Ex-Naval Engineering Duty Submarine Officer. BSEE, MSEE, MSME, NA MIT Colorado @ 9000 feet. Dreynerson@alum.mit.edu 3038387240

Air Independent Propulsion


Ever since submarines become the principal weapon of naval warfare, designers have focused on making them quieter and increasing their underwater endurance. Traditional diesel-electric submarines need to surface frequently to charge their batteries and have an underwater endurance of only a few days. As battery technology improved, the endurance of these submarines increased proportionally. But it was not enough to last them beyond a week. The introduction of Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), vastly improved the underwater endurance of these submarines and gave them a distinct advantage.
That is the reason we see a large number of navies queuing up to buy or build submarines with AIP systems. The best part is that AIP technology can be installed on existing older generation submarines by inserting a new hull section during a retrofit. This article will deal with the working, advantages, disadvantages and application of AIP in modern submarines.
Diesel-Electric Submarines

As their name suggests, Diesel-Electric submarines run on diesel and electricity. They have a large network of batteries which are charged by the diesel generator. They snorkel, which means, travelling just below the surface of the water with the periscope and the diesel generator exhaust pipe above the water surface. Once they charge their batteries, they dive into the ocean and run silently on battery power with the diesel generators shut down. After running for a few days underwater, the battery gets drained and these submarines have to surface again to recharge their batteries. Diesel-Electric submarines are also referred to as SSK (Sub Surface Hunter-Killer) by US Naval designation or popularly called as diesels.

A surfaced diesel-electric submarine

A snorkeling diesel-electric submarine









Why do we need AIP ?
While underwater, the batteries on board power the propeller and other electrical systems on board the submarine. These batteries run out of charge within 4-5 days and the sub needs recharge them. This is done by snorkeling, which exposes them to detection by enemy radars and makes them an easy target for hostile anti-submarine assets. Although modern snorkels are coated with radar absorbing paint and have a stealthy shaping, they are still detectable by high resolution radars. There are also sensors called diesel sniffers which can detect the exhaust emissions of the submarines diesel generators while snorkeling. A submarine which needs to surface every day, loses its element of surprise and increases its vulnerability to hostile anti-submarine assets.
Hence we need a system which can allow diesel-electric submarines to recharge their batteries without running their engines. This will allow them to continue sailing underwater and retain the element of surprise by remaining undetected. The system should also allow the SSKs to retain their extremely low noise signatures and should not compromise on the performance of the submarine. The system which permits all this is Air Independent Propulsion (AIP).
Although nuclear submarines offer far better endurance and speeds, they are unsuitable for the shallow littoral waters and most navies cannot afford to build and maintain them as they are very expensive. Also diesel submarines possess the advantage of being able to switch off thir engines completely and lie in wait unlike nuclear submarines whose reactors cannot be switched off at will. This combined with the ultra-quiet nature of modern diesel subs, has made AIP-equipped diesel subs a very attractive alternative for many countries. Many countries are operating both nuclear and diesel-powered submarines for their respective advantages. Navies who wish to operate non-nuclear subs with long-range and large weapons payload are now option for large diesel submarines equipped with AIP, which provide the closest alternative to nuclear powered submarines. Some examples are the Soryu class of Japan, Type 216 being developed by Germany and the Shortfin Barracuda of France which will be operated by Australia.
Before we can understand the working of AIP systems, we need to understand the meaning of a few engineering terms.
Closed Cycle Engine : A heat engine in which the working substance is continuously circulated and does not need replenishment.
Steam Turbine : A type of turbine in which a high velocity jet of steam is used to turn the turbine blades which in turn rotates the shaft. The shaft can be connected to an alternator to generate electricity or to a propeller to move a ship/submarine.
Working fluid : It is a pressurized gas or fluid that is used to absorb/transmit energy in a thermodynamic system.
Scrubbing : The process of removing certain gases from the exhaust by the usage of appropriate chemicals in a scrubber.
The types of AIP systems are
Closed Cycle Diesel Engines
Closed Cycle Steam Turbines
Sterling Cycle Engines
Fuel Cells
Closed Cycle Diesel Engines
This technology involves storing a supply of oxygen in the submarine in order to run a diesel engine while submerged. Liquid oxygen (LOX) is stored in tanks on board the submarine and sent to the diesel engine for combustion. Since they need to simulate the atmospheric oxygen concentration for the engines to run safely without getting damaged, the oxygen is mixed with an inert gas (usually argon) and then sent to the engine. The exhaust gases are cooled and scrubbed to extract any leftover oxygen and argon from them and the remaining gases are discharged into the sea after being mixed with seawater. The argon which is extracted from the exhaust is again sent into the diesel engine after being mixed with oxygen.
The main challenge with this technology is the storing of liquid oxygen safely on board the submarines. The Soviet subs which used this technology during the 1960s found them to be highly prone to fires and subsequently discontinued their usage. Closed Cycle Diesel AIP is hence not preferred for modern submarines even though it is comparatively cheaper and simplifies logistics by the use of standard diesel fuel.
Closed Cycle Steam Turbines
Steam turbines make use of a source of energy to heat water and convert it into steam in order to the run the turbine. In nuclear powered submarines, the reactors provide the heat in order to convert water into steam. But in conventional closed cycle steam propulsion, a non-nuclear energy source is used to do the same. The French MESMA (Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome / Autonomous Submarine Energy Module ) is the only such system available and it makes use of ethanol and oxygen as energy sources. The combustion of ethanol and oxygen under high pressure is used to generate steam. The steam generated is the working fluid and is used to run the turbine. The high pressure combustion allows the exhaust carbon dioxide to be expelled outside into the sea at any depth without making use of a compressor.


