Could New SSBN Program "Sink" U.S. Navy?

The immense cost of the Ohio-class replacement program to build the United States’ next generation ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) threatens to jeopardize the rest of the fleet, Navy leaders and lawmakers are warning. The program envisions replacing the current 14 Ohio-class submarines with 12 new SSBNs that will have reactor cores that will last the entire service life of the vessels, meaning each submarine will spend less time in maintenance.

Still at a cost of anywhere between US $4-6 billion a ship, the expense of this program will be an immense burden on the Navy’ shipbuilding budget. Indeed, although the procurement phase of the program isn’t scheduled to begin until FY 2021, the Pentagon’s proposal for its FY 2014 budget already calls for appropriating US$1 billion for R and D purposes.

At an industry breakfast last week, Vice Adm. William Burke, the outgoing deputy chief of Naval Operations Warfare Systems, said the cost of the program would undermine the Navy’s ability to field a 300-ship fleet during the procurement phase that stretches from FY2021 through FY2035. “If we buy the SSBN [the planned 12 replacement strategic submarines for the current 14 Ohio class now in service] within existing funds, we will not reach 300 ships. In fact, we’ll find ourselves closer to 250. At these numbers, our global presence will be reduced such that we’ll only be able to visit some areas of the world episodically,” Vice Adm. Burke said, the Washington Post reported.

Vice Adm. Allen Myers, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources echoed Burke during a Congressional hearing on April 24: "It's an understatement to say that that's going to challenge us…. It challenges our shipbuilding account, and it challenges us when you look at that time frame."

At the same hearing Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, went into greater detail when, in reference to the Ohio-replacement program, Stackley said, “Clearly, that program, which in then-year dollars, when you consider the R and D [research and development] investment and procurement dollars, we’re talking about $100 billion, roughly, over about a 12- to 15-year period.”

While Stackley assured lawmakers the service was seeking to further reduce the costs of the submarines, he warned them that “all of our efforts to improve affordability of that boat program will not be sufficient to bring our shipbuilding requirement during that period down to within our historical budget.”

The U.S. is not the only country struggling with the enormous costs of maintaining a nuclear arsenal, of course. Still, this strikes at the very core of the USN’s twin missions of being both the holder of the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, and a global navy capable of projecting force across the world. In light of this, some lawmakers are proposing that the nuclear submarines be funded at least in part outside the Navy’s normal shipbuilding fund, while the Navy is considering purchasing some ships earlier than currently scheduled to leave the shipbuilding fund open during the Ohio-replacement program’s procurement period.

But some, like Hans M. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, questions whether there is even a need to build so many SSBNs at all. As he recently pointed out on his Strategic Security Blog: “The number of deterrent patrols the U.S. SSBN fleet conducts each year has declined by more than 56 percent from 64 patrols in 1999 to 28 in 2012. The decline has reduced the number of annual patrols to the lowest level since 1962.” Kirstensen also notes: “Each SSBN now spends less than half of the year on deterrent patrol – the purpose for which it was built – compared with 60-70 percent a decade ago. The decline means that each submarine today conducts an average of 2.3 deterrence patrols per year, down from 4.1 a decade ago. In fact, today’s patrol rate is the lowest ever for the Ohio-class SSBNs.”

Whether the Navy can reduce the number of SSBNs all depends on the outcome of the nuclear policy review the Obama administration is reportedly conducting.

Submarine 'Minnesota' successfully completes sea trials

Huntington Ingalls Industries announced the newest Virginia-class submarine, Minnesota (SSN 783), successfully completed alpha sea trials Monday. Alpha trials are the boat’s first round of at-sea tests and evaluations. Minnesota is being built at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division, the Globe Newswire reported.

All systems, components and compartments were tested during the trials. The submarine submerged for the first time and operated at high speeds on the surface and under water. The Minnesota will undergo two more rounds of sea trials, including one with the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey, before delivery later this month. Minnesota is anticipated to deliver approximately 11 months ahead of its contracted delivery date.

“This submarine is the result of a lot of hard work by the shipbuilders here at Newport News, our teammates at Electric Boat, and the overall Navy organizational structure, including NAVSEA, SUPSHIP and ship’s force personnel,” said Jim Hughes, NNS’ vice president of submarines and fleet support, in a news release. “It is incredibly gratifying for all of us to see this magnificent vessel operate so well during her first at-sea period.

