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Pearl Harbor to get fourth Virginia-class submarine

HONOLULU — Pearl Harbor will be getting a fourth new Virginia-class attack submarine this summer, bringing a crew of more than 130 and a $10 million payroll to Hawaii, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said Monday.

"I am encouraged by the Navy's announcement that the USS Mississippi will change its home port to Pearl Harbor in July 2014," Hanabusa, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a news release.

Hanabusa said the Mississippi is moving to Hawaii from Groton, Conn. The Pacific Fleet Submarine Force will be gaining greater undersea capability in the littorals, or offshore seas, where a lot of foreign diesel subs operate.

"This change follows the previously announced intention by the Navy to move 60 percent of its fleet to the Pacific, and ensures that Hawaii will continue to play a key role in our national rebalance to the Asia Pacific region," Hanabusa said.

The Navy said last week that it will move the destroyer USS Preble to Pearl Harbor from San Diego this summer, and it also plans to relocate the destroyer USS John Paul Jones to Hawaii in a swap for the cruiser USS Lake Erie, which will receive repairs in San Diego.

Hanabusa said the Navy indicated Pearl Harbor will reach 33 home-ported ships.

"The ship repair industrial base in Hawaii remains integral to the Navy's long-term maintenance and modernization strategy," Hanabusa said.

With this summer's moves, 19 submarines and 11 surface ships will be home-ported in Hawaii. Pearl Harbor has 15 Los Angeles-class subs.

Approximately 4,450 civilians are employed by the shipyard, the state's largest industrial employer, along with 550 military members. Both groups work primarily on submarines.

Private contractor BAE Systems Hawaii Shipyards performs surface ship jobs using an on-island workforce of about 750.

More than 130 sailors operate the 377-foot-long Virginia-class submarines, which are capable of diving to depths greater than 800 feet and operating at speeds in excess of 28 mph when submerged.

However, submarine captains say the question no longer is how fast and deep a submarine can dive, but how slow and shallow it can go in the littorals, or near seas.

Virginia-class submarines are capable of very precise slow-speed ship control. The Navy's first major combat ship designed for a post-Cold War environment, the subs have six side-mounted sonar arrays, plus arrays in the bow, sail and nose, improving capabilities for eavesdropping and mapping the seafloor and minefields.

The subs carry Tomahawk missiles, have 12 Vertical Launch System tubes, and four torpedo tubes.

They have "fly-by-wire" controls that improve ship handling in shallow waters, a reconfigurable torpedo room to accommodate 30 special operations forces, and a nine-man lockout chamber for the rapid deployment of commandos directly from the submarine.

The Mississippi, which was commissioned in 2012, will join the North Carolina, Hawaii and Texas in Hawaii. Pearl Harbor is the sole Pacific home for Virginia-class subs, which now cost an average of $2.7 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The Navy is building two Virginia subs a year, but is retiring its older Los Angeles-class predecessors and can't keep up with the mission demand for subs, officials have said.
 

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