USS Honolulu Prepares For Last Aloha


Dec 2, 2000
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Story Number: NNS060306-13
Release Date: 3/6/2006 9:00:00 PM



From Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Honolulu's namesake ship is preparing to say farewell to its island home after two decades of service.

USS Honolulu (SSN 718), which is scheduled to inactivate next year, will hold a farewell ceremony April 15 prior to departing Hawaii on her final deployment to the Western Pacific.

For the rest of the story, go to http://www.news.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=22580

Comment: Only 20 years old and with a few more good years of useful service life left on the hull, I have to wonder if decommissioning this boat is a good idea.

I know, I know, money is tight and congressional budget cutters are having their way, but if the U.S. want the Navy to maintain a useful force level, they need to at least replace these boats as fast as they're being sent to the breakers and this isn't happening.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Dec 18, 2004
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I think the driving force aside from economics behind the retirement of the 688s is when they were coming up for refueling.
As I remember the reactor core on a 688 is good for approximatly 12 years. This might explain why the lead ship is still in commission while newer ones are decommissioned.
Heard on the radio the Seawolf class will be based out of Bangor Wa-
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>As I remember the reactor core on a 688 is good for approximatly 12 years. <<

That's about right. Recoring a nuclear reactor is an expensive proposition as well as an exact science in terms of proceedures and safety precautions. (Nobody wants to glow in the dark!) The cores for the subs and even the carriers now under construction are supposed to be good for the entire expected service life of the ship.
 

Jim Hathaway

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>>Recoring a nuclear reactor is an expensive proposition as well as an exact science in terms of procedures and safety precautions. (Nobody wants to glow in the dark!)<<
In "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Submarines" it details a refueling in Soviet Russia where inadvertently the top of the reactor vessel was removed withdrawing the control rods making the reactor go critical and causing a steam explosion and irradiating part of the surrounding town. Quite a story!
 

Jim Hathaway

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Hi Michael,
He says it happened in 1985 at Chashma bay outside Vladivostok.
The boat was K-314, a Victor I.
It caused a "Prompt Critical Rapid Disassembly" contaminating 6 km of the peninsula and killing 10.
"Idiot's Guide" is very worthwhile, it has a better explanation of reactor operations than I have seen anywhere-
 

Jim Hathaway

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You won't be sorry, the aircraft carrier volume was a bit of a disappointment, but the submarine one is great!
BTW, out little accident was the SL-1 accident in Idaho which it also covers- interesting reading!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>scary especially about filling the ballast tanks of the older ones with polymer to keep them from sinking before they can get the fuel off-<<

Indeed...and unfortunately, they don't have much choice in the matter either. Quite a few of these boats were already in poor material condition when they were laid up, and having been laid up, not a lot of thought was given to preservation. Some of the old Soviet warships literally sank where they were left and nobody has bothered to do much about it.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Even K-19, a Hotel class SSBN is still awaiting scrapping. About 33 years too late.
Those boats were frightening to begin with, putting to sea with liquid fuelled missiles-
There's something about sea water and nitric acid that makes me nervous.
Have you by chance read "Hostile Waters" by Peter Huchthausen? An excellent account of a Yankee class boomer (K-219) lost after a missile exploded in the tube taking out the reactor controls.(another type carrying liquid fuelled missiles.)
Crew had to enter the reactor compartment to lower the control rods manually to shut down the reactor.
(In Idiot's Guide he describes the failsafe features on reactors to make then scram if power fails)
You might remember when it happened in the 80s off Bermuda.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>There's something about sea water and nitric acid that makes me nervous.<<

A propensity perhaps to go BOOM?

That would make me edgy too. Unfortunately, the Russians didn't have a whole lot of options in this regard as their solid fuel technology was nowhere near as advanced as the west's, and cryogenic liquid fuels just weren't practical. That meant they had to use storable liquid propellants.

It did the job but as you mooted, it was tricky stuff. Not only corrosive as hell and needing little persuasion to react violently with something when you don't want it too, but toxic to boot.

I've never read the book you mentioned, but I'm aware of the incident you described. I may have to put it on my reading list.
 

