:

..."The latest revelation is that SSNs accompanying carrier task forces are using special antennas (design details are definitely not discussed) that allow the subs to collect electronic traffic in areas carrier task forces have just left. This is useful because it's become common for hostile nations (North Korea, China, Iran, France, Etc.) to shut down a lot of wireless communications and radars when an American carrier task force is in the area. This is because it is common knowledge that intelligence specialists on these ships monitor the local electronic traffic and collect useful information. To get around this, the SSN accompanying the task force will linger after the carrier leaves, and wait until the locals turn their electronic gear back on..."

Going deep...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Preliminary San Francisco Report

Robert Hamilton of The New London Day has an article (registration required after today) that is basically a synopsis of the Mishap Investigation Report on the San Francisco grounding. Excerpts:

"In a January 2004 inspection, the USS San Francisco crew did not properly use its fathometer warning system and its electronic Voyage Management System, or VMS, which were both factors in the accident a year later, according to the report, a copy of which was provided to The Day.
"In August 2004, during another inspection, the San Francisco navigation team was found deficient in the chart review process, and in a certification process in October 2004, the team failed to adequately highlight hazards to navigation on the charts, the report found...

..."The report found fault with Submarine Squadron 15 in Guam, where the San Francisco is based, and with Submarine Group Seven in Yokosuka, Japan, which oversees Squadron 15...
..."In particular, the report noted that the squadron “did not take adequate action to correct previously identified deficiencies in open ocean navigation onboard SFO,” and did not even require the ship to report what it was doing to fix the problems."

The first two inspections sound like a Tactical Readiness Examination (TRE) and a Pre-Overseas Movement (POM) inspection. These inspection results, along with the Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam (ORSE), are all classified, so those of us who would like to use them to argue that the Navy might be handling this situation wrong are unable to use them. The Navy, on the other hand, is free to declassify whatever they want to prove their point. (One thing that the article didn't say was that the Voyage Management System in January 2004 was, how shall I put it... "suboptimal", and my guess is that essentially every boat examined during this time period had the same comment on their inspection reports.)
Here's the deal: If you were to look at an inspection report from an above average boat, and compare it to one from a below average boat, if the grades were taken out, you'd sometimes be hard pressed to find a difference. All reports list several pages of discrepancies, with basically nothing positive; it's not the submarine force tradition to tell you what you're doing right, only what you're doing wrong. These inspection teams have lengthy checklists of things they check, and if the boat doesn't do some point exactly right in their spot checks, you'll see paragraphs that look something like this:

"1. The ship was tasked with making 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As an anomaly, only 199 pieces of bread were provided. The following deficiencies were noted:
a. Several sandwiches were not prepared IAW the menu card in use. Contributing to this, the mess cook selected to make the sandwiches had not completed PQS on the use of the hand towel.
b. At one point, the mess cook became confused and made several peanut butter and peanut butter sandwiches.
c. On several sandwiches, significantly less than 1 tablespoon of jelly was used.
d. The ship's monitor ate two sandwiches while observing the evolution, precluding analysis of those sandwiches.
e. Milk was not provided until requested by the Board.
f. Several of the napkins provided with the meal were torn.
g. Contrary to the scenario requested by the board, grape jelly was substituted for strawberry jelly."

What the Navy did in the Mishap Investigation Report was take several deficiencies from the ship's recent inspections, and use them to "prove" the ship was messed up. My questions are: Were they really more messed up than the other boats out there? Did other boats have similar issues that possibly also weren't addressed? (I won't answer these questions here, but all submariners know the answers.) And finally, would other boats, placed in the same situation with the same op order, have done essentially what the San Francisco did? Hopefully the powers that be in the Submarine Force are working behind the scenes to correct the root causes of this tragedy, and won't be satisfied with simply offering up the crew of the San Francisco as scapegoats.

Staying at PD...

Update 1431 22 April:

WillyShake offers his take on the article. He notes that the report mentions that the chart being used by the ship was not the most accurate available; as I mentioned earlier, it seems to me that the determination that the chart being used was not the most accurate is only true with 20/20 hindsight. (WillyShake actually has several good posts up today, including this one on a new Russian sub-launched missile and the completion of a decade-long overhaul for an old Typhoon.)

Gus Van Horn has a post on the subject. Chapomatic weighs in with a comment, and also posts an entry in his own blog.

Lubber's Line has another post on the chart issue that came out before the article in question.

Bell-ringer 2319 23 April: From the comments, here's a link to Steve's QM page.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Idaho National Guard Policy

Got this from a post over at Ron Martini's BBS; it's an instruction that the Commanding General of the Idaho National Guard sent out late last month.

IDCG 29 March 2005
SUBJECT: Mobilization Policy (IDNG-22)
1. Unless extenuating circumstances exist that are a threat to the security of the State or Nation, the following policy pertains to the involuntary mobilization of Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who are members of a bona-fide Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) program or who are serving a church sponsored and sanctioned mission as part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).
a. Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who are enrolled in a ROTC program at any level (MS 1-4) will not be involuntarily mobilized while a member in good standing of the ROTC and the Idaho National Guard. Soldiers/Airmen who fail to maintain good standing, will be subject to involuntary mobilization and deployment as may be required. Non-contracted Soldiers/Airmen who wish to volunteer for mobilization will be considered based upon the needs of their assigned units.
b. Idaho National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who are serving a mission with the LDS church, will not be involuntarily recalled from the mission. However, upon return from the mission, the Soldier/Airmen are subject to activation based upon the needs of his/her mobilized unit.
2. As previously stated, the Commanding General, Idaho National Guard reserves the right, in case of National or State emergency, to alter or change the provisions of this policy should security conditions warrant.
//Original Signed//LAWRENCE F. LAFRENZ
Major General
Commanding General

The Idaho National Guard currently has a brigade, the 116th Armor Cavalry (Unit newpaper here), over in Iraq as part of Task Force Liberty. Some of my shipmates over at Martini's BBS don't think that the mobilization exemption for LDS personnel is quite fair. Here was my response to the question "Which of the two is serving their country?" (a non-LDS soldier and an LDS soldier on a mission):

"I'd say both; the second one, however, is on a leave of absence from his Guard duties under rules that existed and were agreed upon by both parties to the contract before his enlistment. He still has to complete the total number of years of his obligation; there's just a two year gap in his service. So, if both enlisted for 8 years when they were 18, the missionary will be in until he's 28, while the first can get out when he's 26. (Yes, I'm LDS, so that probably slants my view on this.)"

