Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

USS Hartford Heading Home

USS Hartford (SSN 768) is doing a surface transit home following her collision with USS New Orleans (LPD 18) last month. Here's a Navy Times story about the new post-collision updates, and here's an official Navy story that says the Hartford's COB was relieved prior to the boat getting underway by a temporary relief -- you can read into that what you want. You can also look at this picture of the submarine underway to see the reinforcement they made to the sail -- it's best seen by downloading the hi-res version. (I'll post a close-up of the sail later; I'd do it this morning, but I have an early meeting at work.)

What stories do you have about ridiculously long surface transits?

Update 0643 30 Apr 2009: Sorry for not posting the picture; our main computer that has my photo editing software died, so I'm stuck trying to figure out how to use the laptop with all the kids programs on it. You'll have to just click on the hi-res version linked above and see for yourself.

Off topic, if you just ignore the troll, it makes it easier for me to delete his posts when I get home from work. I hesitate to do so when it would make normal commenter's comments look dumb when they aren't relating to comments that exist anymore. Also, for those who were wondering, since I'm on Blogger, I can't ban any particular people or IP addresses.

Update 1152 30 Apr: A reader sent in a close-up photo of the sail:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Are Eight Hour Watches The Way To Go?

According to this Navy Times article, the Navy is studying if the current 6 on - 12 off watchstanding cycle practiced by Submariners is detrimental to our health and well-being, or if we should shift to something else. Excerpts:
Studies show that even without clocks and sunlight, human biology is best suited for 24-hour cycles. Moving to 18-hour days can create conditions similar to jet lag, said Lt. Christopher Steele, the lead researcher for fatigue issues with the Submarine Medical Research Laboratory in Connecticut.
“It’s like flying to Paris every day,” Steele said of the 18-hour day. “Unfortunately, that results in unpredictable rhythms for alertness.”
Steele and other researchers from his laboratory plan to go on a long-term deployment later this year to study submariners’ response to various sleeping patterns.
Senior Navy leaders will not make any decisions until the study is complete...
...A submariner’s typical day at sea revolves around six hours on watch, six hours of other duties and six hours of sleep.
Previous, shorter studies aboard the ballistic-missile submarine Maryland and the attack submarine Pittsburgh during the past year suggested that dividing a 24-hour day into three eight-hour shifts resulted in better performance, Steele said.
Some more complex three-day cycles were also examined — stacking six-hour shifts, then taking larger 12- or 24-hour blocks off for sleep — were not as successful, Steele said.
Without optimal sleeping patterns, sailors can show lower levels of alertness, limited reaction times or irritability, Steele said...
It looks like they didn't study the effect of "Vulcan Death Watches" practiced during ORSE workups:
Officials with the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory are studying three work-cycle options for submariners:
• 18-hour day: Six hours on watch, 12 hours off (current practice).
• 24-hour day: Eight hours on watch, 16 hours off.
• Three-day cycle: Six hours on, six off, six on, 12 off, six on, six off, six on, 24 off.
So what do you think? On the boats I was on, officers mostly stayed to 24 hour schedules, except for EOOWs during ORSE workups -- and they got every scheduled midwatch off as the "Midwatch Cowboy" gave them a break -- so I never really did the 18 hour days for long periods. Did you notice any detrimental effects from this schedule that weren't otherwise explainable by the normal vagaries of submarining? Do you think this study will result in any changes in the way the Submarine Force does business?

Friday, April 24, 2009

USS Bonefish Fire -- 21 Years Ago Today

Today, April 24th, is the 21st anniversary of the fire aboard USS Bonefish (SS 582) in which three Submariners were lost. As we remember this tragedy, please check out this post honoring one of the three lost heroes, LT Ray Everts, over at Chaotic Synaptic Activity.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brit Sub Fire In Shipyard

