ST. MICHAEL, Minn. - It all started with such promise. Military band, bottle breaking across a hull and proud Minnesotans at the christening of the Navy’s new nuclear powered attack submarine named for the North Star state.
Two-and-half years later, the USS Minnesota remains docked as federal investigators explore possible charges connected to deficient parts.
“We spent a lot of money on a boat that should work,” says Brian Skon, president of the Minnesota Navy League, who attended the sub’s christening and was onboard in January of 2014 for one of the Minnesota’s few trips off the east coast.
This week the publication Navy Times documented the USS Minnesota debacle in an article headlined, "How shoddy parts disabled a $2.7 billion submarine."
The article cites “a defective elbow pipe used to funnel steam from the reactor to the sub’s propulsion turbines and generators.” Further, the article states there is evidence of “jury-rigged welding” that may have been done to make the job seem acceptable.
As a justice department investigation is underway, the Minnesota's crew sits in limbo.
“They're trying to fill their days to the best that they can through training, but you can only do so much,” says Skon.
Skon and other members of the Navy League have arranged for several visits to Minnesota by the crew members over the past few years, including appearances on Twin Cities media and on-field introductions at Twins, Gophers and Vikings games.
In a continued show of support, the Navy League will be sending crew members jackets this week featuring the ship’s Minnesota influenced logo.
“Most sailors rotate off the boat every three years, so it's quite possible they will never get a deployment on the Minnesota,” Skon says.
The Navy hopes to have the problem repaired by summer, according to Navy Times. At least two other similar submarines have also been impacted, with inspectors checking for more.