Alternative Cold War History 1994

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USN Attack Submarines (SSN)

An SSN at its core it is simply a nuclear powered general purpose submarine, they many names; Americans call them ‘Attack Submarines’, the Royal Navy knows them as ‘Fleet Submarines’, the Soviets call them ‘Cruisers’ and in many ways they have replaced that traditional surface class in key roles. It is sometimes easier to classify an SSN by what it isn’t; it is not able to fire ballistic missiles, this is reserved for SSBNs; it’s primary weapon is not a missile, that would be an SSGN (none in US service in 1994); and it is not commonly used as a research vessel, although testing new equipment is routine. Another distinction that is mere semantics is the term ‘Hunter Killer’ which, is a popular phrase but more properly reserved for small diesel powered boats classified as SSK. Since the USN doesn’t operate SSKs and its entire submarine fleet is nuclear powered that distinction is not useful. In Northern Fury the US Navy has 97 of the 100 attack boats called for in the Reagan ‘600 ship navy’ plan, but has also retained 12 specialist submarines based on SSN hulls. Two key decisions have been made specific to the Northern Fury world: 1) Older subs will be maintained to balance the fleet at 100 Attack boats plus 8-10 specialist hulls; and 2) The Seawolf class will not be canceled and will build out to the 29 hulls as projected, perhaps beyond. Seawolf will replace older boats over time and the special mission roles will transfer to the older Los Angelis class.

In many ways the unique derivatives of the fleet submarine; Special Forces delivery, communications eavesdropping and gathering electronic intelligence have always been a function of submarines, but the USN developed these activities to a far higher level in the ‘80s. The capabilities were not foreseen or even technically feasible when the Reagan plan was drawn up, but were too valuable to squander. Therefore, although the boats dedicated to these tasks are capable of acting as attack submarines and are classified as SSN, in Northern Fury the USN will retain them in excess of the main fleet of attack boats.

Permit Class: Five of the 14 boats in this class are still in service, three of them beyond their historic life. These boats were commissioned in the late 1960s and three of them (Flasher, Greenling and Gato) called ‘Style 3’ have a longer hull, larger sail and were built with a ‘SUBSAFE’ standards based on the lessons learned from the loss of USS Thresher, the original class lead. USS Haddock was built with a larger sail and retrofitted with many other improvements (Style 2) while Guardfish is a ‘Style 1’ hull rebuilt to SUBSAFE standards. Haddock and Guardfish are slated for retirement later in 1994 when the 3rd and 4th of the Seawolf class are commissioned. Even though these boats are approaching 30 years old, they’re still very capable and potent platforms but, are not quiet enough nor do they have the sonar capabilities to challenge modern Soviet boats. In secondary roles confronted with most other situations however, they are still very valuable /assets. It’s worth noting that the only ‘Style 4’ boat, USS Jack was older than the five remaining boats and was used as an experimental testbed with a direct drive, twin screw propulsion system, she was retired in 1990.

Class Pennant Name Historic Flt Home Port Remarks
Permit SSN-612 Guardfish Retired 92 Pacific San Diego
SSN-613 Flasher Retired 92 Pacific San Diego Patrol Philippians
SSN-614 Greenling Retired 94 Atlantic Portsmouth Patrol Caribbean
SSN-615 Gato Retired 96 Atlantic New London
SSN-621 Haddock Retired 93 Pacific Vallejo

Sturgeon Class: All 28 boats of this class remain in service. Not included in this number are the nine ‘Long Hull Sturgeon’ boats referred to as the Archerfish class below, or the two experimental boats which were based on this class: USS Narwhal, still in service and detailed below; and Glenard P. Lipscomb which has been retired. The Sturgeons were longer, much improved versions of the Permit class, they had a larger sail, more weapons and more sensors. Although the Sturgeons had the same four torpedo tubes as the Permit class but carried more reloads and could fire Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles (ASM), Tomahawk land attack or anti-ship missiles (TLAM), SUBROC anti-submarine missiles or standard Mk-48 ADCAP torpedoes. A midlife upgrade improved the hull mounted sonar and added a towed array sonar as well as many other electronics upgrades. Historically this class started to retire in 1991 while some continued to serve until 2000, many with less than 30 years service; in Northern Fury an optimal life of 30 years will be aimed for and they will start to retire in 1997 as more Seawolf come online.

