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Posted: 2/14/2006 6:49:39 PM EDT
February 20, 2006

Balance of sub fleet to swing toward the Pacific

By Andrew Scutro
Times staff writer

More submarines will be prowling western waters soon, as the Navy begins shifting its fleet of fast attack boats from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

As part of an overall shift of forces outlined in the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, 60 percent of the American submarine force will operate in the Pacific by 2010.

The new 60/40 split would put roughly 30 attack submarines in Pacific home ports such as San Diego, Pearl Harbor and Bangor, Wash., and 20 in Atlantic bases such as Groton, Conn., and Norfolk, Va., according to Navy officials at the Pentagon.

The fleet currently has 53 attack boats, with 53 percent, or 28 boats, in the Atlantic, and 47 percent, or 25 boats, in the Pacific. The president’s fiscal 2007 budget proposal includes the inactivation of four Los Angeles-class attack subs and the activation of one Virginia-class boat. The Navy’s fleet plan, released Feb. 7, has 53 attack boats in the inventory in 2010, the year the shift will be complete.

Details are being ironed out now, according to Lt. Cmdr. Jensin Sommer, public affairs officer for Submarine Force Atlantic. She could not provide names of subs that will be affected.

Sommer said such an adjustment will mean major movement of boats, crews and families, and involve a nod from lawmakers.

“It’s going to require home-port shifts and with that a whole congressional notification has to take place,” she said.

A fast attack submarine has a crew of 133.

The change does not include fleet ballistic missile submarines. There is an initiative underway to convert the nuclear warheads on the current D-5 Trident missiles to conventional ordnance.

Also in the submarine mix are the four boomers under conversion to guided-missile submarines. Ohio will be home-ported in Bangor, Wash., but forward-deployed out of Guam. Florida will home-port in Kings Bay, Ga., but be forward-based in Diego Garcia.

“Georgia and Michigan home ports have not been announced yet,” Sommer said.

Under QDR, submarine production needs to return to a “steady-state” of two attack boats per year by 2012 at a cost of $2 billionapiece.

Support of “engagement, presence and deterrence” is given as the reason for the new submarine force posture.

QDR also expresses concern over the modernization of the Chinese military as a risk to regional stability, noting its investment in submarines, advanced torpedoes and ballistic and cruise missiles.
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