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.)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

A "Must Not See" Submarine Movie

Somehow, I missed out on the news of "Submerged" , a straight-to-video cinematic tour de force from Steven Seagal. It apparently came out in May, and from what I've read about it tonight, I haven't missed anything. Whether or not it's as bad as my all-time worst sub movie, "Full Fathom Five" , is a question I won't be able to answer, since I won't be seeing it. "Full Fathom Five" was so unbearably bad, however, that I think I can safely assume it's still got the title of "Worst Submarine Movie Ever". Run, don't walk, away from either of them if you see them at your video rental store! (If you're wondering how I can just assume that a straight-to-video movie from Steven Seagal is bad without seeing it, well... some things in life are just a given.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

I Spent Most Of My Thirties In This Building...

Not really, but it sure seemed that way. Between almost two years on Connecticut in this constuction shed at Electric Boat before she launched, and almost two years on the Jimmy Carter, I spent more time there than I would have liked. This picture, though, is really neat. (The high res version is even better.) The picture is an overhead shot of Virginia as she was being built, back in April 2003; you can see the Carter in the lower left (and you can tell how much bigger Carter is than Virginia). The discriminating submarine enthusiast will be able to see a lot of really neat things on the Virgina, and maybe even be surprised that the Navy released this photo. They did, though, and that's all I'm going to say about that...

Going deep...

Update 2255 31 July: Here's another photo of Virginia from ground level, taken when she was moved outside the building.

...And Now For Something Completely...

...the same as every Friday night cat picture I put up: our cat Hercules molesting a blanket.

This one was taken today by my youngest son; you can see him actually grabbing the blanket in his teeth -- it's quite disturbing. Fleas have clearly eaten his brain.

Next time, I'll try to post a picture of our younger kitten sitting cutely in a basket or something...

Australian Submarine Safety "Controversy"

It happens in Australia too... some internal Navy memorandum gets leaked, and the papers are all over all the "highly disturbing and embarrassing" revelations they contain. Part of this comes from the understandable desire of the newspapers to make everything as sensational as possible -- it sells more copies. It also seems to usually be coupled with a failure to understand that submariners, as a rule, only put the bad things down in reports. Imagine what a hullabaloo would erupt is some boat's ORSE report were ever made public... even the reports with higher than average grades read as if the crew can't tie their own shoes. When such reports are released, you end up with articles like this and this, and quotes like this:

"The report says that in April 2000, HMAS Waller suffered an on-board fire in the "main propulsion starter resistor" at the back of the submarine. "The fire, adjacent to a main battery circuit-breaker cabinet, could have had catastrophic consequences," it says.
"Yet the findings of those who investigated the accident could not be implemented because "funding is not available".
"The report revealed that all of the Collins-class submarines were at risk of main battery short-circuit faults.
"Such faults would be uncontrollable and catastrophic," it says. "Submarines have suffered cable damage, through poor installation and wear, which could have resulted in battery short-circuit faults."
"It warned that the submarines' diesel and hydraulic oil systems "may fail and cause fires", yet at the same time questioned "the effectiveness of the Collins' Halon fixed firefighting system".
"The report also disclosed that audits had raised doubts about the integrity of the submarine's pressure hulls, but gave no further details. "Cracks in the hull! This could be catastrophic," it said."

It looks to me like the report contains a lot of obvious generalites -- of course oil systems may fail; of course cracks in the hull would be catastrophic; of course batteries may develop internal shorts -- but it doesn't seem that any of these worst-case scenarios have happened. (And c'mon, what boat hasn't had the nuke boat equivalent of the Main Propulsion Starter Resistor -- the EPM starter cabinet -- catch fire. Or at least send up so much dust after the EM3 warming up the main engines for Maneuvering Watch went just a little past "stop" on the handwheel that it looked like there was smoke pouring out of the thing...) This is not to minimize the concern we should be having for HMAS Dechaineux's flooding. It's just that this report isn't going to convince me that the Australian submarine fleet is any more dangerous than most First World sub fleets...

Going deep...

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Some Idahoans Have A Sense of Humor

(Intel Source: Catch-33) This actually happened a few months ago, but I was very impressed by it at the time. Idaho politics are normally quite boring (over 80% of the legislators are Republican) but for one brief, shining moment this year they made moving to this state completely worthwhile. Unless you've never seen Napoleon Dynamite, you'll probably enjoy Idaho House Concurrent Resolution No. 29. One of the summary "whereas" statements is priceless:

"WHEREAS, any members of the House of Representatives or the Senate of the Legislature of the State of Idaho who choose to vote "Nay" on this concurrent resolution are "FREAKIN' IDIOTS!" and run the risk of having the "Worst Day of Their Lives!"

And yes, for those who were wondering, Idahoans really do call what everyone else calls tater tots -- "tots".

Going deep...

Littoral Sub Ops

Joe Buff has a new article posted at called "Littoral Sub Ops"; it's fairly interesting, and I agree with his thoughts that China is unlikely to invade Taiwan anytime soon. If you get a chance, read the whole thing.

Posting about this article demonstrates one of the potential challenges of sub-blogging. To be honest, a lot of the "open source" stuff you read about submarines is flat out wrong, and normally that's a good thing; it's "secret" for a reason. (In the article I linked above, there are quite a few things "wrong", but submariners can figure those out on their own, and the errors don't really take away from what a non-submariner will get from the story.) In other cases, though, I read something that I'm pretty sure is unclassified, so I have to run around the 'net trying to find enough examples of it out "in the open" that I'm comfortable with writing about it. (One example where I wasn't really able to do that came about from one of my blogging "catchphrases". Some of you may have noticed that when I post an update based on something from the comments, I title it "bell-ringer". I was going to use another, more technical term for the act of calling a submarine back to periscope depth, but a Google search found only one correct use for the term, in the footnotes of someones Naval Postgraduate School essay. Therefore, I don't use that term.)

Anyway, in the article, Joe talks about "active mine-avoidance sonars mounted under the chin of the Los Angeles class and more modern SSNs." I thought to myself, "That's interesting; I wonder if the sail-mounted HF sonar is classified, since it's what I normally used for mine-hunting exercises on Los Angeles class and more modern SSNs." So, a quick look around Google led me to this official Navy page; based on this, and especially the picture of USS Asheville's HF array with the cover off, I figured I could talk about sail-mounted HF sonar. It works pretty good.

Going deep...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I Know This Guy!

The Navy NewsStand has an article out on "Sub Week" of Career Orientation Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) in San Diego. It also has a picture; this was my last command before I retired, so I knew the instructor shown in the pic. Some excerpts:

"More than 420 Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Midshipmen are getting a taste of submarine life at Naval Base Point Loma July 11 through Aug. 5 for the submarine week of their four-week Career Orientation Training for Midshipmen.
"Submarine week included time underway on a submarine and classes on topics such as submarine damage control, sonar technology and virtual fleet training...
"Another part of the week was spent in a dive simulator, a mock-up of a submarine that is able to move side to side and climb and dive to 65-degree angles.
“This trainer is great because it acts the way a submarine acts. The Midshipmen get to sit in the control room and feel what it’s like to evade a torpedo,” said Machinist’s Mate 1st Class (SS) Christian Reed, instructor.
"Midshipmen also stood simulated duty as officer of the watch and looked for ships at sea through a virtual reality helmet during a virtual fleet sub training exercise."

OK, so the Dive Trainer can't really go to 65 degree angles, unless they've modified it significantly in the last year. The "virtual reality helmet" mentions is part of the VESUB trainer; the trainee basically sits in a mock-up of the bridge of a submarine, and the VR helmet shows him everything he sees as he looks around. It's pretty cool...

Going deep...

"Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism"?!?

CDR Salamander read my mind and put down pretty much what I feel about the apparent name change of our current war from the "Global War on Terror". Since I'm retired, I get to continue calling it what I want, although "Global War to Kill Terrorists and Convince the Secretary of Defense That Changing The Name Of Something Doesn't Make It Any More Effective" doesn't really roll off the tongue. And hey... since "Jihad" means "struggle", couldn't we also call it the "Global Jihad Against Violent Extremism"? I think I'll just be an old curmudgeon and keep calling it GWOT... although I have a bad feeling the history books will end up calling it WWIII.

Going deep...

Time Article on Hiroshima Anniversary

This week's issue of Time has a cover story on the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. I was surprised that the stories were actually fairly "balanced"; you had the obligatory photos and stories of the hibakusha ("bomb affected people"), but overall it was a fairly impartial description of the decision to drop the bomb and the aftermath. One glaring error stood out, though... In the last paragraph of the main story (subscription required) we find this statement:
"There have been some 525 nuclear explosions aboveground since Hiroshima; not one of them has been an act of war." [Emphasis mine]

Now, I know the editors of Time are aware of Nagasaki, which was bombed three days after Hiroshima, so it's clearly an inadvertant error. But still, if you're preparing an important cover story, why not have someone read it first to see if it makes sense? If a lowly sub-blogger can pick this up on his first read-through, it seems like professional editors should be able to do the same...