So anyway, Subbasket checks Ron's page as she does most mornings, and feels inspired to contribute this in response to another comment:

"I'm Joel's wife, and here's my take on this. Are there any other religions that traditionally send their 19 year old men out on missions? As far as joining when he knew he had a mission obligation left, I don't think it's likely that an Idaho NG recruiter would not know that a young man in the LDS Church was not going to have that obligation, and I'm sure they discuss the leave of absence policy before the enlistment. Otherwise, those young men who do sign up wouldn't until after their mission, and they might not otherwise. A mission is a maturing experience, and the Idaho NG gets a much more mature soldier at the end of the two years. Anyway, if Idaho (and Utah) didn't offer this, how many 18 year old men do you think they'd have signing up for the NG? We're talking National Guard here, not active duty. Each state does what they need to in order to get that state's residents to sign up. As the mother of two young men who may be going on missions, I'm glad they have this option. BTW, my oldest son is talking about wanting to go into submarines, but he knows he won't be going on active duty until his mission is done, if that's his choice. (As you can tell, I feel pretty strongly about this.) I won't say any more at this point because I know Ron doesn't like flame wars... "

I guess I'm posting this mostly to move any flame war over here, and away from Ron's hallowed grounds (he allows flame wars, but only on submarine-related topics). So, any comnents or thoughts on this IDNG policy would be appreciated in the comments. Remember, though, the rules are different for the LDS church out here. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Utah and southern Idaho essentially have a "benevolent theocracy" system of government, but...

Submariner to #2 Military Post?

The Guardian is reporting that Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, currently Commander Joint Forces Command (which used to be called CINCLANT, in charge of all U.S. military operations from the East Coast to the European coast) and former CO of the USS Richard B. Russell, will be nominated to the post of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the current occupant of that office, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, is named as Chairman. There are those who claim that the Russell was one of the group of submarines that was modified for "special oceanographic missions", and their Presidential Unit Commendation indicates that they were good at whatever it was they did. So, it looks like submariners will once again have a voice at the highest levels of the military chain of command.

Submarine Quartermasters -- My Take

Last weekend, I briefly discussed an article by Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) giving his further opinions on the San Francisco grounding. (I discussed a couple of his earlier articles on this subject here and here.) In my first post on this article, I talked a little about Perry's contention that the Joint Duty requirement imposed by the Goldwater-Nichols Act has caused submarine COs to be less proficient submariners. I was going to expand on this by referencing a really dumb GAO report I remember reading that basically said the Navy wouldn't need as many submarine officers if they only did shore duty that related to submarining, but I couldn't find this report at the GAO website, which makes me think it was classified; therefore, I won't discuss it in detail. (It was really idiotic, though -- you'll have to trust me on this.) I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally needed shore duty time to recharge my batteries (even the "shore duty" I spent doing a six-month deployment on an aircraft carrier was necessary from the point of view of my sanity).
Another point Perry brings up seems to have a lot of support within the submarine community, and even more within the "no longer active duty" segment. Excerpts:

"There is a second potential contributing element to the San Francisco collision. The Navy several years ago merged the Quartermaster rating with the Electronics Technician rating as a means of saving money during a period of personnel cutbacks. What did the Submarine Force lose in eliminating this professional set of sailors, and was it worth it?...

"...Updating charts to ensure all applicable Notices to Mariners have been entered is a mundane and never ending but truly vital task. To a Quartermaster, it is a key element of his professional performance. To an Electronics Technician, it might be, at best, another administrative task...

"...A third factor revealed in the probe is the common and expected practice of employing dead-reckoning to show if a ship is standing into danger. The practice is to lay out the ship’s present course and speed for the next few position fix intervals or four hours in the open ocean (See Chapter 7 of “The American Practical Navigator”). This practice presents a visual display of potential danger immediately available to those navigating the ship, if its course and speed are not changed. Quartermasters do this in their sleep as second nature and a core element of their profession. To an Electronics Technician this too would be another administrative task among many.

"Quartermasters know charts and the potential inaccuracies inherent in a chart based on information predating satellite mapping of the world (see
“The Navigator’s Paradox,” DefenseWatch, Feb. 1, 2005). When a Quartermaster sees a series of soundings indicating a shoaling bottom not shown on the chart, it should, and does, set off loud warning bells.
Electronics Technicians are professionals too. They work hard in their chosen field. But each professional field within the Navy operates to different sets of priorities. When the Submarine Force did away with its Quartermaster rating and rolled its responsibilities into another rating, some things that were done instinctively disappeared."

Perry is right in that the Submarine Force merged the QM rate into the Sub ET rate. A lot of submariners, including myself, opposed this move, but not for the reasons Perry states. Many believe that this move eliminated Quartermasters from submarines; nothing could be farther from the truth. In actuality, it was simply an administrative change; the new Quartermasters were those ETs who carried the 14QM Navy Enlisted Classification. They have basically the same schooling that the old quartermasters had, do the same job, and have to complete the same qual cards as before. (Actually, the qual card is more extensive now.) The rating conversion was more of an administrative paper chase than an attempt to save money, although I'm sure that's how the Navy sold it to Congress. The same merger made Navy Interior Communications Specialist and Radionmen into ETs with their own NEC. About the same time, they turned all submariner Torpedomen's Mates into Machinists Mates.

