Saturday, April 29, 2006

Beached Dolphins? Blame The Navy!

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

There's another case of a mass dolphin beaching on the coast of Zanzibar this week, and the MSM immediately decides that Navy sonar (and in particular submarine sonar) is to blame. From the last-linked article, provocatively titled "Submarine Sonar Suspected in Mystery Death of 400 Dolphins":

"It was not immediately clear what killed the 400 dolphins, whose carcasses were strewn along a four-kilometre stretch of Nungwi, said Narriman Jidawi, a marine biologist at the Institute of Marine Science in Zanzibar...
"...In the United States, experts were investigating the possibility that sonar from US submarines could have been responsible for a similar incident in Marathon, Florida, where 68 deep-water dolphins stranded themselves in March last year...
"...A US Navy taskforce patrols the East Africa coast as part of counter-terrorism operations."

It's interesting that they call it a U.S. Navy task force, since it includes Dutch and French ships, along with those of other allies; it's all part of CTF 150, which is currently commanded by a Pakistani Vice Admiral (who recently relieved a Dutch Commodore).

I said earlier that surveillance of the areas of heavy piracy off the Somali coast would be a good job for a submarine, but I'd be surprised if we actually have a boat there. As I mentioned, we do have a allied Naval Task Force further north along the African Coast. Whatever they're doing there, it's unlikely that they'd be using a lot of sonar, and any submarine that might be there almost assuredly wouldn't be going active. Still, rather than worry about facts like this, it's much easier for the press to just try to blame the Americans for something bad, since apparently we're responsible for every bad thing that happens in the world (/sarcasm).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Diesel Sub Sets Record

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

I have to admit I'm impressed with the news that the German Type 212A sub, U 32, made a two week transit from Germany to Rota, Spain, without snorkeling. While a nuclear boat could have made the trip in two or three days without breaking a sweat, it's stilll a phenomenal demonstation of the advances in AIP technology that a boat can stay moving for two weeks without having to run the diesel generator.

While this might make some think that the U.S. should invest in AIP boats, the Navy's PEO for Submarines, RADM William Hilarides, just put out a very concise explanation of why diesel boats might be good for some countries, but not the U.S. Excerpts:

“A diesel submarine sitting on the bottom is relatively quiet thing, but it has to get there, and it has to be relatively supportive there,” he said.
"Hilarides and Polmar also had some disconnect on the cost of non-nuclear submarines.
"The admiral said that diesel subs would cost $1 billion for the hull and for installing modern U.S. equipment on the vessel. While nuclear submarines are projected to cost $2.4 billion, Hilarides suggested that savings for diesel subs would be inadequate.
“So it would be two-for-one . . . if you were to buy a submarine like that,” he said. “And it has nowhere near the stealth, endurance, deployability and on-station time that we need for our submarines.”

RADM Hilardes has been busy; he also recently discussed efforts to reduce costs in the Virginia Class program.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Charges In USS Columbus Hazing Incident

Cross-posting, with all updates, of an entry originally published on 14 April 06 at The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

The "Military Life" blog for the Kitsap Sun is reporting that several Sailors from USS Columbus (SSN 762) have been brought up on charges stemming from an alleged case of continual hazing directed against other crewmen:

"Seven sailors from the submarine USS Columbus face special courts martial in connection with alleged hazing of two fellow crew members.
"One victim allegedly was attacked over a seven-month period ending in March, when he reported the incidents to Naval Base Kitsap security and Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
"The alleged assailants, including a senior chief petty officer, are charged with various offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The charges include assault, hazing and dereliction of duty, according to Lt. Herlinda Rojas, a Navy spokeswoman."

As I mentioned earlier, I'm really not in a position to add any specifics, but if the hazing was as prolonged as reported, I really wonder if the senior leadership of the boat will, or should, keep their jobs.

Update 0855 15 April: The journalist who wrote the blog post linked above also has a story out in "hard-copy" (the actual print edition of her paper; annoying free registration required) as well as another blog entry:

"The five sailors range in rank from third to first class petty officer. A sixth sailor, a senior chief petty officer, allegedly failed to report the abuse, Rojas said.
"All of the sailors involved are electronics technicians or machinists mates who shared a workspace at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Columbus, a fast-attack submarine based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, has been at PSNS for maintenance since September 2004...
"...The original NCIS investigation focused on the first victim, a petty officer third class, Rojas said.
"During that investigation, NCIS officers uncovered a separate alleged assault involving a second victim, she said. A seventh sailor, a petty officer third class, is charged in that case."

