What a great time to have been a submariner… Riding the 711 Boat 3

What a ride

b-_-711-sea-trials

Of all the adventures in my short life, the one that will always rise to the top is not just one single adventure, but a collection of adventures over a four year period that have one thing in common: They are all related to being a crewmember of the best submarine a man could ever hope for. The USS San Francisco (SSN 711) begins a journey towards her new life as a Moored Training Ship (MTS) on Friday November 4th. There are rumors that she might be delayed a bit, but her path now seems pretty clear. This mighty war ship will be partially dismantled and used to train the next generation of technicians and officers for their roles in the fleet.

The boat was launched on October 27, 1979 in Newport News Shipyard

Just a few days before she was launched, I reenlisted in the Navy after an absence from active duty of a few years. I was newly divorced, tired of living from paycheck to paycheck and ready to try my hand at being a sailor again. The Navy was a life saver for me since the economy in our area was in a serious mess and the prospects of a great future were non-existent. Three things happened in the year that would follow. I would join the crew of the pre-commissioning ship San Francisco, Ronald Reagan would run for President and ultimately win, and I met and married my beautiful wife Debbie. These three events made the adjustments in my life that helped me to achieve many of my unfulfilled goals.

Plankowner

I missed the launching but didn’t miss anything else related to outfitting the ship. As a member of Auxiliary Division, I helped to put together the non-nuclear machinery thsat would support the ship’s operations and life. I discovered a love for developing and delivering training that would later transfer over to my achieving Master Training Specialist and a Bachelor of Science degree in Workforce Education Development. But I also learned to be a sailor and operate a ship that could do some amazing things.

He ain’t heavy, He’s my Brother

One of the other reasons this was a special assignment was that I was able to serve with my youngest brother Tom. We had a lot of crazy adventures together and one of my favorite memories was pinning my original pewter back Dolphins on Tom when he became qualified in submarines. I would later pin my San Francisco Dress Dolphins on my nephew Artie Anderson who followed in the family tradition of becoming a Submarine Auxiliary man. Tom’s son Theodore was a submariner as well but somehow we lost him to the Nuclear program. But we were very proud of each of them as they found their own paths.

711 in the Bay_606626945_n

In the 36 years San Francisco has played a role in defending this country, she has had her share of good fortune and stark terror.

One of the most memorable of course was the collision that occurred a number of years back. I asked the author of the book  Making a Submarine Officer – A story of the USS San Francisco (SSN 711)  Alex Fleming: for permission to post just a small part of that story.

Note:  You can order your own copy here:  https://www.amazon.com/Making-Submarine-Officer-story-Francisco-ebook/dp/B0052YQLWA

January 8th, 2005, 1142 hours, near the Caroline Islands

           : There is a low rumbling which sounds to some like “God crushing a beer can,” and the ship slows instantaneously from 30 knots to 4 knots. The boat is well stowed for sea, so there are no projectiles, but every single person is thrown forward into the nearest vertical object. The people in the chow line end up in a huge pile in middle level. Rome and Litty are on the starboard side of the Diesel in lower level and they land in a heap on the deck. The OOD is thrown out of control, shouting Emergency blow even as he hits his head on a computer screen. The DOOW, Senior Chief Hager, is up out of his chair to update a status board, and he is thrown onto the ships control panel, shattering a gauge. His chair is thrown forward, breaking his leg. The Quartermaster flies fifteen feet forward and lands on the stern planesman, breaking the back of his chair. The JOOD is thrown forward onto the fire control displays in front of him, hitting his head and neck. The men in the smoke pit land on the pumps directly in front of them, except for Ashley, who is thrown forward 20 feet and hits his head on a pump assembly. Every single plate of food is thrown all over the galley. In the wardroom, one officer shoves his fork through his lip, and the Captain watches as one of the mess cooks flies over his shoulder and lands on the flat screen TV on the forward bulkhead.

            The Captain is pinned in his chair, but quickly recovers and runs up to control to find out what happened. He gets there after the Chief of the Watch has already thrown the emergency blow handles, but the ship is not going up. The DOOW is back in his chair, not saying a word about his broken leg, shouting out depths. The ship has a down angle, and it is clear from indications that something serious has happened to the forward ballast tanks. Matt Priests quickly recovers from being slammed against his stateroom wall, and runs back to the ER as he hears an emergency report of “Flooding in the ER.” He knows this is the most serious situation that a ship can have, underwater, doing an emergency blow with flooding in the ER. No submarine can get positive buoyancy with the ER filling with water, and for a moment, Matt is sure that they are all going to die. He quickly finds that the report was an error, and the water is just a leak from a cracked freshwater pipe.