BBC News is reporting that there was a fire onboard HMS Astute on Saturday; damage appears limited to the top of the sail. Excerpts:
BAE said the fire was limited to rubber tiles on the outside of the structure and its nuclear reactor was unaffected.
It is believed to have started while a pipe that feeds air to a diesel engine was being tested on Saturday.
BAE said in a statement: "During trials of the snort induction mast on board the first of class Astute submarine, moored at the Devonshire Dock quay at the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow, a fire broke out which was limited to the exterior of the submarine...
..."Initial investigations indicate that damage was limited to the external areas of the submarine at the top of the bridge fin."
Normally, when one hears about a fire in the shipyard, one automatically assumes it was due to hot work. Based on the initial reports, this doesn't appear to be the case here, although I'm wondering how the diesel induction piping and valves could get hot enough to catch the anechoic coating on fire. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that hot work was somehow involved (as in they were repairing something they found during the tests, like one of the mounting brackets that mounts a valve to the sail bulkhead came loose).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Like This Initiative

How would you feel about taking a 1 to 3 year break in the middle of your Navy career to raise your kids, take care of a sick parent, or just wake up / eat a coffee cake / take bath / take nap? If that sounds like something that might appeal to you, and you're still on active duty, you have until May 1st to apply for the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP). From an article on the Navy NewsStand:
Sailors can now take a break from active Navy service, courtesy of the new Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP).
Approved in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, the CIPP offers a temporary inactivation from active duty - from one to three years - for top performing Sailors. The Navy is optimistic that this measure will enhance retention in critical skill sets, while allowing greater flexibility in career paths of service members...
...The pilot program provides an opportunity for up to 20 officers and 20 enlisted participants each year in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The CIPP will provide a one-time temporary transition for active-duty personnel to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Participants will retain full active-duty Tricare health benefits for themselves and their dependents and receive a monthly stipend of one-fifteenth of their basic pay. To ease the transition, members may elect a Navy-funded permanent change of station move to anywhere in the continental United States when entering the program...
...All program participants will return to active duty at the end of the period prescribed and will incur a two-to-one service obligation for every month in the program (served in addition to any previously existing obligation). Time spent in the IRR will not count toward retirement, computation of total years of commissioned service, or high-year tenure limitations.
The break in service excludes participants from promotion consideration. Upon returning to active duty, officers will have their date of rank adjusted, and enlisted members will have their active duty service date adjusted in order to be competitive with others of similar time in grade on active duty...
...The 'menu of options' includes ideas such as part-time work for part-time pay, more interchange between active and Reserve status and other flexible work options such as telework and compressed work schedules.
Application packages are due to Pers-4 by May 1. Selectees and alternates will be announced by the end of June. Full pilot program details can be found in OPNAVINST 1330.2, and the instruction, NAVADMIN and related information are available on the Task Force Life/Work Web site at
The OPNAV instruction can be found here. Personally, I think this is a great program. Are you a supervisor wondering how he can get rid of one of his "10/90" guys? (10/90 guys = the 10% of the Sailors who take up 90% of the command's time in administrative / disciplinary headaches.) Have you heard that the new COB / XO / CO who's about to show up at your command is a real jerk? It looks to me like this program would solve both those problems!

When we were still on active duty, my wife came up with an idea for a pilot program whereby a Sailor (or, more specifically, a submarine officer who had served two newcon Eng tours) would be allowed to stay at home all the time but still get paid -- as an experiment to see how it would affect said Sailor's morale. Except for the "pay" part, this sounds like it's pretty much the same thing. Let me know if the comments if you'd be interested in signing up.

Our Second Amendment Rights

After earlier discussing my views on abortion and gay marriage that don't necessarily follow lockstep with conservative orthodoxy, I figured I should complete the trifecta and talk a little about the Second Amendment. Until yesterday, I thought I was a pretty strong 2nd Amendment stalwart, in that I knew that the right to keep and bear arms was a personal right, and I couldn't imagine voting for someone who I thought would actually take away the guns that someone owned (other than those who had committed a felony). Yesterday, however, my wife and I went to a Town Hall Meeting with my Congressman, Rep. Walt Minnick, where our 2nd Amendment rights were discussed -- and I learned that there are a lot of people whose interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is a lot more radical than I would have thought likely outside an actual militia headquarters.

