11 December 2007

VIRGINIA class weld problems

Wonder what Joel thinks of this?

In a statement Monday, Northrop Grumman said changes have been made in yard welding-control processes and that welders and welding foreme n will undergo an eight-hour specialized briefing to avoid future mistakes.

The company said it is "taking appropriate actions" with individuals involved in the errors, but did not elaborate.

"The quality of our work is something we take very seriously," the shipyard said in a statement.

The Navy said the first indications of a problem surfaced when two failures occurred during routine testing of the piping welds - one in August and another in October. That led to a broader investigation.

The failures, the Navy said, were caused by trace amounts of copper alloy filler material incorrectly welded into corrosion-resistant steel socket-welded joints. Using a copper alloy filler in that type of piping joint can cause the joints to crack, resulting in leaks.

Navy mulling different answer than 313

Navy Times reports that the CNO received a 'think piece' from VADM Morgan. You remember Morgan was the man behind the new Maritime Strategy. Apparently in this point paper, Morgan proposes three options for the Navy - and none of them look like the 313 ship plan of record.

  1. Major combat operations. A force of 263 ships, smaller than the 313-ship fleet that Roughead has said he wants, tailored for battle against a peer competitor. This fleet would be composed of 12 aircraft carriers, 13 big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers, 26 amphibious ships, 81 cruisers and destroyers, 54 corvettes, 21 auxiliaries and 56 submarines including attack, ballistic and cruise missiles boats.
  2. Shaping force. A fleet of 534 ships, mostly corvettes and patrol boats better suited to littoral, maritime security and partnership operations. This force would be composed of six aircraft carriers, 24 big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers, 48 amphibious ships, 48 cruisers and destroyers, 161 corvettes, 200 patrol craft, 30 riverine squadrons, 15 auxiliaries, and 32 submarines of all classes.
  3. Balanced force. A fleet of 474 ships able to conduct operations from high-end battle to low-end counterterrorism and maritime security. This force would be composed of nine aircraft carriers, 23 big-deck amphibious helicopter carriers, 46 amphibious ships, 57 cruisers and destroyers, 132 corvettes, 160 patrol craft, 20 riverine squadrons, 15 auxiliaries and 32 submarines of all classes.
These all assume that the Total Obligation Authority (TOA) for ship construction will be roughly constant. That is a big problem, say most analysts (see Ron O'Rourke). This drives some tough choices that are shown above.

My problem with this is that the VIRGINIA class submarine is one of the few recent capital ships to come down in price in recent history. The submarine force has reduced the cost per hull from $2.5B to $2.0B (CY2005$). Compare and contrast with LCS and projections for DDG-1000. Now, VADM Morgan proposes that we get reduce the numbers of submarines instead of leveraging programs with momentum.

Also, when is the last time we've used amphibious ships, other than is a humanitarian assistance mission? Do we really think we're going to go and execute WWII style landing? Opposed? If we want to do the humanitarian assistance, foreign engagement mission, we should be building six more of these.