LaPorteans get a sneak peek at new USS Indiana submarine, crew

Commander Joseph Scott (left) and Lt. John McCauley (right) pose with a local Navy veteran.

Ray Shearer (2nd from left), chairman of the commissioning committee for the USS Indiana, talks about the progress of the submarine. Also pictured are Navy representatives Commander Joseph Scott (center) and Lt. John McCauley (right).

Ray Shearer (left), chairman of the commissioning committee for the USS Indiana, listens as Navy Commander Joseph Scott (center) discusses the USS Indiana. Also pictured is Lt. John McCauley (right).

U.S. Navy Lt. John McCauley (left) and Commander Joseph Scott (right) pose with LaPorte City firefighters.

U.S. Navy Lt. John McCauley (left) and Commander Joseph Scott (right) chat with local residents.

Ray Shearer, chairman of the commissioning committee for the USS Indiana, holds the official USS Indiana cap. Flanking Shearer are Commander Joseph Scott (left) and Lt. John McCauley (right).

(Above and below photos:) A model of the USS Indiana sits outside the Blue Heron.

WNLP story and photos by Bob Wellinski

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Short notice due to their schedule meant the welcome committee was small, but crew members of the under-construction USS Indiana submarine still provided fascinating information during their visit to LaPorte Nov. 9, 2017.

The new Virginia Class Fast Attack sub, which is about 95% complete, is scheduled to be commissioned next year, according to Ray Shearer, chairman of the commissioning committee for USS Indiana. Shearer was joined by Commander Joseph Scott, human resources officer, and Lt.  John McCauley, operations officer, at the LaPorte event at Blue Heron Inn. Scott and McCauley are both from Great Lakes Naval Installation.  

The USS Indiana will be the first sub bearing the Indiana name. It will also be the fourth vessel named Indiana and the third commissioned ship. The first ship to take on the Indiana name was a battleship that served during the Spanish American War. Indiana’s own President Benjamin Harrison signed the authorization to create the battleship’s program. The second battleship was under construction in the 1920s. It was 40% complete when it was scrapped due to treaty obligations. One barrel from the main gunnery is on display in the Naval Yard in Washington, D.C. Most recently, the Battleship Indiana BB-58 was built starting in 1939, commissioned in 1942 and decommissioned in 1947. It served in every major Pacific engagement during World War II and was awarded 9 battle stars.

“So now, you think 75 years later it is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something like this,” Shearer told those present.

Commander Scott explained that the USS Indiana is “the 16th Virginia class sub with brand new, state-of-the-art technology; a phenomenal warcraft all the way around.

“When the USS Indiana commissions next year, it will be the most technologically advanced, stealthiest … fastest vessel on the planet.”

The SSN 789 will be 7,800-tons and 377 feet in length, have a beam of 34 feet and operate at more than 25 knots (about 29 mph) submerged. It is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

The future USS Indiana, with an estimated crew of approximately 135, will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert, long-term surveillance of land area, waters near shorelines or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, mine delivery and minefield mapping. It is also designed for Special Forces delivery and support.

Commander Scott explained that the USS Indiana crew, which will include sailors from Indiana, is being built the same time as the ship is being built. “It’s essential that they work alongside the shipyard engineers; they need to know these systems inside and out,” Shearer said. He added, “They can’t pick up the phone when they’re out to sea for tech support. They have to know every possible scenario when they go out for sea trial.” For quality assurance, some shipyard workers as well as the shipyard president and the ship’s admiral will be on board the sub first trip.

But Indiana sailors won’t be the only representatives the Hoosier state will have aboard the new sub. Shearer noted that so far they have found there are over 100 Indiana businesses manufacturing components for the sub program. “But this one (the USS Indiana) is special because it’s Hoosier hands that are building that Hoosier boat.” Some of the parts mentioned are the reactor vessel made in Mt. Vernon; the backup diesel generator made in Lafayette at the Cat plant; a special reactor spring made at Hoosier Spring in South Bend; steel from the region’s steel mills — and more local businesses: A and A Sheet Metal and Thermco are contributing to USS Indiana.

Shearer joked, “… lots of Hoosier parts. If the Navy would let us, we’d stamp ‘Made in Indiana’ all over that sub.”

People can stay up to date on the USS Indiana’s progress by visiting USS Indiana on Facebook or its website, USSIndiana.org.

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