090110-M-6412J-091Stormy times ahead for Northrop Grumman’s Gulf Shipyards and Navy shipbuilding.

First, news broke today that LPD-17 and LPD-21 are–even though they’re desperately needed for Haiti service–now “sidelined,” according to Insidedefense.com. 

The USS New York, less than a month from commissioning, has a bent crankshaft. Until that crankshaft is repaired LPD-21 will only be able to use three of four engines. The ship won’t be able to get underway until next month because two engines need to be repaired.

No news yet on the prognosis for LPD-17. It is now in a Virginia shipyard.

LPD 19 and 20 suffered oil contamination problems (a potential precursor to bearing wear and crankshaft issues) earlier, but the Navy seems confident they’re OK for now. LPD-18 seems OK.

What are we going to do with the LPD-17 program? Things were looking up. Last year, Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work, in his 2009 Naval White Paper, wrote “after a troubled start, the LPD-17 program appears to have finally found its sea legs (pg 78).” Just how close-held was this issue? And did the failure to promptly disseminate news of LPD-17 problems derail the promulgation of good policy?

Navy Times reports even more bad tidings:

“Inspectors are rechecking every pipe weld aboard every ship built in the last several years at Avondale, La., or Pascagoula, Miss., including destroyers and small- and big-deck amphibs, after discovering so many problems that all pipe welders and Navy inspectors at both yards had to be decertified and then recertified to work on ships.”

Welding issues appear to plague many vessels built at the Gulf shipyards. DDGs, LHD-8, every LPD…(No news yet on the Legend Class Coast Guard Cutters) suffer from about a 10-15 percent incidence of thin welds. We’ll find out more over the coming weeks.

So, in short, we have a serious problem in shipbuilding (and shipbuilding oversight) in the Gulf, and a potentially serious design problem with the LPD-17s engines. I’d like to see some accountability here, but, in all honesty, I expect the folks who approved the LPD-17 engine designs will probably get some kind of award for helping create a new means to discover the bad welds…

At least we can all sit back and watch as different parts of the navy’s shipbuilding community desperately try to shift the blame for this current fiasco onto somebody else.

With this, the LCS-1 problems and the EB sub welding issues, it’s little wonder SECDEF Gates kept the Navy from testifying at the Jan 20 House Armed Services Committee meeting on Naval Force Structure!

For those who don’t know, HASC’s Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor’s primary constituency base is from the Northrop Grumman Gulf Shipyards, so we can, as this story evolves, expect some fireworks as Congressman Taylor scrambles to protect his parochial interests.

Like any evolving story, it’ll take time to get all the facts. Consider this merely a means to start a discussion…


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  • Byron

    “all pipe welders and Navy inspectors at both yards had to be decertified and then recertified to work on ships.” I do this stuff for a living, and can tell you that not only does this suck, but it’s also going to cost the shipyard a LOT of money that CAN’T be charged to a job, must be charged to overhead. On the average, you’re talking a minimum 3-4 weld processes for each welder that will have to be re-tested. Also, what they’re talking about isn’t so much as the NAVSEA reps as the in-house QA. Pulling all thier certs means they have to go to school again and prove they know what they’re doing. And every weld procedure will have to be re-written and approved by the Navy. In the meantime, a lot of work is piling up, and NG can’t ask for more time on the contract…so NG will pay any overtime out of their pocket.

    Sucks to be NG…

  • Call your friends in Millington. Have them look at the shore duty BA/NMP change in the last 10 years to reflect the CNO’s #1 priority through all UIC.

    Now, get on the phone to your friends at SUPSHIPS and/or NAVSEA. Ask them about their overall BA/NMP related to supervising and inspecting over the same time period – or just ask them about their ability to be involved in shipbuilding and maintenance programs in general from a manning perspective.

    That, my friend, will tell you much of what you need to know about the problems we hare having.

    Core competency focus and priorities – they have consequences. I don’t know, maybe we do need more self-licking ice cream cones and fewer engineers inspecting and supervising …. who I am to say – I am just a retired O5.

    That, or you can click the LPD-17 tab on the homeblog. Better than cowbell – you can find a lot more Byron on the topic there!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Phib, you said a mouthful. Across the services, we see the REAL cost of these politically motivated policies. Warfighting capabilities always suffer.

    Admiral Harvey needs to write this in permanent marker on the windshield. This, as much as anything, drives the risk-taking/lower standards equation.

