Wednesday, June 29, 2005

It's nearly that time...

Fellas, I may be finally returning to a boat. The GREENEVILLE looks to be the one, though my orders won't be cut until after 20 July.

Would that make me the only one here still on a boat?

And I have to wonder if HDR has evolved enough for me to blog from "deep" :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Submarines, Silent and as Strange: Like Cold Fusion?

The reason truth seems stranger than fiction is because action's precursor has often been government scenario analysis. The reason submarines seem so mysterious is because they are often instruments of stealth or deception.

The cold fusion energy story began in March 1989. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, electrochemists working at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, announced they had created fusion using a battery connected to palladium electrodes immersed in heavy water. The claim of room temperature energy creation stretched credulity of most scientists, as the press told us.

In February 2002 the U.S. Navy revealed that its researchers had been studying cold fusion on the quiet more or less continuously since the debate started (about 12 years). This work was carried out at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, where the idea of generating energy from sea water—a good source of heavy water—may have seemed more natural than at other laboratories. Then, last August, in a small hotel near M. I. T., in Cambridge, about 150 engineers and scientists met for the Tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion. Over the years, it seems, a number of groups around the world had reproduced the Pons-Fleischmann excess heat effect, yielding as much as 250 percent of input energy.

Researchers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command used infrared video imaging of palladium electrodes as excess energy was released. It turned out that the heat is not produced continuously over the entire electrode but in hot spots that erupt temporaily at the surface. The researchers also recorded curious mini-explosions on the surface. I'm surprised," Dr. Stewart C. Prager, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, said in 2004. "I thought most of the cold fusion effort had phased out. I'm just not aware of any physics results that motivated this." The Navy just convinced the DOE to fund more research.

What does this have to do with submarines? Some expect anything the media publishes to be accurate, timely and complete. Fat chance. Gray matter matters.

Rob Simmons: SUBASE Savior or Liability?

Cross-posted from Noonz Wire...

If you peruse the news articles regarding the potential closing of SUBASE New London (Groton, CT) as recommended by the BRAC committee, you will find many well-thought-out arguments from people who want to keep the base right where it is. If you poke around the blogosphere, you'll happen upon excellent commentary that compellingly argues for keeping Groton open as well.

Sadly, Congressman Rob Simmons (R-2, CT), whose district is home to the base, is not one of the people making rational arguments. In fact, reading the latest comments from Simmons is enough to lead one to wonder if he is fast becoming an albatross around the necks of those working to save it.

If SUBASE New London is closed, some of the submarines homeported there could be relocated to Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia. Last week, Simmons visited Norfolk on a fact-finding mission intended to help him bolster his position that closing Groton is a terrible idea. This sort of due diligence is welcomed and expected. Simmons is the congressman representing the people who live and work on and around the base. Advocating for those people and the base that is the economic backbone of his district is his job.

Unfortunately, Simmons' advocacy requires him to open his mouth and address the media, and this is where things get dicey. Via an AP wire story carried in papers all over the state today, here's what Congressman Simmons had to say after visiting Norfolk:
"Do we want to create a bigger target for terrorists? Do we want another Pearl Harbor?"

He did not just intimate that moving additional subs down to Norfolk would be a catalyst for a modern Pearl Harbor-style attack did he?
Simmons said Saturday that a shift of manpower and boats to an already congested Norfolk base could create "a massive Pearl Harbor" and make Virginia a target for terrorists.
Wow. I guess he really did say that. Someone in Simmons' office needs to control him, because that statement is alarmist and irresponsible.

Norfolk is already home to sixty-one vessels, five of which are nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. It is already a massive base, and, by extension, a potential terror target. The Pentagon knows that, and any rational thinking human being could come to that conclusion. Potentially adding more subs to what is already stationed there is not going to change this at all.

Invoking Pearl Harbor here is outright pandering. Frankly, I think that this attempt to exploit people's fears of a terror strike and memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor does far more to discredit Simmons' efforts to save the base than anything else.

More from Simmons:
Simmons called Norfolk a "fabulous naval station" but very congested. Additionally, Norfolk would have to build more piers, barracks and other facilities to accommodate the new arrivals.

"This is something that would cost millions and millions," he said. "Where would the savings be?"
Ugh, my 2-year-old is swift enough to see the "fabulous naval station" line for what it is: a meaningless platitude. And as a civilian, hearing the Congressman talk about how Norfolk is "congested" elicits a resounding "DUH!" from me. It's a large naval station. I would expect it to be busy and congested.

Bringing up cost is totally fair here, but Simmons is now officially all over the map.

"It'll be a terrorist Pearl Harbor." "It's too crowded." "It's too expensive."

Too many themes, Congressman. Pick the strongest one and ride it. This buckshot approach is not effective.
The Norfolk base's focus is on building and maintaining the Navy's surface fleet and not on submarines, Simmons said.
Norfolk is home to twelve submarines (11 SSNs and 1 SSGN). While it isn't a "perfect" setup like Groton, with Electric Boat essentially next door, this statement from Simmons is ridiculous on its face. You cannot go visit a naval station that is already homeport to twelve subs and then make a statement implying that it is not submarine-appropriate. Come on.
"The submarine is lost" among aircraft carriers and destroyers, he said.
You've got to be kidding me.

Rob Simmons basically said that because the submarines are among larger surface vessels, they are somehow at a disadvantage. What is that supposed to mean? That they're ignored in favor of the other ships? Did Simmons speak to any of the submarine crews in Norfolk? Because I'm sure they'd reassure him that their boats are well taken care of, thank you very much.

Rob Simmons needs to present clear, concise, and compelling reasons why Groton must be kept open. Based on the statements he made after his trip to Norfolk, I fear he may not be up to that task.

The clock is ticking, Congressman. Please get it together.

Update: Pigboatsailor rebuts several of my points in excellent fashion in the comments section below.

Alas, I am coming at this from a complete outsider's POV, and as PBS demonstrates, I am probably emphasising some things too much, and missing the point in some other areas where I should be giving more credit. I am genuinely thankful for the critique, because in the end, I want Rob Simmons to be one of the victors here, and guidance such as that found in the comment can only assist me in making more cogent arguments in support of the save the base efforts

Groton is, in a word, irreplaceable. There are too many intangibles surrounding it that give it such enormous value.

More over at my place, where I have additional updates to the original post and another comment thread going.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Volunteer for the Soviet Submarine Service!!!

Ok ok, I know Comrades the Soviet Navy is now the Russia Navy but, you can still volunteer to work on a Soviet 1960’s era submarine.

The Juliett 454 (K-77) in Providence, RI is looking for volunteers to help restore and maintain this Cold War relic. Former and current submariners are particularly valuable as volunteers but anyone with an interest in helping is welcome. Maintenance includes tracing out systems, restoring paint to original colors, wiring indicators panels, general cleaning, etc. We’re even looking for knuckle dragging TMs to restore a torpedo in the after torpedo room, I think the warhead was previously removed!?

Ric Hedman who helped restore the Soviet Foxtrot submarine named “Cobra” is currently the manager of the Juliett's restoration. Ric is a fellow submariner (USS Flasher SSN613 Plankowner) and former USSVI Seattle Base commander. The Saratoga Museum Foundation has Ric aboard initially for the three month summer season.

Curious about what a ruskie sub looks like up close and personal click on over to my site here for a half dozen photos of this Soviet pig boat. - LL

Wow! Dolphin Watercraft NEW

Remember the Segway, the self-balancing human transporter first revealed in December 2001? Segway was over-hyped, kept under wraps nearly a year and fizzled almost as fast as Cold Fusion (USN never relented -story at Molten Eagle). Well, this dolphin invention has not been hyped, you cannot buy one and by all appearances every fun-loving, person would like to try one, if not own one.

What exactly is a Dolphin Watercraft? The positively buoyant, dolphin-shaped vessel uses forward momentum and fins to dive beneath and out of the water's surface. The idea was first patented by Tom Rowe of Tarco Research in 1992. A fully submersible watercraft that mimics the look and abilities of dolphins, the groundbreaking craft paved the way for the first Dolphin designed and built by Innespace Productions, also in 2001. It has been undergoing testing and refinement for the past three years. Sweet Virgin Angel is a fully functional, show ready watercraft, able to perform dives, huge jumps, barrel rolls, and other amazing acrobatics at 20-30 mph.

Innespace Productions was started in California in 1998 by Rob Innes and Dan Piazza, with the aim of providing thrilling aquatic demonstrations using our unique Dolphin watercraft.

Caption Contest v2.0 Winner!

