Nearly 60 Years On, America’s Nuclear Subs Remain Technological Marvels

On Nov. 2, 2013 Precommissioning Unit North Dakota (SSN 784) will be christened at the Electric Boat Ship Yard in Groton, Conn., launching the most advanced submarine in U.S. Naval history.

The christening ceremony is a time-honored tradition which has roots dating back to Babylonian times. North Dakota’s will take place at the same shipyard nearly 60 years after USS Nautilus (SSN 571) was christened and launched, bringing nuclear propulsion to the fleet and the world. Six decades, thousands of nuclear-trained officers and Sailors, and more than 200 nuclear-powered submarines later, PCU North Dakota raises the bar to a new zenith. Transferring from the initial manning crew of North Dakota to the Historic Ship Nautilus a few months ago has afforded me the opportunity to appreciate the similarities and changes in both of these remarkable ships.

The first and most obvious comparison between the two submarines are the physical and technological differences that help us appreciate how far we have come in 60 years. USS Nautilus joined the fleet in 1954 as the most advanced ship a nation had ever put to sea. Today’s state-of-the-art North Dakota is 57 feet longer, six feet wider abeam (diameter), nearly twice the displacement of Nautilus and is significantly faster, deeper diving, and immensely quieter. Naturally, North Dakota is packed with sensors, weapons, computers, and communication technology that were unimaginable to even the science fiction of the 1950s, but what amazes me the most is how far our reactor and propulsion plant design has come. The first reactor core on Nautilus was expended and replaced after only two years of service and 62,000 miles traveled at sea. By her third and fourth refueling, this range had been increased to more 160,000 miles per core, the equivalent of an engine change. While this was a huge leap over the 2,000 mile steaming range of diesel boats of the day, it pales in comparison to North Dakota’s propulsion plant. Designed to last the entire 33+ year life of the ship, it is more powerful, simpler to operate, and even safer. To the general public touring either ship, the compactness of the spaces and crew accommodations is often their strongest memory. For a different opinion, ask a diesel boat veteran for a comparison and you’ll walk away thinking that our nuclear powered boats are veritable luxury liners. Nautilus established a new and much improved standard for submarine crew accommodations that has carried through to North Dakota. I personally find the officer and senior enlisted accommodations on Nautilus to be superior, although the junior enlisted berthing spaces are clearly improved on our more modern subs like North Dakota.

To the qualified submariner, the differences between the two boats are easy to pick out mainly because of how much they still have in common. I regularly see Sailors from locally based submarines here in Connecticut and support commands leading tours of Nautilus for their family and friends. Most do not realize that many of the features they take for granted were new with Nautilus, including three decks (vice one), stairways, crew racks (vice a mix of racks and hammocks), the size of the crew’s mess (dining area), much of the atmosphere control equipment, ship-wide air conditioning, and the availability of fresh water. The similarities are striking because the capabilities that nuclear powered submarines give our nation are timeless: Stealth, Endurance, Agility, and Firepower.

Submarine force leaders will readily tell you their most important assets are the people that man our submarine fleet. They are among the most intelligent and highly-trained people in the Navy; an exacting standard that was set by Nautilus and her initial crew. The more than a year of advanced technical training that all nuclear-qualified submarine officers and enlisted crew members must receive before assignment to their first boat began with the same training for that first Nautilus crew at the SW-1 prototype in Arco, Idaho. The choice not to separate the nuclear engineering officers from the navigation and tactical officer positions of the submarine’s wardroom also began with Nautilus. Then Lt. Cmdr. Eugene P. Wilkinson was a decorated WWII submarine officer and had already served as the Executive Officer of three submarines when he was assigned to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to work for the legendary Capt. Hyman G. Rickover, the “father” of the nuclear Navy, as part of the team designing what would become Nautilus’ propulsion plant. His selection as Nautilus’ first skipper was followed by tours as the commanding officer of USS Volodor (SS 490) and USS Wahoo (SS 565). PCU North Dakota’s Commanding Officer, Capt. (select) Douglas Gordon, continues this tradition. He has extensive engineering experience, including a tour as the Engineer Officer on USS Louisiana (SSBN 743), as well as proving himself as a submarine tactician, leader, and warrior. While most nations separate the career paths of the ship’s nuclear engineers from the ship drivers; every successful U.S. nuclear submarine line officer qualifies to operate and lead both the engineering plant and the combat, navigation, and ship control teams. The philosophy behind this decision is simple, the best submarine officers understand every capability of their crew and ships.

Google Street View Can Now Take You On A Tour Inside A Naval Submarine

Ever wonder what it's like to wander the narrow corridors of a 50-year-old Oberon-class British submarine? Well, you can now embark on a digital tour of the HMS Ocelot via Street View, which has become the first submersible to be fully documented by Google. Even without its backpack-worn trekker units, the company has mapped-out the Ocelot's complex control room, restricted sleeping quarters and even its six torpedo tubes, which have thankfully been out of service for more than 20 years. It also lets you take a tour of the dockyard from which the submarine was launched. Hit up Google Street View(be patient while it loads) to begin your personal guided tour, just be sure to mind your head when navigating those hatches.

Sub Vets Enjoy Reunion At Kings Bay - Four-Day Reunion Time To Catch Up, Remember Fallen

"Is what we did important? Will we be remembered?"

Those questions were the theme of guest speaker Capt. Stephen Gillespie at the United States Submarine Force World War II Memorial Service Nov. 1, at the World War II Submarine Veterans Memorial Pavilion, on board Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

The answer, ultimately, to both is yes, said the deputy commander and chief of staff for Submarine Group Ten. More than two dozen of the crowd of submarine veterans served during World War II. Gillespie said he was in awe to be in their company.

A World War II Navy study reports "of the total 288 U.S. submarines deployed, including those stationed in the Atlantic, 52 submarines were lost with 48 lost in the Pacific. American submariners, who comprised only 1.6 percent of the Navy, suffered the highest loss rate in the U.S. Armed Forces, with 22 percent killed."

Nearly 3,500 World War II submarine Sailors are on Eternal Patrol. But, the report further states "the Japanese Merchant Marine lost 8.1 million tons of vessels during the war, with submarines accounting for 4.9 million tons, or 60 percent, of losses.

Additionally, U.S. submarines sank 700,000 tons of naval ships, about 30 percent of the total lost, including eight aircraft carriers, one battleship and 11 cruisers."

Patrick Zilliacus, an 87-year-old veteran of the USS Spot (SS 413) was one of the World War II submariners in attendance. "It was a lovely ceremony and this is a beautiful base," said Zilliacus, who is still active as the chairman of the Columbia College Hollywood Film and TV School. "It's always wonderful to come here and see my shipmates."

