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.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Using Lasers To Find Submarines

Check out this story about how a scientist from the Naval Research Laboratory is investigating the use of lasers for finding or communicating with submerged submarines:
The shock wave created by either method can travel several miles and can be used for several purposes. One would be for one-way communication with underwater vessels. Triggering pressure waves in a specific order could allow a plane to communicate with underwater vessels via basic Morse code, or, more likely, says Jones, with a complex, encoded pattern of pulses.
Another use for laser-induced sound waves would be for mapping the ocean floor. When they hit a submerged object, the pressure waves bounce back. A nearby submarine or buoy could detect the pattern of those waves and create a map of the ocean floor, or the location of other submarines in the area.
Every once in a while, you read some story about how lasers are going to make submarines obsolete by making the ocean "transparent" and easily finding submarines. Somehow, these systems never end up working out. The reason, of course, if that you would get huge rates of false "positives" for any such system. One thing about ASW exercises that's always bugged me is how skimmers get a false sense of how good they are because they get cued to where the submarine is to start with -- otherwise, of course, it would turn such exercises into a waste of time because they'd never find the sub. Still, in the real world, they're not going to know where the subs are at to start their search, or even if one is there. When I was on the Carrier Group staff, during workups I saw many "positive submarine" detections called that weren't anywhere close to where the submarine actually was; in wartime, each of these would have likely resulted in wasted ordnance. Ships only carry so many ASW weapons. I think that to make skimmers aware of this, we should occasionally do ASW exercises where no submarine is present. That could be a valuable teaching lesson that could save ordnance for when it's actually needed during wartime.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Navy Working Uniform Now Allowed Out In Town

I haven't seen the NAVADMIN yet, but the MCPON reports, on his Facebook page no less, that the CNO has approved the wearing of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) out in town in some circumstances:
Today our CNO approved a revision to the policy that governs the wear of the Navy Working Uniform. Effective immediately, Sailors in most locations can now wear our newest uniform outside the lifelines of our bases and our ships. They can wear it for short routine stops and even at restaurants out in town as long as it's during working hours.
This is a big win for our Sailors and for our Navy. The American public is going to be introduced to this new uniform and our men and women have been eager to get out there and show it off.
Much of the credit for this decision goes to our CNO, Admiral Roughead, and our Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Fitzgerald. They recognized a need early on to make sure our Sailors knew exactly how to wear this uniform before we sent them out in front of the American public. Our Chiefs trained them and provided the feedback. Now we're ready to move forward and let communities around the country see what a United States Sailor looks like in blue and gray camouflage.
Also, BZ to Fleet Master Chief Scott Benning and the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Chief's Mess. They led the way in getting their Sailors trained up on the NWU and set the standard for the entire Navy.
More details on this can be found in NAVADMIN 188/09.
Have a great weekend.
This is a policy change that really makes sense. As you might recall, none of us really liked the old "can't wear it out in town at all" policy that was first promulgated. I like how the MCPON tries to exonerate the CNO and CNP for the original idiocy, basically saying the previous policy was only in place until Sailors learned to "wear this uniform". I'm sure our Sailors were very challenged on this point. [/sarcasm]

Update 1824 26 June: Here's a more "official" version of the announcement, from the Navy webpage.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good Ship Topeka Deploys

My first boat, USS Topeka (SSN 754), left on deployment earlier this week; here's a picture:

According to this story, Topeka was featured in the new movie "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". Even when we first got around to San Diego in 1991, the Topeka was kind of the "go-to" boat when it came to media availabilities. With her recent appearance on "24", along with this movie, it looks like they're still using her as the local Media Darling. (I won't see the movie until Saturday, but from what I've heard from some family members, who went to the midnight showing Tuesday night, the boat doesn't fare so well.)