Minnesota clearly carries on the Virginia-class tradition of continuous cost and schedule improvement while also raising the bar on operational readiness and capability.”

Minnesota, named to honor the state’s residents and their continued support of the U.S. military, is the last of the block II Virginia-class submarines and is in the final stages of construction and testing at Newport News Shipbuilding division. Construction began in February 2008, and the keel was authenticated in May 2011. The boat was christened Oct. 27, 2012.

Minnesota is the 10th ship of the Virginia class of nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines. It’s the third ship to bear the state name, the Associated Press reported. The first USS Minnesota was a sailing steam frigate commissioned in 1857 that served during the Civil War. The second Minnesota was commissioned in 1907. The 7,800-ton Minnesota will have a crew of about 134 officers and enlisted personnel.

Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) designs, builds and maintains nuclear and non-nuclear ships for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard and provides after-market services for military ships around the globe. For more than a century, HII has built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder at its Newport News Shipbuilding and Ingalls Shipbuilding divisions employing about 37,000 in Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana and California.

US submarines take rare detour into Bermuda waters

Few military submarines come through Bermuda these days. And only a select few know any details of their top secret underwater movements. So for two US Navy subs to divert into the island to drop off injured crew in the space of just a week was both intriguing and unprecedented in recent times. Only the most eagle-eyed of South Shore residents would have noticed the arrival of these multi-million dollar vessels as the transfer had to be done in deep water five miles south east of Cooper’s Island. The first sub arrived in Bermudian waters on April 26 after a serviceman had fallen sick. The Pilot Boat St David and the line-handler boat, Princeton, headed out to meet the submarine at around 2pm.

Three crew members were quickly transferred onto the Princeton and brought back to Ordnance Island where they were whisked away by a waiting ambulance. Just a week later the two Marine and Ports vessels were in action again, coming to the aid of another stricken submariner. They set out from St George’s at around 10am last Friday and met up with the submarine at the same location. Two servicemen were successfully transferred onto the Princeton, while the St David stood by, and the two boats returned to St George’s for the sailors to be taken to hospital. The so called ‘Humi-Evac’ operations were coordinated by the US Consul, Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre and the Government’s Marine and Ports Department. And although the Consul confirmed the two rescues, further details remain a closely guarded secret.

US Consul General Robert Settje told the Bermuda Sun: “Minimizing the loss of life and injury by rendering aid to persons in distress at sea is a time-honoured obligation of those involved in the maritime environment. “The US Consulate General commends Bermudian authorities for responding to distress calls from American citizens whenever they occur in or near Bermudian waters. “In particular, the Consulate thanks the Bermuda Department of Marine and Ports Services and the Maritime Operations Centre/Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) for coordinating with the US Navy in the two recent submarine medevacs.” Although the sight of submarines in Bermuda is a rarity today, it was once quite commonplace.

These boats first started coming into the island in the 1920s after the First World War. They would often dock at the Knuckles up in Dockyard, but there is also photographic evidence that suggests they sailed all the way into Hamilton too. The North Channel was specifically built to help submarines access the Naval Operating Base (NOB) at Morgan’s Point during the Second World War. The Allies also used St George’s Harbour as a stop-off point for their submarines during the conflict.

And famously in June 1944 the captured German U-boat, U505, was brought into Bermuda where it remained undetected in the Great Sound until May 1945. More recently during the Cold War US submarines would routinely stop into Bermuda while conducting patrols of the Atlantic Ocean and they were a regular sight. It was only in 1995, when the US Bases were closed, that submarines became a much rarer commodity in Bermuda.

But the two recent submarine diversions show that they still sail in Bermudian waters and there remains plenty we do not know about going on beneath the waves.

Israel Beefs Up Defense with Fifth Dolphin Sub from Germany

Israel received its fifth advanced Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Rahav – considered one of the most advanced submarines in the world – from its ally Germany at an official ceremony in the German port city of Kiel on Monday, April 29. The ceremony, at which officials from both nations celebrated this latest development in their defense partnership by breaking a champagne bottle on the underwater vessel’s bow, was attended by Israel Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg, Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Shani, and other prominent Israeli officials.

