Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Some Guys On The 772 Are Unhappy

Remember the old adage "A bitching Sailor is a happy Sailor"? If that's true, the guys at this site must be the happiest guys in the Force. (Some of the stuff there is a little bit clever, actually.) One of the links from this site is to "SNOB's Corner". For those who don't remember, "SNOB" stands for "Senior Shortest Nuke On Board" and is the title given to the Nuke who's been on board the longest. Since most guys will tranfer before EAOS if they're going to stay in, that title is normally held by a nuke who re-enlisted in prototype and is getting out after his first boat tour; therefore, he's normally unhappy.) who has the least time remaining until EAOS.

Edited 2038 31 Aug to correct a serious brain fart...

My first boat, the hurricane magnet

(Click Here To Help The Victims Of Hurricane Katrina.)

Yes, I can indeed make a connection between the current hurricane walloping the Gulf Coast and submarines.

Ever get chased out of port by one?

I did. Three stinkin' times. All on USS Tucson (SSN-770).

Well, I was only there for two.

First time was before our original commissioning (more on that later)...and in another friggin' state! We took a short trip to Port Caneveral ("P-Can") for some coner weaponeer testing or somesuch, and the storm of the week ran the boat right on out (emergency reactor startup and all). Funny thing...I wasn't there. Had a few days of special liberty to run up the coast and visit my father in Starke, FL. I'd actually taken him and the familiy down for a tour the afternoon before. The boat had called me early that morning at Dad's place...but Dad's a farmer, and we were up really early (being on the boat is more restful in terms of sleeping in than my Old Man's place) and I didn't get the message until around lunch when we went back to the house from the "back 40". I called the port ops number after trying the boat, found out they were long gone, got an offer to come stay in the barracks. The guy was dense...Dad's place was no where near the hurricane (didn't even get much rain), but this clown wanted me to drive down there to sit it out in the middle of it. All for the sake of "reporting in and being nearby when your boat gets here". I knew enough to know the boat was going to stay gone until it blew over, and convinced this guy that staying at my Dad's place wasn't really UA (what was I going to do in largely deserted P-Can anyway...they'd sent a bunch of people away, ferchristsakes...?).

The second was shortly before August 19th, 1996. I remember the date well...it's not only my wife's birthday, it's the day we were supposed to get commissioned. We got chased out several days before (after several days of steaming by the pier, being told we were dead last on the list due to the commissioning), I earned my dolphins in the wee hours of the morning of the 19th ("commissioning day"...well, not anymore), and we pulled in to see all the chairs and the pavilion for the ceremony in the water on the other side of the pier.

Commissioning was held off for a month...my Dad missed it (he was in town for the original date), but it was for the best...let 'em put Norfolk back together before the big party.

Third time was near the end of PSA. We were out of drydock (had been for about 10 days), in Newport News Shipbuilding, had the engineroom torn to bits (if it was a seawater heat exchanger, it was open/hydrolanced/waiting on QA and closeup), we were cooled down, and the cone was in shambles, too. The alert went out early in the week, and once again we were dead last on the list due to how torn up we were.

Yeah, right. Thursday evening (EVENING) we get word that we'll be getting underway on Monday morning. No one believed it...least of all us engineering types who knew how ripped up we were. Can you say "shiftwork"? And Newport News impressed us that weekend...I never saw a yard work so fast and so accurate. No farkups, no botched QA, stuff went together like it was Scotty on the starship Enterprise, and the reactor startup/heatup went down Sunday after lunch. Maneuvering watch early Monday, and since we were at sea anyway the skipper figured we might as well get that pesky post-PSA fast cruise (and as much of the sea trials as possible) done.

Twas to no avail...friggin' NRRO made us fast cruise anyway (book requirements), and we had to re-do sea trials since no civilian contracter/yardbird types were there to sign off the stuff. To top it off, coming back in the weather was still pretty bad (OK, it sucked big Clydesdale weeners) and we took a small shower (something like the approximate volume of Lake Ontario) down the bridge hatch and all over the Ship's Control Panel and part of the BCP. That nice, newfangled (and newly upgraded) SCP/BCP complex that had all the fancy electronic gizmos. Burnt 'em to a crisp.

Oh, on a quick little flank bell for some throttleman quals, we also discovered the radar wasn't pinned down. Came up, bent back, antenna snapped off (taking a chunk of the new SHT tiling near the stern planes with it), and flooded out the bridge trunk. Being as it was an SK who rigged the bridge and the CHOP who did the O-gang second (both missing that little ball-lock pin), the "is a radar mast a turn-in stock item" ribbing didn't end for some time.

As luck would have it, the place I fought against coming (and now love and plan to settle in)...Hawaii...hasn't had a single hurricane since I've lived here. A few have brushed by, but no hits. And to think I wanted to stay in the south east U.S..

That all being said (to keep us on topic), click here to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. From what I read, they're gonna need it real bad.

(Crossposted at The Online Magazine formerly known as Rob's Blog)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Submarine Organ Story

Commenter forendy's comment (responding to the preceeding post) about a wind operated mini organ powered by a footpump or the exhaust of a vacuum cleaner in his UK boat years ago reminded me of certain eccentricities in my old boat, the USS Seawolf SSN-575.

According to crew lore and as verified in the Goat Locker here (11th bullet down), SSN 575 had an electronic organ in its unoccupied, "prayer room" space. Although the organ and sodium-cooled reactor had both been removed by the time I reported aboard, the prayer room was still called that. For recreation, we also might have had a nickle slot machine (legal to play only in international waters, of course).

The prayer room was a nice storage space (rare on submarines). On occasion, various prototypical equipment was installed there for both trial or dedicated operational use. Finally, the space became permanently used by equipment maintained by some of my guys.

Oh, have you noticed an unfamiliar, unicorn-like device in the above photo? Seawolf has been called an experimental boat, not to deny her obvious, operational achievements (during the 30 years from her delivery to her decommissioning).

As the picture proves, experimental may be an understatement. This was before my time, and it raises another question. Would this organ have fit in the prayer room? What is the billiard cue-like device? If anyone cares to guess, I will let you know.

Oh, and before either complains, the geezer pictured on Seawolf's deck is neither GEEZERNUKE of OK2B NOUGHT to whom forendy replied, or bothenook of A GEEZER's CORNER.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Sundays Submerged

Here I am waiting for my wife, Carroll, to surface from her dressing room and announce, ”Are you ready yet, Its time to go to Church”. (The actual time to go has usually already past.) I got to thinking about Sunday on the Boats I was on 40 years ago and wondering how it is now. My interest in those days was not quite on spiritual development but there was always somewhat of a drive to attend church services fostered by memories of my Grandmothers faith in God and my wife’s active involvement.

Usually Sunday was just looked forward to because it was a stand-down day, no drills or field-days. There were only 2 of the 4 Boats I was on that I remember actually had a church service in the Crews Mess. The boomer, Andrew Jackson, had a temporary crew member, a medical Dr who led services on one patrol. On the Snook, SSN 592, we had a Chief IC-man who not only led the church services but was the boat’s couth patrolman, sort of an asst. COB for moral and hygiene issues. He was usually the one to present the XO’s disappointments regarding these categories and spell out the expected remedial action.

The Church service was always succinct: Opening Prayer, Sing Hymns, Read Bible, Sing Hymn, and Closing Prayer. It is interesting to note that the CO attended many of the services but I don’t remember seeing the XO there.

Chief Swiegert, I didn’t take the time to thank you at the time. You had a positive impact in my life, I thank you now.

(Cross posted from OK2B NOUGHT)

Why Was Groton On The BRAC List?

Cross-posted by Bubblehead in Idaho from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

Among many in the military, and especially those who served on major staffs, the tendency has been to blame any poorly-received change that comes down the pike directly on Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and his minions. There's no doubt that he's trying to transform the military from a Cold War organization to one that is more agile and, in theory, better able to respond to emergencies in the 21st century. The main question is whether he's going too far...