The advantage of MESMA is it’s higher power output when compared to the alternatives which allows higher underwater speeds but it’s major drawback is it’s lower efficiency. Also the rate of oxygen consumption is said to be very high and these systems are very complex. These drawbacks make several navies opt for sterling cycle and fuel cell alternatives.
Sterling Cycle Engines
A Sterling Engine is a closed cycle engine with a working fluid which is permanently contained in the system. A source of energy is used to heat this working fluid, which in turn moves the pistons and runs the engine. The engine is coupled to a generator, which generates electricity and charges the battery. The source of energy used here is typically LOX as oxidizer and diesel fuel, which is burnt in order to generate heat for the working fluid. The exhaust is then scrubbed and released into the seawater.


Sterling AIP by Saab


A Sterling Engine (right) and the plugin module to be retrofitted on existing subs (left)
The advantage of using Sterling engines is the easy availability of diesel fuel and low refueling costs when compared with Fuel Cells. They are also quieter than MESMA and hence preferred by the Japanese for their Soryu class, Sweden for their Gotland and Västergötland class and China for their Yuan class.
The main drawback is that they are relatively noisy when compared to Fuel Cells due to the presence of a large number of moving parts. They are also bulky when compared to Fuel Cells. The operating depth of a submarine using Sterling AIP is limited to 200 m when AIP is engaged.
Fuel Cells
A Fuel Cell is a device which converts chemical energy into electricity. This is done using a fuel and an oxidizer. A typical fuel cell converts Hydrogen (fuel) and Oxygen (oxidizer) into electricity, with water and heat released as by-products. This is done by an electrolytic cell which consists of two electrodes, one positive (anode) and the other negative (cathode), separated by an electrolytic barrier. The reaction between the cathode and anode produces an electric current, which is used to charge the batteries. A chemical catalyst is used to speed up the reactions.

A Siemens PEM Fuel Cell
Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cells (PAFC) and Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC) are presently used in submarines. Germany is said to be the world leader in developing and fielding this type of AIP, which is backed by the large number of export orders they have received. France is developing a new generation Fuel Cell AIP as a successor to its MESMA. India is another country which is developing a Fuel Cell AIP to be integrated on their submarines.


Working of a PEM Fuel Cell
Fuel cells are the most advanced and preferred AIP technology today. This is because of the major advantages they offer in stealthiness and power generation. They contribute to the stealthiness of the sub as Fuel Cells have almost no moving parts, which significantly reduces the acoustic signature of the sub. Fuel Cells can achieve an efficiency of over 80% under certain circumstances. They can also be scaled easily into large or small sizes depending on the displacement of the submarine. This is easier than developing different systems for each submarine class. Hydrogen Fuel Cells are also very environment friendly as they generate no exhaust fumes, which in turn eliminates the need to have special exhaust scrubbing and disposal machinery. The only drawback is that they are expensive and complex.
The use of AIP on a diesel-electric submarine, greatly increases their underwater endurance, allowing them to continuously stay submerged for weeks without surfacing. Although the submarine eventually needs to surface to charge its batteries and their endurance is nowhere on-par with nuclear powered submarines, the vast increase in endurance offered by AIP gives them an advantage over non AIP equipped diesel-electric submarines. However AIP doesn’t give any advantage other than increased underwater advantage and it should not be assumed that AIP-equipped submarines will always defeat their non-AIP equipped counterparts.
In April 2006, a German Navy submarine U-32, equipped with a Siemens proton exchange membrane (PEM) compressed hydrogen fuel cell AIP, made a 2800 km uninterrupted underwater journey without surfacing/snorkeling! This is in stark contrast to non-AIP equipped submarines which can cover only 500-800 km before they have to surface and recharge their batteries by running noisy diesel generators. Comparatively, a nuclear-powered submarine has unlimited underwater endurance!

