Home » News & Analysis » Submarine Tender USS Frank Cable Completes Drydock Maintenance, In Transit to Guam


Submarine Tender USS Frank Cable Completes Drydock Maintenance, In Transit to Guam

The submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) sails from her position in Vigor Shipyard’s dry dock to moor pierside during a fleeting exercise on Sept. 15, 2017. Frank Cable is in Portland, Ore., for a scheduled dry-dock phase maintenance availability. US Navy photo.

Submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS-40) completed an eight-month dry-dock repair availability in Oregon and is headed back to Guam to continue fleet support operations there.

The Navy put the 38-year-old tender through $56 million in improvements, including main reduction gear foundation repair and shafting, a collection holding tank replacement, steel renewal to ensure ship survivability and watertight resistance, and equipment repairs.

“The Navy and Military Sealift Command (MSC) crew worked very hard during this shipyard period to maximize repairs and material conditions,” MSC Ship’s Master Capt. Patrick Christian said in a Navy news release.
“Now we are ready to rejoin the fleet and get back on our mission.”

The split crew includes MSC civilian mariners who operate and maintain the ship at sea, and Navy sailors who protect the ship and provide repair and logistics support to deployed submarines. Frank Cable works alongside sister ship USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) in Guam, typically with one tender working at the island and one providing services to deployed subs and ships at sea.

Some Frank Cable sailors remained in Guam during the maintenance period and were temporarily assigned to Emory S. Land. They will rejoin Frank Cable while the ship is underway in the voyage back to Guam.

During the transit back, sailors will have to requalify their work centers, and the MSC crew will have to test the tender’s updated capabilities.

“We’re going 21 knots right now,” Christian said in the news release, noting the ship’s speed as it departed the Vigor Industrial shipyard in Oregon.
“Before we could not meet our designed speed and now we can. We are going to do a proof of concept for our submarine and logistics support capabilities, then we will return to our home port of Guam as Lead Maintenance Activity.”

Frank Cable Commanding Officer Capt. Jeff Farah added in the release, “the majority of Repair Department sailors stay behind for the repair mission, as part of the two-tender concept. For our sailors underway, the focus is to build that repair proficiency back, before we return to Guam.”

  • DaSaint

    Increased forward deployments should mean additional submarine tender requirements. Build new ones.

    • Curtis Conway

      The USS Emory S Land (AS-39) & USS Frank Cable (AS-40) should be replaced. New construction submarine tenders based upon the LPD-17 hull would be optimal. Consideration for tenders for Surface Combatants should also be considered, and I would build more than two Destroyer Tenders. I wonder what an Icebreaker/Command Ship/BMD Ship/Destroyer Tender with a Moon Pool would look like. Perhaps that could be a Submarine Tender too.

      • DaSaint

        Can’t have a billion dollar Submarine Tender. I’d suggest a modified T-AKE by NASSCO. They cost about $450 million, so arguably you could build 3 for the cost of a LPD, and 4 would probably be the right number to add to production there. I’m wary of adding more to Ingalls plate.

        • Curtis Conway

          In this new world we find ourselves in . . . would it not be logical to make more multi-mission platforms, and if so, which missions could coexist? If we are to have only a few tenders, they will certainly be a fat (mostly defenseless) target.

          • DaSaint

            True, but don’t want too many eggs in one basket either. Losing a single tender is one thing. Losing a tender that’s also a mine warfare mothership, or submarine and destroyer tender and BMD vessel. Besides, some may need to be where others aren’t, and having a do-it-all ship may give away plans due to positioning.

            Every large naval vessel should have at least 2 SeaRAM launchers, 1-56mm mount, some remote 25mm mounts, and possibly an 8-cell Mk41 VLS with ESSM quad-packs. But that’s just me.

          • Curtis Conway

            And every US Navy large surface vessel (not just combatants) should have a non-rotating AESA primary main sensor that detects, tracks, provides fire control, and does other things.

          • DaSaint

            It’s a good argument to have. I can see the benefits and risks from both perspectives.

      • So is there an effort by BuPERS (or whatever they call themselves now-a-days) to recruit and/or train the skilled craftsmen and technical rates it would take to fill these billets? Do we rely on a civilian work force, or government sand crabs? If the tender guys could do half of what they did in the ’60s & ’70s, they could get six figure jobs anywhere and not have to put up with Navy BS.
        A lot of training chatter currently going on. People trying to figure what a sailor “needs to know” – most of them having little or no sea time. If a sailor were to obtain a marketable skill while serving, it would no doubt hurt retention.