At this point, I'd normally say something snarky about how the Hiroshima city officials are continually adding thousands of people each year to the list of people killed by the atomic bomb there -- normally 20% of all deaths are caused by cancer anyway, but they apparently add anyone who was in the area at all who died of cancer; clearly not all of these cancers are bomb-related, and at some point you have to expect people who were part of 60 year old history to die anyway-- but that would probably be in bad taste as the anniversary approaches.

Going deep...


A decent article in the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs discusses the U.S. Navy's new focus on ASW and especially the need to counter the potential threat from Air Independent Propulsion boats.

"The AIP-equipped Gotland-class submarine, one of five in Swedish service, will be stationed at the United States Naval Base at Point Loma in San Diego, and will be involved in training exercises in both the Pacific and Atlantic. Officials expect the information gained in the training operations to enhance American sonar technology and to lead to the establishment of a solid bank of operational experience versus AIP-equipped subs. Rear Admiral Donald Bullard, Director of Readiness and Training for Fleet Forces Command, said, “This will vastly improve our capability to conduct realistic, effective antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training [and further]... our efforts in developing coalition ASW tactics, techniques and procedures.”
"The U.S. Navy is concerned that “rogue” states and terrorist organizations will acquire this capability because it is far less expensive to build and operate diesel-electric submarines with the AIP system than nuclear submarines. Countries that operate AIP-equipped submarines include Sweden, Germany, Greece, Italy, Pakistan, and Russia. The Spanish Navy has funded a three-part process of researching and developing AIP systems for its new S-80 submarines, four of which are scheduled to be commissioned between 2005 and 2014. These submarines are expected to cost some $650 million each.
"Over the past decade, the U.S. Navy has experienced a marked decrease in ASW training missions including those in shallow, crowded waters. It is in these “littoral” waters where the threat was most clearly manifested. The Straits of Hormuz, crowded with supertankers, thousands of smaller craft, shallow waters, reefs and wrecks, is the chokepoint a hostile navy could easily block, cutting the flow of oil dramatically. The tight and the underwater noise generated by the immense traffic severely diminish the effectiveness of advanced sonar systems."

Those who think the U.S. Navy should move towards AIP forget not only how long it takes these boats to get anywhere, and also the fact that since we are unlikely to cut back on our safety requirements, U.S.-built AIP boats would cost much more that the $650M mentioned.

Follow-up To Guam Shooting

The Sub Report provides a link to "the rest of the story" about the circumstances behind the "shooting" of the USS Helena officer in Guam last month:

"(The officer) was an electronics materials officer aboard the San Diego-based nuclear-powered submarine USS Helena when he was shot June 4 while on watch, said Lt. E.J. Reynolds, Commander Submarine Squadron 11 spokesman, in a written statement to Stars and Stripes.
"Several days after the incident, Navy officials on Guam said they suspected the act was self-inflicted. The shooting occurred the night before the Helena was to return to San Diego following a port visit to Guam.
"Charges against the sailor include failure to obey an order or regulation, making a false official statement, conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman, and malingering. Malingering, as defined by Article 115 of the UCMJ, is when a person, for the purpose of avoiding work, duty or service, either feigns illness, physical disablement, mental lapse or derangement or intentionally inflicts self-injury."

I'm pretty sure that I worked a little with this young officer in the Attack Center when I was doing my twilight tour at the SubTraFac in San Diego, so I won't be commenting at all, other than to say that I hope the Navy gives him the help he needs.

Going deep...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More Info on HMAS Dechaineux Flooding

An editorial discussing the flooding two years ago suffered by HMAS Dechaineux has some more information that, if we assume the information is true, seems to say the casualty wasn't quite as serious as some of the reports earlier this week might have led us to believe. Don't get me wrong -- any seawater flooding at deep depths is dangerous. Here's what they say in the section headed "Submarine's crew showed its class":

"The "dud subs" reputation of Australia's Collins-class submarines is a relic of the past. The many problems that plagued the submarines initially have been solved and all six Collins subs were declared operational in March last year. Lethal, maneuverable and fiendishly difficult to detect from the surface, the Collins subs are our most valuable defence asset. Without a doubt, their commissioning played a part in the successful bid by their builder, Adelaide-based ASC, to build three warship destroyers for the federal Government.
"But in a sensational cover-story in The Weekend Australian Magazine, associate editor Cameron Stewart has revealed that, on the morning of February 12, 2003, it all almost came unstuck, 40km off the coast of Perth. The failure of a hose in the lower engine room of HMAS Dechaineux allowed 12,000 litres of seawater to flood into the submarine when it was at its maximum diving depth. With the added weight, it was no sure thing the Dechaineux would be able to ascend to the surface, even after the flood had been staunched. And it is now conceded by senior naval sources that, had the flood been allowed to continue for another 20 seconds, the sub - and the lives of all 55 crew - would likely have been lost. [Emphasis mine]
"A few days after the accident, the navy admitted there had been a mishap. But by not revealing it occurred at maximum depth - which vastly increases the risks - the navy can be accused of censorship by omission. This is not good enough. At a cost of $1 billion each, the Collins subs are part of the common wealth. Within the limits of operational security, anything significant that happens to them should be part of the common store of knowledge. A cone of silence around an accident is not what we associate with the Australian Defence Force, and it is not the right climate in which to address the concerns that still linger. As reported in The Australian today, Petty Officer Geordie Bunting claims only a "band-aid" has been applied to the original fault.
"But the overall message from Stewart's article is positive: the extraordinary coolness of the Dechaineux's officers and crew when they found themselves confronted with a potentially deadly crisis. There was not a hint of panic and Captain Peter Scott did not even raise his voice. Two crew members, Greg Sullivan and Michael Morris, risked their lives to save Mr Bunting, who was trapped in the flooded engine room. After 30 months, their bravery has still not been officially recognised - but at least now it can be celebrated by us all."

To me, this sounds like they had a flex break, the flooding was reported, and emergency flood control valves shut, which isolated the flooding after they took on 25,000 lbs of water. I understand that with a diesel boat this is a lot of water to have in the people tank (not as much reserve propulsive "oomph" to drive you to the surface) but it sounds like once the flood control valves went shut the situation was well in control -- as it should have been. The "20 seconds" they're talking about is one of those "what if no action had been taken", i.e. an additional 20 seconds of water was taken on at the same rate. This was a dangerous situation to be sure -- but it sounds like the professionalism of the crew of HMAS Dechaineux turned a potentially tragic situation into one that allows submariners to do what they like to do the most... bitch about Big Navy. I'll start (even though I'm not Australian, as a submariner I feel I have the right to do so...).
If it's true that those crewmen (or crewpersons; this is Australia, after all) haven't been officially recognized for their bravery, then that is just wrong, and I hope this ediorial starts the ball rolling to correct this oversight. As far as the "band-aid" approach of just turning an entire class of submarines into LID boats, I strongly disagree with this approach for any allied nation (adversaries are free to limit their subs' max depth, though). Without getting into too much detail, at some point the engineers are going to have to determine that a) the flex that failed was an act of God, so no further restrictions are needed, or b) the flex was underdesigned, and should be replaced by something that isn't limiting. In building submarines, you spend a lot of money trying to get as deep as you can; a single-point restriction means you wasted the money you spent bringing everything else up to spec.

Going deep...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sub School Honors San Francisco Sailor

Submarine School in Groton has unveiled a memorial to MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley, who gave his life during the San Francisco grounding in January. From this excellent article in The New London Day (registration required) we see again the bonds that connect submariners and their families:

"(MMCS(SS) Hedman, Sub School Auxiliaryman Instructor) contacted the Ashleys through the Web site to ask if they could provide some items for a shadow box at Sub School.
“It was difficult to part with Joey's personal stuff, but when he told me what they wanted it for, I decided to go ahead and send it,” said Daniel Ashley. “People have been so gracious since this happened. So many people have felt that they had to do something in his memory. That's where we get the strength we needed to get through this.”
"The ribbons and submariners' dolphins in the shadow box are copies of what the young sailor wore, because the family kept the originals, but they provided a flag, one of more than 200 that were planted on their front lawn by family friends in the days after the accident, as well as pictures, and the uniform their son wore as a 3rdClass petty officer.
“Everything they sent us, we used,” Hedman said. He brought everything in a cardboard box down to Roland Morgan in the school's carpentry shop, who put in his own time to craft a beautiful wood and glass case that could be displayed in the space that was available.
"What better way to remember him, Hedman asked, than a shadow box in the entryway of the Naval Submarine School building where all auxiliarymen train, to keep him ever in the memory of the community he represented?
"Daniel Ashley said he hopes the shadow box serves another purpose, as well.
“What better place to put something like that to remind them that things can happen, that they have to be on their toes — that everyone has to be very serious about how dangerous submarine duty can be,” he said."