There were about 45 people at the meeting, including fellow Idaho blogger Clayton Cramer (who still doesn't allow comments on his site for some reason). The meeting started with one person from outside the Congressional District reading a long-winded statement wondering why they couldn't get copies of Rep. Minnick's NRA questionnaire that got him a "D+" rating from the NRA -- despite the fact that copies of this questionnaire were available on the back table to all attendees. Most of the rest of the attendees held forth on their belief that the real purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to (paraphrasing here) allow them to shoot military and/or law enforcement personnel if they feel the need to rebel against the government. Based on this reasoning, I'm assuming that they also believe that all laws against sedition should be unconstitutional. One woman demanded that Minnick say that using guns to defend herself against government tyranny wasn't terrorism; Walt didn't seem to see what she was getting at, so I helpfully translated that "she wants you to say that shooting U.S. military personnel isn't terrorism". She immediately backed off and said that, no, all she wanted to do was "civil disobedience" -- why she needed an AK-47 for that was left unanswered. This led to lots of other people saying that they supported the the military and law enforcement personnel; only Clayton Cramer seemed honest enough to at least imply that, yes, he would regretfully attempt to gun down my old shipmates and my sons (if they join the military) if he felt the need to rise up against "tyranny". I can respect that honesty -- and I was surprised that the rest of the people there couldn't be as honest. Maybe they aren't as committed to their Second Amendment rights as they think they are if they don't admit that their beliefs could involve them in shooting down young American servicepeople. (My personal beliefs? I believe that the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed, and that the government should be able to protect itself against armed insurrection, and that law enforcement officers serving warrants issued by the judicial branch of government shouldn't be shot down in cold blood, and that anyone who shoots at U.S. military personnel should expect that the entire weight of the U.S. military will come down on them. I also believe I'd also take a 20 year old Ranger in a gunfight against Clayton Cramer or the guys at the meeting with really long ponytails.)

There were some fun conspiracy theorists there. The woman mentioned above talked about how the standing up of NORTHCOM in 2002 was proof that the government was going to take all our liberties. (If you're not familiar with this particular conspiracy theory -- which all of us with actual military experience know is just a routine re-alignment -- you should Google "NORTHCOM NAU". It's a hoot.) Another person mentioned this YouTube video of soldiers from an Army Reserve unit doing a march on some drill day that took them through town as apparent proof that martial law is coming. I notice that Clayton Cramer, in his report on the meeting, didn't mention these rather embarrassing anecdotes.

[As a quick aside, my Congressman has now been in office for just over 100 days representing what is arguably the most conservative district to have elected a Democrat in 2008. He's been impressing a lot of people, voting against the bailouts and most of the other most liberal legislation; if fact, he's the Democrat who has voted least often with his party's leadership. This has lost him some "progressive" support, but I have a feeling that for every vote he loses in the extreme left, he's picking up ten from the middle, so I think he's doing a good job.]

Update 0554 20 April: Here's an article in today's Idaho Statesman talking about the shortage of ammunition, primers, and pellets, that also explains why any new restrictions on gun ownership won't pass during this Congress.

Update 1648 23 April: Clayton Cramer responds to my post here. He was also kind enough to provide me a link to an essay he wrote about when he thinks it's OK to take up arms against the government; one example he gives is if there's another Waco. He seems to not like the FBI very much. I think the fact that he hasn't been hassled by the FBI proves to me that we still have quite a bit of freedom here in the good ol' U. S. of A.

Of course, Clayton's theory that a Right to Armed Revolution exists in the 2nd Amendment doesn't go on to say that people can only rebel if they follow Clayton Cramer's precepts. I'm wondering if the people who believe in this right would support a group of Muslim-Americans who decided that the U.S. government was being tyrannical in not implementing sharia law throughout the land. Would these people be justified in waging righteous jihad against the government (especially if the FBI were investigating people who shared their religion and culture)? If they were engaging in constitutionally-protected actions in shooting down policemen and servicepeople, could they even be arrested, let alone prosecuted, for such actions?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Submarine Food Slang

An article in the Telegraph about how the crew is fed on board HMS Tireless (S 88) has a side story about what the British submariners call various "food" items; like most things involving Brit food, it makes no sense. Here's what they say:

One officer on board said: "To qualify as a submariner, there is a long training period including a two-hour oral board. If it goes well, there is normally a final question – you have to name 10 submarine foods". Here is a taster:

* Bits – baked beans
* Spithead pheasant – kippers
* Elephant's footprint – battered spam fritter
* Baby's head – steak and kidney pudding (the smooth pastry rises like a shiny baby's head)
* Black on black – chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce
* Action Man pillows – ravioli
* Teddybears' ears – Chinese prawn crackers
* Seggies – grapefruit segments
* Snorkers – sausages
* Gary Glitters – gammon steaks (as in Glitter's song chant "Come on, come on" or the submariners' version "Gamm-on, gamm-on")
* Cheesy-hammy-eggy – a traditional Navy dish, Welsh rarebit with ham and a fried egg
* Pom – powdered potatoes

Just to prove that American submarine food slang is both more sensible and more entertaining than that practiced by our Brit brothers, let's collect all the American submarine food slang here in the comments. I'll start off with an easy one: "Vent covers" for the breaded veal cutlets. Let's fill us the comments with the other ones you remember!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

XO Leadership Lessons From The '80s

One of my old shipmates got this from his old XO back in the mid-80s, written from an XOs perspective on how to be an effective leader. How much do you think is still applicable for the Submarine Force? Or do you think it was ever applicable?

"Proverbs and Other Pearls of Wisdom"

There is a reference for everything. Cite it.

Repair in accordance with plan (see above).
COROLLARY ONE: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
COROLLARY TWO: If it’s not operating in accordance with design specifications (no matter how intermittently) it’s broke.
COROLLARY THREE: People sometimes heal themselves without assistance. Machines never do.

Johnson’s first principle of leadership: First, you get their attention.

The highest compliment you can pay (or be paid): “You do nice work.”
The worst compliment: “Nice work, but...”
Compliment the man/woman, then tell his/her boss.

Never surprise a man with his evaluation. If he hasn’t been periodically and formally counseled on his performance relative to his peers, he suffers from bad leadership.

Proofread three times:
Format (check the reference)
Grammar and spelling
Meaning (Pretend you’re the guy on the receiving end. What action would you take?)
COROLLARY: Proofread your rough draft. If the Yeoman can’t easily turn it into a smooth product, rewrite and resubmit.

The worst deficiency ever written: The ship failed to… “as required by ship’s instructions.”
COROLLARY ONE: If there is no requirement, don’t do it.
COROLLARY TWO: If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have the time to do it over?
COROLLARY THREE: Where the “right” way and the “Navy” way differ, the “Navy” way generally keeps rework under 10%.
COROLLARY FOUR: You get what you inspect, not what you expect.
(Current CO) COROLLARY: If your people do not safely start work 20 minutes after quarters, whether it’s training or wrench-turning, they suffer from bad leadership.

Formality means doing things the same way every time, with positive feedback on instruction action and completion. Formality keeps the rework under 10%, gets the ship underway on time, keeps the lights burning, and the ship afloat, off the rocks and undetected.
COROLLARY ONE: Anything worth ordering is worth a completion report.
COROLLARY TWO: “Assume” makes an ass out of you and me.
COROLLARY THREE: Verbatim compliance is very formal. However, at no time are you authorized to screw up formally in the execution of an approved procedure.
COROLLARY FOUR: If you want credibility, be consistent in your standards and requirements.

The worst time waster is poor training. If you are responsible for the training and despite your best planning it’s going poorly, you can do one of three things, two of which are acceptable:

Do nothing, establishing a new low standard of acceptability.
Stop the training and reschedule it when preparation is better.
Step in and assist in conducting the training yourself (if you are qualified to do so) to make it acceptable.

Aim your training at your best people, not your average guy. If you desire some 2.5 level knowledge, train at 4.0, test to 3.4 - 3.8, and you will probably achieve the desired 2.5 level. If you train and test to 2.5 you are certain to achieve less. You will also waste the time of your best people (not to mention your own) and convince your people that training is the least productive thing, rather than one of the most important things they do.

PARKINSON’S LAW OF WORD PROCESSING: Work expands to fill all word processing capability available for its completion. A word processor is a remarkable device designed to increase administrative workload.

THE DELEGATION PRINCIPLE: Examine every assignment you get and ask yourself at what level it should be done. Assign it to that level, conduct the necessary training, establish a reasonable due date, then review the product. The final product will be of better quality, your men will be better trained and utilized, and you will have the time to do the things you’re really supposed to be doing.