        • Curtis Conway

          AND we are surrounded by EXPERTS who have little experience, or never ‘been there’ and ‘done that’. Many of us have ‘been there’ (with a tender) and done that back in the day in the Med.

        • Curtis Conway

          The only evidence I have read about your question is cooperation between the private yards to share and grow tallent. If you are a qualified and talented welder, they have a job for you.

          • Can’t have too many qualified welders (especially SUBSAFE qualified).
            EB had a program back during to Carter Administration to train up a bunch of welders out of the slums of Hartford. It became a poster child for a program on how NOT to do occupational training (and a complete waste of money). If you can’t pass a drug test and show up to work on time, you shouldn’t have a job supporting anything that has to do with the Navy. I don’t think that the current POTUS would put up with that kind of bilge. Let’s see how the infrastructure thing goes and hope that SECNAV can get a piece of the action.

    • Duane

      Not sure why we need more sub tenders. We seem to have enough. They spend virtually all of their time tied up to the dock, and we have plenty of allied naval bases where the same capabilities can be set up as land based facilities as needed. It’s cheaper to provide the same capabilities (resupply, machine shops, maintenance support, etc.) from a land based facility than from a ship. The sub tenders were a carryover from World War Two when we didn’t have forward based maintenance ports.

      • DaSaint

        We only have 2. And as you know, it is relatively easy to be denied access to someone’s sovereign port facilities, depending on the politics of the day.

        The argument you use could be applied to foreign bases for refueling and resupply, thereby negating the need for AORs or similar auxiliaries.

        • NavySubNuke

          Denied access to a foreign port??? Come on now — that is Duane you’re talking to.
          In his mind we can probably just send an LCS or two to any port people want to deny us access to. Those same people will then be so scared that they will fall all over themselves granting us access rather than suffer the wrath of our nearly unarmed death traps!!!!

          • Duane

            In your mind’s eye, you see yourself as an expert. And you also enjoy being argumentative for no purpose other than to be so.

          • NavySubNuke

            Duane the difference between you and me is I actually know what I am talking about which is why I don’t say silly nonsense like Virginia’s don’t have a pump jet propullser, that you can’t tow a towed array at flank speed, or that so-called supersonic ASCM’s only go supersonic during terminal like you do.
            But I realize in your own willfully ignorant mind you see yourself as an expert and I understand that your fragile ego and complete lack of any personal integrity make you unnecessarily argumentative rather than admitting when you are wrong.

        • Duane

          We have Guam, a US territory, that happens to be the only home port for the only two sub tenders in service. It”s far cheaper, more efficient, and more convenient to use a land based service facility in Guam, but we have these two old tenders built back in the 1970s that the Navy wants to hang onto.

          If we need another forward based port – we really don’t at this time, with only 70 total submarines in the fleet – it would be, again, very easy and cheap to build a shop building and warehouse facility in a place like Yokosuka, where we already have a huge naval base at our disposal, than to use a subtender. We’re not getting kicked out of Japan, for any conceivable reason. Ditto with South Korea – where we just built one of the largest US Army posts in the world at Camp Humphrey – the ROKs are very happy to keep us in SK given NK’s ongoing threats. The Aussies would be happy to host us if necessary too.

          We certainly do not need to move tenders around to meet submarines out in the middle of nowhere.

          • DaSaint

            1. And should Guam be nuked by North Korea?
            2. Japan doesn’t like nuclear submarines to visit much, never mind regularly serviced in their waters. That is changing, but I wouldn’t expect them to allow this to be a regularly scheduled, and publicly visible affair.
            3. There’s a reason we don’t have a major US naval base in SK (I don’t consider Fleet Activities Chinhae a major naval base)…and that reason is NK.
            4. Yes, the Aussies would be happy to, but really, is $450M per AS killing the shipbuilding budget Duane? Maybe it can be armed with a 57mm, a SeaRAM or two, a couple 25mm is a RWS, and also act as a mother ship for LCS?

          • Duane

            That’s a somewhat irrelevant “what if?”, DaSaint. If Guam were nuked (extremely unlikely) w’de lose both our sub tenders and any subs in port at the time (each one of which is worth many times what a single sub tender is worth) … and so then we shift sub maintenance to Pearl Harbor, and to San Diego,and to Naval Base Kitsap, or we could set up a land based sub support facility in Japan, or Australia. Or with a week’s longer cruise time via the Panama Canal, to Atlantic sub bases at Kings Bay or Groton.

            Even if we had a couple more subtenders standing by somewhere, we still could not send them over to Guam after a nuke attack, as it would be uninhabitable for quite some period of time, likely years before it could be rebuilt.