Jim Hathaway

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I really like Huchthausen, he also wrote "K-19 The Widowmaker" (The film deserves more praise than it gets,it is quite good, the more I read about the Hotel class, the more I see they got right) and "October Fury", about the nuclear torpedo armed Foxtrots that deployed to the Caribean during the Cuban Missile Crises. (Luckily the Soviets had some good people too, or that could have easily ended up differently)
 
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Ahhhh...yes...the nuclear armed Foxtrots. What surprised me was the latitude the individual commander had in deciding whether or not to fire the bloody things. U.S. practice required presidential authorization to launch and if I recall correctly, it was widely assumed that the Soviets had even tighter controls for political reasons. Finding that the opposite was the case must have come as a nasty shock to those who make studying the Other Guy their life's work.

Fortunately, the skippers of those boats were very level headed guys.
 

Jim Hathaway

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Many of which were in an uncomfortable situation with having a political officer aboard who was out of their chain of command-
 
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I have often wondered if the US Navy, CIA, or similar outfit has sent an inspection team to the remains of the sunken Yankee. I gather it's in deep water between Bermuda and the US coast. I was unaware that much has been written about it, since the Soviets were so damn secretive. I would doubt that "Project Jennifer" has been entirely alone in terms of collecting wreck information on foreign vessels.

The Russian submarines awaiting scrapping in the Arctic are an environmental blight that has to be reckoned with. While they are a horror in a contained area today, they will be much, much, worse to deal with if left to corrode as they are, with many partially flooded at the mooring.
 

Jim Hathaway

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I've often wondered the same thing, I would imagine that area was high on their surveillance priorities when there was a fleet to enforce it.
Since the fall of the wall, though, I would think the boat would have little of intelligence value to justify going after it. When she put to sea, she was already old, and the newer Deltas had superseded her.
It is'nt just the area where the boats are docked, apparently in the 60s and 70s, the standard treatment for a damaged reactor was removal and dumping it at sea-
 
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>>I have often wondered if the US Navy, CIA, or similar outfit has sent an inspection team to the remains of the sunken Yankee.<<

If they did, the report is probably filed in the "I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you" section of the records room. 20 years ago, there might have been some point in having a go at it, though I doubt what was available then would have allowed for more then photographing the exterior of the wreck.

These days, other then to keep an eye on the condition of the wreck, there really wouldn't be any point in doing so since so much more is known about these boats, and a lot of it in open literature.

I would be surprised if another Project Jennifer was attempted, though not because I think the intelligence agencies wouldn't want to have a go at it. The whole Project Jennifer thing was bloody expensive, and didn't produce much in the way of any tangible return. (At least none that the government will ever admit to anytime soon.) Congresscritters aren't keen to spend a lot of money these days...unless there's some benefit for their districts. A ship as big as the Glomar Exploerer is tough to hide, and tends to attract notice from nosy types like reporters.

Intelligence gatherers don't like a lot of attention, and it would be a lot easier to charter an NOAA craft with some ROV's to go out and have a descreet look see.
 
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I have to agree that anything made known to Congress would get squashed immediately. On the other hand, my guess is that the Navy has no doubt developed some other deep water investigation resource equipment. Something like the submarine "Halibut" probably exists covertly. It might not even be considered necessary to recover a wreck, so much as to probe or open it.
You are no doubt correct in assuming lack of need to investigate these ships today. Since the end of the "cold war", Soviet subs have been auctioned and opened to the world. I would hope our side has been clever enough to take advantage of that situation! One would hope this would likewise, give us insight into the Chinese, N. Korean, and other "wanna buy a used sub?" client's fleets.

For the most part, the interest in chasing down these wreck for exploration is simply in the excitement of finding them and examining the hulks. I doubt little in the way of military intelligence could be garnered. Hardly worth the expense, except to say it can be done.
 
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>>Something like the submarine "Halibut" probably exists covertly. <<

Perhaps not so covert. The Halibut was converted to her role from an SSGN design that was already obsolecent the day she was commissioned...but that old missile hanger was a useful place to stash some stuff. The USS Jimmy Carter has an additional 100 feet plugged in with special operations in mind.

It's nice to think the CIA has all sorts of whiz bang golly-gee-whiz-willikers-wow type of super technology aavailable which can allow them to do things regarded as impossible, and there's some merit to that. Not much really, but a little. However, they aren't giants and the only way they could lift a wreck from two or three miles down on the ocean floor would be to build something so big and so lavishly equipped, everybody would notice it.
 

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