Therefore, many saw Rumsfeld's hand at the tiller when Sub Base New London showed up on the 2005 Base Closure List. Now that the base has been removed from the list, many in Connecticut are looking at why they got put on the list in the first place, and how they can avoid this in the future. An excellent article from The Day (may require free registration tomorrow) focuses blame on one man: former Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark. Clark, a known skimmer, was originally appointed in 2000, so no one can say that he was Rumsfeld's man from the start. Here's what the article has to say, in part:

"Although the commission did not address it directly, there were also critics of the Pentagon proposal who are convinced that the recommendation was politically motivated — not a “Red State vs. Blue State” payback for Connecticut backing John Kerry over President Bush in the 2004 presidential election, but a clash of the submarine and surface ship communities...
"...In fact, there is some evidence to suggest Clark's office was behind the recommendation. According to the working papers of the internal Navy group that prepared the BRAC recommendations, Groton was under consideration for closure, and the panel sought the counsel of the Fleet Forces Command and Clark's office.
"The next month the group reported that Fleet Forces Command opposed it. Clark's response was not documented, but the proposal advanced, which many took as evidence that he endorsed it.
"The Connecticut congressional delegation, too, seemed to indicate that the submarine force was not getting a fair shake under Clark. Simmons, for instance, once noted that a submarine force structure study ordered by Clark said the Navy could get by with as few as 37 submarines. A Pentagon review done at the same time said the force should go no lower than 45."

Now, the new CNO is also a skimmer, but he's shown that he's willing to break from Clark's agenda, which is a good thing. (Regarding that last link: I've never seen that site before today, and, on first glance, it does seem a little tin-foil-hattish, but I think what they're saying about VADM Sestak is right.) Hopefully ADM Mullen be willing to give the Submarine Force more of a fair shake than his predecessor.

The article in The Day has a lot more really good information -- give it a read.

Going deep...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Repel Boarders "The Video Game"

A geeky cross post by Lubber's Line at "Hundreds of Fathoms"

The old adage “practice makes perfect” takes many forms. Athletes call it muscle memory where you do same physical moves over and over until you don’t even have to think, you just do. Musicians say they’re in the groove when rhythm and melody flow together without much mental effort. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence is developed when an individual through practice can recognize sequential patterns such as 1 + 1 = 2 or 1,055 joules = 1 BTU or where there’s smoke there’s fire.

Therefore, the brain learns through pattern recognition and deduction, the more embedded the pattern the stronger the memory and the quicker and easier the response. Which brings us to shipboards drills, you remember those, reactor scram, fire in the galley, torpedo hot run, WSRT, etc. Now the Navy is putting a new twist to the Repel Boarders drill - practice it with a video game.

Navy SSN 688 class submarine crews will use a custom built video game to practice anti-terrorism tactics aboard ship. The company 3Dsolve developed what is called a Force Protection Anti-Terrorism Simulation Trainer, a three-dimensional, first person view, decision making game.

National Defense Magazine has an article you can read for the details on this new twist to a common shipboard drill.

When given access 3Dsolve animation developers said they were stunned by the complexity they found inside a SSN 688 class submarine. Only 688 class Subs at the Submarine Base in New London have had scenarios created but the Navy plans on a new version to include SSBN 726 class submarines and additional port scenarios.

In 1981 I would play Asteroids at the video arcade in Virginia Beach while at Dam Neck FBM “C” school. But, I never thought someday you could play something just short of DOOM3 for your watchstation quals, times have changed!

Sterling Silver Dolphins

Cross-Posted from Four Knots to Nowhere

This is a copy/paste of an email forwarded around the AD sub community (slightly edited for format and other stuff) with our Force CMC's Seal of Approval. Yeah, I know all you DBFers are gonna turn your collective noses up at the "Patrol Pin" part of the set...deal with it! This is actually a pretty good deal for Sterling Silver fish, especially if they don't add much more for engraving.



Below is an email my wife sent out. I have been looking for a matching set of solid silver dolphins and patrol pin, if we can get 50 people to commit it would be $100.00 for a set. Let me know if you would be interested. They will also engrave names and dates if you desire.


OK everyone.... I've been looking for Sterling Silver Dolphins and a Patrol Pin for Ron. I was able to find a local jeweler that will do it for me for $200.00. If I find 25 people that would like them I can drop the price by $50.00 and if I find 50 people that want them I can drop it by another $50.00!

These would make a great Chiefs Gift, Christmas Gift, Birthday Gift or just a gift for yourself! If you'd like a set forward this info on to your Wife, Parents, Grandparents, Girlfriends and get on Zina's list! If they ship outside of California, NO sales tax. Pass the word to the NEX, Dolphin Stores, any sub group, Chiefs Quarters.. Friends and Enemy's you have or know, lets get 50 sets sold so we can all get a deal!

Zina Sterling Silver & Gifts
470 South Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 286-2206
(800) 336-3822

25 Sets: Sterling Silver Dolphins and Patrol Pin
$150.00 Plus $9.00 shipping

50 Sets: Sterling Silver Dolphins and Patrol Pin
$100.00 Plus $9.00 shipping

Thursday, August 25, 2005

post overhaul sea trials

can sometimes go wrong.
sometimes you have to wonder at the press's ability to figure out the obvious.
i posted about our seatrials fire before , and alluded to the local newspaper running a front page picture of the boat steaming up the channel towards mare island. here's a link to the picture and the front page. the file is too big to post here.
anyway, if you look at the boat close enough, you can see the starboard list caused by the vent valves malfunctioning.
i don't know about you, but if i saw folks topside, some of them laying down, and a heavy list, i doubt i'd caption the picture as "successfully completing seatrials" without at least a couple of phonecalls to the yard.
this is just one example that i've lived through that shows the total cluelessness of most of the media out there regarding accurate reportage.

crossposted from my blog

Largest Seawolf Model (besides SSN-23)?

Idaho's Pend Oreille, home to Farragut Naval Training Station during WWII, is the fifth deepest lake in the U.S. (1150 ft). This inland lake's depth and general environment are suited to conducting high-tech naval research without unwanted variables and costs involved with open ocean operations. The site supports development of advanced ship and submarine designs as a Naval Surface Warfare Center unit. Advanced programs use Large scale models to conduct hydrodynamic, hydroacoustic, flow management, maneuvering, detection and advanced propulsion system testing.

The LVS-1, Kokanee, operated by the Acoustic Research Detachment (ARD) for the Naval Sea Systems Command, is a one-quarter scale model of the SSN-21. The unmanned, battery-powered model is 90 feet long and weighs in at just over 150 tons. This huge model was delivered to Carderock Division's Acoustic Research Detachment (ARD) Bayview (about 30 miles north of Coeur d'Alene in the northern Idaho panhandle) in November 1987 for related testing.

The first large-scale (1:4) submarine model was sent to Lake Pend Oreille in 1967, when ARD began to play an increasingly important role in submarine silencing. Kamloops, was a large scale scale version of Sturgeon (SSN 637) class submarines.

LSV II Cutthroat, the quarter-scale version of Virginia class Submarines, is the world's largest underwater autonomous submarine vehicle. At 111 feet long, the Cutthroat is half the size of a World War II submarine, about 24 feet longer than Kokanee and said to be quieter.

More information is available here from GlobalSecurity.org and here from chinfo.navy.mil.

Photo above is of the submarine model Dolly Varden. Visiting Idaho? Pend Oreille cruises are available. Be sure to investigate the Farragut State Park and its naval exhibits. -

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sleep? We don't need no stinkin' sleep...

I ran across this tidbit in an online version of the JFMM.

b. (Submarines only) All trial periods must be organized such that each member of the crew has an opportunity to get six uninterrupted hours of sleep during each 24 hour period. Sea Trial events which can be accomplished by normal watch sections may be conducted concurrently with crew rest periods.

Having done new construction and a few turns through the yards (and being en route to a yard bound boat, USS Olympia), I call b*llshit on this one...

I remember my first sea trials, which was also USS Tucson's first "Alpha" trials. Every major evolution had a special watchbill, with yours truly as the Reactor Technician for all of 'em. We'd done a "2-1-2" fast cruise, during which we did a compressed version of sea trials on one 2 day period, fix-er-upper work for a day (or so), and a 2 day "spillin' and drillin'" exercise, after which I was BEAT. Of course, I had the duty, midwatch, and startup, followed by a 38 hour sea trial that I was on watch for about 32 hours of (my 6 hours "off" consisted of a couple of hours of cleaning, as Admiral DeMars was riding, a quick bite of chow, my own personal test of the middle level head, a period waiting in "standby" as CAT for the obligatory three sections of drills, and a turn as a drill monitor...oh, yeah, about 45 minutes in the rack, during which we did our first EMBT blow).

Thus my amusement for the JFMM statement above. In a period of about 158 hours (the fast cruises, fix it day, and sea trials) I recall about 10 hours of sack time, and no time longer than about 2 hours at a stretch.