Solar Sail

Desirous of to put a "kinder, gentler" face on its global ambitions, the Russian Navy instituted a policy inspired by the famed "globe trotting" pontiff, John Paul II--sporting suitcase stickers on their ICBM's as well as the Pope's colorful sombrero.

Kudos to this week's winner: WillyShake!

View all this week's entries here.

Monkey-related PERSTRANS Story

(Cross-posted by Bubblehead from Idaho from The Stupid Shall Be Punished)

So there I was... standing Officer of the Deck on USS Topeka (SSN-754) the day after we finished a port visit in Phukett, Thailand, just before Christmas 1992. Seems the off-duty portion of the crew was hanging out in Crew's Mess, swapping liberty stories. Someone mentioned all the monkeys that the various vendors had to draw attention to their wares, and one of the Nuke electricians said something along the lines of, "Yeah, and they had really sharp teeth." The Doc was listening in on this shoot-the-shit, and grabbed the guy, verified that he had been bitten by a monkey, and went to see the CO. About five minutes later I get a buzz on the conn: "Make preps to come to PD and establish comms with SubGroup Seven."
You see, our Doc had warned us during the pre-liberty briefings to avoid the wildlife, since rabies was a problem in Thailand. Next thing we knew, we got new water to head towards Diego Garcia; the USS Ranger, the flagship of our Battle Group (which was heading towards Australia after supporting our initial landing in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope) was the nearest source of rabies vaccine; they flew an S-3 to DiGar to deliver the vaccine.
We did the PERSTRANS, dropping off our potentially rabid nuke, along with one other crew member. (He had joined the boat in Bahrain about a month earlier, and apparently decided that submarine life wasn't for him; he had chosen to use the excuse that got a guy out of the Navy faster than anything else... you military guys out there all know what I mean...)
Anyway, it looked like we were down one throttleman for our upcoming end of deployment ORSE. I remember talking with my watch section about the potential pros and cons of having a rabid member of the Maneuvering watch team. On the plus side, some casualties would become non-events: "These throttles aren't stuck!" he'd shout, as he used his superhuman strength to overcome whatever resistance to throttle motion the drill monitor at the Aux SPCP could provide. On the other hand, I could just imagine the kind of comments we'd get: "Training value was lost when an obviously rabid throttleman became enraged when the ELT brought a bottle of water into Maneuvering. Additionally, the same rabid throttleman attempted to bite the Board members, contrary to Paragraph B.2 of the ORSE Precepts Letter."
Our lesson learned from the whole situation: Don't let Thai monkeys bite you -- unless you want to spend a month at home in San Diego with your family while your shipmates are out doing an ORSE workup.
(Epilogue: The guy ended up rejoining us in Pearl, and rode us for the last week of the deployment; we used him as a drill monitor. We kicked ass on the ORSE.)

Going deep...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Submariners' reputations...more

Years ago, the Pope died of old age and found himself at the Gates of Heaven at 0300. He knocks on the gate and a very sleepy-eyed watch opens the gate and asks, "Wadda ya want?" "I'm the recently deceased Pope and have done 63 years of Godly work and thought I should check in here."

The watch checks his clipboard and says, "got no orders for you here-- just bring your stuff and we'll sort this all out in the morning." They go to an old-style barracks, third floor, open bay. All bottom racks full and empty lockers without doors. The Pope stows his gear under a rack and climbs onto an upper bunk.

The next morning he awakens to sounds of cheering and applause. He gets up and goes to a window and sees a flashy Jaguar cruising down from the golden command building. The sidewalks are lined with saints as angels cheer and toss confetti. In the back seat sits a Navy Submariner, dolphins glistening on his chest, Cuban cigar in his pocket, bottle of torpedo juice in one hand, and his other hand holding leave papers.

This disturbs the Pope, who runs downstairs to the Master-At-Arms and says, "Hey, what gives? You put me, the Pope, with 63 years of Godly deeds in an old barracks while that guy, who must have committed every sin known and unknown to man is staying in a mansion on the hill and getting a saint's welcome. How can that be?"

The Master-At-Arms calmly looks up and says, "We get Popes here every 20 or so years, but we've never had a Submariner before."

from ex-submariner Pete, Richland, Wa.

CT 2nd Congressional District Blog

Just stumbled across this in my travels this morning:

Second Congressional District Watch

They have a news aggregator page set up specifically for BRAC-related stories here. It's nice for finding info outside of the indispensable New London Day.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Lock up your daughters, the subs are pulling in!!

Sailors and our reputations...what a loaded subject.

Back on my last boat on WestPac '02/'03, we made a port call in Okinawa. I had been pestering the EDMC about getting in an EDPO that month (we were to have very few days in port) for my monthly proficency, and of course I drew it on the one full day we had in port (we pulled in on Tuesday afternoon, pulled out on Thursday morning, and I was EDPO on Wednesday). With also having the reactor shutdown as RO, I was looking at little to no liberty.

Oh, well...all I really wanted to do was eat some "real" food and do my laundry. Of course by the time I got off the boat the laundry on base was closed, but the barracks (across the street from a bar/restaurant on base) had a laundry room and one of the residents hooked me up. I started my clothes washing and headed over to the club for a drink and some dinner.

Now we had this JO, a young "pretty boy" LTJG. I'll not give his name (protecting the guilty) but he was a damn smart guy, top notch EOOW and OOD, knew the boat like the back of his hand, and was an all around good officer. He was also the wardroom's "player", if you know what I mean. You've heard the term "a girl in every port"...well, LTJG "Smith" was a prime example of the phrase.

I got over to this little club an hour or two before closing, and saw several guys from the boat playing pool and swilling beer. I grabbed a Coke (don't drink), got some fries (the kitchen was closed...I ended up having dinner next door at a "sit down" restaurant) and kicked back to relax for a while until my clothes were done.

A few minutes later, Mr. "Smith" came in, along with two of our sonarmen (brothers, it turns out). After a few games of pool, they were joined by a nice young lady who had an obvious attraction to Mr. "Smith"...and it was mutual. And obvious as the sun in Hawaii.

I remember seeing them once more, as I was heading back to the BEQ for my laundry...she apparently was stationed on the base, and had a car, which they were in heading in the general direction of the beach. Fill in the blanks...

Now, here's where it gets interesting. Mr. "Smith" was the Duty Officer the next day, and it always seems folks want a tour of the visiting sub. A buddy of mine, an STS1, was the Duty Chief, and he got called topside when a group of folks showed up asking to tour the boat. Now STS1 had been at the bar the night before, too, and recognized one of the group as the girl Mr. "Smith" had spent the evening with. She was now in MA2 from the base security force. Turns out Mr. "Smith" hadn't bothered to mention his rank (he made a vague reference to being in Weapons Department, which was true, he was the AWEPS), and also hadn't bothered to call her the next day. Apparently he was the "love 'em and leave 'em" type. I don't think he ever expected her to show up for a tour.

STS1 called down for permission from the Duty Officer to bring the group down. And, of course, to warn Mr. "Smith". I happened to be in the Wardroom at the time, trying to coordinate something between forward and aft, and the look on his face was classic. Deer and headlights come to mind. See, it appears she was asking for him by name.

Mr. Smith suddenly found the Engineroom (where tours cannot go) very interesting. Never saw a forward Duty Officer spend so much time aft on a duty day. And STS1 simply told the young lady that "Jim" (not his real name, still protecting the guilty) wasn't available. Somewhat true, since he took it upon himself to thorougly audit a quarters worth of primary and secondary chemistry in Nucleonics during the tour.

And for the rest of the deployment he restricted his adventures to establishments that were off base...making sure his "targets" were of the civilian persuasion.

The 8th International Submarine Races

The International Submarine Races are a 16-year-old engineering design competition and will be held at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Carderock facility in Bethesda, Maryland, from June 27 to July 1, 2005.

Human Powered 2004 (Source: University of Washington Human Powered Submarine Program)

The 8th competition's major sponsors are NavSea Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, General Dynamic Electric Boat Division and the Oceanic Engineering Society of IEEE.

According to the completion’s March 14 press release (pdf), there will be 25 boats competing from the following teams:

Everett Community College, WA
US Merchant Marine Academy
Sussex County Technical School, NJ
Virginia Tech
University of Maine
University of Maryland (2 subs)
Florida Atlantic University
University of Washington
Villanova University
Millersville University
University of Michigan
Ecole de Technologie Superiueure, Montreal
Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal
Texas A&M University
University of Delft, Netherlands
University of California at San Diego
San Diego High School
Independents: Don Burton, Bruce Plazyk (2 subs)
Wheaton Submarine Works (2 subs)
Steve Barton, David Johnson

Test depth is 22 feet, which is essentially the depth of the 3200-foot-long David Taylor test tank at NavSea NSWC Carderock Bethesda, Maryland. The competition's rules (pdf) require the subs to be human powered, so no nukes allowed, nuclear submarines that is.

