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So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 01:41 PM   #1
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So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

An attack class sub or a boomer? You were a sub commander right? I'll admit, that sounded like a really cool job.

edit: (i would have asked you in a PM, but I doubt i'm the only one interested, so i'm asking here)
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 02:51 PM   #2
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azanon

edit: (i would have asked you in a PM, but I doubt i'm the only one interested, so i'm asking here)
You're the only one interested.

JG
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 03:07 PM   #3
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

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Originally Posted by Mr._johngalt
You're the only one interested.

JG
No, I'm pretty interested too
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 03:27 PM   #4
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Don't spoil it Nords. We all visualize you on the boat Denzel Washington took over from Gene Hackman.
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 04:02 PM   #5
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 04:10 PM   #6
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 04:46 PM   #7
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

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You're the only one interested.

JG

OUCH!
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 06:54 PM   #8
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

I think I remember Nords saying something about waiting off the Iceland coast for subs out of the USSR. Guess that makes it an attack sub. Like the Dallas in Hunt for Red October!

Or am I fantasizing? If so, my DH is fantasizing right along with me! If I were well-connected and could afford it, I'd send him on a sub trip--can't imagine a gift he'd like as well, 'cept maybe riding on the space shuttle :-)
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 09:06 PM   #9
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Man, I'm tempted not to answer for a few more days to see how big the stories get...

When I graduated, my spouse-to-be was stationed in Rota Spain and I wanted a submarine that was homeported near there. So as a young lieutenant (1984-6) I served on the BLUE crew of USS JAMES MONROE (SSBN 622). It was an old LAFAYETTE-class Poseidon ballistic missile submarine. The submarine was homeported in Holy Loch, Scotland (near the fine little town of Dunoon) and made patrols in the North Atlantic. We'd fly in from Charleston, SC, take over from the GOLD crew three days after they returned from their patrol, try to fix everything in three weeks of round-the-clock scrambling, and then go out for a 90-day patrol. You sneaked out of port (a five-hour surface transit, not very sneaky) and submerged as quickly as possible (seasick all the way to the dive point) and you'd hide within missile range of Moscow in an area of the North Atlantic the size of the state of Georgia. You stayed at about 150-400 feet poking around at four knots in continuous copy of a VLF radio broadcast that would tell you if you needed to launch. 90 days. That was about as exciting as it got!

Although MONROE was decommissioned in 1989, at the end of the Cold War, I swear I left it in better shape than I found it-- no mean feat. I stood watch in engineering and on the conn. My first job was supervising the division in charge of boiler water chemistry & radiological controls-- one combined job because they were so much fun together-- and my second job was euphemistically named "Damage Control Assistant". That meant I had to train the crew in avoiding/minimizing damage as well as running the division that owned hydraulics, high-pressure air, potable water, and sewage. When you owned everyone's toilets, one bad day as DCA earned you a lot of attention very quickly.

When it came time for my next sea duty spouse and I wanted to be stationed together in San Diego. So our assignment officers sent us to Hawaii, a decision which we quickly forgave them. As an older lieutenant/young lieutenant commander (1989-92) I was the Weapons Officer on USS NEW YORK CITY (SSN 696), a first-flight LOS ANGELES-class attack submarine. I had a lot of bad boomer-sailor habits to unlearn and a whole new submarine to qualify on, but boy was it worth it. "All Ahead Flank" on MONROE was an alarming, shaking, oscillating 20 knots-- on a good day. The same command on NYC would practically torque the deck out from under your feet and quickly have you at, uhm, a number well over 20 knots. (NYC was decommissioned in the late 90s but apparently that number is still classified. Someone correct me if I'm wrong!) I was quickly converted to a fast attack, don't look back sailor. Once the Cold War ended I can't understand how boomer sailors can find the will to live.

My one apparent contribution to the crew back then was the ability to think like a boomer sailor, which came in handy when NYC went out looking for Russian boomers to train the crew on extended at-sea operations in international waters. I reported aboard the day after Christmas 1989 and was plying our trade by the first week in January for eight solid weeks. Most of our operations were in places where the bilges froze solid. On my first OOD six-hour watch I went to periscope depth more times than I had in my entire previous 30 months on MONROE. I also gained a wide range of experience with all sorts of radars and other electronic signals. I loved it-- there's nothing like the chaos of a drill set (or the real casualty) where you have to corral a bunch of disorganized information into a decision and persuade a bunch of fractious independent thinkers into following your lead. And that was just to get up to periscope depth!