I'm bookmarking this page for Oly's sea trials in '08. :)

Carter Letter To BRAC Had Impact

The New London Day has published the transcript of comments by the BRAC commissionsers.

If you thought that the Jimmy Carter letter might have come too late in the game to have any bearing on the decision-making process of the commissioners, you were mistaken:

Former Congressman James H. Bilbray, Nevada

“I'd like to also associate my comments with General Newton. This is a big issue with this commission. There have been a whole series of former admirals that came in and talked to us, and I can't remember any one of them supporting the premise to close New London. In fact the most senior former official, former President Jimmy Carter, sent a letter to the commission as a former Navy man in opposition to this, against his own state of Georgia. I think that's very important, and I will also vote not to close New London.”

Be sure to read that full transcript, as it's quite interesting to see what the commissioners had to say.

UPDATE: Today's (8/25) Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article on the "Carter Effect."

(Hat Tip: The Sub Report)

BRAC Spares Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Too

I wasn't following this one as closely, but the BRAC commission has voted to exclude the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from the base closure list as well.
The Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted 7-1, with one abstention, to remove the shipyard from the list of closures recommended by the Department of Defense.

"It is the gold standard by which we should measure shipyards," commission Chairman Anthony Principi said.

After a short discussion, the commission voted to keep the base open, rejected the recommendation from the Department of Defense. Principi said that the quality of the work from the shipyard made it important to keep it open.

"I strongly support maintaining the shipyard," he said. "It is a national resource, and it would be a tragedy for this nation to lose."
Bubblehead, who knows much more about this stuff than I do, thought that Portsmouth was going to get closed, so I guess this one comes as a bit of a surprise.

Here's the coverage. (Hat Tip: The Sub Report)

Electric Boat Statement on BRAC Decision

Today’s vote by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to keep Naval Submarine Base New London open represents a win for the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet, General Dynamics Electric Boat and the communities in Southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Through its vote, the commission made it clear that it fully understands the value of the submarine base as well as the unique synergy that exists between the base and Electric Boat. Importantly, the commission’s action will maintain the Groton area as the center of submarine excellence, and help sustain the superiority of the nation’s undersea fleet.
Read the rest here.

Submarine Website Archive Project

With the closing of SUBNET.com so fresh in our minds and following related posts in the forums, I’m stepping up and doing what I can to help archive submarine-related websites.

For right now, the scope and process of the Submarine Website Archiving Project (SWAP) is pretty simple. If you’re a webmaster (or used to be one and still have your files) you can send them to me and I’ll archive them to CD-ROM.

I’ll then store the archive CD’s and make them available when anyone requests them by either sending them a copy of the CD or making it live on the web for a short time. Eventually, I’d like to expand the DBF.network so that I can host archived web sites 24/7, making them accessible all the time.

I’ll list the archived web sites at http://www.dbfnetwork.info/archive-project.html so that people know what’s there.

Since the idea for SWAP was just hatched in my brain this morning, there are some details that need to be worked out. First and foremost, the rights to each archived web site would be retained by the original owner. I’m not assuming ownership by archiving the sites, I’m just the guy who is willing to help hold on to them and store them.

If another archive project is started and makes more sense, I’ll step aside and let them run with the ball, but until then, I’m willing to step up.

If you want to help run/support SWAP, please contact me. I’m sure several heads behind this thing would be better than just one.

So, if you’re a webmaster and you want your work archived, I’m here.


As Bubblehead reported in the previous post, the BRAC Commissioners have voted 6-3 to remove SUBASE New London from the closure list.

Here's the AP story.

This is an enormous victory for Team CT, and in particular for Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT), whose Congressional district the base resides in. I had taken Simmons to task earlier this summer for making statements that I thought were exaggerated. As it happens, Simmons has been vindicated, and the base at Groton saved.

The BRAC commissioners had spent a good amount of time visiting the base and its proponents, and obviously, the arguments made by Team CT and other high-profile supporters like House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and former President Jimmy Carter struck a chord.

Frankly, this is a spectacular victory for everyone who advocated for the base, and they should be proud of their efforts. I hope to post more as additional information becomes available. In the meantime, keep an eye on Bubblehead's post for updates and also check out his coverage at The Stupid Shall Be Punished.

BRAC Vote Saves Groton

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished, where updates will be posted (I'll also post them here afterwards):

Late breaking news on The Day website says that the BRAC commission voted to keep Subase NLON open, with 6 of the 9 commissioners voting to remove the base from the list.

"Commissioner Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton made the motion to save the base, calling it “the flagship of the submarine community.”
"Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi spoke in support of the motion, calling the Groton base “a center of excellence.”
“If we close New London,” he said, “we will never get it back.”
"The vote was 6-1-1 in favor of keeping the base open."

More info as it becomes available. (Of note, an earlier article in The Day was fairly pessimistic, so it looks like the commissioners kept their cards fairly close to their vests.)

Staying at PD...

Update 0929 24 Aug: The crawl across the bottom on the screen on CSPAN says the vote was 7-1-1, which makes more sense. The Day now has a list of the commissioners and how they voted, which confirms the 7 "yes" votes. (They also removed the incorrect section I quoted in the original entry.) Here's a CNN summary of today's votes; the Red River Army Depot was also removed from the list, and NAS Brunswick, Maine, was added.
The actual motion the commissioners voted on is here; it says that DoD "substantially deviated from" four (of eight) Final Selection Criteria and the Force Structure Plan. It looks like the vote on Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is coming up fairly soon.
The Boston Globe has some reaction from Connecticut politicians.

Update 1013 24 Aug: The Noonz Wire has more. Looks like the Portsmouth vote will be after lunch; I expect they'll accept the DoD recommendation to close the shipyard, though.

Update 1249 24 Aug: Man, I suck at predicting what the commission will do. It looks like they decided to keep Portsmouth Naval Shipyard open as well; here's another report from the Boston Globe on PNSY. Haven't heard what the vote was. As far as Groton goes, here's what the commissioners had to say before the vote.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ultimate Tool for Mushroom Cloud Hunters or the Hunted?

How closely do you live to Philadelphia (or other, declared terrorist nuclear bomb targets)? What immediate effects might a nuclear blast there have on your family, friends, command, employer?

The Federation of American Scientists provides a very nifty Nuclear Weapon Effects Calculator to help you answer such questions scientifically, of course. There are aerial maps, links to related weaponry and a sample calculator for Washington, D.C. on the first page.

The Federation's interactive tool is intended to give an idea of the devastating blast effects of ground-level, shallow subsurface, and low-altitude nuclear weapon detonations. It is relevant to traditional nuclear weapons, potential terrorist attacks, and next generation nuclear weapons such as "Bunker Busters" or “Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrators” (RNEPs).

High definition aerial maps of selected U.S. cities have been provided. The size of the bomb can be chosen by selecting the weapon’s yield, as measured in kilotons (KT) or megatons (MT) of TNT equivalent. There is also the option of having the bomb delivered using an automobile at ground level or using an aircraft flying at an altitude that produces the widest area of destruction. To impute the impact of submarine-delivered torpedoes (use shallow sub surface) and for nuclear tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles select low altitude or ground level detonations.

What would it take to make a token Tomahawk statement, say, in Mogadishu, a growth center for radical muslim extremism (Molten Eagle does not advocate dropping a nuke on Somalia as a matter of U.S. policy)?

Excerpts below are from Published Tomahawk (TLAM/N) info:
In late 2003 the Pentagon decided to retain the Tomahawk because of its ability to secretly deploy anywhere on the globe, according to Inside the Navy. The TLAM/N is earmarked for deployment on selected Los Angeles-class, Improved Los Angeles-class, and Virginia-class attack submarines. The missiles and their W80-0 warheads are expected to undergo refurbishment to extend their service life to around 2040. The estimated 320 TLAM/Ns are currently stored at the Strategic Weapons Facilities at Bangor, Washington, and King's Bay, Georgia, alongside strategic weapons for the SSBNs.

Interesting Update For Cold War submariners:
While most U.S. attack submarines (SSNs) were credited with some nuclear capability during the Cold War, today most SSNs do not have nuclear missions.

Now, bear in mind that submarines are always silent and stranger than what we think we know. Oh, and sorry about you Philly types, the calculator actually provides no map there. -Vigilis

Caption Winner

Sorry for the delay; I've been out of town with a family emergency. But in any case, it's unanimous, PigBoatSailor wins this caption contest for his entry:
The real caption:
"The inequity between fast attack and boomer sailors seems to have widened with the introduction of the 'Virtual Patrols' that are now replacing traditional underways for SSBNs."
I confess my bias, but 'cmon--you've gotta laugh at that one!