Question, which would battle short a human powered propulsion system yelling "torpedo in the water!" or "shark!"?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Caption Contest v2.0

Solar Sail

Post your entries in the comments section below.

I'll announce the winner on Monday.

testing submarine systems pierside

i remember when we were at mare island in the 70's, they used to test the boomer missile systems by firing a cement filled barrel stuck inside a couple of tires. BOOM, and the damned thing would fly for what seemed hundreds of feet. it was always something to see, and the piers were always lined with yardbirds out watching the testing. i wonder what they use for the new T-hulls. i can just see it now, a big ohio class boat launching garbage cans into the middle of the drink, greenpeace protesters out in their dinghies "trying to stop the madness", complaining the noise is doing irreparable harm to the scarce and fragile seagulls flying in the area. gag.

another thing i remember them doing, because you couldn't help but notice it, was they would take a boat's sonar active during test phase. along side the pier. PING. you could feel it through the hull even if you were at the other end of the shipyard. i know they won't let the navy test like that any more. hell, they can barely test at sea without causing a furor. what the hell are we supposed to do? ask the bad guys to bang a hammer against their hull in a steady and unique rhythm so we don't have to fire up the "harmful" sonar to find their ass?

anyone else stationed at mare island during the 70's and very early 80's? i had a snake ranch on the side of the hill facing the island across the channel. mare island was home to a bunch of combat systems schools, and had a huge rotating array search and attack radar up on the hill behind schools command. they'd fire that sucker up, and you could time the sweep by how often a minute your radio or television went bzzzzzt. i recorded hours and hours of music and live radio from KMEL "the Live 105" fm radio station to listen to out at sea, and like as not, the tape would play fine for a bit then BZZZZZZZZT and back to playing. it was great, because it reminded me of home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Submarine Life Down Under

In the process of looking for something else submarine-related on the web, I happened on the home page of the Submarines Association Australia. Below is a quote from their "The Association" link, which includes a picture of an Australian submarine warfare pin -- so pay them a visit! Note in particular the last sentence in the block quote.
Submariners world wide are a special breed, rarely understood by mere mortals and never understood by skimmers. Submariners of all nations understands this and show respect to each other, knowing the hardship and danger that each has faced to achieve membership to that elite club to which submariners belong.

Australia, like most countries that maintains a submarine force, has an Association to which submariners may join to keep contact with old shipmates, enjoy the occasional social event and to commemorate our departed comrades. Ours is known as the Submarine Association Australia with branches in all states. Membership is open to all submariners, regardless of the navy in which they served.
I haven't the time to browse through the whole site at leisure, but it is well put-together, updated frequently, and interesting. The site has a good blog as well, called The Chief's Log, which appears to have been started in January and is archived monthly.

To give you an idea of the atmosphere: The main page has a special "skimmer's entrance," which comes with a friendly warning to those we're always ready to welcome to the depths of our watery home.
WARNING: Skimmers beware! The content of this site may offend. It contains images and stories of the RAN's elite submarine force at work and play and it may give you that sinking feeling of inadequacy.

The web log I mentioned earlier is good reading and has, among other things, pictures of skimmers in the crosshairs, any of which I might have used for my gravatar had I known about them sooner.

-- CAV

Monday, June 20, 2005

Did you ever just have a bad day?

Some sea stories aren't all "fun"...

It was early 1998, and Mighty TUCSON was on her maiden deployment. We had been switched from doing a 7th Fleet 'Pac (lots of ISR and possibly Australia) to a 5th Fleet 'Pac (possible strike into Iraq, and the boat that was supposed to be going there was broke all to pieces).

We made a mad dash across, well, half the world or so, arriving in the Persian Gulf a little over three weeks after leaving Pearl Harbor. We had a port call scheduled for Bahrain (oh, JOY) about a week after arriving in the Gulf...we would discover there that Middle East liberty was, well, Middle East Liberty (those who've been there know exactly what I mean). But on this day, only a couple of days past the Straits of Hormuz, we were just tooling around at PD doing not much of anything.

It was early on the morning watch when we got the word "prepare to surface". Now no one really batted an eye, as we'd done a lot of "ups and downs" for quals/training, but this time the "Old Man" got on the horn with some news. We had a shipmate in trouble...his daughter was gravely ill (we found out later she had been given only months to live), and we had to get him into Bahrain and back home.

We surfaced (necessary to go anywere fast in the Gulf, as PD speeds are limited for reasons of SOE), and the nukes brought the crock pot up to full boil as we made the mad dash to Bahrain. The maneuvering watch came and went, and our shipmate (an RM, apparently that caused some interesting moments in radio...the message came as a "Personal For" to the Skipper, since back home they couldn't know if the RM would be on watch or not...and the initial message directed that the "meat" of the missive be received personally by the Captain) was set ashore with our best wishes. We would learn later that his daughter not only pulled through but made a full recovery (and last I saw him, just this month, she was doing well and in high school).

What a day...and we'd done it all before lunch. But back to routine...maneuvering watch secured, chow line set for the oncoming guys (that would be me), dive preps made...I was standing in line when the familiar "aooogah, aooogah" went off in my ear, and we started down. For about a second.

Actually, we made it down only to come right back up. There were a lot of "that ain't right" looks, and then we got the CO back on the horn. Turns out we were heading back to Bahrain for another emergent shipmate evacuation, this time an STS (and a bit of a rush, as they wanted to get him on the same flight as the RM).

Our STS passed by the chow line (the decision having been made to serve lunch, then go back to the maneuvering watch), and told us what was up...his house in Barber's Point Navy Housing had burned to the ground, taking everything his family had except, thankfully, their lives. His wife and kids were safe, but the rest was a total write-off. Including the car in the garage.

The next dive actually happened (in fact, the one before letting off the STS was originally axed, then done just for a quick qual sig as we were already set and were still waiting for final word on coming in anyway). Granted, we were all wondering if a third trip to Bahrain was in the works, but the rest of the WestPac went off with no more emergent evacuations (much to the relief of all aboard), and our two shipmates met up with us a couple of months later in a port call in Singapore, having handled their respective difficulties back home and looking quite relieved that things had turned out as well as they did.

Both of them are, by the way, still in the Navy, still in Pearl, and both still mention that day to me when we run into each other around the waterfront. And I'm glad, personally, that things turned out OK for them. And that, in a pinch, they could count on the support of their shipmates in their time of need.

Oh, incidentally, STS1's family and RM1's wife found out just what it meant to be in a "submarine family" that year. I heard the pile of furniture, clothes, and helping hands made the recovery from the fire much easier, and the family at the hospital never lacked for a babysitter for their younger child or a hand around the house when the chores needed doing.

when are you qualified a watchstation?

i posted a few paragraphs over at the geezer's corner. here is a taste of what i posted. i can already feel you shaking your head up and down, saying "Amen brother".

every nuke out there knows this answer. and some coners like VA Beach Herb.
it's not when the engineer signs off your qual card, and you get put on the watchbill for that station. it's not after your first drill set as a qualified watchstander. it's not after spending 3 weeks standing port and starboard, 6 on and 6 off.
it's when you hear "FIRE FIRE FIRE IN THE REACTOR COMPARTMENT UPPER LEVEL" from our lady friend the bitch in the box. full scram, because they isolated all control power, since the "smoke" was coming from under a key transformer.

Women Sub Sailors

Our good friend, Bubblehead, over at The Stupid Will Be Punished has an interesting picture link that begs the question "why not?"

John M. Brower wrote a substantive article in favor of ending "The Final (Underwater) Frontier" in 2002. Aussie subs (Collins class) have had female crew since 1998. In Sweden, women have served aboard subs for at least 13 years. Norway had its first female submarine commander, Solveig Krey, in 1995.

Otherwise, the coed U.S. space program would certainly have stood the Submarine Force on its head by now. Here's the problem, health standards restrict females of childbearing age to very low exposures to many common heavy metals now common on nuke submarines as well as to ionizing radiation levels. The nuclear submarine force has then just five options:

A- limit females to forward only duties, including cook. (we can imagine how that would go over)B- limit female submarine recruits to post-menopausal women (interesting)
C- return to AGSS-555 type diesel boats to accomodate flood of women volunteers
D- relax health standards for civilian women, too (politically untenable)
E- end protest, accept women sailors on nukes and incur high court-awards subsequently (my lawyer friends like this option best)

Interestingly, Brower mentions the four chief problems as: (1) crew pregnancy (all discussion of which was forbidden in the context ship preparedness (missing movement) by a former SecNav, (2) ablution, (3) bunking, and (4) posting -similar to (A).

