Tag Archives: USS Columbia

Dragging out that Navy Naming Conventions Soapbox

It’s like the Navy’s naming conventions are done with the Magic 8-ball or Ouija board over the past few years. Or perhaps are just hyper-political and just flat-out done for optics. Maybe it’s a blend of all of the above.

Trump’s Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas B. Modly, in early 2020 announced the next Ford-class supercarrier will be named after USS West Virginia Pearl Harbor hero PO3 Dorie Miller. Now don’t get me wrong, Miller should have a ship named after him– a destroyer (he previously had a Cold War-era Knox-class frigate named after him) as those vessels are named after naval heroes. Carriers should have names of presidents (a tradition established with the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945) or historic ships. Yes, I feel that Nimitz should have gotten a destroyer named after him rather than a flattop and both Carl Vinson and John Stennis should not have had any ships named in their honor, except for possibly to grace the hulls of auxiliaries.

Speaking of Pearl Harbor, Moldy was also responsible for bringing the names of the USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma back to the Navy List for the first time since 1942, with the planned USS Oklahoma (SSN-802) and the USS Arizona (SSN-803). While both are state names, matching the convention for the Virginia class these subs will belong to, I’m not sure if the name “Arizona” should ever be re-issued. After all, would you ever expect to see another HMS Hood?

77th SECNAV Kenneth J. Braithwaite, another of Trump’s guys, got a big win in my book when he returned to traditional “fish” names for fleet submarines (or hunter killers in modern parlance), something the Navy did from 1931 through 1973. Hence, we will soon have USS Barb (SSN 804), Tang (SSN 805), Wahoo (SSN 806), and Silversides (SSN 807), all after the numerous esteemed fleet boats that previously carried those marine creatures’ names, and the country’s next frigate will take the name of one of the country’s original six frigates, USS Constellation. Excellent job. This is how you do it. 

Then the “adults” came back to Washington and SECNAV Carlos Del Toro pointed out that the upcoming first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Columbia (SSBN 826), will not honor the previous 10 Columbias in current and past naval service but will specifically the first-named “District of Columbia,” which some have pointed out that is as another step in the plan to turn DC into the 51st state, but, hey…

Now enter two additional decisions from Del Toro’s office this week.

The aging Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) will be renamed USS Robert Smalls (CG 62), to comply with the new push to strip any perceived salutes to the old Confederacy from the modern military. Now, as with Dorie Miller, Smalls is a legitimate naval hero and, as such, should have a destroyer named after him. You know, a nice shiny new one that is ordered but not yet named. One that will serve for another 30 years or so. Instead, Chancellorsville/Smalls is set to retire in a couple of years, scheduled to enter mothballs in FY2026, and by most accounts, is in rather poor material condition.

Besides the terrible disservice to Smalls, the rest of the Ticos are named after battles, with Chancellorsville named after Robert E. Lee’s “perfect battle” near that Virginia town. Therefore, even if only in service for the next few years and arbitrarily stripped of her name in official disgust, why not name her after a more Union-friendly Civil War clash such as USS The Wilderness, which was importantly the first match-up between Lee and Grant (and took place in Virginia) and has never been characterized as a victory for either side? How about the USS Fort Henry, the first ship on the Navy List to honor the final Patriot victory in the Revolutionary War— and also at the time of the action part of Virginia, like the city of Chancellorsville.

Now the biggest of the grumbles.

Also coming from Del Toro this week is the word that the future Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine SSN-808 will be named USS John H. Dalton (SSN 808), after Clinton’s hatchetman SECNAV. You know, the guy who snuffed out the Sprucans before their time, slaughtered the Navy’s cruiser and frigate force, and canceled the scheduled Service Life Extension Program on USS America (CV-66), forcing the mighty carrier to be decommissioned in 1996 and ultimately scuttled at sea rather than keeping her in the line through 2010 as previously planned.

In short, Dalton was a total ass in my book. 

We all remember what happened to USS America…

The justification for Del Toro naming a sub after Dalton was that he had served briefly (active duty from 1964-69) in submarines and “as Secretary of the Navy, he took strong and principled stands against sexual assault and harassment and oversaw the integration of female Sailors onto combat ships.”