Also, Lubber clearly deserves special mention for his (admitted) geekiness! Thanks, Lub.

Royal Navy Does "Bohemian Rhapsody"

OK, it's not submarine-specific, but it's funny....

As I was going through my morning routine, I learned, via Fox News, that the British Royal Navy, inspired by recent musical efforts on the part of the Army’s Royal Dragoon Guards, have put together a spoof of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Sailors on HMS Campbeltown, currently on patrol in the Middle East, produced the video in their spare time.

It shows them running around the ship, playing air guitar on guns and brooms, and the ship's doctor proclaiming: "Mama, just killed a man."

The video, "Bohemian Wardroom", is available for download. Proceeds go to the Armed Forces Memorial Appeal.

-- CAV

Monday, August 22, 2005

A sad day in Pearl

I have no details as of yet...however, in my travels today I ran into a buddy from my last boat (USS CHEYENNE SSN-773), and discovered that a former shipmate of ours who was still on the boat committed suicide yesterday, while standing Belowdecks Watch. I am going to hold his name (as it hasn't even hit the news yet), but he was a navigation type and had been on the boat for a few years. He apparently was on watch and made use of his sidearm in the forward end of the torpedo room (in the "VLS Station" area, for you 688i familiar types).

Details as I get 'em. I'll say that (as is sadly the case in these instances) all the guys from the boat I've talked to agreed on this...he was the last person we'd have suspected of suicide and no one saw it coming.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Jimmy Carter: Save The SUBASE

BRAC news is ramping up a bit as we near Wednesday's final meeting of the commissioners. The commission must present its final list to the President by September 8.

Peter Urban reports in today's Connecicut Post that former President Jimmy Carter is the latest high-profile person to come out in favor of keeping SUBASE New London off the list. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), announced Carter's position to reporters on Friday:
"This is a president who served in submarines. He is from Georgia. An easier decision [for Carter] would be to stay out of this. So I think this is good news that he has added his voice to the debate," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
Carter expressed his reservations about the closing in a letter he wrote to BRAC committee chairman Anthiny Principi.

In a one-page letter to BRAC Chairman Anthony J. Principi dated Aug. 15, Carter said that while Kings Bay would welcome the additional jobs that would come from closing the Connecticut base, he did not believe that was in the nation's best interest.

"I don't profess to speak for other active and retired submariners, but I believe that, overwhelmingly, the consensus would be that transferring the submarine forces from New London would be militarily deleterious," Carter wrote.

"Abandonment and rebuilding facilities would be disruptive, there would be a great loss of the services of civilian personnel who have devoted their lives to the submarine force, and the move might overly concentrate our forces," Carter wrote. "The long, narrow and exposed access routes from shore bases to the open seas are always vulnerable to potential closing — by nature or saboteurs."

The article wraps up with a reminder that Carter's position is shared by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and 3 former chiefs of naval operations.

I find the public support by Carter to be very significant. Carter, a Georgia native, takes a position that is likely unpopular with some in his home state. Carter's position as a former President and his experience as a submariner amplify this message and give it gravitas.

Whether or not you are a fan of the former President, this is a case where he is being non-partisan, clearly expressing a belief that keeping the base open is in the best interests of the United States as a whole.

Good for him.

Update: Bubblehead had this last night (of course) and highlights some of the fun factual errors in the Hartford Courant article about Carter's letter.

Update II: Team CT says "thank you" to Jimmy Carter.

(Cross-posted at The Noonz Wire)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hastert Against SUBASE Closure; EB Says Jobs Will Be Lost If Closure Goes Through

Please note: This post has been heavily updated to add detail missing from the original version. - Alex

In the car coming home today, WICC 600 AM (Bridgeport, CT) reported that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is planning to announce that he is against the proposed closure of SUBASE New London as part of the current round BRAC closures.

The Hartford Courant has details:
WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert tried to give the Naval Submarine Base at Groton a last-minute boost today, urging the base closing commission to "strongly consider the case made by Team Connecticut" against closing the facility.

In a two-page letter to Base Closure and Realignment Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi, the speaker stressed the team's argument that no money would be saved by closing the 90-year-old base.
Hastert was quick to point out that the Navy has invested large amounts of money in the facility over the last several years. This week's release of a GAO report that supports the notion that cost savings estimates are exaggerated can only serve to bolster his argument.
In addition, Hastert wrote, "Closing SUBASE New London would eliminate a center of excellence for undersea warfare in which Congress has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade."

Since becoming speaker in 1999, he said, "I have personally seen Congress invest more than $120 million into the New London Navy base. Our nation's taxpayers would be ill-served if these investments in our national security are wasted."
Hastert finished his letter with a warning that closing the base is really a lose-lose proposition, where security is weakened and no real cost savings would be realized.
He also mentioned what is likely to be the topic that's most important to the nine BRAC members: how the closing would affect national security.

"Having listened carefully to Team Connecticut's arguments," Hastert said, "I firmly believe that including Naval Submarine Base New London in the 2005 BRAC round would weaken our homeland and national security while providing no savings to our nation's taxpayers.

"I urge you to remove New London from the BRAC closure list at your earliest opportunity," he concluded.
I'm happy to see Hastert step up on behalf of the base and the state of Connecticut. This action throws some water on the idea floated by some that the base closure is some sort of payback move against a blue state. National Security affects all states, red and blue, and hastert is right to speak up this way if he fears that closure will weaken the nation.

On a local level, Connecticut residents should be happy to see this show of support as well. Closure of the SUBASE would devastate the regional economy around New London, as the catalyst that drives many local businesses would go away. Somehow or another, the task of getting that area back on its feet post-closure would fall on the shoulder of the Connecticut taxpayers (of which I am one), who are taxed to death as it is.

Based on what I have seen from Team Connecticut, the reasons for keeping the base running are very clear and compelling. I get the impression that they have probably won over some commissioners with their presentations. Soon enough, we'll know if they turned enough of them over to their side.


WICC also reported that the head of Electric Boat is on record as saying that should SUBASE New London close, it is inevitable that some EB jobs are going to move away with the submarines. Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell confirmed the likelihood this, saying that out of necessity, a number of submarine maintenance-related jobs will have to migrate to wherever the boats end up going.

Rell was quick that EB would still play a very significat role in the state even if the base is closed. It would still continue to build submarines.

(Cross-posted at The Noonz Wire and Say Anything)

Old 688's never die...they just get overhauled...

...like the USS OLYMPIA (SSN-717). Slated for ERO (Engineered Refueling Overhaul) from early '06 to early '08.

With yours truly as the RC Division Leading First.

Got the orders today. I report on 8 September, do a few months of sea time getting requalified, and then it's on the blocks for pretty much the bulk of my tour there. Worked out best with the dental "reconstruction" I'm having done, but geez...ERO...radcon isn't my friend (on the plus side, my division gets all new gear, gear that I'm very familiar with...I installed it on shore duty, and had it to operate on my last boat).

This will be the oldest boat I've served on...previous boats were new construction (TUCSON, SSN-770) and an even newer boat (CHEYENNE, SSN-773), with a qual ride during new con on HAMPTON (SSN-767) when she was barely out of new con herself. Oly is an oldie...commissioned in 1984, she's legal drinking age when my other boats are barely 10 and 9 years old, respectively.

At any rate, I'll still be here, still blogging publishing, and you'll probably hear a lot more b*tching about radcon and shipyard life as the months go by. And I'll be tapping into this sub-blog brain trust for advise and such, too...you fellas are a brilliant crew, I'd welcome the chance to ship out with any and all of you!

I'll close with something funny my wife said when I told her what boat I was going to (keep in mind we got married not long before the commissioning of my first boat)...in noting Oly was going in for ERO, she said "well, at least you'll be home".

I had to laugh...I don't think she understands the definition of "overhaul" or "shiftwork"...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

New meaning to the term "bubblehead"

I'm posting a link to this story, admittedly, not because it's new news, or even all that interesting (other than the strange typo?graph?ical problems th?ey se?em t?o ha?ve over there, ...

...but simply for the dorky picture:
Silverdale, WA --An Officer of the Deck (OOD) trainee on Trident Training Facility�s (TTF) VESUB "Bridge" wears a virtual reality helmet. The VESUB trainer is also equipped with an adjacent classroom with a large screen that displays what the OOD Trainee is seeing in his Head Mounted Visual Display.