Unterseeboot U-32 of the German Navy
Again in 2013, U-32 set a record by traveling underwater continuously for 18 days without surfacing! Comparatively, a non-AIP diesel sub has an underwater endurance of just 4-6 days before it has to surface. This shows that AIP-equipped diesel-electric submarines are far more capable than their non-AIP equipped counterparts when it comes to endurance.
AIP Usage Around The World
As of 2016, the following countries have developed their own AIP systems to be fitted on submarines.
Germany – Fuel Cell
Sweden – Stirling
Japan – Stirling
France – MESMA
Spain – Fuel Cell
India – Fuel Cell
Russia – Fuel Cell
People’s Republic of China – Stirling

Other than Fuel Cells, the 3 remaining technologies have a lot of moving parts which generate noise. This is not desirable as quietness is very essential for all submarines. So by using Stirling, MESMA and CCD AIP systems, submarines will be sacrificing some of their stealthiness for additional endurance.
Even though Fuel Cell AIP has many advantages, it is extremely expensive to procure and maintain them.
Submarines which use AIP need to sail at speeds of less than 10 kts in order to achieve exceptional endurance of 14-18 days as advertised. In comparison, a nuclear powered sub can travel for an unlimited distance at 30-35 kts without sacrificing endurance. So AIP equipped submarines cannot replace nuclear submarines when it comes to blue water or extended period operations.
The advantage offered by increased underwater endurance can be used for ‘ambushing’ an approaching fleet. In one such scenario, an AIP equipped submarine can roam near a strait, waiting for its target to approach. The sub will be running at ultra-quiet speeds of 2-4 knots for several weeks and then attack the target when it appears, using its torpedoes. Even though a non-AIP equipped sub can do the same thing, it’s waiting period, which is very essential for an underwater ambush, is significantly lesser.
In another scenario, an AIP equipped sub can roam near enemy territory for far longer compared to a non-AIP sub. Thus in this situation where intelligence is gathered and spy missions are performed, AIP gives these quiet diesel subs an advantage by allowing them to loiter for weeks without the need to surface.
The thing to remember about AIP is that just because a submarine is equipped with that technology, it wont necessarily use them on every deployment. During regular patrols or in friendly territory, an AIP equipped submarine will snorkel often to recharge its batteries. Only when it is deployed operationally will it make use of AIP to increase its underwater endurance. This is because most of the fuels, oxidizers and other consumables used in AIP are quite expensive and it would not be economical to replenish them on a monthly basis.
The capacity and reliability of batteries is increasing due to extensive research being conducted in that field. The various AIP technologies mentioned will also see large-scale improvement in capabilities. These two technologies combined, will allow AIP equipped submarines of the future to stay underwater for months at a time and make them pseudo-nuclear submarines. This technology has a bright future and we will see more modern navies adopting it for their diesel-electric submarine fleets.



Since the creation of the United States Navy the need to deliver warships to the often ill defined specifications of the war fighters by the professional naval engineers and naval architects and the designers/builders has been a challenge. One that continues today and will always be with us be we operators (OPNAV) or designers/deliverers of warships (NAVSEA).

In my career I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to work in both worlds in the operation of submarines and destroyers and in the design of both surface ships and subs. Hopefully I see the perspectives of both worlds and will relay a few experiences that shed light on the interfaces between operators and creators of warships.