Update 1701 27 June: I saw the movie. I didn't have enough thoughts about it to make it worth writing a full "Movie Review" post, but I liked it OK. It was basically a huge advertisement for American servicepeople and advanced U.S. military gear, and I was cool with that. (That's probably also why a lot of media critics don't like it.) The movie was pretty long (almost 3 hours) so I should have looked it up on RunPee before I went. As usual, there were some technical problems with the submarine sections: the submarine is shown as being on the surface while "on station", but is able to submerge within about 30 seconds. The ocean where Megatron is buried, the Laurentian Abyss, is described as being "9,600 fathoms" deep -- it's actually about just over 2,000 fathoms deep, and the deepest point in the actual ocean is 5,900 fathoms. The 3-D capabilities of the shipboard sonar are at least explainable if one assumes that they've instrumented the area where a submarine is on duty "at all times". They also showed my old carrier, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), right before she somehow changed into CVN 71. (The Stennis shows up again later as herself.) Except for the part where the sub was on the surface, the gaffes weren't actually too distracting, so I give the movie three Hot Decepticons Coeds out of five.

Virginia-Class Update

In one of the least surprising results ever, the Virginia-class submarine program got the "highest possible ranking" from the Navy's "independent" Operational Test and Evaluation "Force" (COMOPTEVFOR) this month. What interested me in this Navy announcement of the success was some information on what some of the Virginia-class boats are doing now:
"COTF's findings validate what we have known for some time about the Virginia class - that they are ready to become the backbone of the U.S. submarine force," said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander, Submarine Force. "Virginia and Hawaii have conducted successful deployments prior to their post-shakedown availability (PSA) and New Hampshire is currently deployed. These are the first U.S. submarines to deploy prior to their PSAs, so we had confidence that these ships could operate as advertised, and now we have independent verification."
In its June 2009 IOT&E report, COTF went on to recommend full fleet introduction for the class and commented that "the Virginia-class submarine demonstrated major improvements in littoral environment capabilities" as compared to previous classes of submarine.
Currently, New Hampshire is conducting a deployment prior to its PSA. Additionally, Hawaii is underway to its new homeport in Pearl Harbor, making it the first Virginia to permanently leave Groton, Conn. Texas will follow Hawaii to Pearl Harbor in the fall. Lastly, Virginia is currently working up to its first six-month deployment, which will begin this fall.
So what would have happened had COTF not recommended "full fleet introduction" of the Navy's largest shipbuilding program? I'm guessing "a plague of locusts o'er the land".

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Live Free... Or Die!!

During a visit to Norway last month, the crew of USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) got roped into an international naval parade in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Norwegian Submarine Force. Here's the picture:

Some other pictures from their European tour can been seen here and here. I've always thought it was a pain to have to go out in town in a liberty port in uniform -- except in Australia. (My favorite story of a shipmate having a great adventure while in uniform out in town was recounted here.) What ports have you been to where it's worth your while to hit the beach in uniform?

(As to the title of this post, I just wanted to honor my favorite state motto -- New Hampshire has the best, no doubt about it.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Submarine Officer" Video From The 80s

Check out this unintentionally humorous 1988 Navy propaganda video trying to get people to become Submarine Officers:

The funniest part is where the JO actually relieves as DOOW.

(Personally, I only stood Dive once after I qualified, which was when the CO wanted to to meet with all the Chiefs at the same time. Another officer stood COW, and we completely screwed up the trim as a prank.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Submarines Interacting With Idiot Civilians