A USS Spot shipmate, 92-year-old Charles Crews of Conyers, Ga., agreed. "It couldn't have been better," he said. "I really enjoyed the memorial. I hope I make the next one."

About 230 Sub Vets and their family members were in attendance. Gillespie paid tribute as well to a larger crowd of Cold War-era submariners, as well as today's force, for the sacrifices and hardships they've faced.

Friday's World War II Memorial Service was followed at Trident Training Facility by a lunch, hosted by the TTF Chief Petty Officers Association, and tours.

Friday evening, a steak dinner sponsored by Trident Refit Facility Chief Petty Officer Association was at the Kings Bay Goat Locker.

The Order of the Eagle's hosted a Low Country Boil at the Eagle's Club in St. Marys Saturday, Nov. 2. The Commanding Officer's Breakfast at the NSB Kings Bay Pirates Cove Galley started events Thursday. Later that day there was a meet-and-greet barbecue sponsored by Naval Submarine Support Center at Cumberland Inn and Suites.

Veterans and families also were able to tour a the USS Alaska (SSBN 732) Thursday and Friday.

Russia Hands Over Cam Ranh Submarine Sailor Training Center To Vietnam

Representatives from Russia and Vietnam signed a document on the transfer of a submarine sailor training center for the 636 Kilo class submarine in Cam Ranh Bay to the Vietnam Navy.

On November 7, Russia will hand over the first submarine to Vietnam. According to the Vietnam News Agency, the handover ceremony will be held in January 2014, on the occasion the first of the six submarines of project 636 to dock at Cam Ranh Bay.

More than 40 Vietnamese naval officers studied under a 1.5-year program in Russia to train teachers and trainers for the center. The contract to provide six "Varshavyanka" diesel-electric submarines worth $2 billion to Vietnam was signed in 2009. This is one of the largest naval equipment export contracts of Russia.

The leading analyst on defense in Southeast Asia, Prof. Carl Thayer, said that the military balance in the East Sea will change when Vietnam puts into use Kilo submarines.

It is expected that on November 7, the first submarine named HQ-182 Hanoi will be handed over to Vietnam. The second submarine named HQ-183 Ho Chi Minh City has been completed. The remaining submarines are HQ-184 Hai Phong, HQ-186 Khanh Hoa, HQ-185 Da Nang and HQ- 87 Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

Kilo class submarines are capable of operating at sea in 45 days and they are considered formidable weapon by quiet operation, small noise and being equipped with modern weapons, including missiles and cruise missiles.

Women In Subs: A Sharper Warfighting Edge

At All Hands Calls I often get asked about the integration of women into the submarine force. Sailors, male and female alike, are curious about the progress we've made and what's next for women in submarines.

Integrating women into submarines is one of many ways we ensure our warfighting edge. In my Sailing Directions, I discuss how our Sailors and Navy Civilians give us an asymmetric advantage in our warfighting capability. When we draw upon the widest possible set of talents, skills, and backgrounds it becomes a source of our strength, both as a nation and a Navy. Attracting and retaining the best talent America has to offer requires us to ensure that every Sailor has an equal opportunity to develop his or her talent to their fullest potential.

It has been over two years since the first women stepped aboard their first boats. Today, 46 women Officers (12 Supply Officers and 34 Unrestricted Line Officers) are serving aboard six SSBN crews and six SSGN crews. This January USS Michigan (SSGN 727) will become the 7th submarine to have integrated wardrooms. We are also expanding the class of submarines women will serve in.

Starting in 2015, women officers will have the opportunity to serve aboard Virginia-class attack submarines. USS Virginia (SSN 774) and USS Minnesota (SSN 783) will serve as the first attack submarines with women officers.

Per the Secretary of Navy's guidance, we have taken the first steps to integrate Enlisted women into the submarine force. If practical, we will do this in 2016. Last May, the Enlisted Women in Submarines Task Force began planning how to integrate Enlisted women into the submarine service. This plan will involve a number of factors. First, we are applying the lessons learned from previous gender integration initiatives. Lessons gathered from the integration of women officers in submarines, and lessons from when women integrated into surface ships. One lesson we learned from that period is to ensure we have the right leadership in place at the right levels. We've started with Officers and will follow with Chiefs before assigning junior Enlisted women to submarines. In addition, we need a strong cohort of prospective Sailors reporting aboard, and we also need to consider the time it takes to access and train a submariner. To ensure the best outcome, we will survey the fleet and potential recruits to gauge interest and expectations about serving aboard submarines. Remember, everyone in the submarine force is a volunteer.

Beyond the personnel considerations, physical factors of ship configuration have to be taken into account. Different classes of submarines require varying levels of modification to ensure appropriate berthing habitability and privacy for all crewmembers. For example, while the wardroom and stateroom area of a Trident submarine will accommodate women officers with minor modifications, the same is not true for crew berthing which are constrained by physical limitations. As we build new submarines, gender-neutral berthing will be built into the design.

All these factors, combined with a motivated force, will provide a deliberate way to successfully integrate women Sailors into submarines. What we do - whether on ships, aircraft or ashore - requires a great deal of skill, knowledge, personal discipline and teamwork. When our team draws on the talent, dedication and skills of all our Sailors we will remain the finest Navy in the world.

Life Aboard the Navy's Top Secret Cold War Submarine: The Disassembled NR-1 Vessel is Brought Back to Life For Exhibition On Its Dangerous Missions

NR-1 dived deeper than any submarine and had a claw for raking sea bed.

It mapped ocean floor and sought fragments of Challenger space shuttle.

Submarine measured just 140ft but held a crew of 10 men for a month.

Even now Cold War crew are sworn to secrecy - and cannot tell their wives.

The remains of a top secret tiny submarine that could dive deeper than any other vessel and was used in the recovery of the doomed Challenger shuttle have been put on display.

The NR-1 sub performed Cold War operations so classified that its 10-man crews remain sworn to secrecy to this day.

It had a claw to pick objects off the sea bed - crucial in the days when Americans and Soviets were tapping underground cables - and even went in search of fragments from the Challenger space shuttle, which exploded during blast-off in 1986.

NR-1 launched in Groton, Connecticut, in 1969, where it stayed for much of its time until it left service in 2008.

The top-secret sub was dismantled - but the U.S. Navy has now collected pieces of it for an exhibition in its home port.

Veterans who served aboard the tiny sub during the Cold War say it was one of the most fascinating briefs of their careers - but not even their wives know all the details.

Toby Warson, commander from 1970 to 1973, won a distinguished service medal for a 'hazardous military operation' in the Mediterranean code-named Raccoon Hook.

Yet he is forbidden to this day from telling anyone - even officers - what he did to earn it.

'I finally had to quit wearing the ribbon because when I walked into the officers' club, everyone asked how I got it, and I couldn't tell them,' said Warson, who lives in Camas, Washington state.

