Navy to move 2 subs to Washington

SEATTLE – The U.S. Navy will move two of its fastest attack submarines to Washington state by next summer as it shifts defenses from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said Monday.

Once the USS Seawolf and the USS Connecticut arrive in Puget Sound, the Seattle area will be home to all three of the Navy’s Seawolf class of subs – huge, deep-diving boats the Pentagon ordered as the Cold War neared its end in the early 1990s.

Dicks said the Seawolf and Connecticut will leave their current homeport at New London, Conn., and arrive at Naval Base Kitsap, which includes bases in Bremerton and Bangor, between July and August 2007.

Dicks told The Associated Press that Navy Secretary Donald Winter also briefed him about three other ships that will be moving to the Pacific over the next three years: two to San Diego and one to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor.

One ship will move from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego next year; San Diego will get another sub from New London, Conn., in 2008 or 2009; and Pearl Harbor will get a sub from Norfolk in 2008 or 2009, Dicks said.

Dicks’ spokesman George Behan said the Navy has not identified those three ships.

However, two Navy officials told The Associated Press the submarines affected by realignment include the USS Jacksonville, which will head to Pearl Harbor from Norfolk; the USS Hampton, which will move from Norfolk to San Diego, and the USS Albuquerque, which will go to San Diego from New London.

The Navy officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the moves, said San Diego would also get a third submarine that has not yet been identified.

The shift will put 60 percent of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific and about 40 percent in the Atlantic by 2010, Dicks said. Today submarines are evenly divided between the two oceans.

In a phone interview from his office in Bremerton, Dicks applauded the Navy’s decision, saying it underscores concerns about military threats posed by China and North Korea.

“Having more assets in the Pacific Northwest makes sense,” Dicks said.

Each of the high-speed subs will bring a crew of 140, and will keep a steady supply of maintenance and overhaul work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Dicks said.

The Navy’s third Seawolf sub, the USS Carter, moved to Naval Submarine Base Bangor, on the Kitsap Peninsula southwest of Everett, last year. It’s the most heavily armed submarine ever built, and the last of the Seawolf class of attack subs the Pentagon ordered.

Dicks, a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Navy has yet to decide whether the Seawolf and Connecticut will be based in Bremerton, on the northeastern edge of the Kitsap peninsula, or Bangor, on the peninsula’s northwestern shore.

Commissioned in July 1997, the USS Seawolf was the first in its class, replacing the smaller Los Angeles-class submarine. The USS Connecticut was the second in the class, commissioned in December 1998. Both were built in Groton, Conn.

Each 353-foot, 9,150-ton sub cost about $2.5 billion to build. Billed as the word’s quietest submarines, they can dive to depths of more than 800 feet. They can carry 50 weapons instead of four and have eight torpedo tubes instead of four.

The USS Seawolf and USS Connecticut will join the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis, homeported in Bremerton, and eight Trident ballistic missile submarines at Bangor. Bangor is also home to two converted guided-missile Trident submarines.

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