The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is just one of 32 vessels in Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific exercises held every two years. My run on Sunday morning takes me along Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial. I shot this photo from the Visitor Center area. It is pretty amazing how many ships are in the Pearl Harbor lochs. I've never seen air craft carriers double parked before. At the press conference on Monday, June 28, 2010, Vice Admiral Richard Hunt talked about how the first RIMPAC in 1971 was focused on "blue water" exercises. In 2010, the focus is on the littoral. (Wikipedia: The littoral zone refers to that part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore.) In this case the waters off the islands. I suspect Bellows will be a site of some of the littoral exercise during these coming weeks. The Navy has newly designed vessels specifically for littoral operations. The USS Freedom is one such vessel participating in RIMPAC 2010. Another is the RSS Supreme from Singapore. The RSS Supreme is part of the Formidable class stealth frigate. If you look at the surface of this vessel you can see the patchwork of radar absorbing panels. It almost looks like it is padded. The RSS Supreme was parked right next to the DDG Atago from Japan. The Japanese brought two ships, the DDG 177 Atago and the DD 108 Akebono. These two ships were double parked right next to each other. I would have loved to be on the ship when they did that maneuver. The DDG Atago is based on the Arleigh-Burke (Aegis) destroyer design but manufactured by Mitsubishi of Japan. I find it interesting that the show Ryomaden, currently airing on KIKU-TV is a story about Ryoma Sakamoto told by Iwasaki Yataro, founder of Mitsubishi. The show goes into good detail about Yataro's humble beginnings as a bird cage peddler and his ambitions as a businessman. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew someday his company would be furnishing the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) with high tech destroyers based on a US design. I am sure it would have blown his mind. The tour of the DDG Atago was relatively quick but we did get to visit the bridge, deck and officers dining room. I did notice one thing, that ship was the cleanest ship I have every been on. Everything sparkled, even the propeller on the life boat. Today the DDG Atago participated in a anti-piracy inspection drill. If you are interested in more photos of the DDG Atago you can view this set.
En route on its mission: Pacific Partnership 2010, the USNS Mercy docked in Pearl Harbor to pick up supplies and volunteers from Hawaii, before heading off to Guam. The weekend stopover also allowed ship personnel to spend a brief moment in Hawaii. But judging from the amount of visitors filing through the ship, there was little time for crew sightseeing. This ship tour was a quick one, unlike previous embarks to the USS Nimitz, Santa Fe and Chung-Hoon. Whereas the previous ship visits were operational tours, experiencing the USNS Mercy was like taking a walk in a giant floating hospital. We toured operating rooms, recovery rooms, CT scanners, bio-labs, well stocked cafeteria and sizable exercise rooms. The USNS Mercy was described as being one of the largest in the Navy's fleet, second only to an aircraft carrier. Interestingly, this ship wasn't built to order. It was originally a oil freighter that was later converted in the mid-1980's to function as a humanitarian, medical facility. The USNS Mercy is on its way to Guam and a 4-month exercise called Pacific Partnership 2010. From Guam they will visit Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Timor-Leste. Two additional visits are scheduled to Palau and Papua New Guinea by other Navy ships. This is the fifth in a series of U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian efforts that started in 2006. According to the Pacific Partnership blog the mission is described as:
Pacific Partnership, which is scheduled to take place between June and September 2010, is aimed at strengthening regional relationships with host nations and partner nations in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Pacific Partnership is designed to enhance these relationships though medical, dental and engineering outreach projects that reinforce the mutually supporting roles between participants. Another benefit is to help participants practice the skills that would be called upon in response to a disaster.You can follow the 4-month mission on a variety of social media tools. The Pacific Partnership 2010 is actively updating on their own website, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and blog. Based on their schedule they will return to Hawaii in September before heading back to home port in San Diego. All the best to the mission and crew of the USNS Mercy for all the work they do.