            The chances of Guam getting nuked successfully are pretty slim – it’s well protected by a combination of both THAAD, which has been virtually 100% successful in terminal phase intercepts, as well as AEGIS-equipped CGs and DDGs.

            Japan’s supposed aversion to nukes has never been an obstacle to US nuke boats visiting. Their only prohibition has been against nuke weapons, which we never admit to having on any of our attack boats. Indeed, Japan depends entirely on the US nuclear weapons shield for protection from other nuclear powers. Our relations with Japan are as strong as they’ve ever been since the surrender at the end of World War Two. The NORKs and PRC have if anything greatly strengthened the Japan-US treaty relationship in the last few years.

          • DaSaint

            The Japan-US relationship is strong, that I will agree. I note you didn’t mention the SK base, but regarding the need for new sub tenders, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. May we resume our debates anew in a few hours.

            Have a Happy New Year Duane! All the best to you and to all here who post on USNI for a safe, healthy, honorable and prosperous 2018.

          • Secundius

            They (i.e. the US Navy) should seriously consider Reactivating “Midway Island” and “Wake Island”…

          • DaSaint

            Might not be a bad idea at least in the near term, except for the fear that the islands are so low that they may be covered by rising sea levels.

          • Secundius

            I don’t know whether or not “Subic Bay Base” is Nuclear Submarine capable. Other than those, that leaves the Auxiliary Submarine Base at “Barking Sands” on Kauai Island, in Hawai’i…

          • DaSaint

            If we only had full use of Subic again…
            Those were the days…

          • Secundius

            In 2013 or 2014 the US Government Contracted the Philippine Government for the Lease Activation of Six Bases within the Philippines at a Cost of ~$10-Billion USD/Year for 10-years. On top of that ~$20-Billion USD was paid to the Philippine Government to “Modernize” those Bases including Subic Bay.
            1. Antonio Bautista Air Base on Palawan Island.
            2. Basa Air Base near Manila.
            3. Fort Magsaysay on Luzon Island.
            4. Lumbia Air Base on Mindanao Island.
            5. Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base on Mactan Island.
            6. Subic Bay Naval Station on Luzon Island.

            To move in 12 November 2015 (i.e. Subic Bay) to start with…

          • DaSaint

            I don’t believe that’s correct. Under the EDCA, the US has access rights to facilities only. The US left in the first place because we didn’t want to pay $800 million/year, so we certainly wouldn’t pay more to the Philippines than combined military aid to Israel and Egypt. Flawed info, I’m afraid.

          • Secundius

            https: // www. militarytimes. com/news/your-military/2016/03/21/ the-u-s-military-is-moving-into-these-5-bases-in-the-philippines/

            Sorry about format, but this is my third Redaction by “USNI News”…

          • DaSaint

            Yes, the agreement to use the 5 bases is factual. Use, not own. And for rotational purposes only, like what we do with the Aussies and Singapore. But not for $10B/year for 10 years!

          • Secundius

            Where “Specifically” Did I Mention “To Own”?/!

          • DaSaint

            Oh, that’s not the real issue. Own was my wordage. I’m more interested in where you’ve found ‘…at a Cost of ~$10-Billion USD/Year for 10-years. On top of that ~$20-Billion USD was paid to the Philippine Government to “Modernize” those Bases including Subic Bay.”

            That’s the part I have a very hard time believing or finding for that matter. Those would be the most expensive base rights agreement in US history. Help me find where that was approved and authorized by the US. Thx.

          • DaSaint

            no problem.

      • NavySubNuke

        “The sub tenders were a carryover from World War Two when we didn’t have forward based maintenance ports.”
        LOL.
        ** Pats Duane on the head ** Oh Duane. Happy New Year.
        I realize you pride yourself on your willful ignorance but if I were you I would suggest making a New Years resolution to not spout ignorant nonsense like this on a regular basis next year…..

        • Duane

          Gotta hand it to you, NSN – you win the internet again today as always for your consistently high ratio of condescension as well as extremely high self regard as related to the actual useful or factual content of your comments.

          Yes, dudette … in World War Two we needed submarine tenders because forward “friendly” ports were constantly on the move as the island hopping campaign proceeded as we leapfrogged across the Pacific,and/ or were in danger of being rendered inoperable by enemy air attacks, or even being taken by the Japanese in the first coupla years of the war. A mobile sub tending service made great sense then in those circumstances.

          Guess What? It is no longer World War Two, and we are no longer island hopping across the Pacific. With absolute air superiority including extensive missile defenses in places like Guam and Hawaii, air attack is not a significant concern.