He mentions none of the "high potential" problems (B)-(E).
Gentlemen and ladies, I ask you, are the Swedish neutral? Are Norwegian subs a force to be reckoned? How do Aussie subs accomodate muslim women sailors?

USS STERLET Reunion Images

I posted what was sent to me by Bill Roberts. Stop by the STERLET site and look them over.

If you can place names and captions to any images, send me an email!

A riddle...

Riddle me this, Batman:
What's Red and black,
And (to quote Shakespeare),
"Hoists sails and flies." ?

You'll find the answer cross-posted HERE.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

seatrials sea story...

where our intrepid reporter almost became crab food.

during an exchange of ah sh*ts, i alluded to and promised to post about sea trials, and bad things that can happed during them.

a short quote from the post here on my blog

so here we are, on sea trials. for the uninitiated, sea trials is where the shipyard and the navy try everything they can to make sure all systems work as advertised at all advertised depths. taking the boat down to test depth the first time is a long, slow, and carefully orchestrated evolution. once there, you cycle all kinds of stuff to make sure it doesn't bind up and that it will work when called upon in a real world situation. huge test program. at the end of the evolution, we did an airless surface, which means we drove the boat to the surface without blowing down the ballast tanks. slowly.

so we've been to sea for a couple of days, and sea trials seemed to be going alright. there were some minor dings, but overall, things were working well. this was a testament to the thoroughness of the shipyard test program throughout the entire overhaul sequence. we were getting close to the end of the evolution, and only had an emergency blow to the surface from depth to complete that phase of seatrials. things were going so well that the engineer allowed E-div to work on one of the motor generators, because the brushes were sparking something fierce. the boat was leveled to a zero bubble, no way on the ship in preps for the major depth excursion test when...BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM. five extremely loud explosions rocked the boat. i was in my rack, just waking up to get ready for watch relief. SLAM the after watertight door in the engineroom hit the stops, and SLAM the ventilation bulkhead flappers were shut and latched. the bitch in the box gave her typical two clicks on the 1 MC that preceded all announcements and then "FIRE FIRE FIRE IN THE ENG..." and the whole boat went black. i mean fucking black. it was so smokey in the stern room berthing area that you couldn't see the emergency battle lantern mounted on the forward bulkhead 20 feet away.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

WWII Submarines in Verse

Crossposted by Bubblehead in Idaho from "The Stupid Shall Be Punished":

I've linked Sid Harrison's submarine page before, but it's always worth going back. Today, I was struck again by the beautiful simplicity of the words of Bob Harrison's poem, "Toll the Bell". An excerpt:

"Toll the bell, you submariners, for your brethren of the deep
Who went to sea so long ago and still their constant vigil keep.
Tell the nation who they are and where they lie beneath the sea,
Keep the faith with those brave comrades who patrol eternally...
"...Toll the bell for Shark and Grunion, gallant warriors of the sea,
Toll the bell for brave Pompano, Grenadier, and Tullibee.
Sing your praises for the Thresher, Grayling and the Amberjack,
And for all the men who perished, mothers’ sons who won’t come back..."

For some reason, this reminded me of a WWII submarine poem that the men of USS Trigger used to recite:

By Constantine Guiness, MOMM 1/C, USN

I'm the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast
You don't hear of me and my crew.
But just ask any man off the coast of Japan
If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

I look sleek and slender alongside my tender
With others like me at my side,
But we'll tell you a story of battle and glory,
As enemy waters we ride.

I've been stuck on a rock, felt the depth charge's shock,
Been north to a place called Attu,
and I've sunk me two freighters atop the equator
Hot work, but the sea was cold blue.

I've cruised close inshore and carried the war
to the Empire Island Honshu,
While they wire Yokahama I could see Fujiyama,
So I stayed, to admire the view.

When we rigged to run silently, deeply I dived,
And within me the heat was terrific.
My men pouring sweat, silent and yet
Cursed me and the whole damned Pacific.

Then destroyers came sounding and depth charges pounding
My submarine crew took the test.
Far in that far off land there are no friends on hand,
To answer a call of distress.

I was blasted and shaken (some damage I've taken),
my hull bleeds and pipe lines do, too
I've come in from out there for machinery repair,
And a rest for me and my crew.

I got by on cool nerve and in silence I served,
Though I took some hard knocks in return,
One propeller shaft sprung and my battery's done,
But the enemy ships I saw burn.

I'm the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast,
You don't hear of me and my crew.
But just ask any man off the coast of Japan,
If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

USS Trigger was lost with all hands during her twelfth patrol, on March 26, 1945. Toll the bell...

[Edited to correct the name of the owner of the website mentioned in the link at the top.]

Friday, June 17, 2005

Senate Leaders Satisfied on BRAC Closings Supoena

From the AP comes word that the Pentagon Satisfies Senate on Base Closings. Under subpoena from a Senate committee, the Defense Department has provided enough information on the military base closing process to satisfy Senate leaders, so no further legal action will be taken, senators said Friday.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., in a letter to acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, said that while they haven't gotten all the data requested, the thousands of pages they received helped them better understand how the department made decisions to close military bases. Lawmakers hope DOD information may be useful in preventing base closings at the submarine base Groton, CT and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

China's new Boomer Bullets

The Japanese are reporting that China has test fired a new ICBM for her boomers. Now, while China's subs are still technologically not up to par with ours yet, they are getting there, and now they have a nice long range ICBM to go along with their expanding sub fleet. In case the 8000 KM range of these bad boys doesn't bring it home, check this out:

That is how far away the Chinese can be and still hit our West Coast (duck, Bubblehead ID).
Oh, and yes, the article adds, a Chinese "nuclear submarine cruised around Guam and entered Japan's territorial waters. If China develops SLBMs further, the entire mainland of the United States would come within range of the missiles." So, it was right where a boomer would have to be to launch on us. The article claims, "The United States believes China is ready to deploy the Dong Feng-31 and has estimated that Beijing will have 100 warheads targeting the United States by 2015." I am not sure where that number comes from, so I cannot speak to its veracity. However, it is sounding as if China is trying to start its own little arms race with us. She has got a lot of catching up to do, but she is off to a good start.

Oh, and if you think this is an isolated incident, it is not, as attested to by this and this, (which I touched on at the beginning of the month here) detailing other areas of China's rapid military expansion.

But hey, who needs a sub fleet anyway, with new boomers out trolling the oceans?

Israel's Anti-Dinghy/Frogman Floating Sea Fence

Quoting the Jerusalem Post, Aljazeera said the sea barrier's first 100m (ed. 150) will consist of cement pilings buried into the sandy bottom and the structure will extend another 800m in the form of a 1.8m-deep fence floating beneath the surface.

The fence is to prevent terrorist incursions from small craft and Palestinian frogmen after the loss of surveillance systems at the Tel Ridan base on the beach south of Gaza City when the IDF pulls out of Gaza this summer.

Obviously, early-warning transmitters will be emplaced to monitor fence integrity. The sea fence is cheaper than the blimp solution used during WWII to protect US shipping from German subs, but impractical for protecting an area the size of Norfolk.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Safety Concerns Over Two Royal Navy Submarines

According to this TIMESONLINE article two Trafalgar-class British Royal Navy Submarines the HMS Tireless and the HMS Torbay have been banned from operating at sea. Both submarines have had problems with their nuclear reactor’s primary coolant circuit pipes over the last few years with the HMS Tireless having their coolant circuit pipes replaced. The Royal Navy and Ministry of Defense have continuing concerns. Excerpt:

Royal Navy sources said that detection equipment was now much more sophisticated and was capable of spotting the minutest of cracks, “scars” or faults in materials that may have been there for years. Since safety for all nuclear boats was paramount, they said, it had been decided to stop them operating at sea until further checks had been carried out.

Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces Minister stated:

“It was decided that further work should be conducted to restore full confidence in the safety justification before these two submarines returned to normal operation.”

I don't recall ever hearing of any US Navy submarines having any similar problems where the primary loop's piping had to be replaced. The HMS Tireless was built in 1984 and the HMS Torbay in 1987 and have a Rolls Royce PWR Nuclear power plant. Are Brit and US Submarine reactor plant construction or standards that different? Any back aft engineering types have a comment.

Update - 6/17/05 21:30 : For some further reading check out Bubblehead over at "The Stupid Shall be Punished". He adds some additional content and further context to the above piece.