Here's an interesting story from the St. Petersburg Times about a fishing boat that saw USS Georgia (SSGN 728 729) surface south of Key West. Excerpts:
The sub, wrote Navy Commander Patrick W. McNally in an e-mail, was being used for routine dive training to prepare "operators for possible missions overseas." McNally wouldn't share specifics "due to the sensitive nature of special operations."
Schermerhorn and Marlowe learned that when five boats stocked with machine guns approached. Men in sunglasses and black fatigues told them to move 2,000 yards away. Marlowe grabbed the boat's wheel. Schermerhorn held his camera.
"Due to my extensive knowledge of the sea and out of concern for our national security, I took many photographs," said Schermerhorn, 48. "It's my obligation and duty to investigate."...
...It was all a little too Tom Clancy for Marlowe, a self-proclaimed Georgia boy who wanted only to fish. But Schermerhorn, who called the sub's activity "suspicious," has kept digging. He contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI and the Monroe County Sheriff's Office with his story. He may write a book.
Well, it's clear that this guy is a serious goob. He reminds me of the idiot civilians who try to get really close to submarines when we're entering and leaving port (especially in San Diego). "We don't care about the Rules of the Road, we just have to get this picture", they'll say. "Why are you sounding your horn 5 times when we just want to get close and take a fun picture?" When I was on Topeka, one of those idiots actually hit us; luckily, the Coast Guard was right there to cite them (and hopefully take away their keys.)

Nowadays, we have people with guns on the sail (which we didn't back in the early 90s), and I think the idiots recognize that we will shoot them if they get too close. Have you ever been hit by an idiot civilian while on a sub, or come close to having to fire warning shots at them because they have to get close to get that picture?

Edited 1730 19 Jun to correct a typo in the hull number.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

O-7 Selections Announced

Much later than usual, the FY10 Rear Admiral (Lower Half) selections were released in ALNAV 43-09. Congratulations to the Submarine community selectees: Richard Breckenridge, James Foggo III, Robert Hennegan, and Thomas Wears. We only had 4 selectees this year, down from 6 last year. (The two years before that we had 4 and 5 for FY08 and FY07, respectively.) This is by far the toughest cut for any promotion in the Navy -- selection rates are typically about 5%.

Anybody like to share any good sea stories about the new Admirals?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chinese Submarine Hits U.S. Towed Array

An unidentified Chinese sub yesterday hit the towed array of Yokosuka-based USS John McCain (DDG 56) near Luzon, according to this CNN report. Excerpts:
The array was damaged, but the sub and the ship did not collide, the official said. A sonar array is a radar towed behind a ship that listens and locates underwater sounds.
The incident occurred near Subic Bay off the coast of the Philippines.
The official, who declined to be named because the incident had not been made public, would not say whether the U.S. ship knew the submarine was that close to it.
(I'm assuming they'll correct the ridiculous "radar" reference, emphasis mine, as soon as someone with a clue at CNN actually reads the article.) The article goes on to state that it's unlikely this was intentional on the sub's part, since it would have been really dangerous had the tow cable gotten wrapped around the submarine's shaft. This is putting it mildly; there's no way around admitting that this could only be seen as a case of really bad submarining. Submarines never, ever want to get near the stern of any ship that might have a towed array deployed for that very reason; it you get that cable wrapped around your only propulsion shaft, especially this far from your homeport, you're pretty much SOL and heading home on your dinky outboard (if Chinese subs even have them). While I'm sure we'll see lots of uneducated "how could we let a Chinese submarine get that close to us" wailing from those without clues -- what do they expect us to do, open fire at a submarine belonging to a nation with which we're not at war? -- the main takeaway from this for me is that, once again, Chinese submariners are proving that they're not really ready for prime time. (But the Sub Force still needs lots of funding to Stand Up to the Chinese Submarine Threat, if you're a Congressional Aide who wandered here from Google.)

Update 1046 13 June: Submariner John at Improved Clinch offers his thoughts on the coverage. Still nothing official from any of the Navy sites, even the Seventh Fleet Facebook page -- seems like it would have been worth at least a quick wall post.

Update 1600 15 June: Stars and Stripes reports that the McCain has returned to Sasebo. This idiot posting at OpEdNews claims that the Chinese sub was intentionally trying to foul the array in their screw so they could steal it. That would be one gutsy CO. Considering the odds of finding a U.S. destroyer streaming an array and getting the pursuit curve right with the limited speed of a diesel boat and getting the depth right, it would be quite an accomplishment.