'They thought I was being cute. I wasn't being cute. I just didn't want to go to jail.

The custom-built, one-of-a-kind vessel carried no weapons, measured just 140ft and travelled at just four knots, but held ten men for up to a month at a time.

It was a pet project of Admiral Hyman Rickover, the 'father of the nuclear Navy', and contained a custom-built mini nuclear reactor which powered it as deep as 3,000 feet.

Once on the sea bed, it had wheels and lights to explore the ocean floor.

It was mainly a research sub, but also performed Cold War military missions which remain highly classified.

NR-1 missions which have been declassified include an undersea submarine-detection operation and mapping the ocean floor.

It was used in 1976 to recover an F-14 fighter which had rolled off the deck of an aircraft carrier with a newly-developed missile attached to it.

Yet the slow-moving sub had to be towed to sea by a surface boat to save time, and it was so small that the crew could feel every pitch and roll of the current.

The long-suffering men also had to survive on frozen TV dinners, bath once a week with a bucket of water and burn chlorate candles to produce oxygen to breathe.

Former commander Allison J Holifield said: 'Everybody on NR-1 got sick. It was only a matter of whether you were throwing up or not throwing up.'

Admiral Rickover - who bestowed NR-1 with a level of secrecy far above what was normal in the Cold War - wanted several of the submarines but was stopped by high costs.

Michael Riegel, a former commander at the Groton base who also served as an officer aboard NR-1 in the 1970s.

He was pictured five years ago with a model of the submarine, which was also a highlight of his career.

If NR-1's secrets were revealed, he said: 'Some will probably say "Gee, that wasn't out of the ordinary." Some will say "Gee, that was really slick what they did."

But if and when that will come is anyone's guess. For the former sailor, like everyone else, is staying tight-lipped about the U.S. Navy's greatest secrets.

China's Ballistic-Missile Submarines: How Dangerous?

On October 27, China's state-run Xinhua news agency [3]released a slideshow [3] showing what the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) touted as the country's first nuclear ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN). Though the "unveiling" of China's Type 092 Xia-class SSBN comes as no surprise, Beijing's open display of the submarine, coupled with technical improvements to the Chinese JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), raises the question of whether China is approaching a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent.

Although the Xia-class SSBN received much fanfare in both [4]Chinese [4] and [5]Western [5] sources alike, the PLAN envisions the Type 094 Jin-class submarine as playing the primary role in China's sea-based nuclear-deterrence strategy. Even Xinhua [6]has admitted [6] that the Xia-class SSBN does not comprise a viable nuclear second-strike force. According to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, China maintains three operational Jin-class SSBNs and is currently constructing two more, all five of which will be outfitted with twelve JL-2 SLBMs. According to U.S. defense officials, the Jin-class SSBN is expected to begin sea patrols as early as 2014.

For China to acquire a credible survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent, the country must overcome two technical challenges that the country has been unable to surmount since first launching an SLBM from a submarine in 1988. China must build a submarine stealthy enough to avoid U.S. antisubmarine warfare (ASW) assets and design a JL-2 SLBM capable of penetrating US ballistic missile defense (BMD) with high probability.

Both the Xia-class and Jin-class SSBNs are not quiet enough to avoid detection by U.S. ASW assets. The Jin-class SSBN design if fundamentally flawed in that the large missile compartment at the rear of the vessel and the flood openings below the missile hatches create a detectable sonar signature. A 2009 U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence report comparing the low-frequency noise level for China's SSBN force to that of Russian 1970s-era SSBNs found that out of the twelve submarines profiled, the Xia-class SSBN was the most detectable and the Jin-class SSBN the fourth-most detectable. China's JL-2 SLBM has [7]repeatedly failed [7] launch tests and it is still unclear whether the PLAN successfully tested the SLBM on August 16, as it [8]claimed [8].

Even if China acquires the technical capacity necessary for a survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent, the highly centralized PLA has no operational experience in maintaining deterrence patrols on the open seas. China has traditionally relied exclusively on its land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for deterrence and thus has never confronted the existential question of whether to predelegate SLBM launch authority to submarine commanders in case of crisis.

China's Central Military Commission (CMC) has traditionally delegated comprehensive nuclear-arsenal command and control authority to the Second Artillery Corps, and it is unlikely that the CMC will undergo the structural transformation necessary to devolve launch authority to PLAN commanders. China's inexperience in maintaining secure communications between SSBNs and land-based command means that a U.S. decapitation strike on command and control systems could potentially render a Chinese sea-based nuclear deterrent ineffective.

Even if technical improvements are made to the Jin-class SSBN that allow the vessel to allude sophisticated ASW capabilities, the U.S. BMD system will likely be able to engage most JL-2 SLBMs capable of reaching the continental United States from the Jin-class SSBN's [9]assumed launch points [9] on the Bohai Gulf and South China Sea. Once a Jin-class SSBN launches a JL-2 SLBM, Aegis radars deployed near China's coastal waters will immediately detect the missile launch, triggering the launch of SM-3 interceptors five seconds thereafter. In addition to already deploying additional SM-3 interceptors off the U.S. coast and ground-based interceptors (GBIs) in California and Alaska, the Pentagon is expected in 2018 to deploy the next-generation SM-3 Block IIA system the can engage all Chinese JL-2 SLBMS capable of reaching the continental U.S.

While neither the Xia-class nor the Jin-class submarines give China a survivable, credible sea-based nuclear deterrent, it is undeniable that the US will eventually have to respond to a China that possesses two legs of the nuclear triad. The PLA is [10]experimenting with [10] deploying more SLBMs bearing multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) aboard stealthier SSBNs. [11]Several Chinese sources [11] have claimed that the JL-2 SLBM is capable of carrying between three to nine warheads. Given that the JL-2 SLBM has a 7,200 km range, a JL-2 SLBM carrying multiple warheads launched from the coastal waters near Hainan could potentially evade U.S. defenses. A 2010 U.S. Department of Defense report on Chinese military capabilities noted that China is currently developing a Type 096 Zhou-class SSBN capable of deploying sixteen newer generation SLBMs.

When China reaches the technical and operational capacity for a survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent, Washington will be forced to decide whether or not to accept mutual nuclear vulnerability with China. However, by continuing to publicly deny a sea-based nuclear second-strike capability for China, irrespective of reality, Washington avoids the tough dialogue that would have to take place to reassure allies in the Asia Pacific. Given that the "pivot to Asia" thus far amounted to nothing more than rhetoric, and regional allies like Japan are already becoming [12]constitutionally [12] more offense-oriented, public acceptance of U.S. mutual nuclear vulnerability with China is unlikely to assuage the security concerns of regional allies like Japan, South Korea or the Philippines. Accepting a China with a survivable sea-based nuclear deterrent may require the U.S. to redefine the perceptions of extended deterrence and its nuclear umbrella in the Asia Pacific.