22:00 : It looks as though the Trafalgar-class has had a difficult history (hat tip: Rontini's BBS)

The Admirals Weigh In

Three of the Sub Force's leading Admirals banded together in New London to talk to members of the House Armed Services Committee and send a message to the BRAC. The Dolphin, the SUBASE's paper put out by its PAO, has the story. ADM Donald, VADM Munns, and RDML Butler all broke with the Navy leadership over the plans for the future of the sub force. A full synopsis and my thoughts on this meeting are here on my blog, which I am considering renaming 'The BRAC Blog' (CANX/COMMSHIFT/PIGBOATSAILOR/MSG-SARCASM//)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Earthquakes: Off The Pacific Rim or The Deep End?

If you thrilled to "angles and dangles," the series of underwater acrobatic maneuvers that skippers like CDR Rodney "Ramjet" Griffiths particularly revelled in demonstrating, you learned fairly well what a really bad earthquake felt like. If not, and you have not been a Pacific Rim dweller either, your government does not want you to be left out of a cheap, quasi- earthquake experience.

The National Weather Service has devised this virtual earthquake simulator. On that page, click the "Experience a Virtual Earthquake" button. What Richter Scale magnitude do you think is simulated?

Have you been in a submarine (regardless of depth) at the time and location of a quake, hurricane or volcanic eruption?

If you ever transited through the "Bermuda Triangle" did you receive a Compass Rose Certificate (you had to name the 32 points of the compass rose, in order). Not many got it.

Failing to see the Bigger Problem

The AP is reporting that a Shipyard worker in Pearl recently got sentenced for selling boat parts as scrap for money. As he is already being sentenced, this must be a somewhat old story that I had previously missed (Any idea, Rob?). Now, selling sub parts? Yeah, ok, bad. Although it is conceivable they were junk - we had a guy on the boat who would empty out the scrap dumpster when cool stuff got thrown away (impeller to the trim pump that cracked, old RCP switches, etc.). He claimed he was building a broken submarine.

However, here is what disturbed me about the report, which got second billing to the fact that this guy was selling parts, along with five yardbirds. They were selling the stuff to buy crystal methamphetamine! Yeah, great, high yardbirds, that is all we need. Glad we didn't do our refit in Pearl - with my luck they would have been the guys who patched up the hull cuts...

UPDATE: Go figure, the Honolulu Star has the story, and in more detail, too. Looks like it was scrap they were seliing, and not usable parts. Which leads me to wonder what the judge meant when he said, "What you did was flat-out dangerous." (H/T The Sub Report)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Caption Contest Winner

Cuban Taxi

The EU’s concern about global warming has resulted in the commissioning of a new vehicle. The vehicle will still produce hydrocarbon pollutants but was designed for the coming rise in sea levels over the next century. Nicknamed “The Blue Helmet” in honor of the idle UN Military Officer who designed it, the vehicle will do 100 mph on land and 10 Knots at sea. First sales are expected to be in Holland.

5,000.00 euros MSRP
50,000.00 euros after Taxes
Huzzah! Lubber wins!

Thanks to all who participated. You can see all the entries in the comments section of the original post. Good stuff.

Our Incredible Shrinking Navy

At Ultraquiet No More, there have been quite a few posts lately on the recent round of proposed base closures and, more disturbingly, on the alarming rate of shrinkage of our submarine force. While some have expressed the concern that submarines might be especially vulnerable to cutbacks due to the perception that the force is a relic of the Cold War, or that their capabilities do not fulfill our current needs, I think there is a far more fundamental cause for alarm: Our Navy in general is being allowed to shrink at an alarming rate.

More at Gus Van Horn, including excerpts from and links to stories on testimony before the House Armed Service subcommittee on the dangers of allowing our submarine force to continue shrinking.

-- CAV

"Refit Woes" aka "The Co-60 Blues"

This story caught my eye 'cause it starts off like a Rad-Con problem. We probably haven't heard the last on this one--the Enviro. groups will be sure to make book on it.
About 20 litres of water containing Cobalt 60 was spilled last Friday during the refit of the Trident nuclear submarine HMS Victorious.
*taking out a pencil* Let's see now, if we assume a cylindrical bottle with an on-contact reading of...

Making the Case for Technological Base

Rear Admiral Butler makes the case for maintaining our technology base in submarine design and production, and of course The Day (who wants to promote the relevance of the Groton sub base and Electric Boat) is all over the story:
The country is “on the precipice of a national disaster” if it continues to allow the weakening of submarine design capability at Electric Boat, the Navy officer in charge of submarine construction programs testified Monday.

Rear Adm. John D. Butler, program executive officer for submarines at Naval Sea Systems Command, said that for the first time since before World War II, the Navy does not have a submarine design project on the boards.

Of course the Admiral has a point--and one that I sympathize with. Readers of my blog have often heard me fret over our ability to prepare to meet the Chinese threat and continue to keep an eye on the Russians. Yet the tone of his argument bugs me. Is the Sub Force really at such a point that we have to start screaming that the sky is falling?

You tell me, but I'm catching a wiff of the shrillness found among the bureaucrats that preside over PBS. Can't we justify our existence without crying wolf? Besides, the article also hints at the fact that perhaps Adm. Butler has another agenda, and others aren't buying it:

Subcommittee members questioned whether Tango Bravo, a joint project between the Navy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, might keep some of the expertise alive.

What's Wrong With This BBC News Report ?

Cross posted from my Molten Eagle site... What's wrong with the BBC News' report that "Submarine sends underwater e-mail"?
Its conclusion: "It was also the first time a submerged and moving submarine was able to communicate without giving away its position by surfacing or raising an antenna." hmmm!

The Benthos equipment used sound energy transmitted from acoustic modems to send e-mails from USS Dolphin off the coast of California to San Diego and other underwater modems. While cruising 400 feet Dolphin transmitted data up three miles to a relay buoy then to land.

WillyShake and Bubblehead had posted news of PULSNET (persistent littoral undersea surveillance network) last month, the system to replace SOSUS regionally. Well Benthos also makes remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and their improved e-mail-relay technology sounds like a natural component of a new littoral networking system (or a red herring).

Monday, June 13, 2005

Greenpeace protest yacht Vega approaches US Sub

Monday, June 13, 2005. The Greenpeace protest yacht Vega recently approached a US Submarine in Brisbane Australia and attempted to extract classified information. In an Australian Broadcasting Corporation Online News article "Greenpeace protest ship moors in Brisbane" comes the following a conversation with Spokesman and deckhand Ben Morrow of Greenpeace :

Mr Morrow says the US military should declare whether submarines travelling in Australian waters have a nuclear capacity.

"For instance, there was a nuclear-powered submarine in Brisbane yesterday and we sailed up to that and asked them if they had any nuclear weapons on board," he said.

"Of course the US [neither] confirms nor denies the presence of nuclear weapons, thereby removing our knowledge of the situation."

Of course if Mr Morrow asked the same question of a Navy tug he would have got the same answer, but he did ask and so created a news item for Greenpeace.

The Australian has a little more on related Greenpeace activity "Protests 'a result of US influence" in eastern Australia.

The US Navy knows it has to be wary of Greenpeace, one of their know protest tactics is Sailormongering, for which they were charged in 2002.

Submarine Force Heroes -- Yesterday and Today

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

The passing last week of Slade Cutter, CO of USS Seahorse, credited with sinking 23 enemy vessels during WWII and four-time Navy Cross awardee, got me thinking about submarine heroes of yesteryear and today. The list of American submariners who gained immortality with their feats of bravery and daring -- Dudley "Mush" Morton, John Cromwell, and Howard Gilmore, to name but a few -- fill the hearts of submariners everywhere with pride to be part of a brotherhood with them. While today's submariners don't usually have the opportunity to be recognized for their bravey, the actions of the crew of USS San Francisco during her recent grounding show that men who go under the sea today are cut from the same cloth. Nevertheless, the larger-than-life exploits of the submarine heroes of WWII are what stir my imagination the most.