Granted, these new ETs have to have more in-rate knowledge than the old QMs did, but from this submariners point of view, that's a good thing. The 14QMs still do the same things the old QMs did; they still aren't allowed to go out on liberty until their QM work is done; they still plot hand DRs, prepare charts, and put their dicks on the chart table when the ship is going to PD at night (OK, maybe not all of them do that, but at least one of them on my first boat did.)

Here's what I didn't like about the ET rating conversion and QMs: while the junior QMs were not really any different, the senior QM onboard, called the Assistant Navigator (ANAV for short) didn't have to be a 14QM. All sub ET could qualify as ANAV, even if they were a radioman, ICman, or Nav ET guy as their primary job in their earlier tours. Since each boat will only have one senior Sailor on board assigned as ANAV, the quality of this person was probably the most important factor in how good the boat was in the navigation area. Since qualification as ANAV looked really good on any Sub ETs record, I worried that boats might qualify a guy just as he was leaving (the "good-bye kiss") and he'd show up at the next boat as ANAV without that much real-world quartermastering experience.

So is this what happened to the San Francisco? No -- her ANAV was one of the best in the fleet, and had always been a quartermaster. This is another reason why I think the 711 grounding was such a bad roll of the dice; if one of the best QMs in the fleet could have it happen on his watch, the boats with old Radiomen as their ANAV would seemingly be more susceptible to any problems. Bottom line: The ET conversion might not have been a very good idea, but blaming the San Francisco grounding on it is really stretching a point.

At this point I'd normally call Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret.) an asshat, but I've heard through the grapevine that he's in cordial E-mail contact with someone who is hopefully setting him straight, and who says he got an answer from Perry by being polite. So, Ray, if you're out there, I won't call you an asshat in this entry, and if you'd like to defend yourself and your conclusions on this page, just send it in and I'll post it. However, if it displays any asshattish properties, I reserve the right to point that out.

(Edited for spelling and clarity 1014 20 April)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Chicoutimi and the Russians

I received some forwarded E-mails this week regarding a theory by a Canadian citizen that HMCS Chicoutimi was hit by a Russian "scalar weapon", which was the actual cause for the fire that broke out. Excerpts from the E-mail:

"Russia sent a fleet to sea. They assembled off Iceland. Their only aircraft carrier and three other ships assembled at the strategic high point of the Northern Hemisphere. Launch times would be cut by over half from Iceland. Something happened however. Agence-France-Press and the Icelandic Review reported three lifeboats were recovered by the Icelandic Coast Guard. There was an oil slick. The Russians did not notify the UN or other nations of their intentions as required. What happened up there? Nobody is saying...
"That same week, H.M.C.S. Chicoutimi caught fire. She would have to have crossed the path of the Russian fleet to return home.
"Is there a connection? I believe the nature of the fire was so severe that the use of a scalar weapon cannot be ruled out. The unsheathed wires or open hatches were catalysts not causes. After the circuits should have blown, the ship was stilled charged and golf ball sized sparks were reported shooting down companionways.
"The photo of her published in The Toronto Star Jan.10th, 2005 shows a rather significant dent to explain to daddy on the starboard side between the conning tower and the bow. Is there something we should know Mr. Martin? You went to Russia the next day. Do we have insurance for this or is it no fault?"

My couple dozen regular readers probably know how I feel about conspiracy theories (basically, "That which can be ascribed to incompetence should not be blamed on malice"). Let's look at the "facts". It turns out that the Russians did have a Battle Group at sea in October 2004. From
"The most ambitious naval exercises in the mid-Atlantic ever performed by the Russian Navy included the Navy's flagship nuclear-powered heavy cruiser, the Pyotr Veliky, our only aircraft carrier currently in service, the Admiral Kuznetsov, the cruiser Marshal Ustinov, the destroyer Admiral Ushakov, a tanker and two support ships. The group arrived in the waters about 20nm off Iceland on 05 October, and returned home on 01 November 2004. "

HMCS Chicoutimi caught fire on 05 October, so that would match the Russian groups arrival in the area. This fact is probably enough to get the conspiracy theorists started. However, the Chicoutimi was at about 52 degrees north (200km west of Scotland), and Iceland is about 65N, so if the Russians were really where the story above says they were on 05 October, that would put them about 800 miles from the Canadian sub.

We can also look at the mention of "scalar weapons" in the E-mail. These are basically a postulated weapons system ("extended electromagnetics") that the enemies of the West have that are more powerful than anything we have. A short "explanation" is located here (you may need to disable your browser's idiocy filter to visit this site); a quick look at the rest of that site also provides a great wealth of information on current U.S. concentration camps, plans for the government to implant us with chips, and a discussion of aliens as fallen angels. In short, not exactly the type of web site I'd normally go to for infomation in any way connected with reality. In fact, it looks like essentially all sites that discuss scalar weapons are a couple cans short of a six-pack.

Last but not least, why would the Russians attack a surfaced Canadian sub with an unknown superweapon when they've got to know that there's a good chance an American nuclear boat is pretty close by?

Going deep...

Update 1000 20 April: I realize that I forgot to mention that it was the webmaster of The Sub Report who forwarded the E-mails to me and asked if I had any thoughts on them, so he was the real inspiration for this debunking.

