Navy Shortsighted in Attracting Young Sub Officers?

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Ralph
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Navy Shortsighted in Attracting Young Sub Officers?

Post by Ralph » Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:35 pm

From The New York Times:

June 20, 2006
Perfect Vision, via Surgery, Is Helping and Hurting Navy
By DAVID S. CLOUD

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BETHESDA, Md., June 17 — Almost every Thursday during the academic year, a bus carrying a dozen or so Naval Academy midshipmen leaves Annapolis for the 45-minute drive to Bethesda, where Navy doctors perform laser eye surgery on them, one after another, with assembly-line efficiency.

Nearly a third of every 1,000-member Naval Academy class now undergoes the procedure, part of a booming trend among military personnel with poor vision. Unlike in the civilian world, where eye surgery is still largely done for convenience or vanity, the procedure's popularity in the armed forces is transforming career choices and daily life in subtle but far-reaching ways.

Aging fighter pilots can now remain in the cockpit longer, reducing annual recruiting needs. And recruits whose bad vision once would have disqualified them from the special forces are now eligible, making the competition for these coveted slots even tougher.

But the surgery is also causing the military some unexpected difficulties. By shrinking the pool of people who used to be routinely available for jobs that do not require perfect eyesight, it has made it harder to fill some of those assignments with top-notch personnel, officers say.

When Ensign Michael Shaughnessy had the surgery in his junior year at the Naval Academy, his new 20-20 vision qualified him for flight school. And that is where he decided to go after graduating last month ranked in the top 10 percent of his class, rather than pursuing a career as a submarine officer.

"The cramped environment in submarines is something that turned me off," Ensign Shaughnessy, 22, said.

For generations, Academy graduates with high grades and bad eyes were funneled into the submarine service. But in the five years since the Naval Academy began offering free eye surgery to all midshipmen, it has missed its annual quota for supplying the Navy with submarine officers every year.

Officers involved say the failure to meet the quota is due to many factors, including the perception that submarines no longer play as vital a national security role as they once did. But the availability of eye surgery to any midshipman who wants it is also routinely cited.

"Some of the guys with glasses who would have gone to submarines or become navigators are getting the chance to do something they'd rather do, and the communities that are losing the people are not as happy about it as the aviation community, which is gaining better candidates," said Cmdr. Joseph Pasternak, the ophthalmologist who oversees the program at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

In the Naval Academy's class of 2006, 349 of the 993 midshipmen had the surgery, up from 50 five years ago, according to Naval Academy records. Fewer than 30 percent of the academy students whose eyes qualify for the surgery choose not to get it, and the number of holdouts is dropping every year, Commander Pasternak said.

Last week, a little after 10:40 a.m., Colin Carroll, a 21-year-old midshipman from Olney, Md., put anesthetic drops in his eyes and lay down under the laser as Capt. Kerry Hunt, a Navy doctor, and two assistants prepared to begin. "We're locking the laser on now," Captain Hunt told him.

Midshipman Carroll had originally hoped to enter flight school but discovered not only that his eyes were not good enough, but also that he was prone to kidney stones, ruling him out of aviation entirely. He said he was "resigned" to entering the Marine Corps or becoming an officer on a surface ship, neither an assignment requiring perfect vision.

But he decided to get the surgery anyway.

By 10:49, both eyes were done, though extremely bloodshot, and Mr. Carroll walked out wearing sunglasses, declaring he could already see better.

The procedure used by the Navy, photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, is different from the one used on most civilians. That approach, known as laser-in situ keratomileusis, or Lasik, requires cutting a flap in the surface of the cornea and then using a laser to reshape the cornea. But military doctors worry that the flap could come loose during combat, especially in a supersonic fighter.

So rather than slicing into the cornea covering, Navy doctors grind it away. The approach requires a longer recovery as the covering re-forms but leaves the eye more stable.

