edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (submarine insignia)
On April 13, 1989, my military service officially ended. Six years, ten months, zero days and a wake-up earlier, I was sitting in Logan Airport waiting for the flight to Chicago and boot camp, and wondering how much trouble I'd be in if any of the (ten?) other recruits traveling with me managed to miss the plane. Fortunately, nobody missed their first military movement ...

Getting out was the right thing to do at the time, just as getting in was the right thing to do at that time. I still wonder, though, how my life would have turned out had I stayed in the Navy.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (submarine insignia)
Via Tom Peters' Twitter, the Wall Street Journal has an article today about Cold War vets (like myself) and Veteran's Day:
This weekend, Americans will honor soldiers who fought the country's wars, from the Somme to Kandahar. In Manassas, Va., 30 miles from the nation's capital, a parade on Saturday will honor veterans of another big war: the one that never happened.

The Cold War, from 1945 to the Soviet Union's breakup in 1991, was all about avoiding total nuclear war. It turned hot in Korea and Vietnam and sparked conflicts from Lebanon to Grenada. But soldiers on duty between flare-ups didn't do battle. When the war that wasn't came to an end, they got no monuments, no victory medals.

For me, personally, the lack of a Cold War medal is more of a minor irritation than anything else; the important part was that (a) we won (b) without blowing up the Western world in the process. Besides, joining the American Legion was never a big goal of mine; and, last I looked, the Navy Expeditionary Medal I received for our little "independent submarine operations" would make me eligible for the Veterans of Foreign Wars should I choose to pursue them. But I absolutely see Peters' point.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (submarine insignia)
Back in May, a massive fire broke out aboard the USS Miami (SSN 755) as she was undergoing overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The fire took hours to extinguish; last I heard, the cost of repairs was estimated at four hundred million dollars.

Originally, the fire was thought to have started in a vacuum cleaner used to clean up worksites. However, the Portland Press-Herald is now reporting that the fire was deliberately set by a shipyard worker:
The fire that raged through a nuclear submarine this spring at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery was deliberately set by a 24-year-old worker who told investigators he was suffering from anxiety and depression, according to Navy investigators.

[ ... ]

Casey James Fury of Portsmouth appeared in federal court Monday and was told he faces up to life in prison if convicted of setting the fire to the sub, which was in the middle of a 20-month overhaul at the shipyard.

[ ... ]

Fury had trouble remembering some details, describing the period as a blur during which he was intensely anxious.

He told authorities he was taking medicine for anxiety, depression, insomnia and allergies.

Days after the June 16 fire, Fury checked himself into an in-patient mental health facility for two days.

Fury is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday for a combined hearing to determine whether the government had probable cause to charge him and whether he should be released on bail.
It's true in any industrial setting that one worker on his own can cause an awful lot of damage. I have to wonder whether the shipyard had adequate checks in place to pick up on a worker with serious mental health issues - or whether such checks even exist.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Or perhaps the Goat Locker. Or, at least, somewhere in the forward compartment of the USS Miami (SSN 755) - which, fortunately, was (and is) undergoing an overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. From an official statement released by RADM Rick Breckenridge, Commander Submarine Group TWO:
Late yesterday afternoon, USS MIAMI experienced a fire in the submarine's forward compartment.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Fire Department and Ship's force, along with mutual assistance from several other area fire departments, immediately responded and successfully extinguished the fire on USS MIAMI. I repeat, the fire is out.

The fire and subsequent damage was limited to the forward compartment spaces only which includes crew living and command and control spaces. The nuclear propulsion spaces were physically isolated from the Forward Compartment early during initial response.

The Portland Press-Herald reported further comments from RADM Breckenridge:
He said it was premature to say whether the Miami, which cost $900 million, was salvageable or is too badly damaged to be repaired and put back in use. The Miami is in the third month of a planned 20-month overhaul.

Seven firefighters received minor injuries while fighting the fire.

Breckenridge praised the repsonse of firefighters from communities in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts that responded to the blaze.

"As I stand before you today, there are a lot of heroes who worked together to save the ship," Breckenridge said. He said local firefighters worked inside the submarine in conditions of high heat, smoke and cramped quarters.

[ ... ]

Breckenridge said the high heat and difficulty extinguishing the fire, was largely because the fire spread to insulation. The fire also was fueled by cabinets and lockers in the living quarters and command area.
Nobody was killed - that, to me, is the most important point. And, as RADM Breckenridge points out, there's no nuclear risk involved.

It's way too early to speculate on what exactly went wrong, although my immediate assumption is that somebody screwed up badly while grinding or welding. Any sort of "hot work" is supposed to include preplanning, covering all exposed and potentially flammable areas, and dedicated fire watches with full charged extinguishers to stop any sparks that do escape from doing any damage. Back on the old Ustafish, during our time at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, one of the shipyard grinders managed to ignite some oily rags that had fallen into the bilge - the fire watch had that out in about ten seconds. (Just how the oily rags got into the bilge in the first place ended up being the focus of the ensuing investigation, IIRC.) I'd strongly bet that a whole lot of safety precautions were blown off or went awry leading up to this mess.