Johnson’s Key to Administrative Success: Keep your IN basket empty and your OUT basket full. Act on it, forward it, delegate it, or return it the same day. Your working “limbo” pile should never exceed the capacity of one small desk drawer.
COROLLARY ONE: There are only so many hours available for reading things in detail. Use them wisely.
COROLLARY TWO: The correct action to take on many items is to throw them away. Do so with gusto.
(Current CO) COROLLARY: Bureaucrats exert power by sitting on paperwork.

Johnson’s Rule of Proportional Excellence (or why some ships always seem to get all the good people):
About 5% of the men you get would be losers wherever they went. Try to do in the few months you have with them what their parents were unable to do in 18 years. Work hard to save them until the day you “can” them. You will save, at best, one out of five.
70% to 80% will be superstars, good guys, okay guys, or losers depending on the company they keep, and the training and leadership they receive. What is done with this group separates the good ships from the average and the not so good.
10% - 20% would be superstars wherever they went (but really shine with good leadership and training).

The “Rack-him-out” Principle: If someone has failed to meet your established deadline for accomplishing a task, or has accomplished it incorrectly, he owes you an explanation (to be provided at your convenience, not his) and the right to correctly accomplish the task (again, at your convenience, not his). He forfeited his right to do his work at his convenience when he missed his deadline without explanation. RACK HIM OUT. I assure you these lessons will not be forgotten.
COROLLARY ONE: If you are assigned a deadline, don’t let it pass without completing the project or negotiating a new due date in advance (or standby to be racked out).
COROLLARY TWO: Figure out what kind of tickler system works best for you and use it.
COROLLARY THREE: Figure out what kind of tickler system your boss uses and periodically (at least weekly) check it to see if yours and his agree with what you owe him.

The status quo cannot be maintained by holding what you’ve got. You must be constantly striving to improve just to stay even.

Troubleshooting and Repair Precautions (Or why you are paid so much to maintain and operate your ship)

Not every permissible course of action or solution is necessarily detailed in the technical manual or operating procedures.
Specifically permitted actions are not necessarily always good ideas.
Not all dumb courses of action are specifically prescribed. This self-evident axiom is sometimes referred to as General Order Number One: Don’t be stupid.

In goal-oriented organizations (e.g. Navy), good performance tends to be equated with moral integrity and individual worth. Avoid the trap that “good performer” equals “good person,” “mediocre performer” equals “mediocre person,” and “bad performer” equals “bad person;” not all good performers are “good” people and not all bad performers are “bad” people. Do not overlook a character flaw for fear of upsetting or losing a good performer. Along the same lines, never discipline a person who honestly tries but doesn’t have what it takes to produce. There are humane ways to get him transferred where he can be of use somewhere else or separated if he is not.

Most people (greater than 90%), including most marginal performers, are inherently good people. Not only do they really want to do a good job, but they also honestly believe (through self-illusion if necessary) that they are “better” and their job performance is “just as good” if not better than most of the other guys in their division, department, or ship. This positive self-image is important for good mental health. A person who honestly believes that he is inferior to his peers is a candidate for suicide. Unless presented with detailed, specific, compelling evidence to the contrary, the average person maintains this positive self-image and has no motivation to work harder or better. In his mind he is already working hard enough and good enough. In fact, if questioned he will respond that he is working too hard and doing a better job than required.

Emotional appeals, especially those not backed up by specific details, rarely change perceptions or performance. Fear is a perfectly good leadership technique that can have spectacular results in the short term. If you are particularly skilled with “boot camp leadership,” you can even make it work in the long run. But do not expect to turn the average performer into a self-motivated superstar with this approach. It is likely that you will get, at best, letter of the law compliance.

A mediocre performer can sometimes be led out of his “good enough” rut by frequent, disparate comparison of his performance with the desired standard and counseling on specific ways to improve. This is not to be confused with chewing out. If you can alter his perception of his performance relative to his peers and your standards, and show him how to do better, you are well on your way to developing a self-motivated individual who takes genuine pride in his accomplishments and can be depended upon to do more than just what is required.

If you see something being done incorrectly and fail to take note or take action to correct it, you have:
given your implicit approval for it to be done incorrectly in the future; and
set a new (and lower) standard.

Look your sharpest on Mondays. You’ll like twice as good by comparison.

