USS La Jolla reaches moored training ship conversion milestone

Former Los Angeles-class submarine USS La Jolla (SSN 701) has reached a major milestone leaving the dry dock at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) during her conversion from a commissioned submarine to a moored training ship.

La Jolla undocked early November and will remain pier-side to finish the final leg of the conversion that began in February 2015.

La Jolla is the first of two next-generation platforms undergoing conversion at the shipyard to train nuclear officers and sailors at the Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in Charleston, South Carolina. USS San Francisco (SSN 711) arrived at the shipyard for her conversion in January.

The two current MTS subs at NPTU, both commissioned in 1964, have trained nuclear officers and sailors since their conversions in the early 1990s.

Since her arrival, La Jolla has undergone two complete hull cuts that separated the boat into three pieces. The center section was recycled, and three new hull sections were added, extending the overall ship length by 76 feet. The new hull sections arrived from Electric Boat via barge and were then craned into the dock.

“With the complexity of the project, to get it out of dock required the whole shipyard and a focused effort,” said La Jolla project superintendent Commander Joe Klopfer. “It feels good that we came together to get it out, and the team is able to see the fruits of its labor.”

Over the next year, La Jolla will undergo further modifications, including electrical systems and engine room work.

“There’s also a significant amount of structural work that needs to be done to the boat to be able to tow it down to Charleston,” said Klopfer. La Jolla is scheduled to complete its conversion to a full-fledged MTS in late 2018.

La Jolla is expected to provide 20 years of service as a MTS.

Commissioned Oct. 24, 1981 at Naval Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, La Jolla was the first warship named after the township of La Jolla, California, and the 14th ship of the nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarines.