Pocatello Man Creates Scaled Down Model Submarine

Don Hulse, 83, of Pocatello, stands next to the 27-foot long model of the USS Idaho he’s building in his garage.

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POCATELLO — An 83-year-old Pocatello resident is building a 1:13th scale replica of the planned USS Idaho submarine in his garage.

The full-size craft will be the only submarine named after Idaho when it’s completed in a few years.

Donald Hulse, who served on submarines for many years, began building the replica — which is around 27 feet long — about four months ago.

He aims to have the replica in parades and show it at businesses that are interested after it’s completed around the end of February. By then, he’ll have put about 1,000 hours of work into it, he said.

He’ll probably have spent about $2,000 on the replica sub, and he’s already spent about $6,000 on a trailer for it.

His replica comes with a loud klaxon to sound three times, which he will demonstrate, to signal diving and surfacing.

Hulse says the propulsion pod around the propeller and hull design and all the sonar arrays for the real version of the submarine, which will be 377 feet long, were all developed at Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho.

And he says the sensitivity of its sonar array is amazing. On a calm day from underwater it can detect raindrops hitting the surface, he said.

And while the exact depth that the sub will be able to dive to is classified he does say it could go deeper than 800 feet.

And he says the sub will be able to go quicker underwater than on the surface, due to a pod around the propeller that acts like a fan jet, he said.

Meanwhile, his job when he served on real submarines was as an electrician.

“We took care of everything from bow to stern – all the electrical,” he said.

Hulse was also trained for nuclear issues and ran the reactor that produced steam that went to the turbines, and also to the distiller to make fresh water out of sea water.

“We purified water in the reactor and in the steam system and also in the oxygen generators, where we made our own oxygen,” he said.

Hulse says the whole purpose for building the replica sub is to raise funds for the USS Idaho Commissioning Foundation.

Hulse also serves on the state Commissioning Committee in Boise for the effort.

He will be working in several mostly local counties — Oneida, Power, Franklin, Bannock, Bear Lake and Caribous — to raise funds that will go toward items for the submarine and scholarships for the submarine’s personnel.

He says they plan to include scenes of Idaho in the new submarine. And when COVID-19 is under control they hope to bring the captain and crew members to Idaho to celebrate the commissioning of the new sub.

There are four previous ships named USS Idaho, with the most recent being Battleship 42, which was commissioned in 1919, he said.

And organizers want to raise funds to bring together the people of Idaho to celebrate the honor of having another ship of the line named for the state.

The committee also is responsible for any habitability improvements aboard the submarine to make its coming long and isolated missions more comfortable and to enhance the quality of life for the crew members of the submarine, Hulse said.

The commission’s goal is to raise over $500,000 for the effort.

“I have a bunch of envelopes already made up if people want to make a donation,” Hulse said. “I’ll give them an envelope because we want checks, not cash, to keep everything legal.”

One of the priorities of the Commissioning Committee is to fund – through the existing Dolphin Scholarship Foundation — some educational aid scholarships for the sailors and their dependents, he said.

Hulse says that’s to demonstrate the state’s gratitude for their service and to provide a tangible way to support their sacrifices.

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