Keep the bitching lamp out. Complaints are festering sores, if a man has a problem, help him address it through the chain of command.

If valid, fix it.
If not valid, complaining won’t help. Help him live with it quietly.
If valid and truly unfixable, complaining won’t help. Help him live with it quietly.

Work a reasonable length of day to meet your objectives, then go home. There will be plenty of other long days to satisfy the workaholic in you.

Be a “can-do” guy. Being cheerful and positive on the outside gets the job done better and helps you over the hump when you have personal misgivings. This is sometimes called supporting the chain of command. It is also gives you credibility when you have a valid complaint.
COROLLARY ONE: Attitude attacks are authorized - but only in private with your department head, XO, CO, or close friend. Remember, no matter how good the job, some days suck.
COROLLARY TWO: When your best “can-do” guy has an attitude attack, get to the bottom of the problem and fix it fast. At least talk to him if you can’t fix it. Can-do guys fight through attitude attacks, and talking about it often helps them do that faster.

Johnson’s Duty, Honor, Country Philosophy: A man who has served his country honorably for three, four, six, or 20 years is a patriot. His decision to change jobs is his own. Use all the tools at your disposal to keep him in the Navy, but honor his final decision and always treat him like the patriot he is.

The Navy is not a cubic mile monolith in Washington, DC, which periodically charges up to vast potential and zaps the innocent, and helpless sailor. The Navy is people, and people sometimes makes mistakes. People can fix mistakes. Help your men - something can almost always be done to right a wrong (see below).

Anything that has been made by man can be fixed by man.

Whether your recurring problems are with people or machines, look for the common factor. A good sailor abhors a “coincidence.”
COROLLARY: Sometimes the common factor is you. Be able to make that determination and act accordingly.

Sailors (also spelled people) will do anything asked of them as long as they get about 6-8 hours of sleep a day and about one day out of every seven off.
COROLLARY ONE: Sailors work better if they understand what they are doing. Active support always results in better performance than grudging compliance.
COROLLARY TWO: When the work is done, go home. Nothing lowers credibility like make-work.
COROLLARY THREE: There is more work to do than time available to do it. Planning prevents the possibility of wasting time with make-work.

P.S. It doesn’t always work. If it doesn’t, you know you have been honest and fair, and done your best.

“Always do right, this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

- Mark Twain

“It is not the will to win that counts. Everyone has the will to win. It is the will to practice to win that counts.”

- Bobby Knight

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

USS Hartford CO Relieved

As expected, the Commanding Officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768) was relieved of his command following last month's collision with USS New Orleans (LPD 18). From the Navy News website:
MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The commanding officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768) was relieved of command April 14 due to loss of confidence.
Rear Adm. Michael J. Connor, commander, Task Force 54 (CTF 54) and commander, Submarine Group 7, relieved the commanding officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768), Cmdr. Ryan Brookhart.
Connor expressed his loss of confidence in Brookhart's ability to command. Brookhart was in command of Hartford when the submarine collided with USS New Orleans (LPD 18) March 20, in the Strait of Hormuz. Although the investigations into the accident are not complete, Connor determined that there was enough information to make the leadership change.
Cmdr. Chris Harkins, deputy commander of Submarine Squadron 8, assumed command of Hartford April 14. Harkins previously commanded USS Montpelier (SSN 765).
Brookhart has been temporarily assigned to the CTF 54 staff in Bahrain.
Word on the street is that when the official investigation is released, there will be no new lessons learned.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Submarines And Pirates