Submarine Corpsmen

Vigilis posts about Wheeler Lipes, a WWII submarine Pharmacist's Mate who passed away this week, and asks for our favorite Corpsman stories. I don't have any good stories about any of my Corpsmen performing surgery, so I'll have to rely on a drinking story.
So there I was... on liberty at Sub Base Bangor when I was on the Topeka. We were just in for one night, and there really isn't anything to do in town, so a bunch of us went to the club on base. It was an ORSE run, so there was a lot of frustration to work off. The van from the boat came to pick us up at the club to take us back to the ship, and as we're driving, the idiot in the front passenger seat starts grabbing at the steering wheel, making us swerve a little. The Base Police (active duty type) see this and pull us over. As they're talking to the driver, a couple of drunks in the back get into a fight, so they have us all get out of the van. We all get calmed down, and the only problem is one crewman who's lying on the ground, projectile-vomiting the contents of his stomach all over the road. The MPs asked who was in charge, and I looked around, and noticed that I was the only officer in the group, so I said I was -- I was a fairly junior J.G., but still "in charge". The driver and I convinced the MPs that the driver in fact hadn't been drinking (he was part of the duty section) so they decided to let us go back to the boat, but told me to make sure that the really drunk guy, who was still vomiting, saw the Corpsman as soon as he got on board. Here's where my inexperience showed through, for I replied, "Well, he IS the Corpsman". (For the non-submariners out there, subs only have one medical guy onboard.) As a result of this idiotic statement, the MPs decide that they should take our drunk HM1 to the station to have their doc look at him, and I decided that I should probably go with him. So when the van gets back to the boat, the guys go aboard and word gets to the Duty Officer that "LTjg Bubblehead and Doc are at the MP station because of a drunken fight". So, my Department Head has to come and get us, and everything ended up OK... even if the Doc had quite a headache the next morning.

Is It A Quagmire Yet?

So, how long until someone in the media starts calling the papal election conclave a "failure" or "quagmire"? I remember it took about a week for the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns in the Global War on Terror.

Update 1129: I guess not. The DUmmies aren't happy, though... If that's the case, he must be a good guy.

Monday, April 18, 2005

I Hadn't Cried While Reading A Newspaper Story Until Now...

I don't know why this hit me so hard, but it kind of sums up for me the whole concept of brotherhood of submariners. Here's where I lost it:

"In the three months since Ashley's death Jan. 9, Ashley's parents, Dan and Vicki Ashley, and Mooney have developed a deep bond. At the center of the relationship is Joseph ``Joey'' Ashley, a machinist's mate 2nd class who graduated from Manchester High School in 1999.
"Late Saturday afternoon, the commander met the grieving father in a parking lot a few miles from the cemetery. The two men hugged. ``It's not far now,'' Dan Ashley said.
"Mooney was not able to attend the sailor's funeral in January, so this was his first chance to visit the grave. Joey had told his grandmother that he wanted to be buried here when he died. The men turned their cars onto a single-lane road that quickly turned to gravel, winding through the stunning green April countryside.
"They stopped briefly at Dan Ashley's parents' house. Mooney opened his car trunk, reached for his uniform and pulled off one of the pins, his command star. ``It's my most prized possession,'' Mooney said. ``It's for Joey.''

The "command star" the article mentions is the symbol of a CO's responsibilities, and is worn only by current and former COs. This quote from Joseph Conrad that is included in most Change of Command programs tells it as good as anything what being "Captain" means, and what the Command at Sea pin represents:

Only a Seaman realizes to what extent an entire ship reflects the personality and ability of one individual, the Commanding Officer. To a landsman, this is not understandable, and sometimes it is even difficult for us to comprehend, but it is so.
A ship at sea is a distant world in herself and, in consideration of the protracted and distant operations of the fleet units, the Navy must place great power, responsibility and trust in the hands of the leaders chosen for command.
In each ship, there is one man who, in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one man who alone is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfire, and morale of his ship.
He is the Commanding Officer.
This is the most difficult and demanding assignment in the Navy. There is not an instant during his tour of duty as a Commanding Officer that he can escape the grasp of command responsibility. His privileges in view of his obligations are most ludicrously small, nevertheless command is the spur which has given the Navy its great leaders.
It is a duty which most richly deserves the highest, time-honored title of the seafaring world...

Not Really Funny, But...

From Guettler.D, here's the opening sentence from a story in the Pakistani newpaper "The Daily Times":

"Bombings targeting US and Iraqi forces killed six people, including two US submarines, military sources said on Friday."

In actuality, it was two brave U.S. Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice. Without that sad note, however, the sentence above is fairly humorous in a twisted sort of way...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

"Funniest Item" Nomination

Most days, Ninme posts an "Absolutely Funniest Item of the Day". I have one that I think is pretty good, from Michelle Malkin. Time Magazine is running a cover story on Ann Coulter, and on their web site, they have up some pictures on the subject. The denizens of The Free Republic noticed something humorous about one of the pictures. The caption for the picture is: "Protesters blast Coulter at the G.O.P. Convention in New York City last year". Take a close look, and see if you can see what's wrong.
These signs come from a clever group called the Protest Warriors, who mock and belittle moonbats by slipping into their rallies and marches with signs that, at first glance, seem to support their causes, but actually display the frequent illogic of the reflexive anti-everythings. (Citizen Smash is one of the more famous Protest Warriors.) I especially like the "Criminals for Gun Control" sign in the background.
I wonder how long it'll be before Time takes the picture down?

A Good Submarine Article

Normally, when I see an article about submarines in the mainstream press, my first reaction is to laugh at all the inaccuracies. Therefore, I was surprised today to find, via The Sub Report, a really good article in the Washington Times giving an overview of the Chinese submarine fleet.

"A newer domestic-built submarine is the Song. The first prototype failed and had to be redesigned, but the bugs seem to have been worked out. Song-class submarines reportedly are equipped with Air Independent Propulsion, enabling them to be very quiet and remain underwater for weeks. And they carry modern anti-ship cruise missiles. Song-class submarines are in production, with seven currently in service. "
"Last year, The Washington Times reported the appearance of yet another new non-nuclear Chinese submarine, the Yuan-class, which appears to be a completely new design combining elements of China's Song and Russia's Kilo submarines. Two Yuan-class boats have been launched to date. Over the last three years, China has launched 13 new submarines from three different shipyards.
"But most notable was Beijing's purchase from Russia of four Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines, two of which are Project 636 type. These are excellent submarines, quieter than most, and have modern sensors and torpedoes. China has ordered eight more advanced Kilos, described by the Russians as "state-of-the-art Russian submarines." They will carry modern long-range anti-ship missiles, and are to be delivered by 2007.
"Beijing also is improving its nuclear-powered submarines. For years China had six nuclear-powered subs, five Han-class attack submarines and one Xia-class ballistic missile submarine, which were very noisy and leaked radiation, among other problems. But the nuclear reactors have been rebuilt and French electronics and sonar equipment added. They now carry submarine-launched cruise missiles."