            The Captain and Chief Hager in control are still watching the depth gauge, waiting for it to show upward movement. Finally, after almost a minute, the ship begins to rise, breaking the surface at 1143:52. The next forty minutes are a chaos of emergency reports, calls for the Doc, people trying to respond to ten different casualties, and people trying to care for injured shipmates. In shaft alley, an electrician named Brain Barnes does not know what else to do, so he holds Joey Ashley’s hand and talks to him, waiting for Doc Akin to arrive.”

You will have to buy the book for the rest of the story. I will also be adding the book to my Now Read This section of the blog.

On Friday November 4th, the change will start taking place. It will probably not be dramatic except for all the ghosts who I am sure will be on the pier. I earlier had thought I would not be allowed to go because of my heart issues. But frankly, my heart has never been the same since I left the San Francisco. Service on board her changed my life. I am pretty sure a lot of other people can say the same. It will be my greatest honor to stand on her decks one last time.

Thanks to all those who kept her going all these years. I am proud to have been called shipmate and even prouder to call all of you my shipmates.

Mister Mac (AKA Big Mac)

big-mac-in-tr-ssn-711

Submarine Construction Update Reply

I was sent an article today that is very important to those who follow naval ship construction. The author is Hugh Lessig, a writer for the Daily Press at  http://www.dailypress.com/

I am reprinting his article with permission.

New Generation of Submarines Is Biggest Question for Huntington Ingalls

Hugh Lessig, Daily Press, Dec 3

“The biggest question facing the nation’s largest military shipbuilder is how will Congress pay for the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, the head of Huntington Ingalls Industries said Thursday.

Aircraft carriers and amphibious warships aside, CEO Mike Petters said the funding strategy for replacing Ohio-class submarines is the number-one issue for the industry, not just the company.

“That could become our greatest opportunity and could also become our greatest risk, if it’s not done right,” Petters said at the Credit Suisse Industrials Conference in Florida.

The Navy plans to replace its aging Ohio-class submarines with a new 12-boat fleet. It wants to purchase the first submarine in 2021. By 2026, it will buy one each year.

But the new subs come with a significant price tag, so Congress created a special fund to pay for them. The National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund is separate from the Navy’s annual shipbuilding budget, and two lawmakers are credited with pushing it: Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.

They are major advocates for the only two U.S. shipyards that build nuclear-powered submarines: HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Conn.

Some questioned whether a submarine program should be funded outside the Navy budget. Supporters say the nuclear-missile-armed subs are a national asset because they constitutes the undersea portion of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Newport News and Electric Boat are expected to share the work of building the Ohio-class replacement boats, although those details haven’t been worked out. Electric Boat recently cut the ribbon on a new facility in Quonset Point, R.I., to build components for the new subs. The company has added 600 workers in the past year, according to Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

If Congress uses the deterrence fund like a savings account, socking away money for big bills coming due in the 2020s, the military shipbuilding base can stay healthy, Petters said. If it has to find the money for the subs in its annual shipbuilding budget, that could spell trouble.

At a Forbes-chaired hearing earlier this week, Eric J. Labs, a Congressional Budget Office senior analyst, laid out the sobering math in the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan.

The 2016 plan calls for buying 264 ships at $494 billion over three decades, according to the Navy’s numbers. CBO estimates those same ships would cost $552 billion — and the price is higher when mid-life aircraft carrier refuelings and other work is included.

In other words, if the shipbuilding budget remains static, “the service would not be able to afford its 2016 plan,” Labs said.

He also looked at how the Ohio-class replacement boats impact the 30-year plan.

The first Ohio-class replacement sub is estimated to cost $12.1 billion, including initial research, development and engineering, the Navy says. Boats that follow will cost about $5.7 billion on average. CBO’s estimates are even higher: $13.2 billion for the first in class and $6.8 billion for the 2nd through 12th ships.

Bottom line: With a static shipbuilding budget and a big-ticket submarine fleet, the Navy would end up buying 192 ships over 30 years, not its stated goal of 264, Labs said.

That’s a big concern for HII, which builds destroyers and amphibious warships at its Ingalls Shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss. Those ship programs are more likely to be affected than the aircraft carrier program at Newport News, because the law requires an 11-carrier fleet. There is no such protection for other surface combat ships.