Of course, if you're going to have a fire in a submarine at all, doing so at the beginning of an overhaul is probably the "best" time.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Me: (heads down to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get some veteran's plates)
RMV Wait Estimator: (estimates 37 minute wait)
Me: (waits 40 minutes)
Nice Registry Lady: (calls me to window)
Me: I'd like veteran's plates for my car.
Me: (hands over registration application and DD-214)
NRL: (does some paperwork)
NRL: Would you like the plate with the American flag, or would you like the one with the sticker for your branch of service?
Me: The one with the branch of service, please. I'd like the Navy stickers.
NRL: (does some more paperwork)
NRL: (goes off to get plates)
NRL: (returns with plates and Marine Corps stickers)
Me: I'm sorry, but these are the wrong stickers. These are Marine Corps stickers, and I was in the Navy.
NRL: (points to top of stickers) They say "Department of the Navy" right along the top.
Me: (points to bottom of stickers) But they also say "United States Marine Corps" right along the bottom.
NRL: O.O

The Nice Registry Lady did in fact get me my Navy stickers. But it was an amusing moment.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Me: (heads down to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get some veteran's plates)
RMV Wait Estimator: (estimates 37 minute wait)
Me: (waits 40 minutes)
Nice Registry Lady: (calls me to window)
Me: I'd like veteran's plates for my car.
Me: (hands over registration application and DD-214)
NRL: (does some paperwork)
NRL: Would you like the plate with the American flag, or would you like the one with the sticker for your branch of service?
Me: The one with the branch of service, please. I'd like the Navy stickers.
NRL: (does some more paperwork)
NRL: (goes off to get plates)
NRL: (returns with plates and Marine Corps stickers)
Me: I'm sorry, but these are the wrong stickers. These are Marine Corps stickers, and I was in the Navy.
NRL: (points to top of stickers) They say "Department of the Navy" right along the top.
Me: (points to bottom of stickers) But they also say "United States Marine Corps" right along the bottom.
NRL: O.O

The Nice Registry Lady did in fact get me my Navy stickers. But it was an amusing moment.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
According to the BBC, one remarkably dimwitted group of Somali pirates tried to grab the Darwin Award ... by attacking a French naval auxiliary:
A group of Somali pirates has been captured after attacking a French navy ship by mistake, apparently thinking it was a harmless cargo vessel.

French military spokesman Admiral Christophe Prazuck said the pirates attacked in skiffs late at night some 500km (310 miles) off the Somali coast.

But the command and supply ship, the Somme, repelled the attack and chased the pirates, capturing five of them.
According to Andrew Toppan's World Navies Today site, FS Somme is a Durance-class fleet support auxiliary, armed with one 40mm cannon, two 20mm cannon and a pair of 12.7mm machine guns. Wikipedia, on the other hand, lists Somme as having one 40mm cannon, six 12.7mm machine guns and a Mistral missle launcher.

Regardless, it really doesn't take much to deal with Somali pirates.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
According to the BBC, one remarkably dimwitted group of Somali pirates tried to grab the Darwin Award ... by attacking a French naval auxiliary:
A group of Somali pirates has been captured after attacking a French navy ship by mistake, apparently thinking it was a harmless cargo vessel.

French military spokesman Admiral Christophe Prazuck said the pirates attacked in skiffs late at night some 500km (310 miles) off the Somali coast.

But the command and supply ship, the Somme, repelled the attack and chased the pirates, capturing five of them.
According to Andrew Toppan's World Navies Today site, FS Somme is a Durance-class fleet support auxiliary, armed with one 40mm cannon, two 20mm cannon and a pair of 12.7mm machine guns. Wikipedia, on the other hand, lists Somme as having one 40mm cannon, six 12.7mm machine guns and a Mistral missle launcher.

Regardless, it really doesn't take much to deal with Somali pirates.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
According to this Central Command / Fifth Fleet press release, the skipper of USS Hartford is no longer the skipper of the USS Hartford:

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The commanding officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768) was relieved of command April 14 due to loss of confidence.

Rear Adm. Michael J. Connor, commander, Task Force 54 (CTF 54) and commander, Submarine Group 7, relieved the commanding officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768), Cmdr. Ryan Brookhart.

Connor expressed his loss of confidence in Brookhart's ability to command. Brookhart was in command of Hartford when the submarine collided with USS New Orleans (LPD 18) March 20, in the Strait of Hormuz. Although the investigations into the accident are not complete, Connor determined that there was enough information to make the leadership change.


This isn't exactly what I'd call surprising. Given what little I know about the geometry of the collision, and what even less I know about the "rules of the road" as applied to submarines [1], I figured the odds were pretty good that the Hartford's crew were going to be at least partially at fault for the collision - which automatically puts the skipper's career on the chopping block.