To illustrate the point with respect and humor I reproduce here a pair of messages committed to the ether in 1964 ( I enlisted in the US Navy in June 1960 for the record and served in DDG 16 for four years as the MPA and Missile Fire Control Officer) . The first I must note was created by the Commanding Officer of the USS Gridley (DLG-21) on 10 July 1964 and answered by Chief, Bureau of Ships (now Naval Sea Systems Command – NAVSEA) on 10 August 1964. The exchange is priceless. I recall having these two messages fall into my hands at the Engineering Duty Officer School at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1975. As I recall RADM Malcolm McKinnon passed to the class. He had a great sense of humor and is fondly remembered by many of my generation.

Thus begins the exchange:

From: Commanding Officer, U.S.S. GREDLEY (DLG-21)
To: Chief, Bureau of Ships

Subj: Urinals,; height of

1. In a recent exchange of correspondence between Commander, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Chief, Bureau of Ships, the Commander, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, on the basis of


bu U.S.S. GRIDLEY (DLG-21) and U.S.S REEVES (DLG-24), recommended that in future constructions the urinals be installed at a height of 25 inches above the deck rather than the specified 23 inches. In response to the recommendation, the Chief, Bureau of Ships stated that the evidence cited did not justify the departure from the shipyard specifications on the height of urinal installation.
2. Since the original recommendation was made partly on the basis of GRIDLEY personnel and since there is an indication that GRIDLEY’s complaint was not adequately justified, GRIDLEY has caused a more thorough inquiry into the facts.
3. A survey of ship’s company has revealed that the tallest man in the crew 6″5″ and the shortest 5’4″. In a dry run these men have been poised at the urinals at their present height of 23″, and it has been determined that the tallest man has 15″ clearance and the shortest 4″.


Useful References:
Lessons Not learned: The US Navy’s Status Quo Culture by Roger Thompson

This post will examine the motivation of the USN to take highly proven Petty Officers post WWII and send them to the best engineering universities in America and then to NAVOCS to inject technical excellence into the operating officer corps.  I attended NC State 1964-1968 with sixteen sailors and marines in this program…..that year approximately 300 nationwide were sent to the universities.  That same year the Naval Academy was placed on probation for academic failure  by the Association of Southern Colleges and Universities…….USNA almost lost its accrediation as a four year college……it was that bad.

NESEPs saved the USN operating Officer Corps from itself……….remains a problem as an institution.  The nation ALSO suffers from a damaged culture that permits 110,000 H1B visas yearly for FOREIGN engineers because the American culture fails to provide the rewards and motivation for academic and technical excellence……..the military academies fall short…….CANOE U is a reality……..still…….






When Things Go Wrong

Boat Kill     Self death from returning fish(s)



This item addresses if visual and open documentation info is available the submarine disasters that I can locate on line.   Examples, Scorpion, Thresher, San Francisco, Kursk, etc.  For the laymen—-the service has lost many boats since we started going under…..but a few have been photographed after the disaster…..only a few……and fewer still have actually been salvaged from the thousands lost by all nations.  The most complex salvage operation was the raising of the USSR boat from the Pacific by the CIA in……..




Salvage of the Kursk submarine. The salvage of the Kursk is a good example of the skills and ingenuity of Mammoet’s engineers and operatives. This nuclear submarine sank on 12 August 2001 in water with a depth of 108 meters, with the loss of all 118 navy personnel on board. The submarine then settled about two meters into the seabed mud.


In May 2001 the Russian government awarded the contract for the salvage of the Kursk to Mammoet and Smit Internationale. Mammoet provided the heavy lifting system while Smit provided tugs and the Giant 4 pontoon which was used as a working platform. This project required lifting a 9000 ton load from a depth of 108 meters and it was estimated that another 3000 tons force would be needed to pull the Kursk free.


Mammoet designed a salvage system based on a set of 26 of its powerful strand jacks which allowed accurate control of the high lifting forces. The jacks were combined with heave compensators to offset the wave motion of the pontoon for improved safety and better control of the lifting process. Twenty-six holes were cut in the hull of the Kursk to accommodate lifting plugs which expanded on the inside of the hull. Each plug was connected to a set of strands which rose to the surface where they were gripped by a strand jack.


On 8 October 2001 the Kursk was pulled free of the seabed and brought to just below the surface, hanging below the Giant 4. Tugs then towed the pontoon and the submarine to Murmansk where the Kursk was transferred to a dry dock. The Russian navy then recovered the bodies of the victims and the load of weapons.


The challenge of this project was to develop a safe and effective system for the recovery of the submarine in a short time and then implement the plans safely and efficiently.