The Dolphin-class submarine is expected to arrive in the Jewish state in 2014, after undergoing a number of steps that are required to make it operational. The Israeli Defense Ministry revealed that the newest addition to its elite naval fleet was the most expensive item it had ever acquired for the Israel Defense Forces.

According to foreign news sources, the submarine is equipped with ten torpedo tubes capable of launching missiles that carry nuclear warheads. Each Dolphin-class submarine costs approximately half a billion dollars, with one-third of the cost paid for by the German government. Dolphin-class submarines are considered to be multipurpose vessels capable of performing a diverse range of naval missions.

Israel’s fourth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Tannin, is expected to arrive in Israel from Germany several months in advance of the Rahav’s arrival. The Tannin was originally scheduled to reach Israel sometime this year, but its arrival was delayed for a brief period and it is now expected to be delivered to Israel at the beginning of 2014. A ceremony noting the handover of the Tannin submarine was held in Germany in 2012.

These two latest submarines are capable of remaining submerged underwater for extensive periods of time through the usage of “air independent propulsion” technology, which enables non-nuclear submarines to operate without the utilization of atmospheric oxygen. The Israel Defense Forces claims that the two Dolphin-class submarines feature “significant technological developments” that render them notably superior to their predecessors.

“These submarines are a strong, strategic tool for the IDF,” commented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “The State of Israel is ready to act anytime, anywhere – on land, sea and air – in order to ensure the security of Israel’s citizens.”

Among their many capabilities, submarines have the capacity to launch conventional missile attacks on both near and distant targets, fire torpedoes at a variety of naval vessels and engage in intelligence-gathering.

With their extended capabilities, these Dolphin-class submarines are known as the “long arm” of the Israel Navy, and, according to overseas reports, they provide Israel with second-strike capability in the event of a nuclear conflict. The submarines thus play a crucial role in Israel’s ability to deter the looming Iranian nuclear threat. Israeli submarines conduct intensive covert missions that are launched from Israel’s shores on a daily basis.

In February 2013, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed an agreement with Germany for the construction of a sixth Dolphin-class submarine. The Israel Navy will be required to increase its manpower to accommodate the doubling of its fleet from three to six submarines over the next seven years. In this regard, it has expanded the number of relevant training programs, and has additionally increased the size of its officer training course. In addition to helping with the new submarines, these changes will also benefit other, pending requirements that have not yet been finalized, such as a plan to protect the country’s offshore natural gas production platforms.

“Iran is continuing its nuclear program. It has yet to cross the red line I presented at the United Nations, but it is approaching it systematically. We cannot let Iran cross it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in conjunction with the transfer ceremony.

Speaking at a meeting of Likud-Beytenu in the Knesset, Netanyahu also referred to the ongoing tension in the Gaza Strip. “There is an effort to renew attacks against us and breach the quiet that was achieved following Operation Pillar of Defense,” Netanyahu said. “We are monitoring [the situation] and prepared for all scenarios. We are bolstering the IDF’s strength and we won’t allow our citizens to be harmed, not in the north and not in the south. It needs to be clear to all forces in Gaza: We won’t permit a drizzle of rockets into Israel’s cities. We will respond with much greater strength.”

Common Missile Compartment Not Impacted By Sequestration

The Common Missile Compartment, a piece of the Ohio-class replacement submarine program that is a joint effort between the United States and the United Kingdom, has not been impacted by the recent continuing resolution nor sequestration cuts in fiscal year 2013, the Navy said last week.

During the FY-13 budget cycle the lead ship's schedule was delayed by two years, complicating the schedule between the American and British programs.

"The CMC design and prototyping efforts have been prioritized during FY-13 program execution and were maintained on schedule to support the U.K. Successor SSBN program," Navy spokesman Chris Johnson wrote in a May 3 email.

The Ohio-class replacement submarine program continues to work to mitigate the impacts of sequestration, he added. Pushing the lead ship to the right side of the program's schedule means the U.K. will have to first build, test and launch from a CMC and introduces risk to the Successor schedule, Johnson wrote.