Once those "investigations into the accident" are complete, I expect that a few more punitive actions will be taken - with the XO, Navigator and ship's control party the likely targets. That's not going to be a happy boat for a long while ...


[1] Rule 1: Don't hit anything. Rule 2: Don't break your boat. Rule 3: Don't break anybody else's boat - inadvertently.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
According to this Central Command / Fifth Fleet press release, the skipper of USS Hartford is no longer the skipper of the USS Hartford:

MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The commanding officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768) was relieved of command April 14 due to loss of confidence.

Rear Adm. Michael J. Connor, commander, Task Force 54 (CTF 54) and commander, Submarine Group 7, relieved the commanding officer of USS Hartford (SSN 768), Cmdr. Ryan Brookhart.

Connor expressed his loss of confidence in Brookhart's ability to command. Brookhart was in command of Hartford when the submarine collided with USS New Orleans (LPD 18) March 20, in the Strait of Hormuz. Although the investigations into the accident are not complete, Connor determined that there was enough information to make the leadership change.


This isn't exactly what I'd call surprising. Given what little I know about the geometry of the collision, and what even less I know about the "rules of the road" as applied to submarines [1], I figured the odds were pretty good that the Hartford's crew were going to be at least partially at fault for the collision - which automatically puts the skipper's career on the chopping block.

Once those "investigations into the accident" are complete, I expect that a few more punitive actions will be taken - with the XO, Navigator and ship's control party the likely targets. That's not going to be a happy boat for a long while ...


[1] Rule 1: Don't hit anything. Rule 2: Don't break your boat. Rule 3: Don't break anybody else's boat - inadvertently.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
While Sgt. Pepper was conducting band practice elsewhere, I was beginning a new phase in my life. I got out of the United States Navy twenty years ago today, April 13 1989.

An awful lot has changed over the last couple of decades. Wonder what the next couple will bring?

Only one way to find out ...
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
While Sgt. Pepper was conducting band practice elsewhere, I was beginning a new phase in my life. I got out of the United States Navy twenty years ago today, April 13 1989.

An awful lot has changed over the last couple of decades. Wonder what the next couple will bring?

Only one way to find out ...
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
A new press release from COMFIFTHFLT/COMNAVCENT confirms just how nasty last week's collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD-18) was:

While overall damage to both ships is being evaluated, investigators believe Hartford rolled approximately 85 degrees during the collision.

Despite the roll, engineering investigations have confirmed the propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision.

However, Hartford sustained damage to its sail and periscope, as well as the port bow plane.

New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank. Divers have determined the resulting hole is approximately 16 by 18 feet in size. There was also interior damage to two ballast tanks.

They build those boats tough, folks. It's one thing to roll a kayak or a Sunfish-type sailboat over on its side; it's another thing entirely to roll seven thousand tons of submarine.

Even though the gator freighter [1] suffered the big hole in the hull, I suspect that her repairs will be quicker and easier than those for the sub. Presumably, the Navy has access to the drydock facilities in Bahrain (some of which are sized for supertankers), and cutting new hull plates is relatively straightforward when the plates in question are quarter-inch mild steel. I'd be rather surprised if anybody in Bahrain knows how to properly weld the very specialized, high-tensile-strength steel used for 688-class submarine hulls.

No word yet on why this happened, although there are a couple of official investigations mentioned later in the press release. At this point, my best SWAG [2] is that Hartford was trying to keep astern of New Orleans. New Orleans suddenly reduced speed and turned hard to port - perhaps her bridge crew saw a fishing boat or some such dead ahead, and they were trying to avoid a collision. Hartford didn't pick up on the maneuver in time and got smacked by New Orleans' hull.

[1] Slang for an amphibious assault ship, such as the New Orleans. LPDs such as New Orleans have a well deck which can be flooded to allow Marine amphibious assault vehicles to swim out and hit the beach.
[2] Stupid, Wild-Ass Guess
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
A new press release from COMFIFTHFLT/COMNAVCENT confirms just how nasty last week's collision between USS Hartford (SSN 768) and USS New Orleans (LPD-18) was:

While overall damage to both ships is being evaluated, investigators believe Hartford rolled approximately 85 degrees during the collision.

Despite the roll, engineering investigations have confirmed the propulsion plant of the submarine was unaffected by this collision.

However, Hartford sustained damage to its sail and periscope, as well as the port bow plane.

New Orleans suffered a ruptured fuel tank. Divers have determined the resulting hole is approximately 16 by 18 feet in size. There was also interior damage to two ballast tanks.

They build those boats tough, folks. It's one thing to roll a kayak or a Sunfish-type sailboat over on its side; it's another thing entirely to roll seven thousand tons of submarine.

Even though the gator freighter [1] suffered the big hole in the hull, I suspect that her repairs will be quicker and easier than those for the sub. Presumably, the Navy has access to the drydock facilities in Bahrain (some of which are sized for supertankers), and cutting new hull plates is relatively straightforward when the plates in question are quarter-inch mild steel. I'd be rather surprised if anybody in Bahrain knows how to properly weld the very specialized, high-tensile-strength steel used for 688-class submarine hulls.