Everyone seems happy with the resolution to the latest piracy incident off the coast of Somalia, where Navy forces treated pirates the way pirates have been treated throughout history -- they were captured or killed. Here's an interesting story about how the Navy SEAL personnel carried out their mission. Excerpts:
The operation to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips involved dozens of Navy SEALs, who parachuted from an aircraft into the scene near dark Saturday, landing in the ocean. The SEALs were part of a group of Special Operations forces involved in the effort, according to military officials...
...The SEALs set up operations on the USS Bainbridge, which had been communicating with the four pirates via radio and had used smaller boats to make deliveries of food and water to their lifeboat. Yet the pirates were growing increasingly agitated, the officials said. At one point Saturday, the pirates opened fire on one of the smaller U.S. Navy craft that approached.
As the seas grew rougher, the Bainbridge offered to tow the lifeboat to calmer waters, and the pirates agreed, linking up the lifeboat to the destroyer with a towing cable that left 75 to 80 feet between the two vessels. Phillips at the time was tied up in the lifeboat, having been bound -- and occasionally beaten -- by the pirates ever since he had attempted to escape by jumping into the water on Friday, the officials said...
...U.S. military observers thought that Phillips was about to be shot. SEAL snipers, who were positioned on a deck at the stern of the Bainbridge, an area known as the fantail, had the three pirates in their sights. The on-scene commander gave the snipers authority to fire.
"As soon as the snipers had a clear shot at the guy who had the rifle, they shot him and the other two in the hatches," the senior military official said.
Some parts of the story are amazing -- the pirates actually accepted a tow from the U.S. warship? Other parts I find, to be honest, a little bit Hollywood-ish. Why would the SEALs parachute into the water, when they could have landed on USS Boxer and then come in by helicopter? I wouldn't be surprised to eventually find out that they might have been a SEAL detachment that normally rides around on an SSGN.

Obviously, there are things that submarines can do to help in the war on terror and piracy that we certainly don't want to talk about here -- those readers who aren't submariners will just have to trust us on that. I'd be happy, though, if Big Navy would open up a little bit to acknowledge that contributions of submarines to 21st century warfare in a non-specific way.

For this whole hostage situation, I'm really glad it turned out that the U.S. Navy was only "negotiating" with the pirates in order to get some time to get our assets in place. I was really worried that the new administration just didn't get that there are bad people in the world who need to be killed; I'm glad to see that they do recognize this simple truth. In Western culture, kidnapping and piracy have traditionally been capital offenses, and the Somali pirates should make an effort to understand our feelings in this regard. (As you might guess, I'm sick and tired of people saying that we always need to be the ones to make allowances for other cultures.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Where's (Captain) Waldo?

When I first glanced at this picture on the official Navy website, I thought at first that something very important was missing. First check out the caption:
Cmdr. Thad Nisbett, left, commanding officer of the Los-angeles-class attack submarine USS Albany (SSN 753), discusses the capabilities of the boat's fire control system with U.S. Congressman Glenn Nye, III.
Then, look at the picture:

At first, I said to myself, "Wow, that's embarassing; the person on the left is clearly an FT2(SS)." Then, I realized that caption writer was correct; I hadn't seen the CO at first, since he was so expertly camouflaged! I'm just wondering if the CO of the Albany is wearing the official Navy Working Uniform, or if it's something else; his doesn't seem quite as blue as the ones sported by the crew of USS Scranton earlier this year. Maybe he's wearing the "woodland"-camouflage option with "dominant grey" color scheme. Or maybe the uniform color changes when it's not in direct sunlight. In any event, it looks like supervisors wearing the new NWU will be much more stealthy when it comes to sneaking up on crewmen! On the other hand, it'll probably make it much harder to find a roving watchstander who really doesn't want to be found when it's time to review his logs.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

USS San Francisco Leaves Shipyard

USS San Francisco (SSN 711) finally left the Puget Sound this morning for her new homeport of San Diego, 3 1/2 years after arriving there for repairs following her early 2005 collision. BZ to all those involved in bringing her back to the active fleet!

For those who are interested, here's a compilation of all the posts I wrote about the SFO grounding in the year after it happened that I collected over at Ultraquiet No More.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Twenty Years Ago Today: Loss Of RNS Komsomolets

Twenty years ago today -- April 7, 1989 -- saw the sinking by internal fire of the old Soviet Union's only Mike-class submarine, RNS Komsomolets (K 278). An excellent description of the fire and sinking can be found here. Today, let's offer a moment of silence and reflection to the 42 Submariners who were lost that day.

A Personal Note

As blogging has become more popular, there's been a debate about how far bloggers are expected to give up of their personal lives in order to share their thoughts with others. In general, it seems like people have reached a consensus whereby it's OK to mess with people online, but that you shouldn't mess with people "IRL" (in real life); i.e. if you disagree with them, you still shouldn't try to get them fired from their job/protest in front of their home/etc.