Being Weapons Officer was pretty straightforward-- keep the sonar & fire control systems running, and shoot every weapon you own. We shot dozens of exercise torpedoes, HARPOONs, & TOMAHAWKs. We also managed to put an anti-shipping version of the TOMAHAWK through an old surface ship (an unmanned target). In between fixing our broke stuff inport training and being a cooperative target providing services to allied ships & aircraft, every 18 months we'd deploy for six months to the Western Pacific. Along with classified operations you'll have to read about in "Blind Man's Bluff", I got to see exotic ports of call like Yokosuka, Yokosuka, Guam, Yokosuka, Chinhae, Yokosuka, Yokosuka, and SUBIC BAY!! We arrived in Olongapo Subic just as the U.S. was about to pull out (so to speak), and we left right after the Mount Pinatubo eruption was through with us.

During my next shore duty the U.S. military carried out the largest drawdown since WWII. I didn't make the cut for XO and I was never in command but my consolation prize was being allowed to hang around to get in my 20 years. By then we had our kid and were discovering serious work/family conflicts that probably wouldn't have been resolved without some significant sacrifices. It's also the first point in my career at which I actually had to think for myself instead of just following the path laid out in the officer's handbook, a new path which eventually led us to ER. I spent most of that eight years at training commands and found out that I really enjoy teaching.

I'm happy to answer more questions, although there's some stuff I can't talk about. Not because it's classified-- because I just plain forgot or because I finally exorcised the trauma. But I'll check that when I try to go to sleep tonight...
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-30-2006, 09:47 PM   #10
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Interesting stuff Nords!

1. Did you guys get spotted ever/often by russian attack subs while hanging out at depth in that boomer? If so, what was that like?
2. In the los angeles class, did you guys use active sonor pretty much all the time? In the boomer, was it usually passive? (sonar)
3. How many times in either sub did you get pinged by any ship/sub other than an American ship, and did it ever happen when you were trying to hide?
4. What's your take on that US sub commander who blew ballast on that japanese research trawler?
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 10:31 AM   #11
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

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Originally Posted by Azanon
1. Did you guys get spotted ever/often by russian attack subs while hanging out at depth in that boomer? If so, what was that like?
Never as far as we know. I'm not aware that any U.S. boomer was ever detected by a Russian sensor platform of any kind, let alone their attack subs. (I could be wrong but I'm blissfully ignorant.) In fact if a U.S. boomer was detected by any U.S. sensor then that CO read about it in his fitness report and it flowed downhill bigtime.

To be fair, if I was told to use a U.S. attack sub to find a Russian boomer poking around at four knots in an area of water the size of Georgia, I'd have to be mighty lucky and assisted by some other kind of locating data. A squadron of P-3s with unlimited money, fuel, & sonobuoys might be able to find it but maybe not.

U.S. boomer sailors used to joke about their motto: "We hide with pride!". If we ever received word that a submarine-- U.S. or another nation-- was within many miles of us we said "Eeek!", turned away, and sneaked off under the acoustic layer at four knots. I'm glad I served on a boomer before I knew how much better life in the attack submarine force was; I understand now why our boomer CO & XO were kinda grumpy about patrols.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azanon
2. In the los angeles class, did you guys use active sonor pretty much all the time? In the boomer, was it usually passive? (sonar)
No, almost never. In fact if you told some U.S. sonar techs on attack subs to line up to go active (with no warning that it would be happening) the resulting explosion of activity was like kicking over an anthill. On a boomer all you'd get would be confused looks. (Hopefully everyone's proficiency is better now.) We only went active for exercises & training. We were so paranoid about active sonar parameters being recorded & analyzed that we'd hesitate to go active even around allied navies.

U.S. officers were even less familiar with active sonar than the technicians. It's not a magic crystal ball and it often makes conditions too noisy to work with even before some young lieutenant gets excited about "More power!".

