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, May 31, 2010

2500 Posts

This is my 2500th post on this blog. In celebration, here's a cool picture of USS Chicago (SSN 721) at PD:

Expect light posting this week -- we've got family coming into town and our youngest is graduating from High School (yes, the two events are related). Please feel free to discuss amongst yourselves about pretty much anything.

Memorial Day

While we honor all who have paid the ultimate price to maintain our Freedoms, my heart turns especially towards those Submariners still on Eternal Patrol. (Links to the Wikipedia article on each lost boat can be found here.)

Sailors, Rest Your Oars.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Submarine Department Head Retention Goal Met

Navy Times is reporting that PERS-42 met their submarine Department Head retention goals for FY09. Excerpts:
Annual goals call for the submarine service to retain roughly 110 department heads. The force came up short from fiscal 2004 through 2008, with the exception of fiscal 2006, when it exceeded goals by seven officers, according to Navy Personnel Command data. The silent service exceeded fiscal 2009 goals by two officers and has sustained this success eight months into this fiscal year, said NPC spokesman Mike McLellan.
The data shows the service retained 100 department heads, 11 short of goal, in fiscal 2008. Retention was boosted to 113 department heads, two more than the goal of 111 the next year. McLellan said the increase can be attributed “to the combination of a number of factors including leadership focus, an increase in nuclear officer continuation pay in [fiscal 2009] and the state of the economy.”
The article goes on to discuss the current size of the Bonus ($17.5K for 3 year contract without DH experience, $30K for serving or served DHs ). I for one fully support the Bonus. I realize some may disagree. Discuss away...

Rum, Sodomy, And The Lash

Now that the House has approved an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would lead to the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (I don't think it will get through a Senate filibuster, and the only reason it's being pushed now is to make Senate Republicans filibuster a Defense bill during wartime for use as election fodder), I'm wondering if they're going to take the next step and change the UCMJ. As all servicepeople know, the UCMJ has a prohibition on sodomy (Article 125) that pretty much criminalizes any sexual acts male homosexuals could do with each other beyond kissing (lesbians pretty much get off scot free, unless they have a long tongue -- it all depends on how the Court Martial would interpret the "penetration, however slight" requirement to complete the offense). The upshot of Article 125, of course, if that it actually criminalizes a substantial segment of the heterosexual population of the military as well -- the prohibition on oral sex doesn't apply only to same sex behavior.

We've already discussed in detail the controversy surrounding the potential repeal of DADT. Are there any other punitive UCMJ Articles that you think should be repealed as being out of date? And would you pay to watch a PPV channel that has Congress debating a repeal of Article 125 and seeing how many euphemisms they can come up with?

Funny New Submarine-Related Facebook Page

For those of you on Facebook, you should consider looking at the new "Sh*t you don't say if you are a Submariner" group; it currently has about 3000 members, and lots of good submarine quotes. Kind of like the old EM Log, but everyone's an author.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Submarine Logos

Over on Facebook, I found what was purported to be the new logo of PCU California (SSN 781); if it's not, it should be:

I always enjoy seeing the new boats' logos -- a lot of imagination generally goes into them, although there are certain limitations imposed by the Heraldry shop if you go through them, like we did on Connecticut. Of course, some aren't as good as others; here I'm thinking specifically of the "drowning dog" logo used by USS Seawolf (SSN 21) and the "We Run Aground" one for USS Asheville (SSN 758).

Which are your favorite submarine logos?

Bell-ringer 1027 27 May: Here are the logos of the Los Angeles-class and Ohio-class boats.

Bell-ringer 1400 27 May: And here are the logos for the old boomers.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

42 Years Ago Today...

USS Scorpion (SSN 589) was lost with all hands on May 22, 1968, near the Azores as she was transiting home from deployment. While there are many theories as to the cause of the loss of Scorpion (personally, I believe it was a TDU malfunction), the most important thing we can do now is to honor the service and sacrifice of the officers and crew still on Eternal Patrol.

Men of the Scorpion, you are remembered.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Miss Louisiana USA Visits USS Alexandria

USS Alexandria (SSN 757) was visited by the reigning Miss Louisiana USA, Sara Brooks, earlier this week before leaving on deployment today. As this post is clearly useless without pictures, here's a shot of Miss Brooks giving the order to "Prepare to snorkel" (seriously):

I guess the restriction on non-qualified visitors to submarines operating equipment put in place after the Greeneville - Ehime Maru collision has been rescinded. I always appreciated having celebrities come down to the boat to raise the crew's morale, and I'm sure the crew of the Alexandria appreciated it too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Submarine Advantage

Now that the South Korean government has officially blamed North Korea for the sinking of ROKS Cheonan (PCC 772), we'll have to see how the situation plays out. My thoughts are that we'll see some arguments in the Security Council and a weak resolution passing with minimal sanctions, and sometime in the next couple years we'll see some North Korean vessels have "accidents" which may or may not be publicized.