The USS Chung-Hoon is an Aegis Class Destroyer that has a particular tie to Hawaii. The ship is named after Rear Admiral Gordon Pai`ea Chung-Hoon, a local of Hawaiian/Chinese ancestory who was the recipient of the Navy Cross and Silver Star for heroism as commanding officer of USS Sigsbee (DD-502) from May 1944 to October 1945. On April 5, 2010, the U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs office organized several bloggers, photographers and social media folks to join Family Day outing. On board with us was blogger Jasmine Guevara, Big Island blogger, Damon Tucker who did an extensive photo journal of the trip, Advertiser blogger, Shauna Goya of Odds and Ends, photographer Dallas Nagata who shot some splendid photos, Kaimana Pine from Kanu Hawaii and Christie Shimabuku from the Waikiki Resort Hotel. In the above video, the ship played host to about 50 family and friends from the Navy League who has adopted the USS Chung-Hoon. The atmosphere was quite different from my embarks to the aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz and submarine, USS Santa Fe which were in the mode of running practice drills. Although the crew of the USS Chung-Hoon were alert and punctual, they were geared for the BBQ lunch and a ship full of civilians. The lunchtime highlight includes Officer Jose Martinez's de-enlistment and re-enlistment ceremony. He signed in for another 4 years of service with the US Navy. In the above video Commander Michael McCartney talks about the relationship between the USS Chung-Hoon and the State of Hawaii. He also talks about their mission which is has a strong humanistic tone to it. Granted, the Aegis Destroyer class vessel is a killing machine, equipped with missiles, anti-aircraft guns, anti-missile decoys, hand-to-hand weapons and torpedos, which I did not see by I know they're somewhere. I suspect that our War on Terror has not taken the fight to the ocean but on the rare occasion that it does I glad to have the US Navy and ships like the USS Chung-Hoon protecting our waters.
A friend of mine in college was studying to be a nuclear engineer and after graduating headed off to the Navy to do his tour of duty on a submarine. At the time I could not comprehend what 6 months on the sub really meant. I probably still don't fully understand although having the opportunity to tour the USS Santa Fe (SSN 763), I have a much better appreciation. Leading up to the tour, the identity of the submarine was not revealed to us until we got to the docks where a torpedo weapons retriever would shuttle us to the waiting sub out in Pearl Harbor. We boarded in the protected waters of the harbor over a gang plank and down a hatch. I couldn't help but notice how the surface of the sub looked like a soft cushioned surface. I was later told this was anechoic material to minimize acoustics reflection. Once in the vessel, the outside world is shut off except for what is received through instrumentation. To provide a sense of what the inside of the USS Santa Fe looks like this cutaway of a typical Los Angeles class attack submarine is a good orientation. Our first stop was the Wardroom where COB (Chief of the Boat) John Davis, LCDR Mike Beckette and Ship Doc Rob Lazarin provide the overview of ship operations. Right above the wardroom is the Control Room and Attack Center. This is the hub of activity on the submarine. Steering and navigation is located here, along with the periscopes and sonar room. It is here where Commander Dave Adams ran through maneuvering capabilities of the sub and an attack exercise. During the maneuvering exercise he took the vessel into an incline which felt like a 30 degree angle. You can see here where Nathan Kam and Melissa Chang are both standing at a forward slant. CDR Adams then took it into a decline of 30 degrees and you could feel the opposite affect of leaning backward. Quite radical when you think about it. It is like being in a bus but moving in 3 dimensions. We then did an attack simulation on a surface target. Although the sub is equipped with torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles this exercise used a water slug, basically a torpedo tube filled with water. The crew provided precise readings from sonar and the sub surfaced to periscope depth. The periscope was used to visually acquire the target and made multiple short viewings to confirm. Once the target was secured the CDR gave the "fire torpedoes" command and the water slug was launched. You could hear the expulsion of water and the change in air pressure within the control room. One cannot visit a submarine without a tour of the torpedo room. This is on the deck below the wardroom. In this photo you can get a relative size of the torpedo (in green) along side Melissa talking with LCDR Dave Benham. The torpedoes are position such that they can slide into the facing tubes. The USS Santa Fe was equipped with about 30 torpedoes mounted on a sliding mechanism that allows loading into the tubes. This is not a trivial feat in such close quarters. We did not see the vertical launch tubes for the Tomahawk cruise missiles which I assume were pre-loaded. It's one thing to load horizontal torpedoes. With the limited space on the sub, vertical missiles need to be stored within the launch tube. Another area I found quite interesting was the air handlers in the submarine. Being underwater for extended periods of time requires special monitoring of carbon dioxide and replenishing of oxygen. These CO2 scrubbers remove the carbon dioxide from the air in the sub. Right next to it is the electrolytic oxygen generator. It takes seawater, purifies the water by removing all the salts and minerals, then adds potassium hydroxide as an electrolyte. The water mixture is then electrolyzed separating the hydrogen from the oxygen. This oxygen is then added into the air mix replacing the carbon dioxide and replenishing the depleted oxygen. The air is constantly being monitored to maintain the right mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Stay tuned for more as I have a video I plan to post of our visit to the sail area when the USS Santa Fe surfaces. You can also check out the set of USS Santa Fe photos on Flickr.