          During WW Two the US Navy operated 13 sub tenders, which were further supported by another 8 auxiliaries, and they serviced about five times as many submarines as we have in the fleet today. Today, with an all-nuclear fleet, with unlimited cruising range and the ability to transit from home ports in Pearl Harbor to the West Pac in roughly a week, and from Guam no transit needed at all, there just is not a large need to provide mobile floating tenders. We use them in Guam simply because we have them. But to build more tenders in the future will be shipbuilding dollars not available for other more critical warship types.

          It is vastly cheaper to build a landside building and stock it with supplies and machine shops and such than to try to pack it all into the limited and expensive hull volume of a sub tender. Which is why we’re down to only 2 in the fleet today, and both serve in the same home port of Guam. Spending half a billion or more for a floating shop vs. maybe $100M for a land based shop with four times the shop space and stores volume simply makes no economic sense when shipbuilding as well as ship operating dollars are scarce.

          Anybody who knows anything about ships knows that ships are VERY expensive and inefficient housing structures – whether housing people, or supplies, or repair shops, If a ship’s primary mission is to just be tied up at the pier to service other ships, that’s the most expensive way we have to provide that mission. If the tenders were actually needed to go out and routinely cruise to meet their customers in foreign ports that are not more or less permanent bases for us (certainly that includes Guam, a US territory), but that’s not how we’ve used sub tenders for many decades.

          • NavySubNuke

            Ah Duane there you go spouting a bunch of off topic, random and obvious nonsense to try and distract people from yet another obviously false statement.
            Nice attempt at looking intelligent but all I see is you proving yourself to be a liar yet again.

    • NavySubNuke

      There are new tenders in the 30 year ship building plan — I forget exactly when but I think somewhere in the mid-twenties they are due for replacement.
      The plan today is for 2 but that is an ok starting point —- we can always add two more on the back end when the production line is open and going.

      • DaSaint

        Yes, I saw that. By the time they’re replaced, they’ll be over 50 years of age. Should be relatively easy to use one of the new auxiliary hull designs as a baseline for a new AS.

        To take a page from Curtis, consideration should be given to making the hull somewhat ice-capable, as I sense that there will be increased operational flexibility in future years.

        Or imagine some large swath-based catamaran, which could allow a submarine to be tended to between the hulls, concealed from prying eyes. Reminds me of an old James Bond movie, with nuclear submarines swallowed up by a large converted oil tanker.

        • Will Caruthers

          Ice capable is key. The “pivot to Asia” was understandable, but any further pivots will be to the north.

  • Ed L

    Build more Tenders

  • bigjohn767

    Plank owner…79-85

    • Curtis Conway

      Being a Plank Owner is a unique experience. Glad you got the chance.

    • Secundius

      I have to Agree with “Curtis”, you got to see your Baby Grow into Something. Many IF not most never get that Opportunity…

  • Got to recomm destroyer tenders or commission new ones. A commercial hull can be used. We did it during WW2 and with the fleets state of readiness and maintenance low a couple of destroyer tenders would help. One in Singapore (for LCS’s also) and one in the Philippines. We have to stop the fleets reliance on a contractor train and get the sailors back into the maintenance and repair business. There are no more pattern makers, molders, etc. Three D printing is also the way to go. MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Ret.

  • Western

    God Bless all sub tenders and their crews. A very critical component of our nuclear triad, not often recognized. Saved our butts a few times.

  • jon spencer

    You sure know how to make a guy feel old. I was on Guam (73) when the Proteus AS-19 and the Hunley AS-31 swapped duties, with the Proteus taking over for the Hunley.
    They made their last trip to Texas in 2007/08 for scrapping.

    • muzzleloader

      I was on Guam in 1976-77. At that time, the Naval station was a pretty quiet place. Proteus was the only surface ship I ever saw there, other than an occasional visiting DDG.
      I remember when a Japanese MSDF destroyer visited for a liberty call.
      It was amusing to see these Japanese sailors walking around in their dress whites, taking pictures of the Naval Station as though they were visiting Seattle. I guess Guam was the first little piece of America they had ever seen.

  • Scott

    I find it interesting that they did “steel renewal”, perhaps this could be done on the CG’s to keep them around longer. When I was on San Jacinto in the 1990’s, the shipyard replaced the steel underneath the forward breaks to help support the superstructure. I wonder how much replacement was done on the tender.

    • Secundius

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but were the “Tico’s” like the “Spruance” and “Kidd” classes Aluminum Hulled…

      • DaSaint

        No. None of them are aluminum hulled. They have steel hulls and aluminum superstructures.

  • Michael Miles

    I’m a old pro station at pulars point guam AS 19 Proteus in the 80’s sure miss those days.