Photo: US Navy
Jul 12, 2011 By Michael Fabey aerospace daily and defense report
It has been out with the old and in with the new this month for the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command’s (Navsea) submarine community.
The USS California (SSN 781) – the Navy’s newest Virginia-class submarine – successfully completed its initial, or Alpha, sea trials July 5, which included diving to test depth, conducting an emergency surfacing and testing the submarine’s propulsion plant. These trials are designed to evaluate the ship’s seaworthiness and operational performance.
Two days later, Navsea noted that the Norfolk (Va.) Naval Shipyard had formally relieved ex-USS Philadelphia’s (SSN 690) last remaining crewman, officially decommissioning the Los Angeles-class submarine.
California, the eighth ship of the Virginia class, is on track to be delivered nine months early to the fleet, Navsea officials say. All Virginia-class submarines currently under construction are scheduled to be delivered early, Navsea says.
California will next undergo Bravo sea trials and the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey trials, scheduled for later this month. Built under the teaming agreement by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls-Newport News, the submarine will be commissioned this fall in Norfolk.
“Delivering this ship early will provide another much-needed asset to the fleet ahead of schedule,” says Capt. Michael Jabaley, who was recently selected as rear admiral and Virginia-class program manager.
Much needed, indeed. The Navy has been pushing its attack submarine fleet to the limit lately, and analysts at the Congressional Research Service and elsewhere have warned that the subs will be even more severely tasked in coming years as the older Los Angeles subs, like the Philadelphia, are decommissioned. Although a ceremonial decommissioning for Philadelphia occurred in August 2010 at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., some crewmembers remained aboard until certain work was accomplished. The sub was officially decommissioned when the last crewman was released June 29, Navsea says.
There is still quite a bit of work to be done for the Philadelphia. The shipyard is currently preparing the ship for transit, safe storage and eventual recycling. Some key items that will be completed during the inactivation are defueling of the ship; draining, cleaning and preserving all systems; emptying all tanks; and making preparations and adding equipment for towing.
The shipyard will perform several tests to ensure the ship will be ready for undocking in August – including a battery of tests to certify the equipment used to tow the sub. The ship will be reinspected in late spring before being towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Washington state in June for eventual recycling.