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.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Anyone Hear Anything About This?

During my visit to Democratic Underground for my morning giggle, I ran across a post that sent chills up my spine as I started reading it. I know that unsourced claims on DU are about the least-reliable "news" source around, but this one was so specific that it made me think the poster didn't just make it up. Basically, it said that the Navy had initiated SUBMISS procedures for USS San Juan (SSN 751) last night, but then she showed up this morning off the coast of Florida. Was this DUmmie just having an acid flashback when posting?

Update 0841 14 March: It looks like the DU poster wasn't on drugs. Here's a "Breaking News" story from The New London Day:
:Overnight, the family of crew members on the Groton-based USS San Juan got a scare when it appeared for a time that the submarine might have sunk.
Lt. Mark Jones, spokesman for Submarine Group Two, said this morning that the submarine and its crew are safe, but that during the night there were indications that the ship was in trouble.
The San Juan went out of communication while doing training exercises off the East Coast, and a flare was spotted, prompting the Navy to start up its rescue process and notify families.
Jones said that it is Navy policy to keep families informed and to make sure they are the first to know when something might have gone wrong.
Ships and aircraft from the Enterprise Strike Group searched the area where San Juan had been operating.
The sub established communications in the early morning hours today and indicated that there were no problems. The search-and-rescue operation was then canceled.
Thank God the ship and crew are safe.

Update 1921 14 March: Here's an official SubLant statement on the incident. Excerpts:
During the early evening of March 13, units of the USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) received a series of indications that USS San Juan (SSN 751), a Los Angeles class submarine conducting pre-deployment training with the Enterprise CSG, was in distress.
Fortunately, the submarine established communications in the early morning hours of March 14, and indicated that there were no problems; hence, units were able to stand down from the search and rescue that was already well underway.
Losses of communications, followed by the reported sighting of a red flare, are distress indicators. These indicators, combined with establishing communications with only two of the three submarines operating with the Enterprise CSG, was sufficient information to activate missing submarine procedures.
Ships and aircraft from the Enterprise Strike group immediately commenced a search of the area where San Juan had been operating.
Many submariners are probably wondering if the surface ships in the area may have chosen to practice Functional Area A085 of the STG Navy Enlisted Occupational Standards. Depending how close they were to the Florida coast, though, the water may have been too shallow for that particular skill to be practiced effectively. Still, I'd assume that they would have used other FXP-1 methods to attempt to contact the San Juan. The San Juan's CO, CDR Mike Martin, was a Nuke School classmate of mine, so I hope nothing bad happens to him, career-wise, because of this.

As always, The Sub Report has the best links.

Bell-ringer 0522 15 March: This story from The Day confirms that the San Juan had not actually fired off a flare, red or otherwise. Since the San Juan was providing OPFOR duties for the Enterprise Strike Group, the ESG staff wouldn't have know where the San Juan was supposed to be at any given time -- the SUBOPAUTH who was helping coordinate the exercise, along with 2nd Fleet, would know, however. I'm betting it turns out that there wasn't very good coordination in correlating the place where the flare was reported to come from with the San Juan's assigned waterspace. (If it turns out that San Juan did actually miss an assigned comms window, though, the boat still isn't off the hook.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just heard about this on a local Atlanta radio show. Check out

He says that at one point the sub was declared "lost" and that some family members even received notifications.

I haven't yet found anything to corroborate though, but if I do I will post it.

3/14/2007 8:22 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife heard the same story at Los Angeles radio station KFWB (AM 980) @ 7:30 his morning.

Nothing in the nes world.

3/14/2007 8:47 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out this link from Navy Newsstand.

SUBLANT Statement Regarding USS San Juan and Missing Submarine Procedures

Apparently, the story was true. Thank God they are safe.

3/14/2007 10:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds like somebody might have put the wrong color flare (i.e., red instead of yellow or green) in the signal ejector.

3/14/2007 10:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - the families must have been scared out of their minds! I'm glad they're all OK!

3/14/2007 12:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So it was the old wrong-color-flare trick. That's been done before--with the same result--but it's been a very long time since it's happened.

The last time, the rumor mill said it wasn't accidental (and, given a competent operator, it's difficult to construct a credible scenario in which it could be). Instead, the signal-ejector operator got tired of being hassled, so he supposedly made sure the last flare of the exercise was red. Since his boat wasn't going back to periscope depth to communicate, such an action was guaranteed to cause a fleet-wide problem.

In any event, I'm sure that San Juan's squardron staff will provide them with boatloads of "assistance," after all, they're only there to help. But if you're in the goat locker, it's gonna suck going to the chief's club until after your PRD--just ask the old-timers from "Guardfish on the Rocks."