Now that submarine torpedoes are in the news, expect more less-than-knowledgeable commentary like this post at the Human Events blog, which brings up not-infrequent meme that supercavitating torpedoes are a superweapon that can't be countered (and that they're somehow superior to regular homing torpedoes). The author also says:
The evolution of submarine warfare has been a cat-and-mouse game in which a technological advantage can turn the hunter into the hunted. The March 26 incident may now give the submarine the advantage.
As if that hasn't been the case for about 50 years. Sure, it helps skimmer morale to run exercises where they think they're actually tracking a submarine in real-world conditions, but the fact remains that the best defense against a well-handled submarine is another submarine (or a clever minefield). This incident only shows that even a crappy submarine is superior to most surface ships, especially unalerted ones.

[As always, in discussing this post please try to avoid any information not in the public domain.]

Stupid Submariner Tricks

One time when I was a JO, I went on leave with the reactor safety keys. I'd gotten relieved as EDO and signed out on leave, and drove home without turning over the keys. When I got home, I heard the phone ringing inside, and as I reached into my pocket to get the keys, I felt the lanyard and thought, "I bet I know what that call's about." (There was an RC entry planned for that day). Had to turn around and head back to the boat.

What's the most embarrassing gaffe you've ever committed on a submarine?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Submariner In Space (Again)!

CAPT Stephen Bowen, former XO of (then) PCU Virginia (SSN 774), blasted into space for his second flight yesterday, aboard Atlantis. This is planned to be the last mission for the Atlantis. This makes CAPT Bowen the first Submariner to go into space twice. Good luck to CAPT Bowen and the rest of the crew!

Friday, May 14, 2010

USS Shark Documentary

The Naval History and Heritage Command has a YouTube channel with lots of good old videos. Last week, they uploaded a three-part documentary (total running time about 28 minutes) about USS Shark (SSN 591) that was released in 1965. Here are the links:

Makes for some good weekend viewing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"I'll Show You How To Clean"

At my day job, for various reasons even an emergency head call takes about 15 minutes. We were talking about that earlier this week, and it reminded me of a sea story I told here about five years ago. It's so funny (to me at least) that I'm recycling it:

Los Angeles-class submarines, unlike Seawolfs, do not have a urinal in the Engine Room. When you're standing watch in back there, you're not allowed to go forward. As a result, you normally have off-watch guys come back and do "short reliefs" to allow their buddies to head up to take care of business during their six hour watches. During the midnight to 6 AM watch, though, it's harder to get people back to relieve you, so Submariners, being an enterprising bunch, have figured ways around this problem.
In Main Seawater Bay on a 688, there's a fairly large drain funnel that is right beside the walkway, about 2 1/2 feet above the deck. It's an relatively isolated area, so one can expect a little privacy there. I'm not saying that all nukes on 688s use that funnel to answer nature's call; only those whose tours take them past the funnel do.
So, there I was, doing field day on the good ship Topeka. Our XO comes back to see how we're doing. At this point, I should add that this XO spent almost his entire JO and Dept. Head tours in the shipyard, and didn't have much at-sea experience. Anyway, he sees this funnel sticking out that's clearly dirtier than the rest of them, and decides to inspire us. "Can't you guys see how dirty this funnel is? Here, I'll show you how to clean!" With that, he started scrubbing away with great vigor, even using his fingernails to clean especially mungy parts, and I'll tell you, we were doubled over with inspiration...

"Spice" Problem On Boats?

Word on the street is that Pearl Harbor is having a problem with young Submariners using "Spice", a "synthetic" collection of herbs that reportedly produces a pot-like high. While it's not outlawed in the U.S. (except in Kansas), the Navy banned its use in March of this year.

Clearly, drug use and submarining don't mix. (Unless, of course, you consider alcohol to be a drug.) On USTAFISH, I remember one guy running out of the Fan Room right after we got underway, yelling that there were spiders in there. We laughed and gave him a hard time, and it was only when his next urinalysis came back that we realized that he really was hallucinating spiders.

While the libertarian part of me wonders if maybe the Navy is a little too intrusive with what Sailors do on their own time, the still-present authoritarian part of me thinks that overall it's a Good Thing that the Navy does their best to keep Sailors on the straight and narrow -- to a certain extent. What do you think?

Monday, May 10, 2010

COMSUBGRU TEN Bloggers Roundtable

I'll unfortunately be at work while this is going on, but Rear Admiral Barry Bruner, Commander, Submarine Group TEN, will be holding a "Bloggers Roundtable" at 1430 EDT on Tuesday, 11 May. You can listen in here. RDML Bruner will "take questions and explain the Navy’s plan to integrate women into submarine crews" in his capacity as the lead of the Task Force for Women in Submarines. Should be informative.

