Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Los Angeles Class Overhauls and Retirements

Submarines are, arguably, the most potent platform in the Navy.  Accepting that, you’d think the Navy would do everything they can to maximize the lifespan of submarines.  Indeed, some submarines undergo mid-life overhauls to maximize or even extend their service lives.  Currently, Los Angeles (688) class subs have a nominal service life of 33 years and studies have been done indicating that an additional 5-10 years is feasible with proper overhauls, maintenance, and upgrades.

The main overhaul in the life of a 688 occurs at around the half to 2/3 lifespan mark.  The overhaul is either an Engineered Refueling Overhaul for earlier subs which require nuclear refueling or an Engineered Overhaul for those that don’t.  The overhauls require a year and a half to two years and include structural and systems repair, replacement, and upgrades.  The cost is around $200M per boat.

As an example, Huntington Ingalls Industries just received a contract for $58M to conduct the planning portion of the USS Columbus (SSN 762) overhaul with options on the contract totaling $289M for the complete overhaul.

With all this in mind, you’d think that the Navy would be making every effort to maximize submarine service life, as we said at the start.  However, examination of actual commissioning/decommissioning dates reveals that many subs are being retired early.

Here is the service life data on the first 31 Los Angeles class submarines with their pennant numbers and years of service at decommissioning.

688  34 yrs
689  18
690  33
691  34
692  17
693  17
694  19
695  19
696  18
697  18
698  active
699  active
700  active
701  Inactive
702  17
703  17
704  16
705  active
706  active
707  22
708  23
709  23
710  23
711  active
712  17
713  active
714  31
715  active
716  22
717  active
718  22

The data is quite stunning.  The average age at decommissioning was only 21.9 years.  Only 4 subs made it to 30+ years and 11 didn’t even make 20 years – that’s more than 13 years short of the nominal lifespan.

This is bad enough on its own but, unfortunately, we’ve previously discussed and documented the anticipated submarine shortfall over the next decade or so (see, "SSN Shortfall").  While an early 688 class sub is no longer state of the art, it is still worlds better than any potential enemy sub out there.  We have a shortfall coming and we're throwing subs away?

The Navy is crying to Congress over budget limitations and the need for more submarines while at the same time throwing away perfectly good submarines long before their lifespans have been completed.  This is not good stewardship of the people’s money nor is it good use of military assets.  Congress should firmly send the Navy packing with its budget requests and a message to come back when they’ve learned how to use the resources they’ve got – and they’ve got a LOT if they’d quit retiring them early.  

The overhaul cost of $200M is a bargain to gain an additional ten to twenty years of service.  Remember, the cost of new Virginia class subs is around $2.5B.  For the cost of a single Virginia, we could have overhauled the 11 subs that didn't even make 20 years of service and gained, say, 15 years for each which makes a total of 165 sub-years of service life compared to the 22 sub-years of life we'd get from the one skipped Virginia (using the actual historical submarine lifespan).  

This is almost criminal irresponsibility.  This is our Navy.


  1. I don't understand the 17 year retirements. That hardley seems wise. Especially given that in an overhaul you may be able to upgrade things too. (Those early boats with their 80's computers must be interesting to work on).

    The only thing I wonder about is if *some* of them may have been used to the point beyond overhaul, given their value and the Navy's needs and tendancies to ride platforms hard and put them away wet (like the Perry's).

    The reason I wonder that is I had a friend who was on the New York as a passenger for a few rides. When he got out of the Navy she was being decomm'ed. I wondered at her young age and his comment was 'Even her crew think she is one broke d**k ship'.

