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Old 11-23-2017, 10:01 PM   #1
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Default Minimum crew to operate a sub?

I was having a discussion with some of my friends and the following scenario came up:

You're in a post apocalyptic scenario where you happen to be at a sub base with a fully loaded Los Angeles class moored up. Assuming you can pick from a group of sailors with complete qual cards, what's the minimum crew you could get away with and be able get underway, navigate out of dock, and find an island somewhere warm?

My best estimate is 6, you'd need two in maneuvering, one guy on the ballast control panel and one guy on the bow planes/helm, one to sit in sonar (and move mooring lines etc), and probably one to plot/navigate.

Seems like a lotta work to do but at least no hot bunking
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Old 11-24-2017, 05:01 AM   #2
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Old 12-07-2017, 01:45 PM   #3
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I actually know the answer to this, at least for a diesel boat.

We were home-ported in Sasebo, Japan and went to Chinhae/Jinhea South Korea for a weekend of mayhem, err, a "show the flag" port call and visit. Some of our crew were married to South Korean women and one of their father's in law ran an "egg burger" cart in Pusan/Busan. Naturally, any crew member who took the cab ride to Pusan to, err, show the flag was expected to stop at "Dad's" egg burger cart for an egg burger.
Long story short, an incredibly high percentage of the crew wound up with a whopping case of Dysentery from tainted eggs and we had to beat feet back to Sasebo ASAP.

Now, it took us (on average) about 18 hours to get to Sasebo but on this trip it felt more like three days. See, I was a good little sailor on this trip and I didn't go to Pusan because I was buying clothes and shoes to send back home as Christmas presents. I got stuck on watch in Control for the whole trip back running the radar and backing up a quartermaster who had turned a distinct shade of green but was still considered "fit for watch".

Not that I wanted to leave Control, mind you. Imagine the smell from almost 70 guys suffering from projectile vomiting and extreme diarrhea at the same time and you have a good idea of just how bad it was between berthing and the head.

So, your guess is close but a little short- at least for a US diesel sub. I'm pretty sure we set the record for the minimum number of crew members it took because the Navy promptly CLASSIFIED our little Korean excursion.
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:07 PM   #4
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Reactor controls?



Life support (cooking/medical)?

The smallest crew on a proper (non midget) SSN that I remember was that of Alfa, with 29 (later 32) men on board. However Alfas was not intended for at-sea internal maintenance so your patrol may be fairly short. Alfa had 8 man shifts.
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Old 12-10-2017, 03:02 PM   #5
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I tend to agree with ikalugin. Your looking at way more then 6. Depends on how far away this island paradise of yours is, you may be able to cut the stores people, cooks, janitorial.

But to sail an SSN your going to still need a full reactor watch, crew handling the propulsion and auxiliary machinery. I'm the control room your going to need a navigator, and I believe that in the LA class that you had a helmsman and two planes man. You will need someone at the ballast controls.

The thing is that american naval doctrine is very much crew intensive on ships and subs. That's why the crew size on an American submarine is so large. You may be able to get away with a handful of men on a Russian submarine Because they incorporated far more automation in their sub designs then western subs. If you take a look at the crew of a Russian sub a fair number of that crew is officers.
Americans make better submarines? No my friend, Russia makes better submarines, Americans just make better computers
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:54 PM   #6
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Don't forget port and starboard watches plus weapons in case you run into trouble on the way to paradise would come in handy.

Actually in port a sub always has at least a one watch crew on hand for getting underway with or without the rest of the crew.
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