UPDATED: Includes Info About Sub Deployment Skeds; Past Major Sub Fixes
WASHINGTON: The Navy is telling Congress that the nuclear-powered USS Miami suffered
$400 million to $500 million in damages from the impressive fire that injured seven and left the ship a smoldering mass at drydock.
The estimate is being provided at congressional request and is not, we hear, to be considered definitive. But the Navy is eager to let Congress know the extent of the damage as soon as possible to allow appropriators the chance to build funding into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) portion of the defense spending bill so the boat can be redeployed as soon as possible.
The May 23 fire struck the Los Angeles class boat in the early evening and persisted through much of the night. The fire roared through the forward compartment, which includes crew living, the torpedo room and command and control spaces. Those command and control facilities will be expensive to repair. The good news is that the nuclear reactor and the propulsion systems do not appear to have been damaged. The greatest concern among Navy experts was the double pressure hull and whether it had been compromised by the fire. That does not appear to be the case.
We hear the fire will add at least four to six months to the original time the USS Miami was scheduled to be in drydock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.
That raises the issue of how the Navy will cover the longer-than-planned absence of one of its most important assets. A naval expert familiar with the issue said the Navy has some flexibility.
“One option for compensating for the Miami’s delayed return to service would be to extend the length of some attack submarine deployments that take place during the months that the Miami was originally scheduled to be available for deployment but now won’t be. Deployment extensions of one month are a possibility, but they could also be shorter or longer than a month,” the source said in an email.
Since this is a submarine and nothing is simple when it comes to scheduling the sailors and their boats, there care other options. “An extension might be longer than a month, for example, if the submarine in question is currently scheduled for a deployment of less than six months. Another option would be to move around scheduled maintenance activities on some attack submarines so as to make them available for deployment during the months that the Miami was originally scheduled to be available for deployment but now won’t be. Another option would be to simply cancel or reduce some lower-priority missions that were to have been performed during those months, if there are any such missions.”
The Navy will not get a replacement boat should the Miami be deemed a loss or Congress refuse to pony up money for the repairs. However, given the persistent and fairly widespread concern about the rate of boat building for the Virginia class — the replacement for the Los Angeles class — it’s unlikely the Hill will turn the Navy away.
Here’s a list of nuclear submarines that have been rebuilt after serious accidents.
In January 2005, the San Francisco (SSN-711) ran into a sea mount a few hundred miles from Guam while traveling at hgh speed. The front end of the submarine was badly damaged. The ship was repaired by replacing its front end with that of sister ship Honolulu (SSN-718), which was scheduled for deactivation.
In March 2009, the Hartford (SSN-768) was damaged in a collision with the New Orleans (LPD-18) in the Strait of Hormuz. The Hartford was previously damaged in a grounding in the Mediterranean in 2003.