I had the opportunity to attend the Commissioning of the USS Washington in Norfolk Va this month. The State was represented by Lt Governor Cyrus Habib, Representatives Derek Kilmer, and Dan Newhouse, Secretary of State Kim Wyman and State Representative Drew MacEwen.
Lt Governor Habib who is blind, insisted on a tour of the submarine. So we gave him a Braille tour of the Washington for about an hour. His speech’s were particularly impressive, since he can not read prepared remarks and they were truly from the heart. We were honored to have him attend.
What struck me about the interior of the USS Washington was how cramped she was. It was packed to the bulkheads with equipment. I was stunned that I had much more space on the USS Bremerton! The big Virginia Class innovation is Modularity. The torpedo stows had been removed for the commissioning, leaving a space you could play handball in. It can be configured for Seals, extra berthing or the traditional missiles and torpedoes.
The Sonar operating space has been moved into the Control Room. The Officer of the Deck is literally surrounded by computer councils. Sonar, Fire Contol, Navigation and Ship Control. The Helmsmen, Planesman and Chief of the Watch have been replaced by a Pilot and Copilot who control the ship with a touch screen and joystick. The periscopes have been replaced with mast mounted cameras and ultra high definition video screens, which allows for multiple people to view the image rather than just the periscope operator.