Nothing more needs be said...

New Alaskan Sub Blogger

WTFO is a new blog from submariner loddfafnir in Alaska. Not much content yet, but it looks like he's off to a good start. Stop by and welcome him to the fold!
(For those without military experience, "WTFO" is a common abbreviation for "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over". "Whiskey" stands for "What", "Tango" stands for "The", and "Foxtrot" stands for exactly what you think it stands for...

New Undersea Warfare Issue Out!

(Intel Source: The Sub Report) Hooray! The new issue of Undersea Warfare is posted at the N77 web site. (Don't be confused that the masthead says "Spring 2005"; the real Spring 2005 issue is here.) Some of the articles include VADM Munn's thoughts on the future of submarine warfare and a reprint of a Proceedings article on what various PCO instructors think makes a good CO. Looks like some good reading!

Also, The Sub Report found the article I've been looking for on the San Francisco's sea trials. It looks like The Navy Times might have jumped the gun a little; while the title is "San Franciso completes round of sea trials", the story says that they are expected to complete them today. I'm sure we'll get more news from the normal fastest sources for Guam submarine news (KUAM and Pacific Daily News) when the boat actually pulls back in. The sea trials agenda seems to have been fairly straightforward:

“They tested to see if the structural integrity was adequate for a surface transit back to a Navy shipyard,” said Rowena Obrero, a spokeswoman for Commander, Submarine Force Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
San Francisco did not submerge as part of the sea trials, Obrero said. The submarine was accompanied by the Coast Guard cutter Galveston Island during the trials."

It looks like the boat will be headed to Puget Sound next month if everything goes well today:

"Navy submarine leaders want to see a permanently repaired San Francisco returned to service. If approved and funded, the permanent repair plan calls for removing the bow section of a decommissioned Los Angeles-class submarine and installing it onto San Francisco at the Puget Sound shipyard."

And speaking of San Francisco, in a totally non-submarine related item, the boat's namesake city has an "artist-in-residence" at their city dump. And he created this work of art, probably as a way of protesting both environmental damage caused by styrofoam and low gas mileage SUVs.
I love California...

Update 0922 26 July: KUAM has a short story on San Francisco's successful return to port...

There Aren't Any Slimy 'Wogs Here, Are There?

Lubber's Line's post on stealing the XO's door got me thinking about other common pranks on the boats. The most common time for pranks was, of course, during the "'Wog Rebellion" leading up to a Shellback initiation. I crossed the equator five times both ways, and went through three actual ceremonies; the last two as a trusty shellback (both of those were "Golden Shellback" ceremonies, where we crossed the Equator at the International Date Line. My old boat USS Topeka made the news 5 years ago when she was at the intersection of the equator and date line at the "turn of the millennium" -- simultaneously in four hemispheres and two millennia, if you believe that the millennium turned on Jan. 1, 2000, as opposed to a year later.) There are several other types of ceremonies; a fairly complete list is here.

The "Crossing the Line" ceremony is quite entertaining; my profile pic is of me becoming a shellback (wearing my underwear inside out and backwards, just got eggs broken on my head, and about to drink the "truth serum"). During the days leading up to the ceremony, the slimy wogs will frequently try to pull pranks on the trusty shellbacks -- pillows get put in the freezer, guys get pinned up in their racks, etc. I had to stop the wog ELTs from dripping silver nitrate onto the faces of sleeping shellbacks (it leaves a stain that looks like you've been crying -- I said it might get in their eyes). Then, when the ceremony comes around, all the shellbacks get to pay the guilty wogs back, in spades.

For my last ceremony on the Topeka, the XO was a wog. A hairy wog, at that. We shaved the letters "XO" into his back. Several of the more aggressive wogs had half of their eyebrows shaved off. And woe betide the wog who won't confess his sins when brought before King Neptune and his court! (The court includes Davy Jones and "the baby" -- traditionally the fattest shellback on board. You had to eat a cherry out of his peanut butter-covered belly-button; no homoerotic overtones there! Background info on the origins of the court can be found here.) Everyone got to drink the "truth serum" as a matter of course; failure to confess meant you got more. Do this day, I still can't eat okra because of that...

I also observed the ceremony on USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) in 2000; either because of the new Navy "anti-hazing" policies, the presence of alternately-gendered crew members, or both, the ceremony was quite lame; basically the wogs had to crawl through garbage and get washed down with a fire hose. Seeing over 2,000 wogs on crawling around the deck at one time was quite a sight, though -- you won't see that on a submarine!

Here's a good account of a shellback ceremony on USS Cincinnati in 1981. Please put your own memories in the comments...

Going deep...

Bell-ringer 1733 25 July: For pictures of USS Drum's Shellback ceremony, check out here, here, and here. They're quite disturbing... (especially this one, which claims to picture a Chief Sonar Technician of the United States Submarine Force wearing makeup and with what appears to be a license plate covering his bare ass. You normally only see that on liberty...)

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Homeport Changes and Rumors of Homeport Changes

(Intel Source: The Sub Report) An article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin has some guesses about possible future homeport changes for some submarines. Regarding the possible final homeport of PCU Hawaii (SSN-776), Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said, "...the new Virginia-class submarine, USS Hawaii, will likely be home-ported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor."

The article continues:

"...But Lt. Cmdr. Lisa Brackenbury, Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said this week "it's way too early in the process," noting that it will not be until after 2007 when a port selection will be made. "We are expecting the sub to be completed in 2007," she said, "then it will go on a year-long shakedown cruise."
"Still, Rear Adm. John Donnelly, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, earlier this year also predicted the possibility that the Navy's newest nuclear-powered sub, with the capability to operate in shallow waters, could be berthed here. He predicted that two more Los Angeles-class nuclear attack subs could be sent to Pearl Harbor.
"That would tip the balance of the Navy's sub fleet, which is split nearly evenly between West and East coasts.
"Some Navy officials say they don't expect the number of subs at Pearl to go beyond the current level of 17. That could mean that one of Pearl Harbor's subs, which includes USS Honolulu, could be assigned to Guam, which has three nuclear subs. Apra Harbor is now the home of USS San Francisco, USS Corpus Christi and USS Houston."

As far as sending more boats to Guam, I'm wondering if the Navy might possibly consider using a "two-crew" plan similar to what we use for boomers, to send another boat out there quickly to replace USS San Francisco. Both crews could be stationed in Pearl, but one would be with the boat as it operates out of Guam. It'll be interesting to see what they come up with.

The article also has a status of all the Virginia class subs at the bottom:

USS Virginia (SSN-774), commissioned and in service
USS Texas (SSN-775), under sea trials; delivery in 2005
USS Hawaii (SSN-776), under construction; delivery in 2007
USS North Carolina (SSN-777), named December 11, 2000; delivery in 2006
USS New Hampshire (SSN-778), has been ordered for delivery in 2010
USS New Mexico (SSN-779), has been ordered for delivery in 2010

I'll be interested to see if Newport News really delivers the North Carolina before EB delivers the Hawaii...

Going deep...

"I Sure Didn't Take It!"

Lubber's Line has a great post up with several sea stories discussing how the XO's door goes missing. I'm sure he'll be cross-posting it over at our group sub blog, Ultraquiet No More, quite soon. CDR Salamander (who just celebrated his first blogiversary) posts a Broadside cartoon that brings the XO/crew relationship into the 21st century...

Going deep...

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Shift Work

Just finished up a four month stint on night shift at work, and I started thinking about the concept of "shift work" in general -- the ways that organizations required to man certain positions 24/7 distribute the work. At my company, we have four "teams"; you have 12 hour shifts either 3 or 4 days a week, and the supervisors shift between night shift and day shift every four months. The problem, or advantage, is that you pretty much work the same days of the week.
In the submarine world, I had experience with two different kinds of shiftwork. Anytime an entire department is involved in ongoing work, we would just normally divide up into thirds, and work eight hour shifts; you'd stay on the same shift until the job was done. During new construction, the nukes would have to be in continuous shift work for about four or five months during pre-core testing. With about 45 nukes, I divided up into three teams of fifteen; there was enough "slop"that guys could normally get one day off every two weeks. It pretty much sucked.
When I was last in the shipyard, the Virginia was able to work out a four shift rotation; this pretty much meant everyone was busy the entire eight hour shift, and it was harder for them to arrange child care schedules and such since they rotated.
The most well-known shift work schedule is the "prototype" schedule -- "prototypes" being the six month hands-on training at land-based reactors that nukes go to after Nuke School. The first two times I went there were four crews; the staff hours were as follows in each 28 day rotation:

"Swings": 1600-2400 Wednesday through Tuesday
"Mids": 0000-0800 Friday through Thursday
"Days": 0800-1600 Saturday through Friday

So, basically you got 48 hours off between Swings and Mids, and again between Mids and Days. Then, you got 120 hours off between Days and Mids, in what was traditionally called a "four off". Then you started the rotation again. Students had an additional four hours each day -- four hours before shift on Swings and Mids, and four hours after shift on Days.