"A joint team worked cooperatively to assess risks during each phase of the program and agreed on a package of mitigation activities to reduce this risk," he continued. "Maintaining the U.S. prototyping schedule in advance of the U.K., proofing test procedures at the U.S. shore facility, and building an experienced U.S.-U.K. test team are all examples of the mitigation activities agreed by the U.S. and U.K [Polaris Sales Agreement] project officers."

"Risk has gone up in terms of holding the schedule . . . we have to ensure this program stays on track," Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition told Inside the Navy April 10.

The CMC effort remains on schedule and the Navy began procuring long lead time materials for a combined U.S.-U.K. missile tube procurement.

These tubes will support U.S. first article quad pack prototyping, U.S. strategic weapons system ashore test facility and the U.K. first SSBN, Johnson wrote.

In 2015, missile tube and assembly and outfitting will begin with the first outfitted missile tubes to the U.K. slated for 2017, he added. "The U.S. first article quad pack will be complete in 2018 in advance of the U.K. producing their quad packs at BAE Submarine Systems," Johnson wrote.

Another step the Navy is taking to reduce risk is proofing the majority of the CMC test procedures at the SWS Ashore test facility at Cape Canaveral, FL, before testing at the U.K. build yard. Also, U.K. test teams will participate during the SWS ashore proofing to gain experience, he continued.

Japan On Alert Over Unidentified Submarines

The spotting of unidentified submarines just outside Japan's territorial waters has prompted Tokyo to issue a rare warning that it may order security action if submersible craft enter its waters, developments that could further aggravate strained ties with Beijing amid an ongoing territorial dispute.

Japan's defense ministry said a submarine was spotted by a P-3C Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol aircraft Sunday night passing near Kume Island in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture in the East China Sea. The ministry said the submarine had left the area by Monday morning.

In a separate incident, another unidentified submarine was detected traveling west of Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture on May 2. Japanese media said government officials believe the submarines were likely to be Chinese.

While the submarines did not technically violate international maritime law as they didn't enter the 12-nautical-mile (22 km) territorial waters near the areas in question, their sighting rattled Japanese officials and led the government to issue a warning that an order deploying the military to maintain maritime security could be issued if submarines enter Japan's territorial waters.

"These are serious acts. If (submarines) enter our territorial waters while under water, we would have to implement maritime security action," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament Tuesday. Defense minister Itsunori Onodera has said the government has no intention of revealing information on the nation the submarines belong to due to intelligence concerns.

Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Monday that the two incidents were publicized as it was deemed "worthy of attention."

While the Japan Coast Guard is responsible for protecting Japan's coast-lines, the defense minister can order the Self-Defense Forces to be deployed for maritime security operations if the situation is considered beyond the coast guard's capabilities.

There have been two such occasions in the past. In the first case in March 1999 the SDF chased two North Korean spy ships and fired warning shots after the ships were spotted off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.

The second incident took place in 2004 when a Chinese nuclear-powered submarine entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa Prefecture's Ishigaki Island. While international law calls on submarines to surface and raise their national flags when cruising in the territorial waters of a foreign nation, the submarine did not.

The sightings and warning follow months of renewed tension between Japan and China over a group of strategically important and resource-rich islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

On Monday, the Japan Coast Guard said three Chinese maritime surveillance vessels entered Japanese territorial waters near the islands. The incident prompted Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, to lodge a protest with China through its minister to Japan, Han Zhiqiang.

A coast guard official said Tuesday that the intrusions brought the number of days this year that Chinese ships have entered Japanese waters near the islands to 24 days, surpassing the total of 23 days Chinese vessels entered territorial waters last year.

The territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing flared up again last September when the Japanese government bought three islands in the chain from their private owners, prompting a wave of anti-Japan protests across China. Tensions escalated further in January when Tokyo said a Chinese warship locked weapons-controlling radar on a Japanese ship and helicopter.

China, U.S. Engaging In Underwater Arms Race

U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, the commander of U.S. forces in Asia and the Pacific, has cautioned that the U.S. and China have begun competing to see whose navy rules beneath the waves in the vast Pacific and Indian oceans.

In an interview at the U.S. Pacific Command's headquarters overlooking Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the admiral also suggested that Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to have moved swiftly to exert control over China's People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Regarding submarines, Locklear estimates that China plans to acquire 80 submarines - some powered by diesel-electric engines, others by nuclear reactors - to expand its current fleet of 55 boats. He cited this expansion as an example of Beijing's lack of transparency.