Update 1751 19 June: In this Navy Times article, unnamed defense officials claim the McCain was tracking the Chinese submarine. Those who are wondering why the McCain couldn't avoid the submarine when it was tracking it don't understand that ranging is very difficult in passive TMA, and is an inexact science at best even it the target isn't maneuvering.

Wear Your Dolphins To Work Day: April 9, 2010

A retired Master Chief going by the moniker "The Old Boomer COB" has come up with a fascinating idea; he even has a website to publicize it. Excerpts:
One day I decided to have silver Dolphins embroidered on some of my shirts, and as time went by a number of guys commented on my fish. Many of them said their Dolphins were the only Navy memento they still had. Some mentioned the fun of going to the Submarine Birthday Ball. We often traded sea stories, and we each went our own way. Life as an ex-bubblehead geezer was pretty good.
One night I woke from a sound sleep to the thought "If we can have a 'take your daughter to work day', why not have a 'Wear your Dolphins to work day'? Earning Dolphins must be at least as hard a having a baby, right? So why are we hiding our achievement?" We were in the "Silent Service", not the "Hide it like we are ashamed Service". I know some sea lawyer is thinking that we aren't supposed to wear uniform insignia with civvies, but we're SUBMARINERS! We wore beards when the rest of the Navy was clean shaven! We wore Nikes as uniform of the day at sea. We hit golf balls off the bow at the North Pole! We wore civilian clothes on watch for half-way day. We have friends with names like "Warhead"! If we can take pictures from inside Russian harbors, we can damn well wear our fish with civvies one day a year. Why not do it to celebrate the Submariner Force Birthday, April 11th? OK, the 11th is a Sunday in 2010, so lets make it Friday the 9th.
I think it's a great idea. And since 2010 is a "round number" anniversary (the 110th), I'm thinking we can even get a Congressional Resolution honoring submarines and making that Friday "National Submariners Day" or something like that. What do you commenters think? Is it worth the effort?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

French Sub Hunts For Pinger

The French nuclear submarine FS Émeraude (S 604) has arrived in the central Atlantic to look for the "black box" from Air France Flight 447. From a BBC article:
The "black boxes", which emit a locator signal for about 30 days, could be up to 6,100m (20,000ft) deep, on the bed of the Atlantic. They could provide vital clues as to why the Airbus A330 crashed on 1 June...
...French military spokesman Captain Christophe Prazuck said the submarine - the Emeraude - should be able to cover an area of 26 sq km each day. It has advanced sonar equipment on board.
"There are big uncertainties about the accident site, the ocean floor is rugged... so it's going to be very difficult," he told French radio.
"It's going to be very complicated and we're going to need a lot of luck" to find the plane's data recorders.
The US is also joining the search, sending two sophisticated listening devices, which will be deployed on two large vessels hired by France. They will be towed in a grid pattern across the search area.
If the aircraft's two black boxes are located, a mini-submarine called the Nautile will be sent down to retrieve them. The vessel, which has a crew of three and is about 8m long, is the same one which explored the wreck of the Titanic.
Here's a picture from the Navy website of some of the equipment we're sending down. ScoopDeck has more on the Navy's role in the search. I'm not sure how much help the submarine will be compared to the pinger detectors that will be towed around the area; it all depends on what the Sound-Velocity Profile of the wafer is like in that part of the world. If the layer's around a few hundred feet or shallower, the French boat could make the discovery. If not, it was probably sent down as a PR move to show that the French military is putting all their assets to use -- after all, they've already paid for the fuel.

Has your boat ever been sent to look for something like this?

A True Statement

From an E-mail I got from a writer for a national publication:

"You've got the best sub commenters on the web..."