  2. CNO,

    Overall, I agree with the main thrust of your argument, which if I understand correctly is that the Navy has not done an optimal job at managing the SSN force. However, there are a couple of additional layers to consider. Look at the Decommissioning Dates. A quick run-down of the years that early decommed first flights left service reveals something interesting:
    Hull #/Years in Commision/Year Decommed:
    689 18 1995
    692 17 1995
    693 17 1995
    694 19 1997
    695 19 1997
    696 18 1997
    697 18 1998
    702 17 1998
    703 17 1999
    704 16 1998
    707 22 2005
    708 23 2007
    709 23 2007
    710 23 2008
    712 17 1999
    716 22 2006
    718 22 2007

    What you are basically looking at is two block retirements, one in the late-90s and one in the mid 2000s. I think that is worth noting because it appears these retirements were ultimately driven by a number of factors that are once again going to have a significant impact on the Navy's construction and repair strategy as the "Terrible 20's" approach (keep in mind, all of this is just supposition on my part). All of the REALLY early retirements (at around half the expected life of the boat) all happened in the late 90's, when there was major pressure to fund the R&D on what would become the Virginias, as well as a downward pressure on the defense budget as a whole due to political reasons. In the mid-2000s, OEF/OIF were in full swing, meaning there was less of an emphasis on the Navy's funding priorities. At the same time the Virginia class construction was starting to spin up, and it probably didn't make a lot of sense at the time to re-capitalize assets that were not well equipped to take on what had become the primary combat mission for the SSN force (TLAM strike).

    As we approach the "double whammy" of trying to recapitalize the SSBN force while maintaining other construction (SSNs, CVNs, CRUDES, etc) in a sequestered budget environment, my concern is that there is a chance other early retirements could happen, especially if a ship suffers major damage somehow (like the MIAMI). However, I doubt we will see the batch retirements of the 90's and 00's since none of the ships in commission now will require a refueling overhaul before retirement, which was the immediate cause of many of these ships leaving service early.

    1. I don't know why the subs were retired so early. Your explanation may be partially or even wholly correct. However, the rationale is almost irrelevant. The issue is how the Navy is managing its assets.

      Selling Congress on ships (sub and surface) that are "value" based on a 30 year lifespan (or whatever the specific life of the specific class is) and then routinely retiring ships well before their span is not only poor asset management but it borders on fraud.

      See my reply to B.Smitty's comment for additional perspective.

    2. YMMV...I think rationale is very important to consider when looking at fleet management, especially since rationale (as expressed by funding requests, studies, shipbuilding plans, etc) is a leading indicator of what our end-strength will be. Looking at why these early retirements occurred and using that knowledge to evaluate future plans will be important to navigating the challenges of the coming decades. Otherwise, why bring this topic up?

      I also think calling this fraud is overstating the case a bit...I am inclined to agree that cutting Flight I 688s early was misguided, but its not like the Navy did this in the middle of the night without any oversight. These cuts took place over several years and appear to have been done under proper Congressional review by the Navy in an attempt to cope with Congressionally-mandated budgetary limits.

    3. "... the Navy has not done an optimal job at managing the SSN force."

      Andy, strong candidate for politely phrased understatement of the year! :)

    4. I noticed that too, there was definet block retirements in those years 95-98 and 2005-8. Just checked who was CNO in those periods, Kelso a submariner was up to mid 94, then followed by Boorda(destroyers) and Johnson (aviator). The other period had CNOs from surface ships as well.
      The current CNO Greenert is a sub guy , so dont expect any early retirements under his watch.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. The submarine shortfall has been anticipated for decades. It was almost criminally irresponsible to retire perfectly good subs knowing full well that we would face shortfalls.

      Has there been any real need for a Virginia class sub, now, even assuming that the Virginias are actually significantly improved over the 688s? No, and that was easily anticipated as well. There were no credible threats until now. Now, we can anticipate a need in the next couple of decades to deal with the Chinese threat. Wouldn't it have made much more sense to postpone the start of Virginia construction by a decade, allow the 688s to fill out the force, and then begin the Virginia construction around this time? That would have given us all the capability we needed, made our sub force even more modern for the upcoming Chinese threat, and pushed more subs into the shortfall period.

      Just because a ship is retired as part of a plan doesn't mean the plan was a good one, if that's what you're suggesting. Planned force reductions, like most Navy plans over the last few decades, were poorly conceived and unwisely executed.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Yes, I remember reading 30 and 50 year plans back in the early 1990s that plotted out shortfalls. To be fair, "they" didn't think the shortfalls would matter but they were anticipated.

