NORFOLK, Va. – The former USS La Jolla (SSN 701) had its sail removed Sept. 12 for use as a shipyard training platform.
While the complete conversion of the submarine will dispose of a substantial portion of La Jolla, shipyarders are actively salvaging the boat’s components and finding ways to utilize these items for training.
Be it training on periscopes, upper and lower hatches, ventilation and exhaust valves, electrical hull penetrations, hull cuts, piping, staging, painting, and more, the benefits of having the sail for training are wide-ranging. NNSY’s Sheetmetal, Outside Machine, Electrical, Pipefitter, Painting/Blasting, Lifting and Handling and Temporary Services shops all stand to benefit from the use of the sail to expand the skills and abilities of their employees.
Having the sail available for such training is the first step for NNSY have the NAVSEA enterprise’s first Sail Learning Center.
While there are still many steps before NNSY has a fully functional center—procuring air compressors and generators, as well as stage building—the shipyard now has a 76,000-pound centerpiece to build around. The sail mock-up will actually be comprised of three parts: the sail and two sections of the pressure hull. With all three sections re-assembled, it will be more than 29 feet tall.
"No other shipyard has a facility like this, so we want to bring in [personnel from] other shipyards, even private ones," said Stephen Smith, NNSY Sail Learning Center manager.
John Frisch, Training Engineer for NNSY’s Engineering and Planning Department, began the efforts to retain the sail four years ago. With sail work being among the greatest challenges in overhauling fast-attack nuclear submarines, having an actual one for shipyarders to train on was a priority. Attaining one from the Inactivation, Reactor Compartment Disposal, and Recycling Department at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility, would have been too costly. So Frisch seized the opportunity to get the La Jolla sail while the conversion project was still in the planning phase. "We kept pursuing it, and finally got it," said Frisch. "There were many meetings, discussions, and much problem-solving along the way. I’m excited because it was a large project, it’s good for training, and it had never been done before."
As outlined in A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, has challenged the Navy to achieve high velocity learning at every level. "Apply the best concepts, techniques and technologies to accelerate learning as individuals, teams and organizations," Richardson said. "Start by seeing what you can accomplish without additional resources."
That challenge, coupled with Shipyard Commander Navy Capt. Scott Brown’s emphasis on improving shipyard capabilities, makes the success of salvaging the sail and creating the learning center that much more important.
As NNSY’s Mechanical Group Non-Nuclear Continuing Training and Development leader, Steven Clouse, pointed out, "The sail will give the entire production team the ability to train cross-functionally to iron out issues that arise during the successful execution of work on the projects. We will also be able to test and prove out new techniques and technology on these components in real live conditions without affecting the project schedule. The end goal is to train as a team that works together to achieve the same goal; returning the ship in excellent working condition within budget and on time, to the men and women who protect our country."