The Air Force also limits its pilots to PRK, but nonpilots can get either procedure; because most students admitted to the academy aspire to fly, and have already met strict vision standards, relatively few cadets have the surgery, compared with the number at the Naval Academy. Army personnel, including helicopter pilots and other aviators, are allowed to get either procedure.

One in every 200 midshipmen who has the surgery suffers initial complications, which can usually be corrected, Commander Pasternak said. A study by the Navy soon after the program began concluded that pilot trainees who had the surgery graduated from flight school at higher rates than other pilots, he added.

Now that most midshipmen meet the vision requirements, getting into pilot training is harder than ever, depending almost entirely on academic class rank, military performance while at the academy and other physical criteria.

Last year, 310 midshipmen competed for 272 flight training slots. Of those, 104 had undergone laser eye surgery.

"If we didn't have PRK, where would those 104 midshipmen have gone?" said Capt. Michael Jacobsen, of the Naval Academy's office of professional development. "Tough to say, but we know they wouldn't have gone into flight training."

Expanding the pool of potential pilots and members in the Navy Seals was the original goal of making the surgery available, Commander Pasternak said, but it has become increasingly popular with marines, who say it eliminates concerns that their glasses will be damaged or clouded in dust storms during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We get at least five times as many requests every year as we can keep up with," said Commander Pasternak, a 1984 Naval Academy graduate who said he nearly left the academy after learning his eyes were not good enough to allow him into flight training.

The growing number of aspiring pilots has also made it harder to find candidates to become "back-seaters," officers who serve as navigators and weapons officers on planes, Navy officials say.

The failure to produce enough submarine officers, though, is the source of greatest worry to academy officials and the Navy as a whole. This year the academy's quota was 120, but only 88 midshipmen chose to go into submarines, according to academy records.

Acknowledging the decline, Capt. John R. Daugherty, the chief of staff in the Commander Naval Submarine Forces, said in a statement, "There are many potential contributing factors."

The shortfall in the submarine quota is made up from officers joining the Navy who do not attend the academy.

While there are no plans to restrict the availability of the surgery, some Navy officials concede that the procedure contributes to the submarine service losing midshipmen at the top of their class, like Ensign Shaughnessy, a native of Rochester, Minn., who formerly could not have gone to flight school.

Going into submarines "requires a lot more school, and after the academy a lot of people aren't looking to go to a high-paced environment for a long period," Ensign Shaughnessy said. "And some people also might see submarines as a less glamorous service assignment."

In recent years, many of the midshipmen to choose submarines have come from lower in the class rankings than they did a decade ago, said a senior Navy official who declined to release specific data and who was granted anonymity so he would discuss internal Navy personnel matters.

And academy graduates have been washing out of nuclear power school, which they must complete before being commissioned as a submarine officer, at an increasing rate over the last five years, according to the Navy official and an outside expert who has studied the issue.

In response, the Navy has begun offering $15,000 bonuses and other incentives to get midshipmen with better grades to join the submarine program.
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paulb
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Post by paulb » Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:47 pm

NOW HEAR THIS: All subs should be immediately docked! REPEAT: DOCK ALL SUBS! ....permanently.
What an absolute waste of money running a sub program when no other country has that game to play.
The Pentagon could easily be reduced to half size and no one would notice a thing.
But things continue as always.
Psalm 118:22 The Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord's doing , it is marvelous in our sight.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 20, 2006 12:50 am

paulb wrote:NOW HEAR THIS: All subs should be immediately docked! REPEAT: DOCK ALL SUBS! ....permanently.
What an absolute waste of money running a sub program when no other country has that game to play.
The Pentagon could easily be reduced to half size and no one would notice a thing.
But things continue as always.
You're joking, right?

