Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The newest USS Colorado is a phenomenal submarine

Jeff Dumas, Daily Camera
25 November 2015
I read with interest the front page article in the Veterans Day issue of The Daily Camera regarding the arrival at the CU campus of the original ship's bell from the first two warships christened the USS Colorado. As the article mentioned, there is a second even larger bell already to be seen in the University Memorial Center on the CU campus — that belonging to the battleship USS Colorado (BB-45), which was commissioned in 1921 and decommissioned in 1947. However, what the article did not mention — and which should be made widely known — is that in early 2017 (after a 70-year hiatus), the fourth USS Colorado will hit the waves — or, perhaps we should say, slip beneath the waves. The next nuclear attack sub to be commissioned will be christened the USS Colorado (SSN-788), the Navy's newest Virginia Class attack submarine.
By the way, for those former sailors (like me) who are becoming dated on their "seamanship rates," here are some of the highlights of the USS Colorado: Instead of periscopes, the USS Colorado will have a pair of extendable "photonics masts" entirely outside the pressure hull — each of which contains several high-resolution cameras (with light-intensification and infrared sensors), an infrared laser rangefinder, and an integrated electronic communications and electronic emissions detection arrays.
Interestingly, signals from the masts' sensors are transmitted through fiber optic data lines to the control center, which can now be more comfortably located away from the restricted spaces beneath the conning towner/sail. Unlike its predecessors, the USS Colorado has a reactor core which will last the life of the ship, thereby avoiding an expensive and extended (two-year) shipyard maintenance period to refuel the reactor midlife for pre-Virginia Class boats.
Lastly, although I don't quite know what it means (and I probably don't have the requisite "need-to-know"), the USS Colorado makes use of "pump-jet propulsors" for quieter operations. I'm told that this very important feature required an extensive re-engineering of both the submarine's reactor and its turbines.
Another significant technical innovation that will be first tried in the USS Colorado is the installation of vertical revolver-chamber type rotating missile housing that will allow multiple launches from a single aperture in the hull. And, that aperture has been significantly enlarged to enable the launch of the next-generation Tomahawk guided missiles. The hull has also been configured to accommodate external Navy Seal operations. Total tab: $2.6 billion.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and various members of the Colorado congressional delegation have been preparing for the official commissioning ceremony for the USS Colorado, which is currently slated to take place at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., in February or March of 2017. In that process, the Colorado Legislature has created a formal "commissioning committee" for the USS Colorado.
In so doing, the commissioning committee has selected Boulder resident Captain John Jay Mackin, USN (Ret), to serve as the committee chairman. Captain Mackin (known to his friends and shipmates as "JJ"), first arrived in Boulder in 1995, after a long Navy career in nuclear submarines, to help decommission Rocky Flats. Captain Mackin was selected to chair the commissioning committee in part due to his service as the former skipper of an earlier attack boat, the USS Lapon (SSN-661).
In his capacity as chairman, Captain Mackin has been working closely with the skipper of the USS Colorado, Commander Ken Franklin, the governor and the Colorado Legislature to celebrate and commemorate the launch of the newest USS Colorado. One visible result of this effort has been the creation of an attractive USS Colorado license plate that is now available for all new registrations. To find out more about the activities of the commissioning committee, or to get involved, visit the committee's website at On that website, it might be noted that the official "ship's crest"was just selected from over 50 entries submitted from all over the country. The winning design was created by LTJG Michael Nielsen, USN, of Arvada, who has just been assigned to the crew of USS Colorado.
Boy, I'm glad I'm long out of the ASW ("Anti-Submarine Warfare") business!

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