I agree with him 100%. Thanks to everyone who contributes worthwhile comments and makes this blog what it is.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Submariner Receives Long Overdue Bronze Star

From this story on the official Navy website:
A retired senior chief was formally presented the Bronze Star medal with the Combat Distinguishing Device during a ceremony at Navy Operations Support Center, Naval Amphibious Base, Little Creek June 1.
Retired Senior Chief Quartermaster (Submarines) Clarence G. Cooper received the Bronze Star for his actions during the Vietnam War.
"Today's award event was about formal recognition of a naval hero's courage, determination and selfless sacrifice in preventing his ship from sinking and his men from capture or death," said retired Navy Capt. Allen Weseleskey, the event's master of ceremonies and a Navy Cross recipient.
Cooper was recognized for his heroic actions while serving as craft master of covered lighter Kodiak (YF 866) in the Republic of Vietnam Sept. 14, 1968. During combat operations, Cooper's craft was ambushed by intense fire from hidden emplacements on both sides of a narrow Mekong River channel. With little regard for personal safety, he exposed himself to the automatic weapons and rocket fire while directing his crew to fire on enemy positions...
...Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander, U.S. Submarine Force, was equally honored to be making the presentation.
"Today we honored Senior Chief Cooper, who is a great example of the commitment to service that has made our country strong. From his early days on board the [USS] Perch [SS 313] and [USS] Halfbeak [SS 352], to his later assignment aboard river patrol boats in Vietnam and at Submarine Squadron Six, Clarence Cooper answered his nation's call.
"And although we are here to specifically acknowledge his heroic actions on that gunboat in September of 1968, let us never forget this long history of service, and through this commitment to the Navy and his country, all of the lives that he touched and Sailors who have benefited from his leadership."
Here's a video of the award ceremony:

I'm always glad to see people, especially Submariners, receive overdue recognition for their actions. One person I would really like to see suitably recognized for his bravery is CDR Dudley "Mush" Morton -- while he earned four Navy Crosses during his brief time in command of USS Wahoo (SS 238), I think he deserves the Medal of Honor for his last war patrol. It would be especially appropriate to make this award now, because we now know more about this last patrol since the boat's eternal patrol location was recently discovered. While I know that this recognition of CDR Morton would be politically impossible because of the "controversy" surrounding some of his actions on his first War Patrol in command (in which some survivors from a ship Wahoo had sunk were fired upon after firing on the submarine from their lifeboats), I would still like to see this pioneering warrior honored with our nation's highest honor at some time.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

JO Qual Time

Word on the street is that there's some anecdotal evidence that submarine JOs are generally taking longer than they used to in order to finish their submarine quals; in some cases, up to 2 years. Has anyone on the waferfront heard anything to confirm this? If so, do you think it could be due to COs protecting their backsides by not wanting to give fish to guys who might mess up?
Other rumors are that there's a gap in JOs getting to the fleet due to some sort of holdup at the NPTUs. Any truth to this, from people who might know?

Update 1718 08 June: From what I'm hearing, when the prototypes have long shutdowns, the powers-that-be have sometimes gotten smart and sent officers to do SOBC while they're waiting for the plant to come back up; I was happy to hear that.

As far as NNPI goes, obviously we don't want to post it because it could potentially help our adversaries. Additionally, it seems that a good side effect of not disclosing NNPI is that it keeps civilians who don't know nuclear power from overreacting to reports that they don't fully understand, with the accompanying wailing and gnashing of teeth. Bottom line, please don't post specifics about why NPTUs might shut down.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work

As I picked up a prescription today, I was surprised that they didn't charge me anything for it; normally, with Tricare, I have either a $3 or $9 co-pay, depending on if it's generic or not. It turns out that there's an annual maximum one has to pay, and it appears I met it with all the cancer surgery recovery drugs I got earlier this year.

I'm starting to think that, believe it or not, having Tricare as a free secondary insurance is one of the better benefits of being a retiree. What do you guys think, either as a taxpayer I'm "leeching" off or as someone who is or might be getting the Good Deal?

Typhoon Photos

Via the new Navy Times blog, The Scoop Deck, and from several readers who've written in, check out this web page of photos from a Russian who recently toured one of their reserve Typhoon SSBNs. (According to this article, the two Typhoons remaining have no missiles installed.)