“If the decision is, we’re going to pay for (the new submarines) out of normal shipbuilding accounts, then many, many programs will be impacted over a long period of time,” said Petters. “That will have a tremendously negative impact to the entire shipbuilding industrial base.”

One thing is clear: The new submarines will be built.

“This is a national priority, and it will happen,” Petters said. “It’s a question of, will it crowd out anything else?””

Mister Mac

More…

How the US Navy almost missed “The Boat” 1

Holland and Amphitrite

Prior to World War 1, the General Board of the United States Navy was the primary instrument used for directing the strategic future of the U. S. Navy. This General Board had been instituted in 1900 as a way to provide expert advice to the Secretary of the Navy and was made up of nine admirals nearing the end of their time in service. The Navy leadership had already discounted, “by doctrine and experience” the need or importance of building submarines. Even the emphasis on the future use of submarines was questioned. In a report to Secretary Josephus Daniels in 1915, the General Board stated:

“The deeds of submarines have been so spectacular that in default of engagements between the main fleets undue weight has been attached to them… To hastily formed public opinion, it seemed that the submarines were accomplishing great military results because little else of importance occurred in the maritime war to attract public attention. Yet at the present time, when the allies have learned in great measure to protect their commerce, as they learned a few months earlier to protect their cruisers from the submarine menace, it is apparent that the submarine is not an instrument fitted to dominate naval warfare…

The submarine is a most useful auxiliary whose importance will no doubt increase, but at the present there is no evidence that it will become supreme.”

In 1915, the Office of Chief of Naval Operations was created and the General Board’s influence started a slow but steady decline in influence. It was eventually dissolved in 1951. Coincidently, the USS Nautilus was first authorized in August of 1951.

Mister Mac

Failure is not an option Reply

failure is not an option

The nature of submarine warfare has always been filled with an equal mix of adventure, bravery and precision. The adventure starts the minute the boat becomes free from the pier. Gliding along on the surface of any of the rivers and bodies of waters they sail from is only the first part of the journey. In the early days, the noise of the gasoline or diesel engines coupled with the ever present smoke seemed to push the little craft towards her destiny. Later nuclear submarines were quieter but the wake of a passing sub was still enough of an indication that an adventure was about to begin.

As the submarine cleared the channel and reached the dive point, all hands felt the tension as the boat was rigged for its dive. Preliminary preparations were in place and the final actions just needed to be completed as the submarine transformed from a clumsy surface dweller to a steely eyed killer of the deep.  One thing that was the constant throughout the entire evolution though… failure is not an option. The equipment, the men, the boat itself must perform as flawlessly as possible in order for the mission to be complete. Failure in any one of these could be catastrophic for the crew.

The level of detail in planning and preparation before the boat even hits the water starts a life long journey of excellence that is the hallmark for a modern submarine. After all, this boat will be operating independently for most of its life with only the skills of the builders and the operators separating the crew from certain death. The qualification program is hard and the ongoing training is comprehensive. But it is the steel inside each and every qualified submariner that defines the toughness of the submarine service. They must train their minds to live in a confined space with others and think at least two steps ahead at all times. They anticipate the problems they hope will never come and even in their sleep they remain vigilant for the sounds that indicate a change… ventilation shifts, motors changing ion intensity, even the 400 cycle hum. All of these could indicate a problem that will need answering as quickly as possible.

Submariners of all generations share one thing in common whether they served on an old S boat, Fleet Boat, Guppy, Fast Attack or Boomer. They all understand that at any given moment, the only thing that stands between failure and success is a qualified submariner who has made the ultimate promise to themselves and their shipmates; Failure is not an option. Not on my watch.

Mister Mac

theleansubmariner

Ohio at Bangor 2

The Ultimate Stealth Submarine Reply

With shrinking budgets and caps on military spending, its important to remember that submarines represent one of the most survivable elements in modern sea warfare. The increasing flexibility to meet emerging threats as well as long established threats adds value to this resource.

Make no mistake: the threats from external forces will not go away anytime soon. In many cases, it is increasing. Desiring peace without the will to preserve it ensures that there will be no peace at all. These platforms provide us with the way to preserve that peace and ensure our freedoms for a long time to come.

virginia_class_l2

 

 

USS_Virginia_SSN_774_by_lukeroberts

th54C9GBG3

Enjoy!

Mister Mac