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Navy christens Minnesota Saturday

by Mike Hoffman on October 25, 2012

The Navy will christen its tenth Virginia class submarine, the Minnesota, during a ceremony Saturday at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, in Newport News, Va.

Saturday’s ceremony comes as shipbuilding is one of the few military subjects to get thrust into the presidential campaign. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to boost ship building to 15 per year form the nine currently planned to help increase the Navy fleet to 350 ships.

As part of the plan, Romeny has proposed building an additional three ships over the next three years.

Adm. Kirk Donald, director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, will oversee the ceremony Saturday. The Minnesota, SSN 783, was built to to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions, according to a Navy statement.

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

TomUK October 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm

"The Minnesota, SSN 783, was built to to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions, according to a Navy statement".

Jack-of-all-trades, master of none ?

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blight_ October 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm

The Virginia's still pretty good (but perhaps not as good as Seawolf in some areas), in terms of raw specs versus Russian Akula and Yasen-class replacement.

I can believe ASW and Anti-ship. Strike would be from VLS tubes, but I don't think it should quit its day job. Using a submarine for "Irregular Warfare" sounds…highly irregular. Unless it's moving commandoes around, but that's special operations, isn't it?

Edit: The Yasens are likely to have 32 or 40 VLS tubes, compared to the standard 12 aboard a Virginia. It doesn't seem like the Seawolf has 'em, but I might be wrong (they would launch TLAMs through the 8 torpedo tubes).

In any case, the Seawolf uses a stealthier pumpjet, might still be quieter overall and probably has better striking power if you consider that a submarine is unlikely to truly exploit VLS capability with only 12 TLAMs. That said, the Jimmy Carter will beat the Minnesota in "special operations; ISR, irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions".

Then again, maybe the Navy wants everyone to fixate on the Virginias and to ignore the Seawolf, to their peril. Modify the other two Seawolves to be identical to the Carter…when was the last time the Navy had *three* special operations submarines?

Be scared.

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Johnny Ranger October 25, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Counting Carter, we have 5 special operations-capable boats…don't forget the 4 converted Ohio-class SSGNs…they can carry 50+ operators each.

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

There are more. Just can't tell you which ones and for obvious reasons.

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blight_ October 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

Considering the ASDS program is stalled, it's basically down to the SDV's to do the lifting.

Paralus October 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Sure, just like the Army War College routinely graduates over 90%. of attendees.

It's only following Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon motto, where the women are strong, the men good looking and all the children are above average.

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:09 am

You don't think they are going to tell you the classified info, do you? Just the ususal stuff they want to impress you with.

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LtKitty October 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm

VA class subs are awesome! We need more.

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Lance October 25, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Nice boat. As with blight think Seawolf could have built a few more of them as well as current LA class upgrades. But Virgina's are good boats hope they make a Oregon soon.

Think this sight has too much of a love affair with Mitty Romney. Think the corrupt who want blank checks for the military's pet projects. However he is NOT president now and with larger cuts and most experts saying the Senate will remain democratic time to stop drooling over mitt.

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blight_ October 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm

The Seawolf program went a little nuts, though to be fair Seawolf had to swallow R&D costs which the Virginia did not have to pay for, so the Virginia would always look cheaper.

That said, the Seawolf was built for a day and age when ASubW/AShipW was more important than attacking ground targets: and the VLS wasn't required. Then again, with eight tubes it can dump TLAM through the torpedo tubes and deliver adequate firepower against shore.

There is no point to reopening the Seawolf production line at this point: it would cost way too much. Once you close the door, it doesn't open against unless you pay dearly for it. If we have money, it should go to the VA's and Block II VA. I think if they upgraded all three Seawolves with Jimmy Carter's package it would give each ocean a special sub plus a third laid-up, either undergoing work or in reserve.

The LA's are going to disappear, and since we're not hunting the Soviet Navy around the world there is an opportunity to reintroduce a new, high-tech SSK. Sure, in wartime a nuclear submarine doesn't need to take on fuel, but the nature of wartime suggests expenditure of ammunition that requires a submarine to return to port for extensive dockside replenishment: in which case an SSK is going to need rearming just as badly as an SSN.

In peacetime, an SSN isn't expected to run out of munitions, and the extra endurance of a nuclear powered vessel comes in handy since the only other bottleneck is foodstuffs.

