DVIDS – News – USS Alabama Conducts Crew Change at Sea



U.S. Navy story by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian G. Reynolds, Submarine Group Nine Public Affairs

NAVAL BASE KITSAP-BANGOR, Wash. (May 24, 2022) – The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama (SSBN 731) conducted a full crew change while at sea that concluded May 24, 2022.

This previously uncommon underway change of crew demonstrates how the Navy and its strategic forces have evolved to think, act, and operate differently in order to meet deterrent mission tasking while simultaneously executing necessary ship lifecycle events.

“This event demonstrated our ability to completely change out the crew of an SSBN at sea and in a location of our choosing,” said Rear Adm. Robert M. Gaucher, commander Submarine Group 9 and Task Group 114.3. “The readiness and flexibility we demonstrated today adds another layer of uncertainty to adversary efforts to monitor our SSBN force, and continues to send a strong message to our adversaries that ‘Today is not the day.’”

Each ballistic missile submarine has two crews, a blue crew and a gold crew, which alternate manning. Previously, the crews would alternate and resupply between patrols while in port. The ability to change crews while underway adds a new dynamic of flexibility and sustainability while the submarine is executing their mission.

“This provides an opportunity to keep the nuclear deterrent at sea survivable by exchanging the crews and replenishing the ship’s supplies in any port or location across the world,” said Capt. Kelly Laing, director of maritime operations at Commander, Task Group 114.3. “Our SSBNs are no longer tied to their homeport of record or another naval port to keep them at sea, ensuring that we are always executing the deterrent mission for the U.S. and our allies.”

Alabama is one of eight Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines homeported at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor and the eighth U.S. Navy ship to bear the name. The class is designed for extended, undetectable deterrent patrols and as a launch platform for intercontinental ballistic missiles.





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USS Connecticut: How did a $3 billion US Navy submarine hit an undersea mountain?


The Connecticut is now pierside at a US Navy base on the Pacific island of Guam. The Navy says it got there — more than 1,800 miles (2,900 kilometers) east of the South China Sea — under its own power and its nuclear reactor was not harmed, although 11 of its crew of suffered minor injuries in the collision.

The Pentagon has not released details of the damage the vessel incurred nor how long it might be out of action in a region which, with the rise of the Chinese navy, is seeing growing demands on the US fleet.

Which leaves US military planners with some big questions to answer in the coming weeks and months.

Not the least of which is, how did this happen?

Driving a submarine

The Navy on Thursday gave a hint of what might have led to the accident when it relieved the Connecticut’s leadership of their command due to loss of confidence.

The commanding officer, Cmdr. Cameron Aljilani, was relieved of duty, as were the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cashin, and the chief of the boat, Master Chief Sonar Technician Cory Rodgers.

Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of US 7th Fleet, determined that “sound judgment, prudent decision-making and adherence to required procedures in navigation planning, watch team execution and risk management could have prevented the incident,” according to a statement about the decision.

The undersea environment is unforgiving and even small mistakes can have huge consequences.

“Submarining is hard, it’s really hard. Not everything goes right all the time,” said Thomas Shugart, who spent more than 11 years on US submarines, including commanding an attack sub.

Members of the crew sit at the controls aboard the Seawolf-class attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter in 2005.

Surface ships or a sub operating at periscope depth can relay on global positioning satellites to give sailors a very accurate location, said Shugart, now an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

But at depth, the GPS systems are not available. Submariners use their compasses and charts.

Accurate charts (with a resolution of 328 feet or 100 meters) of the sea bottom are compiled by sending surface ships over an area and bathing the bottom in sound waves — a method called multi-beam sonar.

But the process is expensive and time consuming, leaving as much as 80% of Earth’s seafloor unmapped.

In the busy South China Sea, through which a third of the world’s maritime trade passes and where China has been building and militarily fortifying man-made islands, less than 50% of the sea bottom has been mapped, David Sandwell, a professor of geophysics at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, told CNN.

“It’s not surprising that you could run into something,” he said.

The US Navy has not said exactly where the Connecticut hit the seamount.

Officially, the service says it was in Indo-Pacific waters, but US defense officials had previously told CNN it occurred in the South China Sea.

Sandwell tried to narrow down the area.

Using a method called vertical gravity grading — taking satellite altimetry measurements of the Earth’s gravitational field — and overlaying those results with mapping of the bottom of the South China Sea, he was able to identify 27 places where the Connecticut could have hit a seamount that was not on US Navy charts.

“These are places where the gravity predicts there is something shallower than 400 meters (1,312 feet), around the depth where a submarine might run into it,” he said.

Officially, the Navy says Seawolf-class subs have a maximum depth of more than 243 meters (800 feet), although some experts put their maximum depth around double that.

Submarines do have their own sonar, but using it comes at a price — loss of stealthiness.

Those sonar pings — so ubiquitous in submarine movies — also give away the sub’s position to opposing forces.

“Sonar is your only way to look at the bottom, but you don’t want to put out more sound than you have to,” Shugart said.

“You’d have to do that about every 20 seconds or so,” to get an accurate picture, Sandwell said. “It makes a lot of noise.”

When it comes to knowing the terrain beneath them, even astronauts might have it easier than submariners, according to Shugart.

“Basically, the surface of the moon is better charted than the bottom of the ocean is,” he said.

A history of submarine groundings

The USS Connecticut isn’t the first US Navy sub to be involved in an underwater collision.
The attack submarine USS San Francisco sits in dry dock, on January 27, 2005, in Apra Harbor, Guam to assess damage sustained after running aground approximately 350 miles south of Guam on January 8, 2005.

On January 8, 2005, the USS San Francisco, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, struck a seamount about 350 miles (563 kilometers) south of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

The incident killed one sailor and injured 97 others among the crew of 137.

A Navy investigation concluded the San Francisco was traveling at maximum speed at a depth of 525 feet (160 meters) when it hit the seamount, which was not on the chart the sub’s commanders were using at the time.

But the probe found the commanders should have known the undersea mountain was there based on other charts in their possession, which indicated a navigational hazard in the area.

“If San Francisco’s leaders and watchteams had complied with requisite procedures and exercised prudent navigation practices, the grounding would most likely have been avoided,” the Navy report said. “Even if not wholly avoided, however, the grounding would not have been as severe and loss of life may be been prevented.”

Other incidents have been less serious but illustrate the difficulties of maneuvering subs even in familiar waters.

For instance, in November 2015, the USS Georgia, an Ohio-class guided missile submarine, struck a channel buoy and grounded as it was returning to port in Kings Bay, Georgia.
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Georgia departs Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in 2015.

The 18,000-ton, 560-foot-long (170 meters) sub sustained more than $1 million in damage and its captain was relieved of command.

And in 2003, the USS Hartford ran aground while entering a NATO base in Spain, resulting in a $9 million repair bill and its commander being relieved of duty.

Despite those incidents, Shugart, the former US Navy sub commander, defends the US Navy’s record under the sea.

“We have more submarines, they spend more time at sea, they go a lot farther away from home and they operate at higher speeds than probably anybody else’s,” he said.

“We do the most challenging submarine missions that anybody does and the farthest away from home,” he said, adding: “even the pros have bad days.”

What makes the USS Connecticut so special?

The Connecticut is one of three Seawolf-class submarines in the US Navy fleet, each costing about $3 billion to build. The 9,300-ton, 353-foot sub, commissioned in 1998 and is crewed by 140 sailors.

What are nuclear-powered submarines and how do they work?

Like all modern US Navy attack submarines, the Connecticut is powered by a nuclear reactor, which enables it to be fast but quiet, with none of the noise produced by a combustion engine. Nuclear power enables such subs to stay at sea and underwater as long as provisions for the crew hold out.

The Navy doesn’t give exact figures in publicizing the abilities of its submarine, but experts say the Seawolf-class is exceptional.

“These subs have some of the most advanced — in fact the most advanced — underwater capabilities in the business,” said Alessio Patalano, professor of war and strategy at King’s College in London.

The Navy says it is “exceptionally quiet, fast, well-armed, and equipped with advanced sensors.”

A Navy fact sheet says the Connecticut is capable of going faster than 28 mph (46.3 kph) under water. That’s faster than the average container or cargo ship on the surface of the sea and almost as fast as the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

As it is larger than even the newest Virginia-class attack subs, the Connecticut can carry more weaponry than other US attack submarines — including up to 50 torpedoes as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to a US Navy fact sheet.

The USS Connecticut was commissioned in Groton, Connecticut on December 11, 1998.

And despite being more than 20 years old, it’s also technologically advanced with updates to its systems performed during its service life.

Though the Navy doesn’t give details on the missions its submarines undertake, the three Seawolf-class subs are thought to be important intelligence-gathering assets, especially in shallower environments.

“The robust design of the Seawolf class enables these submarines to perform a wide spectrum of crucial military assignments — from underneath the Arctic icepack to littoral regions anywhere in the world,” the manufacturer, General Dynamics Electric Boat, says on its website.

“Their missions include surveillance, intelligence collection, special warfare, cruise missile strike, mine warfare, and anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare,” Electric Boat says.

With no combat taking place in the South China Sea, the focus of the sub in the current environment is likely to be in intelligence gathering.