The big transition there was between Swings and Mids -- for students, you only had 44 hours to shift your sleeping schedule. Most people would end up partying through the whole night after work on Tuesday night, then sleeping through the day. In Idaho, this was traditionally called an "LDS" party -- "Last Day of Swings", and also in allusion to the dominant religion of the area (I hadn't joined the Church yet, so I celebrated with my friends).

In the early 90s, they realized that this four shift schedule really sucked, especially for the staff. Students could be made to put up with anything for six months, but if you're stuck there for 2-3 years, it gets old fast. To improve staff quality of life, they added a fifth shift; basically, this meant that after Days, you came in an did "T-week" from Monday through Friday of the next week, and then took your four off. You basically did all your required training then, along with whatever odd jobs they could throw at you. I did that for two years as a Shift Engineer at NPTU Charleston from '93-'95; I found that I couldn't switch my sleeping schedules quite as easily as I could when I was younger. Now that I'm in my 40s, and was shifting between mids and days twice a week... let's just say I'm glad to be going back to day shift...

Going deep...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Australian Sub Flooding Casualty Details Revealed

Interesting article from The Australian today:

"An Australian submarine carrying 55 sailors was seconds from sinking to the bottom of the Indian Ocean following a catastrophic on-board flood off the coast of Perth.
"The near-tragedy has forced the navy to permanently reduce the diving depth of its fleet of six Collins-class submarines for safety reasons - a move that has weakened their military capability.
"An investigation by The Weekend Australian has revealed that an accident on board HMAS Dechaineux on February 12, 2003, was more serious than the navy has publicly admitted.
"I don't think there was anybody on our boat who wasn't shit-scared that day," said Able Seaman Geordie Bunting, who almost drowned in the flood and who has now spoken about it for the first time.
"Another five seconds and we would have been in big trouble ... another 10 and you have got to question whether we could have surfaced."

What's described next is one of a submariner's worst fears -- flooding in the Engine Room while deep.

"The accident happened about 40 nautical miles off Perth when a sea water hose in the lower engine room failed just as the Dechaineux, the fourth of the navy's six Collins-class submarines, was at its deepest diving depth.
"There was a loud bang and something hard flew past my head," Seaman Bunting said. "Then the water flooded in and I got tossed around like in a washing machine. It was coming in so fast I thought it was all over."
"Two sailors rushed to rescue Seaman Bunting from the flooded engine room as Dechaineux's captain Peter Scott and his crew tried desperately to stem the flow of sea water and make the stricken submarine climb.
"The crew succeeded in stopping the flood but the submarine had taken so much water it did not respond immediately to the emergency commands."

As they say... read the rest. I'm heading over to Rontini's Submarine BBS to see if the resident Aussie there has more info.

Staying at PD...

Update 1033 24 July: Here's an article from The Australian with more info:

"But the submarines continue to use the same type of hose as the one that failed and caused the flood because tests have failed to reveal a structural weakness in the hoses or explain why one failed on Dechaineux.
"This hose was in the lower motor room and was part of an auxiliary seawater system that provides cooling for the motors and is exposed to sea pressure.
"The only extra protection since the flood is restraints that have been placed around the hoses to prevent them becoming projectiles if they break."

For those non-submariners out there who might be wondering why they just don't use a hard pipe to replace the "hose", there is a reason...

Update 1208 25 July: Predictably, the opposition Labor Party seems to be wanting to score some political points from the news.

Harshing a Jet Skier's Mellow

So there I was -- onboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) as the Submarine Liaison Officer on the Admiral's staff, standing watch in TFCC (Tactical Flag Communications Center) as Flag Watch Officer. We were doing our deployment workups with the rest of our Battle Group and the Bonhomme Richard ARG off the coast of San Diego in late 1999. I got an instant message from the Bonhomme Richard that went something like this:

"Our lookout just reported that a jet-sky came up alongside us, and the rider asked the lookout if he knew which direction San Clemente Island was. The lookout said he pointed towards what he thought was the west; the jetskier said "thanks" and took off. We're heading off to go pick the guy up; it's about 30 miles from here to San Clemente, and there's no way he'll make it."

Later, we get a report of "the rest of the story". They pick the guy up, and find out that he had rented a couple of jet skis with a buddy, and they decided to head out to San Clemente Island because they'd never been there. The buddy's jet ski had conked out about 10 miles back, so his plan was to make it the rest of the way to the island, then send for help. How he planned to do this without enough fuel, a chart, compass, or any method of telling where he was except for asking passing warships, was beyond us.

The Bonhomme Richard CO described the jet skier during the Admiral's nighttime "fireside chat" that night as a "hippy".

Thursday, July 21, 2005

USS Tucson News

The crew of USS Tucson is in the news. CSP reports about how the Tucson Commissioning Committee recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of Tucson's commissioning.

"On July 15, more than 275 Tucsonans traveled to San Diego by plane, car and charter bus to tour the nuclear-powered attack submarine and celebrate the 10th anniversary of USS Tucson (SSN 770) commissioning.
"Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup declared “USS Tucson Week” in recognition of a series of events that took place last weekend in San Diego.

"In addition, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano recognized the 10th Anniversary of the submarine's commissioning by officially proclaiming Sept. 9, 2005 as “USS Tucson Day” statewide."

Here in Boise, it looks like the Commissioning Committee is completely inactive; however, they might be still doing some stuff with the boat, and just haven't gotten ahold of me. Also, here's a report on two Tucson watchstanders recognized for saving some jet-skiers off Hawaii. The LOCs were presented during the festivities with the Commissioning Committee in San Diego.

"USS Tucson (SSN 770) Commanding Officer Commander Jimmy Pitts presented Electronics Technician 2nd Class Colt Schofield and Sonar Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Damion Snyder with letters of commendation Friday for their part in the rescue of two jet skiers Jun.19. The two submarine Sailors were standing the sail watch, while Tucson was off the coast of Maui, when they noticed two jet skiers that stood out from the rest.
“There were several jet skiers out,” said Snyder. “I was keeping an eye on things when I noticed two heading away from Maui. I was checking out where they were because they kept going further and further out.”
"Though the jet skiers disappeared from view, Snyder said he remembered them when he heard that the Coast Guard sent out an alert that two were missing. Snyder then reported to the quartermaster where he’d seen them and the quartermaster relayed that information to the Coast Guard. According to news reports one jet skier, Patrick Hannon, spent 15 hours adrift before Coast Guard authorities in a helicopter spotted him. The other jet skier had already been returned to Maui."

Speaking of jet skiers and San Diego, I've got a great story that I'll post here tomorrow...

NavET Qual Change -- I Don't Like It

This CSP news release talks about how all NavETs will be required to eventually qualify Assistant Navigator.

"Lt. Cmdr. Michael Whitt, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet personnel readiness officer, said the change means submariners holding the ET rating will eventually be required to become a certified ANAV.
“By your second tour as a navigation Electronics Technician, you have to complete ANAV qualifications within 24 months,” said Whitt. "The commanding officer would have to report that the person is not qualified and determine plans for qualification or if the person is capable of getting qualified. We want the [E-8] selection board to know who is working towards the ANAV qualification.”

Here's why I don't like this. If there's a qualification that not everyone has to get, everyone, including those who sit the qual boards, has the idea that the qual is more "elite". You end up with only those who really want to put in the extra work going for the qual, and there's less pressure on the CO/Nav to sign people off who aren't ready yet. Not that I can guarantee that this will happen with ANAV; it's just that I've seen it every other time they've made a previously optional qual mandatory. An example of this, outside the Sub Force, is Surface Warfare quals. That used to be a fairly tough qualification; now that it's mandatory, the standards really seem to have dropped. When I was on Stennis, we had about six guys from USS Jefferson City who did a three week "exchange" tour on the carrier; half of them earned their surface water wings in those three weeks. I know submariners are better than everyone else, but that's a little "extreme".

Going deep...

Update 1623 21 July: The guys over at Rontini's Submarine BBS hold forth on this subject....

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More Submarines in SoCal

Looks like quite a few submarines are going to be stationed in Southern California again; I wonder what BRAC has to say about this?

"In a not-so-surprising announcement, Disneyland declared that it would soon reopen its classic Submarine Voyage attraction, only this time with characters from Pixar’s Finding Nemo.
"The new Finding Nemo submarine ride would be the only one of its kind at any Disney theme park."

One thing that I hadn't realized is that the original submarines there were named after actual U.S. nuclear subs. Another article that lists all the submarine names is here; the list looks fairly definitive, so I'll list them here. (I'm sure the new subs won't be named after any warships, although they could surprise me and bring Nautilus and Seawolf back).

Original Submarine Voyage Subs: Nautilus, Triton, Sea Wolf, Skate, Skipjack, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Ethan Allen.
After Name Changes in the 80s: Nautilus, Triton, Sea Wolf, Neptune, Sea Star, Explorer, Seeker, and Argonaut.

