The Navy has been busy building the next-generation of attack submarines, called “Virginia class”, and the first of these, the USS Hawaii, built at a cost of $2.5 billion pulled into Pearl Harbor July 23rd at 9:30 am HST. It’s controlled by touch screen and joy stick, not wheel and shaft.
The public was invited to attend the arrival ceremony, which started at 8 am HST, with a Hawaii Air National Guard F-15 jet flyover and the Pacific Fleet Band, the Kamehameha Alumni Glee Club, Halau Hula Olana Ai, Kahuna Pule Ganotise and a haka by Pa Kuci a Lua.
This morning’s arrival ceremony is a warmup for the 50th anniversary events marking Hawaii’s statehood next month. The USS Hawaii is the first commissioned submarine named for the State of Hawai‘i.
If you visit the USS Hawaii, try to spot Governor Linda Lingle’s initials chalked on a plate on the bulkhead wall outside the crew’s mess. She had a welder inscribe them during a keel-laying ceremony in Rhode Island back in 2004.
Two more next-generation war submarines will soon follow the USS Hawaii into Pearl, the USS Texas and the USS North Carolina. What makes these subs so advanced and expensive, according to the Navy website is a list of fancy features, including:
- The first submarine class built without a periscope, Virginia-class subs use extendable photonic masts with fiber-optic imagery systems instead.
- Sophisticated hydrophones serve as the sub’s “ears,” able to pick up signals from miles away that even most satellites do not pick up. Sonar arrays across the sub’s body create a state-of-the-art system for mapping the ocean floor and gathering intelligence.
- The sub’s nuclear reactor plant provides fuel for the ship’s entire life span, which can be more than 30 years.
- A nine-man airlock chamber allows an entire Special Forces team to enter and exit the sub at once. (Older submarine classes allow for only two at a time.)
- First attack class submarine suited to operations in open ocean and near the shore.
Not everyone is impressed
Response to the USS Hawaii and kind has been very mixed. The Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club made a formal request in May 2009 to the state for photographs, video, and reports documenting the damage to the reef near Honolulu International Airport caused by the USS Port Royal, a missile cruiser that performs operations near shore, much like the USS Hawaii will. Reefs are vital for food and recreation in Hawaii. Some environmentalists worry that more war ships are likely to cause more damage.
Leaders of the native Hawaiian sovereignty movement hasn’t made an official responses to the new warships coming into Pearl Harbor, but there is irony in beefed up US Military presence to celebrate a statehood this group rejects, and in fact, actively works to reverse. Hawaiian Sovereignty Resoration Day, an official native Hawaiian holiday since 1843 celebrating the end of British occupation of Hawaii will be celebrated this Sunday, July 26, 2009.
In a blog post dated June 30, 2009, Hawaiian Sovereignty blogger clarifies the group’s position on secession from the United States:
It is understandable that folks tend to think of Hawaiian independence as “secession” because for those unfamiliar with Hawaii’s unique history, it appears to be a state of the United States seeking to be removed from the union, like secession movements in “other” states.
But it is very important to understand that Hawaii cannot secede, because it was never ceded. There was never any lawful cession of Hawaii’s sovereignty or territory to the United States, therefore there cannot be secession.
Legally, the Hawaiian Kingdom, fully recognized in the 19th century as a member of the world family of nations, has continued to exist as an independent state (in the international sense of the word, state = country), but under prolonged occupation.
So it isn’t a matter of seceding from a mutual and legal union, but of ending the illegal occupation of Hawaii and restoring the effectiveness of the government of the occupied state. It is more similar to the Baltic states under the former Soviet Union, which are referred to as “restored states,” than it is to states in the U.S.A.
Does this mean that USS Hawaii and the other US Navy ships would remain docked in Pearl Harbor if the Hawaiin Kingdom was restored? Maybe, but good luck getting them out without an opposing military. More importantly, a restored Hawaiian government might want US military protection against foreign threats, much like Japan receives today in exchange for land for US military bases in Okinawa and Mainland Japan.
Depending on who you talk to today, the arrival of the USS Hawaii is either a cause for celebration or lamentation of US military might in Hawaii.