No word yet on why this happened, although there are a couple of official investigations mentioned later in the press release. At this point, my best SWAG [2] is that Hartford was trying to keep astern of New Orleans. New Orleans suddenly reduced speed and turned hard to port - perhaps her bridge crew saw a fishing boat or some such dead ahead, and they were trying to avoid a collision. Hartford didn't pick up on the maneuver in time and got smacked by New Orleans' hull.

[1] Slang for an amphibious assault ship, such as the New Orleans. LPDs such as New Orleans have a well deck which can be flooded to allow Marine amphibious assault vehicles to swim out and hit the beach.
[2] Stupid, Wild-Ass Guess

Crunch.

Mar. 22nd, 2009 01:16 pm
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Y'know, I'm really glad that my naval career never brought me to the Straits of Hormuz.

From the Navy Times:

An attack submarine and an amphib are out of action following a collision Friday during a nighttime transit through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.

The attack submarine Hartford and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans collided at 1 a.m. local time while moving into the Persian Gulf through the narrow passage between Iran and Oman.

Fifteen Hartford sailors were injured in the collision but were able to return to duty. No injuries were reported aboard New Orleans.

Details of the incident remain unclear. Hartford was "submerged but near the surface" at the time of the collision, according to Navy officials.


Today, Fifth Fleet Public Affairs released a statement, saying that both ships had arrived in Bahrain "to further assess and evaluate the damage that resulted from their collision at sea." They also released several pictures, showing Hartford's sail being significantly damaged (as in being knocked way off vertical). The damage to New Orleans appears to be entirely underwater.

Looking at the pictures, it would appear that the port side of Hartford's sail hit the starboard side of New Orleans' hull - and hit hard. Now, the Straits of Hormuz are notoriously shallow, and there is a lot of shipping going through not that much in the way of shipping lanes. It's way too early to judge what went wrong, but clearly something did.

Crunch.

Mar. 22nd, 2009 01:16 pm
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Y'know, I'm really glad that my naval career never brought me to the Straits of Hormuz.

From the Navy Times:

An attack submarine and an amphib are out of action following a collision Friday during a nighttime transit through the narrow Strait of Hormuz.

The attack submarine Hartford and the amphibious transport dock New Orleans collided at 1 a.m. local time while moving into the Persian Gulf through the narrow passage between Iran and Oman.

Fifteen Hartford sailors were injured in the collision but were able to return to duty. No injuries were reported aboard New Orleans.

Details of the incident remain unclear. Hartford was "submerged but near the surface" at the time of the collision, according to Navy officials.


Today, Fifth Fleet Public Affairs released a statement, saying that both ships had arrived in Bahrain "to further assess and evaluate the damage that resulted from their collision at sea." They also released several pictures, showing Hartford's sail being significantly damaged (as in being knocked way off vertical). The damage to New Orleans appears to be entirely underwater.

Looking at the pictures, it would appear that the port side of Hartford's sail hit the starboard side of New Orleans' hull - and hit hard. Now, the Straits of Hormuz are notoriously shallow, and there is a lot of shipping going through not that much in the way of shipping lanes. It's way too early to judge what went wrong, but clearly something did.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
The Navy Times reports that the latest Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Port Royal (CG-73), is hard aground off the entrance to Pearl Harbor:

HONOLULU — Navy officials say an attempt to pull free a 9,600-ton warship that ran aground off the coast of Honolulu has been unsuccessful.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet says Navy tugboats and salvage ship Salvor tried to tow the Port Royal early Saturday, but the guided missile cruiser remained stuck.

The Navy says it plans to try again after extracting fuel and water from the $1 billion vessel.

The 9,600-ton ship ran aground Thursday night on a sandy, rocky bottom. The cause of the grounding, as well the extent of the damage to the ship, remains under investigation.


Commenters on the US Naval Institute blog note that this was the ship's first underway following an overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, which implies that the crew was probably more than a little bit rusty. It was also the skipper's first underway with the ship, and AFAICT the first time he'd ever been underway on a Ticonderoga-class cruiser. His previous seagoing assignments were either to nuclear carriers or to Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, which draw only around 22 feet as compared to the 33 feet that Ticonderogas draw.

I can safely say that I never was involved in any groundings. I did have the distinct misfortune of going through an overhaul at PHNSY, and I remember more than a little bit of nervousness the first time we went back out to sea. The Navigation Department was probably the most nervous of all, since they hadn't been able to get much hands-on practice. We nukes, on the other hand, had made it through the Post Overhaul Reactor Safeguards Exam, which meant more practice at things going horribly (simulated) wrong than anyone could possibly want.

