USS Louisiana, last of the Ohio class to be refueled, leaves dry dock

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The USS Louisiana undocks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Dec. 7.
The USS Louisiana undocks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Dec. 7.

BREMERTON — 818 days.

That's how long the USS Louisiana submarine remained in a dry dock berth at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, as workers refueled its nuclear reactor and extended the life of the boat by 20 years.

The critical overhaul of a submarine that patrols the oceans armed with nuclear weapons was called the most comprehensive of any completed on the 18 boats of the Ohio class by shipyard leaders.

“Despite many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, unexpected new work items, and competing shipyard priorities, the Louisiana team kept a positive attitude in support of this undocking,” said Capt. Jip Mosman, commanding officer of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

The 560-foot-long Louisiana entered the shipyard's dry dock 4 on Sept. 11, 2019. It emerged on Dec. 7, 2021, most of the way through what's known as the Engineered Refueling Overhaul, or ERO.

The shipyard said the last refueling of an Ohio class vessel is also the most all-inclusive ever completed, with more than 6.5 million man-hours contributed to the project. That adds up to more than 800,000 workdays, 100,000 more than the last refueling of the shipyard of the USS Maine. Navy leaders did not disclose the cost of the Louisiana's refueling project, but the USS Maine's was $371 million.

The boat's berthing areas were also expanded to make it possible for enlisted women sailors to serve on board. Submarines were among the last assignments in the military where women weren't allowed to serve, but that changed in 2011 with the first female officers.

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Among the other work: Louisiana's emergency diesel generator was overhauled, its shaft replaced and several of its tanks were inspected and repaired. A new streamlined tactical system was also installed and its control station and radio room upgraded. Hydraulic, plumbing, air and seawater systems were also repaired.

Ken Rogers, the shipyard's superintendent on the project, said in a statement that Louisiana's sailors had been integral partners in completing the dry dock work.

“They were instrumental in ensuring work controls met timelines and personnel were always available to support testing and evolutions to support system restoration," Rogers said.

The boat was commissioned in 1997 as part of what the Navy calls its most important mission: "Strategic deterrence." The Louisiana, now among 13 other submarines, is armed with 20 nuclear missiles when patrolling the seas with its alternating blue and gold crews. The sub, hidden under the waves, can respond to a nuclear first strike on the country, making it the "most survivable leg" of the country's nuclear triad, which also includes bombs and land-based nuclear weapons.

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Commissioned in 1997, the Louisiana arrived in Puget Sound in 2005 following a 58-day, 18,000-mile voyage from Kings Bay, Ga., around the tip of South America.

The Louisiana was involved in a collision in August 2016 when one of its accompanying blocking vessels in and out of Puget Sound collided with the submarine in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. No injuries were reported. The shipyard made at least $10 million in repairs to the submarine, including its sonar dome.

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The shipyard has been using the Louisiana's work to test out a process known as the Naval Sustainment System, with the aim of speeding up critical work on Navy vessels.

​​​​​​Josh Farley is a reporter covering the military and Bremerton for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227, josh.farley@kitsapsun.com or on Twitter at @joshfarley.

This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: USS Louisiana, last of the Ohio class to be refueled, leaves dry dock