U.S. submarines have some of the world's most advanced passive acoustic sensor arrays & processors. Sound propagates hundreds of m miles in seawater and you can capture a lot of it. (Scientific American had an interesting article a couple years ago about imaging underwater objects just by analyzing the way that they interfered with the background noise. I'm sure NAVSEA is frantically trying to turn that into a sonar system.) Ironically what used to be done on MILSPEC AN/UYK-7 mainframes with CMS-2 software is now done on a bank of commercial off-the-shelf PCs with Windows-free software and advanced large-screen LCDs. With the right acoustic conditions you could find merchant ships at ranges in excess of 50 miles and even get good enough data to track their course & speed. Back then tracking a hostile contact passively within weapons range was usually achievable, and our training was that the preferred submarine active sonar is the transducers on the nose of a MK48 torpedo.

The U.S. acoustic advantage is just about gone. I was working in the waning days of the golden age of submarine warfare before the Russians reverse-engineered American sound-silencing technology. Back then our hardware acoustic advantage was orders of magnitude over any other country. (Russian Akula submarines are also derisively known as the John Walker class.) I could hold my own against my U.S. peers on any platform but by 1992 I wouldn't have wanted to go up against a Sierra class-- it would've been a blindfolded knife-fight in a phone booth. The first guy to drop a wrench in a bilge would've been detected, but until then it might have been a standoff and the fastest shooter would survive. Today's U.S. attack submarines depend on their training & tactics more than ever before.

Cold War U.S. attack submarines were optimized & operated to hold Russian & Chinese boomers at risk. Russian attack submarines were usually tracked by ASW aircraft using passive sonobuoys, and my spouse the oceanographer has more ASW experience with that than I ever got on a boomer or an attack sub.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azanon
3. How many times in either sub did you get pinged by any ship/sub other than an American ship, and did it ever happen when you were trying to hide?
Hundreds of times for training & allied operations. We had a pretty significant acoustic advantage and it wasn't considered polite to do anything but play fair and give them plenty of tracking practice. Of course the height of rivalry was being able to take undetected periscope photos of the U.S./allied surface ship/plane in the crosshairs and e-mail them at the next comms opportunity. But if the gloves were off, two U.S. attack submarines could barely find each other-- the search would only end if someone made a stupid mistake. (Even today I cringe when I hear a door slam.) On MONROE, once the training ended and we went on station, we never let ourselves get close enough to anything to even hear its propulsion on our headphones, let alone detect active pinging. It was just considered too risky.

In my opinion active sonar is just too noisy and propagation too nonlinear to be an effective search tool. Hiding from active sonar isn't too difficult unless you're caught totally by surprise (your fault) or have a serious undetected noise source like a bad motor bearing (really your fault). You hustle to the other side of a temperature layer or near uneven bottom topography and there's too much reverberation for anyone to pick out anything.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Azanon
4. What's your take on that US sub commander who blew ballast on that japanese research trawler?
The EHIME MARU was the worst U.S. submarine disaster since the USS BONEFISH fire. Nine people were killed by haste & overconfidence and the accident destroyed years of allied relationships. I was at the training command when it happened, my CO & XO ran separate investigations for the authorities, and the incident sucked up the efforts of everyone for nearly a year of analysis & corrective training. Even today it's hard to talk about how many mistakes could have been avoided by a more considered approach and some common sense.

The CO had a reputation of being so personable and so brilliantly gifted that when he stated his opinion, his crew would recheck their own information out of concern that they must have been wrong. They had so much confidence in his ability that they routinely failed to evaluate conflicting info. COs are supposed to train their crews to back them up, though, so he deprived himself of an essential counterbalance to his own performance. He got rushed and made a few mistakes of his own, too, and the reconstruction of the sensor data available to his watchstanders made it pretty clear what went wrong. He had put himself totally on his own in his evaluation of the situation and his subsequent decisions. He became the single point of failure. He was the most important factor in the ship's ability to avoid that collision, and he was the most important factor in causing it to happen.

Let me restate that last paragraph. It's not unheard of for some COs or supervisors to be such jerks that their crew "forgets" to give them "bad news" that would shoot the messenger. That's been a factor in several groundings & collisions and the U.S. submarine force even trains its watchstanders to speak up with "forceful backup" when they have conflicting data. We strongly encourage, even reward, junior people for calling attention to their senior's mistakes. If a junior sailor announces forceful backup to a senior officer, it's a clear warning that the officer better listen up and reconsider the decision.

However that never happened in this collision. These people had such a halo on their CO and so much faith in his ability that even a former instructor from our training command who had joined that crew and was running a control room status plot doubted his own (conflicting) sensor info. This sailor-- a star performer-- was so sure that he was wrong that he didn't even point out the inconsistency to anyone else, let alone the CO. Unfortunately he had one of several pieces of data that could have broken the chain of disaster even after the CO made several bad decisions. The collision was totally avoidable.