Slade Cutter was one such hero. A football hero at the Naval Academy, his war patrols on Seahorse were legendary, as his four Navy Crosses testify. Check out this account of Seahore's fourth patrol:

Seahorse's fourth war patrol took her to the Marianas, specifically to prevent the Japanese from reinforcing Guam and Saipan. She departed Pearl Harbor on 16 March 1944, and near Guam on 8 April came across a Japanese supply convoy. Cutter gained firing position and torpedoed the converted submarine tender Aratama Maru (6,784 tons) and the freighter Kizugawa Maru (1,915 tons). Subsequently, Aratama Maru drifted ashore on Guam and was abandoned as a total loss. Meanwhile Kizugawa Maru was towed to Guam for repairs but was so damaged by subsequent aircraft attacks that she was given up and scuttled in June. Seahorse moved on, and the very next day found a 15-20 ship convoy that had already been attacked by Trigger as it neared Saipan. Cutter attacked with two torpedoes and nailed the 4,667-ton Mimasaka Maru, leaving her dead in the water. In two attempts to deliver the coup de grace, both immediately and after nightfall, Seahorse was driven away by the escorts, but nonetheless, Mimasaka Maru sank just after midnight anyway. Patrolling submerged on lifeguard duty in support of carrier air strikes on Saipan, Seahorse next sighted the Japanese submarine I-174 on the surface on 20 April and fired two torpedoes from 1,800 yards. Inadvertently losing depth control and leaving periscope depth, Cutter heard a loud detonation, and it was later confirmed that I-174 (1,420 tons) had indeed become his latest victim. Then, only a week later, Seahorse found another convoy 45 miles west of Saipan and sank Akigawa Maru (5,244 tons) with three hits out of four torpedoes. Cutter took Seahorse to Milne Bay, New Guinea, to refuel on 3 May, and they ended another extraordinary patrol at Brisbane, Australia, on the 11th.

While Cutter may not have shown the flair of some of the more flambouyant COs, his superb technique and concern for his crew make him, for me, the prototype of a successful wartime CO. His passing reduces the pool of surviving WWI COs to a mere handful; the most famous, of course, and my personal hero, is Eugene Fluckey, who lives in Annapolis (where Cutter lived before he passed away). Fluckey's account of his wartime service of CO of USS Barb, as recounted in his book "Thunder Below", is must-reading for any submarine enthusiast. In fifteen months in command, he earned four Navy Crosses and the Congressional Medal of Honor, but always said that, when it came to awards, he was most proud that no man under his command ever received a Purple Heart. In recounting the circumstances of his award of the CMH, he stated that he didn't think he deserved the award, because he "wouldn't have taken the Barb into Namkwam if (he) had thought we didn't have at least a 50-50 chance of coming out alive". The story of his landing of part of his crew on the Japanese mainland to blow up a train with the Barb's own scuttling charges is worth the price of the book alone.

Another of the old-time heroes that I always admired was George Street. His bravery as CO of USS Tirante is legendary, but what I remember most is seeing him occasionally at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton; he stayed active in Navy and submarine activities in the Northeast until the end of his life. My EDEA (later EDMC, but that's another story) on USS Connecticut told me how, when he was COB of the Nautilus museum, Captain Street would occasionally drive down from Massachusetts and spend the day at the museum, sharing stories with visitors and staff. My Master Chief said that sometimes, when he closed up the building for the night, he'd find Captain Street asleep in his car in the parking lot. (After all, he was in his 80s.) On such occasions, he'd grab two Sailors from the duty section, get the command sedan, and have one of them drive Captain Street back home to Massachusetts while the other followed to bring that Sailor back -- the current generation of submariners paying respect to the generation that showed us the way...

Going deep...

Groton Hearing

The House Armed Services Subcommittee meeting is set to get underway shortly and hear testimony as to the value of the New London sub base.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Another Look Forward and Back

(1) Cost, yes, but the not so obvious advantage of reduced force size (with U.S. submariness of significantly greater flexibility and endurance) is added stealth. That could be tremendous to forward positioning in areas such as the South China Sea. It will require a radically different playing of today's submarine "shell game." Subs could eventually be deployed much longer (over a year?), rotating smaller crews and provisioning as necessary via a submerged tender (mother sub in each theatre) while SUBMERGED. Yes, it may be more practical for DSRV-type subs to ferry between the mother sub and the patrolling SSN/GN/XN. Originally, Seawolf (SSN-575) performed submerged endurance research later utilized in our early space program. Now, with tables turned; modern space research is available for military submarine utilization.

(2) The brandy ration a few of us received was extremely rare to my, limited knowledge. But on submarines, limited knowledge was the norm. The mini bottle was sent to a few of us from the CO via a steward before we hit port after what the captain considered stalwart endurance of uncomforting weather during a topside, underway "experience." The sea state was not that bad, but it was lengthy, cold and needless, to say, very, very wet. The bottle was a mini-bottle like that served (until recently in SC and on airlines). One exception: the label had its own Federal Stock Number (used until 1972) printed on it. Saved the bottle until it finally got lost in an intracontinental move. If it were not for "Ultraquiet No More", probably never would have remembered that little item!

Catch of the day

Fishermen are hoping for a finder's fee after netting a mini yellow submarine seen floating near a Scottish island.

The remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), which is used to detect mines, is 10ft long and weighs 850kg.

It was spotted by fisherman John Baker off Islay after apparently breaking free from a Royal Navy ship.

It was towed to Port Ellen, hauled ashore and taken to a "safe place" by locals who say they are waiting for the navy to come and claim the vessel.

Reminds me of that line near the end of "Hunt For Red October", when the National Security Advisor says to the Soviet ambassador "don't tell've lost another submarine?"

ballistics. reminds me of why we did some things

for all you nukes that entered the fleet after about say, 77 or 78, the warmup procedure for the mains was pretty cut and dried.

ever wonder why you exercised the throttles before cutting in steam to the headers?
when i was a baby nook machinist mate, we warmed the mains by cutting in gland seal with the mains on the jacking gear, pulled a vacuum in the condenser, and then secured the jack. next you slowly rolled the turbines in the astern and the forward directions, never "slamming" the steam to the nozzle block. this allowed the turbine rotor shaft to warm evenly, reducing the likelihood of a bowed rotor, and subsequent failure of that component.

in 77 or 78, at the piers in ballast point, the haddo and the haddock were tied up one in front of the other. i don't remember which was in front. the aft boat was getting ready to get underway. they had brought the reactor up, bypassed and warmed the steam headers, and were getting ready to warm the mains. the throttle boy whipped the throttles open in the astern direction (as was appropriate), spun them shut, and slammed them open in the ahead direction. the trick was to reverse steam flow before the turbines got over 50 rpm, so as to not cause the screw to turn and take a bite. nice things, reduction gears. they let you get max efficiency out of the turbine at several thousand rpm, with the screw only turning in the hundreds. max efficient speed for both. well, bad things can happen when you start slinging steam turbine throttles without allowing for proper warmup.
as the turbine speed reversed from astern to forward, the throttleboy slammed the throttles back to the astern direction. i know that was common throughout the fleet. i'd watched it done on several boats. something about throttleman prowess to be able to goose the turbines bigtime, without putting way on the boat. usually this isn't a problem.
unless you slam them around and the throttle linkages stick. like they did. guess what happens when a submarine, tied to the pier, suddenly gets a full head of steam dumped into the turbines? aayup. the aft boat lurched forward hard enough to tear the cleats loose topside, and slammed into the screw of the boat ahead of it. so what do you get? two disabled submarines, one with the bow looking like my mom's car when she drove into a lightpole in the grocery store parking lot, and the other with a completely toasted screw, shaft seals, and main thrust bearing.
to add insult to injury, the cleat that was torn loose? it's trajectory took it some 250 feet, to come crashing back to earth via the forward boat's skipper's windshield.

so now you know why the throttles are exercised before bringing steam down the headers.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Unsanitary Ballistics

It seems everyone has a sea story about both intentional and unintentional mishaps involving blowing sanitary tanks. It was one of those evolutions on a submarine where... well... you know "Sh*t happens" and Murphy is no stranger. I have my own sea story from the early Kings Bay GA days involving a 640 class SSBNs. The story is on my blog "Hundreds of Fathoms" is linked here with the title Unsanitary Ballistics. - LL

Is our submarine force becoming an "endangered species"?

From the Newport News Daily Press:

The Navy is heading toward a dramatically smaller submarine fleet that will bottom out at 40 attack submarines in 2028 -- or about three-quarters the size of today's fleet.

Despite the growing importance of intelligence missions since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Navy is now unable to sustain today's fleet of 54 attack submarines, said Rear Adm. Joseph Walsh, director of submarine warfare.

"There is nothing anyone can do about it because that opportunity has passed us," Walsh told a conference of the Naval Submarine League.

The only exception, he said, would be if the Navy begins buying three submarines a year -- a prospect no one argues is realistic or affordable.

RADM Walsh is, sadly, correct. The infrastructure, cost, lead time, and construction time all add up to being unable to swing the curve the on construction in anything short of a WWII-style building blitz. Nuclear subs are EXPENSIVE much so that I've heard runbling of either building or buying advanced AIP subs on the cheap (compared to nukes) for use in missions which don't require the range/speed of SSN's. Maybe a "Sub Wars Episode VI: Return of the Diesal Boat"?

At any rate, there is much debate over what is the "right" number.

