14 June 2013

US nuclear submarine docks at Subic for provisioning

ANOTHER nuclear-powered submarine arrived in Subic Bay on Monday for rest and recreation (R&R) of its crew and provisioning.

It was the second visit of the same submarine in the country in 13 years. It is docked at the Alava Wharf beside the submarine tender USS Frank Cable and two other US surface ships.

The 6,200-ton USS Asheville is a fast-attack submarine that is armed with 12 Tomahawk missiles and 21 MK-48 torpedoes and can cruise at depths in excess of 800 feet at 25 knots.

Three Filipino-Americans are among the ship’s complement of 15 officers, 16 petty officers and 115 ratings.

Frank Cable, on the other hand, is based in Guam but conducts maintenance and support on submarines and surface vessels deployed in the US 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility. More than 700 sailors and civilian mariners are aboard the USS Frank Cable (AS 40), which arrived in Subic on June 7.

Frank Cable personnel will participate in several community service events in Olongapo—at the NiƱos Pag-asa Orphanage, Association for Differently Abled Persons in Zambales and a local women’s and youth’s center.

The American Embassy invited some journalists to tour the submarine on Wednesday. Cmdr. Douglas A. Bradley, the Asheville’s skipper, showed members of the media the killer-sub’s tightly-packed innards, including the three-level bunk for the crew to sleep on, his 10-square-foot command post, the mess hall, laundry area, the ship’s auxiliary power system, its diesel engine, the command center where dual periscopes are located and the forward section containing 21 MK-48 torpedoes.

Bradley says only “the best and the brightest” naval personnel make the cut as submariners, eschewing claustrophobia and loneliness in a sardine-packed environment that would not see sunlight, “sometimes for six months.”

Guiding the submarine as it navigates Subic harbor to dock is 24-year-old Filipino American, Lt. Densel Mejia, whose roots are from Pangasinan.

“This is the proudest moment of my life, coming back to the Philippines at the helm of my submarine,” he says.

The two other Fil-Ams, Bryan Santos, 21, who comes from a US Navy family, is responsible for the submarine’s fire control system, while Gabriel Pajas, 22, is the submarine’s electronic expert.

The Los Angeles-class Asheville is the 47th of its class. It is armed with vertical-launch cruise missiles and has a state-of-the-art submarine combat control system and electronic counter measures, and highly advanced sonar for navigation.

In February one of the US Navy’s most advanced warships, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Stockdale, also called on Subic Bay to replenish supplies, as well as provide its crew rest and recreation. (Recto Mercene, BusinessMirror)