      You indirectly bring up another outstanding point and that is history. "They" didn't think the shortfall would matter - heck, we didn't have a major enemy left to worry about. Unfortunately, history tells us, with unfailing certainty, that we will always have another enemy to deal with. There is never a peace dividend. There is always a new threat. And yet we insist on drawing down our forces every opportunity we get and then have to repeatedly scramble to build back up (never to the same level, it seems). If we would learn from history we would simply maintain an even strain and keep a constant force level, knowing with historical certainty that it will be needed even we can't pinpoint an exact threat at any given moment.

      To correct your statement, we don't need hindsight, we need historical clarity which comes from historical certainty.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Detailed Navy plans! That's a good one. I about wet myself laughing at that one. Cause we all know how realistic a detailed Navy plan is. Hey did you hear the one about the LCS? Or the F-35? Or minimal manning? Or deferred maintenance?

      An Admiral walks into a bar holding a detailed plan. The bartender asks, "What'cha got there?" The Admiral glances at the plan and says, "Wishful thinking".

      No sane person believes the Navy's 30 year shipbuilding plan has the slightest chance of working.

      Do you seriously believe the current budget limitations, probably further future restrictions, the SSBN funding shortage, and the runaway costs of the F-35, Ford, etc. are going to allow the Navy to even mitigate the shortfall let alone eliminate it?

      Do you seriously believe that the Navy will keep the Virginias for their entire lifespan rather than retire them early as they have with every other ship class, thus further exacerbating the shortfall?

  4. We need a greater breakdown to see why the 688i was being retired so soon. Perhaps some had wear and tear far worse than expected? Or something else unexpected that we don't know about?

    I presume that in the early to mid 1990s, that would be when the Seawolf was just coming online and the Virginia only existed on paper. It would seem the cost overruns and delays had at that point not yet been anticipated.

    I'd be interested to see how well or poorly the newer subs actually do. Remember the DOT&E review:

    "However, Navy security rules for the Virginia prevent real st c
    ASW test ng us ng all ed SSKs. As a result, the Virginia
    class submar ne w ll complete IOT&E w thout resolv ng
    performance aga nst a pr mary threat of record. The secur ty
    rules also restr ct Virginia submar ne operat ons n the v c n ty
    of all ed ASW capable warshi ps. "

    It'd be interesting to see how well things are going right now.

    1. Ugh.

      I was in college reading alot of the Navy stuff on usenet at the time. Alot of our fascination with 'littoral' stuff came from then. A Navy that had no enemies looking for a reason to exist came out with forward from the sea. IIRC the reason for the Virginia's was that the 'current crop of SSN's' (LA's and SSN21's) were too big for littoral work.

      Look at the size of the Virginia's and you'll see how realistic that was.

    2. Alt, you raise a very troubling point. Is the Virginia class actually significantly better than the 688? Not just slightly better but significantly better because if it's only slightly better we could have kept building 688s, added occasional upgrades, and save a ton of money that we spent designing and building the Virginias. I've read the same thing you pointed out, that the Navy doesn't even want to test the Virginias. My suspicion is that the Virginias are not significantly better. Newer, yes. Better, no. We could have built 688s that were newer.

      This ties in with the Ford CVN. I can't find any aspect of the Ford that is a significant improvement over the Nimitz.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. And we know this how? Because the Navy told us? You do recognize how many things they've told us that turned out to not be true? When DOT&E tells me the subs are a significant improvement, then I'll believe it.

    5. It will be very hard to get concrete information. The submarine programs are very heavily classified I am afraid.

      Actually, this whole thing makes me wonder. Is there too much classification? I get that this is supposed to prevent enemy (I presume it would have been Soviet) collection of such information, but it seems to be preventing oversight.

      Seawolf got delayed for example was well overbudget:

      It would be interesting to see if all systems met expectations or if there are parts still underperforming.

    6. Good question was how hard were those subs used? Each time they dive, the hull is stressed. I think there were some reports of subs having restrictions placed on them to save on hull life. Also, didn't the 688's have a thinner hull to save on weight because Rickover wanted a lighter, and faster, design?

    7. Thinner hull? I never heard that one. Do you have any reference or link. Thinner also implies they're now thicker. Again, I haven't heard that. Could be true. I just haven't heard anything.

