26 June 2012

US nuclear-powered sub on ‘routine port call’ arrives in Subic

A nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine of the US Navy arrived here on Monday for what American officials called a “routine port call.”

USS Louisville (SSN 724), which is currently stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, belongs to the Los Angeles class of attack submarines that are considered the backbone of the American submarine force in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The 360-foot long, 6,900-ton ship is said to be armed with sophisticated MK48 torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

According to a statement from the US Embassy in Manila, the Louisville will be in port from June 25 to June 30 to replenish supplies and to give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

The visit also “highlights the strong historic, community and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines,” the embassy said.

The submarine’s arrival came 40 days after the USS North Carolina, another nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine of the next-generation Virginia class, docked in Subic amid tension between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal, a resource-rich rocky outcropping some 130 nautical miles northwest of this free port.

According to the official US Navy web site, the Louisville’s mission is to “seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines, and to protect our naval interests.”

Like 31 of the 51 Los Angeles types in the US Navy’s submarine fleet, the Louisville is equipped with 12 vertical US launch system tubes for firing Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles. It also carries Harpoon anti-surface ship missiles with a range of 70 nautical miles (130 km) and has mine-laying capabilities.

As an attack submarine, the Louisville has received awards for its role in the Navy’s Middle East campaign. It reportedly carried out the first war patrol conducted by an American submarine since World War II as Operation: Desert Storm began in January 1991, and also earned the distinction of being the first to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets in Iraq, as well as having fired the first war shot of Desert Storm.

The submarine again participated in Operation: Iraqi Freedom in 2003, launching 16 Tomahawk missiles from the Red Sea against targets in Iraq.

The US Embassy said the Louisville will not be open to any media activity during its stay at Subic Bay Freeport.

Lt. Col. Omar Tonsay, Philippine Navy spokesman, said there was nothing unusual with the submarine’s presence in the country.

Its “diplomatic clearance is only for replenishment. [It has] no involvement with the Philippine Navy,” he added.

Tonsay said the Louisville applied for clearance to dock at Subic as early as May this year. (Henry Empeño, BusinessMirror)

Crew of the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS Louisville can be seen on top of its hull and conning tower, as it slides into Subic Bay Freeport on Monday. The US Navy ship is slated for a few days of resupply, and rest and recreation.