Sometimes people will disagree with things that are posted here, and I have no problem with them E-mailing me to let me know what they think. (Regarding E-mails, I really do try to answer all I get, but sometimes, especially during my workweek, I get behind on the 5 or blog-related E-mails I get most days. Sorry if I haven't responded to you.) My E-mail address is easy to find; just click on "View my complete profile" under "About Me" in the upper right corner of the blog, and you'll find my E-mail address in the "Contact" section.

On Sunday, however, someone went beyond the line. Without bothering to E-mail me about the problem, they called my house - twice - to complain about comments in a post from last year. I really don't need people calling my home and harassing my daughter and wife about something I (or in this case anonymous commenters) wrote. If you don't like something, please E-mail, and I'll do my best to fix the problem if I think I should or can. Anything beyond that goes beyond what is socially acceptable.

Plus, remember I do have caller ID, and can always post a caller's name and phone number here on my popular website if they do keep harassing me and my family at home. I won't in this case (and I did fix the problem that was complained about), but something like that is within my capability.

Friday, April 03, 2009

British MoD Reveals Number Of Royal Navy Submarine Fires And Collisions

In response to a question submitted in Parliament following the recent collision between British and French SSBNs, the British Ministry of Defence (sic) announced that British nuclear-powered submarines have had 230 fires and 14 collisions in the last 21 years. Excerpts from a BBC article:
The other incidents consisted of groundings, collisions with fishing vessels and HMS Tireless's coming together with an iceberg while on arctic patrol in 2003.
Mr Ainsworth said: "The Royal Navy has no records of collisions between nuclear powered submarines and other submarines and naval vessels other than the recent incident involving HMS Vanguard and French submarine Le Triomphant."...
...The MoD described the 213 "small-scale" fires as "localised" incidents, such as a minor electrical fault, "dealt with quickly and effectively using minimal onboard resources".
In contrast, the 21 "medium-scale" fires were caused by the failure of mechanical equipment, "requiring use of significant onboard resources". Three further fires broke out while vessels were docked at a naval base.
A press release by the anti-nuclear SNP detailed the 14 collisions:
HMS Superb grounding in the Red Sea in May 2008.
HMS Tireless struck an iceberg while on Arctic Patrol in May 2003.
HMS Trafalgar grounded on Fladda-chuain in November 2002.
HMS Triumph grounded in November 2000.
HMS Victorious grounded, while surfaced, on Skelmorlie Bank in November 2000.
HMS Trenchant grounded off the coast of Australia in July 1997.
HMS Repulse grounded in the North Channel in July 1996.
HMS Trafalgar grounded off the Isle of Sky in July 1996.
HMS Valliant grounded in the North Norwegian Sea in March 1991.
HMS Trenchant snagged the fishing vessel Antares in the Arran Trench in November 1990.
HMS Spartan grounded west of Scotland in October 1989.
HMS Sceptre snagged the fishing vessel Scotia in November 1989.
HMS Conqueror collided with the yacht Dalriada off the Northern Irish coast in July 1988.

All the vessels, apart from HMS Superb, which was decommissioned in October 2008, were repaired and returned to service.
This works out to one collision/snagging/grounding about every 18 months; this seems to be about half as often as the U.S. Navy has problems with its submarines. On the other hand, since we have significantly more that twice as many submarines, and have correspondingly more subamarine-days of operation per year, I'd say that the rate of accidents in the U.S. Submarine Force is significantly less than it is for the Brits. Will this finally put to rest the old canard that we Americans should adopt the British model of only allowing non-nuclear trained officers to command submarines because they're supposedly better and more experienced mariners?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

More Info On The Hartford Collision

There's an article in Stars and Stripes that seems to say the Navy is confirming that USS Hartford took a very serious roll when when was hit; the article in question says the roll was as much as 85 degrees. The fact that the boat was able to continue operating after such a transient is a testimony to the skill of her designers and builders.

Also, Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.), noted skimmer asshat, put in his two cents about the Hartford collision; as usual, his suppositions are the equivalent of suppositories, in that he just pulls stuff out of his ass. He apparently thinks that submariners get hurt from 10-20 degree rolls, even through we routinely practice angles in excess of that. Read his article over at SFTT (Motto: Badgering good men to suicide since 1996) if you want a laugh.