Anybody been in one of these virtual simulators? Did you find it helpful/effective?

...um, ... is there an 'R' rated version (or above)?

I think it's deserving of a caption contest. What say you, shipmates?!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"On Eternal Patrol" Website

Eric at The Sub Report brought to my attention a new website seeking to "put faces to names" of American submariners lost at sea. Started by the people at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, "On Eternal Patrol" is a work in progress, but has the potential to be the most important submarine site on the web -- a place for all who care about submariners and submarines to go to pay respects to our honored dead.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Submarines True Systems of “Transformation”

Cross posted by Lubber's Line at "Hundreds of Fathoms"

Consider the following questions:

Do submarines provide a valuable asset to the “Transformation” of the American military into a network-centric fighting force or are they just inflexible relics of the Cold War and 20th century?

What is today’s force level requirement for Submarines? Do we need the Cold War level of roughly 100 SSNs or should we let the submarine force draw down to about 30 boats?

Capt. James H. Patton Jr. USN (Ret.), president of Submarine Tactics and Technology, Inc. and former member of the Naval War College faculty addresses the above questions in a recent Newport Naval War College linked white paper “THE SUBMARINE AS A CASE STUDY IN TRANSFORMATION – Implications for Future Investment.” I recommend reading the entire paper, about five pages, but I've also provided a summary and some thoughts below.


Mr. Patton’s paper outlines the evolution of the submarine from 1900 to present providing examples of submarine designs adapting to unforeseen requirements. Part of that evolution:

S-Boats designed in the 1920s for coastal defense and fleet boats designed in the 1930s as battle-fleet scouts found themselves in 1942 as distantly deployed commerce raiders.

The Skipjack class, designed to provide terminal guidance for nuclear-tipped Regulus cruise missiles fired from a large fleet of Halibut-class SSGNs, never materialized because of the advent of the Polaris ballistic missile.

The Thresher/Permit-class SSNs, designed to operate in pairs while firing rocket-propelled nuclear depth charges at distant Soviet subs, never carried out that mission, due to the failure of Sesco, a secure acoustic communications system needed for information exchange and the triangulation of sonar bearings for target localization.

Escorting carrier battle groups was the justification for the high speed of the Los Angeles class in the late 1960s. Even though submarines were used in direct support of battle groups in a 1977 Pacific Fleet exercise (RimPac), and a Navy warfare publication was published in 1980 based on further experimentation in RimPacs 1978 and 1979, this mission was not routinely assigned until after the Cold War ended, when many of the class were being decommissioned.

With the above examples and others, Mr. Patton presents an argument in that “To avoid obsolescence, it was sometimes necessary for extreme variant requirements to be made technically (and tactically) during a ship’s (and crew’s) lifetime. As a result it can be safely said that no U.S. submarine has ever been employed for its designed purpose, and no commanding officer ever performed that for which he was trained.” The only exception I would make is that of SSBN Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines who's purpose of nuclear deterrence has not changed since the 1960s only the targeting packages.

But then again, excess 726 Class SSBN capacity post the Cold War has resulted in four Tridents scheduled for conversion to the new Ohio Class SSGN. This will result in adapting a submarine platform from its initial design of nuclear deterrence to one of an Information Systems Research (ISR) intelligence processing node and Special Operation Forces (SOF) platform with land strike capability. A truly network-centric warfare system as Mr. Patton qualifies with using the Giant Shadow and Silent Hammer counterterrorism exercises as examples.

USS Virginia (Source: US Navy)

Another point made in the white paper is this:

It should also be clear, to those who think deeply about such matters, that the SSGN program is far more than just a way to extend the operational viability of declining SSBNs; it is a pilot program to investigate just what the Virginia class should become when it has fully evolved in ten years.

Essentially the Ohio SSGN program is a proving ground for technologies and tactics that well evolve and be incorporated into the new Virginia class submarines.


The latter part of the Mr Patton's paper briefly addresses the number of submarines we will require for our furture submarine force "Force-Level" with this.

However, with the world situation becoming increasingly unstable, there are more than one or two places where a credible, actual, or virtual U.S. presence must be claimed or maintained. Therefore, to sustain persistently unseen assets around the world, there is a force-level number that must be maintained. This number is significantly more than thirty, the level resulting from a one-per-year build rate of thirty three-year-design-life hulls, when operating tempos, maintenance, and transits are factored in. All post–Cold War submarine force level studies by several agencies indicate an enduring need for numbers of SSNs far in excess of what can be sustained by a one-per-year build rate.

I think what unstable areas Mr. Patton alludes to is obviously the Middle East and Western Pacific. But without long forward deployments a SSN force of 30 hulls, with some in the shipyard some deployed for carrier taskforce ASW protection and some in port, the Navy would be hard pressed to “sustain persistently unseen assets around the world”.

It is stated in the paper that "SSN taskings by fleet and national commanders have essentially doubled since the end of the Cold War" even though the force level of SSNs has dropped from 100 to roughly 50 today. The predicted affect is: “Because of this submarine shortage, existing ships must now transit at much higher sustained speeds than originally planned, which threatens the life span of their reactors.” If this is true then SSNs would be heading to the shipyard sooner for refueling thereby putting addition pressure on our existing submarine assets.


To me all the above (Submarine systems adaptability and increased force requirements and tasking) seems to run counter to the current DOD and Navy decisions with regards to the New London Sub Base being on the Brac list and the reduced build rate for the Virginia class Subs. My concern is that the powers that be (budgetary and political) may indeed hurt Submarine Force and lessen this country’s ability to defend itself.

Submarine Bits: Enrico Toti

Recently, The Sub Report carried news about the Italian navy submarine Enrico Toti's trip to Milan for display.

According to unwritten regs, there has to be someone of Italian descent on any U.S. nuclear submarine before putting to sea. Navy Psychologists will not reveal the underlying reason, but it seems to have something to do with morale -go figure. Another way to look at this result is Italy's long tradition of submarining inspires a fair number of sons to volunteer into our silent service: the first Italian submarine “Delfino” (Dolphin), a fully electric boat, was built in 1890.

Who was Enrico Toti, an Italian president who gave away the Venice canal to Austria? No, by age 24 Toti had lost his left leg in a railroading accident. He learned to pedal his bicycle great distances with just one leg. When the First World War began Toti volunteered for the Army, but was rejected. He then rode his bike to the Front lines and offered to help any way he could. Enrico Toti was mortally wounded in 1916, in a trench. Before dying he used his crutch, striking it against the enemy. Toti's gripping persistence despite personal odds became legendary. His memory was honored for exemplary courage in 1928 with the launch of his namesake sub.

In 1940 the Toti was transiting on the surface of the Ionian Sea under the command of Lieutenant Commander Bandino Bandini when Bandini sighted an enemy submarine sailing towards him. Before it could dive, the enemy submarine took two, quick hits from Toti’s main gun. There was an explosion and the submarine sank with no survivors.

In 1988, British authorities revealed that the Toti had sunk HMS Triad, commanded by Lieutenant Commander George Salt, whose son would command HMS Sheffield when she also was sunk in the Falklands conflict (1982).

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Capt. L. David Marquet relieved Capt. William Toti as the 52nd commanding officer of Commander, Submarine Squadron 3 aboard USS Louisville (SSN 724) at Pearl Harbor Naval Station Aug. 13, 2004.

Toti’s next command was the Fleet Anti-submarine Warfare Command Detachment, Norfolk Va.

Friday, August 12, 2005

This Is Getting Abso-frickin-lutely Ridiculous

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

In my post below [actually at my home blog], I discuss how all the news reports coming out of Kings Bay today are erroneously saying that President Carter's underway on my old boat USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) marks the first time he has submerged on a submarine since he got out of the Navy in 1953. From my update to that post:

"It looks like all the stories (example here, with good pictures) that came out after the Carter pulled back in also mistakenly say that this was President Carter's first dive since 1953; the Navy Times article hedges its bets by attributing this "fact" to a Navy press release."

I decided to try to find the offending press release, and guess what I found: On the "official" Navy NewsStand website, in the text accompanying the picture of President Carter disembarking, the statement:

"President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalynn embarked aboard the submarine for and overnight tour. This was the first underway period on a submarine for the former president since ending his naval career in 1953."

Now, not only is it his first time submerged since 1953, but also his first time underway?!? (For those who didn't visit my original post, here's the key documentary evidence (on page 2) that President Carter not only got underway, but also submerged, on USS Los Angeles (SSN-688) in 1977.)