"Why do they need them, what are they for?" Locklear asked rhetorically. By contrast, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has 30 attack, two guided-missile and eight ballistic missile submarines. Under U.S. President Barack Obama's administration's plan to "rebalance" U.S. forces in the region, that number is scheduled to grow gradually.

In testimony to a U.S. Congressional committee last month, Locklear said: "Both Russia and China are expected to soon field new ballistic missile submarines capable of ranging the U.S. homeland," meaning they would be able to target U.S. cities and military bases.

The Pentagon's annual report on Chinese military power, released last week, said that China's new submarines would be armed with ballistic missiles able to travel 4,400 miles (7,081km).

Beijing's most recent white paper on defense, released last month, said only that its submarine fleet was being modernized. Locklear added that smaller nations in the region are expanding their submarine forces "as a potential counter to stronger neighbors."

Press dispatches from Southeast Asia and India have reported Chinese submarines operating increasingly in the South China Sea and out into the Indian Ocean. Until now, China's aerial defenses have been given greater attention outside of China.

In the interview, Locklear said - as U.S. political and military leaders have for years - that the U.S. is not seeking to "contain" China. "We need to contain competition between the two powers to develop a stable security environment in the Asia-Pacific [region] that is capable of adjusting or flexing without breaking apart during a crisis," he said.

On the issue of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control of the PLA, Locklear said: "It appears to me that President Xi has moved quickly to solidify control of the PLA under his leadership."

In addition to being CCP general secretary, Xi is chairman of China's Central Military Commission. The CCP supposedly controls the PLA through the commission, but it now has only two civilian members, Xi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. The other 10 members are generals or admirals in a group where consensus is often the rule.

Whether Xi will be able to exert his will on the group remains to be seen. At the same time, Xi has sought to gain control over the maritime agencies known as the Nine Dragons, mythical monsters that stir up the sea.

Locklear said Xi had established a bureau to coordinate the activities of the various units operating in the South and East China seas. Up until now, the agencies have been patrolling with a lack of coordination that has caused turmoil for Beijing and other governments.

Xi has evidently found it necessary to streamline controls over those bureaucratic centers because he wants to avoid a miscalculation that could have serious unintended consequences.

Fiscal uncertainty: Sequestration Cuts Virginia-class, Ohio-class Replacement Subs In FY-13

Navy submarine programs had specific cuts in fiscal year 2013 to both the Virginia-class attack submarine and Ohio-class replacement ballistic missile submarine programs due to sequestration, according to a service official.

Sequestration impacted fully funding the FY-13 Virginia-class submarine effort and it reduced advance procurement for the FY-14 subs, Rear Adm. David Johnson, program executive officer for submarines told Inside the Navy May 15 during an interview at Washington Navy Yard.

The Navy's policy is to fully fund its ships. The cost for the FY-13 ships will show up later likely in 2015, Johnson stated. For the Ohio-class replacement program, the Navy planned to carry out research and development. The service is working through whether the research will be delayed or descoped, he said.

"We're non-specific because until you know the '14, '15, '16 where the Navy's going to choose to enact a lower [Defense Department] topline, you don't know what your program budget levels will be going out," Johnson stated.

The Navy is deciding whether it should cancel or delay research. Delaying research increases risk because things may have to change later, he said.

"All of those things are on the table," Johnson stated. It is important for the Navy to stay on schedule especially for the Ohio-class replacement program so that the cost does not increase, he added.

PCU Minnesota Gets Seafaring Escort

(Mouseover the girl and left click the 'X' to make her go away.)

Spain just spent $680 million on a submarine that can't swim

One of Spain’s largest defense splurges may also be one of its most embarrassing. After spending nearly one-third of a $3 billion budget to build four of the world’s most advanced submarines, the project’s engineers have run into a problem: the submarines are so heavy that they would sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Miscalculations by engineers at Navantia, the construction company contracted to built the S-80 submarine fleet, have produced submarines that are each as much as 100 tonnes (110 US tonnes) too heavy. The excess weight sounds paltry compared to the 2,000-plus tonnes (2,205 US tonnes) that each submarine weighs, but it’s more than enough to send the submarines straight to the ocean’s floor.