Update 0955 14 May: Here's the transcript from the Roundtable.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

"There Goes The Mail"

I can't remember if I've posted this video before, but for those who haven't seen it, here's the video of the sinking of the tug USS Secota (YTB 415) by USS Georgia (SSBN/SSGN 729) on 22 MAR 1986:

The famous quote in the title occurs about the 3:45 point. Memo to tug drivers: Stay away from the stern planes!

NR Admiral's Interviews In The News

As the news came out about the first 19 female Midshipmen / Officer Candidates selected for submarine duty, one of the articles talked about how all the candidates were interviewed by ADM Donald at Naval Reactors. Surprisingly, the article didn't try to make a big deal out of that, since the writer was apparently aware that all candidates to become nuclear officers are interviewed by NR.

I interviewed back in 1988, with ADM McKee. My interview was fairly straight-forward; he mainly wanted to know if my wife had gone to college, which seemed to be what he was asking all the married guys that day. One of my unmarried friends didn't have that easy question; he got asked what hobbies he had, and on answering, "Well, I like bowling", got told by the Admiral that bowling wasn't a hobby, so he had to go out for an additional "personality" interview with one of the guys from the Line Locker. He got selected, since he really was a good guy.

Anybody have any good NR interview stories?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Good And Bad Of The Internet

The 'net can be a wonderful place; it's especially good for catching up with old friends. Yesterday, I found that an old shipmate from USS Topeka (SSN 754) had a website on which he had posted all the pictures he had digitized from the Topeka in the early '90s. Here's a picture of about half the wardroom:

I'm third from the left. All are JOs, except the guy on the far right is the Weps who went on to bigger and better things. Old Topeka shipmates will enjoy looking through the pictures, except maybe for this one -- it's one of the few pictures I've found on the 'net of "He Who Must Not Be Named".

I also found out yesterday through the 'net about how our old MDR from the Topeka is doing. Turns out he's the CMC of Naval Hospital Pensacola. Way to go, Doc!

Unfortunately, the internet can also bring the ravings of lunatics into your home. For example, if you're not careful, you may waste precious minutes of your life reading the drivel from a North Korean apologist who claims the recent sinking of the South Korean corvette was probably due to friendly fire from Americans, or this alleged French submarine "expert" who thinks an American nuclear submarine sank the French trawler Bugaled Breizh back in 2004. (His theory is that we had an SSN protecting a British freighter hauling plutonium from terrorists -- as if a submarine could do anything against a terrorist go-fast. Vigilis has more on this story.) Alternately, your brain could hurt from reading the suppositions of someone who thinks a North Korean mini-sub torpedoed the oil platform in the Gulf.

Still, without the tin-foily side of the 'net, I wouldn't have nearly as many people to mock and belittle, so I suppose I should be grateful for that too.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Brit SSNs Have Nuclear Valve Issues

This report in The Guardian details how two British SSNs, HMS Turbulent (S 87) and HMS Tireless (S 88) operated for up to two years with their Steam Generator Safety Valves isolated. Excerpts:
Safety valves designed to release pressure from steam generators in an emergency were completely sealed off when the nuclear hunter killers Turbulent and Tireless left port, a leaked memo discloses.
The problem went undetected on HMS Turbulent for more than two years, during which time the vessel was on operations around the Atlantic, and visited Bergen in Norway, the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and Faslane naval base near Glasgow.
It was not noticed on HMS Tireless for more than a year, and was finally detected last month, two months after Tireless started sea trials from its home port at Devonport naval base in Plymouth...
... The blocked valves, on the hull of the submarines, meant that steam from nuclear-powered boilers could not have been released in an emergency, leading to a potentially disastrous build-up of pressure.
John Large, a consultant on nuclear safety who advises governments on submarine safety, said: "It was a very significant failure. These two submarines were unfit for service. It was a perilous situation."
He said sealing these valves was like blocking the valve on a domestic pressure cooker. If pressure had built up to dangerous levels, the submarine's steam circuit could have burst, leaking radioactivity into the submarine and shutting down the reactor. "There would be a risk of fatalities," Large said. "This was such a glaring and fundamental omission. It's jaw-dropping."
[Emphasis mine] Obviously, the nuclear "consultant" who thinks a steam rupture results in an immediate leak of radioactivity into the submarine, before the reactor shuts down, doesn't have a clue (unless all Brit subs have massive primary-to-secondary leaks), but the report is correct that this was a massive blunder by the shipyard and a big nuclear no-no. Admiral Rickover, who did so much to impose nuclear safety standards on the British submarine fleet in exchange for the S5W reactor design, must be on the governor right now.

(In discussing this, please remember not to disclose NNPI. For those wondering if I violated my own admonition in posting about this article, please note that I included links for both of the esoteric nuclear terms I used to show that the concepts are in the public domain.)