Reading into this, and knowing that Columbus was in DMP, one can try to figure out what flavor of ETs and MMs would share a workspace in the shipyard. Since you normally wouldn't see torpedomen and A-gangers sharing a space with coner ETs, this could lead one to assume that the alleged perps were nukes.

Update 1716 15 April: Welcome Free Republic readers. From what I've heard via back channels, this is not a case of the "sissification of the Navy"; this was a really bad case of continual inappropriate "picking on" a new guy that showed a complete lack of military discipline by all involved. I'm not going to put out any specifics until the Navy does, but this is more than "tacking on a crow" or "drinking your dolphins".

And for those who might say I'm a hypocrite for welcoming Free Republic readers after all the times I've called that site the "Democratic Underground of the Right", I'd also welcome DUmmies if they showed up after I was linked in a thread there. I'd probably be much snarkier to them, though...

Update 2109 15 April: The reporter for the Kitsap Sun that's been working on the story got the charge sheets from the Navy; the specifics she provides pretty much match what I've heard. Excerpts:

"Kidder allegedly poured alcohol on the victim’s clothes and set fire to them, put the victim in a headlock, held his hands behind his back and hit him in the groin with his hand.
"The fourth accused conspirator, Bruce, allegedly hit the victim in the face and groin with his hand.
"Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Isham, a 27-year-old machinist’s mate, is charged with dereliction of duties, aggravated assault and communicating a threat. Isham is accused of pointing a loaded gun at the victim multiple times and threatening to shoot him if he didn’t show Isham a specific photo.
"In the case of the second victim, only one sailor faces charges. Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Tibbs, 21, allegedly pointed a loaded gun at the victim multiple times between October 2005 and December 2005.
"Tibbs lied to an investigator about the incidents, according to Navy documents. He said he had pointed a toy gun at the victim during sentry duty as a joke. Tibbs also is accused of faking evidence by giving the investigator a toy gun he supposedly used."

I'm sorry, but "ball-checking", playing with fire, and misuse of firearms aren't "good-natured ribbing" -- they're examples of criminal behavior, if the accusations are true. The shipyard is a tough place to build or maintain unit cohesion, so it's imperative that the ship's leadership step up to the plate and head off incidents like this as soon as they start. (I had almost 4 years in the shipyard as Eng under my belt, so I know whereof I speak.) It looks to me like the leadership on Columbus either wasn't willing to do what they needed to do as soon as they started hearing rumors about it, or didn't spend enough time on the boat to find out what was really going on.

Update 0048 18 April: A commenter points out, and the reporter at the Kitsap Sun who's been breaking the story allows, that there's more than one side to the story. That's true, but those who've been reading my blog for a while know that I'm willing to call out Big Navy if I think they're trying to selectively release information about something that might make them look bad, as I think they did during the San Francisco grounding investigation. In this case, however, since the story wasn't going to be made public unless the Navy released it, I'm not sure why they'd want to "frame" the alleged attackers. It would be in the Navy's best interest not to release information about the case unless they were pretty sure it was true; therefore, I would guess that there's more here than circumstantial evidence or a "he said, he said" situation. I would certainly hope that submariners wouldn't do the things that are alleged, but all the information I'm getting indicates that something bad did happen on that boat.

Update 2256 18 April: Someone claiming to be the cousin of one of the alleged victims is posting over at The Knot Boards with some background information, and there's another story in the Kitsap Sun.

Friday, April 14, 2006

cross posting a coffee story

cross posting from a geezer's corner.
I love coffee. i've been drinking it since i was a kid, and i've had great coffee, and i've had really really terrible sour nasty make you want to wash your mouth out coffee over the years.
the worst stretch of my life, though, was an underway on the seawolf.

click the link above to read the rest.

any other sailors, now no longer on active duty (don't want Rob to get into trouble here) have similar "skirt the bright idea" stories? i've got a million myself, so i know there have to be others out there.