Class Pennant Name Historic Flt Home Port Remarks
Sturgeon SSN-637 Sturgeon Retired 94 Atlantic Charleston
SSN-638 Whale Atlantic Groton
SSN-639 Tautog Pacific Pearl Harbor Patrol South Pacific
SSN-646 Grayling Atlantic Charleston
SSN 647 Pogy Pacific San Diego Refit
SSN-648 Aspro Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-649 Sunfish Atlantic Charleston
SSN-650 Pargo Pacific Bremerton
SSN-651 Queenfish Retired 92 Pacific Pearl Harbor Patrol Japan
SSN-652 Puffer Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-653 Ray Retired 93 Atlantic Charleston
SSN 660 Sand Lance Atlantic Groton Refit
SSN-661 Lapon Atlantic Norfolk
SSN-662 Gurnard Pacific San Diego Patrol Philippians
SSN-663 Hammerhead Pacific Vallejo
SSN-664 Sea Devil Retired 91 Atlantic Charleston
SSN-665 Guitarro Retired 92 Pacific San Diego Patrol North Pacific
SSN 666 Hawkbill Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-667 Bergall Atlantic New London
SSN-668 Spadefish Atlantic Norfolk Patrol Caribbean
SSN-669 Seahorse Atlantic Charleston Patrol South Atlantic
SSN-670 Finback Atlantic Norfolk Patrol Mediterranean
SSN-672 Pintado Pacific San Diego
SSN-673 Flying Fish Pacific Bremerton Refit
SSN 674 Trepang Atlantic Groton Patrol Caribbean
SSN-675 Bluefish Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 676 Billfish Atlantic Groton Patrol Scotland
SSN-677 Drum Pacific San Diego

USS Narwal (SSN 671): The Narwal was a testbed for an advanced propulsion system designed to minimize or hide noise from water circulation, a constant requirement in nuclear power plants. The new design made her the quietest submarine of her time and proved the system for employment on the forthcoming Los Angeles and Ohio class boats. More important for the Northern Fury campaign however, was her role in the fleet as a Special Mission electronic intelligence gathering platform, a task she performs throughout the campaign. At the start of the war she is resident at her homeport of Charleston South Carolina, but will spend most of her time lurking along the edge of the polar icecap collecting intelligence and playing hide & seek with Soviet patrols.

Archerfish Class: The nine boats of this sub-class were a version of the Sturgeon and are often still named for the original design, but have a lengthened hull to provide more space for accommodation and improved electronic equipment. Over time the additional space allowed for a much easier transition to Special Mission boats, as all of these hulls have been repurposed to do. The most unique was USS Batfish which became a trials boat for a super quiet surface coating which was later included on Los Angeles and other submarine designs, she was also used for other purposes. Although the remaining boats were used for several missions, and they underwent some unique overhauls, two main functions emerged:

  • Cable Tap: Parche in the Pacific and L. Mendel Rivers in the Atlantic were extended by 100 feet, and outfitted for deep water research and recovery using saturation divers and a special deployable ‘sled’ to tap underwater communications cables. The modifications are all very secret and these comments are highly speculative but there is some evidence to support these activities. Since Northern Fury is fiction, it is not too big of a leap to include these capabilities. There is some doubt if L. Mendel Rivers was modified, but it was certainly used as a DDS submarine and there is a good chance that Richard B. Russell was equipped this way, but she is on the wrong coast for our story.

  • DDS: Dry Deck Shelters are installable chambers that allow Special Forces personnel and equipment to easily depart from the submarine while submerged. These have the capacity to hold an underwater ‘SDV’ Swimmer Delivery Vehicle and up to 20 divers able to conduct a mass swimmer exit from the sub.

Class Pennant Name Historic Flt Home Port Task Remarks
Archerfish SSN-678 Archerfish Atlantic Groton DDS
SSN-679 Silversides Retired 94 Pacific Bremerton DDS
SSN-680 William H. Bates Pacific Pearl Harbor DDS
SSN 681 Batfish Atlantic Groton DDS/Super quiet
SSN-682 Tunny Pacific Pearl Harbor DDS
SSN-683 Parche Pacific San Diego Cable Tap
SSN-684 Cavalla Pacific Pearl Harbor DDS
SSN 686 L. Mendel Rivers Atlantic Norfolk Cable Tap
SSN-687 Richard B. Russell Retired 94 Pacific Vallejo DDS

Benjamin Franklin Class SSN: These two former SSBNs were converted into Special Mission SSNs in the early 1990s. Large, quiet and equipped with plenty of space for mission planning and Special Forces accommodation these boats have twin DDS and a capacity for about 50-70 Special Forces personnel.

Class Pennant Name Flt Home Port Task Remarks
Benjamin Franklin SSN-645 James K Polk Atlantic Norfolk 2xDDS Conversion completed Feb 94 vice March
SSN-642 Kamehameha Pacific Pear Harbor 2xDDS

Los Angeles (Type 688): All 62 of the Los Angeles or ‘688’ class are in service for Northern Fury, this is about two years faster than real life but the assumption is that a somewhat accelerated program would have been adopted for the last five years of production. There are at least three distinct sub-classes and several variations within the production of this series:

  • SSNs 688-718 - Original Los Angeles class – 31 boats, usually called ‘Flight I’.

  • SSNs 719-725 and 750 - Have 12 vertical launch tubes (VLS) for the Tomahawk cruise missile, and an upgraded reactor core. Called ‘Flight II’ or Providence Class.