  • pk

    this welding business is so basic to modern shipbuilding that congress should start talking about canceling contracts and stopping new work for a decade or so.


  • pk

    for those who feel that my last post was extreme:

    imagine walking down a ladder from the 03 to the 02 levels and your feet slip out from under you and you fall into the life rails.

    but the life rail gives way at the weld and you go into the water during a half gale about two hours after sunset.

    navy has lost people just that way and that is why “some” shipyards dye check the welds on them.

    think about it.


  • RADM (Ret) Ben Wachendorf

    It is not just the welds. How about blasting grit in the lube oil systems? What about the design of automated fresh water cooling systems?

    I am old enough to have been thrown out of ADM Rickover’s office five times in the same day. I am pretty sure I had several times more NRRO monitor watches in my command tour than any other US nuclear powered ship CO. My reason for bringing this up here is compare the repeated under cost, ahead of schedule delivery of Virginia Class SSNs to the San Antonio, DD-1000/DDX and LCS ship building program disasters. The Navy pays top dollar for nuclear powered ship construction, operation and maintenance, but there is no substitute for high standards.

    You get what you inspect, not what you expect.

  • BW speaks with big medicine.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.”
    “Core competency focus and priorities – they have consequences.”

    Well said gentlemen.

    Allow me to add: “You become what you promote”. Take either sense of the word “promote”.

    The Navy is losing touch with the real world and the realities of the ocean. It is steaming into the the territory of disgrace, with the course matching the bearing of defeat, which is closer every day.

    Endlessly discouraging.

  • Cap’n Bill

    What To Do ?

    No doubt that overall competency has sunk to low levels.

    What To Do ?

  • Chuck Hill

    Fewer and fewer sailors afloat.

  • pk

    for those that think my last post was extreme:

    seachests. seachests (there are above 100 of them in the normal ship varying from 2″ to 72″) are welded into the hull and then welded into the flange that the seavalve is bolted to. if those welds are not done well you can come back to the ship from liberty and find a lot of water in the space. if this happens in port you stand a chance of getting out of it with only a very worn skin. if at sea then you find out what all of those damage control drills were all about seriously.

    think about it.


  • Byron

    “You get what you inspect, not what you expect”.

    Admiral, If you’d ever walked into a major new construction yard, you’d be hard pressed to find a NAVSEA SUPSHIP rep on a check point. Most of them will be mailed in. Little base like Mayport? We have NAVSEA reps standing on each others heads. I saw with my own two eyes a 2″ thick double bottom plate get re-welded and never once saw a government rep down in the void.

    You want this kind of crap to go away? Simple. Return all design/engineering back to the Navy where it belongs. Don’t let the MilCorp do it. It’s YOUR ship, YOU need to be the expert. Second, make sure you have enough oversight. Back in the day, weld inspectors used stamps to approve welds, and carried a small hammer and their stamp everywhere they went. Make sure the contractor understands that any deviation, whether intentional or unintentional if found by the government is going to cost you large…money…not paperwork…not, bad boy, bad boy. Get into their pockets. Cut their obscene bonuses.

    Hopefully, you’ll be able to find a yard that still takes pride in what they do.

  • pk

    its great fun beating up the welders on a deal like this but has anyone considered witchunting the procurement side of the house.

    the weis (welding engineering instruction sheet) says that you use xxx rod to weld xxx plate, tube, pipe…. and it in fact is to be used ONLY if you are welding xxx plate, tube, pipe… and if you aren’t using that spec plate, tube, pipe, and that kind of rod, wire…. then the weld won’t work.

    if there is a substitution because of meeting schedules, economics, just plain f&*k ups then shame on other people than welders.

    my yard accomplished the second reactivation of New Jersey in 81-83. in early 82 it was discovered that (one of the welders told his boss that “this stuff dosen’t weld like armor plate normally welds”) a “supplier” sold us mild steel plate instead of armor plate.

    we arranged for that outfit to accept their mail at leavenworth kansas for a period of time, it was quite suprising because our reciept inspection had to be beaten half to death to get them to reject about 10,000 7/8″ monel nuts that only had 5 sides, (they had a reputation for laying down and accepting anything).

    if the weis, proper rod, and base metal are not what is expected then the welder can weld like superman an it still won’t hold.

    think about it.