3/14/2007 12:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's sometimes tough for the skimmer types to see the flares and/or to recognize their color. Somebody was alert on the surface ship in question and did the right thing. The lookout, signalman, quartermaster, JOOD, or OOD that first sighted and identified the flare color deserves a Navy Achevement Medal, awarded by COMSUBLANT. And the OOD, CDO, and CO deserve appropriate recognition from COMNAVSURFLANT and/or CINCLANTFLT.


3/14/2007 1:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And if it was the right color it should show up when the squadron helpers help the boat inventory the pyro locker. If not sad to say, I'm sure there is a deserving Command Qualified CDR out there somewhere no matter who loaded and launched.

3/14/2007 4:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet the old man's meeting with the Commodore is going to be fun... Will the Navy top brass again remove one the skippers they trained when they were CO's 10 or so years ago... Probably just a letter and an O-6 promotion gone... God, do I miss the bureaucratic B.S. of the old NAV...

3/14/2007 5:07 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kinda feel bad for the CO. I transfered from there just before he took command in November. An incompetent operator would not surprise me. Undermanning and spending most of last year at sea (a lot of 29 day underways) have really taken a toll on the crew too. And lets not forget about the TDU being broken for most of the year too.

3/14/2007 5:50 PM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Ok, late to the comments. I go out of town for a few days and MY OLD BOAT supposedly shoots a red flare?

The only thing I might add here is another possible scenario. Last time I was on pre-deployment training, we didn't have enough green flares, and were told to shoot yellow ones as well. At one point, the surface ship we were in the process of sinking misidentified the flare and called in a red flare. Luckily for us, we were at PD and in comms, and corrected the mistake quickly.

Perhaps a similar misidentification happenned here?

3/14/2007 9:04 PM

Blogger RM1(SS) (ret) said...

SonarMan said...
Apparently, the story was true. Thank God they are safe.

I got the word when I went in to work this afternoon. One of the girls I work with has a husband on the San Juan. Her day started with an early-morning phone call, notifying her of an emergency meeting with the admiral at Shepherd of the Sea at 0800....

3/14/2007 9:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel, you know as well as I do how many communications alternatives they could have used to contact the group. This one is an issue and I think the CO is gonna get a his ass handed to him. A SUBMISS is a CNO priority thing, I don't understand how it got that far without the boat contacting somebody.
I think more will follow.....hell, they could have surfaced and used an iridium phone. Active pinging, RAC's voice comms, the answers are just too numerous.
Mebbe they are just retards. I'll reserve that comment based upon followup.
Hehehe, I don't have to sit that critique, LOL!

3/15/2007 3:54 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the plot thickens

apparently the san juan did NOT send up a flare.....

so there goes one theory that they sent up the wrong color (accidentally of course.....)

so i wonder who saw the flare, and who shot it, and if it was red or not,

also wonder how the hell San Juan could have missed all the COME TO THE SURFACE messages that she undoubtedly was being sent........... time will tell

mike martin is a good man, i hope everything works out for him and his men.

3/15/2007 5:10 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't imagine the San Juan not hearing "Unit XXX, Gertrude Check, over." repeated like a million times, during this period where they were being searched for, on the WQC.

Maybe I'm wrong, but as a former ST, and having conducted hundreds of excercises, the WQC is a vital piece of gear. They should have been able to hear that, regardless of bottom characteristics. So, why couldn't/didn't they hear it? Normally ignored, the O-Gangers get all tizzied about it when it comes to an op, and books start flying. There's only like three or four knobs on the damn thing. It's not that hard. It would have been lined up properly. Or so I suppose.

3/15/2007 6:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonarman, you are correct, the San One has RACS instead of a WQC-2, but it is the same thing, only better.
RACS stays up even with a full fire control/sonar shutdown. I've seen it used as a basic contact detector......
No excuses, this one is interesting!

3/15/2007 6:35 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike was a classmate of mine at UT/NROTC nearly 20 (gulp) years ago. I hope everything works out for him - he sure is a great guy.

3/15/2007 7:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You all seem to be missing the obvious. All this happened within or very near the Bermuda Triangle. There's no doubt that the CO is already aware of this and will use it as the basis for explanations when he's called onto the carpet.

3/15/2007 11:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Red flare from one of the carrier's helicopters?

3/15/2007 11:40 AM

Blogger CDR Salamander said...

Like I said yesterday, tough day to be a Staff CDO and/or the San Juan's COMMO.

As for the Skipper - command is what it is. Let's wait and see.

As far as the flare goes: I've seen a few green ones....CERTSUB!!!

3/15/2007 12:38 PM

Blogger kywrite said...

I'm a submariner's wife; my husband rides several different boats; and we just transferred from (rotten) Groton to Pearl Harbor.

Let me just say this: if I'd gotten this early morning phone call about my husband's boat and after having my asthma attack and pulling my kids out of school and getting my family and/or best friends on the plane to me and making the panicked call to my elderly, not-well parents-in-law (a quad bypass and other things -- it could kill them) -- if after all that they said, oops, sorry, false alarm after all --

Well, I didn't like Groton to begin with. I'd probably like the inside of their jails less, which is where I'd be after trying to strangle the officers in charge of this fiasco.