Of course, a nuclear-powered sub tends to be faster than its SSK counterpart, especially since it must travel at an economical speed to maximize range, or maximize speed at the expense of range, whereas a nuclear submarine need not make such a tradeoff.

Perhaps the answer is a smaller submarine, leveraging some of the Virginia's technology, but not too much. And if we're in the market for a new SSBN, we can use the Virginia as a starting point for a new SSBN design: though with obvious differences.

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Mitch S. October 26, 2012 at 11:02 am

"upgraded all three Seawolves with Jimmy Carter's package".
Didn't know Carter had such an impressive package, extra long torpedo I suppose!

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blight_ October 26, 2012 at 10:16 am

luuul +1

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:15 am

This is a military forum, not a political one. Sure most folks on this site are military based and pro military. What did you think? Most everyone here was or is Navy and wants to bring the Navy up to the point where we are sufficiently staffed with ships and sailors.

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Big-Dean October 26, 2012 at 9:43 pm

well said Jeffery

too many come here as simple spoiler agents, they are paid to enter forums and espouse the liberal party line

and oh by the way, those people do count as "employed" in the latest numbers ;-P

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Phono October 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Why are you building 10 of those ships? Half of them would be enough to fit the demands.

If Romney wants to even extend the program he shows that:
- he has no plan according what ships are meeded in the future
- he wants to substitute the ship-building industry via the Navy (that's socialism!)

what you do need are smaller ships that are better suited for the litorial and special-operation mission-profile. I would recommend to buy a few dozen of the german HDW/Siemens made type 212 subs :-)

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blight_ October 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Or something in the Andrasta's size range.

We will always have nuclear SSBN's. We will probably continue to have SSN's. But we should be realistic and retain SSK's; but in a smaller size range. They'd make a heck of a lot more sense than using a giant Seawolf to deliver commandoes (coughcough, USS Jimmy Carter).

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Phono October 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I do like them, the VA-Class Role would be strengthen if they turn out to be more like a floating operation-base for the special-ops, then the delivery system.

That problem was probably adressed by the mini-sub she carries – not sufficiend in my opinion.

About SSN-policy, I would like to say that it is in all terms a way to high risk to send those ships in litorial missions, no matter how good their technology is.

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blight_ October 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

I thought the ASDS prototype was destroyed: any word if they were to continue with the program?

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Red October 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Out of curiosity (and since I'm a layman,) why can't an SSN be miniaturized to the size of an SSK for the littoral/shallow-water missions?

Smaller crew, smaller size, smaller payload, but still have a nuclear reactor?

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anonymous October 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Hah. Breaking news: NAVSEA successfully executes a paradigm shift. That'll be the day.

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blight_ October 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Possible. I don't know if the Navy has thought of designing smaller, lower-output nuclear reactors. I guess something with Thorium or any of the other mini-commercial designs might be a starting point, but will funding nuclear reactor design be popular for the Department of the Navy?

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Menzie October 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm

America buys American, even if it isn't the best for the job or the cheapest. True there are many instances of foreign supplied parts etc but none of the big ticket items. I first notced it when the Military wanted the Avro Arrow but politics crashed the program. Oh well. Long live capitalism in a non-free market.

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Joe October 25, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Good piece of equipment. Welcome addition to the fleet. If there is a better more advanced sub than this one, it is a well kept secret.

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

As it should be and this one is probably better equipped than the Navy is letting on.

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Tim Uk October 25, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I thought the Astute of the Royal Navy to use an american phrase whupped the Virginia class in a recent exercise ?

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

We'll never know the whole story. It's classified.

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Praetorian October 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Was that before or after the UK got it unstuck from the Scottish coast line ?

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Mastro October 27, 2012 at 12:15 am

The Astute- wasn't that the class that Americans had to teach the UK how to build?

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blight_ October 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm

The Astute is more of a hunter-killer type sub: which would put it into the Seawolf's class, instead of the VA.

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Chuck October 29, 2012 at 12:46 pm

LOL, 5 subs hardly makes a fleet. Maybe a squadron.

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Red October 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

There's a lot of similarity between the Seawolf and Virginia, and the F-22 and F-35.

Three Seawolfs were built; around 30 Virginias will be built. This is akin to the ~180 F-22s and ~2,000 F-35s that were or will be made.

Seawolf and the F-22 are centered more on performance and to dominate enemy units of their own type, while Virginia and the F-35 are made for multitasking and are meant to be a cheaper platform for multiple missions.