Friday, April 07, 2006

SSN 775 Reaches A Milestone

It looks like PCU Texas (SSN 775) will be going to sea pretty soon. Based on this photo of the crew eating a meal in crew's mess, this one of the serving line, and this press release, the boat has been place "in service":

Normally, the boat will start sea trials within a month of being placed in service; the press release says that they'll start early next month, with delivery to the Navy in June -- the "sea trials to delivery" schedule seems pretty agressive to me, especially since Newport News hasn't delivered a boat in 10 years. Still, the boat has come a long way since she was first rolled outside back in July 2004:

I'm eager to hear how she does at sea next month. Those interested in what they'll be doing for the next couple of months should skim this little manual. As NEWCON Eng for two subs, I pretty much had the thing memorized.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Interview With The Author

Eric at The Sub Report just posted a great interview with retired Captain Lawrence Wigley, former CO of USS Tullibee (SSN 597), and author of the new submarine fiction book Mission Complete. The interview contains Capt. Wigley's fascinating personal account of the loss of USS Stickleback (SS 415) off Pearl Harbor in 1958, and is well worth a read.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Iranian "Super-Fast" Torpedo

Cross-posted from The Stupid Shall Be Punished:

Forgive me if I'm a little skeptical of this report from CNN that seems like it's basically parroting a press release that would come from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard:

"A senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps claimed on Sunday that the Islamic Republic had developed the world’s “fastest underwater missile” which could destroy both battleships and submarines.

“The fastest underwater missile in today’s world was successfully tested in the military exercises codenamed Great Prophet”, deputy commander of the IRGC Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi told state television, referring to week-long naval war games in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman which began on Friday by Iran’s armed forces.

“The speed of this missile called ‘Hout’ is 100 metres per second and no ship can escape it”, Fadavi said, adding that the maximum speed of conventional underwater missiles was 25 metres per second. State television aired clips of the missile as it was being fired and moving in the water.

“Currently, only two countries in the world are equipped with such a missile”, he said.

“Ships that can fire the Hout missile are radar-proof and cannot be identified”, he added.

"The missiles are also designed to evade sonar detection, Fadavi claimed."

Us submariners know that such claims are either spurious (radar evading -- not hard for a submarine firing an underwater weapon) or ridiculous (a supercavitating torpedo that can "evade sonar detection"?). Vigilis has more background on the Russian Shkval supercavitiating torpedo on which this alleged weapon is supposed to be based, but even if they did make something like this, the things are basically unguidable, and are really only useful for firing down the bearing of an incoming torpedo in hopes of getting your opponent to move, or, if it's armed with a nuclear warhead, as a "revenge" weapon.

Staying at PD...

Update 0550 03 Apr: Actually, based on this photo (Intel source: The Sub Report) it looks like maybe the damn thing might really be an "underwater missile", which is even less useful militarily that a supercavitating torpedo (being that it's completely unguided). Even if it's not rocket-powered the whole way, if it still requires rocket launch, it means it's a surface- or shore-based weapon only, which means it'll work once before we blow up the launchers...

This whole thing is now even more obviously just a lot of stupid crap for domestic consumption by the Iranian government and Revolutionary Guard. My guess is that the professional Iranian military is shaking its collective head in embarassment right now.

Update 1735 03 April: Looks like they tested another "new" torpedo today. While the State Department is trying to milk the news for all it's worth, I agree with the thoughts of the Pentagon spokesman who said that "the Iranians have also been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities."

Update 1949 03 Apr: The video of the "test" is a hoot -- looks like 1960s U.S. Navy propaganda films. (Article with link to video is here, via SubSim.) As I guessed, the thing is completely unguided, so it'll just keep going in the same (approximate) direction it was fired. As a commenter mentions, it might be effective against a supertanker, but not against a warship. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard could possibly sink a cargo ship with it as one of their last acts, I guess...

Captain's Untimely Death Raises a Question for You

Just weeks after retiring from the RN, Captain Jim Boyd, 54, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack. One of the Royal Navy's most experienced commanding officers, Boyd's funeral was scheduled today.

Captain Boyd had joined the submarine service in 1973. His last posting was as Captain of the Faslane Flotilla, where he had been responsible for the operational capability of all the ships and submarines based at HM Naval Base Clyde. The captain had served successfully in Greenland, Iceland, the Gulf and Singapore. Among his achievements was being one of the flrst commanders of a Trident V-boats. Rear Admiral Nick Harris, the flag officer for Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland, paid tribute to the "very popular officer', stating: 'Jim was well known, much respected and liked by all.

Fair winds, good Captain Boyd, and our sincerest condolences to your family.

This premature death recalled my first day aboard submarines. The COB then gave me a private tour, administrative orientation and introductions to those aboard. Along with a few specifications and a little history of the particular, nuclear boat, he imparted insider information, a bit of which stayed in memory archives never recalled again ... until now.

"For every ten years of submarine duty, knock two years off your normal lifespan", he stated.
We would hear this infrequently later on other vessels and from other people. Lubber's Line would probably have heard it, too. Where on Earth did that little item originate? We never found out for certain, but we expected it might have come from that USNA nuke we had heard about, who had been involved earlier ... his name? Lt. Jimmy Carter.

If anyone is able to shed more light on this baffling revelation, kindly share it.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Breaking News From The "BBC"

From the "BBC News" website, posted today:

US Department of Defence defends submarine name

Strengthening relations between wartime allies basis for naming latest US Virginia class after British Princess.

A long, black submarine lurks beneath the ocean waves, carrying a full arsenal of ship-killing weapons. No other class of warship can find it, fight it, or even defend against it. If current US military planners have their way, the latest of these fearsome weapons will be named the USS Princess Diana.

"We have a destroyer named after Winston Churchill, and the 72nd Secretary of the Navy was named England (Gordon England), why can't we honor the late Princess Diana with the power and majesty of a Virginia class US sub," says Navy Spokesman Andrew Williams.

Veteran submariners are strongly inclined to disagree. "What's next, we name a carrier after the Queen?" objects Captain Wilfred Miller. "I understand political payoffs are a necessary evil but couldn't we honorably bestow the moniker Princess Diana on a cargo dingy or a humanitarian resupply vessel?"

"Think of the positives," urged Andrew Woolhouse, Director of Citizens Against Landmines, Poverty, and Social Disenfranchisement. "Consider the moral effect on the enemy when one of their warships is sunk by the Princess Diana."...

...With the evolution of naval technology, new ship types replaced others, and the naming system changed accordingly. As warships became incredibly expensive, politicians were key in obtaining funding. Accordingly, US submarines began taking the names of states instrumental in their existence. The first of the post-Seawolf class subs was named Virginia, the next Texas. And now, in a move designed to win British public approval, Princess Diana.

Williams insists, "Diana was a fearless crusader, a brave and strong individual. I see no reason why this opportunity to show solidarity with our mates across the pond should find objection."

Shocked, I am, shocked at this news! So shocked, in fact, that I think I'll wait until after midnight to comment on it coherently. I can just imagine what will happen when the guys from SubSim get ahold of this news...

Duty on April 1

Well, I was actually offgoing. Interestingly enough, the Master Chief relieved me on a Saturday, an April Fool's Day (he came down about 30 minutes early, without a turnover at all said "I relieve you", when I said "really" he said "nope, April Fool's" and went back to his pre-shift brief).

Best joke of the morning...I'm doing my 0300 tour, and remember that Friday (3/31) had been an engineering department holiday (we just finished a major evolution in shiftwork, the Eng and Bull were trying to give guys a good deal this weekend). So my section, who had duty Friday (i.e., didn't get the good deal) are taking Monday off (a very good deal). Now the guys with duty Saturday and Sunday didn't make out so well.

So I'm thinking about this as I head to Maneuvering. Once there I tell the Shutdown Reactor Operator and Shutdown Electrical Operator "hey, I forgot to tell you, but Master Chief is letting Saturday's section relieve at noon instead of the normal 0900".

They bought it...and proceeded to spread the word to a) the Shutdown Roving Watch, then their reliefs. Oh, and on to the Engineering Duty Officer at his 0600 tour. By the time reville rolled around (0700 on weekends), the EDO had gone complaining to the Duty Officer (as luck would have it, the Engineer). He played along.

So 0800 rolls around, and who comes bopping down the hatch? The Master Chief, who is the oncoming Engineering Duty Petty Officer (my relief). And everyone is looking at him like "what are you doing here?" It quickly comes out that there was now "relieve at noon" plan, and as Master Chief is saying "who put that word out" I'm staring at the overhead above the turbines and whistling. Next words out of his mouth were "ET1, I'm gonna kick ya in the junk..."