Washington policymakers may temporarily delay the day of reckoning by accepting mutual vulnerability with China in a classified military-postural sense. However, Washington will eventually have to craft nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture to account for mutual nuclear vulnerability with China in the Asia Pacific. The question is whether the U.S. will respond to the prospect of mutual nuclear vulnerability with denial, by uniformly investing in retaliatory naval capabilities, or with acceptance, by reexamining what extended deterrence means in the Asia Pacific.

Christian Conroy is a Washington-based researcher that writes on issues of nuclear weapons and East Asian regional security.

Iran Deploys Submarine To India & Sri Lanka

A submarine-escorted naval fleet set sailed from southern Iran for Mumbai and Colombo on Wednesday. As if Asia's waters weren't crowded enough with subsurface vessels, Iran has deployed one of its heavy submarines to South Asian waters as part of a larger naval fleet, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency, which has close ties with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

On Wednesday afternoon, Fars quoted Admiral Siyavash Jarreh, the Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Navy for Operations, as saying, "The (Iranian) Navy will dispatch the ultra-heavy Tareq-class submarine, 'Younus' as part of the Navy's 28th flotilla of warships to the countries of East Asia."

The report said that the 28th flotilla left a southern port in Iran hours after Jarreh made the announcement. Fars also reported that Admiral Jarreh had said Iran's Alborz destroyer and Bandar Abbas helicopter-carrier warship would be accompanying the Younus submarine on the voyage.

Despite Jarreh's claims that the 28th flotilla was headed to East Asia, the Fars report quoted him as saying, "The Navy's 28th Flotilla will berth at Mumbai and Colombo ports during its voyage." In other words, the 28th flotilla seems to be headed to South Asia - India and Sri Lanka in particular.

The purpose of the voyage is unclear, although Fars referred to it as a "crucially important extraterritorial mission of the Iranian Navy."

Tasnim News Agency, which was established last year to report on the Arab Spring, also carried a report on Jarreh's comments. It quoted Jarreh as saying that the flotilla's mission is to make its "mighty and constant" presence felt in international waters. Jarreh apparently added that the flotilla would also "convey the message of peace and friendship" along the way.

The Iranian Navy seems to keep a flotilla constantly deployed, although most of them do not venture farther than the Gulf of Aden and Mediterranean Sea. Still, the trip itself is not unprecedented for Iran's navy. Indeed, according to Indian news reports, the Bandar Abbas itself made a port call in India back in 2006. Iran's regular naval forces, rather than the IRGC Navy, are in charge of these longer deployments, which have included port calls in China and Russia.

The more frequent deployments around the Gulf of Aden do not usually have a submarine escort, at least one that is usually announced. However, the inclusion of the Tareq-class submarine on this mission could very well just be due to the fact that it has little other purpose. Iran has three such Tareq-class submarines, which are really 877EKM Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines that Iran purchased from Russia in the late 1980s and 1990s. Although it reportedly paid about US$600 million for each of them, they are uniquely unsuited to Iran's maritime environment. Specifically, the Persian Gulf's shallow depth means the heavy submarines cannot operate in most of it.

The three heavy submarines have long been based in Iran's Bandar Abbas port and are operated by Iran's regular Navy. Some reports have suggested that Iran is building port facilities for them at its Chabahar Port, which is located in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Oman. Voyages east to the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean are thus some of the only occasions in which the Tareq-class submarines can be utilized.

The naval fleet's voyage to South Asia comes as the P5+1 and Iran are holding another round of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. This week also saw Iran claim to launch a new strategic drone.

After 30 Years, the USS Dallas Returns Home for Decomissioning

The attack submarine USS Dallas and her crew received a hero's welcome as she glided into port Monday, completing her last scheduled deployment after 30 years prowling the world's oceans.

Crowds cheered and a 1-minute blast was sounded as the black-hulled submarine, with sailors at attention on deck, cruised slowly up the Thames River. A fireboat shot celebratory jets of water high into the air.

A pair of tugboats eased the 360-foot, nuclear-powered vessel up to the submarine base dock, where hundreds of family and friends, many waving signs and holding balloons, waited in the frigid air to greet the 140 returning sailors.

In submariner tradition, a Hawaiian lei was draped across the sub's conning tower to mark the return of the vessel, which logged 34,000 miles on her final six-month deployment. During that time, the Dallas called on ports in Bahrain, Diego Garcia, Spain and Portugal. The sub and its crew of 140 sailors left Connecticut in May under the command of Navy Cmdr. Jack Houdeshell.

Among the crowd Monday was Jenny Lifland of Essex, who was waiting to see her boyfriend, Machinist's Mate First Class Michael J. Bush, of Buffalo, N.Y. Lifland held aloft a sign that said, "Welcome Home The Love Of My Life."

"I don't know what I'm going to say when I see him," she said. "I don't think I'll say anything. I think I'll just cry."

Nearby stood Thomas Bush, Michael Bush's father, who said his son is a Navy diver who would be suited up in the stern ready to plunge overboard in case anyone fell off the sub as she moved upriver on her approach. "That's just one of his many skills," Tom Bush said.

The USS Dallas was the seventh of 61 Los Angeles-class submarines built. She was commissioned in 1981 in Groton and circumnavigated the globe in 1984. The sub has been deployed to every operational theater around the world, including Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in the early 1990s.

Los Angeles-class submarines are considered the backbone of the Navy submarine force, equipped to hunt enemy vessels and attack land-based targets. The sub fires precision-guided Tomahawk missiles in addition to standard torpedoes.

The Dallas figured prominently in Tom Clancy's 1984 thriller, "The Hunt for Red October," which was made into a movie in 1990 starring Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn, as Dallas' commander, Capt. Bart Mancuso.

The submarine was built by Newport News Shipbuilding and Electric Boat and was the first Navy vessel to bear the name of Dallas, Texas.

A small crowd gathered on the deck of the museum ship USS Nautilus to watch Dallas return Monday. A stiff breeze blew across water, kicking up a chop. Holding up binoculars, Lt. Cmdr. Benjamin Amdur spotted the submarine at 1:30 p.m., plowing upriver under the steel arches of New London's Gold Star Bridge spanning the Thames. Two tugboats were escorting the vessel, along with several police boats.

"There she is!" exclaimed Amdur, the officer in charge of the Nautilus Museum. "It's certainly an historic event, " he said. "Something like this doesn't happen every day." He said he expected the decommissioning process take about a year.

Just upriver, a crowd of several hundred people, mostly family members, waited at the sub base dock to welcome the ship home.