While I still don't think that China will dare challenge the U.S. for at least 15 years, this article gives excellent background information for anyone considering a reduction in the U.S. Navy's submarine capabilities (not that I don't say "ASW capabilities" -- for all intents and purposes, only submarines can fight other modern submarines).

Staying at PD...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

More Asshattedness?

Lt. Raymond Perry, USN (Ret) has seen fit to take fingers to keyboard again with his opinions on the San Francisco issue. Unfortunately, I don't have time to really go through it right now (I'm working nights) but it looks like he's decided that, among other causes, a requirement to have officers do "joint duty" is to blame:

"In the late 1980s and early 1990s Congress passed legislation requiring officers to be trained for “Joint Duty” assignments. Such training requires specific education and time spent in joint duty billets – that is, years spent away from an officer’s chosen specialty. My own naval experience has confirmed that this significantly reduces an officer’s available time for professional development in his critical specialty during the period from the 7th to 15th years of an officer’s overall service.

"After the joint duty policies went into effect, it was the initial position of the Submarine Force that such training would seriously reduce the performance of Nuclear Trained Submarine Officers. Submarine Force commanders sought an exemption from the new requirement on grounds that the professions of both submarining and nuclear engineering were so demanding that they would not be able to do them justice with the added burden of joint duty. In a previous article (
“Why Are Navy COs getting the Ax?” DefenseWatch, March 2, 2004), I discussed the demands of joint training and its impact on the professional development of Commanding Officers in the Navy.

"Senior Submarine Force leaders frequently remarked at that time that if they could not obtain such an exemption then submariners would withdraw from joint duty altogether. The long-term implications were clear: Ultimately, there would be few submarine qualified admirals since the law required flag officers to have been trained for and to have served in qualifying joint billets.
"But Congress rebuffed the submariners’ objections and directed “no exemption”. After a recent spate of submarine mishaps in recent years, the question arises that the Submarine Force leaders might have erred in not standing their ground."

I haven't had a chance to do all the research yet, but off the top of my head, I seem to remember submarine officers being specifically exempted from this until a few years ago at the earliest, and I don't know if CDR Mooney ever did Joint duty. I'll finish my analysis of this article later.

Staying at PD...

Friday, April 15, 2005

Strange Happenings at "Blame Bush"

Lots has been going on over at "Blame Bush". I normally point out, whenever I post about this site, that it's a satire of raving moonbats, but whenever I do, Liberal Larry calls me a fascist, so I won't point that out this time. Anyway, we have two new "progressives" who have joined in the fun over there: "Howie", and Dean04Prez, both of whom, I'm pretty sure, are put ons. (I know Dean04Prez is, and I hope for the sake of higher education in this country that Howie is too.) In any event, their comments at Blame Bush, and in their own blogs, make for some hilarious reading.
Also, I'd like to point out that there's no way I could have really posted the disgusting song that Bush someone posted in my name over there, about the 50th comment down...

Going deep...

Google Satellite Images

WillyShake posted earlier today about the new feature at Google Maps where you can get satellite pictures of almost anywhere. (You have to select "satellite" in the upper right.) I'm sure this has got black helicopter folks up here all worked up, and the other conspiracy theorists are also having a good time. (I love how the guy who "found" Area 51 thought that the center-post irrigation fields were some huge government conspiracy.)
I checked it out last week, and found that you could find most of the submarine bases as well. It really isn't that much of a security risk, IMHO; the pictures seem to be fairly old (the one of my house is at least a year old). It looks like they got rid of the method I was using to save the URL last week, but if you search for 544 White Road, San Diego, CA, you can get a good shot of SUBASE Point Loma, where if you zoom in and go up and right a little, you can even see a submarine on the north side of Mike Pier. Groton doesn't have close-up images of the base, but I don't know if that's intentional or not (King's Bay lets you get a fairly close-up shot, but there are no boats visible -- just type in "Kings Bay, Ga"). If you look at Electric Boat (75 Eastern Point Road, Groton, CT) it looks like there's a boat in the uncovered drydock. For Norfolk (9079 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, VA) it looks like there are four boats in... but also two carriers, which are cool to look at.

Going deep...

Bell-ringer 0026 18 April: From the comments, here's another site that has satellite pictures.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I Really Want To Post...

... I really do, but there just doesn't seem to be that much submarine-related news today that I haven't already posted on. So, please visit the talented bloggers listed on the right to see what they have to say while I try to figure out how to get rid of the writer's block.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Chinese Submarine Force

Right now I'm busy trying to figure out how to get my truck to start so I can go into work tonight (the starter, rather than "modulating" when I turn it on, continues running at a constant speed, as if it's not under load), so I'll just leave some links on this subject for background reading. Via someone (I can't remember who right now) I found this 2 year old article on the future of the Chinese submarine force from the Naval Institute. Also, WillyShake has more recent information at the bottom of this entry.

Update 1219 13 Apr: Via Instapundit, some thoughts from Defense Tech (including info on the new Chinese SSN and SSBN)... As I've said before, I really can't get that worried about these new boats; they're China's 2nd generation nuclear boats (our current boats are 4th and 5th generation) and even if China was able to skip a generation based on espionage or technical help from the Russians, our subs should be able to keep track of them just fine. As long as we keep building new subs, that is, such that we have them available for that part of the world...