While I think it's pretty cool to look at these pictures, I don't think there's any real intel value to them, so the Russians shouldn't pull the pictures from the 'net.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

USS Seawolf Returns From Deployment

Here's a story in the Kitsap Sun about the return of USS Seawolf (SSN 21) from a 6 month WestPac. It comes with a video of the homecoming:

Welcome home, guys!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

NNPTC Tragedy

From a May 30 story in the Charleston Post and Courier:
A sailor who worked at the Naval Weapons Station died Saturday morning, just hours after he was shot at a Berkeley County apartment.
Branden Michael Pease, 20, was at a friend’s home in the Ladson area around 10:30 Friday night when the shooting occurred, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office.
Pease was taken to Trident Hospital, where he died around 3:15 a.m. Saturday.
Deputies on the scene arrested one of Pease’s co-workers, Darell William Sohm, 22. His address is listed at Ashley Town Center Drive.
Sohm, also a sailor assigned to the Weapons Station, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. He is being held at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center while he waits for a bond hearing.
Comments in the next day's follow-on article, along with their ages, make it clear that the Sailors involved in the tragedy were students at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command at the Naval Weapons Station in Goose Creek, SC. That article had this additional piece of information:
Rhoad said it appears "a bunch of people" were at the scene and that apparently "everybody was drinking" when the shot was fired. He said it's possible the gun discharged accidentally while being handled, but many questions remain unanswered.
The comments for the last story consist of a lot of people providing anecdotal evidence that Navy "Nukes" are all wild and out of control, and others providing evidence that not all "Nukes" are dangerous idiots. I can't tell whether these are Nuke School or Prototype students; the party being on a Friday night suggests it could be either (since the end of Day Shift or T-Week occurs on a Friday for the NPTU students; if it was a Tuesday night, we could have safely assumed it was an "LDS" [Last Day of Swings] party by Prototypers). For anyone who knows: Are non-married students in either school allowed to live away from the barracks?

When I started Nuke School as an ET3 fresh out of "A" School in 1984, our Class Director told us that enlisted Nukes share two characteristics: We were smart, and we were lazy. The typical Nuke back in the 80s seemed to me to be a smart guy who had either run out of money for college, or had gotten distracted from going by girls and/or other fun things (I was the 2nd type). The group I hung out with (Section 14 geeks, for those of you who remember such things) generally partied pretty hard, getting drunk several nights a week. When I went to Prototype in Idaho, we drank during most days off and did stupid things involving playing football in the middle of the road. What I'm saying is that Nuke students drinking hard isn't anything new. While this tragedy will (rightly) cause significant restrictions to be put on the students in Charleston for quite a while, I'd say to people who claim that Navy Nukes are "out of control" that they really don't behave any differently than any other group of similarly-aged young people with similar amounts of time off and discretionary income. They're just held to a higher standard -- as well they should be, because of the responsibilities they'll have in a few months.

Update 1306 03 Jun: Both Sailors involved had MySpace pages; Pease's is here, Sohm's is here.

Official USS Hawaii Blog

From a ComSubPac news release:
A newly-created internet blog is being facilitated by Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) Public Affairs in conjunction with USS Hawaii (SSN 776) crewmembers to chronicle the submarine’s historic arrival to its new home port of Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
The blog will feature posts from the submarine’s leadership on topics such as the transit from Groton as well as the crew’s activities and training accomplishments. The blog can be accessed through the COMSUBPAC official website ( or independently at
The public is encouraged to comment on any posts that interest them and to check back for the newest USS Hawaii information and arrival updates.
You can visit the new blog here. Since they set up the blog on Blogspot, the CSP PAO office will need to make sure they don't get too much comment spam built up; that being said, I'm glad to see this "new" technology being utilized. I'm hoping that eventually all boats might have an interactive website devoted to them. (As an advantage, you could eventually use the blogs for any needed disinformation, e.g. posting about the crew doing activities in port when they're actually out to sea doing secret squirrel stuff.)