Monday, February 11, 2008

Journalistic Submarine Error(s) - Bad, Ugly and Good

February 8, 2008 - Los Angeles-Class Sub A Victim Of Downsizing - Navy Adds USS Augusta To Its List Of Early Retirees

The Navy decided to decommission the Augusta, SSN 710, after only 23 years of service as part of its downsizing in a time of budget constraints, said Lt. James Stockman, public affairs officer for Submarine Group Two.

The Bad -
The PAO's statement is true, if highly misleading. When was the decision to inactivate USS Augusta made? It had been made well before September 22nd of 2005, the date when this Pre-Inactivation Restricted Availability contract award notice was published:
Electric Boat Corporation, Groton, Conn., is being awarded a $34,006,744 delivery order under previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00024-04-D-4408) for the Pre-Inactivation Restricted Availability of USS Augusta (SSN 710)
Initially awarded Sept. 20, the contract being modified had a total potential value of $49.1 million and was scheduled for completion by April 14, 2006. USS Augusta did undergo extensive maintenance during 2006 to prepare for her six month deployment in March 2007, which completed on schedule in September.

The Ugly (warning) -
The article (linked in first paragraph) mentioned something unusual, too: Boston, SSN 703, was decommissioned midway through its life, in 1999, following the end of the Cold War. That was the most recent decommissioning of a submarine in Groton until now.

Normally, expensive assets like nuclear subs are not built and then disposed so early. Severe casualty damage has at times resulted in determinations that ship salvage would be too prohibitively costly (and time-consuming) to justify repairs.

What I do know about the Boston is that she won an impressive array of commendations and awards during her relatively brief (17+) years in commission. Was the Boston's reactor prematurely burned out, or poisoned? Was there another issue altogether? This writer is unaware of the background on the Boston (submarines are always silent and strange).

Watch the YouTube video here thanks to the USS BOSTON Sail and Rudder Co, Ltd. and judge for yourself whether there's much ugliness (moon shot at 08:54 minutes). Not enough for you? How about this:

The Soviet Navy claims that USS Augusta, commanded by James von Suskil, collided with the Yankee-I class ballistic missile submarine K-219, commanded by Igor Britanov, off Bermuda.[1] The United States Navy states only that K-219 was disabled (see photo above) by an internal explosion, however.

The Good -
Finally, the article also gave us a bit of good news:
The next three Los-Angeles class fast-attack submarines to be inactivated, USS Los Angeles and USS Philadelphia, both in fiscal 2010, and USS Memphis, in fiscal 2011, will reach the end of their planned 33-year service lives.

Even better, three hard luck boats, Greeneville (SSN-772), San Francisco (SSN-711), and Hartford (SSN-768) are still in commission.

Submarines are always silent and strange.



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