For one sailor, Machinist's Mate Fireman (SS) Sebastian Lefever, the return provided him the first opportunity to hold his baby girl, Rilynn. Lefever's wife, Kara, gave birth to Rilynn on July 9 just as Dallas was leaving port in Bahrain.

"Dallas families supporting each other allowed Dallas sailors to stay on the job and complete the mission," Houdeshell said. "Just as we serve, our families serve, as well."

Standing in the crowd wearing a submarine service veteran baseball cap was Ed Butcher, a gray-bearded Vietnam veteran who served on the USS Rock, out of San Diego, Calf. "She was diesel-powered," he said of the Rock. "A fine ship." He said his grandson, Tylor Craven, served on the Dallas as a Machinist's Mate 3rd Class.

Earlier, Butcher and other submarine veterans gathered on the banks of the Thames, down from the base, to fire off a traditional seven-cannon salute to welcome home the USS Dallas.

"It's a very old tradition," he said. "I think it goes back to the English Navy."

Interview with Ray Mabus

After many years of ongoing expeditionary operations in support of U.S. strategic objectives in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, the U.S. Navy today remains the world's most seasoned and potent naval force. The Diplomat's Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe spoke with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, discussing the current state of the Navy, the implications of the drawdown from Afghanistan, the Indian Ocean's importance, and other issues.

After being involved in expeditionary operations worldwide over a decade, what is the U.S. Navy's current state is as it stands today?

Ray Mabus: The President's defense strategy, with its focus on the Pacific, particularly the western Pacific, the Arabian Gulf and on building partnerships, is a very maritime-centric strategy. In order to execute that strategy, you're going to have to keep a great Navy and a great Marine Corps to execute it worldwide, and I think we're on track to do that.

We have had a very high operational tempo for the last decade and more, all around the world. We've been very involved in the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, but also in many other things: counter-piracy, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief. But, having said all that, I think the state of the Navy today, in terms of morale, resilience and readiness, is excellent. Our force and our fleet are as good as they've been for a long, long time. To give some numbers for a moment; on 9/11, 2001, the Navy had 316 ships. By 2008, after one of the great military buildups in American history, we were down to 278 ships. In 2008, we put three ships on a contract. Since I've been here, we've put more than 50 ships under contract. We're growing our fleet. We're at 286 now, and we're on track to be at 300 by the end of this decade.

What will the drawdown from Afghanistan mean for the U.S. Navy? Ray Mabus: We've been doing a lot more in Afghanistan than just logistics. We've got 8,000 sailors today on the ground in the Middle East, plus Marines. We had 20,000 Marines in Afghanistan, although that number has been substantially reduced in the drawdown. We do a third of the combat air roles over Afghanistan from carriers. What you're seeing as the drawdown occurs are the Marines going back to their amphibious roots.

We get so many requests for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. I think there was a study a couple of years ago that said that, on average, once every three weeks we get a request for our Marines to do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief coming from the sea. Things like Operation Tomodachi in Japan or the earthquake in Haiti, which we can respond to in a unique and very quick way. You're seeing the move from these two ground wars to this new defense strategy that the President announced in January 2012, which, again, is more maritime-focused than land-focused. I certainly don't think that it's going to represent a reduction in what is expected out of the Navy and the Marine Corps, because it's going to require us to execute this strategy and to expand it in some very important ways.

Since the U.S. Navy has a sizeable presence in the Indian Ocean region, can you explain why this part of the world is strategically important to U.S. interests?

Ray Mabus: The defense strategy talks about the Pacific, but it does take in the Indian Ocean as well. In fact, both parts of our maritime strategy take in the Indian Ocean: the focus on the Arabian Gulf and the focus on the western Pacific. We're looking at the Indian Ocean across the entire spectrum: fighting pirates off the coast of Africa, our partnership with Australia and the work that we do with the Indian Navy. We have very large exercises with India, such as Exercise Malabar, which is a good example of that.

We view the Pacific writ large, which includes the Indian Ocean running from the coast of Africa, all the way south to Australia and to our western coast. That's the focus for the Littoral Combat Ships that are going to be forward-deployed in Singapore. The rotational Marine presence in Darwin, the Australia-U.S. ministerial consultations that committed to studying the way we work together, particularly in the Indian Ocean, including where you're speaking from, Perth, and how all these things fit together. I think it shows a commitment from us that it's not just a strait here, or a specific area there, but it's the Pacific writ large, running from Africa and going back to the west coast of the United States.

How important is the base at Diego Garcia to the U.S. Navy, and what likely utility will it serve in the years ahead? To what extent does climate change and rising sea levels threaten the longevity of retaining a naval base at Diego Garcia?

Ray Mabus: I certainly think Diego Garcia is going to remain an important, and even crucial, part of this defense strategy as we move forward. Diego Garcia is one of the places that we can use as a logistics and repair hub to move people and platforms into this critical region. We put our guided missile submarines and our surface ships into there and, in terms of resupply and voyage repairs, it's critical. That's not only in terms of what it does for us, but also as an example of the great partnerships that we were talking about. Diego Garcia offers a way to increase not only our reach, but also the reach of our allies in that crucial region.

In terms of sea levels, we've got a task force on climate change and we're concerned about rising sea levels everywhere because of the potential for instability and dramatic changes. I think, in terms of Diego Garcia, that you won't begin to see impacts until the middle of this century, and major impacts until well into the next century. So, it will remain crucial for us as far out into the future as we are able to see right now.

A report published last year by the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, made reference to the possibility of the U.S. Navy using base facilities in Western Australia more often, particularly the Royal Australian Navy's only Indian Ocean naval base: HMAS Stirling. Can you explain why Western Australia is of interest to the U.S. Navy?

Ray Mabus: Our partnership with Australia is one of the most important that we have anywhere. We're interoperable and we do exercises and operations together; everything from the rotational presence of the Marines in Darwin, to your participation in things like RIMPAC, and all sorts of studies, talks, educational exchanges and projects on bio-fuels.

I went to HMAS Stirling last year and I've been to Perth and also to Darwin, to see where the Marines train. Perth's a beautiful city and the base at Stirling is a great base. The last AUSMIN, the Australia-U.S. ministerial talks, agreed to specifically look at things like HMAS Stirling in Perth and how it would fit in. So, we are actively beginning to take a new look and work through finding out what the doctrine, or the issues, that would be involved with both countries, are. I think that shows the importance of Perth and, as the study gets underway, that importance will be confirmed. The fact that the ministers and chiefs of defense of both our countries thought that it was important enough for this study highlights it. So, we're going to be very interested in the results and we'll be looking at them very closely.

Finally, what sort of future challenges do you anticipate for the U.S. Navy in the Indo-Pacific region?

