SSN 698: History in the Making
There has been a lot of change since the last time I wrote about saving the USS Bremerton SSN 698 over two years ago (July 2014). Bremerton is a first-flight U.S. Navy Los Angeles Class nuclear attack submarine, commissioned in March 1981, which together with several older, non-LA classes contributed to bringing the Cold War to an end in 1991. The First-Flight hull numbers range from 688 through 718. Today, only a few other First-Flight 688 Class submarines remain in active service including the USS Jacksonville SSN-699, USS Dallas SSN-700, USS Buffalo SSN-715, and the USS Olympia SSN-717, all of which, except for the Olympia, are “scheduled for decommissioning” before 2019 (ref: wikipedia).
The Cold War was a state of worldwide tension after World War II, created by the incompatibilities of the government and economic systems of the of the Eastern Bloc, controlled by the Soviet Union, and Western Europe supported by the United States.
Russia now and as in its former state, the Soviet Union, has a substantially large combat submarine fleet, designed as the rival force against the United States and NATO. Nowadays, China has also developed into a major influence in the balance as a blue water naval power. The need for a substantially powerful and multi-missioned U.S. Navy submarine fleet has never been more critical since World War II.
During the Cold War, one of the greatest fears of Americans, and all fearing another World War, was the threat of nuclear devastation. To defend against such a catastrophe, constant vigilance to defend the free world from a nuclear strike from air, land, or sea was needed. The seaborne aspect of nuclear warfare is particularly daunting as missile submarines are able to stay hidden in the vast expanse and depths of the oceans waiting for orders to strike with their massively destructive armaments.
The most effective strategy which removes the edge given to the enemy by their submarine based ICBM’s (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) is the effective deployment of U.S. nuclear powered attack submarines. Anti-Submarine Warfare is often referred to the “cat and mouse” game which is conducted through several intelligence mediums from magnetic detection from the air to chains of listening devices deep in the oceans, yet there is no better way to ascertain the disposition of an enemy submarine than to be in the same operational environment.
When the Los Angeles Class (LA) submarines were designed they were ostensibly meant for aircraft carrier group support. The fast LA Class allowed for flexibility as the outer picket of the fast moving surface ship battle groups.
What was leveraged early on was the LA’s ability to transit quickly, stealthily, and independently to virtually any hot spot around the world to meet and engage any ocean-going threat, The Los Angleles Class entered the Cold War scene as a thoroughbred and aggressive skippers took full tactical advantage of one of her main characteristics – speed. Bremerton in her early years held the record for US Navy submarines with a special propulsion enhancement, a feature which made life onboard unique as we would arrive on station and position in record time.
“Save The Bremerton” Update
One thing that has changed since I last suggested a movement to “Save the Bremerton” is that her pervious deactivation date (Fall 2017) has been postponed by at least a couple of years and tentatively scheduled for 2019. This is a great development for the boat’s supporters. Bremerton and her new skipper, Commander Travis Zettel, her officers and crew have the privilege of fulfilling the ship’s operational objectives in her extended life, serving our country, and providing the extra strength needed in the global deployment of the attack submarine fleet.
Bremerton is not only the longest serving active duty US Navy submarine, but she is on track to become the longest serving US Navy nuclear submarine ever. Additionally, by her namesake, she shares a special connection with the famous Puget Sound Naval Shipyard which stands in Bremerton, Washington. USS Bremerton is also an adopted vessel by the community in and about the City of Bremerton.
Currently, the only U.S. Navy nuclear submarine that has been preserved for its historical relevance is the USS Nautilus SSN-571, the first operational nuclear powered submarine in the world, commissioned in 1954 and decommissioned in 1980. She resides in her East Coast home of Groton Connecticut receiving “some 250,000 visitors a year” (Wikipedia). USS Bremerton SSN-698 was commissioned in 1981 and continues to serve in her designed role after nearly 36 years.
As the senior member of the submarine fleet, the Bremerton is symbolic of America and her stalwart defense of freedom of the seas, spanning from before the demise of the old Soviet Union and what could be in the near future, new forms of military and economic alliances with our former foes, as we proceed deeper into the challenges of the 21st Century.
CKY: Thanks to shipmate, plankowner and Torpedoman John Scanlan who provided many of the images used in this article.
USS Bremerton SSN 698 News
USS Bremerton SSN 698, the longest serving commissioned submarine in the United States Navy, is home ported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is tentatively scheduled for decommissioning in 2019 or beyond.
SAVE THE 698
Join the Movement! Are you passionate about preserving the USS Bremerton in any way shape or form after her decommissioning for the benefit of the public and of naval history? You are invited to a new closed group forum on Facebook “SaveThe698” to be involved in public discussion related to Saving 698. You can see the group site by clicking HERE.