It can be argued that the sub fleet we maintained during the Cold War is not needed...given current threats and combat theaters, the vehicle of the day is the Hummvee, not the submarine. And even our maritime operations have be brutally honest, the Navy in the current conflicts was more a supporter/mobile airfield/transport/mobile hospital service (with the notable exception of the initial missile strikes, many of which were carried out with Tomahawk capable SSN's). Submarines are yesterday's force, a once noble steed headed out to pasture.

Or are they?

The flip side of the argument has a few really sharp prongs. First, the fact that missile strikes can be carried out by subs, and in fact Tomahawks from SSN's made up a sizeable portion of the "warheads on foreheads" in the opening days of the Iraq invasion (I was boat was the first missile shooter of the war). There's a huge statement to be made for being able to park a big chunk of your cruise missile arsenal on the enemy's back patio and have it not be seen by said enemy. The converted SSGN's will make that arsenal even bigger...carrying a payload of Tomahawks that rivals any surface platform, and that is nearly equal to an the payload of and entire SSN squadron, and with the Blue/Gold crew setup, we can keep Tomahawks on station (and well hidden) virtually forever. Then there is the intel capability...which (no pun intended) we obviously can't highlight to it's fullest advantage. But it's never ceased to amaze me just where we can go, with no one the wiser...what we can watch without being seen. My only regret there is not being able to tell the sea stories of some of the more interesting missions. And lastly, there is the lesson of history...just because the conflicts of today require more desert cammies and Hummvees than poopie suits and fast boats, doesn't mean that tomorrow's threats are going to be rooted in sand. China isn't just the plates on the Wardroom's an emerging power with a growing capability in submarines, and a potential to be a "Cold War" type adversary that could put sub chases back in the curriculum for the O-Gangers.

So what's the right answer? Do we spend the billions upon billions to maintain a fleet for a Cold War gone by...or let it slip into the night, only to need it again (possibly) a decade down the road? Do we set the technological clock back a tick and go smaller/cheaper where we can, or stick with the pricier but more all-around capable SSN? Will the SSGN idea put the SSN out of business, at least in the cruise missile front? Do we really even need the SSBN anymore...from a foreign policy standpoint, retiring the nuclear weapons could be a double-edged sword (nuke disarmament would show the world we are practicing what we preach about nuclear weapons, but do we really want to be de-nuked in the face of a nuclear-capable North Korea?)

It's a hard question, and one I hear more and more talk of "on the waterfront". Times do change, but it seems rather unfitting to sweep the submarine force into the dustbin of history. I for one don't think subs are "obsolete"...the missions are different, but the platform is still one of the most capable and versitle. As long as the oceans still exist, the submarine is still one of the best tools in the military toolbox for getting jobs in reach of the sea done. We've proven it time and time again...the challenge seems now to be proving that the Navy still needs it's "boats".

VA is WAY ahead of schedule

I can't wait to hear what all of you, particularly Bubblehead, have to say about this fantastic news from the New London Day (free subscription required):
The Groton-based USS Virginia could deploy later this year, more than a year ahead of what would be a typical schedule, becoming the first nuclear submarine to go on an official mission before a year of testing and a year of repair, top Navy officials said this week.
*Looking over at bothenook* Any of you old goats have similar experiences? *snicker*

Thursday, June 09, 2005

anyone notice the spook that slipped in?

these guys are sneaky. no formal intros, just post to a post below.
ha! not be be outwitted by a spook, i've exposed him for the whole world!.
hiya rob. please come back and post whenever. always looking for fresh meat, uh, i mean, fresh faces.

Yikes: the anchor's aweigh!

Ok, I finally got around to telling my sea story about that fateful day in a Norwegian fjord; an epic tale of man vs. the sea, man vs. the machine, man vs. Fate itself! LOL.


On the Hyperbole of Petagon Waste

I hate it when the media trips over themselves to make something the military has done sound really, really bad. Witness this story:
Most of the equipment, in-cluding uniforms and a nuclear submarine power-supply system on the Pentagon's "critical shortage" list, was donated outside of the defence department, sold for "pennies on the dollar" or destroyed.
Now I hate waste, fraud, and abuse just as much as the next taxpayer, and there's no denying that I encountered and tried to fix some during my Navy stint.

But what are you willing to bet that this "nuclear submarine power-supply system" is the power pack from....oh, say....a spot cooler or some such?

I see your bet and raise you $10. LOL

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

If you're in Chicago, ...

... you might want to stop by the Museum of Science and Industry to see the U-505 in its new, climate-controlled home.

More at Gus Van Horn.

-- CAV

Caption Contest!

Cuban Taxi

Post entries in the comments section. I'll announce a winner Monday.

Ok. Have at it.!

Sestak on the Submarine's Value to the Navy

The Navy League's Sea Power magazine has an article titled "The Futurist - Navy requirements chief Sestak charts the road ahead" in which they chronicled many of Adm. Joseph A. Sestak Jr. views on the Navy's future requirements. The Admiral reinforces what many feel is the continued value that submarines provide, an excerpt:

The future target inventory of attack submarines will decline from 55 to about 41. Are submarines becoming less relevant?

SESTAK: The submarine is actually more relevant to our future. It is the only platform that can covertly get well inside an adversary’s defensive ring when a conflict begins. Submarines can help target key equipment, such as transportable launchers that can launch ballistic missiles. Potential adversaries can take them out of hiding, set them up in 30-60 minutes, fire and scoot back. It is key to have the submarines close in to fire against such targets.

Their capability to covertly put special forces ashore is critical. There is also an increasing threat at sea as some potential adversaries are placing more sophisticated air defense systems on ships. Having submarines take out that platform in the early days of the war is essential to creating access for the rest of our platforms.

We know that certain nations are interested in more submarines. Our submarines can be at the right place to sound the alarm and tell us that, for example, one submarine — or four submarines — are leaving the adversary’s port. But our ability to follow them all is limited to some degree, if we do so platform on platform.

Therefore, in the future, we will have the ability to quickly distribute sensors on the surface of the sea or under the sea. As these adversary platforms get underway to begin their trek of several hundred miles to our sea base, we will continue tracking them with fairly cost-efficient sensors. That’s the change — sensor against platform. We have done a lot of serious experimentation with some concrete results.

Are you keeping your options open so you’ll be able to change if that doesn’t work?

SESTAK: We will be at a high number [of submarines] for quite a few years as we continue to refine this approach.

Adm. Sestak is the DCNO of Warfare Requirements and Programs (N6/N7) a merger of planning programs in 2002 as a part of the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark's Sea Power 21 vision.

I draw a number of conclusions from Adm. Sestak's statements, primarily the continued role of attack submarines as covert intel platforms that can immediately act on intel is of unmatched value. Not many other platforms have the combined in theater endurance, stealth and firepower. The Trident conversions to SSGNs also seems to fit nicely into above statement adding a larger platform for such requirements as covertly putting special forces ashore.

The Admiral goes on to acknowledge the increased interests of other nations in acquiring larger submarine fleets. But then he seems to want to hedge his bets on the number of submarines needed to counter those increases by going into advancements in cost-efficient sensors to track those adversaries. All well and good but if you don't have an asset to take out what the sensor is tracking what good is it?

All the Admiral's points still makes me wonder if the current planned cutbacks in procurement of Virginia class submarines and the proposed closing of the New London sub base are as well thought out or universally agreed upon in the Navy.

Electrical safety...stories that are funny now, but weren't so funny then...

We are having a bit of a "training opportunity" here in Pearl, after an electrical safety "problem" recently. And the training I went to brought up a funny (now...since it's after the fact and no one was seriously hurt) story.

Underway on mighty TUCSON several years ago, I was catching a flick late one evening in the crew's mess (rare, for a nuke, getting a movie in). Being on the 18-24 watch, the forward end of the boat was darkened, as was the crew's mess (for the movie).

Now you know that an electrician's job never ends (thankfully I'm an RC Div type), so in the middle of the movie EM2 John Doe (name changed to protect the guilty) came in, eliciting grumbles as he stepped over/around/on several of his shipmates to get to a P-panel in the aft port side (yes, all the way in the furthest reaches) of crew's mess. He needed to hang danger tags on a set of fuses in the panel, for some such piece of gear (an aux drain pump, precipitator, something minor like that).

Now, the smart thing would have been to pause the flick, turn on the lights, and let him do his of course we didn't do that, did we? No...left the lights out, bitched and moaned about him interrupting the movie, typical sailor stuff. EM2 was reduced to holding a pocket flashlight in his teeth as he opened the P-panel and grabbed the first fuse (with fuse pullers, thankfully). Now we all know that P-panels are supposed to be secured (and themselves danger tagged) before opening them to pull of course Mr. Murphy and that damn law of his had this one energized.

