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The ICEX

Posted on 04 Sep 2022 @ 5:24pm by Commander Nathan Lewes & Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Watts & Lieutenant Ronnie Broward

Episode: E1: A Historic Voyage
Location: Control Room - USS Arizona
Timeline: Date 2025-05-01 at 1800

Arizona was nearing the location of the Ice Station Zebra, which honestly Liz thought was a boring name for an ice station. She wondered how they had arrived at the name knowing that the leader of the camp was the one who chose the name. She was on her tenth hour as Command Duty Officer and had left control three times once for lunch and twice more for other personal matters. A steward had just fetched her a fresh coffee and she sipped it as she stood by the Officer of the Deck at his station.

Ronnie made a note in his open notebook of the time before looking up to the XO. "Approaching point Delta XO." he said before indicating to her on the screen their current position and point delta.

"Have sonar line up the UQC to control to make contact with the ice station," Liz responded, after a sip of the fresh steaming cup of black coffee. "Pilot all stop, co-pilot commence hovering at present depth," Liz ordered the two members who made up the "helm" who immediately complied and repeated the orders back as they put commands into their consoles.

"Aye ma'am," Ronnie said before switching the circuit on the OOD panel to the 27MC. "Sonar, CONN - activate the UQC and establish radio link with Ice Station Zebra. Notify CONN when ready," he said before returning the mic to its cradle.

"CONN, sonar aye - standby for UQC," the sonar supervisor acknowledged. With some instructions and walking a brand new STS3 through the alignment the UQC was energized and the microphone at the command and OOD consoles would now be able to transmit under the water.

"CONN, Sonar UQC is prepared for underwater communications, sir," the sonar supervisor reported. Despite the fact that sonar was now in the control room on the Virginia class submarine it was still normal procedure to use the ship's various command circuits to pass information. This made sure that everyone who needed to know knew and didn't cause a change in behavior between battle stations and normal operating procedures which could cause confusing, delay, and even a mistake.

Ronnie keyed the mic twice, which was the non-verbal act of acknowledgement over the intercom system. He then looked to the XO and nodded, "UQC is ready ma'am. Would you care to do the honors?"

"We should probably inform the captain, this is a big deal even if I am the CDO," Liz said. The ICEX occurred only once every two years and this was the first time a Virginia Block V would take place and the first time they would fire a torpedo on the boat. While currently using the CDO watch he should not respond to general quarters she felt as if this was a once in a career opportunity for the captain as well as her... but he was the captain after all.

"Of course ma'am," he replied. While he was fairly confident the captain wouldn't mind if the XO made contact, It was common courtesy to extend the opportunity to him first and foremost. Some COs could be pretty anal about that certain protocol, especially given the significance of being a new boat conducting ice operations.

Liz responded by lifting the sound-powered phone and dialing the captain's quarters and placing it to her ear, "XO sir, we are at point delta and about to call out to the ice station. Would you like to come to control, sir?" she asked. "Aye sir," she said, after a pause.

She flipped a switch on the command console before lifting the microphone to her face, "Ice Station Zebra, Ice Station Zebra, this is USS Arizona do you copy?" she asked, releasing the transmit button and adjusting the speaker volume on the UQC receiver which was always at a volume someone could hear at least activity if not what it truly was. The UQC was used for naval units to communicate with submarines that were submerged or it was the method to hear an incoming sonar ping in control. The UQC was also monitored constantly by sonar.

It took almost two minutes for a choppy response to come over the speaker, "Arizona this is Zebra we read you. We are still preparing for your operation hold position and standby for contact. Exepect five to ten."

"Arizona standing by," was the response Liz gave after about thirty seconds of silence. The UQC distorted voices and made them sound unnatural and depending on conditions of the water with anything from temperature to salinity it also could cause various delays and distances that the communications would be effective so it was always best to make sure a good amount of time occurred between transmissions and patience was key.

Liz looked to Broward, "hurry up and wait."

"I would say I'm surprised, but we all know the Navy's middle name is hurry up and wait," he said before giving her an expectant look, "Should we set the boat to GQ ma'am?"

"Not until we are ready to actually do the exercise," Liz told him. "Though this isn't all on the Navy so we'll just have to be more patient than usual I'd expect," Liz said, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Indeed, XO," the Captain said, approaching quietly. The Quartermaster of the Watch behind him announcing his presence once he had also noticed that he had come in. "If you don't mind me shooting the torpedo XO I'd be appreciative of it."

"Of course captain," Liz said, with a respectful smile and slight nod. "I assume Zebra knows we're on a tight schedule to hit New York so hopefully they won't keep us waiting too long. Anyone know what time it is up there on the top of their head?" she asked, looking between Lewes and Broward.