This book offers the CO's side of the story. He had some crew issues and some operational pressures that set the stage for his subsequent decisions, but it was his job to train his people and to discipline himself to avoid the very things that he allowed to happen. He spends most of the book explaining himself and his situation, even going back to his USNA days, but in my opinion anyone with command experience could see how blinded he was to how he was setting himself up. Again IMO his complaints about his senior officers and subsequent events reflect poorly on his understanding of what he did.

If there's anything constructive coming out of that disaster, it's that the submarine force realized how we could set ourselves up. If that sub & crew could do that, then we weren't as good as we thought and we needed to take another look at our training & practices. Many administrative & operational procedures were changed to avoid putting any submarine crew in a similar situation ever again. But that's scant consolation to the watchstanders, some of them my shipmates & friends, who have to live the rest of their lives with the knowledge that they had a crucial piece of data or knowing that they could have spoken up about a decision.
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 11:09 AM   #12
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Interesting read Nords! Thanks for taking the time.......
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 11:24 AM   #13
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Interesting stuff again, but i was a bit surprised by your answer to my first question; about detections from one sub to another being so rare/never happening. I was thinking of WWII, and reflecting on some game simulations ive played, where it is dang near impossible to go a far distance without being eventually detected by something, especially if you're relatively close to land masses. Sure, more modern subs are a lot quieter and can go deeper, but i presumed those abilities were equally offset by improvements in detection equipment by other subs, surface ships, planes, satellites, and sonar nets.

I tended to think that the massive buildup of US, Russian, chinese, UK naval forces would just have 2 subs getting within detection range of each other a relatively common occurence. The ocean is only so big, and there are a lot of surface, and sub vessels out there... (or there were, i'm sure there are less now post cold war).

So even the attack subs keep the speed/depth down so low as to keep not being detected priority #1? So i guess silent running speeds were pretty much the standard practice, and normal propulsion (~20kts or more for los angeles) was actually rare?

What would be considered a hostile action in a sub by the US? going active on a nearby sub? Turning towards an enemy sub? Flooding a torpedo tube? Opening a tube? Of course i presume a torpedo in the water is hostile =p. (not to mention, signifies your last 1-4 minutes of your life probably 4 out of 5 times)

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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 11:48 AM   #14
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Let me restate that last paragraph. It's not unheard of for some COs or supervisors to be such jerks that their crew "forgets" to give them "bad news" that would shoot the messenger. That's been a factor in several groundings & collisions and the U.S. submarine force even trains its watchstanders to speak up with "forceful backup" when they have conflicting data. We strongly encourage, even reward, junior people for calling attention to their senior's mistakes. If a junior sailor announces forceful backup to a senior officer, it's a clear warning that the officer better listen up and reconsider the decision.
I would love to know how the Navy trained the junior sailors and their officers to make that system work. In my profession it runs maybe 50-50 with small unit leaders and commanders who are confident and smart enough to not only encourage, but demand participation in critical decisions from all ranks.
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 04:31 PM   #15
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Nords, good read. I watched the Hunt for Red October for umteen times and still enjoy it. What does conn stands for? and how is the movie compared to real life.

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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 06:49 PM   #16
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mach1
Nords, good read. I watched the Hunt for Red October for umteen times and still enjoy it. What does conn stands for? and how is the movie compared to real life.

Mach1
I think the conn is the central area where the periscope and hatch to the outside is located. Its also the central command area. Nords can adjust this as necessary.

From what he's said so far, it seems like the movies are quite a bit more dramatic than reality. But isnt that the case with all movies......
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 06:49 PM   #17
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 07:02 PM   #18
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

[quote=Gumby ]


Well, i was definitely asking about the use (or lack thereof) of active sonar because i didn't know and was curious. I'm interested in this sub stuff, but my knowledge of it all is cursory at best.
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 08:29 PM   #19
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?
Old 10-31-2006, 09:49 PM   #20
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Re: So Nords, what kind of sub did you drive?

Last week had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with a retired Admiral. From 1969 to 1972 he was in command and a nuclear attack sub. Had some interesting things to say about his service but, alas, I'm not sure I ought to repeat his comments. Suffice it to say, he felt our side was way more effective in doing our job than the Soviets had been.
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