Canadian Sub Fire Punishment

It looks like the Canadian Navy may differ from the U.S. Navy in another important regard -- the need for punishment of COs whose boats run into trouble. This report from the Globe and Mail (via The Sub Report) says that the head of Canada's Navy has recommended to the Chief of Defence Staff that there be no punishment for the CO of HMCS Chicoutimi. Excerpts:

"The navy's decision not to charge Cdr. Pelletier, Chicoutimi's captain, could set the stage for a battle inside the Canadian military high command. "The admiral is very protective of his people," said one official. But Gen. Hillier is the "final approving authority" and he can accept or reject the admiral's recommendations.
"Gen. Hiller must also brief Defence Minister Bill Graham on the way forward from Canada's worst military accident in decades.
"If Gen. Hillier were to overrule Adm. MacLean, the navy's commander could opt to walk the plank rather than seek to punish Cdr. Pelletier, according to officials familiar with the admiral's fierce loyalty to his service and his subordinates. In the admiral's view, Cdr. Pelletier and the Chicoutimi were the victims of a catastrophic, but unforeseeable set of circumstances.
"Officially, the navy was saying nothing yesterday, except to confirm that the report and the admiral's recommendations had been sent to Gen. Hillier."

This is quite interesting to me. How is the Canadian Navy supposed to prevent future recurrences of the problem if they don't punish those involved (Bubblehead asks sarcastically). In the U.S. Navy, we knew that if we didn't punish those involved in accidents, then people wouldn't have any incentive to keep them from happening again (Bubblehead continues in a sarcastic way). It's like those awards you give people for a certain number of accident-free years; Scott Adams of Dilbert once had one of his characters say it best -- "Without awards, there would be no incentive to avoid injury".
Hopefully, this wasn't the mindset of those who decided that the Navigation team of the San Francisco needed punishment. Obviously (at least to me) the incentive to avoid a horrible accident that could possibly result in the loss of the ship would be enough to get Navigation teams around the fleet to institute reforms based on lessons learned from the grounding. I hope that the decision to award punishment to those involved was due to an evaluation that their conduct deserved it, rather than a desire to "make an example" out of them; the pictures of the San Fran after the collision should do that by themselves.

Going deep...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Cats and Dogs... Living Together...

Lubber's Line has noted that many of the submariners around the 'net, particularly the officers, appear to be cat people. (For examples, we have Chapomatic, Willyshake, and myself.) He came up with some characteristics of subcat people and subdog people that I found pretty accurate from my experience:

The clever Cats – SSN Characteristics
The hunter that prefers to stalk its prey by stealth.
A small and agile predator
Can be finicky and may choose the more tempting prey over an easy meal.
Independent minded.
Plays with its adversary and enjoys the game of cat and mouse.

The big bad Dogs – SSBN Characteristics
A lone wolf – ever patrolling its territory.
Resolute defender of his home.
Acts on his master’s commands – alert 1, alert1
May seen lethargic until provoked – beware, let sleeping dogs lay.

For an example of dogs being the "resolute defender of his home" check out what Dave Barry had to say.
I just always like cats better than dogs because of their independence and "don't give a crap" attitude. Plus, they aren't always humping your leg... (although one of my cats does molest blankets.)
If you like, you can even vote in Lubber's Line's poll. I don't think he's limited the poll to submariners only, so I think that even interested non-submariners can vote.

Update 1135 13 Apr: Molten Eagle is apparently weighing in on the other side of the "dog vs. cat" debate.

Monday, April 11, 2005

PCU Texas Launched

PCU Texas (SSN-775) was launched Saturday at Newport News; a picture can be found here, and a time-lapse video is here (1 minute 36 seconds on Windows Media Player). I think this is the first submarine to be launched at Newport News since USS Cheyenne (SSN-773) in April 1995. (Those launches were much cooler, though, since they slid into the water, rather than being driven into a drydock).

Going deep...

(Edited 2025 11 Apr to change the hull number to the correct number; root cause of initial error is that I'm an idiot...)

Update 0952 12 Apr: Ninme has more background on the Texas.

Crystal Ball

The news article I discussed in this post has set me to thinking, and here's what I've come up with. For various reasons, the Navy has decided to make "scapegoats" of the navigation team on the San Francisco for their recent grounding. This, as I thought about it, was actually to be expected. The Navy submarine force has to operate within a public perception that they don't do anything wrong. With respect to the nuclear power part of the equation, they're pretty much right. However, we nukes have an old saying: "The reactor's not safe unless the ship is safe." As a result, the Navy can't make it seem that their subs are running around in an unsafe condition, so they have to make it seem that the navigation "errors" on the San Francisco were an anomaly.
In the next few weeks, you can expect the Navy to follow up their "leaking" of summaries of the report to selected reporters (those whose articles are normally printed in the Early Bird) with a public release of sanitized portions of the report; specifically, those parts that make the San Francisco grounding sound like a problem of human error on the part of the crew. I guess I really can't blame them too much for choosing this route; they really don't want the scrutiny from those who don't know what's going on. I'm convinced that the Navy is making the institutional changes that are necessary to prevent similar accidents from happening; at least for as long as Sailors currently in the service are still onboard the boats. Should the careers of seven men be too much to ask?
I, probably naïvely, think that it is. As much as I'd like to think that the submarine force is an important issue to a lot of people, in the big scheme of things, it really isn't. The Navy could have just as easily announced that the grouding was basically due to bad luck, but they were changing their procedures to make luck less on an issue, and most Congresspersons would have bought it. I'm afraid that by making this an issue of "human error" vice incredibly bad luck, the Navy will be teaching future submariners that they shouldn't ever take risks. To be honest, in peacetime that's not a bad idea. The problem is that submarines should be able to go from peace to war with no notice, as they had to do in December 1941. Back then, the Sub Force had skippers that were brought up in the risk-averse era of the 1930, and as a result basically none of the peacetime COs became successful wartime COs. God willing, we won't ever again have a war where risk-taking submarine COs are necessary, but if we do...
I'm really not sure who I'm writing this to. I guess I'm hoping that the crew of the San Fran might see it, and understand a little more why their shipmates are being thrown under the train. I also hope that some active duty people might read this, and decide that when they are running the Sub Force, they'll change our ways of doing business such that you don't have to scapegoat innocent men who were doing their job in the way they were trained. In other discussion boards, I've seen submariners say words to the effect of, "If you didn't think people were going to get punished you don't know how the Sub Force operates". I agree, given the Force's current philosophy, that this has to happen. My question is: Just because we've always done something a certain way, does that mean that it's the best way?

