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US Navy investigating vandalism of nuclear submarine

A 34-foot Dauntless-class patrol boat transfers supplies to the USS Texas (SSN 775). (U.S. Navy photo by Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Kenji Shiroma)
April 22, 2022

The U.S. Navy is investigating what they believe is an intentional act of vandalism that damaged equipment within the Virginian-class submarine USS Texas (SSN-775) in the last month.

The suspected vandalism took place as the USS Texas has been undergoing maintenance at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. Shipyard spokesperson Danna Eddy said in a statement reported by the Portsmouth Herald on Thursday that federal government equipment on the submarine was damaged on or around March 29 of this year.

The USS Texas arrived at Portsmouth in September 2020 and has been undergoing scheduled maintenance and system upgrades since then.

Eddy did not specify what equipment was damaged or describe the extent of the damage and said the shipyard was unable to comment further about the incident.

The case is currently under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

“The Department of the Navy takes every act of vandalism seriously and we will hold individuals responsible to the fullest extent of the law,” Eddy said.

The USS Texas entered service with the Navy in 2006 and is the fourth U.S. Navy vessel and first submarine to bear the state’s name.

The Virginia-class submarines are nuclear powered and carry torpedoes, anti-ship Harpoon missiles and land-attack Tomahawk missiles, allowing them to attack other submarines, surface vessels and land targets.

The Virginia-class submarines are designed for traditional submarine missions and operations in near-shore Littoral zones. The submarines are also designed with the intent that they can be updated to adapt to future operational needs. The submarines were envisioned as a lower-cost answer to the Cold War-era Seawolf-class attack submarines and are currently replacing the older Los Angeles-class submarines.

In February, 43-year-old former Navy nuclear engineer Jonathan Toebbe plead guilty in a plot to sell classified military information about the Virginia-class submarines to a foreign government. Toebbe’s wife, Diana Toebbe, has also pleaded guilty in the plot.

Prosecutors did not reveal which foreign government the Toebbes were planning to sell the submarine information to, but court filings suggested the communication was with a nation friendly to the U.S. in an unsolicited offer. The New York Times later revealed that country to be Brazil when Brazilian officials said they’d received an offer from the Toebbes in a letter that they turned over to the FBI.

The Navy is currently prosecuting a sailor for alleged vandalism of another ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), related to a July 2020 fire that caused $3 billion worth of damages to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, injured 63 people involved in the firefighting efforts and ultimately led the Navy to decommission the ship. Seaman Recruit Ryan Sawyer Mays, 20, faces a two-count court-martial case for aggravated arson of and willfully hazarding the ship. Mays denies starting the fire. His trial is set to begin in September.