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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Navy Cmdr. Jesse Zimbauer stands in front of a model of the USS Indiana submarine during Tuesday’s visit at Memorial Coliseum.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016 10:02 pm

USS Indiana sub officers tout Hoosier-made vessel

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

Indiana is a (mostly) landlocked state, but it has one connection to the sea many residents may not know about.

We make submarines.

Or, at least pieces of submarines, Cmdr. Jesse Zimbauer said Tuesday.

Zimbauer was referring to components for the latest maritime Hoosier namesake, the USS Indiana – a 365-foot, 7,820-ton nuclear-powered sub he will soon lead on underwater missions.

No fewer than 55 Indiana manufacturers, plus their subcontractors, are making some part of the new sub, Zimbauer said Tuesday during a brief stop in Fort Wayne.

The sub is being put together in Newport News, Virginia, he said, but, "It’s really Hoosier hands that are having something to do with building the Hoosier boat."

Zimbauer, a Wisconsin native, and Lt. Joseph Daniel, the sub’s navigator, have been touring Indiana towing a replica sub at the request of members of the new vessel’s commissioning committee. 

The replica ended up parked at Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday afternoon just west of the giant anchor from the most recent Navy ship named for Indiana – a battleship active in the Pacific theater during World War II.

Crew members answered questions from the public and met the media to develop bonds between residents and the new sub and its crew.

The tour is also raising funds for events surrounding a commissioning ceremony expected to take place in early 2018, said Ray Shearer of Indianapolis, chairman of the commissioning committee who is traveling with the sub’s officers.

On Monday, two crew members visited the Caterpillar Inc. plant in Lafayette, responsible for making the sub’s backup diesel engines. On Tuesday, the pair visited two unnamed plants in the Columbia City area that made some submarine components.

Visits are also being made to ROTC groups at Purdue University, which supplies the most engineers to the Navy, and the University of Notre Dame, which supplies more nuclear officers than any other school, Zimbauer said. 

A Virginia-class submarine, the USS Indiana will join other attack submarines that have the latest technology and are the quietest – read, stealthiest – in the U.S. fleet, according to Zimbauer.

Likely to be based at Groton, Connecticut, the sub will be deployed to "missions in the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean working with NATO allies" and elsewhere.

"We’ll operate all over the world and under the ice and circumnavigate the globe many times," Zimbauer said.

The submarine has the important capability of being able to deploy Navy SEALs to land, Zimbauer said.

The sub will carry a crew of about 140 men – no women are yet assigned to it – who are now being trained, he said.

The crew will spend two or more years mostly aboard the sub, which is only 36 feet wide.

"She’s one of the bigger subs we’ve built. (But) this is not spacious," Zimbauer said.

He added that the vessel has a life of 32 years on just one load of nuclear fuel.

Many people are not aware that a submarine is being named after Indiana for the first time in history, according to Doug Lehman of Wabash, a member of the commissioning committee.

"This is to get Indiana more aware this is being done," he said. "It’s an honor for the state."

rsalter@jg.net