    8. HY-80 steel was used throughout the 688 class. With Seawolf they started with HY-100 and proposed to go to HY130, but proved too difficult along with the other Seawolf debacles.
      There may be reactor compartment changes during this time which could effect usable life.

    9. @CNO

      See here:

      "In 1976, the USS Los Angeles (SSN 688) was completed. She was the first of approximately 60 submarines in the silent Los Angeles-class. The class is equipped with a type S6G pressurised water reactor yielding 120 MWt, or 30 000 shp. This reactor is a modified version of the D2G-reactor used in nuclear destroyers from the early 1960s.[625] With this reactor, the submarine has a submerged maximum speed of 32 knots.[626] The increased maximum speed compared to the Permit/Sturgeon, led to a reduced maximum diving depth of 300 meters due to its thinner hull.[627] "

      The reference is Tom Clancy's Submarine book.

      Interestingly enough, I found another reference:
      Waddle, Scott (2003). The Right Thing.

      Operating depth on the Los Angeles class was 200m, which is what you'd expect for a crush depth of 300m.

      Virginia is thinner in hull thickness, but steel is stronger:

      Give this a read:

    10. Some more thoughts.

      I suspect the Virginia must be HY100 too (versus HY-80 on 688i), but thinner, so comparable crush depth?


      Seawolf has a deeper operating/crush depth (FAS estimated 490/730m), so considering the fact that it too was HY100, probably a thicker hull.

      Virginia is classified, but probably comparable then to the LA Class?

    11. Alt, interesting info. Thanks!

    12. IIRC The Skipjack class were the Ferrari of the sub world. Very fast and very maneuverable. The first war games with them showed that most of the tactics used to combat U-boats wouldn't work anymore. Problem with them was that they were loud.

      The Thresher/Permit and Sturgeons were slower but had excellent sonar and were hunters. Their problem was that they couldn't keep up with a carrier battle group very well.

      The LA's went for speed at the sacrifice, at first, of some of the quietness of the previous boats.

      Seawolfs went for the best of both worlds: fast and quiet. Considering how much the Virginia's cost, maybe we should have kept up with the Wolves. Prices are nearly the same.

    13. From the information publicly available, I'm not sure the cancellation of the Seawolf to 3 units was just due to cost, but also due to problems within the class itself. That's based strictly off of anecdotal information though on the web.

      As indicated earlier, I don't think we're going to know, owing to the sensitive nature of submarines.

    14. Can you share?

      I'd done alot of reading on the Seawolves, and other than normal first of class stuff (getting the wide area array working as well as they wanted) I'd never heard anything but 'Holy crap this thing is awesome'. Now on the program and its price....

      I do wish we'd kept with them. The Virginia's are nice... but I don't know an entirely new program saved us any money over going into full production of the Seawolves.

      One other thing I think we all kind of need to keep in mind: No weapons system is perfect. Its how you use it. The Abrams drinks gas, the Alpha class was loud, the Panthers and Tigers were unreliable, The SU-27 has engine issues....

      These platforms aren't Toyota Camry's. They're Ferrari F-50's. And anything driven that close to the edge from an engineering standpoint is going to have issues and going to make compromises somewhere. Often times, the compromises were seen as okay in the light of their intended use.

      The Abrams drinks gas, but it moved fast and hit hard and logistics were our strong point.

      The F-4F wasn't the equal of the Zero, but we could build alot of them and it was tough.

      I guess my point is lets not get too caught up in flaws with things.

    15. From what I understand, there were serious engineering problems. I'd have to look more into it.

      Also it's not making it "perfect", it's the better solution that matters. It's when a solution is so bad that there are clearly better alternatives.

      - The Abrams huge fuel consumption (caused by the decision to use a gas turbine engine) was a huge mistake. It has been the Achilles heel of the US Army advance. Plus it makes for a very vulnerable target to insurgents. A diesel engine would have been far better.

      - Russian engines are less reliable than Western ones. That's not so much a problem with the design (although I think the design favors bomber interception too much) as much as it is a problem with the Russian engine manufacturing industry.

      In a shooting war, weaknesses would cost both sides dearly. The M1 in particular would struggle to advance. It's huge IR signature is also a problem. That's ok vs insurgents. Against a well trained nation-state army with modern ATGMs, that could be a huge issue.