"1200 hrs ma'am," Ronnie said in response before indicating his notebook, "According to the local sun graphs, in a few days the sun will never set up here." He then returned his attention to the OOD console to peruse the readouts. "'Ice Station Zebra', someone must be a movie buff to come up with that one," he said attempting to make some small talk.

"Movie buff?" Liz asked, arching an eyebrow.

Ronnie looked over at Liz, and noticing her expression, laughed slightly. "Ice Station Zebra, Rock Hudson and Ernest Bornine. Its a late 60s movie about a US sub racing the Soviets to the arctic to recover some microfilm from a downed spy satellite,' he said in response.

"Haven't seen that one," Liz said, sounding a bit surprised.

"How have you not, XO?" the Captain added.




It took thirty minutes but they were given the permission to begin their exercise and verified the programming for the test firing. Lewes had the senior FT in control verify all of the exercise presets under the watchful eye of the executive officer. When everything was verified per the XO's announcement he turned to face his navigator.

"Mr. Broward set battle stations torpedo," the Captain said, moving alongside the console and placing his hand on it as if he were bracing himself. Of course the submarine was currently hovering and so it's depth was steady, the submarine completely horizontal, and the engines at all stop.

"Aye aye, sir," Ronnie answered before he looked towards the co-pilot station, "Co-pilot, sound general quarters. Pass the word along the 1MC man battle stations torpedo." The co-pilot acknowledged the order and as the sound of both the announcement and the alarm sounded throughout the control room, people began taking their stations. As the room filled and various orders were being passed, Ronnie checked the OOD console for the ship status board. When all lights were green, he looked towards the captain, "Sir, battle stations torpedo set. All compartments report ready for action."

"Open and flood torpedo tubes two and three," Lewes commanded. The order was repeated by the officer of the deck via their headset. Which was responded to as an acknowledgement and then moments later an announcement from the torpedo room that the torpedo tubes were open and flooded and ready to fire.

"Fire Control set target to computer generated bearings, exercise presets, firing point procedures for tubes two and three!" The Captain ordered. Firing point procedures began the process of insuring that the boat was ready to fire the torpedoes. Each station responsible for an action would report that they were prepared and when they were they could release a weapon. Of course the officer who was in command could override that but it generally wasn't done.

"Ship ready!" LT Broward announced. The Officer of the Deck was responsible for insuring that the ship was prepared to respond to counter attack and to get away once the weapons were launched. Engines had to be ready to answer bells and the systems prepared to navigate. It also meant that the Officer of the Deck was familiar with the chart of the area they were in working with the conning officer or approach officer as it was called at battle stations to be sure that they didn't run aground.

"Solution ready!" The XO announced, as the combat coordinator. She stood behind the fire control technicians each of which came up with various solutions to the target. The combat coordinator was responsible for choosing the best solution and deciding what path the weapons followed to their target as well as the presets.

"Weapon ready!" the weapons officer who was stationed as the weapons control officer was responsible for actually programming the torpedoes that were going to fire and then actually firing them. The torpedo once it accepted its orders were the actual trigger for the firing not the torpedo tube that holds it. The two exercise shots that had been loaded in tubes two and three had accepted their orders and would fire and if all went as programed would run to the end of their range and then surface against the ice where the surface team would cut a hole in the ice and retrieve them.

"Shoot tubes two and three!" Lewes ordered, the excitement evident in the commander's voice. The sound of the compressed air firing the two torpedo tubes could be heard with a whir of an electrical engine switching on in the two torpedoes as they fired passed the front of the submarine.

"Conn, Sonar," the voice of the sonar supervisor came via the overhead speakers, "units two and three are running straight and normal. Both fired units have achieved fuel cross over and are at medium speed. Proceeding on preprogrammed bearings," STS1 Doyle announced. Throughout the combat process the sonar division tracked both outgoing and incoming torpedoes their own torpedoes referred to as the ship's own unit or simply units to not confuse them with incoming torpedoes.

"Both fired units are switching to high speed! They have gone active. Tracking along exercise presets," Doyle's voice continued across the loud speakers.

"Exercise detention," the Weapons Officer called from his console. "We have lost torpedo guidance wire continuity sir."

"Conn Sonar lost signal on exercise torpedoes. Sound of what appear to be impacts against the ice."

"Close torpedo doors, reload with Mark 48s, end exercise, secure from battle stations," Lewes announced. "Mr. Broward prepared course for New York. XO, you have the conn."

"This is the XO, I am resuming Command Duty Officer, I have the CONN," Liz announced.

 

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