Inspection to determine future of damaged USS San Francisco
February 6, 2005
The Navy is giving Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS San Francisco time to lick its wounds and attempt to fully heal in a floating dry dock after it struck ground last month south of Guam.
“Despite the accident, none of the nuclear proponents or operational systems suffered any damage,” Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, Pacific Submarine Force spokesman, said Friday.
After video released by the Navy of the submarine in dry dock showed the damage done to its front, officials began to speculate that the San Francisco may have hit an uncharted undersea mountain.
Twenty-three sailors suffered injuries in the accident, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley, a machinist’s mate from Akron, Ohio, was killed.
Cmdr. Kevin Mooney, who commanded the USS San Francisco, was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 15 on Guam pending completion of the investigation. Cmdr. Andrew Hale, deputy commander of Submarine Squadron 15, has assumed command of the San Francisco.
“Amazingly, it made it to post on its own power, even though it was sort of lilting to one side because of damages to ballast tanks,” Davis said.
He said repairs are being done by employees of Guam Shipyard, the company which owns the dry dock — known by some here as Big Blue — that once belonged to the U.S. Navy.
“When you look at the submarine, of course you immediately see that most of the damage took place in the bow area,” Davis explained.
“Nonetheless, we have not had enough time yet to fully survey the needs of the sub, much less to distribute information about repair goals,” he added.
Davis also said it is not known yet “if the San Francisco can be used once again.”
Among the more obvious parts that will need repair or replacement, Davis said, are the sonar dome, sonar sphere and ballast tanks.
Once a team from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Hawaii, completes inspections of the banged-up submarine, he said, the cost of the repairs and a verdict on whether the submarine can return to service can be provided.
“If the San Francisco’s damages are such that it could not meet standards to return to sea, we can’t just go build another one,” Davis said. Los Angeles-class submarines no longer are built.