      Yes, some things are at their engineering limits, but that's not the problem. The problem is poorly designed weapons.

      The LCS is another example in this case.

    16. "The Abrams huge fuel consumption (caused by the decision to use a gas turbine engine) was a huge mistake. It has been the Achilles heel of the US Army advance. Plus it makes for a very vulnerable target to insurgents. A diesel engine would have been far better. "

      Yes. Now. Vs. the enemies it was supposed to face back in the day, given the technology available, I think it was a logical choice. We were going to be holding the line or slowly retreating back on our supply lines. Not advancing. And we had practiced the logistics game long and hard.

      Should they make a diesel version now? Yes, I'd agree. An M1A3 with a diesel powerplant would be a hell of a tank; and its easy to make very powerful diesels now that would give us the same performance.

      Again, I think we can agree do disagree on specific instances, but I think my point still stands. You can't pick a weapons system today without an achilles heal.

      There is a huge difference in my opinion between the Abrams (; has the basic armament and armor to fight peer adversaries, fought successfully in several wars, admittedly against lesser opponents) and the LCS (has done nothing, and its specs suggest it wont' do anything).

    17. "The Abrams huge fuel consumption (caused by the decision to use a gas turbine engine) was a huge mistake. It has been the Achilles heel of the US Army advance. Plus it makes for a very vulnerable target to insurgents. A diesel engine would have been far better. "

      Yes. Now. Vs. the enemies it was supposed to face back in the day, given the technology available, I think it was a logical choice. We were going to be holding the line or slowly retreating back on our supply lines. Not advancing. And we had practiced the logistics game long and hard.

      Should they make a diesel version now? Yes, I'd agree. An M1A3 with a diesel powerplant would be a hell of a tank; and its easy to make very powerful diesels now that would give us the same performance.

      Again, I think we can agree do disagree on specific instances, but I think my point still stands. You can't pick a weapons system today without an achilles heal.

      There is a huge difference in my opinion between the Abrams (; has the basic armament and armor to fight peer adversaries, fought successfully in several wars, admittedly against lesser opponents) and the LCS (has done nothing, and its specs suggest it wont' do anything).

    18. I'm not sure it was a logical choice even then. In a WWIII scenario vs the USSR, the Abrams would have been range constrained too.

      And not to mention, the USSR would certainly have had ATGMs (the Arabic armies used Soviet ATGMs in the 1973 war vs the Israelis and caused quite a few tank casualties).

      I will note that an M1 diesel project has been on the shelf for years. The Russians moved away from the gas turbine with their experiences with the T-80 as well to create the T-90, which is more of a derivative of the T-72 than anything else (although modernized of course).

      The Leopard 2 and other diesel tanks have better range, a lower IR signature, etc. Actually I have read that the decision to use the gas turbine may have been political - to save Chrysler (then struggling due to Japanese automotive competition) than real military considerations.

      The point between the LCS and Abrams is that they are both suboptimal solutions. True, the Abrams isn't "as bad", but that still doesn't meant that it was not the best possible solution given the technology available.

    19. I'm not a ground combat expert so I can't really add anything useful. Just be careful about getting caught up in the quest for perfect. There is not weapon system in the world that is perfect. All are compromises.

      Also, just because a weapon can be destroyed doesn't make a poor system, necessarily. All weapon systems can be destroyed. Because an M1 can be destroyed by an ATGM doesn't make it a poor tank. Any tank can be destroyed. The worth of the M1 is whether it fits into the Army's intended doctrine and tactics and is effective in that role. The M1 is battle tested and effective though, admittedly, against less than peer competition.

      Also, as with aircraft, you're focused on the easy measureables. The less easy but equally important factors are the fire control system (I'm unaware that any country has a better one though our allies may have as good), armor performance (classified so none of us know anything about it), sensors (again, performance is classified), networking/comms/data sharing, and, not to be overlooked, training. All those things can greatly compensate for physical shortcomings.

      Again, I'm not an expert so I can't evaluate the M1 and I certainly can't evaluate any other country's tanks!