  • pk

    sand and grit in the lube oil systems.

    during the early 80’s general electric did an extensive study on cleaning lube oil system in new construction. they were concerned that they could not predict the amount of time it would take to flush lube oil systems in stationary powerplants.

    at the time it was traditional to install muslin bags in a duplex strainer and to flush the system until the bags showed clean for a half hour (of course part of the process was to “tap” the pipes to dislodge the crap and speed it down its way). lube oil flushes never completed until monday morning by the way.

    in the late 80’s the navy went through an extensive campaign to put plastic caps and blanks on any open pipe in the world just to avoid this (they called the caps dog food dishes). i would hope that it still is in existance.

    there is another thing: in the steamers (don’t know about the diesels) the lube oil resides in a sump beneath the reduction gears. the system operates at about 165 degrees. when the plant is wrapped up the system cools and pulls cold air into the sump and during the process moisture condenses on the exposed parts of the sump. it forms rust particles. these particles then, after a time, drop down into the oil and are circulated through the system.

    traditionally every six months the sump is drained and a very small snipe is “urged” to enter the sump and hand clean the sludge out of the bottom (they usually get about three 5 gallon buckets of sludge at every cleaning). if they don’t do it then the sludge scores the turbine and gear journals and strips the babbit out of the bearings in the system in about 24 months.

    main turbines and reduction gears do not run well after the bearing clearences get above ~ .045″.

    saw it happen once in the late 80’s.

    think about it.


  • Byron

    All metals and filler metal (plate, shapes, etc. and welding wire) must be mil-spec or meet/exceed the invoked(by the bill of materials)specification, which could be a Federal spec, or an ASTM spec. Welding wire must be source identifiable to the mine where the material came from. And yeah, even today, when pipe gets pulled, it has to have a cover on it.

  • pk

    the bit about the sludge in the lube oil systems actually happend on one ship.

    they had the problem on one of the last of the apa’s and the only thing that semisaved the cheng’s hide, although the last i saw of him it was distinctly in tatters, was the assertation in the hearing that he was not provided an individual by the personnel office small enough to enter the sump and that no extra duty men that small were available during the time in question.

    he did retire about 20 minutes after the end of the hearing and the chief machinist mate for the space declined to ship over just as soon as he could sign the papers. didn’t even get his construction time.


  • pk

    by the way just who built the engines for LPD21???

    thats interesting also.


  • This ain’t over. Look what defense reporter Peter Frost found:


    PK–is the LPD metal-in-oil thing similar to the metal-in-oil thing that made the Navy refuse delivery of CVN-77?

  • Byron

    Lowest bidder? 🙂

  • Mark Toomey

    see below link for OEM of the engines

    Also see link on documentation of lube oil leaks.

    I also wonder, among the many other inspections issues, whether or not during the course of engine installation and alignment on engine beds while chockfasting isolation mounts if they conducted crankweb deflection measurements to insure that there was no hogging of the block. This omission would certainly contribute to the bowed crankshaft and bearing damage!

  • pk


    don’t know.


    benk cranks are quite often attributed to the foundation and the block not being rigid enough but there have been times in the past (alco in the 1940’s) when crankshaft problems have been caused by using aluminum main bearings and inelegent lube oil.

    emd had crank problems in the sd45 engines (645′) when they were new but fixed the problem by increasing the fillet radius of the weld at the thrust bearing web….

    of course the navy could never buy emd or cat engines (there are hundreds of thousands of them in service) but fm has been good for 70 years so its probably a problem with the individual installation like not doing controlled welding at installation.

    (there’s that pesky work WELDING again)


  • Mark Toomey

    I have many of not so fond memories of flashed aluminum bearings on 12cyl.FM 38 8-1/8 OP’s and having to change wiped upper cranks and spun verticle drives underway! We had a block that was so badly warped that we had to remove it by rigging it out over the top of the outboard gas turbine through a hole in the side of the ship. Once we replaced the block and bedded it properly we never had a problem again.

    I hope the LPD’s have an easier way ofmeans of changeout as our ship had no softpatch for the MDE’s since the blocks were never ment to be changed out just rebuilt in place.

  • Byron

    PK, the Navy replaced most of the old S and S diesels on the Perry FFGs with Cats.

    Mark, what ship was it that you had to pull the block out over the top of the gas turbine? Was it a Spru?

  • Mark Toomey

    I was in USCGC Chase WHEC 718 and to illustrate the rigging out see pic link: http://www.fredsplace.org/photo/pix/06462_s.jpg

  • Byron

    I see, looked like an ugly job. Was wondering because I couldn’t think of a Navy ship that had a dieself that couldn’t be rigged out without a hull access cut.