I know no one's as upset about this as I am, but jeez... doesn't anybody even bother to try to check facts anymore? Some AP stringer screwing up naval history facts I can see... but the official Navy website?

On a brighter note, there are more pictures of the Jimmy Carter in Kings Bay here and here.

Going deep...

Update 2143 12 Aug: I sent an E-mail to the Navy NewsStand informing them of the error. (I also let them know that it's "...for an overnight tour", not "...for and overnight tour".) I'm seriously turning into the crotchety old retiree I used to make fun of.

Russia marks Kursk five years on

Five years later, and barely a week after another stranded sub (that thankfully made it back up). And Priz's being trapped below last week made the memories of Kursk all the more painful...and brought out something that stings even deeper by it's absence:

The rescue of a Russian mini-submarine trapped on the Pacific floor last week brought back painful memories.

In this case, UK rescuers arrived in time to free the submarine with a remote-controlled robot before the seven crew ran out of air.

But questions were raised as to why, five years on from the Kursk, Russia still has no modern deep-sea rescue equipment.

Something I think would be a must if you are operating subs. Something I'd think your submariners would demand.

Something that is still conspicuously absent in the Russian submarine force...rescue capability.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Carter Underway With The Carters

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

While I've gone on record in favor of returning to "traditional" submarine names, I still have to admit that there would probably be few things cooler than cruising around in a warship carrying one's name. President Carter is apparently enjoying that feeling right now; Channel 4 News in Jacksonville reports that President and Mrs. Carter embarked about USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23) in Kings Bay today, and will be returning there tomorrow afternoon. One paragraph of the story, though, grabbed my attention:

"The Navy said this will be the first dive for the former president since his Navy career ended in 1953 and the first dive ever for Mrs. Carter, who is the boat's sponsor."

Now, this probably isn't true; I know that President and Mrs. Carter got underway on USS Los Angeles (SSN-688) when he was President back in 1977; at least one unofficial web site claims that the boat did submerge during this nine-hour cruise. Of course, it's hard to get to deep enough water to dive within four hours of the Atlantic coast, so I could imagine that they stayed on the surface the whole time. On the other hand, I would think that if they had found a way to submerge at all, even to PD, they would have done so for the Commander-in-Chief.

Actually, check all of the above. I just found what appears to be the official Presidential diary at the Jimmy Carter Library website for May 27, 1977, and this document says that the LA submerged with President and Mrs. Carter aboard at 1155, and "resurfaced" (?) at 1516. Therefore, if the Navy in fact is claiming that this is President Carter's first dive since 1953, as the Jacksonville station is claiming, then they're wrong. Any LT(jg) PAO who might putting that info out should get their story straight, pronto. In fact, although I can't find it on-line right now, I know that President and Mrs. Carter got underway on USS Seawolf (SSN-21) fairly soon after they announced the name of SSN-23, and I would imagine that they submerged then. (There's a fairly deep spot fairly close to Groton that they take VIPs out to submerge on day trips.)

This reminds me of a story that one of my men on the Carter told me. He was stationed on USS Seawolf (SSN-21) when President and Mrs. Carter were aboard, and was standing Reactor Operator when they came into Maneuvering (!), accompanied by Admiral "Skip" Bowman, who was then head of Naval Reactors. As the story goes, Admiral Bowman was explaining stuff to President Carter, and Rosalynn started talking to the RO (an ET1), asking his name ("Eric") and where he was from. She then turned to Admiral Bowman and said, "Skip, do you know Eric?"... Totally classic; generated what was probably the only submarine quote log entry from a former First Lady. (As it turns out, Admiral Bowman was fairly familiar with all the Seawolf nukes, having ridden them several times before, so he was able to say "yes" without lying.) Completely off topic, Admiral Bowman was also a pretty good writer; you might be interested in this article he wrote in 1999. And while I'm linking Undersea Warfare articles, here's one of intense personal interest to me: the completion of Connecticut's Sea Trials. (For those new to this blog, I was her Engineer during this time.)

Going deep...

Does This Sound Like Adm. Rickover?

Suppose you had never heard of the Father of the Nuclear Navy. Impossible, isn't it? Rickover retired from the Navy as a full admiral in 1982 and died at 86, less than four years later. If you admire veterans for their military service, you really have to admire Rickover, he gave his country 64 years of faithful service! In my book, the man was an incomparable, naval asset and an American patriot.

For fun, I fed his birthdate (January 27th) into an uncanny birthdate engine. Give it a try here for your own birthdate, or have a riot with other people's dates. Below, (emphasis mine) is what it produced:

Your birth on the 27th day of the month (9 energy) adds a tone of selflessness and humanitarianism to your life path. Certainly, you are one who can work very well with people, but at the same time you need a good bit of time to be by yourself to rest and meditate. There is a very humanistic and philanthropic approach in most of things that you do. This birthday helps you be broadminded, tolerant, generous and very cooperative. You are the type of person who uses persuasion rather than force to achieve your ends. You tend to be very sensitive to others' needs and feelings, and (sic. you) able to give much in the way of friendship without expecting a lot in return.

You may argue with me, but the highlights don't seem to fit very well Admiral Rickover's colorful caricature or comments I have heard from other admirals. You may be surprised, however, as I was. Humanistic and philanthropic: In 1983, Rickover founded the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE) with his longtime friend. Originally funded by a $250 speaking fee, Rickover and DiGennaro's lobbying quickly raised more money for the Center and its programs, launching the Research Science Institute in 1984, and the USA Biology Olympiad. I was impressed. And you?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Russian Admiral Baltin's Priz and Kursk Comments Recall Cold War Intrigue

Admiral Baltin has consistently criticized Russia's naval command for inviting Western assistance. He appeared more concerned for compromised security than the jepardized crews lives. The ex-admiral believes the Priz was trapped while inspecting an underwater system to detect if Americans had planted bugs on it. Baltin, himself a submariner, once commanded the Kursk. Before his retirement Baltin commanded Russia's Black Sea Fleet and became a Hero of the Soviet Union.

And his Kursk comment was even more interesting, remember.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

Why, it's the International SubMarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office, located in Norfolk. Here's a good article on what happened at the watch desk this weekend; looks like they were plenty busy. (Coordination is done through this NIPR site; you need to have a password to really get very deep into it, though... and don't bother trying to register through this page, 'cause it won't work.)

“One of the Norwegian guys who had the watch activated an alert on the ISMERLO, which put into effect the process of getting things rolling,”...
"It is the international hub for information and coordination on submarine rescue. When a submarine runs into trouble, the Norfolk rescue operation can post the word quickly on the Internet, find a system capable of rescuing the submarine and coordinate a rescue effort, according to Navy officials.
“It was quickly joined by a lot of the countries – Japan, Italy, France, the U.K., Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia and many others,” Orr said. “So very quickly you had a synergy of experts from around the world looking at this problem and the best possible options to have the outcome we ended up having.”
"The Norfolk rescue operation had tested itself in mock rescue drills off the coast of Italy as late as June, with Russia taking part. It also has held several joint conferences with the three dozen participants, including 14 that are non-NATO, but had never been asked until now to coordinate an actual submarine rescue response."

The article goes on to say that Sweden and France, among others, had offered help, and a Shell Oil tanker had changed course to render assistance if needed. It sounds like the recent experience gained during the Sorbet Royal 2005 exercise really paid off.

Also on the ISMERLO web site is a good overview of submarine rescue capabilities of many countries.

Going deep...

Russian Navy Brass Doesn't Waste Time

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

The Russian Pacific Fleet has opened a "criminal" investigation into the circumstances surrounding the trapping and rescue of the AS-28.

"An initial investigation has established violations by officials responsible for preparing and overseeing the AS-28 mini-submarine's mission, said Roman Kolbanov, the Pacific Fleet's deputy military prosecutor.
"Mr Kolbanov said experts from the defence ministry, Federal Security Service and finance ministry would join naval and general staff officials in the wide-ranging investigation, which he said would range from the mini-submarine's construction to the rescue operation itself.
"One of the submariners, Captain Valery Lepetyukha, said the submarine had been sent to investigate an underwater surveillance antenna that had got entangled in fishing nets. He said: "We inspected one side then the other side of the device, that is to say, we were not immediately tangled.Then we found a hanging rope and went around it. While going around it, we apparently were caught by the net. We had no light in the back."

