Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) successfully undocked USS La Jolla (SSN 701) Nov. 8.
La Jolla will remain pier-side to finish the final leg of its moored training ship (MTS) conversion that began in February 2015. La Jolla is the first of two next-generation platforms undergoing conversion at the shipyard to train nuclear officers and Sailors at the Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in Charleston, South Carolina. USS San Francisco (SSN 711) arrived at the shipyard for its conversion in January.
The two current MTS subs at NPTU, both commissioned in 1964, have trained nuclear officers and sailors since their conversions in the early 1990s.
Since her arrival, La Jolla has undergone two complete hull cuts that separated the boat into three pieces. The center section was recycled, and three new hull sections were added, extending the overall ship length by 76 feet. The new hull sections arrived from Electric Boat via barge and were then craned into the dock. In the midst of that massive undertaking, the conversion process that included work typical of the engineered overhauls NNSY conducts on other Los Angeles-class submarines, continued.
“With the complexity of the project, to get it out of dock required the whole shipyard and a focused effort,” said La Jolla project superintendent Commander Joe Klopfer. “It feels good that we came together to get it out, and the team is able to see the fruits of its labor.”
Over the next year, La Jolla will undergo further modifications, including electrical systems and engine room work.
“There’s also a significant amount of structural work that needs to be done to the boat to be able to tow it down to Charleston,” said Klopfer. La Jolla is scheduled to complete its conversion to a full-fledged MTS in late 2018.
With La Jolla blazing the trail for MTS conversion at NNSY, the project team has proactively shared lessons learned with the San Francisco project, ranging from ensuring adequate personnel resources to testing equipment earlier to attain certification. Those efforts are already paying off, with NNSY successfully tapping into the SurgeMain program of reserve Sailors to perform work on San Francisco over the summer. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard employees also assisted with major valve and piping replacement on San Francisco earlier this year, successfully completing the work in 25 days, two weeks ahead of schedule.
“Congratulations on achieving one of the most difficult milestones in NNSY ship repair and construction history,” Klopfer told the La Jolla team. “You accepted my challenge to undock on the 8th and exceeded my expectations in every way. I am very proud to be the La Jolla Project Superintendent and ready to charge to the next key event and completing this conversion.”