And that’s why China is paying close attention.

The  guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, rear, and the Royal Australian Navy  frigate HMAS Ballarat sail together during integrated operations in the South China Sea in October 2020.

Questions from Beijing

Following the collision, Beijing has accused Washington of not being forthcoming about what happened and how it could affect countries around the South China Sea.

“We have repeatedly expressed our grave concern over the incident and asked the US side to take a responsible attitude and provide a detailed clarification so as to give a satisfactory account to the international community and countries in the region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said this week.

The subject of nuclear-powered submarines has been prominent in Chinese state media over the past few months in the wake of Australia’s decision to acquire such vessels from the United States and the United Kingdom under a deal known as AUKUS.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in September the AUKUS deal “seriously damages regional peace and stability.”

The Connecticut incident just added fuel to Beijing’s propaganda push.

Washington issued its first public statement on the collision five days after it occurred. It did not disclose the fact that the Connecticut hit a seamount until earlier this week, nearly a month after the incident.

US Navy officials told CNN on Wednesday the delays stemmed from concerns including keeping the damaged sub safe and ensuring a thorough investigation of the incident, as is standard.

“Due to operations security, we could not disclose the location of the submarine or the incident to the public at an earlier date,” Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a public affairs officer for the US 7th Fleet, said in an email.

Sims said two internal investigations were launched, one on the command of the sub and a second on safety procedures.

Analysis: Why Russian and Chinese warships teaming up to circle Japan is a big deal

The first, she said, “determined USS Connecticut grounded on an uncharted seamount while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region” and has been submitted to 7th Fleet commanders for review.

The second probe, being conducted by Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet in Hawaii, is ongoing.

A spokesperson for the sub force, Cmdr. Cindy Fields, told CNN this week the submarine is in “a safe and stable condition” at the port in Guam.

“USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational,” she said.

The Navy said Thursday the Connecticut would be moved to Bremerton, Washington, for repairs.

According to a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang called on Washington to clarify “the intended navigation of the nuclear submarine, whether the specific location of the incident was in an exclusive economic zone or territorial sea of any other country, or whether the incident has caused nuclear leakage or damaged the marine environment.”

The US has not revealed any of those details, but when it comes to the South China Sea, Washington’s policy is consistent.

After a US destroyer performed a freedom of navigation operation in the waterway in September, a US 7th Fleet statement responded definitively to Chinese objections: “The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” the statement said. “Nothing (China) says otherwise will deter us.”

CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.



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Timeline of USS Indianapolis, discovered in 2017 at depth of 18,000 ft


Flashback: Veteran Richard Stephens, a survivor of the USS Indianapolis sinking in 1945, left, talks with actor Nicolas Cage on the set of "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage" in Mobile, Ala. Al.com photo/Sharon Steinmann

Editors note: The USA TODAY Network’s South Region chronicled the stories of Tennessee families still mourning the loss of loved ones on the USS Indianapolis — more than seven decades later. You can find our premium story here. 

November 7, 1931 – The USS Indianapolis was launched. The Portland-class heavy cruiser was 610 feet, 3 inches long and displaced 9,950 tons. The Indianapolis carried a main battery of nine 8-inch guns and eight 5-inch antiaircraft guns. She could reach speeds of more than 32 knots thanks to eight boilers turning four steam turbines.

The USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Japanese on July 30, 1945. File photo

January 1, 1933 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected the Indianapolis as his ship of state. She carried Roosevelt on three cruises, including his 1936 “Good Neighbor” trip to South America. 

February 20 and March 10, 1942 – The cruiser earned her first battle star during the Bougainville Air Action and Salamaua-Lae Raid. 

The bell of the USS Indianapolis is rung during the 2019 Indianapolis Veterans Day Service, held at the Indiana War Memorial on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The service was moved inside due to inclement weather.

1943 – The U.S.S. Indianapolis became the flagship of the U.S. Fifth Fleet under Vice Admiral Raymond Spruance.

May 1943 – April 1945 – The vessel earned nine more battle stars: at Attu Occupation, which was part of the broader Aleutians Operation; the Gilbert Islands Operation; the Occupation of Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls and the Occupation of Eniwetok Atoll, which were part of the Marshall Islands Operation; the Palau, Yap, Ulitihi and Woleai Raids; the Marianas Operation, including the Capture and Occupation of Saipan and Guam and the Battle of the Philippine Sea; the Capture and Occupation of Tinian Island; the Capture and Occupation of the Southern Palau Islands during the Western Caroline Islands Operation; for her part in the bombardment of Iwo Jima; for her role in the Okinawa Gunto Operation.