Seawolf and the F-22 were both prematurely capped in production due to very high cost. Virginia and F-35 were meant to be cheaper, but in real life haven't turned out to be much cheaper at all.

Seawolf has a higher weapons capacity than the Virginia; and the F-22 has a higher internal weapons capacity than the F-35.

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anonymous October 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Yeah, but Seawolf was a maintenance nightmare! The F-22, on the other hand, enjoys— Oh, wait…

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blight_ October 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm

The VA has 27x torps + 12 VLS, the Seawolf has 0 VLS, but allegedly up to 50 torps/TLAM internally stowed and launched through 8x torpedo tubes.

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:24 am

As far as the pricing goes, "So what else is new?"

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Dfens October 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Hell, if he wanted Romney could reduce the Navy budget and get back to a 600 ship Navy. All he'd have to do is stop paying defense contractors more to screw over the US taxpayer and go back to having the Navy design their own ships and subs. You know, like we did when we had a 600 ship Navy. Or he could hold the current course, in which case we will spend more and get less just as we have continued to do. The great thing about the current way of doing business is that the contractors make record profits while building few, if any actual vessels that fight, and they provide nice kickbacks to government officials who need more money more than they need more ships.

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JE McKellar October 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Here Here! Nationalize the defense industry, save the taxpayers trillions, stop the corruption that's killing the military.

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Chuck October 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

LOL, like that will work. Competition is the best policy. Buy two classes, and focus more on the most successful, best run program. The gov't would mess up way more than contractors. Contractors don't get paid if a program is cancelled. That is their motivation. Government workers always get paid, no matter how screwed up things turn out. And then you owe them benefits and retirement.

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blight_ October 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Well, competition got us two classes of LCS…but only one class of JSF.

I wonder what it would've been like to get Lockmart and Boeing JSF's. We could have had six aircraft…

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Rob October 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

We would have the Virginia Class if wasn't for the R&D work done on the SSN-21 project. Seawolf principly anti-ship/sub vessel with secondary mission of firing tommy at land targets. Virigina a multi-purpuse vessel. Weather not their equal in their tasks its hard to say. I'm actually surprised Sea Wolf didn't include VLS since later flights/blocks of LA Class did include them.

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anonymous October 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm

"We would have messed up the Virginia Class if it wasn't for the mess ups on the SSN-21" (FTFY)

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ruger October 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm

My uncle implemented the Seawolf at EB. He said there was a disconnect between the designers and the real world. Once the the design issues were worked out, it was cancelled. Still, a great boat.

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tiger October 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

I want my fish names back for Subs….. This boat should be a PIKE or MUSKIE. Not Minnesota.

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blight_ October 27, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Though we were doing the states for SSBNs but…

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JE McKellar October 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Right, the USN has enough history behind it to give all of our ships a name with a history. Where the Tang or Wahoo in the modern attack sub fleet? It makes sense that boomers have replaced battleships in being named after states, but for an attack boat, it seems like a naked attempt to gain Congressional favor. This whole business of naming ships after politicians with money is just crass and beneath the dignity of the service.

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blight_ October 28, 2012 at 9:56 pm

USS Michelle Bachman…

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anonymous October 29, 2012 at 11:24 am

(except for the patrol pin, worn below the dolphins, is called the 'boomer pin', because the image is of an old boomer)

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blight_ October 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm

You shouldn't be giving away shibboleths to us armchair folk.

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anonymous October 30, 2012 at 11:45 pm

See if you can look-up the meaning of BOCOD. ;)

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blight_ November 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

The urbandictionary one?

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blight_ October 25, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Didn't Elco design 'em all?

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Jeffrey Dorfman October 26, 2012 at 10:27 am

No. I think the manufacture was "Mattel Toy Manufacturing Corporation".

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blight_ October 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

Bah, why did I type Elco instead of Electric Boat (better known as GD Electric Boat)

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anonymous October 29, 2012 at 11:21 am

I've heard GD/EB ("G D E B") a lot, in the fleet.

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blight_ October 29, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I thought all three Seawolves were already in the Pacific.

That said, parking some SSK's in Japan, Korea and Okinawa would be no better than parking SSN's in Japan and waiting for the shoe to drop. If you want SSN's to leverage their high speed, they gain operational freedom being based out of Pearl and being able to sortie on anything that passes through the first island chain (hopefully, "if" anything passes through the first island chain, but…)

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