I can also safely say that the navigation and command teams are about to watch their careers go up in smoke, and the rest of the crew is going to be terminally embarrassed for years to come. They are literally just off the "reef runway" of Honolulu International Airport, and the local TV stations are stocking up on file footage.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
The Navy Times reports that the latest Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Port Royal (CG-73), is hard aground off the entrance to Pearl Harbor:

HONOLULU — Navy officials say an attempt to pull free a 9,600-ton warship that ran aground off the coast of Honolulu has been unsuccessful.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet says Navy tugboats and salvage ship Salvor tried to tow the Port Royal early Saturday, but the guided missile cruiser remained stuck.

The Navy says it plans to try again after extracting fuel and water from the $1 billion vessel.

The 9,600-ton ship ran aground Thursday night on a sandy, rocky bottom. The cause of the grounding, as well the extent of the damage to the ship, remains under investigation.


Commenters on the US Naval Institute blog note that this was the ship's first underway following an overhaul at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, which implies that the crew was probably more than a little bit rusty. It was also the skipper's first underway with the ship, and AFAICT the first time he'd ever been underway on a Ticonderoga-class cruiser. His previous seagoing assignments were either to nuclear carriers or to Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, which draw only around 22 feet as compared to the 33 feet that Ticonderogas draw.

I can safely say that I never was involved in any groundings. I did have the distinct misfortune of going through an overhaul at PHNSY, and I remember more than a little bit of nervousness the first time we went back out to sea. The Navigation Department was probably the most nervous of all, since they hadn't been able to get much hands-on practice. We nukes, on the other hand, had made it through the Post Overhaul Reactor Safeguards Exam, which meant more practice at things going horribly (simulated) wrong than anyone could possibly want.

I can also safely say that the navigation and command teams are about to watch their careers go up in smoke, and the rest of the crew is going to be terminally embarrassed for years to come. They are literally just off the "reef runway" of Honolulu International Airport, and the local TV stations are stocking up on file footage.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Another tragedy has struck the submarining world. The BBC reports that twenty people died aboard the Russian Akula class submarine Nerpa:

An inquiry is under way into Saturday's gas poisoning on a Russian nuclear submarine in the Pacific that left 20 people dead, including 17 civilians.

Another 21 people were left ill in what officials believe was an "unsanctioned" activation of an automatic firefighting system that released freon gas.

A companion analysis piece notes that the Nerpa, while officially "new construction", was originally laid down in the early 1990s, just before the Soviet Union collapsed. Supposedly, the Akulas are designed for a crew of 73, yet there were over two hundred people on board Nerpa at the time.

Soviet designs weren't known for being particularly healthy for the crews, and I personally think that putting in what amounts to an automated asphyxiation system is a dumb idea even by Soviet-era standards. Having three times the normal complement on board couldn't possibly have been helpful, either. If, as the BBC piece indicates, many of the riders were civilians trying to teach the crew how to run their boat, that also points to real problems in training and leadership.

The analysis piece also notes that the Indian navy was planning to lease the Nerpa, along with a second Akula class boat, from the Russians. That's probably going to be rethought - but our Navy should be concerned, nonetheless. If the crews are any good, Akulas are at least as quiet as the Los Angeles-class boats I served on, and they could pose real problems for CENTCOM and CINCPAC if relations between the US and India ever got frosty. (A more likely scenario would be another shooting war between Pakistan and India - both of whom have nuclear weapons. Not a pleasant thought.)
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
Another tragedy has struck the submarining world. The BBC reports that twenty people died aboard the Russian Akula class submarine Nerpa:

An inquiry is under way into Saturday's gas poisoning on a Russian nuclear submarine in the Pacific that left 20 people dead, including 17 civilians.

Another 21 people were left ill in what officials believe was an "unsanctioned" activation of an automatic firefighting system that released freon gas.

A companion analysis piece notes that the Nerpa, while officially "new construction", was originally laid down in the early 1990s, just before the Soviet Union collapsed. Supposedly, the Akulas are designed for a crew of 73, yet there were over two hundred people on board Nerpa at the time.

Soviet designs weren't known for being particularly healthy for the crews, and I personally think that putting in what amounts to an automated asphyxiation system is a dumb idea even by Soviet-era standards. Having three times the normal complement on board couldn't possibly have been helpful, either. If, as the BBC piece indicates, many of the riders were civilians trying to teach the crew how to run their boat, that also points to real problems in training and leadership.

The analysis piece also notes that the Indian navy was planning to lease the Nerpa, along with a second Akula class boat, from the Russians. That's probably going to be rethought - but our Navy should be concerned, nonetheless. If the crews are any good, Akulas are at least as quiet as the Los Angeles-class boats I served on, and they could pose real problems for CENTCOM and CINCPAC if relations between the US and India ever got frosty. (A more likely scenario would be another shooting war between Pakistan and India - both of whom have nuclear weapons. Not a pleasant thought.)
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
While almost all the US media are concentrating on either the Mighty Wall Street Bailout (version ?.??) or the presidential contest between Cool-Hand Obama and Gamblin' Jack McCain, problems continue, mostly unremarked, in the Real World (tm).