Going deep...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

USS Thresher -- On Eternal Patrol

In memorium, to the families and friends of the men of USS Thresher (SSN 593), lost at sea with all hands 42 years ago today.


I got this from a friend intimately involved in the San Francisco situation. It provides some food for thought...

"As I left home yesterday to go to a meeting, I decided to take a longer route based upon the flow of traffic, the 4 lane was generally faster and had less stoplights with the amount of traffic on the road. I chose this although knowing that it had more turnoffs and more traffic, it flowed a little quicker than the 2 lane which could be held up by a single person and no passing on the road. I had to be on time, and I was being pushed by a late appointment that I didn't know until the last minute, but I had near enuf time to make it.
As I left my condo, I looked up as I left the parking garage, yucky, it was intermittant showers, with coral roads, dumb drivers, and traffic, I'd have to watch out for stupid people, but I'd done this many times before, and even at high speeds, my good tires would hold the road like they were designed to do. I didn't travel this other route often, but this time I didn't have a choice, I had a last minute appt. to make because of my boss.
On the 4 lane, the speed limit was 35, and traffic travelling at about 40 mph, not too bad, I was pretty sure that I was gonna make my appt. it was not as bad as I thought. The roads were still wet, but at that speed they were safe as long as I watched out for crappy drivers, this lovely island is rife with single car accidental deaths.
I'd actually made almost 9 of the 12 miles to the appt. when a centerlane car decided to pull out in front of me and cut me off about 3 feet in front of me, I swerved into another driver to the right of me and off the road we went. So, it was a 3 car accident with injuries. We were close to a cliff on the hill, and it could have been so much worse if we had not hung up on the side of the road. I got a ticket for swerving to miss the driver that cut me off, illegal lane change, haha, but I was happy that I was not hospitalized, and laughed at the ticket. The primary driver who pulled out in front of me had no insurance so it will be a civil thing, and here, that means nothing will happen to them. The 3rd driver had no choice, but at least had insurance.

The story?
1. The police investigation gave me a ticket for illegal lane change.
2. The Naval investigation cited:
a. Improper voyage planning, timing was determined against route and undue danger was not taken into proper planning before hand.
b. Supervisor did not request more time prior to planning voyage due to time restraints, should have requested more time to plan.
c. Supervisor chose route with more possiblities of incident, but did not request or perform a better route based upon time restraints, should have been more cautious.
d. Supervisor chose undue speed without thought of weather conditions, traffic patterns, and hazarded himself and vessel.
e. Hazarding a vessel, the Supervisor swerved to avoid an impact, therefore causing a 3rd impact with another underway vessel.
f. Charged with hazarding a vessel based upon the above findings and the vehicle confiscated.

Luckily, this is only a interesting read to think about a few things. Read it, and ponder, and really think about it..."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Navy Spinning San Francisco Story

Bob Hamilton of The New London Day, who I really respect, has a long article out on what he's learned from various sources about what the final report on the San Francisco grounding will say. (Registration required starting tomorrow.) Discussion on this article at Ron Martini's BBS can be found here. Excerpt:

"The report, which could be released as early as this month, will cite problems with the USS San Francisco's chart preparation methods and, more seriously, the crew's failures to recognize specific warnings that the submarine was headed into trouble.
"Soundings showed the bottom was more than 1,200 feet shallower than on the charts that were in use, a difference of more than 20 percent, the sources said. In addition, the ship's fathometer showed the water was shoaling, or getting more shallow with each reading, over an extended period of time, the sources said.
"Either one of the warnings should have prompted the crew to slow the submarine down and proceed far more cautiously, the sources said. Instead, the ship plowed into an underwater mountain that was nearly a sheer cliff at a speed of about 30 mph.
"In addition, the navigation team was not laying out the ship's projected track far enough ahead of the ship's actual position to determine whether it was sailing into safe water, a particularly dangerous practice in the island-studded area of the Pacific where the San Francisco was operating, the sources said."

This spin that the Navy's putting out is fairly interesting to me. Earlier, I've intimated that I really don't know any more about this incident than anyone else. In truth, I've been able to glean, based on unclassified information, some of the specifics of the grounding that leads me to believe that the people providing the information to Mr. Hamilton are trying to "spin" it to make it seem as bad for the crew as possible. True, there were some soundings that were shallower than expected, but the sounding immediately before the grounding did check with charted. Boats have bad soundings all the time; did investigators go back in other subs logs to see if all of them turned around, or requested a change to their op order, every time they had a sounding that didn't check with charted? Of course with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, investigators will find problems with what was done, but they could do that with any boat on any underway. We've heard how the collision will generate a lot of new rules and regulations for boats to follow in navigation. My point, which I will continue to make, is that I believe that the crew did the same things that most boats in the fleet would have done before January. If the mistakes were so "obvious", why didn't the Sub Force do a better examining for boats making similar mistakes earlier? The answer is that they didn't; right or wrong, this same thing could have happened to any other attack boat given the same operational order.
One line in particular from Hamilton's story in particular grabbed me: "In addition, the ship's fathometer showed the water was shoaling, or getting more shallow with each reading, over an extended period of time, the sources said. Either one of the warnings should have prompted the crew to slow the submarine down and proceed far more cautiously, the sources said." Yes, that is true; the problem, or actually non-problem, is that the chart said the water was shoaling, and the crew expected this; accounts we've read from watchstanders indicate that the boat had just changed the limits for the soundings based on moving into deeper water from the previously expected "shallower", shoaling water.
I care a lot about the Submarine Force, and I admit that I'm worried about the direction the Force has been taking for the last few years. While submarines are doing vital work in the prosectution of the Global War on Terror, it seemed that more and more time was being spent preparing for more and more inspections; exams that I honestly didn't see related very much to the real world. Classification issues prevent me from getting too far into the things the boats did, but if a large portion of your time is spent preparing to run drills for things that might only happen every 10,000 boat-years, this takes away from the time you can spend preparing for what is really going on.

