Submarine USS Seawolf returns to sea after long layoff
◦By Ed Friedrich
BREMERTON —Attack submarine USS Seawolf returned to sea after a 31-month, $280 million maintenance and modernizing stop at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility. It completed sea trials last week to ensure its systems were working properly and the boat was combat-ready. Now, the crew will go through a series of training and certification periods to improve their war-fighting ability.
"We are ecstatic to be at sea again, and Seawolf is even more capable and effective than at any time in her 15 years of service," Cmdr. Dan Packer, Seawolf's commanding officer, said in a news release.
The Seawolf was commissioned in July 1997, the first of what was planned to be 29 boats of its class. Their main mission was to destroy Soviet ballistic submarines before they could attack American targets. Though it was the quietest submarine ever built, it also was the most expensive. With the Cold War over, production was stopped after three boats, and the Navy switched to building smaller, cheaper Virginia-class submarines.
The other two Seawolfs are the USS Connecticut and USS Jimmy Carter.
They're homeported at Bremerton. The Navy says they're the fastest, quietest, deepest-diving and most heavily armed fast attack submarines in the fleet. The Navy officially lists the speed at 25-plus knots and the operating depth at "greater than 800 feet." The real numbers are secret. The subs can carry 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles or 50 Harpoon anti-ship missiles or 50 torpedoes or up to 100 mines.
The Jimmy Carter, which was modified to conduct secret operations such as transporting SEALS and undersea recovery, has been assigned to Bangor since November 2005.
The other two transferred from Groton, Conn., in 2007 as part of the Navy's shift of 60 percent of its firepower to the Pacific Ocean. The Seawolf arrived July 22, 2007; the Connecticut, after a deployment, Jan. 29, 2008.
All three could eventually wind up at Bangor.
In the environmental assessment for an explosives handling wharf, dated January 2012, is a section called "cumulative impacts." It lists past, present and reasonably foreseeable future projects in Hood Canal. Included is a Bangor service pier extension to homeport two more Seawolf-class submarines. It describes a 33,000-square-foot extension, new pier services and compressor building on the existing pier, upland maintenance support facility and 421-car parking lot.
Puget Sound Naval Bases Association annually treks to Washington, D.C., to encourage key politicians and Navy brass to support local Navy efforts. The pier was among issues it presented six weeks ago. The group says the submarines' squadron, Submarine Development Squadron 5, is working to get all the boats at Bangor. It would be less expensive and more efficient to centralize operations and training there.