What are we going to use to project power into the coming Pacific confrontations with China? Jet skis?
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Post by RebLem » Tue Jun 20, 2006 7:54 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
paulb wrote:NOW HEAR THIS: All subs should be immediately docked! REPEAT: DOCK ALL SUBS! ....permanently.
What an absolute waste of money running a sub program when no other country has that game to play.
The Pentagon could easily be reduced to half size and no one would notice a thing.
But things continue as always.
You're joking, right?

What are we going to use to project power into the coming Pacific confrontations with China? Jet skis?
China is a long way off. But I am really worried about North Korea. Trouble is, I bet only a few ships are off N Korea. We have way more than we need, and if we stopped being the world's largest arms merchant, selling our best planes and weapons systems to damn near every country that is not currently actively hostile to the US, we would need even less than we do.

Trouble is, there is a broad bipartisan consensus of the desirability of arming everyone to the teeth. Republicans like it because it provides profits for arms manufacturers and export companies, and Democrats like it because it keeps and creates jobs.
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Post by jbuck919 » Tue Jun 20, 2006 8:18 am

Many people would say that, to the contrary, we have far fewer ships than we need. Nevertheless, the fact that the US navy is overwhelmingly dominant in the world no matter how wise or unwise our recent ship-building policy has been should be something of a comfort.

I had a cousin in the sub force and it is mercilessly punishing to people of an ordinary psyche (and if you had a weird one that actually liked confinemnt you probably wouldn't qualify). But the US submarine force is absolutely essential to the security of the world against any number of monstrous possibilities, and must be kept up to snuff one way or the other.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Ralph » Tue Jun 20, 2006 8:36 am

From naval-technology.com:

NSSN Virginia Class
NSSN VIRGINIA CLASS ATTACK SUBMARINE, USA

The Virginia Class New Attack Submarine is an advanced stealth multi-mission nuclear powered submarine for deep ocean anti-submarine warfare and for littoral (shallow water) operations.

Although the Seawolf submarine was developed to provide an eventual replacement for the US Navy Los Angeles Class submarines in combating the Soviet forces, the prohibitive unit cost and changing strategic requirements led to the US Navy defining a smaller new generation attack submarine.

The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, Connecticut is the lead design authority for the Virginia Class. General Dynamics Electric Boat has built the first of class, Virginia (SSN 774) and Northrop Grumman Newport News the second, Texas (SSN 775). The following vessels will be: Hawaii (SSN 776) and New Hampshire (SSN 778), being built by Electric Boat, and North Carolina (SSN 777) and New Mexico (779), being built by Newport News.

The US Navy's total requirement is for 30 of the class. The USN placed a bulk-buy contract for the first five ships and, in January 2004, placed a multi-year contract for the following five.

Virginia was laid down in September 1999, launched in August 2003 and commissioned in October 2004. It will undergo a three-year operational evaluation before operational deployment. Texas was launched in April 2005 and will commission in 2006. The keel for Hawaii was laid in August 2004 and it will commission in 2007.

DESIGN

The engineering teams and the design and build teams at Electric Boat in partnership with the Naval Sea Systems Command, NAVSEA, of the US Navy have used extensive CAD/CAE simulation systems to optimise the design of the submarine. The hull size is length 377ft by beam 34ft and the displacement is 7,300t dived, which is smaller than the more expensive Seawolf Attack Submarine with displacement 9137t dived.

The hull structure contains structurally integrated enclosures, which accommodate standard 19in and 24in width equipment for ease of installation, repair and upgrade of the submarine's systems. The submarine is fitted with modular isolated deck structures, for example the submarine's Command Center will be installed as one single unit resting on cushioned mounting points. The submarine's control suite is equipped with computer touch screens. The submarine's steering and diving control is via a four-button, two-axis joystick.

The noise level of the Virginia is equal to that of the US Navy Seawolf, SSN 21, with a lower acoustic signature than the Russian Improved Akula Class and Russian Fourth Generation Attack Submarines. To achieve this low acoustic signature, the Virginia incorporates newly designed anechoic coatings, isolated deck structures and a new design of propulsor.