Going deep...

Update 0844 10 Apr: Another copy of the article that will last a little longer can be found here.

Update 0955 12 Apr: An even longer lasting copy is over at Submarine Brotherhood.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I Print Unsubstantiated Rumors So You Don't Have To

Word on the street is that Christopher Drew, New York Times columnist who writes about submarines and the co-author of Blind Man's Bluff, is calling people in Guam trying to get ahold of the San Francisco crewmembers who were punished for the recent grounding, and may actually fly there to do interviews. While I haven't been a big fan of some of his earlier San Fran coverage, this newest line of questioning, if true, sounds like he might be angling for more of a "Navy leadership threw these men under the train" type of approach, which I would fully support (the coverage, not the Navy actions.)

Staying at PD...

Submariners -- Imperialist Warmongers?

Earlier, I mentioned that a South Korean "peace group" had gotten a picture of an American submarine visiting Chinhae, S. Korea, and noted that our boats visit there all the time. Via Rontini, we read that the North Korean press is putting their own spin on the matter, and they're not happy! (More on their unhappiness here.) While I'm disappointed that the story doesn't mention "Juche" or the "Enlightened Army-First Policy" it's still a good example of the old-time humorous Communist revolutionary jargon that I miss so much from the 70s.

DPRK Organ Decries US Submarine's Docking in ROK, Defends Its Nuclear Weapons
Pyongyang Rodong Sinmun (Korea), 04/06/2005
The belligerent US forces are showing a very ominous move to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula. A case in point is the fact that South Korean private organizations have recently disclosed with a photo that nuclear-powered US military attack submarine "Los Angeles" called at the Chinhae Naval Base, South Korea, when the US-South Korea "Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration [RSOI] exercise" and the "Foal Eagle" joint military exercise were being staged as a combined exercise in South Korea. Up until now, the United States has never made public its nuclear-powered submarine's call at South Korean seaport, and has strictly kept it secret. This is the first time that the fact has been disclosed.This once again clearly shows that the United States has run amok in staging exercises for actual combats, while regarding a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula as an irreversible fact.On many occasions, the United States has said that it "would not attack or invade the DPRK." However, its gibberish is nothing more than a stratagem aimed at concealing its attempt to unfailingly swallow our country with the force of arms.The United States, which conducted a joint anti-submarine exercise in the East Sea of Korea [Sea of Japan] with South Korea in this year, mobilized the "Stryker" unit, a rapid mobile force deployed from the US mainland; the combat fleeted by "Kitty Hawk," a main aircraft carrier of the US 7th Fleet; fighter-bombers, fighters, and many other, huge offensive means to stage the "RSOI" exercise and the "Foal Eagle" joint military exercise as a combined exercise. The fact that the United States secretly brought a nuclear-powered attack submarine into South Korea on the pretext of the war exercises fully lays bare the aggressive nature and danger of the game it played with fire this time as a preliminary nuclear war and as a test war for northward invasion, which was waged with our Republic as a target for a preemptive nuclear strike. This is not the first time that the United States' sinister scheme to ignite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula has been brought to light. It has been laid bare by a document declassified by the "Freedom of Information Act" and by others that the United States prepared a scenario to use 30 nuclear weapons in "times of a contingency" on the Korean peninsula and conducted mock warheads dropping exercises, postulating the use of nuclear weapons. The United States has deliberately and viciously staged nuclear war exercises for northward invasion, even if it officially made a commitment in the DPRK-US Agreed Framework that it would not pose threats to our country with nuclear weapons and it would not use nuclear weapons against our country. After taking power, the belligerent Bush group openly designated our Republic as a target for preemptive nuclear strike, and it is blatantly scheming to carry out a preemptive nuclear strike against the DPRK.Lately, the United States is even more frantically speeding up the preparations for a nuclear war against our Republic. The United States has already deployed "B-52" and "B-1B" strategic bombers in Guam -- a strategic base with the Korean peninsula as a target --, and, then, it is now planning to deploy new-type long-distance bombers, cruise missiles, and nuclear-powered submarines, and it is also planning to deploy the ultra-high-speed underground penetrating missiles, which have been especially developed for destroying our country's underground structures, the first in South Korea. It goes without saying that these US maneuvers are for the purpose of carrying out a preemptive nuclear strike against our country. Recently, Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a talk with the NBC television network, has openly blabbed that the US Forces are capable of carrying out military operations against the North Korea's nuclear facilities, if the need arises. The facts clearly show that the United States is determined to unfailingly implement the aggressive strategy aimed at invading the DPRK and Asia by carrying out preemptive nuclear strikes. In a situation in which the United States has absolutely no desire to coexist with our country, but it is only seeking to "overthrow the system" of ours with the force of arms, it is absolutely just that our Republic has come to possess nuclear weapons. Had our country not strengthened its self-defensive defense capability to counter the US attempt to carry out a preemptive nuclear strike, the Korean peninsula would have already been turned into a US nuclear war battlefield, and the Korean people would have suffered nuclear catastrophes and disasters. We do not pay attention to whether or not the United States has the desire to attack us. The nerve of our army and people fully prepared for self-defense to counter any attack is that the United States can do whatever it wants to do. Nuclear weapons are not US monopolies, and the United States is not the only one that has an option to carry out a preemptive strike. If the US imperialist warmongers will light the fuse of a nuclear war in our sacred land, they themselves will never be able to escape from the flames of the war.

I'm sorry... I know I'm supposed to be worried that North Korea poses a real threat to world peace, but jeez... this stuff is just too funny.