To paraphrase the old sea trials chant: "Take 'er down, take 'er deep, make your depth, thirteen feet!"

Researching Roberts

Bill at INDC Journal passes on a shocking discovery about new Supreme Court nominee John Roberts! Additionally, he notes that the commenters at Daily Kos think it would be a good idea to do some research on Roberts' son Jack. The crack investigators at DU have already started. Here's one of their "findings":
"I don't know what the hell this kid's problem is. And though I'm reading a lot of "typical little kid" stuff here... but if I pulled that crap on National TV when I was a kid, I'd probably just now get through with being grounded (and I'm 34). It is quite amusing to see the visibly strained expression on the mother's face - and in the second photo you can almost see the vein pulsing in her forehead!..."

Moonbat child-rearing techniques at their finest! It also takes them only 29 posts fulfill Godwin's Law, and determine that the four year old kid is probably a Nazi!

Going deep...

Update 0952 20 July: And on a completely unrelated topic, here's another great example of PCism running amok:

"The word "fail" should be banned from use in British classrooms and replaced with the phrase "deferred success" to avoid demoralizing pupils, a group of teachers has proposed. "

Update 1118 20 July: A commenter at Conservative Yankee has some suggestions on what direction the investigation of Roberts' son should take:

"I have found some dirt on this Jack Roberts. I have it on good authority that he often 'plays' with young children, many of whom are mere infants. He is also virtually illiterate, with almost no formal education. He is supported entirely by his parents, and is known to take frequent 'naps' during the day (surely a sign of substance abuse). When news of his degenerate son gets out, Judge Roberts won't stand a chance."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Geek Humor

(Intel Source: Gus Van Horn) I admit it, I'm a geek... but this made me laugh.

Speaking of geeky... since I don't expect a lot of reaction to this one, I'm going to turn the comments into a discussion forum for people who want to discuss the new Harry Potter novel. So --- WARNING --- Harry Potter spoilers possibly in the comments!

Bases Added to Base Closure List

The BRAC commission voted to add four bases to the base closure list, including the Broadway complex in San Diego -- a piece of land that would be much better used as a shopping center, strip club, or city landfill anyway, IMHO. (Basically, it just served as headquarters for a bunch of commands that could easily squeeze in somewhere else.)

The big news, from the submarine perspective, is that the commission failed to add Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard to the list -- by a 5-4 vote (five commissioners voting to add). By the BRAC rules, the commission can delete a facility from the list with the votes of five commissioners, but require seven votes to add a facility. Since five of the commissioners voted to add PHNSY, this means that there could potentially be five who would like to keep Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; and, I believe, by extension, Subase New London (since keeping Portsmouth without Groton makes very little sense).

Should be an interesting next couple of months...

Sending Reporters To Do An Intelligent Person's Job

With apologies to the experienced, thoughtful military affairs reporters out there, I found another example of the dangers of having people with no military experience covering the military. Not that this one'll put any lives in danger or cause riots, but it's still an example of an easily checkable error making it through the newroom "editing" process.

Two New Hampshire newpapers covered a BRAC commission hearing in Washington D.C. that dealt in part with the proposed closure of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In this hearing, official Navy representatives admitted that Portsmouth does a good job at submarine overhauls, but Pearl Harbor's more strategic location and ability to repair surface ships made the Navy want to keep PHNSY more. Here's a quote from the Dover online newspaper:

"Admiral Robert Willard, vice chief of naval operations, said there is no question about the quality of Portsmouth's work; however, Pearl Harbor has some strategic advantages. He said it is well-positioned in the Pacific and is more diverse than Portsmouth.
"Pearl Harbor also performs depot maintenance on surface ships and nuclear aircraft carriers," he said. "It's a bit of apples and oranges. The facility we're talking about is submarine only. It is a very efficient shipyard. That said, the strategic capability at Pearl Harbor for not that it's a strategic location, but the breadth of maintenance it performs is more important to us."

Makes sense. Now let's see what the reporter for the Portsmouth Herald News has to say:

"Even after acknowledging Portsmouth is superior to Pearl Harbor in the quality of overhaul and repair work it does, Willard maintained that Pearl Harbor was more important to the Navy.
"Portsmouth is a very efficient shipyard and it’s been given credit for that," the admiral said. "But Pearl Harbor is of greater strategic value because of its wide-ranging capacity."
Willard pointed out Pearl Harbor also does work on surface vessels and even has a nuclear aircraft carrier stationed there. "
[emphasis in both excerpts mine]

See the difference? While the casual reader probably doesn't care about the difference between a CVN being "stationed" in Pearl, and having "depot (level) maintenance" performed there, it's still one of those things where I think: if you're going to go to the trouble of writing it, why not make sure that you put down something factual? It took me 10 seconds searching through Google to find this link; it's an official Navy site, and lists the five places that U.S. aircraft carriers are homeported. Notice that "Pearl Harbor" isn't one of them.

I wrote earlier, in a fairly tongue-in-cheek fashion, about how newspapers could solve this problem. On a more serious level, Portsmouth has quite a few retired Navy guys living there. It seems like the Portsmouth Herald could find a few bucks to put one of them on retainer to "fact-check" the stories whenever one of their reporters writes about the shipyard. Either that, or maybe they just enjoy putting out crap...

Going deep...

Update 1125 19 July: On checking my links after posting, I noticed that the official Navy webpage I sent you to mis-spelled "Bremerton" as "Bermerton". Also, it didn't list Everett, WA, as a homeport, although this is actually the location of the "active" carrier piers (as indicated in the list of Nimitz-class carriers to the right of the homeport list). Any carrier stationed in Bremerton is actually undergoing maintenance at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Maybe the Navy could use some retired guys to fact-check their webpages -- or, they could go to other official Navy pages to get the 'gouge'. (I always hated that word...)

Admiral DeMars Speaks Out

Retired Admiral Bruce Demars, head of Naval Reactors through most of the 90s, has sent a powerful letter to the Base Realignment And Closure commission. ADM DeMars doesn't pull any punches:

"Dear Chairman Principi,
I am writing in comment on the recommendation to close Submarine Base New London. I believe this is unthoughtful. The submarine force level study used to support the recommendation is not defendable and no consideration was given to the impact on the cost of building submarines at Electric Boat.
"This naval administration has indicated that we have the wrong Navy - they prefer smaller, swifter surface ships rather than aircraft carriers and submarines. While not subjecting the matter to open discussion, they have taken many actions to advance this premise. The recommendation to close the Submarine Base is the most unthoughtful of the lot.
"The attack submarine force level has undergone some 14 studies in the past 12 years. The current Navy study came up with the lowest number. It had essentially no submariner input, no input from the Fleet Commanders and inadequate peer review. This contrasts with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (PA&E) study of one year earlier. This study included submariner input, Fleet Commander input and was properly peer reviewed. It reached a number some 20% higher. I have some experience with such studies. The Navy study does not meet professional standards and is not defendable.
"Another matter in which I have some experience is the cost of submarines. The Navy has been pressing Electric Boat to reduce the cost of new construction submarines. Some progress has been made. In the 90s, I encouraged Electric Boat to take over the maintenance activities at the Submarine Base. It has worked well and reduced overhead at Electric Boat some $50M per year. If the Submarine Base closes, this advantage is lost and the cost of new construction submarines will rise. I have trouble believing the Navy considered this long term impact on the industrial base.
"Other less quantifiable issues revolve around synergies. The Submarine Force is small with only some 30,000 submariners in the Navy. Driven by the exigencies of the platform they have always been a compact organization with relatively low overhead. Support groups reside near the waterfront to better reflect the realities of the boats. This closure would scatter these groups, removing some from direct contact with the watefront.
"The Submarine Force is important to the defense of our national interests. It has the only truly stealthy platforms in our armed services and is the heart of our strategic nuclear deterrent. It has adapted to the changing nature of naval warfare for over 100 years. It is a rare asset and sets our Navy apart. The closure of the Submarine Base will not mean the end of the Submarine Force but it will start many years of unnecessary chum. The recommendation to close the Submarine Base is not well founded and should be overturned."

I love the comments directed to "this naval administration". And who is the most visible representative of this group? Why, none other that ADM Vern Clark, who's retiring on Friday. Some speculate that ADM Clark's upcoming retirement may make the current submarine force leadership more outspoken in their statements in support of Subase New London. From an excellent article in today's New London Day:

"...The surge in support for the submarine base has spurred considerable speculation about what has caused the “Silent Service” to suddenly become so outspoken, Navy sources said.
One of the most common explanations: the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Vernon Clark, will retire on Friday and turn the reins over to
Adm. Mike Mullen. [hyperlink mine]
"Clark has long been seen as supporting serious cutbacks to the submarine force, possibly to fewer than 40, from 54 today, despite a series of Defense Department and external studies calling for a larger undersea fleet.
"If Groton is closed, the Navy can probably only justify a fleet of 15 to 18 submarines on the East Coast, and a fleet of perhaps 40 service-wide based on the balance it expects to maintain between the Pacific and Atlantic, based on the berths it will have, the sources said.
"The sources said if the senior submariners see Mullen as more sympathetic to their cause, it would explain the sudden tendency to more candid comments..."

Lots of good stuff in this article, so read the whole thing. (At this point, I'd normally put a snarky comment in about The New London Day's registration requirements, but it appears that they've been doing the right thing and exempting a lot of their articles about Subase and the BRAC from their draconian policies. BZ, Day!)

In other Navy personnel news, I read that ADM Giambastiani, the submariner currently commanding JFCOM (the joint command formerly known as US Atlantic Command) was confirmed by the Senate to become Vice Chief of the Joint Staff. More submariners in positions of power can only be a good thing... as long as they don't get too high up; I know how some of my readers feel about the one who was U.S. President, and we know the other submariner who became head of his country wasn't a very nice guy.

Going deep...

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Know! Let's Design Cheaper Subs!

The House added language to the 2006 Appropriations Bill today urging the Navy to design a lower cost submarine for the future, the so-called "Tango Bravo" option. The things people are saying reminds me a lot of the debate that went on in the 90s when they decided to cut the Seawolf class in favor of the design that became Virginia.

"The Navy would need to come up with a radically cheaper alternative to the Virginia-class of submarines within nine years, under a provision that recently sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives.
"The nuclear-powered sub would have to "meet or exceed the war-fighting capability of a Virginia-class ship," do so "at a dramatically lower" cost, and be ready to begin construction by 2014, according to language in the House version of the 2006 Defense Department Authorizations bill...
"...The House's new sub design initiative grows out of concerns in Congress that the Virginia-class boats are too expensive to buy two a year. Getting to at least two sub purchases a year is urgent if the Navy expects to keep pace with the forthcoming retirements of many Los Angeles attack subs. Electric Boat and Newport News, under contract to build the first 10 Virginia-class subs, have struggled to contain costs. Though the vessels have received good reviews from Navy sailors and brass, the subs have in some years eaten up nearly a quarter of the Navy's shipbuilding budget.
"The price tag for the first four boats in the group - the Virginia, Texas, Hawaii and North Carolina - has grown to $11 billion, or $2.75 billion a vessel, Navy figures show. That's up 17 percent from the estimates six years ago."

Up 17 percent since 1999; that's actually not too bad. However, I recall that back in 1996, when I first reported to the Connecticut, "NSSN" proponents were saying that each new ship of what would become the Virginia class would cost only $1.5 billion; this was one of the main reasons for cutting off Seawolf production. Now, we see that each is costing over $2.2B (the $2.75B number above is not really accurate; the first boat of a class normally said to cost about twice as much as similar follow-on boats), it looks like the main justification of switching from Seawolf to Virginia is kind of, well, gone.

What the Navy needs to do is come up with a design and stick with it; both the Los Angeles and Ohio class submarines have shown the advantages of such an approach. As much as I make fun of Viriginia's, they're good boats; but, if we end up cutting the program short, we still have the same problems of needing a supply chain to provide for a smaller class of boats that busts your maintenance budget -- like we're seeing now with the Seawolfs. To be honest, the main groups that benefit from a decision to design a new class of boat are the shipyards and their R&D units. I'm glad we'll be keeping these talented professionals around, but at what cost?

As much as I hate to say it, the least costly option would be to restart the LA production line. Sure, they're cramped, but they're still better than anything any potential adversary will have for the foreseeable future...

USS Jimmy Carter Picture Slideshow

The Sub Report has a link to this great series of 12 pics of my last boat, USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). The pictures are associated with a new article in Popular Mechanics on the "Spy Sub of the Future". In the seventh picture in the slideshow, you can see the mast housings on the sail, as well as the plug that's aft of the Weapon's Shipping Hatch. Cool stuff!

And yes, I finally finished the new Harry Potter book. Now just have to wait for everyone in the house to finish it so we can discuss it...

More Than "Brains" Being Wasted Here...

(Intel Source: NOSI) My head hurts after reading this article on possible future unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs):

"One of many elements in the Navy’s new master plan for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) is a concept for a large mini-sub — 10 tons or more — that could be launched from the new class of SSGN cruise-missile submarines or the planned Littoral Combat Ship and carry dozens of smaller UUVs closer to a target.
"For example, an SSGN would dispatch a mother-mini into the middle of a minefield that has been mapped by a specialized unmanned vehicle. The mother sub would deploy smaller UUVs to neutralize each mine on the map.
"The Navy also envisions underwater vehicles of the future capable of missions lasting longer than 30 days, and the development of a “brain-based controller,” which would be based on the motor control system in animal brains, enabling unmanned subs to deal with vagaries of the underwater environment such as turbulence or obstacles in their paths."

They could also program it to have monkeys fly out of its butt. Seriously, in today's budget environment, we'll be lucky to get a new class of UUV that lasts even 30 hours, let alone 30 days, in the next 20 years.

"There are still significant technical challenges to be overcome, particularly in the areas of energy storage, communications and autonomous control, but the Navy and its partners have efforts under way to address those shortcomings."

Those are the only problems you have to address? Aren't those kind of, like, all the important areas in UUV design? It's fun to dream, though...

Going deep...

Update 2325 18 July: I've thought a little about what I wrote here, and I admit I was being a little bit of a Gloomy Gus; I'd just read another article about what an abortion the Advanced SEAL Delivery System had become, and figured that anything having to do with UUVs would meet the same fate. However, I have to admit that the Navy did a good job getting the SSGN project going, and it seems to have worked fine, so maybe there is a future for this program -- as long as they get the money -- which I doubt they will.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Shipyard Submariners Get Lucky Sometimes

I know that I really can't make fun of new construction guys (having done both of my Eng tours on newcon boats) but it seems kind of unfair that the shipyard pukes are the ones to get a visit from Miss USA. It seems even more unfair that the four PCU North Carolina (SSN-777) crewmen standing nearest to her in this photo are all wearing boomer pins. Seems like this young North Carolina lady could just as easily have visited the sea-going "fast attack tough" Sailors on the North Carolina-named boats USS Charlotte(SSN-766) , USS Asheville (SSN-758), or USS Greeneville (SSN-772).
Anyway, when I was in the shipyard, all we got were visits from Connecticut Senators Lieberman and Dodd... not quite the same thing as Miss USA...

Going deep...

Sardinians Saying "Ciao"?

Interesting LA Times article (another copy of the article, less likely to require registration, is here) about how some people, including local leaders, would like to see the U.S. submarine base in La Maddalena (a small Italian island just off Sardinia) closed down. This base was the scene of USS Hartford's grounding in 2003, the only real time recently that American subs there have made the news. And why do they want the Americans out?

"The real issue for us is, after 30 years, we still have an American base here in our archipelago. Is that necessary?" Sardinia's regional president, Renato Soru, said in an interview in Cagliari, the capital city at the opposite end of the island from La Maddalena.
For too long, Soru said, Sardinia has borne the brunt of this military presence, and it's time for other parts of the world to do their share. Moreover, he said, repairing and resupplying nuclear subs in a pristine area of national parks is dangerously inappropriate.
It is not that Sardinians don't like Americans, he insisted. It is a matter of national sovereignty.
"We love American tourists, entrepreneurs, professors…. We are good friends with the U.S.," Soru said. "But would you want a nuclear submarine next to your house?"

I would... but that's probably a minority view with most people. Anyway, it's a pretty good article, and worth a read. I was especially interested to see an update on my old CO from USS Connecticut, Capt. Fritz Roegge, who is, as far as I know, finishing up his tour as Commodore of Subron 22 over there. (The article describes him as "commander of the Naval Support Activity", which I'm pretty sure is a different job than Subron 22; however, he might very well be wearing both hats.)

In other USS Connecticut news: I see they gave out this year's USS Connecticut scholarships (registration req'd); also, I found this web page with a picture of the classic "USS Connecticut GI Joe Crewman"; I've got one stashed away somewhere in the original box...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Weekend Forecast

The forecast for this weekend is for very light blogging; you can probably guess why. In the meantime, check out the submarine group blog over at Ultraquiet No More. Or, you can go over to Liberal Larry's place and get the "real" story behind Rove/Plamegate. (Yes, Liberal Larry knows he interchanged Niger and Nigeria; it's part of the humor.)

Going deep...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Send Her Where She's Wanted

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted against a resolution supporting a bid to move the historic battleship Iowa to the city as a floating museum. The proposed move, strongly backed by former SF mayor Sen. Feinstein, now is in serious jeopardy. And what are some of the reasons the Supervisors gave for voting against the resolution?