Goodrich is supplying High Frequency Sail Array acoustic windows and composite sonar domes.

COMMAND SYSTEM

The Command and Control Systems Module (CCSM) is being developed by a team led by Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics & Surveillance Systems-Undersea Systems (NE&SS-US) of Manassas, Virginia. It will integrate all of the vessel's systems - sensors, countermeasures, navigation, weapon control, and will be based on open system architecture (OSA) with Q-70 Colour Common Display Consoles. Weapon control will be provided by Raytheon with a derivative of the CCS Mk 2 combat system, the AN/BYG-1 Combat Control System, which is also being fitted to the Australian Collins Class submarines.

The Virginia has two mast-mounted Raytheon Submarine High Data Rate (Sub HDR) multi-band satellite communications systems that allow simultaneous communication at Super High Frequency (SHF) and Extremely High Frequency (EHF).

WEAPON SYSTEMS

The submarine is equipped with 12 vertical missile launch tubes and four 533mm torpedo tubes. The vertical launching system has the capacity to launch 16 Tomahawk Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM) in a single salvo. There is capacity for up to 26 Mk 48 ADCAP Mod 6 heavyweight torpedoes and Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles to be fired from the 21in torpedo tubes. Mk 60 CAPTOR mines may also be fitted.

An integral lock out / lock-in chamber is incorporated into the hull for special operations. The chamber can host a mini-submarine, such as Northrop Grumman's Oceanic and Naval Systems Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), to deliver special warfare forces such as Navy Sea Air Land, SEAL, teams or Marine reconnaissance units for counter-terrorism or localised conflict operations.

COUNTERMEASURES

Virginia will be fitted with the AN/WLY-1 acoustic countermeasures system being developed by Northrop Grumman, which provides range and bearing data, and the mast-mounted AN/BLQ-10 Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system from Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems. AN/BLQ-10 provides full spectrum radar processing, automatic threat warning and situation assessment.

SENSORS

The Virginia Class sonar suite will include bow-mounted active and passive array, wide aperture passive array on flank, high frequency active arrays on keel and fin, TB 16 towed array and the Lockheed Martin TB-29A thinline towed array, with the AN/BQQ-10(V4) sonar processing system. A Sperry Marine AN/BPS-16(V)4 navigation radar, operating at I-band, is fitted.

The submarines will have two Kollmorgen AN/BVS-1 Photonic Masts, rather than optical periscopes. Sensors mounted on the non-hull penetrating Photonic Mast include LLTV (low light TV), thermal imager and laser rangefinder. The mast is the Universal Modular Mast developed by Kollmorgen and its Italian subsidiary, Calzoni.

The Boeing LMRS Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System will be deployed on the Virginia Class. LMRS includes two 6m autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles, an 18m robotic recovery arm and support electronics.

Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems is supplying the LightWeight, Wide-Aperture Array (LWWAA) system based on fibre-optic arrays, instead of traditional ceramic hydrophone sensors. LWWAA is a passive ASW sonar system which consists of three large array panels mounted on either side of the submarine's hull.

PROPULSION

The main propulsion units are the GE Pressure Water Reactor S9G, designed to last as long the submarine, two turbine engines with one shaft and a United Defense pump jet propulser, providing 29.84MW. The speed is 25+ knots dived.
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"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Brendan

Post by Brendan » Tue Jun 20, 2006 5:02 pm

Wish the surgery had been available years ago. As my dad said about flying fighters - it takes you thirty years to learn how to fly the things properly by which time you can't see and your reflexes aren't up to it.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:04 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Many people would say that, to the contrary, we have far fewer ships than we need.
Amen to that. After Bush leaves office, because the Chinese are afarid of Bush, and after the Olympics, because they need the revenue, the Chinese will make a move on Taiwan and thence on to Japan. We need more ships to stand up to these guys when they start trying to run us out of the Pacific.
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