ASSOCIATED PRESS / MAY 2007
The crew and officers stand on deck during the commissioning ceremony of the USS Hawaii at the U.S. Submarine Base in Groton, Conn. USS Hawaii will be based in Hawaii in 2009 with two other Virginia-Class subs: the USS Texas and USS North Carolina. CLICK FOR LARGE
Pearl Harbor to get 3 new subs
The Virginia-class boats are expected sometime in 2009
Pearl Harbor will get three of the newest attack submarines as early as 2009 -- something the shipyard has been planning for the past two years.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said three Virginia-class subs will be based here: the USS Texas, USS North Carolina and the USS Hawaii. The subs are three of the first four Virginia-class subs.
USS HAWAII SSN 776
» Length: 377 feet
» Displacement: 7,800 tons
» Maximum diving depth: Greater than 800 feet
» Speed: 25-plus knots
» Cost: About $2.6 billion
» Crew: 134 officers and enlisted
» Armament: Tomahawk cruise missiles, Mark 48 torpedoes, four torpedo tubes, advanced mobile mines and unmanned undersea vehicles
Source: U.S. Navy
Inouye, D-Hawaii, said relocation of the USS North Carolina and the USS Texas from the East Coast was a policy decision made several months ago in recognition of the "strategic nature of the Pacific as compared to the Atlantic."
The USS Hawaii was commissioned in May, and the USS Texas was commissioned last year. They will arrive in the islands sometime in 2009, followed by the USS North Carolina, which is currently undergoing sea trials.
Adm. Robert Willard, commander of the Pacific Fleet, said the Navy secretary has not made an announcement on where the subs are going to be berthed, but he feels they should be in Hawaii.
"We're excited about the shift of submarines to the Pacific because we feel it's a much broader body of water, time distance factors, all things considered: This is where the Pacific Fleet commander wants them," he said yesterday.
Kerry Gershaneck, spokesman for the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, said the 377-foot Virginia-class nuclear sub -- 17 feet longer than the current Los Angeles class -- has new equipment and systems.
There are lots of fiber optics, a mast without the traditional optical periscope and a joystick fly-by-wire ship control system, Gershaneck said.
Gershaneck said the shipyard's planning includes:
» Upgrading facilities and services, focused on piers, dry docks and utilities.
» Obtaining equipment and tools to perform maintenance and repair work.
» Training workers and establishing processes and procedures.
Equipment storage and work space for the Virginia-class submarines will require about 40,000 square feet. The shipyard also has sent representatives from various sections to General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., for orientation.
"We are still assessing what all of this will cost," added Gershaneck. "With Pearl Harbor getting three of the first four Virginia submarines, no one else has this challenge."
Gershaneck added that "the shipyard's strategic focus is to get ready for the Virginia class of submarines."
On Sunday the U.S. House passed a $410 billion defense appropriations bill that includes $588 million to speed up production of Virginia-class nuclear submarines from one annually to two per year.
General Dynamics Electric Boat, which also has facilities in Rhode Island, shares construction of the submarines with Northrop Grumman Newport News in Norfolk, Va.
Pearl Harbor is the home of 16 Los Angeles-class attack submarines. Currently, the Navy's attack sub force of 53 is split almost evenly, with 28 boats prowling the waters of the Atlantic and 25 in the Pacific. By 2010 there will be 31 nuclear-powered attack subs in the Pacific Fleet and 21 assigned to the Atlantic Fleet.
There are now three types of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the Navy: the Los Angeles, Seawolf and Virginia classes. There also are 18 larger Ohio-class Trident nuclear ballistic missile boats.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.