  • SSNs 751-773 - The final 23 hulls are referred to as "688I" (for improved) with better sonar and under ice capability and the 12 VLS tubes. These are the ‘Flight III’ or San Juan Class.

There were several controversies involved in the design, such as sacrificing dive depth for higher speed; however, no clear unclassified understanding of the real measurements exists so a general statement that these are fast and capable boats with very few rivals will have to suffice. In Northern Fury, these boats are the workhorses of the campaign, they are only rivalled by the very latest Soviet boats and certainly the Flight III sub-class far outmatches even these.

Class Pennant Name Flt Home Port Task Remarks
Los Angeles SSN 688 Los Angeles Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-689 Baton Rouge Atlantic Norfolk Repaired after collision
SSN 690 Philadelphia Atlantic Groton
SSN 691 Memphis Atlantic Groton Med
SSN-692 Omaha Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-693 Cincinnati Atlantic Norfolk
SSN-694 Groton Atlantic Groton
SSN-695 Birmingham Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-696 New York City Atlantic Norfolk X-Ray Stn Change of historic home port
SSN 697 Indianapolis Pacific Pearl Harbor Refueling In dry dock
SSN 698 Bremerton Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 699 Jacksonville Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 700 Dallas Atlantic Groton
SSN 701 La Jolla Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN-702 Phoenix Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 703 Boston Atlantic Groton
SSN 704 Baltimore Atlantic Groton X-Ray Stn
SSN 705 City Of Corpus Christi Pacific Guam
SSN 706 Albuquerque Atlantic Groton
SSN 707 Portsmouth Atlantic San Diego Change of historic home port
SSN 708 Minneapolis-St. Paul Pacific Pearl Harbor Change of historic home port
SSN 709 Hyman G. Rickover Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 710 Augusta Atlantic Groton
SSN 711 San Francisco Pacific Guam
SSN 712 Atlanta Atlantic Norfolk Scotland
SSN 713 Houston Pacific San Diego
SSN 714 Norfolk Atlantic Norfolk Med
SSN 715 Buffalo Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 716 Salt Lake City Pacific San Diego
SSN 717 Olympia Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 718 Honolulu Pacific Pearl Harbor
Providence VLS SSN 719 Providence Atlantic Groton
SSN 720 Pittsburgh Atlantic Groton
SSN 721 Chicago Atlantic Groton Change of historic home port
SSN 722 Key West Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 723 Oklahoma City Pacific Norfolk
SSN 724 Louisville Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 725 Helena Pacific San Diego
SSN 750 Newport News Atlantic Norfolk
San Juan (688I) SSN 751 San Juan Atlantic Groton Change of historic home port
SSN 752 Pasadena Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 753 Albany Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 754 Topeka Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 755 Miami Atlantic Groton
SSN 756 Scranton Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 757 Alexandria Atlantic Groton
SSN 758 Asheville Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 759 Jefferson City Pacific San Diego
SSN 760 Annapolis Atlantic Groton
SSN 761 Springfield Pacific Guam Change of historic home port
SSN 762 Columbus Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 763 Santa Fe Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 764 Boise Atlantic Norfolk X-Ray Stn
SSN 765 Montpelier Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 766 Charlotte Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 767 Hampton Atlantic Norfolk
SSN 768 Hartford Atlantic Groton
SSN 769 Toledo Atlantic Groton
SSN 770 Tucson Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 771 Columbia Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 772 Greenville Pacific Pearl Harbor
SSN 773 Cheyenne Pacific Pearl Harbor

Seawolf Class: Arguably the most advanced submarine on the planet. The Seawolf class is known as the fastest submarine in the US fleet and the quietest submarine in the world, estimated at 10 times quitter than an Improved Los Angeles boat, with twice as many torpedo tubes. Sensors, electronic countermeasures, accommodation, weapon storage and essentially all other systems are a major improvement over the 688 class. With this improvement comes a high cost, these were projected as being the most expensive submarines ever built, at about $3 Billion dollars each they were three times the price of a 688 boat as well. Historically the program was cancelled after the first three were built and there were significant delays caused by funding shortfalls. In Northern Fury the first two are already in service while the next two are launched and fitting out for commissioning later in the year. The plan to build all 29 is being carried forward and there is discussion of even more. Note that the 3rd of the class USS Jimmy Carter was completed as an SSN and not as the redesigned as a Special Mission boat as she was historically. The Virginia class was not designed or constructed.

Class Pennant Name Historic Flt Home Port Task Remarks
Seawolf SSN-21 Seawolf 1997 Atlantic Groton Commissioned 1993
SSN-22 Connecticut 1998 Atlantic Groton X-Ray Stn Commissioned 1993
SSN-23 Jimmy Carter 2001 Atlantic Bangor Aug 1994
SSN-24 Virginia Canceled Atlantic Bangor Dec 1994