USS San Francisco  SSN 571


Los Angeles Class Attack Submarine: Laid down, 26 May 1977, at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, VA.; Launched, 27 October 1979; Commissioned, USS San Francisco (SSN-711), 24 April 1981. San Francisco is assigned to Bremerton, Wash.


Specifications: Displacement, Surfaced: 6,000 t., Submerged: 6.927 t.; Length 360′; Beam 33′; Draft 29′; Speed, Surfaced 25 kts, Submerged 30+ kts; Depth limit 950′; Complement 129; Armament, four 21″ torpedo tubes aft of bow can also launch Harpoon and Tomahawk ASM/LAM missiles & MK-48 torpedoes; Combat Systems, AN/BPS-5 surface search radar, AN/BPS-15 A/16 navigation and fire control radar, TB-16D passive towed sonar arrays, TB-23 passive “thin line” towed array, AN/BQG-5D wide aperture flank array, AN/BQQ-5D/E low frequency spherical sonar array, AN/BQS-15 close range active sonar (for ice detection); MIDAS Mine and Ice Detection Avoidance System, SADS-TG active detection sonar, Type 2 attack periscope (port), Type 18 search periscope (starboard), AN/BSY-1 (primary computer); UYK-7; UYK-43; UYK-44, WLR-9 Acoustic Intercept Receiver, ESM; Propulsion System, S6G nuclear reactor one propeller at 35,000 shp.


In Dry Dock  SS711

Close up view of the bow of the Los Angeles class attack submarine San Francisco (SSN-711) in dry dock in Apra Harbor, Guam, Jan. 27, 2005, to assess damage sustained after running aground approximately 350 miles south of Guam Jan. 8, 2005.
This was forwarded to me from a Submariner from his buddy who was the Diving Officer when they hit the sea mount. Interesting reading! There are quite a few amazing stories that have come out of this event.