Ray Mabus: We take every challenge as unique, and respond to it and meet it accordingly. I think that what you're hitting on is central to the doctrine of the Navy and the Marine Corps. If you had taken a look in, say, the late '80s, before the Berlin Wall came down, at what our challenges would be in the next 20-30 years, you would have been 100 percent wrong in terms of what you came up with. If you had a look before 9/11 at what the challenges would be that we'd face over the next 10 or 20 years, you would have been mostly wrong. I think that no matter how insightful you are, how smart you are, how hardworking you are, seeing what the challenges are going to be for the future is very difficult.

So, the job for the Navy and the Marine Corps is to be flexible; it is to prepare for whatever comes over the horizon and to give the President options as to how to deal with it. Behind me are the commanders of our Carrier Strike Groups and our Amphibious Ready Groups, and one of the things that is constant is that almost every time they go out, they face something that is unexpected. So, we've got to have the training, we've the platforms and the systems that allow us to deal with these unexpected challenges. Therefore, I think, in terms of forecasting, or comparing one region to the other, I think the better way is just that: to have the training, platforms and people to meet whatever comes along.

U.S. Navy Launches Aerial Drone From a Submarine

Just in case military drone strikes weren't scary enough, now the Navy has demonstrated that it can launch aerial drones from a submerged submarine.

Powered by an electric fuel cell, the eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System (XFC UAS) was launched from the torpedo tube of the USS Providence earlier this year. While the exact date and location of the launch were not disclosed, according to a press release the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory released Thursday, the drone flew for several hours before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas. The launcher fits inside the same canisters already used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles on submarines.

Developed with funding from the Office of Naval Research and Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office, the project took less than six years to complete, according to the Naval Research Laboratory. The new development is expected to help the Navy collect crucial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Trying to Measure the Value of SSNs

Modern diesel electric subs cost 60-85 percent less than nuclear subs and are known to be more difficult to detect in coastal waters and sometimes even on the high seas. Yet all major navies want the nukes. It's all about energy and the fact that the nuclear boats have a lot more of it. Diesel-electric boats have enough food and fuel on board to stay at sea for about a thousand hours. And that assumes moving slowly (most of the time at a sluggish 10-15 kilometers an hour) and not using a lot of electronics all the time. Nukes don't have that problem as they have years' worth of nuclear fuel on board and can generate much more electricity than a diesel-electric boat. Being 3-4 times larger (in terms of displacement) than most diesel-electric boats the SSNs can carry a lot more electronics and run them all the time. This provides an enormous advantage because passive (not broadcasting) sensors are the perfect tool for detecting other ships or subs while you lie quietly below the surface. Those passive sensors work because they use a lot of computing power, which requires a lot of electricity which SSNs have no problem supplying. SSNs can also run fast and deep to escape an enemy threat. That's why naval professions prefer nukes, because they can stay at sea longer and do more while they are there. In fact most diesel-electric boats are only really effective for coastal defense and are much less useful if you send them long distances to do anything. Meanwhile much is made of the fact that under some conditions diesel-electric subs are quieter than nukes. The true extent of that will not really be known until there is a war and most naval experts are not sure the diesel-electric boats will have much of an edge when operating on batteries. The big problem here is that subs have not had much wartime experience since World War II (1939-45). So no one really know exactly how the nukes would be in a major conflict. In the meantime the admirals would prefer to have more nukes.

Meanwhile work continues on trying to shed more light on the problem. The U.S. Navy has been secretive about how effective it has become in detecting non-nuclear submarines. That discretion is necessary to prevent the enemy from fixing any vulnerabilities that have been found and are being exploited. The quietness of modern diesel-electric boats puts nuclear subs and surface ships at a serious disadvantage, especially in coastal waters. This is a big problem for the United States, which went to an all nuclear submarine fleet in the 1960s. While the nuclear sub is the most effective high seas vessel, especially if you have worldwide responsibilities and need subs that can quickly move long distances to get to the troubled waters, the diesel electric boat, operating on batteries in coastal waters, is quieter and harder to find.

For over a decade the U.S. Navy has been trying to get an idea of just how bad the threat is and developing technologies and tactics to deal with it. This was part of a larger ASW (anti-submarine warfare) effort that began in the 1990s to deal with post-Cold War submarine threat. A major part of this effort using a state-of-the-art non-nuclear subs to practice on. Thus from 2005 to 2007 the United States leased a Swedish sub (Sweden only had five subs in service then) and its crew, to help American anti-submarine forces get a better idea of what they were up against. This Swedish boat was a "worst case" scenario, an approach that is preferred for training. The Gotland class Swedish subs involved are small (1,500 tons, 64.5 meters/200 feet long) and have a crew of only 25. The Gotland was based in San Diego, along with three dozen civilian technicians to help with maintenance.

For many years before the Gotland arrived, the U.S. Navy had trained against Australian diesel-electric subs and often came out second. The Gotland has one advantage over the Australian boats because of its AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) system (which allows it to stay under water, silently, for several weeks at a time). Thus the Gotland was even more of a challenge and a glimpse of what American surface ships and submarines might have to face in a future naval war. Since the Gotland experiments the U.S. has borrowed other AIP subs for further work in refining detection methods. None of America's most likely naval opponents (China, North Korea, or Iran) except China has built any AIP boats yet. These three nations have plenty of diesel-electric subs which, in the hands of skilled crews, can be pretty deadly. China is making an effort to create experienced and well trained crews as well as AIP equipped boats.

The U.S. has found that, given current sensor (sonar, magnetic, heat, chemical) technology it is possible to detect very quiet diesel-electric and AIP subs. To do this required many small tweaks to existing sensors. AIP boats, in particular, were found to have many vulnerabilities. The AIP technology generated more noise and heat than just using batteries. The more the U.S. studied AIP subs in operation the more ways they found these subs could be detected. It is known that the passive (listen only) sonar systems in the new Virginia class SSNs (nuclear attack sub) was tweaked to better find diesel-electric and AIP boats.

Apparently the modern, quiet diesel electric boats continue to be a major threat to U.S. surface warships and subs. Meanwhile, potential enemies build more of their cheaper and higher quality diesel-electric boats and train their crews by having them stalk actual warships (including U.S. ones). The subs are getting more numerous, while U.S. defenses are limping along because of the sheer technical problems of finding quiet diesel-electric boats in coastal waters.

Despite keeping most of the details secret, some potential targets of these new ASW capabilities realized the danger they were in. One reason China wants to keep American naval forces out of their economic zone (370 kilometers from the coast, an area which does not bar foreign warships) is so that Chinese diesel electric subs can train without being stalked by American subs, surface ships, and aircraft looking for realistic practice tracking Chinese boats. At the same time the U.S. Navy has lost the full use of its most effective underwater anti-submarine training area (a well mapped and instrumented area off southern California) because environmentalist activists have convinced judges that the use of active sonar in this training area is harmful to some species of aquatic animals. So going after potential targets off their coasts is more important than ever.