Traditionally, punishments for operational mistakes have been fairly severe in the Russian military; rather than the letter of reprimand senior U.S. officers will normally get, "guilty" Russian officers can expect prison terms -- which is obviously still better than say, sixty years ago.

Staying at PD...

If Not For A Radio Show Caller, Would Russia Have Asked For Help?

--Originally posted at The Noonz Wire--

Drudge has a link to this shocker up on his site:

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMTCHATSKI, Russia (AFP) - Without an anonymous phone call by a tearful woman to a local radio station, the world may have heard too late about the Russian submarine stranded in the Pacific to save its seven crew, the journalist who took the call claimed.

Guzel Latypova, a journalist in the port city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, says the mysterious caller shattered an official silence and in doing so pressured the authorities to look abroad for help in mounting the rescue.

So much for lauding the Russians for reaching out for assistance. This makes it appear that they probably didn't want to, but had virtually no other choice once the story was "in the wild."
Media pressure may have played a role in President Vladimir Putin's decision to dispatch Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov to the scene, and -- crucially -- in the military's painful acknowledgement of the need for foreign help.

As soon as a high-tech British naval robot cut the cables and nets trapping the submarine, the seven men inside were saved.
And the rest is history.

I can't help but think that through their deaths, the 118 sailors lost in the Kursk disaster saved the lives of the seven men on that Priz over the weekend. The Russian government, fearful of a public-relations disaster similar to the one that they dealt with after refusing aid with the Kursk, had no choice but to pick up the phone and call for help.

That mystery caller (a wife of one of the crewmen, according to blogger Michael Hammerschlag) wasn't working alone when she picked up the phone. The souls of 118 Russian submariners were there with her.

Maybe that made a difference.

Monday, August 08, 2005

AS-28 A Russian Gaffe? A Spy Drama?

UPDATE AUG 9 Mike Hammerschlag presents more interesting facts and color to this story.
Hammerschlag mentions more than one net. That begs the obvious questions: How many nets were there and where were they made? the investigator in me shows. -Molten Eagle

Bubblehead did his usual great feat of digging up interesting facts in his MosNews Synopsis two posts directly below.

To be honest, Blind Man's Bluff honest, the Russian's have been playing close to the vest with their varying descriptions, explanations and press releases, some of which appear contradictory. That is probably standard operating procedure regarding submarine operations for any country. Countries pay handsomely for submarine stealth and want to maintain it as much as possible. Retired Admiral Bruce DeMars said: The Submarine Force is important to the defense of our national interests. It has the only truly stealthy platforms in our armed services and is the heart of our strategic nuclear deterrent. By inference, the stealth would apply to Russia, or at least Russia would hope so.

"The reason truth seems stranger than fiction is because truth's precursor is often scenario analysis; the reason submarines are mysterious is because they are useful instruments for both stealth and deceptions."

The AS-28 entanglement episode may have been:
1-An intelligence gathering ploy to learn more about foreign emergency communications, equipment availabilities or capabilities, coordination plans, reaction times, etc. I agree, this does not appear at all likely, does it? Hmmm.

2-A decoy to take the world's eyes off something Russia wanted to do elsewhere.

3-An attempt to cover up the deployment of a submarine, coastal defense system anti-tamper device (the netting) that may inadvertently have snared its own sub, AS-28.

4-Something else entirely. Which countries, including China, may be in on it?

5- The latest Russian submarine gaffe.

Will we ever hear a full and accurate report? Unlikely. We have already heard the official stories from several sides. It cannot change much now. - Molten Eagle

And the Blame goes to...

Just a little roundup of who is getting the blame for failures during the AS-28 Mini-sub crisis:

Russians blame poachers for sub accident - Washington Times - UPI

With Russian crew safe, the hunt begins for a scapegoat - news.Telegraph UK

Naval chief of staff tipped as next navy commander - RIA Novosti

A Real Leader Does Not Remain Silent - The Moscow Times

Russian Navy Under Fire over Mini-Sub Accident - RedNova News

One of the few times where someone isn't blaming the Americans and/or the Bush Administration, althought I haven't checked with the French yet.

MosNews Synopsis of AS-28 Saga

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

MosNews has a timeline up of last week's events of the trapping and subsequent rescue of the crew of AS-28. They also provide some guesses as to what was happening behind the scenes:

"The first and only official cause of the accident was a fishing net. That was what the navy insisted upon from the start, that is what Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Viktor Fyodorov said, and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov named nets as the culprits when he commented on the results of the rescue operation.
"Still, the journalists doubted the version from the start. First of all, sailors from the region said that there had never been any fishing in the Berezovaya Bay. Official sources immediately implicated illegal poachers, and closed the issue. But then the Kommersant daily, citing its sources in the navy, reported that propellers of the submarine have special mechanisms protecting them from such incidents. [Note: That would be the Russian equivalent of a "rope guard", I guess.] Moreover, the newspaper named specifically the kind of research the submarine was conducting: they were to replace a part of a hydro acoustical apparatus installed with the aim of fighting nuclear submarines from the United States. The mysterious “60-tonn anchor” was really a part of that system, just as a large number of various cables and wires. In light of this, it becomes clear why military officials categorically refused to blow up the object which the submarine had gotten entangled in. This can also explain the statements made by former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Eduard Baltin, who, just as the rescue operation was in full swing, spoke out against sending foreign aid to the area.
"Still, the current commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Viktor Fyodorov did not listen to his former colleague. He said that “the most important is to save to people.” Moreover, the Admiral clarified that according to current treaties, Russian underwater ships are analogous to foreign ones, while international inspectors are active on Russian territory just as they are on American territory. Moreover, the bathyscaphe is located beyond Russia’s territorial waters, so according to international law our country cannot limit traffic in the area."

I've been looking for any open source information about this so-called active "hydro acoustical apparatus" but haven't found anything yet. Since it apparently isn't a big secret anymore, I can say that I heard it when I was in the North Pacific many years ago; I never really considered it a big threat, though.

They also talk about what happened to Russia's other submarine rescue assets that should have been in the area:

"According to instructions on board the ship that delivered the AS-28 to its destination, there should have been an analogous submarine that could have theoretically rescued the first, had it gotten into an accident. But the Georgy Kozmin did not carry a second bathyscaphe because of the worn-out condition it was in. In the end, the only thing the base ship could have done to save the mini-submarine was to send a signal to shore.
"On the next day, 10 naval fleets were dispatched to the area, including the rescue ship Alagez, which was also supposed to be quipped with two deep-sea bathyscaphes… except that in reality, it didn’t have a single one on board — both were under construction long before August 4. [Note: I think this is probably a mis-translation of "repair".] And, the chief specialist responsible for the Alagez’s deep-sea operations — including a rigging team and divers capable of working at a depth of over 100 meters — was on vacation. As a result, even if it had been equipped for deep-sea operations, the ship was all but useless — it could only have helped drag the submarine closer to shore together with the nine other ships (incidentally, five years ago Alagez was slated to be sold to a scrap metal plant in South Korea, but after the sinking of the Kursk submarine, it was decided that the Alagez should be kept for rescue operations just in case).
"Also on Friday, Vladivostok dispatched the rescue ship Sayany, which did have perfectly usable bathyscaphes on board. But it only reached the site of the accident three days later."

No reasons are given in the article as to why the bathyscaphes on Sayany couldn't be flown from Vladivostok to Petropavlovsk -- if I had to guess, I'd say it was an ass-covering move on the part of Pacific Fleet commanders, who knew those submersibles didn't work either, and knew by this time that the Brits and Americans were on their way. "Oh, yeah, we could have used these ones, but sea transport takes a long time..." It is about 1200 miles from Vlad to Petr', so if for some reason none of the ships in Petropavlovsk couldn't carry the mini-subs, what they did make sense. In this case, contrary to my normal rule, I'll go with the "malice" excuse. [My normal rule being: "Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence."]

Here's another article with more on the British rescue team, who are on their way home; it says the team members received as tokens of appreciation from Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov... wait for it... Russian watches. Oh, well, it's the thought that counts.

Staying at PD...

Meet The Brits

Crossposted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

Here's a good article with some quotes from the leader of the British team that rescued the AS-28, CDR Ian Riches. He included one piece of information that I'd been looking for -- what happened to the Russian ROVs:

"Cdr Riches said some Russians wanted to know why their own navy had not been able to carry out the rescue themselves.
"I know they have their own ROVs. I also know they did try and they suffered some fairly major failures in these ROVs. That is for them to investigate," he said."