In this case, pirates. Not the romantic, Johnny Depp type, nor the comedic ones brought to music by Gilbert & Sullivan, nor even the baseball ones currently dwelling in the NL Central cellar. I'm talking about the real deal; thieves on the high seas, who seize merchant shipping and either hold the ships for ransom, sell off the cargoes, or both.

In particular, the seas off the coast of Somalia have been infested with pirates for years. The most recent incident involves a Ukrainian ship - with a potent military cargo:

A Ukrainian ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia was carrying 33 tanks and other weapons, the Ukrainian defence minister has confirmed.

Earlier, the country's foreign ministry said the ship had a crew of 21 and was sailing under a Belize flag to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

[ ... ]

Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed that 33 Russian T-72 tanks and "a substantial quantity of ammunition" were aboard.

He said all the weapons had been sold in compliance with international agreements.


Earlier this week, an American fleet oiler was approached by pirates, but was able to drive them off:

Two unmarked and unflagged skiffs raced toward a 41,000-ton U.S. fleet oiler in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia on Wednesday, a Navy spokesman said. A security team embarked on the oiler fired on the boats, forcing them to peel away in the latest incidence of pirate activity in the region.

The two boats approached the John Lenthall, a Kaiser-class Military Sealift Command civilian-manned strike group replenishment ship that operates out of Naval Station Norfolk.

"They came up on the ship about 300 to 400 yards," said Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. "These skiffs came out and approached after bridge-to-bridge calls and loud hailers and flares."

When the skiffs, approaching from behind, failed to back off, sailors from an embarked security detachment fired warning shots. The suspected pirates raced away.


Y'know, this sort of crap is what the Navy is supposed to prevent. And we've certainly got the capability to deal with piracy on the high seas. According to the BBC story:

Pirates have seized dozens of ships from the major shipping routes near Somalia's coast in recent months.

Pirate "mother ships" travel far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack passing vessels, sometimes using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).


Finding those "mother ships" should be a snap for a US carrier battle group, or even a surface action group backed up by maritime patrol aircraft flying out of someplace like Djibouti. (Diego Garcia is about 1800 miles away, which is a bit of a stretch even for P-3C Orions.) Once found, seizing the mother ship is a matter of pulling up alongside and ordering them to heave to; if they don't behave, a couple of helicopters full of SEALs can straighten them out in a hurry. Or, if we're not interested in bringing them in for trial someplace, it'd only take one Mk 48 torpedo to end their piratical career.

Of course, the current Administration is far too busy fighting "terraists" on land to pay much attention to ones on the high seas.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
While almost all the US media are concentrating on either the Mighty Wall Street Bailout (version ?.??) or the presidential contest between Cool-Hand Obama and Gamblin' Jack McCain, problems continue, mostly unremarked, in the Real World (tm).

In this case, pirates. Not the romantic, Johnny Depp type, nor the comedic ones brought to music by Gilbert & Sullivan, nor even the baseball ones currently dwelling in the NL Central cellar. I'm talking about the real deal; thieves on the high seas, who seize merchant shipping and either hold the ships for ransom, sell off the cargoes, or both.

In particular, the seas off the coast of Somalia have been infested with pirates for years. The most recent incident involves a Ukrainian ship - with a potent military cargo:

A Ukrainian ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia was carrying 33 tanks and other weapons, the Ukrainian defence minister has confirmed.

Earlier, the country's foreign ministry said the ship had a crew of 21 and was sailing under a Belize flag to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

[ ... ]

Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed that 33 Russian T-72 tanks and "a substantial quantity of ammunition" were aboard.

He said all the weapons had been sold in compliance with international agreements.


Earlier this week, an American fleet oiler was approached by pirates, but was able to drive them off:

Two unmarked and unflagged skiffs raced toward a 41,000-ton U.S. fleet oiler in the pirate-infested waters off Somalia on Wednesday, a Navy spokesman said. A security team embarked on the oiler fired on the boats, forcing them to peel away in the latest incidence of pirate activity in the region.

The two boats approached the John Lenthall, a Kaiser-class Military Sealift Command civilian-manned strike group replenishment ship that operates out of Naval Station Norfolk.

"They came up on the ship about 300 to 400 yards," said Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for 5th Fleet in Bahrain. "These skiffs came out and approached after bridge-to-bridge calls and loud hailers and flares."

When the skiffs, approaching from behind, failed to back off, sailors from an embarked security detachment fired warning shots. The suspected pirates raced away.


Y'know, this sort of crap is what the Navy is supposed to prevent. And we've certainly got the capability to deal with piracy on the high seas. According to the BBC story:

Pirates have seized dozens of ships from the major shipping routes near Somalia's coast in recent months.

Pirate "mother ships" travel far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack passing vessels, sometimes using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).


Finding those "mother ships" should be a snap for a US carrier battle group, or even a surface action group backed up by maritime patrol aircraft flying out of someplace like Djibouti. (Diego Garcia is about 1800 miles away, which is a bit of a stretch even for P-3C Orions.) Once found, seizing the mother ship is a matter of pulling up alongside and ordering them to heave to; if they don't behave, a couple of helicopters full of SEALs can straighten them out in a hurry. Or, if we're not interested in bringing them in for trial someplace, it'd only take one Mk 48 torpedo to end their piratical career.