Why in the WORLD did they call the families at 4 am after a single missed comm check, without getting a better handle on the situation? There ain't nothing in the world we wives can do in an emergency situation that we don't normally do -- i.e., sit and wait. This was one of the most insensitive things of many insensitive things I've heard of the Navy doing vis a vis families. I love the Navy, but man, where are their brains?

Next time, give it 24 hours, get all your information and personnel together and organized -- and as soon as you hear the first question from a spouse who heard something on the grapevine, start calling them up. Recognize that there are real dangers in false alarms.

Like me strangling COs.

3/15/2007 12:50 PM

Blogger esryle said...

I agree with what you say about notifying the families. The only
Thing I can think of is, with the 24 hour media reporting so quickly,
Maybe they were just trying to beat them to the punch. Try to put the facts as they know them on the table to the families before the media spun Submarine Lost with their very limited knowledge of the situation.

3/15/2007 1:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frist: I wasn't there.

Second: I'm shocked at how quickly most were to blame the SJ Skipper.

Third: It has been my experience that skimmers are usually the first to screw up. I wonder if there was a flare in the first place.

Fourth: WQC transmissions attenuate rapidly. I have seen cases where you were lucky to hear a transmission at 5,000 yards or less. Practice Depth Charges (hand grenades) seemed to work much better when signaling the end of an exercise.

Fifth: I would much rather get notification from an authorized source instead of a well meaning friend calling and asking if I had heard the SJ had sunk.

Sixth: I think we should put this on the shoulders of the Battle Group Commander until we find out otherwise.

Thank God for Safe Submarines and the Men who man them.


3/15/2007 3:08 PM

Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

As rebootinit, the San Juan has a RACS, and it is a good piece of gear. *However*, the ACINT rider is dead on: The attenuation on it sucks. Considering where they were probably playing (I am not in the know here - I don't play with those guys as much any more), there is a good chance there was a decent layer as well - further increasing the chances that the SJN just didn't hear the call going out if she was deep, and only knew folks were looking for her when she came back to PD.

This could easily be an all-surface screw up, and the SJN skipper could come out completely clean. I hope so, we've had enough negative attention lately.

3/15/2007 3:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was closely involved that night, and Jamies comments are off the mark.. There were 6000 battle group sailors with e-mail access and internet who already knew what was going on.

We wanted to get the international sub rescue community and our own equipment moving, which we did. Again more people who know.

Our concern was that the families would find out the wrong way with the wrong information.

We could have waited 24 hours and done absolutley nothing, if Jamie's husband was on the San Juan, then would that be what she wanted. Do nothing. I doubt it.

If moving heaven and earth while we thought our sailors may be in trouble, and looking out for the families is being insentitive. Then guitly as charged.
We are submariners, doing nothing is never an option

I am just very grateful it was not an actual disaster.


3/15/2007 5:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was closely involved that night, and Jamies comments are off the mark.. There were 6000 battle group sailors with e-mail access and internet who already knew what was going on.

We wanted to get the international sub rescue community and our own equipment moving, which we did. Again more people who know.

Our concern was that the families would find out the wrong way with the wrong information.

You are dead right....things have changed with mass communications at sea. They had no real choice but to move in the direction they did. Whatever circumstances caused the official SUBMISS declaration is where to lay the blame...not the officials who decided to notify families. Their hands were tied between a rock and a hard place.

3/15/2007 8:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Jamie: I would be thankful to the Navy for notifying me right away instead of resentful. I am a Submariner's wife myself and I felt a little betrayed that I found out that my husband's boat collided with a supertanker via my local news. So before you go "strangling" any officers in charge or CO's, put yourself in the NN families shoes and how if must feel to find out from the media instead of being armed with correct information. I am very impressed that they chose to contact the SJ families so quickly and give them the heads up. It's also comforting for me, as wife, to see the Navy send help to the boat so quickly and efficiently.

3/18/2007 7:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a family member of a sub that recently had an accident, I would have been happy to hear from squadron rather than a friend who saw it on CNN. I had to call squadron myself to find out if my husband was okay or not. Not a fun time for me. I commend the San Juan squadron for informing the families of what was going on with their boat and reacting to the situation so quickly! The media is quick to find out things that are going on and our squadrons need to be quicker than them.

3/18/2007 4:49 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last I heard it was a skimmer problem. The boat was going fast and deep and within a period where comms weren't required. Nice to know that the system seems to work.

3/18/2007 5:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So where did they offload the Tomahawks during the six hours ? Where was the Glomar Explorer ? What happened on the HMS Tireless. Some of the crew died ?

3/22/2007 12:28 AM


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