SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


SEAFAC Completes Upgrades
By Angela Grube


August 25, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Navy Region Northwest Sailors, local politicians and business leaders gathered at the Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility (SEAFAC) near Ketchikan, Alaska, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Aug. 22, marking the completion of the first of two phases of upgrades to the facility.

"The United States has been at the forefront of submarine stealth for the past 50 years," said Rear Adm. William Timme, deputy commander for Undersea Warfare Naval Sea Systems Command. "Through superior engineering and testing at facilities like SEAFAC, our submarines remain unmatched in the world. Submarine designers and builders have learned from acoustic experimentation and testing, and applied those lessons learned to new platforms."


Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility (SEAFAC) near Ketchikan, Alaska
By Ketchikan photographer Carl Thompson©

Originally begun in 1991, SEAFAC measured the sounds a submarine made as it piloted between acoustic measurement arrays and tracking hydrophones.

In 1994, hydrophones were used to measure sounds the boats made without propulsion, such as air conditioning, circulation and refrigeration systems, and various seawater pumps. SEAFAC's static site system holds the submarine in place with four suspension cables, lowers it approximately 400 feet for testing and then raises it to the surface.

"The previous process used to take three to four weeks to measure the submarines, because we had to worry about weather," said Robert Kollars, director of Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division's Bremerton Detachment. "The wind and rain would create surface noise that interfered with our measurement. Now the sensors are more focused to the submarines and take only a day."

Kollars added the new facility is quicker and more convenient for the submarines and also more sensitive, so that the newest and quietest submarines can be measured. Before, they only tested Los Angeles and Ohio classes of submarines; now, using the new array of equipment, the Seawolf and Virginia classes may be tested.

Starting in January of 2003, organizations from around the country contributed to the upgrades of SEAFAC. The first of a two-phase process included measurements of Los Angeles- and Ohio-class subs, culminating in a five-day test with the Seawolf-class USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23). The first phase improved the static site system and finished in June 2006. The second phase entails improving the underway site and will be completed by August 2007.

jpg seawolf-class

Seawolf-class USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23)
By Ketchikan photographer Carl Thompson©

"The biggest surprise to me was the number of different organizations that pulled together to ensure the modifications were successful," said Rear Adm. William French, commander, Navy Region Northwest. "Different organizations, both inside and out of the Navy, specifically contractors from SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation), were effective in making sure we met the timeline to produce the capabilities we needed here."

The sites consist of two barges that sit in the western arm of Behm Canal. Kollars said because of the unique protected fjord environment and local mountains providing isolation, the location is beneficial for testing.

"This equipment is critical for us to continue to monitor our submarines stealth capabilities," said French. "Without stealth, submarines utility for serving the Navy strike force would be severely limited. What SEAFAC brings is the ability to continually monitor our submarines' stealth and that key element has the ability to directly affect the mission."


Editor's Note:

Angela Grube is a Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class, Northwest Region Fleet Public Affairs Center, United States Navy

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