US SSN to exercises with SA Navy


The Los Angeles-class nuclear powered attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN 751) is in Simon’s Town to participate in Exercise Flower III, one of a series of joint South African-US naval exercises.

The aim of Exercise Flower III is to conduct submarine exercises and at-sea engagements between the submarines of the two countries, officials from both navies say.

The objectives of the exercise for the South African Navy (SAN) includes interoperability of surface and sub-sea communication, operational testing and evaluation, operator skills and benchmarking the Heroine-class submarine. 

Commander John Sheehan, representing the US Sixth Fleet, said that the type and class of conventional submarine that the SA Navy uses (Type 209/1400MOD (SA) SSK) is often seen as the wave of the future.  

“The difference is that the intent of the submarine and the intent of our (nuclear) submarine is to work slightly differently. This is a unique opportunity to put the two together and find out how they operate in the same environment. It is a wonderful chance for us to learn a lot.” 

The exercises will be conducted west of Hout Bay, Cape Town, approximately 50nm off the coast in international waters. The SAN submarine that will be participating with the USS San Juan will be SAS Queen Modjadji I (S103).

Although the at-sea exercise will only consists of three days, there will be on-shore briefings and debriefings prior to and after the at-sea event.

Under the command of Commander Ollie Lewis, the USS San Juan departed her homeport of Groton, Connecticut in the USA on 1 June this year and transitted the Mediterranean before entering the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal.

Her previous stop before South Africa was the Seychelles and the submarine is due to return home before Christmas.

Commander Lewis told defenceWeb that he was hoping to learn about SAN tactics, maritime interdiction and interoperability. 

There are 140 all-male crewmembers on board the USS San Juan who operate a six-hour on, 12-hour off routine.

However, the crew members must still participate in training and drills during their off period.

At 110 metres in length and 10m wide, the interior of the submarine consists of three levels. Space is at a premium, but there is still a sizable mess area and even laundry washer and dryer. All meals are made in the small kitchen, including fresh bread daily. 

Powered by one nuclear reactor, a diesel generator is also available as a backup.  

The USS San Juan is the 40th Los Angeles-class attack submarine and, commissioned in 1988, is the first improved submarine in her class. 

USS San Juan and all following submarines in the class are quieter; incorporate an advanced BSY-1 sonar suite combat system and the ability to lay mines from their torpedo tubes.

They are configured for under-ice operations in that their forward diving planes have been moved from the sail structure to the bow and the sail has been strengthened for breaking through ice. Hence her motto: Technology and Tradition. 

Armament includes vertical launch tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles, Mk 48 torpedoes in four torpedo tubes and Harpoon missiles.

The USS San Juan participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, during which she fired 27 Tomahawk missiles, the most launched by a single submarine.

Pic: The USS San Juan comes alongside in Simon’s Town.