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Sub fire could have ripple effects for Navy fleet

The Navy is evaluating whether it's worth spending millions of dollars to repair the USS Miami, the nuclear-powered submarine damaged in a fire in a Maine shipyard. If the submarine is scrapped, the fleet could feel the effects for years.

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In this 2004 photo, the USS Miami homeported in Groton, Conn., arrives in port in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The Navy is evaluating whether it’s worth spending millions of dollars to repair the nuclear-powered submarine damaged in a fire May 23 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Langford/U.S. Navy/AP

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The Navy is evaluating whether it's worth spending millions of dollars to repair the USS Miami, the nuclear-powered submarine damaged in a fire in a Maine shipyard.

If the submarine is scrapped, the fleet could feel the effects for years. The number of attack submarines like the Miami is projected to drop as they are deactivated faster than they are replaced, and Navy leaders already have been trying to find new ways to keep up with demands from combatant commanders.

"It's strained now," said Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat whose eastern Connecticut district includes the Miami's home port of Groton. "With one less boat, it's just going to aggravate that strain."

The Miami was in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, for an overhaul when the fire broke out May 23, damaging the torpedo room and command area inside the sub's forward compartment. The cause is under investigation. Navy officials say it will be about two weeks before an announcement on whether the submarine will sail again.

The Navy has been counting on the Los Angeles-class submarine to provide another nine or so years of service. Built for $900 million and commissioned in 1990, it is among the older boats in a fleet of about 54 U.S. attack submarines, which are used to launch missiles, gather intelligence and support other Navy vessels.

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