Crewperson assessment……
To say that I’ve had a bad year so far would be a little short on the tooth I think. Last year was a good one for the boat. After spending 5 months away from home in drydock (Sandy Eggo) we got our second BA on ORSE (bad juju), received the highest score in PacFlt for a submarine TRE inspection, aced our mine readiness inspection with 4 out of 4 hits, completed 2 outstanding missions (will have to shoot you), and completed a early ORSE just before Christmas with an EXCELLENT. It was also the first year that Auxiliary Division had a Christmas standown since coming out of the yards in 2002. A-division also took the CSS-15 Red DC award for the second year in a row. My retention has been 100% since I checked onboard in Oct 2002 amongst 1st/2nd and turd termers.
We were going to our first true liberty port 2 weeks ago, heading for Brisbane and fun in the sun. As this WOG knows, we were getting ready for our crossing the line ceremony and the crew was really upbeat, and hard charging, we had just completed a great year for the San Fran
To say the world went to shyte in a hand basket would be an understatement. I would put it closer to a nightmare that becomes reality.
The seamount that is a large part of the discussion the last 2 weeks is un-named. The charts we carried onboard were up to date as far as we can tell. No modern geographic data for this area was available to us onboard as it is a remote area not often traveled by the Navy. We have one of the BEST ANav’s in the fleet onboard, a true quartergasket that takes pride in his job. We have RLGN’s onboard, when they are running, they are accurate as hell for our position, they also drive Tomahawks.
We knew where we were. All of my depth gauges and digital read the same depths as we changed depth to our SOE depth for flank. I can’t discuss alot, because I’m still a participent of at least 2 investigations….LOL.
I was the Diving Officer of the Watch when we grounded. If you read the emails from ComSubPac, you will get some of the details, from flank speed to less than 4 knots in less than 4 seconds. We have it recorded on the RLGN’s-those cranky bastages actually stayed up and recorded everything. For you guys that don’t understand that, take a Winnebego full of people milling around and eating, slam it into a concrete wall at about 40mph, and then try to drive the damn thing home and pick up the pieces of the passengers.
As for the actual grounding, I can tell you that it was fortunate that myself and the Chief of the Watch were blessed by somebody. I was standing up, changing the expected soundings for a new depth on the chart (yes, we had just moved into deeper water) leaning against the ship’s control panel with a hand grip, and the COW was leaning down to call the COB on the MJ.
The next thing to cross my mind was why am I pushing myself off of the SCP and where the hell the air rupture in the control room come from? I didn’t know it, but I did a greater than 3g spiderman against the panel, punched a palm through the only plexiglass guage on the SCP and had my leg crushed by the DOOW chair that I had just unbuckled from. The DOOW chair was broken loose by the QMOW flying more than 15 feet into it and smashing my leg against a hydraulic valve and the SCP. I don’t remember freeing myself from it. If I had been buckled in, I don’t think I would be writing this. The COW was slammed against the base of the Ballast Control Panel, and only injured his right arm. He could of destroyed the BCP, he was a big boy. Everybody else in control, with the exception of the helm, was severely thrown to the deck or other items that were in their way, and at least partially dazed. Within about 5 seconds of the deceleration, we blew to the surface, it took that 5 seconds for the COW to climb up the BCP and actuate the EMBT blow. We prepared to surface right away and got the blower running asap, I didn’t know how much damage we had forward but knew it was not good, I wanted that blower running.
I would say that about 80% of the crew was injured in some way, but do not know the number. We grounded in the middle of a meal hour, just after field day, so most of the crew was up. Once we got the boat on the surface and semi-stable with the blower running the rest of the ship conditions started sinking in to our minds. We were receiving 4MC’s for injured men all over the boat. I was worried that those reports were over whelming any equipment/boat casualties that could make our life worse. I had teams form up of able bodied men to inspect all of the forward elliptical bulkhead, lower level, and tanks below those spaces. I couldn’t believe that we did not have flooding, it just didn’t fit in. At one point I looked around in the control room, and saw the disaster.
The entire control room deck was covered in paper from destroyed binders, and blood. It looked like a slaughterhouse, we had to clean it up.
I knew that Ash was severly injured and brought to the messdecks, he was one of my best men, and one of our best sailors onboard, he was like a son to me. After surfacing I was the control room supervisor, I had a boat to keep on the surface and fight and knew that if I went below to see how he was doing, it would teeter me on the brink of something that the ship did not need, the ship needed somebody who knew her.
I have to say that the design engineers at Electric Boat, NavSea and others have designed a submarine that can withstand incredible amounts of damage and survive. We lost no systems, equipment, or anything broke loose during the impact. The damage to our sailors was almost all from them impacting into the equipment.
The crew is a testament to training and watch team backup. When a casualty occurs, you fight like you train, and train like you fight. It kept us alive during that 2+day period.
I’ve just returned from the honor of escorting my sailor home to his family. God bless them, they are truly good people and patriotic. The Navy is doing everything they can for them and they are learning how submariner’s take care of each other. During the memorial and viewing on Saturday, CSS-15 provided a video from the coast guard of us on the surface and the SEAL/Dr. medical team being helo’d in, the family had this video played on 2 screens in the background. It was a sobering reminder of what a hard woman the ocean can be. We had to call off the helo because of the sea state, it was becoming too dangerous for the aircraft, we almost hit it with the sail a couple of times. The sea would not allow us to medivac in our condition and that sea state.
I was one of the 23 sent to the hospital that Monday. I was fortunate, my leg was not broken, just trashed/bruised. I walked on that leg for almost 24 hours before it gave out on me and they had it splinted. The SEAL made me promise not to walk on it, how do you refuse a SEAL? LOL.
So I hopped around on a single leg for awhile, the other chief’s were calling me Tiny Tim, LOL. “God bless each and every one! Except you, and you, that guy behind you!”. The COB threatened to beat my @ss if I walk onboard before my leg is otay, he’s about the only man onboard that I’d take that from, hehe.
The crew is doing better, we’ve lost a few due to the shock of the incident. We will make sure they are taken care of. The investigation goes on, and I have a new CO. I will only say that the San Fran was the best damn sub in the Navy under CDR Mooneys leadership. We proved that.
God bless him and his family no matter what happens in the future, he is truly a good man.
I just need to get my leg healed and get back to fighting my favorite steel bitch.


SF In Dry Dock with New Sonar Dome 

Shipyards Design The Boats, Build Them and Fix Them….THE CONSTANT

 Official Position USN

USS San Francisco Investigation Completed

Story Number: NNS050509-14Release Date: 5/9/2005 3:11:00 PM

From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) — The U.S. Navy announced May 9 the completion of the investigation into the Jan. 8 accident aboard the submarine USS San Francisco (SSN 711) that claimed the life of one Sailor.