    20. There is are clear measurable though that make a huge difference:

      1. Fuel consumption
      2. Reliability
      3. Engine mass and size

      1 and 2 are vastly in favor of diesel. 3 is in favor of gas turbine, although it's not a huge advantage.

      The problem is that the M1 is more vulnerable than it could be because of the gas turbine. It is far easier to locate, get an infrared lock, and far harder to hide because of the gas turbine. It is also dangerous to nearby infantry and can actually set shrubs on fire.

      This is something like the 20-20 article - gas turbine cars never caught on for similar reasons to the flaws of gas turbine tanks, fuel consumption and reliability.

      As far as aircraft goes, fire control will be the missiles themselves more than anything else (which are upgraded more frequently than aircraft). A bad design (like the AIM-7) requires that the target lock on and stay locked on (that makes it easy for the enemy). Most modern AAMs though are not like that at all - they have their own built in radars.

      Of course, all of this pales in comparison to good training. Good tankers > good tanks, but I fear even there, the US has been doing worse than in the past.

  5. "You indirectly bring up another outstanding point and that is history. "They" didn't think the shortfall would matter"

    Well.... true. I don't disagree with you. But I think that sort of thing is inevitable with this country. The people who elect the government generally don't like spending money on things like defense during peacetime. We'd just "won" the cold war, and if I remember correctly the politicians in the 90's were all very swift to mine the 'peace dividend' brought about by a reduced military budget for their own purposes. I would guess that alot of pressure was put on the Admirals for them to not worry about any future sub shortfall so that those politicians could say with a straight face 'Well, the Admirals don't think there is a problem with this reduced spending...'

    1. That's why we have a professional military rather than an elected military - so that the professionals can maintain a more objective picture. If worse comes to worst, our military leaders should put their careers on the line and resign. They took an oath to defend the country not to promulgate their careers. It takes courage to do that but that's what we expect out of our military. Remember, the revolt of the Admirals? Where was the revolt in the 90s when the subs were being retired or now with so many problems? We only hear honest words from our professional military leaders after they've retired. That's nice but it doesn't do nearly as much good as if they'd speak when they were on active duty. Not allowed to speak out, you say? Tell me about Rickover.

    2. Well.... I can't argue there. I don't know where they are. I don't know why the military is doing what its doing. It does seem to be more political now. A side effect of a lack of an existential threat maybe?

  6. "Wouldn't it have made much more sense to postpone the start of Virginia construction by a decade, allow the 688s to fill out the force, and then begin the Virginia construction around this time? That would have given us all the capability we needed, made our sub force even more modern for the upcoming Chinese threat, and pushed more subs into the shortfall period."

    Looking at just the numbers on a balance sheet, this approach does make sense. However, that approach ignores the very real issue of maintaining the required skills and know-how on how to build something as complex as an SSN. Taking your approach, we would have been looking at something like a 15 year building holiday in submarine construction, which would have resulted in a significant learning curve when it came time to start building Virginias in quantity. The result of that could only have been more cost per ship and longer construction times, which ultimately would have left us in the same situation, with an SSN shortfall.

    1. Oh horse droppings. What is an Engineered Overhaul? It's essentially a rebuild of the sub! Our shipyards would have had all the construction, fabricating, rework, pipefitting, electrical, and nuclear work they could handle. This constant cry that our shipbuilding skills will vanish is just a version of "the sky is falling".

    2. As someone who is assigned to a boat undergoing an EOH, and who has many colleagues who have experienced NEWCON tours, I beg to disagree. There are some major fundamental differences between an overhaul and a new construction. First, overhauls are accomplished mainly by Navy yards, so there is not a lot of overlap there between the building yards at EB and NNS. Secondly, an overhaul of any kind is, as you say, focused on the refurbishment of an existing design. You do not design and construct a new hull, reactor plant, or weapons launch system during an overhaul, among many other components. There is a very real institutional knowledge base and proficiency both on the design side and on the fabrication side that would be lost if no new construction projects were embarked upon.

    3. We also don't design new hulls, weapons, and systems when we build new ships. We simply use the existing design. We only create new designs for new classes which only happens occasionally. Where do you think the expertise goes in between classes?

    4. Actually that isn't correct. The Burke class has a completely different hull when compared to the Spru-cans. The Ticos had Aegis and then VLS systems. The list goes on.