The load he was pulling the fuse for was apparently under load, too, as (bad) luck would have it...because when he pulled that first fuse a blue arc lit up the back end of crew's mess. EM2 stood on the bench he was on, holding the fuse pullers and fuse, frozen with a look of utter terror on his face (well deserved, too).

The movie was stopped this time, and the panel closed (and secured, before any damage could be done to the load in question from running on only 2 of it's 3 phases). The critique, I'm told, was rather brutal, and a lot of people were not writing/hanging tags for a while (nor doing maintenance).

In summary: Fuse pullers-$5...tagout sheet and tags-$1.50...the look on EM2's face when he realized he was lucky to be alive-Priceless.

Admiral Hannibal and What the World Said About Submarines

What You Never Heard About Hannibal
No, not the cannibal, the "Admiral" who crossed the Alps. So what else did he do? Hannibal had his sailors toss earthenware jars containing deadly vipers onto the decks of enemy ships. The enemy was more crossed than the Alps by this and Hannibal won the day against the greater forces of Pergamum. Hannibal, it turns out, eventually committed suicide with poison carried in his ring rather than face Roman surrender around 182 BC. If you're a Vin Diesel fan, he's directing and acting in the latest Hannibal movie due next year. May's issue of National Geographic focused on poison and the cover story is Poison: 12 Toxic Tales. The magazine devotes about 30 pages for the article and the usual, stunning photography. For another review of the feature try Peter Carlson's article in the Washington Post from April 26th, Deadly Poisons and Their Known Anecdotes National Geographic Explores a Quieter Way to Kill. Carlson notes: People who poison their victims are different from folks who shoot, stab or strangle their victims. "Often you are dealing with a family situation," says Poklis, a Medical Examiner. "It happens over a period of months or a year. The perpetrator is taking care of the victim, watching him die. Poison is the weapon of controlling, sneaky people with no conscience, no sorrow, no remorse." This, incidentally, is almost exactly what the civilized world said about submarines in the WW1 era, and (for Chapomatic, who informs) their crews also smelled pretty bad.

why i went into the submarine service

here's a crosspost from my blog;

compare and contrast these two images of young military men taken during the performance of their duties.


Image hosted by

hmmmm, smoke a pipe and drink coffee, wear loose comfortable denim clothing in an environment where you've really got to be good to find me, or......

is there any wonder why i went submarines? i could have joined the green machine and ended up in some armpit southeast asian country. instead, i ended up in wonderful mare island, and idaho falls, and then back to mare island and points west

Sea Story, Army Type, One Each

Bothenook asked if there were any memories of cooks. Now i can't bust out the sea stories about cooks, but i can talk about the cooks we had in my National Guard unit. i can honestly say that none of these cooks met a bottle of booze they didn't like.

To give you an idea, while my unit was in the field during annual training, the MKT (mobile kitchen trailer) was set pretty much in the center of the position so it wasn't hard to see it. Anyway, the E-6 that was running the mess section stumbles down the stairs, walks over to the corner of the MKT and proceeds to "water the tires", all in full view of the unit. Me and the rest of my section watched this idiot and decided that eating MRE's was a much better idea from then on.

The reputation of this E-6 wasn't lost on anyone in the unit. During another field exercise, while coming through the MKT for morning chow, the same E-6 cook was behind the grill, making eggs to order. He saw me and my section chief come into the trailer and smiled, showing us his three good teeth. "Morning Sarge! How would you like your eggs?"

Without hesitation, my section chief answers, "Not touched by you, you @%$#."

Ahhhh, memories.

I'm your huckleberry.

Another glorious passage in the annals of submarine history: What do you get when you put together a LTjg submariner, a small caliber weapon, and a dark and not-so-stormy night on Guam? A baffling mystery, I guess -- or more likely one stupid LTjg:

The shooting, which occurred shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday, prompted a five-hour lock-down of the entire Navy installation on Guam in a search for the intruder. Naval Security Forces and the Guam Police Department thoroughly searched the vicinity and Marine Corps Drive for hours Sunday night and Monday morning.

The officer, who was doing rounds on Polaris Point at the time of the shooting, had told investigators that he'd been shot at and then had fired back, but that the suspect fled the scene.

"After an extensive search, investigators have thus far ruled out the possibility of an intruder as the cause of the gunshot wound," read a press release issued yesterday by the Navy.

Even more problematic for investigators is the fact that the bullet has yet to be retrieved. Oh, they know precisely where it is, but it seems that...
Investigators believed the officer to have been shot by the small-caliber gun -- which was not issued by the Navy -- because they found the casings of a small-caliber bullet at the scene of the shooting, Chisholm said. However, the bullet is still lodged in the officer's bone, she said, and will not be removed from his shoulder because it would cause too much damage to his health.
OUCH. The stupid shall indeed be punished! (particularly the case if he shot himself). And did you notice from the story that he had a Navy-issue weapon as well!
The officer fired his Navy-issued 9 mm gun as well, supposedly to shoot back at the alleged shooter, but that bullet became lodged in the gun's chamber, she said.
My question, however, is how do you shoot yourself in the left shoulder? And wouldn't there be powder burns, etc. that would make this obvious?

Somebody unravel this one for me! Thanks.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

submarine cooks, and why you gotta love them

seawolf had a cook report on board after they decommed the halibut. his name was ron payton, and i can state with no qualifiers that he was the best cook in the submarine fleet. he came into the navy a full chef, and was enlisted as a second class, E-5 for you non-nav types. ron was simply the best damned stew burner i've ever met.
ron would come onboard the boat during the weekends carrying his ditty bag. the topside watches learned early on to not investigate the clink and clank of bottles knocking together.
on the weekends, breakfast was served from around 0700 to i think 0900, then first call for lunch went out at 1100. might be wrong, but that sounds right. ron would start breakfast, and by 0900, he already had dinner preps in progress. his beef rouladin with burgundy sauce was unbelievable. i've eaten it in the restaurant he came from, and his on the boat was better. the 4 star hotel/restaurant in san francisco lost a treasure when he decided to enlist.
so here's ron, slaving away making coc au vin using a fine napa valley white and cornish game hens, stuffed with a wild rice and mushroom stuffing. i have to admit that there wasn't a dry mouth anywhere on the boat from about 1200 on, when he started the roasting process.
ron was so good that it wasn't hard to find guys to swap a weekday duty day for a weekend one if ron was the duty cook.
so dinner comes around, and the crews mess is packed. huge plates of these beautiful birds come out of the skullery, and we dig in. no conversation, no gabbing, just gustagatory heaven. one of the nuke ET's by the name of Johnny B. was diligently shredding the meat off of the carcass, creating a pile of game hen on top of his rice. next, he reached for the HUNT'S Table Sauce, a spicy version of katsup that i swear he'd pour into his oatmeal in the morning. the mess crank saw john reach for the hunt's, and told ron.
BAM.....out of the galley comes the cook, meat cleaver raised over his head, screaming at the top of his lungs if one drop of that crap hit is bird, ol' john b. was a dead man. screaming, yelling every vulgarity in the book, ron picked john up by the back of his collar, and shoved him out of the crews mess. damnedest thing i'd ever seen.
the next duty day, there were no bottles of hunt's to be found on the boat.

anyone else have cook stories? i've got hundreds. we had a guy who had to be one of the ugliest men on submarines as the cook when i first reported onboard. the only reason i remember him was that woffie was as bucktoothed as a cartoon character, and he was always studying japanese. he married a japanese lady, and intended on retiring in japan. the whole bucktooth, study japanese thing struck this young sailor as too humorous for words.
doesn't take much to amuse a sailor i guess

Protesters breach Faslane Trident Base - almost

It looks as though the anti-war and anti-nuke protestors are at it again in Scotland. This excerpt from the Scotsman "MoD denies protesters reached berth of submarine" says:

Thirteen campaigners were arrested, one of whom had climbed 30ft up a tree, after cutting through a perimeter fence and entering HM Naval Base Clyde. One campaigner remained up the tree last night.

The protesters entered the Faslane base, home to the Trident nuclear submarine fleet, at about 11pm on Monday.

The base was closed for several hours while MoD police rounded up the intruders. They were arrested on suspicion of malicious mischief and bailed.

Police then attempted to coax two campaigners down from a tree inside the complex. A spokesman for the MoD police said one man climbed down and was arrested. "The other man still remains up the tree," he added.

(My emphasis above)

Their main protest is against the British Trident submarine fleet based at Faslane.
But not everyone in Great Britain is in agreement with the protesters as witnessed at The Weekly Grip weblog.

I never knew Scotland had nut trees or is that nuts in the trees. Then again nuts are an ingredient in Scottish Fruitcake.

Crossposted from "Lubber's Line"