Gonna put that soap box up for now. I’m sure I’ll need to drag it out again.

Welcome USS Columbia, err, PCU District of Columbia I mean

General Dynamics Electric Boat conducted a keel-laying ceremony for the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Columbia (SSBN 826) at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, over the weekend.

Rather than being the 10th USS Columbia as previously announced by SECNAV Ray Mabus in 2016– a tradition that goes back to a 44-gun frigate in 1813 and included two cruisers and an ironclad– current SECNAV Carlos Del Toro issued a statement two days after the fact that the new boomer would be the first-named “District of Columbia” so as not to confuse it with the current USS Columbia (SSN 771), an 688i/Los Angeles-class attack submarine commissioned in 1994– named for the cities of Columbia, South Carolina; Columbia, Missouri; and Columbia, Illinois in conjunction with the naming convention used by the 62 boats of her class.

Of course, PCU District of Columbia won’t likely reach the fleet until at least 2027 (if not 2031) at which point SSN-771 will be between 33 and 37 years old and likely spinning down for decommissioning, but hey…

My suggestion: Do what they did with the old Span-Am War-era protected cruiser USS Columbia (C-12/CA-16) which was renamed USS Old Columbia in 1921 to free up the original name for use by the troop transport USS Columbia (AG-9). SSN-771 would likely just wear it for a year or two, probably not even to include a patrol, while preserving the lineage associated with the name. 

U.S. Navy “Second Class Cruisers – 1899” Monitor, USS Amphitrite; USS Atlanta; USS Columbia; USS Charleston, USS Minneapolis. Published by Werner Company, Akron, Ohio. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

But anyway, the direct USS District of Columbia moniker will salute the Washington D.C.-based Navy installations currently under Naval Support Activity Washington as well as old bases over the years including Naval Air Station/Naval Support Facility Anacostia, the Naval Gun Factory, Washington Navy Yard Marine Barracks (“8th & I”), and the historic United States Naval Observatory campus (established by order of John Quincy Adams), which is a good thing. 

If only the Navy would have somehow, someway, seen this coming. It’s like our naming conventions are done with the magic 8-ball or ouija board over the past few years or something. Of course, you could always look at it as another step in the plan to turn DC into the 51st state, but, hey…

The Final Clock is Ticking on the Ohios

The massive 18,500-ton Ohio-class Trident ballistic missile submarines– the largest subs constructed outside of Russia’s Typhoon and Borei-class boats– are bigger than Great White Fleet-era battleships and can carry enough firepower to practically erase a country from the map in a salvo.

However, they are also aging, with the first of class ordered in 1974 and the final vessel commissioned in 1997. While 24 Ohios were planned, only 18 were completed and the first four of the class later converted to SSGN Tomahawk throwers. The Ohio-class submarines were designed to have a service life of 42 years (two 20-year cycles with a 2-year midlife nuclear refueling period), which has been stretched a bit.

The 14 “boomers” left in service range in age from 24 to 37 years on active duty. The youngest of these, USS Louisiana (SSBN-743) just completed an outrageous 818-day overhaul and refueling at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard that required 6.5 million man-hours of labor to pull off.

Bremerton, WA – USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) undocked Dec. 7, 2021, at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, as part of an Engineered Refueling Overhaul, the final ERO for Ohio-class submarines.

Now set to run another 20 years on that core, at which point she will be 44 years old, “Big Lou” and her sisters will need to be replaced within the coming decade by a fully-fleshed new SSBN, the Columbia class.

While the class leader of those new Tridents, USS Columbia (SSBN-826), was ordered in 2016 from Electric Boat, she was only laid down last October and is not scheduled to leave on its first deterrent patrol until 2031 at a cost of $10 billion with a “B.” Meanwhile, the oldest remaining Ohio bomber, USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730), is set to begin recycling in FY27, although the Navy may try to slow roll that.

However, there is only so much juice you can squeeze from a submarine hull built during the Reagan administration.