USS Whidbey Island, a labor day salute


Now that, friends, is an antenna mast (bigger image here).  By way of scale, the tubular frame radar array showing over the large horn is 24 feet wide. I also learned that while the crew of the USS Whidbey Island does get “slow” Internet access underway, it doesn’t work on some headings, which suggests that whichever dome delivers recreational Internet may sometimes be in the shadow of that huge mast. This 609’ LSD (dock landing ship) was here to celebrate Windjammer Weekend, and I lucked into a tour led by a cheerful Ensign in the “Electro” department. Details of interest:

A favored navigation tool is a laptop running some unfamiliar charting program, and the watch stander was using a Furuno NavNet GPS to track anchor dragging, but paper charts—painstakingly annotated with safety depth lines—were very much in evidence; at least one of the automated chain guns is associated with a thermal camera, but it needs repair after constant use looking for pirates off the Horn of Africa; the Combat (control room) really was as cool as they look in the movies, but the ensign said the low lighting makes folks sleepy. Most of all I noticed how hard the crew worked to show a whole lot of gawkers like me what it’s like to be in the Navy, but they were wonderfully relaxed about it. They’re back at sea tonight, returning to the Chesapeake, and who knows where next. I salute them.

PS: Referencing the “relaxed” ship comment, Captain Junge apparently consorted with pirates and went wild with a confetti cannon during the build-a-boat race



Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

8 Responses

  1. DefJef says:

    Our navy is bloated with too many expensive ships which have no mission other than to be part of procurement programs to make the usual suspects flush with cash.
    Why do we need nuclear subs again?
    Or carrier groups? Aren’t these attack systems?

  2. Butch Davis says:

    Nuclear missle submarines are needed to provide a response to nuclear attack by a nation attacking the USA with nuclear weapons. Missle submarines are capable of launching conventional warheads with great accuracy when called upon to do so. The ability to do so while remaining hidden below the surface is useful. Nuclear hunter/killer submarines are needed to provide protection to the deployed fleet and to project covert special operations forces without detection.
    Political correctness aside the USA has enemies. Not all national leaders in our world have the wisdom to refrain from attacking us if they sense we can be defeated.

  3. Joe Ferrara says:

    That 24′ wide antenna just above the whistle (not a horn) is their air search radar. The horizontal array just below the feed horn of the air search antenna is their IFF antenna. The smaller antenna further up the mast (near the top) is their surface search radar antenna.
    The Whidby Island is the lead ship of her class, with LARGE Colt-Pielstick diesels. The class replaced the older LSD’s (Spiegle Grove was one that they sank to become a reef) that were steam powered and much more maintenance intensive.
    Our Amphibious Navy still has a mission, both in peace time and in war. And we’re doing BOTH right now. The USS Bataan (LHD) just got underway to support recovery efforts in the gulf following Gustav. Let’s hope she isn’t needed on the way back to support Hanna’s projected hit on Charleston.
    Today’s Navy isn’t just for blowing up things any more.

  4. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Comment on picture: I don’t get concerned about the tiny output of radar energy of a typical radome or even the bigger 4′ hardware, but I think I would pause for a long moment before continuing up the mast on that ship while the 24′ antenna is active !
    Comment to “our navy is bloated”: Ouch. Personally I would feel more comfortable if we had a couple of more aircraft carriers myself. Similiarly multi-mission vessels like the USS Whidbey Island that are useful to our many armed forces to increase mobility now that our enemies are no longer nation states, and our “friends” want us to reduce the size and quantity of our fixed bases in any event.
    Nothing like a few Tom Clancy novels, especially “The Sum Of All Fears”, to make you wish the world could do away with nuclear weapons sooner than later, but until then at least some number of them are vital.

  5. Russ Cooper says:

    Having been rescued by Marines off of the U.S.S. Ponce, part of a group similar to what’s been described here, I can say that their need in peace time can’t be understated. Whether they do all that you might want them to (or less than you wish they had) cannot overshadow their ability to perform delicate tasks in far off places to help citizens of both the U.S. and allies (I’m Canadian.)
    Thinking you don’t need attack systems any more is like believing we can all work it out of a coffee and bagel and just get along…its never that easy.
    The group that evacuated me from Monrovia, Liberia in 1990 supplied the entire city with fresh water and power for a considerable period of time while they secured the U.S. Embassy and other tasks. To do that required protection from off shore, above and on the ground. Unfriendly hostiles don’t know what’s in your mind…heck, half the time I was being bombed it was because they didn’t even know where their rockets were landing.
    Ok, not very marine electronics-like, I know, but sometimes the lack of knowledge that people base big ideas on is truly shocking.

  6. Joe Ferrara says:

    Dan – whenever anyone goes aloft, there is a time consuming procedure to notify all the appropriate departments of the intent to do so. Equipment gets secured (including the radars, radio transmitters, certain other equipment that could be a hazard to those going up), and there are danger tags that are posted at the operating stations, switches, and circuit breakers.
    The Officer of the Deck, after the procedure gets completed passes the word over the ship’s announcing system every 15 minutes while folks are working up there: “There are men working aloft. Do not rotate or radiate electronic equipment while men are working aloft aboard USS (ship’s name).” Ships across the pier or across the fairway will notify the ships in the vicinity because the hazard zone for these radars can extend well beyond the physical limits of the ship.

  7. Mark D says:

    Saw the ship yesterday while walking on the breakwater at Rockland. Thanks for making the connection.
    What was the purpose of the visit?

  8. Russ Cooper says:

    Ever thought of what might happen if one sailor with his laptop and EVDO access happened to connect to the Internet and the ship’s network at the same time? Heck, imagine a cell’s GPS locator function being turned on.
    The “recreational Internet access” should, IMO, be banned from such ships. I do remember an incident in 2004 that came about because of too lax (or not sufficiently secured) access.
    Since adding both a Garmin Marine Network and NMEA 2000 to my boat, I’ve had no end of fun imagining how I could sabotage a Captain’s view of everything. Nothing is secured in these networks, presumably because we don’t think there’s a need…till we’re on board some cruise liner heading for shore.
    The U.S.N. no longer thinks this way, and I bet it isn’t the tower that causes more disruptions to “recreational Internet access.”

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