San Francisco struck an undersea mountain about 360 miles southeast of its Guam homeport because its leaders and watch teams failed to develop and execute a safe voyage plan, the command investigation into the incident concluded.

“The findings of fact show that San Francisco, while transiting at flank (maximum) speed and submerged to 525 feet, hit a seamount that did not appear on the chart being used for navigation,” the 124-page report said of the incident in the vicinity of the Caroline Islands.

“Other charts in San Francisco’s possession did, however, clearly display a navigation hazard in the vicinity of the grounding,” it said. “San Francisco’s navigation team failed to review those charts adequately and transfer pertinent data to the chart being used for navigation, as relevant directives and the ship’s own procedures required.

“If San Francisco’s leaders and watch teams had complied with requisite procedures and exercised prudent navigation practices, the grounding would most likely have been avoided. Even if not wholly avoided, however, the grounding would not have been as severe and loss of life may have been prevented.”

Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, 24, of Akron, Ohio, died aboard the submarine Jan. 9 from an “inevitably fatal” severe head injury sustained during the accident.

“Earlier evacuation or arrival of medical officers would not have changed the outcome for [Petty Officer] Ashley” the investigation said in regard to the two additional medical personnel flown aboard by helicopter and two attempts to medically evacuate him by helicopter.

Another 97 of 137 crew members reported injuries ranging from minor bruising and muscle strains to two who suffered dislocated shoulders. Sixty-eight of them were evaluated and treated aboard, while the remaining 29 were treated at Naval Hospital Guam when San Francisco returned to port under its own power Jan. 10. Just three of them were admitted overnight for further evaluation and treatment.

As a result of the collision, U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert relieved Cmdr. Kevin Mooney of his command of San Francisco Feb. 12 following non-judicial punishment proceedings in Yokosuka, Japan. Mooney also received a letter of reprimand.

But Greenert, in his endorsement of the investigation, also praised Mooney’s prior record and performance following the impact.

“Although the grounding incident compelled me to punish [him] and remove him from command, in my opinion it does not negate 19 years of exemplary service,” the admiral wrote. “Prior to the grounding incident, USS San Francisco demonstrated a trend of continuing improvement and compiled an impressive record of achievement under [Mooney’s] leadership. Moreover, the crew’s post-grounding response under his direct leadership was commendable and enabled [the sub’s] recovery and safe return to port.”

Greenert also criticized the executive officer and navigation team for their share of the responsibility, saying their “failure to adequately and critically review applicable publications and available charts led to submission of an ill-advised voyage plan and hindered the commanding officer’s ability to make fully informed safety-of-ship decisions.”

Six crew members were punished March 22 by Capt. Bradley Gehrke, commander of Submarine Squadron 15 on Guam, to which San Francisco was assigned. None were identified due to privacy reasons, but they included enlisted, senior enlisted and officer. The punishments included reduction in rate and punitive letters of reprimand.

San Francisco remains in drydock in Apra Harbor, Guam, under repair.

Author’s comment:   Because of the exceptional design and construction of this boat SSN 711 many lives were saved.  The training and professionalism of the crew also saved many.   A sub traveling a flank speed essentially hit a wall that did not move…….amazing the outcome.  The water depth below was thousands of feet…….no recovery would have been possible.            After repairs it rejoined the flee and served for many more years.






Until USS Natulus was operational, ALL submarines regardless of origion were “Smoke Bosts”…..certainly none were nuclear powered.   I will restrict info here to United States submarines, warships only.


USS Queenfish AGSS 393     CIRCA 1960

I qualified in Queenfish in December 1961….a time when most US submarines were diesel powered.   The nuclear boats were few but growing in numbers rapidly as we focused on the Cold War.  Essentially American submarines were the key to the victory over the USSR which fell in 1989 (approximately).  Diesel boats played an important role in the “HOT” war – Viet Nam working in Special Operations with UDT/SEALS throughout South East Asia.



“Smoke Boat” setting colors – JAP kills WWII.



German WWII U- Boat…Kills Merchant In North Atlantic



ForwardTorpedo Room – shetch. WWII Fleet Boat.

  Note Sailor in “Rack” left above.  I had a Rack in Forward Torpedo Room on SS 393.



WWII Fleet Boat Sketch -Control Room – Diving Control Station.










Under ICE Tech and Operations

USS Skate….FIRST At North Pole Surfaced.


 Nautilus (SSN 571) FIRST under Pole. 1958.