There are 39 nations operating a total of 400 diesel electric subs. Only three of these nations (China, Iran, North Korea) are likely to use their subs against the U.S. or its allies. China has fifty of these boats, Iran has three (plus 25 much smaller mini-subs) and North Korea has 20 (plus 50 much smaller mini-subs). So the U.S. has to worry about 150 diesel electric subs, half of them mini-subs. But about half of all these boats are elderly, obsolete, and noisy. That leaves about 70 subs that are a clear threat (though the older stuff can be a threat if you get sloppy). That's a lot of subs, and they make the East Asian coast and the Persian Gulf dangerous places for American warships.

Moreover, the North Korean and Iranian fleets (and governments) are in decline, while China is pouring more cash into their armed forces. If there's any diesel-electric boats the U.S. Navy has to be extremely concerned about, it's the Chinese. While China continues to try and develop world class nuclear subs, they are also moving ahead in creating world class diesel electric boats.

Cooking on a Submarine

OOOGA. OOOGA. The dive alarm sounds, and a flurry of activity begins as the ship rapidly descends through the depths. The crew instinctively performs their dive checks ensuring the ship is safe. For me, it triggers an immediate concern as to whether my cake was going to run off the back of the pan during our down angle. Of course, any good submariner knows you don't bake cakes when the ship is about to dive.

I had the pleasure of serving on board the USS Oklahoma City SSN 723 from 2005 to 2010. I was a culinary specialist, as well as the ship's diver. During my time on board, we completed two deployments, an engineering overhaul and many other smaller underways and training operations. When I arrived on the ship, I was 19 years old and I had been a cook for four years in Louisiana, where I grew up. Upon checking in, I quickly began to realize that this was going to be the hardest cooking experience of my life.

A Los Angeles-class, fast-attack submarine is one of the most advanced warships in the world, and with that being said, you probably realize that it was not necessarily the most spacious and well-outfitted kitchen one could work in. The real challenge wasn't the size of the kitchen, though; what really made cooking hard on the sub was the lack of space to store food. We would load the submarine with up to three months worth of food for 150 people.

First of all, getting that much food on the boat was a heck of an undertaking. Typically, if we had a big stores load, the entire crew would stop working, and we would form an assembly line to pass every can and box from the pier across the bow and down the hatch to their respective storage locations. Now depending on the food item, it would either be frozen or put in dry storage. If it was frozen, it would get packed in the freezer as tightly as possible until the freezers were full from top to bottom and front to back. If it was a dry item, it could end up in any number of interesting places, from number-10 cans getting packed into an unused auxiliary tank or maybe going under the main engines in the aft part of the submarine. At times we would even line the deck with cases of cans, and then lay down plywood so we could walk on top of them. Needless to say, finding the items you needed was a full-time job for one of the cooks in my division.

Aside from storing food, there were many other challenges to cooking on a submarine. Obviously with only having frozen and dry storage, fresh vegetables and fruits were nonexistent after about a week at sea. As sad as it was to say good-bye to fresh fruits and vegetables, it was even more difficult to part with fresh milk and eggs. The shelf-stable replacements such as powdered eggs and powdered sour cream were a sad replacement, to say the least. However, as with all hardships in cooking (and life), you can't just give up; you must make the best with what you have.

Being from Louisiana, I was already a passionate foodie by an early age, and I knew that my love for food could be a lifelong affair, so I enrolled in my high school's culinary program with the local community college and began cooking in area restaurants. Of course, it wasn't glamorous work; being a teenager in a kitchen typically means the least desirable tasks are yours, and that was good practice for me, as I would realize later.

I brought that passion for food with me, and I was able to really do a lot with what I had on board the sub. The crew, which is kind of like having a really large dysfunctional family made up only of men, really appreciated the effort and extra time I put into the food. We had four meals a day at sea, and in port we would have three. A typical meal would have one or two main proteins, a starch, two vegetables, a sauce, fresh bread, soup and a dessert. As you could probably imagine, the crew didn't have the most refined palate, and their favorite meals were always burgers, pizza and fried chicken.

My favorite meals to prepare were always the holiday dinners. If the ship was going to be in port for the holiday, you could really go all out and plan a very exciting meal, which, as you can imagine, was always a huge morale booster for both the crew and the cooks. I will always have fond memories of preparing and enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with my shipmates on the USS Oklahoma City.

Since arriving at NECI, I have had the opportunity to help develop a relationship between NECI and the navy. A few weeks ago, I got to take Chef Jean Louis for a tour of a Los Angeles-class submarine as a precursor to an "Adopt a Ship" visit, which will hopefully take place this coming year. We will also have the pleasure of hosting a current sub cook this week here at NECI. He is the personal aide to the admiral in charge of the Atlantic fleet, and he will be receiving some training from the chefs here at NECI. I hope that we can continue to grow our relationship, as I truly believe it is mutually beneficial to give back to our sailors and soldiers who are feeding our military and directly influencing the morale and esprit de corp of our troops.

I was recently asked if I could go back in time, would I still choose to go to a submarine. I answered immediately a resounding yes. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made and a true honor to have served my country as a submariner in the U.S. Navy.

Robert Dumasa is a NECI student who graduated from the BA in Culinary Arts program.

Researchers Unravel the Mystery of Japan's 400-Foot, Aircraft-Launching Submarine

During World War II, Imperial Japan's massive I-400 submarine was shrouded in the highest levels of secrecy. For the next 68 years, 2,300 feet of ocean darkness concealed the world's first sub capable of launching an offensive strike on mainland targets.

But earlier this year, the twisted 400-foot colossus was discovered resting peacefully on the ocean floor off the southwest coast of Oahu.

The groundbreaking submarine - scuttled by the U.S. Navy after the war to keep the technology out of the Soviets' hands - was discovered by veteran Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory explorer Terry Kerby and colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Hawaii at Manoa's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

The find not only solved a seven-decade mystery, but opens a window into the potency of the Imperial Japanese war machine and the American foresight of the looming Cold War.

"The I-400 is the big prize," Kerby told Stars and Stripes earlier this month. The Sen Toku I-400-class Imperial Japanese Navy submarine was the brainchild of Japanese Combined Fleet Commander-in-Chief Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, according to Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Cmdr. Masanori Ando, who works at the JMSDF Submarine Training Center in Kure, the city where the I-400 was built.

Yamamoto had reservations about taking on the sleeping giant that was America. In order to get the Americans to the peace talk table quickly, the Japanese would have to act swiftly and decisively.

The first part of his plan was the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The second part was a reign of terror to frighten the Americans into submission, with attacks on both the east and west coasts, possibly even Washington, D.C.