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Fast-attack Submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) Virtual Tour



Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS New Mexico (SSN 779) conduct a virtual tour of the boat as part of Santa Fe Virtual Navy Week. The Navy Week program has served as the Navy’s principal outreach effort into areas of the nation without a significant Navy presence, with over 250 Navy Weeks held in 80 different U.S. cities. The program is designed to share with Americans how their Navy is deployed around the world and around the clock, and why a strong Navy is vital to protecting the American way of life. (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Alfred Coffield)

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A Day Aboard the Fast-Attack Submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723)



Sailors assigned to the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) conduct routine operations while underway. Oklahoma City is one of four forward-deployed submarines assigned to Commander, Submarine Squadron Fifteen out of Polaris Point, Naval Base Guam. (U.S. Navy Video by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger)

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USS Grayback, submarine missing for 75 years, found off Japan



A U.S. Navy submarine missing for 75 years has been found off Okinawa, Japan. The USS Grayback sailed out of Pearl Harbor on Jan. 28, 1944 for its 10th combat patrol. Two months later, it was listed as missing and presumed lost.

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Each weekday morning, “CBS This Morning” co-hosts Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil deliver two hours of original reporting, breaking news and top-level newsmaker interviews in an engaging and informative format that challenges the norm in network morning news programs. The broadcast has earned a prestigious Peabody Award, a Polk Award, four News & Documentary Emmys, three Daytime Emmys and the 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast. The broadcast was also honored with an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award as part of CBS News division-wide coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Check local listings for “CBS This Morning” broadcast times.

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INSIDE The Nuclear Fast Attack Submarine USS COLUMBIA (SSN-771)



For years at a time, man and woman of the US Navy’s “Silent Service” live on board the world’s most advanced boats…fast-attack nuclear submarines! In this video, I take you on a personal tour of the fast-attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN-771) known as the “Last Slider”. Time is money on these warships so we had to film in just one take! Special Thanks to the men of the USS Columbia!

LEARN MORE:

This work, Touring USS Columbia (SSN 771), by PO2 Johans Chavarro, was provided and approved by the U.S. Department of Defense.

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World's Most Powerful & Deadly Super Submarine – USS Texas – Full Documentary



World Most Feared Super Submarine in U.S, Navy – The Virginia Class attack submarine is the U.S. Navy’s newest undersea warfare platform and incorporates the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering and weapons systems technology. Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Special Operation Forces; carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare.

The Virginia class wa not the first new design to come into service after the Cold War. The Seawolf class was originally intended to succeed the Los Angeles class, but production was canceled after only three submarines were produced. This restriction occurred due to budgeting restraints at the end of the Cold War, and the final submarine was manufactured in 1995. At a cost of $3 billion per unit, the Seawolf class was the most expensive SSN submarine. The Virginia class was put into production in full swing due to being smaller and carrying more manageable costs than the Seawolf.

The Navy is now building the next-generation attack submarine, the Virginia (SSN 774) class. The Virginia class has several innovations that significantly enhance its warfighting capabilities with an emphasis on littoral operations. Virginia class SSNs have a fly-by-wire ship control system that provides improved shallow-water ship handling. The class has special features to support special operation forces including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of special operation forces and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads.

The class also has a large lock-in/lock-out chamber for divers. In Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been supplanted by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms. With the removal of the barrel periscopes, the ship’s control room has been moved down one deck and away from the hull’s curvature, affording it more room and an improved layout that provides the commanding officer with enhanced situational awareness. Additionally, through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain state of the practice for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.

As part of the Virginia-class’ third, or Block III, contract, the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce their acquisition costs. Most of the changes are found in the bow where the traditional, air-backed sonar sphere has been replaced with a water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) array which reduces acquisition and life-cycle costs while providing enhanced passive detection capabilities. The new bow also replaces the 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two 87-inch Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles. The VPTs simplify construction, reduce acquisition costs, and provide for more payload flexibility than the smaller VLS tubes due to their added volume.

United States Navy (USN).
Virginia-class Nuclear-powered fast attack Submarine: USS TEXAS (SSN 775),
Namesake: State of Texas,
Commissioned: 2006, Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding,

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Life Aboard US Navy Ballistic Missile Submarine USS Wyoming – In Stunning 4K



USS Wyoming (SSBN 742) is a United States Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine which has been in commission since 1996. She is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be named USS Wyoming, although it was only the third named after the state of Wyoming.

Video includes shots of the sub’s exteriors, interior, and general life onboard footage. USS Wyoming is currently undergoing regularly-scheduled patrol in the Atlantic Ocean

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Credits: DoD | Austin Rooney
Derivative work: AiirSource Military

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