It's fairly common in the more "corruption-friendly" societies for the military to report higher readiness standards for their equipment than is actually the case -- people either skim the repair money off, or want to make their boss think they're doing a good job. They make the assumption that whatever piece of equipment they're "radioing off" maintenance on won't really be needed; then, it comes back to bite them in the butt. It'll be interesting to see if word ever comes out on why the Russian ROVs weren't ready; of course, if words ever does come out, it might just be a political power-play or "CYA" from the higher ups.

The Russian press still seems to be playing the story from an "anti-leadership" angle; I know the Russian print media is a lot more independent than it was 20 years ago, but I'm wondering if they're being "prodded" in a direction that will allow Putin to force some top Navy people out:

"Only when the situation was near to critical did the navy's top brass ask for help from foreigners," the newspaper said.
"It wasn't our victory," the popular Moskovsky Komsomolets daily headlined its main story, noting with irony that the Royal Navy's Scorpio remote-controlled submersible had "sorted out the problems of the Russian fleet within a few hours".
"News that the mini-submarine was in danger broke only half a day after the accident occurred, while the wife of the vessel's captain heard later while watching local television, the government-owned Rossyskaya Gazeta newspaper said.
"Only after two days did a navy psychologist go to her home. Then "he calmed her with these words," Gazeta reported: "This is Russia - pray!"
"According to the opposition Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "it seems the submariners did not have the secret charts" marking the antenna system in which they became trapped."

Finally, we have this article from Christopher Drew, who along with Sherry Sontag is co-author of Blind Man's Bluff. These two always draw the most heated reactions from submariners, although I kind of liked how they generally portrayed the average submariner as an uber-talented superman; very accurate and perceptive on their part. Anyway, he says:

"The rescue culminated a frenzied push by several nations to free the men before time ran out. Participants said it was possible only because of intense efforts to build international cooperation after a Russian submarine, the Kursk, exploded and sank five years ago.
"They said it also took extraordinary improvisation to rush tons of equipment to an isolated site off Russia's Far East coast and disentangle the vessel as the hours ticked down.
"It wasn't the Redball Express here," Ervin said, referring to difficulties in unloading the rescue equipment at Kamchatka's antiquated air and sea ports.
"American and British officials said the main culprit in trapping the sub was a discarded fishing net. They said it was wrapped so tightly around the submarine's propeller and hull that the layers of stretched nylon appeared to be as thick as a 1 1/2-inch cable."

I expect we'll hear more as the American and especially British teams return home for more in-depth interviews.

Staying at PD...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

When Drama Goes Unrecognized

First, as a former submariner who, like many, has faced the possibility of losing my life in a submarine, let me offer my heartfelt thanks to those involved in the rescue of the Russian mini-submarine this weekend. While I did not get to follow this story as closely as I would have liked, it was never far from my mind. I was very relieved to learn that the rescue was successful. I can imagine the fate that could have befallen the crew and would wish it on no one.


And speaking of imagination, I wish to address an interesting post on mainstream media (MSM) coverage of the mishap and rescue earlier today here at Ultraquiet No More.

Alex Nunez asks why a story like this one, with its obvious human interest and dramatic elements, apparently failed to capture the imagination of American journalists. As he points out, and even the briefest perusal of Ultraquiet No More will indicate, there was plenty of information out there with which to craft an interesting story. Government secrecy would not have been a major obstacle.

Read More

-- CAV

The other Seals and Extreme Creatures

Originally posted at Molten Eagle

In his poem Extreme Creatures, the late submariner Juan Caruso D. refers to 'When the latest hazard has sprung out of its nearby bounds'.

Worldwide, there have been 102 known instances of disabled submarines sunk in noncombat conditions. Approximately 2,600 lives, including those on the Kursk, have been lost (CDR Wayne Horn, U.S. Navy 2000).

The most probable cause of a sub sinking is breach of the hull causing flooding. It is also likely that breaching the hull would cause an onboard fire. Fires produce toxic gases and particles of urgent concern to crews due to respiratory or central nervous system effects and even death. Depletion of oxygen, accumulation of CO2 and temperature drop are added concerns (U.S. Navy 1998).

Most accidents leading to submarine sinking have occurred at depths above 300 feet. At depths down to 600 feet crews may escape from submarines, but will face 6 significant risks besides drowning. To depths of around 2,000 feet the crew can be rescued (Brown 1999). Russia's AS-28 drama highlights the rescue dilemma: entanglement around 625 feet below sea level with decreasing temperature and compromised atmosphere. The world witnessed cool, calm professionalism under a prolonged period of stress, one of many key characteristics that set submariners apart.

Due to significant risks of attempting escape, the Navy’s policy is that if conditions allow, crews should await rescue (U.S. Navy 1998). Well what does this have to do with SEALS, the Navy’s elite special operations forces? Aren’t they extreme creatures? Absolutely, and they even ride submarines.

Remember this policy?: Disabled submarine crews should await rescue when conditions allow. Well, Submarine Escape Action Levels by the National Research Council provides info for certain chemicals to help determine IF conditions will permit crews to await rescue.

The latest, 290-page action level book is too information dense to summarize here, except to say Juan Caruso D. was absolutely correct: "There is no phoning home during silent submarining."

reflecting on the russian rescue

originally posted at geezers corner.

i, like most submariners i know, had one fear when at sea. that fear: having the boat sink, and still be alive. that sounds grim, but it's true. to be trapped in a steel can beyond rescue, with no chance of getting out alive? to slowly freeze to death as the internal temperature drops to that of the surrounding sea? to begin to gasp and hallucinate as the oxygen levels drop, and the CO2 and CO levels rise? please. i'd rather die quickly as the hull crushed than slowly suffocate, watching my brothers and crew mates loose the mortal coil.
imagine being trapped, knowing that the vessel you are trapped in was probably your only hope. sinking in the only submarine rescue vehicle available in that theater of operations has to be a true test of one's sanity and courage.
the russians had their chance to change these circumstances. after the kursk sank five years ago, the russian navy proclaimed they would embark on an aggressive r&d program to upgrade their rescue capability. but their navy is cash strapped. so what was done? apparently not a damned thing.
the sf chronicle had a pretty good article on this today. a quote from the chairman of the Norwegian enviro group bellona shows i'm not the only one that sees this as a problem:
The accident and the drawn-out rescue operation showed that faulty equipment and a lack of specialists in the Russian navy -- once the world's largest -- made it ill-prepared to carry out rescue operations, experts said.

"The Russians don't know what they're doing when it comes to a lot of the technology they have," said Charles Digges, an expert on the Russian navy at the Norwegian environmental group Bellona. "I hate to speak about it so cavalierly, but it's just horrible. They'll never learn. They don't have the technology to rescue their own vessel."

but i must hasten to add that the us navy isn't a whole lot further ahead of the russians. when i was on the seawolf in the 70's, we did a lot of DSRV work to help the navy refine its underwater rescue capabilities. if you sank in shallow water, you might get lucky. if you are out in the big blue sea, you might as well hang it up. submariners understand that, and it's part of the acceptable risk when the boat pulls away from the pier. we rely on well designed and built submarines, using the best materials and rigorous inspections, as well as comprehensively written and reviewed work and test procedures. even then, the chance for an accident is always there. our friend murphy doesn't take vacations, unless it's to go along with you on yours.

what have we learned from this? first of all, we are seeing another opening in the wall that surrounded the soviet union for decades. we know that there was a submarine in trouble. 25 years ago, this would never have made the world's news. secondly, there was free and open discussions about what the boat was trapped in: an underwater submarine monitoring system antenna. tell me we would have heard that 25 years ago. not bloody likely. so perhaps there is some good beyond the actual rescue. it can not be a bad thing that the two main western powers rushed to aid a former enemy. and thirdly, the russians recognized they were in need of help, and asked for it. that must really rankle some of the bigwigs in the admiralty, but think of the positive press this will garner the west in russia.

and i think one other thing we can learn from this. submariners don't care what nation you sail for, or class boat you are on. we may have hunted each other in deadly earnest, but when the chips are down, even former enemies can hope and pray for the rescue of a fellow submariner in trouble. i'm sure there are other branches of the military where this is the case. i only know submarines. and it gladdens my heart to know that we are compassionate and human enough to care and worry about those that we might have once launched a torpedo against if necessary.
finally, a deep bow, and a hat tip to the brits. good job guys. we were getting there, but you got there first. good on ya.