To accomplish this, plans were devised in January 1942 for a hybrid weapon: part aircraft carrier to launch planes that could attack mainland targets, and part submarine for stealth and the element of surprise.

The I-400 was born. Development of the sub took years, but when the I-400 was completed in 1944, it was the largest submarine ever built at 400-feet long and a surface displacement of 3,530 tons.

The I-400 carried 157 officers, engineers, electricians and pilots, Ando said. It had a twin-hulled design to support the weight of aircraft on its top deck.

"It is the only submarine that carried fighters," Ando said. "There is no other example."

The I-400 featured a 115-foot long, 12-foot diameter, water-tight hangar housing three M6A1 Seiran (Storm from a Clear Sky) torpedo-bombers above its main deck, according to the writings of U.S. Navy Lt. T.O. Paine, who sailed the vessel to Hawaii as executive officer of the prize crew at the war's end. The fighters, with their wings folded in, were rolled out through a massive hydraulic door onto an 85-foot pneumatic catapult that launched them into the sky within minutes of the order being given. After completing their mission, they would land in the sea and be picked up and loaded back onto the sub using an onboard hydraulic crane.

"She was armed with eight torpedo tubes, a 5.5-inch, 50-caliber deck gun, a bridge 25mm anti-aircraft gun, and three triple 25mm A/A mounts atop her hangar," Paine wrote. "Meals for her oversize crew were prepared in a galley in the starboard hull, where large steam kettles turned out great quantities of rice."

In addition to its armament, the Japanese used a groundbreaking rubberized coating that would help the submarine remain undetected by allied sonar as it traversed the globe. A technology adapted from sharpening swords was used to keep the vessel sealed water-tight, Ando said.

Too little, too late. When all was said and done, the Japanese had a super weapon on their hands. The submarine had a range of 37,500 miles and was able to travel around the world 1 1/2 times before it needed refueling, something that remains unmatched to this day by any other diesel-electric submarine, according to a University of Hawaii at Manoa statement.

Plans were to develop 18 of the subs to bring the war to America's doorstep. However, the I-400 program suffered a setback when Yamamoto was killed by U.S. Army Air Force pilots on April 18, 1943, after the allies broke Japanese codes and shot down his plane while he toured the Northern Solomon Islands.

In July of 1943, the number of subs to be built was reduced to 11, then eventually to five in December, Ando said.

Japan was only able to complete three before the end of the war. The I-400 was built in Kure and completed on December 30, 1944. The I-401 was completed in Sasebo on January 8, 1945 and the I-402 on July 24, 1945.

"We finally managed to complete underwater carrier even though the process did not go as planned since the submarine was tremendously big and there were lack of materials since the war was unfavorable [to Japan] and damages to the factories were increasing and the plan had to be changed many times," wrote Tsugio Yata, the gunnery officer on I-401, in a newsletter for his veterans group, Naniwa Kai.

As the Americans closed in on the Japanese toward the end of the war, Yamamoto's plans to attack the east coast were scuttled, Ando said. The two subs began training for a new mission where they would launch an attack at the Panama Canal and block U.S. ships from traveling from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans. The Japanese believed this would slow the American advance. However, this too was scrapped in June 1945 as the Americans drew closer still.

The I-400 and I-401 were then instructed to launch an attack on American forces gathering at the Ulithi atoll where they were preparing for an invasion of Japan. They headed out to sea from Maizuru on July 23 but were two or three days away from reaching Ulithi when the war ended.

"Even though it had the best technology in the world, it is not famous since it didn't fight in the war," Ando said. It is believed that developing the Seiran delayed the project to the point it was a non-factor in the war.

Both submarines were seized by the U.S. Navy on Aug. 28, 1945, as they made their way back to Japan. Their bombers had earlier been pushed overboard to avoid capture, but U.S. troops in Japan later found one surviving example and shipped it back for testing. That aircraft is now displayed by the Smithsonian Institution at its museum near Dulles International Airport.

As the occupation of Japan began, 24 operational submarines with Cherry Blossoms attached to their periscopes - as a farewell from their crews - were sunk off Goto Island near Sasebo in Operation Roads End, including the I-58, which had sunk the USS Indianapolis. However, five of the more unusual vessels, the I-400 and I-401, the 378-foot I-14, and the two fast attack subs I-201 and I-203, were to be taken to Hawaii for closer inspection.

"The high-ranking [American] officers visiting Japan all said, 'wonderful' and 'big one,'" Yata wrote. "These were the words that anyone who saw that submarine says first."

The I-400 departed from the bombed out city of Sasebo for Pearl Harbor on Dec. 11, 1945, escorted by the submarine rescue vessel USS Greenlet, Paine wrote. The I-14 was helmed by Commander John S. "Junior" McCain, father of Republican Sen. John McCain III of Arizona.

Paine wrote that every nook and cranny of the I-400 was filled with souvenirs taken from the crumbling caves in Sasebo, from guns and bayonets to Japanese goods. They were traded for leftover government supplies in Guam and other goods at every stop along the way: 16mm film projectors, movies, an automatic Silex Coffee Maker, canned hams and prime steaks.

When the subs arrived in Hawaii on Jan. 6, 1946 , they were studied extensively. The Soviet Union then demanded access under the terms of the treaty that ended the war, but instead of handing this new technology over to a potential future enemy, the Navy sank the subs off the coast of Oahu and claimed to have no information on their location.

The I-400 was sunk on May 31, 1946 and the I-401 on June 4, 1946.

"The [I-400 class] submarines led to offensive submarines after the war, where modern submarines loaded missiles," Ando said. "It is said that I-400s were the model for this transition."

Ando said the first American offensive submarine, the USS Grayback- which carried Regulus II nuclear cruise missiles - is said to be modeled after I-400.

Hawaii's sub graveyard. For Kerby and his team, finding the submarines has become a passion. He began looking for Japanese submarines off the coast of Hawaii in 1992 and the five scuttled subs in 2005. Of the approximately 140 historic wrecks he has discovered off the coast of Oahu, included are the I-401, which he discovered in 2005, the I-14 and I-201 in 2007, and now the I-400. Only the I-203 eludes him for the moment.

Kerby and his team find the submarines by studying anomalies in ocean floor mapping. The objects he identifies could be a rock or a piece of history. When his Pisces V deep-diving manned submersible spotted the I-400 and its algae covered deck gun on Aug. 1, the excitement was palpable. The find was announced Dec. 2.

Like the three found before it, the I-400 is a symbol of what could have been and how the outcome of the war - and the world - could have been changed had they come a few years earlier. The sub will remain in the world's greatest maritime museum, the ocean deep.

"They were unique," Kerby said. "Too bad they didn't keep one around, but at least we know where all [the I-400 class subs] are now."

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