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Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii(SSN-776) passes Diamond Head crater while transiting to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the submarine’s new home port. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meagan Klein.

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Luciano Marano

The role of Hawaii and the Pacific in the Submarine Force is rapidly enlarging. Recognizing the importance of the Asia-Pacific region and the proliferation of advanced submarines in the Pacific, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review mandated that 60 percent of the U.S. Navy’s submarines be homeported in the area by the end of 2010.

“The theater area itself mandates greater submarine presence because there’s so much work to be done,” said Commander, Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) Force Master Chief Petty Officer (FORCM) David Lynch. “Our focus is the workload.”

Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny, COMSUBPAC, officially announced in December 2008 that USS Hawaii (SSN-776) would become the first Virginia-class submarine to be homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor in the summer of 2009, followed shortly by USS Texas (SSN-775) in the fall.

“These two Virginia-class submarines bring to bear technologically advanced, multi-mission systems that will enable our Submarine Force to dominate both the littorals and deep Pacific and Indian Oceans for many years to come,” said McAneny.

Initially announced in late 1998, the Navy’s newest class of submarine is already proving its worth with reduced construction costs, lower manning requirements, and improved capabilities.

Virginia-class submarines like Hawaii are designed to excel in the littorals, while maintaining the ability to conduct open-ocean operations, which will directly support my ability to meet and defeat threats to maritime security in the Pacific,” said McAneny.

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Sailors disembark the
Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Albuquerque(SSN-706) as they arrive in their new homeport at San Diego, Calif. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David Quillen.

However, it is not just the platforms that bring innovations to the force. “Constant technological advancement helps to keep the U.S. Pacific Fleet Submarine Force the dominant presence in the region,” said McAneny in a recent podcast. “We continually refine our equipment and procedures to ensure our Sailors are the best equipped and trained undersea warriors in the world.”

In addition to the Virginia-class Hawaii and Texas changes of homeport, the Los Angeles-class submarine USS Jacksonville (SSN-699) has transferred from Norfolk, Va., to Pearl Harbor, and USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) is transferring from Groton, Conn., to San Diego, Calif., this summer. By the end of 2009, 31 of the U.S. Navy’s 53 attack submarines will be homeported in the Pacific, with 18 of those 31 homeported in Pearl Harbor.

A greater force presence will mean more billeting for submariners, support rates, shipyard employees, and DoD (Department of Defense) civilians to help keep them all “fit to fight.”

“More support is required,” said Lynch. “Our greatest challenge is implementing the Virginia-class arrival plan and making the necessary changes to support them logistically, because it is a substantial difference [from previous classes].”

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Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Jacksonville(SSN-699) is guided away from Pier 3 at Naval Station Norfolk for the final time. Jacksonville changed homeports from Norfolk to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Dean Lohmeyer

“The Shipyard is ready and willing to answer the call,” said Cmdr. Leonard Laforteza, Virginia-class Program Manager at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

“We are progressing to qualify a core group of personnel from technical codes, support codes, and production shops who will be ready to perform intermediate-level work as soon as Hawaii gets here,” Laforteza said in an interview in the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard publication, The Shipyard Log.
This is clearly an exciting time to be in the Pacific Submarine Force, made even more so by the arrival of the new Virginia-class submarines.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Marano is a Public Affairs Mass Communications Specialist for Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific (COMSUBPAC).