BZ to VADM Curtis.

The head of the Navy’s surface forces has ordered technical inspections of dozens of warships to see “exactly what their lifespan is” through assessments of their material readiness.

First up are Harper’s Ferry and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships, said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, and followed by Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Navy’s steam-powered gators are getting old, Curtis told Navy Times. “We may think a ship is 14 years old,” he said, but with a high operational tempo, “is it really 17 years old?”

I hope he picks the most detailed, grumpy, 30-year-point terminal CAPT SWOs who don’t owe no’un nut’un and Old-School Master Chiefs to do it.

This begs the question though, why do we have no confidence in the systems and personnel we now have in place to get this answer, and who is going to be held accountable for that lack of confidence?

Let’s hope this turns out well – it didn’t for the P-3 community.

The truth will set you free ……

Cross posted at CDR Salamander.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy

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  • Bill

    Byron’s story brings the chuckle. I harvested three pairs of good sunglasses, an assortment of pens and screwdrivers and a few other bits out of a cranny (or was it a nook?) in the bilges of Sea Fighter. Oh..and you want to see an intersting science experiment, wait til you see what happens when loose pocket change continaing any older copper pennies happens to find its way in to the bilge of an aluminum hull if said bilge also has any sea water therein. 😉

  • Byron

    I gotta wonder if anyone even know what their bilges look like.

    True story: I had to go under the lower level deck plates in the aft end of a Fig MER. I got down there, did what I had to do, and started to back out. I saw a 12″ crescent wrench and one of those operation manuals you see scattered all over engineering spaces. I grabbed both of them, and worked my way up to the deck plates. I get up there, slap the manual and the wrench on the deck plate, and looked up and there was a chief. He says, “thanks for getting the manual and the wrench back for us!”, to which I replied, “you can have the manual but the wrench is mine. You guys dropped it down here, and were either too lazy or didn’t give a damn about your wrench. Since I crawled down here, it’s mine. Any questions?”

    He thanked me for the manual.

    Moral of the story is most crewman and chiefs don’t have a clue what their bilges look like. Give you three guess where most of our work ends up being at?

  • Byron

    Bill: an experiment to see how fast electrolysis eates away your bilge?

  • FOD Detector

    …and we don’t now because???

    Short answer: we don’t have the expertise.

    If we did, the idea some “30-year-point terminal CAPT SWOs who don’t owe no’un nut’un” will trump the plans and desires of the guys with stars is pretty remote.

    Best bet is to get one of several major marine surveying firms to perform the assessment based on USN assuptions and conditions.

  • LT Rusty


    I still like the hole in a Mayport FFG’s MER bilge best. The one patched with, y’know, bubble gum and duct tape and painted over.


  • Byron

    We did NOT do that one! And speaking of the MER, doing one in the next week or so around FR262 port side, above S-11. Really nice engine room, the kind your kids would enjoy playing around in…if your kids were sardines.

  • Inspecting and assessing several hundred ships is a Good Thing™ but how does the Navy pay for the work? Given that the FY09 budgets were pretty much set by Feb 2008, aren’t they going to have to move some pretty significant chunks of cash around? What priorities is the current operational Navy going to need to defer into next year because it is necessary to spend this money now?
    We aren’t talking about chump change, either. Think about how long it would take just to walk through and observe every space on a ship. When I was on my first ship (an LST), the Captain required his duty officer to do just that, and it generally consumed a couple of hours of my time. Conducting a zone inspection, a more rigorous view of the ship’s condition but still nowhere near the level of detail needed for this exercise, would require something like 2-3 hours and was an all-hands evolution – lets say 900 man-hours between preparation, inspection, and documentation.
    Lets assume, just for discussion, that these structural inspections will require twice the total effort of a zone inspection, and that the LST on which I served is a valid proxy for the average complexity of structure and space arrangements across the fleet. This should give us a fairly conservative (i.e., low) estimate of the amount of work being done, which is almost a man-year per ship.
    2 LCC – 3,600 hours
    3 LHA – 5,400 hours
    7 LHD – 12,600 hours
    8 PC – 14,400 hours
    9 LPD – 16,200 hours
    12 LSD – 21,600 hours
    21 FF – 37,800 hours
    22 CG – 39,600 hours
    52 DDG – 93,600 hours

    Total: 244,880 hours, or about 122 man-years. If we assume an average cost of $100k per man-year, then this project will require about $12.2 million. There may be some savings to be had (by not inspecting the newest ships, for example), but on the whole I’d bet a round of drinks this isn’t far off the mark.

  • Byron

    Ken, to a practiced eye, you can do a space pretty quickly. For instance AUX2 on a FFG can be done in under an hour…and that’s thorough. Any spots that appear deteriorated in the shell can be located and UT shots can be tasked out. It takes a chipping hammer and a good flashlight, and someone willing to get dirty and into very tight places. The problem comes in spaces where lagging is present like bulkheads and decks to weather, because you can’t see what’s under the lagging, and if you have bad metal, it’ll be under the lagging. Personally, I’ve done so many inspections I can do stuff like this in my sleep.

    The problem (as it always is) is the money and time. I’ve seen too many problems get deferred because of budget/time, and a year later, the problem costs a lot more to be fixed. It’s kinda like the old commercial: You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.

  • Maybe it’s just me, but if they are doing inspections of material readiness I think they’re going to be looking at things above and beyond the normal deck plate zone inspection stuff.

    Not that those things aren’t important, but I’m thinking they’re going to be conducting surveys of frames and structural integrity. Measuring for stress fractures, etc. ala the testing they do to extend the hull life of submarines.

    If you want a ship to last 3 more years longer then it was designed for, you’ve got more to worry about then crappy bilges. I think this might answer the question of “…and we don’t now because???” Like FOD said, its an expertise issue because they are looking at things that are not normally part of a material assessment.

  • Byron

    FastNav, I agree. But never forget those bilges can and will sink your ship.