The U.S. Navy declared that Norfolk Naval Shipyard completed the conversion of USS La Jolla (SSN 701) into a nuclear power secured training ship.
La Jolla is the first of two next-gen training ships transformed at NNSY to turn into a land-based stage for training nuclear Sailors at the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston. The USS San Francisco (SSN 711), has been at NNSY since 2017.
As the first MTS conversion ever carried out at NNSY, and the Navy’s first one in almost three decades, the effort proved similar in some ways to constructing the first ship in a new class. Throughout its conversion, La Jolla underwent two complete frame cuts, departing the boat into three pieces, recycling the center part, and adding three new hull sections, adding 76 feet to the overall ship size. The brand new hull sections arrived from Electric Boat by way of barge and had been craned into the dock. Amid that significant endeavor, the conversion further included work typical of engineered overhauls NNSY conducts on other Los Angeles-class submarines.
The conversion’s original work for the shipyard introduced unique difficulties in all phases of the project. NNSY naval architects, docking de, and La Jolla project crew members collaborated extensively to safely and efficiently dock the boat on strongbacks, which are over twice the peak of blocks usually used at NNSY. The docking problem hinged on having the boat sitting as high within the water as attainable without creating an unstable buoyancy condition. This problem was successfully met by pulling 40,000 kilos of material off the boat before docking, and “super flooding” the dock 3 feet above the river level through the breasting over of the ship on top of strongbacks. “That is the primary time, to my knowledge, that a ship in the U.S. Navy has been dry-docked utilizing strongbacks,” stated NNSY Stability and Weight Control Department Lead Engineer Gus Goddin.