      The institutional knowledge isn't so much being able to replicate the previous classes as knowing how to build them and then make them better.

    5. "The Burke class has a completely different hull when compared to the Spru-cans."

      Ah, that's what I said. We design new hulls and whatnot only when there's a new class like the Burkes compared to the Spruances.

  7. Sorry my cynicism has the best of me.

    ANY logical reason to reduce the Fleet will be leapt upon because it lets the Navy like they are team players in the Beltway Game of Funds. The Navy leaders do this knowing full well that they will later be able to say we all thought that was a good idea and now we need more ... (in this case Boats) so give us more funding to build new ones. Because obviously it will cost too much to reactivate and old hull. Rr Opps we scuttled them already (never leave a potentially useful OLD hull tied up somewhere).

    So back to the thread. New Hulls = MORE $$$ to Navy and Contractors and MORE $$$ to Contractors means more Post retirement jobs for Admirals.

  8. Short term yes but at the sametime those boats retired with good years left on the hulls are mothballed and would likely be a critical asset in say a peer war against China. If we went into a hot war we would need that ready reserve mothballed fleet to fill the void between opening hostilities to when our yards can start to produce anything close to a war level production capacity. We have enough ship building left to spin up but it would take time time that in a hot war we wouldn't have and those mothballed boats would fill.

    We need a real conversation at the political level about our military budget. If we see it as a real national policy to be everywhere anywhere while holding enough standing power to deter any possible comers then the military budget needs to be raised production needs to be increased.

    1. Ah, C-Low, you're aware that we don't actually have a reserve fleet? All the retired subs are slated for the breaker. It takes some time due to the nuclear considerations but the subs are not maintained as a reserve fleet.

    2. Too true. By the time decommed subs make it to Bremerton to await recycling, they are nothing but de-fuled hulks. They often serve a useful function as parts supplies for still-active ships, though.

    3. That I did not know. I knew they scraped parts etc... but I always thought the whole intention of going through the expense of mothballing rather than just roping to a pier was so they could if so needed be spun up in a pinch with reasonable effort ~months not years. Every other service from time to time pull mothballed stock out referb it and either sell/donate or put back into service (every hot war such is done). I know they are sealed secured to protect from elements etc.. while they wait full demil I don't see why they couldn't fit that traditional role. Is it the nuclear aspect, are the reactors made unable to be spun back up?

      It cost millions to mothball a ship what is the point if not to make recovery possible? If not recoverable why wouldn't they just pull demil the sensitive stuff and sell the hull to the breakers.

    4. The Navy has no need for such in the modern era but mothballed ships with life left were refit for duty in the 80's Reagan buildup, Vietnam, and Korea that I can think of. Just because a policy has not been implemented (not needed) for X amount of time doesn't necessarily mean such policy if foundation held to, could not be.

      I don't know I may be wrong.

    5. C-Low, you might want to check out this post, "What Reserve Fleet?

      We don't mothball ships anymore because there is no reserve fleet. Check out the post I linked to. It will explain a bit more.

    6. I had just assumed from history that those policies had been maintained. Really sad what a waste.

    7. I did a little digging and without any real way to know either way I think maybe all is not lost on this issue. From what I understand all nuke boats are defueled looks like upon intake and they change the register to "ex-___". Not sure what that defueled entails or if it can be reversed in any reasonable amount of time but from the Wiki post below it looks like pretty much all the Los Angeles class is all frozen "not started" the actually break down. In the break down it sounds like chop out the reactors (at which point I would call it non recoverable) then proceed from there in scraping. By the wiki count that would be roughly 24 SSN possible recoverable.

      wiki link

      Actually found this about the defueling process very informative. Seems that defueling is reversible and something that is common in reactor servicing.


      This article also mentions "floating protective storage" in which defueled ships can be safely stored for long periods of time at least 15yrs before needing to be gone over for another 15yr stretch (hull maintenance). From the article is says the defuel process is kin to the refuel process that carrier usually go through so I imagine in a pinch it would be possible to take a portion of those boats and with a refueling put em back in service, of course allot of the refueling time is update of all the other stuff so depending on year of decon you would have varying times to reboot such a boat.