Of course, the current Administration is far too busy fighting "terraists" on land to pay much attention to ones on the high seas.

Y-Ike-s!

Sep. 14th, 2008 04:05 pm
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
I've been watching the streaming video from KHOU in Houston, showing the devastation that Hurricane Ike has wrought. They've got their helicopter up showing live pictures of flooded streets and blown-out buildings (currently over Texas City? I don't know that area at all).

Rep. John Culberson recently gave a press conference where he was appealing for local residents to send food and water to the command center at Tully Stadium - apparently, there are some three hundred first responders at the command center there who ran out of supplies. Culberson is on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds Homeland Security; I wouldn't want to be Michael Chertoff at the next set of budget hearings.

Meanwhile, the news folks are demonstrating their ignorance, misidentifying both a C-17 Globemaster II and a Navy P-3 Orion as C-130s. And nobody's gotten any aerial pictures of the west end of Galveston Island ...

Y-Ike-s!

Sep. 14th, 2008 04:05 pm
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
I've been watching the streaming video from KHOU in Houston, showing the devastation that Hurricane Ike has wrought. They've got their helicopter up showing live pictures of flooded streets and blown-out buildings (currently over Texas City? I don't know that area at all).

Rep. John Culberson recently gave a press conference where he was appealing for local residents to send food and water to the command center at Tully Stadium - apparently, there are some three hundred first responders at the command center there who ran out of supplies. Culberson is on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds Homeland Security; I wouldn't want to be Michael Chertoff at the next set of budget hearings.

Meanwhile, the news folks are demonstrating their ignorance, misidentifying both a C-17 Globemaster II and a Navy P-3 Orion as C-130s. And nobody's gotten any aerial pictures of the west end of Galveston Island ...
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
... to Venezuela, at any rate. According to Reuters:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it would send a heavily-armed nuclear-powered cruiser to the Caribbean for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela, its first major maneuvers on the United States' doorstep since the Cold War.

Russian officials denied the mission was linked to a naval standoff with U.S warships in the Black Sea, but it will take place at a time of high tension between Washington and Moscow over the conflict in Georgia.

Washington has played down the significance of the exercise.

[ ... ]

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said on Monday that the naval mission to Venezuela would include the nuclear-powered battle cruiser "Peter the Great", one of the world's largest combat warships.

Moscow's most modern destroyer, the "Admiral Chabanenko", will also steam to the Caribbean, along with other ships, including a fuel tanker, he added.

The naval exercise, to take place in November, will be backed up by an anti-submarine aircraft, based at a Venezuelan airfield, he said.

Unsurprisingly, the Navy Times reports that the Pentagon isn't terribly concerned:
The Defense Department seemed unaffected Monday by an announcement from Venezuela and Russia that Russian warships would sail to the Caribbean this winter for exercises with the Venezuelan fleet — the first-ever such move by the Russian navy.

Pentagon officials did not express particular concern over the announcement from Caracas. "We’re aware of the announcement made in Venezuela," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, "and we’ll see how it goes."

This should allow the US Atlantic Fleet plenty of opportunities to practice open-ocean tracking. I'm actually more curious as to how well the Russian ships can handle a long deployment; replenishment at sea is a tricky business, and I don't know how much practice the Russians have had over the last few years. Not to mention the minor detail that the Atlantic hurricane season lasts through the end of November.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
... to Venezuela, at any rate. According to Reuters:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Monday it would send a heavily-armed nuclear-powered cruiser to the Caribbean for a joint naval exercise with Venezuela, its first major maneuvers on the United States' doorstep since the Cold War.

Russian officials denied the mission was linked to a naval standoff with U.S warships in the Black Sea, but it will take place at a time of high tension between Washington and Moscow over the conflict in Georgia.

Washington has played down the significance of the exercise.

[ ... ]

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said on Monday that the naval mission to Venezuela would include the nuclear-powered battle cruiser "Peter the Great", one of the world's largest combat warships.

Moscow's most modern destroyer, the "Admiral Chabanenko", will also steam to the Caribbean, along with other ships, including a fuel tanker, he added.

The naval exercise, to take place in November, will be backed up by an anti-submarine aircraft, based at a Venezuelan airfield, he said.

Unsurprisingly, the Navy Times reports that the Pentagon isn't terribly concerned:
The Defense Department seemed unaffected Monday by an announcement from Venezuela and Russia that Russian warships would sail to the Caribbean this winter for exercises with the Venezuelan fleet — the first-ever such move by the Russian navy.

Pentagon officials did not express particular concern over the announcement from Caracas. "We’re aware of the announcement made in Venezuela," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, "and we’ll see how it goes."

