US Navy’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has completed the conversion of former Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS La Jolla (SSN 701) into a moored training ship.
La Jolla is the first of two next-generation training ships converted at NNSY to become land-based platforms for training nuclear sailors at the nuclear power training unit (NPTU) in Charleston, South Carolina. The second, USS San Francisco (SSN 711), has been at NNSY since January 2017.
“Converting USS La Jolla into a moored training ship is a great investment in the navy’s future and a commitment to fleet excellence,” said CDR John C. Smith, commanding officer. “Training on a more modern plant design provides a major upgrade and equips our sailors with a reliable platform for the years ahead, which is key to ensuring maximum effectiveness across the fleet.”
As the first MTS conversion ever performed at NNSY, and the navy’s first one in nearly 30 years, the effort proved similar in many ways to constructing the first ship in a new class.
During its conversion, La Jolla underwent two complete hull cuts, separating the boat into three pieces, recycling the center section, and adding three new hull sections, adding 76 feet to the overall ship length. The new hull sections arrived from Electric Boat via barge and were craned into the dock. In the midst of that massive undertaking, the conversion also included work typical of engineered overhauls NNSY conducts on other Los Angeles-class submarines.
“Thank you to everyone who participated in the conversion of USS La Jolla, which was a long and challenging process, but also one important to our growth as an organization and an achievement vital to the development of our Navy Sailors,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Kai Torkelson. “It’s truly a remarkable accomplishment to complete the conversion of a fast-attack submarine into a moored training ship, the closest NNSY has come in more than 60 years to constructing an all-new vessel. Along with USS San Francisco, La Jolla will provide a modern platform for enabling highly skilled and fully capable 21st century fleet operators.”
The navy has used moored training ships for 30 years, with the current two at NPTU—ex-Sam Rayburn (MTS 635) and ex-Daniel Webster (MTS 626)—having been converted at Charleston Naval Shipyard. Following that shipyard’s closure in 1996, NNSY assumed maintenance responsibilities of both Rayburn and Webster, to include their upcoming inactivations.