"Supervisors said their rejection of the Iowa resolution stemmed from a variety of factors. Some criticized the military's "don't ask, don't tell'' policy against service by gays and lesbians. "Others said San Francisco, a bastion of anti-war sentiment, doesn't want another military museum. Lukewarm support from Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Port of San Francisco left them worried the city might be getting into a financial hole it can't afford.
"Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who voted against the resolution, reacted to Feinstein's criticism by saying, "She's entitled to her opinions. But I don't think they reflect the sentiments of a majority of San Franciscans ... (who) don't want to see a warship docked here.''

..."Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is gay, said the military's policy on gays and lesbians influenced his vote and that of Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who also is gay, against a battleship Iowa museum for San Francisco.
"For Tom and I it's very difficult to advocate for some military honor thing when people are being harassed and even killed and are unable to serve in the military because they are gay and lesbian,'' Dufty said."

What the hell does that mean? "Some military honor thing"? I could go on about how stupid this comment is, but Gryphmon does it a lot better than I could:

"I'm sorry, but I will not ever visit a place where the US military is not welcome.
"San Francisco has gotten so insular and cut off from reality that it has gotten loonier than Colorado Springs did after its takeover by the theocrats.
"Look, the military and I have obvious deep disagreements. But the fact is that it's not the pacifists, or even the gay activists, who have provided freedom for Americans, and yes, even Gay Americans. It was those that were willing to die to protect it. That means they get my respect. (Of course, I still reserve the right to bitch). Hell, I might even have had relatives serve on the Iowa, like my great Uncle Cliffy, a Marine in WWII.

"Men died on the Iowa in so I could sit here at my computer and slur the Government, without fear of a knock at the door in the night. To treat our military, or even a symbol of it so shabbily is shameful. It also displays a disgusting lack of knowledge about both the military and of gay history, of which the Iowa is a part of."

Now, I love California, and enjoyed visiting the Bay area, but this sort of idiotic grandstanding by people who apparently have no understanding of the history between the US Navy and San Francisco makes me sick. Let the Iowa go somewhere that she's wanted.

Going deep...

Does Size Matter?

Over at, Joe Buff is writing a series comparing diesel/AIP boats with nuclear boats, focusing on the advantages inherent in a larger submarine. Excerpt:

"It seems inarguable that SSNs possess substantial advantages over SSKs (whether the latter are augmented with AIP systems or not), regarding a) rapid stealthy transit to and from the theater of operations, and b) continued rapid submerged movement during tactics in the OPAREA. The top quiet speeds of Seawolf and Virginia equal or exceed the absolute maximum speeds of any SSKs! "

Without going into too much detail, he's right -- but I'm not sure how much data I'll be able to use to verify this without crossing certain lines. For now, we'll just read the column, and see if we can get some good back-and-forth going in the comments.

Staying at PD...

Why The San Diego Sub Base Was Spared

This article in the New London Day (another version available here) spells out what I've suspected about why Submarine Base Point Loma was not recommended for closure in this BRAC round. As the process was starting, I was hearing from people close to the process that San Diego would probably be on the list. I thought that closing Point Loma would be a mistake; since any war involving submarines that we don't start will most likely be in the Pacific (specifically Taiwan or Korea), the last thing we'd want to do is close a Pacific base. It appears that DoD agreed:

"The submarine base at San Diego was in the Navy's sights early in the base realignment and closure, or BRAC, process, but was kept off the list of bases to be closed for strategic reasons, the Navy acknowledged this week in a letter to a top base-closure official...
"...But Principi, in his letter dated May 24, asked the Navy to explain why, when its own analyses showed closing the submarine base at San Diego would yield “an early return on investment,” the Navy did not put San Diego on its list of possible closures.
"Anne R. Davis, the Navy secretary's special assistant for BRAC issues, acknowledged that closing San Diego would save money and reduce excess capacity.
“However, the Infrastructure Evaluation Group did not approve the recommendation because Subase San Diego is the only West Coast homeport for attack submarines and its closure would limit submarine basing options on the West Coast,” Davis wrote."

One paragraph in the story, though, looks like it's just plain wrong:

"The Navy sources said there are key arguments to be made for Groton's “strategic location” as well. Groton is significantly closer to the North Atlantic and Europe than any other submarine base, and by going over the North Pole, submarines homeported in Groton can actually reach East Asia quicker than those based in San Diego."

It may be true that a submarine in Groton may have to steam fewer miles to reach the northeast coast of North Korea than a San Diego-based sub; however, the water depth in the Bering Straits combined with the ice thickness (especially in the spring timeframe of a likely planned North Korean invasion) means that a sub has a very narrow gap between the ice and seafloor -- this requires a slower speed; as a result, I would be very surprised if a submarine could get on station from Groton quicker than a San Diego boat (to mention nothing of the "chokepoint" aspect of the Bering Straits).

I admit that I'm biased towards San Diego, but in this case, DoD made the right call -- even if the land Subase Point Loma sits on is probably worth more than the rest of the continental U.S. submarine bases put together.

Going deep...

If You Look Up "The Man" In The Dictionary...'ll see a picture of Tiger Woods next to the definition. I mean, jeez... nobody shoots a 66 at St. Andrews. Seven birdies in a nine hole stretch? He truly is "playing a game with which we are not familiar".

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Procedural Compliance in the Navy

A submariner can only do something if the procedures say he can.
An aviator can do anything unless his procedures say he can't.
A skimmer will say, "We have procedures?"

It sounds funny, but was pretty accurate as little as 10 years ago.

BRAC Number Crunching

The supporters of keeping SUBASE New London open have done their homework, and come up with some inconsistencies in the numbers DoD used to decide to move the Groton submarines and tenant commands to other bases.

"In moving the 11 submarines from Norfolk to Groton, the Navy estimated it would have to add 240 repair workers at a cost of $57 per hour. When it looked at moving 11 boats from Groton to Norfolk, it calculated it would need 106 workers at $29 an hour — or about 75 percent less.
"As the coalition works its way through the Pentagon's justification for closing the Groton base, it is finding other instances in which the Navy seems to have underestimated the cost of the shutdown and overestimated the savings that would be achieved.
"Coalition members have said the miscalculations usually seem to favor Norfolk, which would gain two of the three submarine squadrons in Groton, and Kings Bay, which would gain the remaining Groton squadron and the Naval Submarine School.
In recommending that Groton be closed, the Pentagon said the up-front cost would be just under $680 million, while the move would yield annual savings of $192.8 million.
"But coalition members and representatives of the state's congressional delegation showed the commission staff that the up-front cost would approach $850 million, while the savings would be no more than $67 million a year, and possibly much less."

The article does have what might be an attempt by the base supporters to use another form of "fuzzy math" -- the misleading comparison of ratios. Check out this passage:

"The coalition's argument is that the savings are overstated because many of the personnel would be needed at the new bases. Sailors who move from Groton to Norfolk, for example, still would need medical care. The Navy said it now has about 528 medical personnel caring for 7,096 military personnel in Groton, a ratio of about 1 to 13. But it proposes to move just 62 of those medical jobs with 6,485 transfers, a ratio of about 1 to 105."

Note that the two ratios aren't comparing the same thing. The non-discriminating reader might assume that those 6,485 transfers will only have 62 medical personnel caring for them; however, King's Bay and Norfolk already have lots of medical personnel there, so the caregiver:patient ratios would end up being something more realistic. Plus, it seems to me that the 1 in 13 number is way high... I've had to wait long enough for appointments at the base hospital medical clinic to throw the b.s. flag on that one. My guess is that there are 528 personnel in Groton with medical NECs and officer designators, including the people at NUMI, not all of whom are working in primary care.

Overall, it seems the Groton base supporters have come up with a lot of evidence showing that the Navy's numbers are slanted in such a way that they make Groton look bad, and Norfolk and King's Bay look good. If true, it seems that there are two possible explanations: incompetence. or a systematic policy to ignore the BRAC guidelines in favor of a pre-determined result. Based on my experience, I'd have to lean towards the former. As the saying goes: "Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to sheer stupidity."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Absofrickinlutely Ridiculous

(Intel Source: LGF) The British House of Commons passed a law today outlawing written material and public verbal comments "that are threatening, abusive or insulting [and] likely to stir up racial or religious hatred." Anyone convicted under the law could be jailed for up to seven years. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill failed in an earlier attempt to pass due to strong opposition in the normally powerless House of Lords, and likely faces the same opposition there this time. The bill was drawn up to "protect" Muslims, but there was some concern that it could backfire on them:

"Opposition parties -- and some Labor MPs -- oppose the bill for various reasons, including concerns that it could stifle free speech or infringe the right of the adherents of one faith to question the claims of another...
"...In an earlier Commons debate, a Conservative MP raised the possibility that the law, if passed, could outlaw the reading of passages of the Koran that called for harsh treatment against Christians and Jews.
"Following those assertions, a delegation of prominent Muslims held talks last week with the government minister responsible for the bill, Paul Goggins, to check whether the legislation could affect reading and quoting from the Koran and other Islamic texts such as the Hadith -- the traditional sayings of Mohammed and other early Muslim figures.
"There were concerns in the Muslim community "that dawah [proselytizing] and propagatory practices may be curtailed under the new legislation," the Muslim Weekly reported.
"The delegation suggested that it may be preferable to "totally exempt" Islamic texts from the bill."
"The minister assured the Muslim community that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent scholars from delivering their sermons or from reciting from the Koran," the Muslim publication said."