Uhhhhh…3 AUG 58.

MAP np 01


North Polar Maps

 1831B Jenette np 1831c Jenette NP 1831 Jenwtte NP

Loss of Jenrette

Basic CMYK

Playtime at The North Pole – Bears just wanna have fuh..nn.

Curious Bear

Where are you off to…..??


This – sailors – will never work….hope your boat is better designed   !!


Looking For The Pole

A highly recommended (Kindle available) work by Alfred McLauren, ex-skipper of USS Queenfish (SS651) is Unknown Waters addressing the 1970 maping of the underice view of the Siberian Coast.  Summary below:

Charting the Siberian continental shelf during the height of the Cold War

This book tells the story of the brave officers and men of the nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish (SSN-651), who made the first survey of an extremely important and remote region of the Artic Ocean. The unpredictability of deep-draft sea ice, shallow water, and possible Soviet discovery, all played a dramatic part in this fascinating 1970 voyage.
Covering 3100 miles over a period of some 20 days at a laborious average speed of 6.5 knots or less, the attack submarine carefully threaded its way through innumerable underwater canyons of ice and over irregular seafloors, at one point becoming entrapped in an “ice garage.” Only cool thinking and skillful maneuvering of the nearly 5,000-ton vessel enabled a successful exit. The most hazardous phase of the journey began 240 nautical miles south of the North Pole with a detailed hydrographic survey of an almost totally uncharted Siberian shelf, from the northwestern corner of the heavily glaciated Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago to the Bering Strait via the shallow, thickly-ice-covered Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas.
The skipper of the Queenfish had been trained and selected by Admiral Hyman Rickover and, inspired by this polar experience, McLaren became one of the world’s foremost Arctic scientists, studying first at Cambridge University and then obtaining his doctorate in physical geography of the Polar Regions from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
A note: I liive in Bailey, Colorado above Denver, my son lives in Boulder and I qualified on Queenfish (SS393) in 1961.  Some connection here.
FYI a review from Amazon:  CAPT McLaren’s splendid account of USS QUEENFISH’s historic under-ice survey is well-written and gripping. As a former submarine sailor and arm-chair Antarctica junkie—I had little difficulty translating the submarine-speak and ice-speak. Some who have reviewed made the point of the “trade language”—I would offer the potential reader the following: CAPT McLaren’s explained (more than once) the more esoteric terms—and had the grace to include an exhaustive glossary. I plan to purchase this book for one of my children–who has never served on a boat—and advise marking the glossary for quick reference. The prose is somewhat repetitive, but the nature of their work was repetitive. CAPT McLaren managed to make a topic that had potential to be dull and boring into a riveting story of a time not so long ago when submarine skippers had no leash. Based on the story and a few people of acquaintance who know of CAPT McLaren, I could recommend this book for up and coming leaders—regardless the vocation. By all accounts, CAPT McLaren was/is thoughtful, honest, and courageous—good attributes for anyone, particularly anyone in a position of leadership.
 My Take:  The author from first hand experiences provides the layman with interesting information…..about as much as possible given the need for secrecy in our business.  Good read but he uses the first poerson a little toooo often.






I was privilege in 1978 to have been appointed Assistant Nuclear Power Superintendent (CODE 2301) for the defueling overhaul of USS Nautilus SSN 571. We also following the Nautilus defueling and decommissioning,  refuled USS Seawolf SSN  575. Both had similar nuclear plants and it was prudent to conduct the defueling of Nautilus and refueling of Seawolf at Mare Island.   Seawolf home port was at Mare Island.  The challenges at Mare was to conduct the defueling using antiquated equipment (cutting machines, barrells, hoists, etc) delivered from Electric Boat in Groton.  The equipment was prepared using existing standards of cleanliness and captivation in late 1970s(see above- the equipment was designed and fabricated in the early 1950s) and HGR gave no quarter on this set of requirements.  After defueling, Nautilus was towed to Puget Sound where she was placed in mothballs for several years until she was returned to her home in New London, Connecticut.  There today she lies as a historic site for all Americans to visit and enjoy.

The print below is in my private collection and was presented to me upon decommissioning of Nautilus at Mare Island.   Signed by the Commanding Officer.  Nautilus and I spanned the 60s and 70s as the US submarine service transitioned from a handful of diesel boats to over 100 nuclear submarines.




Below Sourced from Naval History Heritage Command