USS Michigan’s historic refit nears end

Although USS Michigan (SSGN 727) only moved a few dozen yards July 8 when it left Dry Dock 2 for nearby Pier 5, the brief journey was a major step forward for the sub, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF), and the U.S. Navy.

Michigan’s undocking marked the beginning of the end of a Major Maintenance Period that began in August 2015 and included complex repairs in the sub’s sail, superstructure, engineering spaces and missile compartments, said PSNS & IMF Project Superintendent Kevin Looney. It also included the historic installation of the first submarine living quarters for enlisted female Sailors.

“Major alterations and improvements in the submarine’s ability to navigate and communicate, as well as the first berthing of enlisted women, sets the course to return this warship as a standard bearer for the fleet,Looney said.

The complex task of constructing living quarters for enlisted women aboard Michigan required a team effort from PSNS & IMF, Electric Boat and Michigan’s crew. Their mission was to accommodate up to three female chief petty officers without a change to the total complement of 20 CPOs, and to accommodate from nine to 36 women crew members without changing the total complement of 120. They accomplished this in part by enlarging the forward washroom, adding four showers by converting a bunkroom into shower space, splitting the aft washroom to allow for a shower/head combo and a watchstander head, and creating a new bunkroom from the old crew’s study.

“It has been very exciting to watch this part of history unfold in front of me,” said Melissa Kittrell, the project’s work integration manager. “The very first female enlisted Sailors have reported for duty during this MMP. As a former enlisted Sailor, I am so excited to be a part of this alteration and drive the work to completion.”

Kittrell said making this alteration in the boat’s structure alongside the other ongoing repair and production work created many challenges for the team.

“Translating the designs on paper to the actual steel of the 34-year-old boat was a feat that ship’s force, Shipyard employees and contractors tirelessly worked through,” she said. “The lessons learned will help future boats that will be receiving this alteration, and provide the capability to accommodate the next cycle of female enlisted Sailors coming through the pipeline that will serve on these warships.”

The commander of Submarine Group 9, to which Michigan is assigned, emphasized the importance of Michigan’s undocking and acknowledged the Shipyard’s role in this milestone.

“The demands on our submarine force continue to grow,” said Rear Adm. John W. Tammen. “Strategic stability and deterrence remain key elements of our nation’s strategy and SSGNs, like USS Michigan, are vital to achieving both. Undocking Michigan is a significant milestone in returning the ship to operations in the Pacific and could only be accomplished through teamwork and dedication.

“We all have our role in maintaining undersea superiority, but we rely heavily on the men and women assigned to PSNS & IMF for their expertise in ensuring the material readiness of our ships,” he added.