I'm sure people will start claiming anyone proselytizing in favor of one religion is guilty of violating the law, if it is enacted. I remember four years ago when it looked like the EU commission was proposing to outlaw "xenophobic and racist" statements throughout the EU. I'm sure we're not far away from someone proposing to outlaw even thinking about such things...

Update 1105 13 July: WillyShake holds forth regarding similar concerns, and provides links to other submariners worried about free speech and press issues. And you thought we only liked to spy on people and blow stuff up...

Unexpected Trips to PD

A reader comment in this post got me thinking about the time the good ship Topeka took an unexpected, drill-induced trip to the surface. The comment, from mikeh, says:

"We had a very funny MT and during a flooding drill in AMR2LL he secured the depth sensor piping to the hovering tanks. About 10 min after the flooding drill was secured, we began preparations to go to PD and setting up for a meal. I was heading to control for my watch when we took a huge roll, launched all of the wardroom china on the floor and broached big time. As I got to control I told the OOD "I didn't think we were going to PD until after lunch?" He says as he is raising the scope "Neither did I."
"During the debrief from this incident it was found as soon as the COW placed the hovering tanks online we pumped all of the hovering tank water overboard shooting us to the roof. The cause was tracked to the sensor valves and my MT friend never got into trouble since he 'did the right thing'. We then began putting a drill monitor at the sensor valves whenever we 'flooded AMR2LL'."

Here's my story -- we were running engineering drills, and ended up losing a plug out of the diesel. Apparently something similar had happened fairly recently to some other boats in the squadron, and the COs had been told not to be the next one to damage their diesel generator. As a result, our CO ("He Who Must Not Be Named") was very interested in finding said plug, and repairing the diesel before we returned to port. To aid in finding the plug in the AMR bilge, we ended up running at 150 feet with a 10 degree up angle, and using the bilge blaster to send all the crap in the bilges to the aft bulkhead. The CO was personally leading the search efforts in the bilge.

It turns out that running with that much of an up angle makes depth control a little problematic. Somehow the Ship's Control Party "lost the bubble" and we headed straight for the surface at 10 knots. The COW pressurized Depth Control in order to try to keep us submerged, but it didn't work; we soon heard the familiar "bow planes slap" that means you really screwed up depth-keeping on a 688I. (For those who are interested: "Bow planes slap" on a Seawolf is much louder.)

The CO rushes to control, and the DOOW gets us back down to PD. They decided to stay there to clear the broadcast, and the CO went back down to AMR to resume the search for the plug. One of the things that you have to do after pressurizing depth control is to eventually vent the high pressure air from the tank; this vent is located, you guessed in, in the AMR bilge. We came down from PD, got a trim, and the COW asked for, and got, permission from the OOD to vent depth control, which he did... right in the CO's face. As I wasn't involved in any of the screw-ups, I enjoyed it immensely.

One additional funny moment from this episode: As soon as the ship broached, the OOD informed the various watchstanders of the ship's condition by reflexively announcing on the Conn open mike that he had just energized, "Raising #2 scope". The RMOW, who of course had no idea we were going to PD, and probably figuring he had missed the PD brief, immediately comes back with "In sync Verdin"... we probably were, but there's no way he had checked it, the lying sack of...

Going deep...

Good Essays on Iraq

Just for my reference as much as anything, here's a new article that tries to debunk some of the various arguments against the Iraq war; it makes for interesting reading. Also, this old essay by Steven Den Beste does as good a job as anything I've seen for spelling out the reasons that I hope our leaders had in mind when expanding the Global War on Terror to the Iraqi theater. (My own attempt to record my thoughts on why expanding the war was the right thing to do can be found here.)
I'd be interested to see what my good friend Rob over at Rob's Blog Online Magazine has to say about these two articles. You should go over there and check; you might be his 10,000th visitor! (Last link not necessarily safe for work, or if your wife is looking over you shoulder.)

Going deep...

Update 1101 13 July: Via Instapundit, a new OpinionJournal article on connections between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

Monday, July 11, 2005

New Submarine Picture

Navy NewsStand has a great new pic up of USS Philadelphia (SSN-690) passing through the Suez Canal, taken from the bridge of the USS Carl Vinson. Philadelphia just finished playing OPFOR in the Shark Hunt 2005 exercise in the Med, so she's probably heading to the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. Another neat picture of the Philadelphia recently using her Dry-Dock Shelter is located here.

Broadside "Instant Classic"

CDR Salamander posts a great "Broadside" cartoon. It reminds me of the way I used to "welcome" new Chiefs of the Watch. If I was OOD on their first qualified watch, I'd have Manueuvering "whoop" them on the 2JV after a higher bell was ordered and report, "Have indications of reactor supercriticality and negative temperature coefficient in Maneuvering". It was always a blast to see them try to repeat it back, and then hear the inflection of their voice as they reported it -- they were usually thinking, "Am I reporting our imminent deaths here?"

It was like a no-sh*tter I heard someone tell from the Ustafish: New guy arrives on the boat from BESS; his chief takes him under his wing, shows him around the boat, helps him get settled in. Gives him only one piece of advice: "The reactor is safe. The only time you have to worry is if you hear the announcement 'The reactor is critical'. If you hear this, just drop what you're doing and get the hell off the boat as soon as you can. If you're quick enough, you'll probably survive, although you probably won't be able to have kids." He said it was quite humorous about two hours before their next underway; the announcement was made as the kid was in a line handing down supplies. His eyes got really wide, he dropped the box he was holding, and headed straight for the Weapons Shipping Hatch...

Speaking of handling supplies: Did anyone ever "float test" some particularly hated item of food as it came across the brow? We lost a box of rabbit that way once...

Going deep...

"Request to Run a Drill in ERML"

I was talking to someone at work last night about engineering drills on submarines, and this made me think back to some of my favorite drill memories. (Most of my bad memories involve NNPI, so I couldn't write about them even if I wanted to for some reason.) Here are some of my favorites:

-- On the last planned drill before ORSE on the good ship Topeka, we decided to get back at the drill monitors. We got ahold of a drill radio, set it to "VOX", and stuck it on a running HPAC. They ended up securing from the drill because none of the monitors could talk to each other. A win for the little guys! The EDEA was not amused...

--I was hanging around in the wardroom with another JO, waiting for some forward drills to start. We had a couple of the rotating flashing lights that we use for fire simulation in the pantry for some reason, so my buddy puts them on the wardroom table and turns them on; we think it looks like the top of a police car (it seemed really funny at the time). Suddenly, we hear over the wardroom 4MC white rat: "Fire in the wardroom", and we had to run up to control to get them to secure from the "drill". The XO was not amused...

--Back aft during a fire drill from hell, we had a huge cluster of people gathered in ERML. Not many EAB connections there, so there were about five guys in a row buddy-clipped onto this one fairly new guy. (For those not familiar with EABS, here's a picture of one being worn. They're "Emergency Air Breathing" masks that you hook up to connections that run fresh breathing air under pressure throughout the ship -- a necessity in case of a fire. When you're wearing one correctly, the only way you breathe is if you're plugged in; you hold your breath going from plug to plug. Each hose has a "buddy-clip" that someone else can plug into near the regulator.)
Anyway, this new guy decided to head up into upper level (this is on an LA-class boat) and doesn't realize he's got all these people plugged into him. He unplugs, starts to head up the ladder, and gets tugged back by the person connected to him. He realizes what's happening, and goes to plug back in, but a new arrival has taken the EAB plug he just abandoned. He looks around for a buddy-clip, and sees one; plugs in, tries to take a deep breath, and... you guessed it. He had plugged into the last guy in the row of people plugged into him. (It's a phenomenon known as "recircing your breathing air"). I laughed my ass off. The five victims were not amused...

--One day, as Engineer, I found in my inbox a proposed drill guide from the off-going duty section. Apparently they had a shoot-the-sh*t in Maneuvering about spontaneous combustion, and one of them came up with an idea for the ultimate "Screaming Alpha" fire drill. The drill guide was in the correct format, and was titled "Fire in the Reactor Operator". It had possible alternate courses of action like "If desired, the fire may spread to the Throttleman". I pretended not to be amused...

--About the title of this post -- standing EOOW, I had the following 2JV exchange with an off-watch EM:
"Request permission to run a drill in Engine Room Middle Level"
"What kind of drill?"
"An electrical drill"
"Report to Maneuvering"

Thirty seconds later, he ''Christmas-dinner''ed, a power drill in hand...

Let's hear some of your favorite drill memories...

Going deep....