Friday, October 20, 2006

Nuclear Sub Docks At Apra

Nuclear submarine docks at Apra
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff

THE nuclear attack submarine USS Seawolf (SSN 21) has docked at the Navy’s Apra Harbor facility, Variety sources said.

The USS Seawolf is more advanced than the three Los Angeles-type submarines currently homeported on Guam.

Variety sources said this was the first time that the USS Seawolf has been to Guam or this part of the world.

It was unclear yesterday whether the USS Seawolf’s visit was connected to the current North Korean crisis.

The Navy yesterday confirmed the presence of the submarine but did not give details. “The submarine is here for a routine port visit,” COMNAVMAR public affairs assistant Ben Keller told Variety. But he could not say how long the submarine would be on Guam or where it was headed for next.

“For security reasons, we do not discuss ship movements,” Keller said.

Usually, submarines or any ships making routine port visits to Guam are announced by the Navy.

Ceremonies are even held to welcome the crew and ship visits are offered to the public. But this time, the Navy said no such things were planned for the submarine.

The USS Seawolf is the lead ship of her class, succeeding the Los Angeles-type of attack submarine. It is said that the USS Seawolf is quieter at its tactical speed of 25 knots than a Los Angeles submarine is at pier side. Originally, 29 were to be produced, but with the end of the Cold War, the cost was judged to be prohibitively high and only three were built in favor of the smaller, cheaper, Virginia class.

According to Global Security, the USS Seawolf is designed to rapidly deploy to hostile ocean areas and clear the way for strikes by other friendly forces, as well as engage and destroy surface forces and land targets.

In addition, the USS Seawolf is designed to be a quiet, fast, heavily armed, and shock-resistant submarine. Variety sources said the USS Seawolf is just the first of more submarines that will be sent to Guam as part of normal rotations and a more deliberate show of force in the region.

Currently, Guam is home port to two attack submarines, the USS City of Corpus Christi and the USS Houston, as well as the submarine tender USS Frank Cable.

Another submarine, the USS Buffalo, will join them next year to replace the USS San Francisco, the Los Angeles-class submarine currently being repaired in the mainland.

But the number of U.S. submarines based on Guam may further increase to five in line with the Department of Defense’s quadrennial defense review released last February, which recommended the deployment of more submarines to the Pacific by 2010.

In addition, the Navy is reportedly planning to deploy missile submarines to Guam, in addition to the attack submarines already homeported on island.

The cruise missile submarines are designed to attack large warships and tactical targets on land in contrast to the attack submarines currently based on Guam, which specialize more in combat with other naval vessels.

Two cruise missile submarines, perhaps as many as four, may be deployed to Guam as part of deterrence measures against China and North Korea, which has lately been beefing up its military posture in the region.

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