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USS Hawaii adds 'class' to Pearl Harbor sub lineup


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POSTED: Friday, July 24, 2009

The head of the submarine force in the Pacific says the arrival of Navy's newest attack sub—the USS Hawaii—marks the start of “;a new era.”;

“;It's been 30 years since Hawaii has been home to a new class of submarines,”; said Rear Adm. Douglas McAneny, referring to the first deployment of the Los Angeles-class submarine in 1976.

Cmdr. Ed Herrington, the Hawaii's skipper, told reporters shortly after the Virginia-class submarine docked at Pearl Harbor at 10 a.m. that there have been many modifications to Los Angeles-class subs since they were introduced.

Although the missions of the two classes of submarines are similar, Herrington added, the Virginia-class submarines were designed and built to support special forces' clandestine operations. Both classes of subs are armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Mark 48 torpedoes.

There are 16 Los Angeles-class submarines stationed at Pearl Harbor.

The USS Hawaii is 17 feet longer than the 360-foot Los Angeles-class boats. It also weighs 900 tons more than the 6,900-ton Los Angeles subs.

During a one-hour media tour of the 377-foot USS Hawaii, Lt. Michael Bemis, the sub's weapons officer, said it is the first built without a periscope. Instead, it has a photonics mast with a camera. The direction and magnification of the camera's images are controlled from the control room and viewed on color television monitors.

The sub's sonar monitors and operators have been moved to the port side of the control room, from where it was in a separate compartment in a Los Angeles-class sub.

“;This results in better situational awareness,”; Bemis added. “;With sonar integrated into the control room, there is improved data flow.”;

The sub's two steering wheels have been replaced by two joysticks. Instead of a bank of valves and dials are four large touch-screen monitors. The pilot and co-pilot merely touch the screen to move the rudder and bow planes or to open and control valves and tanks. Using the joystick, they can change the direction of the submarine.

The electronic system is called “;fly by wire,”; said Bemis, who served on the USS Honolulu before it was decommissioned.

Lt. Dang Duong, the USS Hawaii's scuba-diving officer, said the vessel has a special “;lockout”; trunk that can be flooded when the sub is submerged or on the surface to deploy up to 18 Navy SEALs at a time on special warfare operations.

Petty Officer Raymond Forrester, the sub's culinary specialist, said he serves meals four times a day, with prime rib and steaks alternately every Sunday. Crab legs and lobster are on the sub's menu every month.

“;These guys eat really well,”; said Forrester, who at 6 feet 5 inches has to slouch to work in his small galley. He stocks an inventory of 110 days of frozen food items and 90 days of dry food.

Petty Officer Don Martin, the sub's torpedoman, said the torpedo room has been redesigned and uses removable weapons cradles that can carry up to 24 torpedoes or a combination of torpedoes and Tomahawk missiles. The cradles can be taken out to make room for Navy SEALs, their equipment and their bunks.

The USS Hawaii uses a propulsor, an advanced-design propeller shielded by a duct, instead of a regular propeller.