The Rhyme Of The Ancient Submariner
It's "sexy" to think submarines can simply disappear without a trace and speak of the subject in whispered tones, but in reality, it just doesn't
work like that.
Like any U.S. Navy ship, submarines aren't just an isolated hunk of metal with a few expendable sailors on board.
Operating, maintaining and supporting a single submarine requires the direct and indirect involvement of thousands
of people. And those
thousands of people know tens of thousands of other people, and have families and friends, so as it happens, keeping secrets about submarines is not
as easy as it might seem from a distance.
If any U.S. nuclear submarines have truly "disappeared", it's only because they never "appeared" in the first place.
Also, it seems unlikely that the Navy would want to unnecessarily jeopardize nuclear submarines for gratuitous underground operations when smaller,
more maneuverable research vessels would be more suited for such work.
But people can believe what they want to believe.
Meanwhile, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center detachment at Hawthorne, NV, is an example of how extensive the resources for effective support of
submarines must be, because that's NUWC's primary mission.
I doubt the detachment is there because of underground caverns, since from a practical standpoint the main NUWC facilities in Newport, VA or Keyport,
WA would simply be more practical for work involving water - though I suppose anything is possible.
Rather, it is more likely that collocating the detachment with the Army ordnance depot
there is a matter of convenience for land-based research involving explosives and hazardous materials, for which that location would be ideally
Also, not everything NUWC does is "sexy". Among other things, my understanding is that the Hawthorne facility includes a battery reclamation
facility (both conventional and nuclear submarines tend to have huge battery arrays), for recycling materials from lead-acid cells.
Exciting stuff, I'm sure.
What NUWC Does
That and other kinds of specialized industrial support are part of the NUWC mission
We provide test and evaluation; in-service engineering, maintenance, and repair; Fleet readiness, and industrial-base support for undersea warfare
systems, countermeasures, and sonar systems. We execute other responsibilities as assigned by the Commander, Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
Of course that last sentence opens up all sorts of possibilities, and I'm quite certain that NUWC does some pretty amazing things, but a surprisingly
vast majority of supporting submarine operations involves rather mundane tasks like storing and handling materials.
I'm not privy to what goes on at NUWC Hawthorne, but I find it likely that the facility has much more to do with research and testing of underwater
ordnance than servicing underground caverns.
Now as for the notion of extensive underground caverns beneath Nevada itself, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, and there are many tantalizing