Given the mistake, Spain is going to have to choose between two costly fixes: slimming the submarines down, or elongating them to compensate for the extra fat. All signs point to the latter, which will be anything but a breeze—adding length will still require redesigning the entire vessel. And more money on top of the $680 million already spent.

Spain’s defense ministry, the government arm responsible for overseeing the project, has yet to say how much the setback will cost in both time and money. But Navantia has already estimated that its mistake will set the project back at least one or, more likely, two years. And the Spanish edition of European news site The Local reported that each additional meter added to the S-80s, already 71 meters in length, will cost over $9 million.

It’s a costly mistake on many fronts. The state-of-the-art submarines were meant to be the first entirely Spanish-designed and built. Incompetence is likely going to cost the country at least some of the glory. Electric Boat, a subsidiary of US-based technology firm General Dynamics, has already evaluated the project and could be hired as a consultant to save the job. Another bailout for Spain. This is getting all too familiar.

Submarines: The Chinese Plan To Catch Up

America and its allies are facing a growing submarine threat in East Asia. Two decades ago, with the Cold War over, the United States Navy did not have much submarine competition in East Asia. The Russian Far East fleet was rapidly falling apart because of the defense budget being cut more than 80 percent. China and North Korea, traditional Russian allies had a motley collection of older Russian subs. The U.S. and its allies (Australia, South Korea, Japan. Taiwan and Singapore) not only had more subs but they were of more modern design and construction.

That has changed. The U.S. Pacific Fleet currently has 39 subs in the Pacific while the allies have 50 for a total of 89. In contrast China has 55 and its allies 40. North Korea also has over 70 mini-subs which are only a factor close to the North Korean coast. All of North Koreas subs are either ancient or poorly maintained and operated by ill-trained crews. But China and Russia are enlarging and improving their submarine forces in the Pacific.

Over the next two decades the trends are in favor of China and Russia. China is in the process of increasing its sub fleet to 80 boats in the next decade. The Russian fleet, however, continues to shrink. By the end of the decade the Russians will have about fifty subs in service, some 30 of them will be nuclear. Three decades earlier they had 180 nuclear boats. All of those are gone now and the thirty that will remain at the end of the decade are new construction , most of them less than ten years old. That assumes the Russians keep to their current construction plans and shift most of their nuclear boats to the Pacific. The Chinese subs will also be largely new construction. But so will the subs of the Americans and their allies. The U.S. is moving more of its subs to the Pacific and Chinas neighbors are upgrading their submarine fleet.

China will thus still have about as many subs as its potential opponents, but the quality gap will be closed somewhat. The American block will still have an edge, but it is shrinking. This is what China intends to have happen. In a few decades China expects to close the quality gap. The Chinese strategy is one of gradual progress and so far it is working.

Retired Veteran Recalls Life on a Submarine During the Vietnam War

In a recent interview, Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Lipe, who retired in 2009 after 41 years of collective service between the Navy and the National Guard, shared what it was like to be part of a submarine crew during the Vietnam War. While his days were not spent tromping through thick jungles, but rather hidden in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, he still faced a unique set of challenges while contributing service. The biggest of those challenges? Isolation and communication.

His entire time of service was spent aboard four different submarines, each with a specific function. The types of submarines included ballistic missile subs, fast attack subs and a patrol gun boat that was assigned to the coastal surveillance group.

His deployment during the Vietnam War was what was referred to as WESTPAC, which covers the area of the western Pacific Ocean and Southeast Asia. Each deployment lasted three to four months and most, if not all, of that time was spent under water within the submarine. Which, of course, meant that for those months under water, the crew was unable to see or feel any sunlight.

Those that were aboard submarines had to not only be able to perform their own duties and responsibilities, but also had to have an understanding and working knowledge of other jobs on the vessel. In the event that others were not able to perform their regular jobs, the remaining members of the crew had to be able to fill those positions. The inability to carry out a job may be due to the individual, such as sickness or injury, or it may be the result of other circumstances, such as flooding, in which event certain areas of the vessel would be sealed off, making it impossible to rotate work areas.