      Like mentioned this is open source a minor knot in my stomach I wanted to see what I could figure out. From my limited knowledge here I would say it possible which I sure pray so.

      What worries me is I think we have allowed a highly dangerous situation brew with China were we have built the Chinese nation into a military/industrial complex led by a authoritarian corrupt communist gov that has pushed nationalist fervor to deflect the masses gripe. That combo has repeatedly lead to very large very ugly wars throughout the history books. For Communist leadership the possibility of being able to say deflect a economic collapse with a short war victory wrought by a surprise strike I think is highly dangerous. We should make clear it will not be short, they will not be allowed to gain anything, there will be a huge body count, economic ruin, and very possibly full US support of internal revolution. Chinese business loan system is a fraud/graft system that is very similar to the US SL collapse but on a scale of insanity. I could see a modern pearl scenario were the hundreds of conco container ships across the world suddenly had their upper boxes open to fire volleys of cruise missiles maybe even ASBM at US military infrastructure the world over. What US base in the states even have moderate defense nets up, guard patrols for rouge airliners not included. In such a horror thought being able to pull 10 SSN, multiple other surface ships, and innumerable aircraft, out our a*s from no were in a few months would be a big big deal. I believe the next 10-20 yr time frame is going to be extremely dangerous on multiple fronts.

    8. C-Low, the scrapping process is a long and very slow one. Subs are defueled and then take their place in the scrap waiting list which can be many years. The key is that there is no intention of ever bringing them back which means that they are not "mothballed". Thus, the internals and externals are not protected from corrosion, none of the machinery is maintained, and no care is taken. So, while in theory they could be reactivated, there is no real world way that could happen. As the subs wait for scrapping, they are literally rotting away.

      To illustrate how long the scrapping process can take, the cruiser Long Beach just went to the breakers and it's been out of commission for decades.

      You're understandably wanting to hang on to an idealized vision of how retirement should occur but it doesn't happen that way. We no longer preserve and maintain ships in a reserve capacity.

    9. Well sadly I stand corrected. What a senseless waste.

  9. How hard is it to mothball a nuclear sub? It would seem that the security would be ginormous and expensive?

    Not saying we shouldn't try; just wondering if it might be cheaper and easier to put this into more of an active reserve, or just slow deployment schedules.

  10. Just out of interest USS San Francisco, which was badly damaged when it struck an uncharted sea mount, was repaired with the bow section of the recently decommissioned USS Honululu. This was seen as being worthwhile as San Francisco had recently been through an overhaul and refuel.

  11. As someone who lived this period out in the control room of a 688I, I merely point you to the 1997 QDR. DoD.gov/pubs/qdr . This was not CNO explicit, but Political Appointment SecDef Cohen, serving Clinton and JCS. I am proudly Navy, but can see the personality and policies that forget, conveniently, historical facts and trends, in the name of 2-3 year travel tours while jockeying for their next appointment. All while making decisions that affect entire generations of sailors, yard workers, and families that love and support them. Foolishness.

  12. Honestly, it feels criminal to see more LA class subs being retired even now in 2017 when they see what a wreck its becoming on sub #s. ONe would think it a ship builders conspiracy to ensure those subs are retired rather than extended. To wit the sexy thing for writers is to say oh we need diesel subs now, and for the price of the Japanese world best diesel we could have subs for under $500 million! Yet one could refurbish an LA class and have it perform the same role as the diesel, that is to lay low, creep along at the edge of the littorals and stay submerged far longer than the AIP breathing diesels even can. An LA class that sits outside choke points for 2 months plus going 3 knots and hanging off the bottom of the sea there would be a terrifying proposition to the Russians or Chinese. Using ships smartly would go a long, long way and extend many a ship's life (taking the old Tripoli and not scrapping it for instance and filling the entire aviation hangar deck with missiles as a moving missile field, maybe fitting Oliver Hazard Perry Class to fire the SM-6 and free up Burkes from doing ABM duty since it's a network world today and coordinates can be sent to the ship rather than it needing to do it all, The Kitty Hawk relying on a new carrier to feed its systems rather than updating the entire ship and it can still just carry jets, its main job, etc.)


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.