Greetings from our Nation’s Capital! During my time thus far in Washington I have had the distinct pleasure of engaging with Congressional members, their staffs, and other individuals whose work influences the nature and composition of our future naval force. These patriots are deeply concerned about our nation’s defense and genuinely interested in our submarine force. The successes you are achieving on a daily basis at the tip of the spear, in international training exercises, in the trenches of our shipyards, in bringing to life our new submarines, and in preparing the next crew to deploy are a testament to the value of submarines to our nation’s defense. I commend each of you on your outstanding effort and dedicated service. Collectively, your efforts are contributing to our Maritime Strategy, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, and are being noticed. Keep charging!
In this issue of Undersea Warfare, we celebrate the achievements of the Virginia-class Submarine Program. Recently, this program has achieved a series of successful milestones.
First, the General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding–Newport News team delivered our fifth Virginia-class submarine, USS New Hampshire (SSN-778), eight months ahead of the contracted delivery date on Aug. 27. Her 71 month total construction span is 11 months less than USS North Carolina (SSN-777), and at a cost of $170M less than both North Carolina and USS Texas (SSN-775)—a great example of the progress we are making on our overall cost reduction efforts. As noted by Rear Adm. William Hilarides, Program Executive Officer for Submarines, New Hampshire’s early delivery is an important milestone for both the Submarine Force and the Virginia-class Program. “Delivering ahead of schedule demonstrates the significant progress made by both the Navy and its shipbuilding partners toward reducing our construction span and therefore costs.”
Another significant Virginia-class event occurred on Sept. 27, when Rep. Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, served as the principal speaker for the Missouri Keel Laying Ceremony at Quonset Point, RI. Mrs. Rebecca Gates, wife of Secretary of Defense Gates (also attending), was the guest of honor as the ship’s sponsor.
Finally, the Virginia-class Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) continues despite Mother Nature’s best attempts in an active hurricane season. USS Virginia (SSN-774) became the first Virginia class submarine to launch a TOMAHAWK cruise missile on Aug. 28, with two additional missile shots on Aug. 29. The three successful shots included one vertically launched Block IV missile, 1 torpedo tube launched Block III missile, and 1 vertically launched Block III missile. Additionally, USS North Carolina (SSN-777) completed the first Dry-Deck Shelter (DDS) Initial Fit-up on a Virginia-class submarine and all required certifications, including manned at sea testing. As you can see, the strength of the construction phase of the Virginia program continues to translate into operational success in the at-sea evaluations.
Well done to all involved in the Virginia Program! In an in-depth interview, the Virginia-class Program Manager, RDML (sel.) Dave Johnson, explains our progress toward the ultimate program goal of two submarines per year. I’m sure you will appreciate his exceptional insights into this very successful program. From shipbuilders to operators and all the program and requirement officers in-between, we are paving an unprecedented road to success. I challenge you to continue to seek improvement while maintaining this impressive record of successes.
On July 16, as part of Exercise RIMPAC 08 and the U.S.-Australia joint heavyweight torpedo program, a MK48 Mod 7 CBASS warshot torpedo fired by HMAS Waller (SSG-75) sank the Ex-USS Fletcher (DD-992). This was the first SINKEX using a CBASS warshot torpedo, and the first by a Collins-class submarine. I want to pass a job well done to all those involved in making this historic achievement possible!
COMSUBFOR designated the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System (SRDRS) Submarine Rescue System – Rescue Capable System (SRS-RCS) as the primary deep sea rescue asset for the U.S. Submarine Force, effective Oct. 1, 2008. Additionally, DSRV-1 Mystic was removed from active service on the same day, marking the end of 40 successful years for the DSRV program. You will read more about SRDRS in this issue through CAPT Harrison’s account of the submarine exercise BOLD MONARCH ’08.
After BOLD MONARCH, the SRDRS leveraged the services of one of our Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) partners to help meet the milestones required for primary rescue asset designation. The submarine rescue exercise CHILEMAR 08 completed Sept. 18 near San Diego, Calif. During the two-day exercise, Deep Submergence Unit and the Chilean submarine Simpson (SS-21) conducted the first-ever mating between a Chilean submarine and a rescue vehicle. This issue’s DESI article explains how our partnerships with South American submarine forces make CHILEMAR, and a variety of other valuable diesel submarine training events, possible.
Our SSGNs continue to prove their worth on deployment. USS Ohio (SSGN-726) completed her final forward-deployed crew swap of this first SSGN deployment. USS Florida (SSGN-728) also successfully completed her first forward crew swap. USS Michigan (SSGN-727) stands ready to commence our third SSGN deployment later this year. These platforms are meeting Combatant Commander warfighting requirements every day.
Finally, our ballistic missile submarines continue to provide the most survivable component of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent under a stealthy cloak of success. In August, USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) successfully tested two Trident II D5 missiles, the 123rd and 124th consecutive, continuing an unmatched record of achievement for major weapon systems. In September, USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) returned from the ship’s 60th Strategic Deterrent Patrol. This historic milestone was the 500th patrol of the Ohio-class submarine Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System.
For our N87 staff, I wish farewell to the following officers and chiefs: CDR Bob Phillips, CDR Steve Everard, LCDR Jeff Childers, and YNC John Schley. Thank you for your tireless dedication and service. Fair winds and following seas.
I would like to welcome aboard RDML Paul Bushong, CAPT Jeff Hughes, CAPT Dave Kriete, CAPT Andrew Hale, CDR Steve Debus, CDR Todd Weeks, LCDR Stefan Sidahmed, LCDR Neil Smith, LT Jesse Birbach, LT Matt Kapus, LT Michael Horr, and Mr. Sean Watterson. Finally, I want to thank all those in and out of uniform that support the Submarine Warfare Directorate. I know I can continue to count on your support.