The submarine community is relatively small compared with the rest of the surface Navy, and the camaraderie within the submarine community is uniquely its own. While the brotherly bond is strong, as it is in within any military unit, residing within the depths of the ocean for several months at a time with only about 100 people in a 33-foot diameter metal tube, the bond can be distinctive. And there’s an understanding of challenges they all face in such conditions, an understanding which carries over even once back on land.

Due to the nature of the environment, the psychological and other screenings required to be stationed on a submarine are much more in depth, as adverse reactions, such as claustrophobia and paranoia, are much more likely to occur. In addition, one of the biggest challenges faced by those stationed on submarines is the effect of isolation.

During the time of the Vietnam War, communications on submarines were slow and unreliable at best. Sailors were allowed to receive communication through familygrams, a 25 to 50 word message. They could receive these messages, but not send any. Another problem was that family members sending the familygrams had no way of knowing whether or not the message was received. Oftentimes, those aboard the submarine would have to wait to receive news of any kind until surfacing, which could be up to four months later. Obviously, technology has since changed and communications are much improved aboard submarines.

Lipe then goes on to talk about the attitude surrounding the Vietnam War, describing it as “an unpopular time.” For the most part, soldiers were not looked upon as heroes. They were ridiculed and insulted, called horrific names and spat upon. Many soldiers were warned to change out of uniform immediately upon returning home, as Lipe explains, they “were not welcomed by the American people,” and for the most part were made to feel as if they had done something wrong for being a part of the war, regardless of the part that they played. He recalls a time when he came home on sick leave and was spit on in the airport. There was much animosity present and soldiers were often told, more or less, to just “suck it up and drive on.” And Lipe shares that that’s exactly what he did, keeping all of the emotions of the war bottled up inside for years.

With different times came different wars, and it wasn’t until many years later, during Desert Storm, that those emotions were released. Seeing the support of the American people for the soldiers during that time was the beginning of healing the emotional hurt from the Vietnam era. And some say, including Lipe’s wife, that the American people felt an obligation to treat those soldiers with the love and support that they so bitterly lacked during Vietnam.

Even those who were not deployed were still involved in the welcome home parades of Desert Storm and that’s when Lipe was truly able to let go of the negativity he had felt since Vietnam. He explains that he was reluctant to be involved, but nonetheless was. “When we crossed the Broadway Bridge over the Arkansas River and saw the crowds that had come out, lined up as far as you could see, and eight, 10, 12 people deep… a lot of those feelings were released.” Continuing on, the more recent events of 9/11 has molded the American public’s view, and the soldiers are once again getting the respect that they deserve.

He then goes on to talk about the outpouring of support that the soldier’s would receive, not only upon returning, but any time they were out and about in uniform. This was a support that the soldiers in Vietnam lacked. He spoke of taking flights and being moved to first class and going to pay for a meal in a restaurant, only to find that someone had already paid for it.

Average Americans can feel respect and support for today’s soldiers, but often don’t know how to show it. Other than supporting organizations that strive to help vets, they are unaware how to show that they care. Sometimes the smallest gestures can mean the most, so the next time you’re out and see a soldier in uniform, pay for their meal, or just simply take the time to shake their hand and say, “Thank you for your service.”

Iran to Unveil New Home-Made Missiles, Submarine Soon

Iran will unveil new air-based missiles and a new home-made submarine, Vahidi told reporters in Tehran today. He said that the country will also inaugurate a space center soon.

The Iranian Army has recently test-fired different types of newly-developed missiles and torpedoes and tested a large number of its home-made weapons, tools and equipments, including submarines, military ships, artillery, choppers, aircraft, UAVs and air defense and electronic systems, during massive military drills.

In relevant remarks last week, Vahidi announced that the defense ministry will supply large numbers of different types of missiles to the country's Armed Forces and unveil different defense projects in coming days.

He said that the country' latest defense achievements will also go on display in the next few days, including a special space center. Last week, the defense ministry started mass-production of a highly mobile home-made air-defense system.

The production line of the new system, Herz (Protector) 9, was inaugurated in a special ceremony attended by Vahidi. Addressing the ceremony, Vahidi said that the system which has been designed and developed by Iranian experts at the Defense Industries Organization is a "sophisticated smart air-defense system and is capable of detecting, identifying and intercepting low-altitude targets through automatic controls".

He said that the system enjoys high mobility and night operation capability and can be connected to the country's integrated air-defense network.

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