This should allow the US Atlantic Fleet plenty of opportunities to practice open-ocean tracking. I'm actually more curious as to how well the Russian ships can handle a long deployment; replenishment at sea is a tricky business, and I don't know how much practice the Russians have had over the last few years. Not to mention the minor detail that the Atlantic hurricane season lasts through the end of November.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
First off, the problem: Drug runners have finally figured out that submersible vessels make great smuggling platforms. From the Boston Globe:
KEY WEST, Fla. - Skimming just below the surface, they are extremely difficult to detect from surveillance aircraft or patrol boats. Their sleek design, up to 80 feet in length, can secretly carry several tons of cargo thousands of miles.

These "semi-submersibles," which exhibit some of the same characteristics as military submarines, mark a significant advancement in the ability of drug smugglers to slip past coastal defenses.

So far this year, the Coast Guard says it has encountered at least 27 such vessels headed toward the southern and western United States, more than in the previous six years combined, while far more are believed to have gone undetected, according to US military and law enforcement officials.

The growing number and increased sophistication of the vessels, officially designated "self-propelled semi-submersibles," has set off alarms at the highest levels of the US military and the federal Department of Homeland Security. Counterterrorism officials fear that what drug runners now use to deliver cocaine, terrorists could one day use to sneak personnel or massive weapons into the United States.


The solution? Well, we in the Silent Service have known for a long time that the best anti-submarine weapon is another submarine. I doubt your average "expeditionary shipyard" is going to be able to produce the sort of sound-silencing gear that costs an arm and a leg for military shipbuilders; picking up and tracking a semi-submersible would be a (relatively) straightforward task for a decent sub's crew. Not only that, but they could also track the drug runners to their resupply ships and relay the track to the Coast Guard. Catch the bad guys in the act, and presto!

Of course, given how overbooked the sub force is currently, we'd have to actually spend some serious money building new hulls to support this mission (on top of all the other things the poor slobs still on active duty are trying to cover). And, since the Connecticut Congressional delegation basically had to force a second Virginia class boat in 2010 down the Navy's throat, I kind of doubt the Bush Administration really cares about that whole "keep the terrorists out" rhetoric. (At least, not unless the nativist whackjobs get the idea that hordes of brown people are using subs to steal Ammurican jobs.)
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
First off, the problem: Drug runners have finally figured out that submersible vessels make great smuggling platforms. From the Boston Globe:
KEY WEST, Fla. - Skimming just below the surface, they are extremely difficult to detect from surveillance aircraft or patrol boats. Their sleek design, up to 80 feet in length, can secretly carry several tons of cargo thousands of miles.

These "semi-submersibles," which exhibit some of the same characteristics as military submarines, mark a significant advancement in the ability of drug smugglers to slip past coastal defenses.

So far this year, the Coast Guard says it has encountered at least 27 such vessels headed toward the southern and western United States, more than in the previous six years combined, while far more are believed to have gone undetected, according to US military and law enforcement officials.

The growing number and increased sophistication of the vessels, officially designated "self-propelled semi-submersibles," has set off alarms at the highest levels of the US military and the federal Department of Homeland Security. Counterterrorism officials fear that what drug runners now use to deliver cocaine, terrorists could one day use to sneak personnel or massive weapons into the United States.


The solution? Well, we in the Silent Service have known for a long time that the best anti-submarine weapon is another submarine. I doubt your average "expeditionary shipyard" is going to be able to produce the sort of sound-silencing gear that costs an arm and a leg for military shipbuilders; picking up and tracking a semi-submersible would be a (relatively) straightforward task for a decent sub's crew. Not only that, but they could also track the drug runners to their resupply ships and relay the track to the Coast Guard. Catch the bad guys in the act, and presto!

Of course, given how overbooked the sub force is currently, we'd have to actually spend some serious money building new hulls to support this mission (on top of all the other things the poor slobs still on active duty are trying to cover). And, since the Connecticut Congressional delegation basically had to force a second Virginia class boat in 2010 down the Navy's throat, I kind of doubt the Bush Administration really cares about that whole "keep the terrorists out" rhetoric. (At least, not unless the nativist whackjobs get the idea that hordes of brown people are using subs to steal Ammurican jobs.)
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
One hundred eight years ago, the United States Navy purchased its first submarine, USS Holland. Today is thus the official Submarine Force Birthday. I think the only time I ever wore my miniature medals was when I went to the Submarine Birthday Ball one year at Pearl Harbor.
You haul sixteen torps, and whaddya get?
Another year older and deeper in depth.
edschweppe: Submarine warfare qualification badge, aka "dolphins" (dolphins)
One hundred eight years ago, the United States Navy purchased its first submarine, USS Holland. Today is thus the official Submarine Force Birthday. I think the only time I ever wore my miniature medals was when I went to the Submarine Birthday Ball one year at Pearl Harbor.
You haul sixteen torps, and whaddya get?
Another year older and deeper in depth.

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edschweppe: A closeup of my face, taken at Star Island during the All-Star II conference in 2009 (Default)
Edmund Schweppe

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