    I had a similar job on a foreign ferry where the car deck was to be cut out to pull the main engine (a diesel). I went aboard with the cut-sketch and being the safe worker that I am, went down to the engine room. Now, I was told that the deck was laid out, and firewatches were set, so all I had to do was hook up a torch and start burning. Imagine my surprise to find virtually every surface in the engine room covered in oil and diesel. I was covered in the crap just walking the upper catwalk.

    I went off the ship, straight to the foremans office and in front of this idiot called Safety. We didn’t cut the access for two days, because it took that long to wash the flammables out of the space…

  • pk

    fm diesels used to be arranged that the upper crank was fed lube oil through a passage drilled in the wall of one of the cylinder liners. if a liner was installed without this feature or the gaskets misaligned (they had special oil passage holes in them) it would starve the upperworks for oil and badabing badaboom she’s gone. of course this was an immediate occourance.

    the mississsissssipppppi bunch has another problem. my yard was home yard for tarawa, belleau wood and peliliu. once the first three ships of the class were in service the sstg’s were found to vibrate badly. we tried all of the standard fixes to tarawa but finally wound up cutting the foundations loose from the deck and “control welding” (that artful procedure whereby the offending machinery is oriented in a “free state”, dial indicators are then affixed all over the place and the foundation welded back down with considerable attention paid to the dial indicators, [as in stop welding when the indicator moves a thousandth and go over to the other side and weld there for awhile.]) we did that on the third of the class and norfolk did it to hull number 2. they caught the problem at the building yard, cut the already completed generators from the deck of hull 4 and control welded them down during construction. the fifth hull was not that far along and was built properly.

    i would reccommend that every ship built by this bunch be taken out to rough weather, operated at about 3/4 speed/capacity then taken to the pier and the local private/commercial alignment/balance artist of good to great reputation be engaged to realign the equipment. (these guys live by their reputations which are only as good as the last couple of jobs) keep in mind when the computer wigglers come to call that the top tool in the old timers bag was a black cone shaped hat. next was a wand with a star on the tip and it all sat right on top of the pint of vodka. but they got it done when no one else could. there was one of note on the west coast called “Bennie the balancer” who was a shining example of the lot.

    if the equipment in the ship was in line (with unassailable QA alignment and vibration records to prove it) and the ship’s equipment suffers from chronic alignment problems then there is the possibility that the ships girder strength is insufficient. this kicks back to the marine architek. if that is the case then the class will probably have a shorter service life than the spruances.

    USN had a class of “antiaircraft cruisers” during WWII that had this problem. (they were the ones with six twin 5″ 38’s on board. 3 forward and three aft.) most of the class was lost to non battle incidents (there were six of them) and the rest were retired about five minutes after the surrender documents were signed. rumor was that the last of the bunch sailed with all hands in life jackets once they got past the harbor light or breakwater.


  • pk


    i feel amis for not acknowledging you above.

    based on 38 years of naval service and association (civilian employee) i would have no problem standing by the gangway when you come aboard.

    anyone that could survive rickover 5 times in one day definately either had something on the ball or was a bear for punishment.


  • Byron

    My method of insuring the “controlled welding process”: I stand behind the welder and if he breaks process I beat the crap out him 🙂 And no, that’s only a bare exaggeration.

  • RADM (Ret) Ben Wachendorf

    pk, thanks for the kind words. If you get by Hampton Roads, let me know, I am in the Suffolk phone book.

    Byron, Roger all you say. Nuclear Navy has also had some very serious problems with welds. My view is we all need to learn from our mistakes. Also roger need for proper welding (and dedsign/procurement) supervision. Once upon a time in a galaxy far away, I was in command of a commissioned ship that in one “availability” had four times the number of Level 1 hot joints performed than the entire number of Level 1 hot joints required for that ship’s new construction. It can be done, but it’s not easy.

  • gael

    I’m a young engineer working in shipyards, so not you’re experience..
    I’m working in a shipyard in indonesia and for us pipe is only weld using TIG welding technology and pipe are hydro blasted. SO nothing to clean. Flushing take us around two week. Isn’t a standard for US builder?
    For the welding problem: just imagine working 10 hours a days, in the fumes, the heat… sure you will screw some.. the important things is to help them work and to automatized the welding process: prefabrication chain with SMAW and fixation of the pannel by magnetic trolley using MIG. Reduce a lot the problem…
    We have high quality with worker who cannot read or write their name… How can be such problem? Mid management screw I think….
    Somebody have the spec of the work done??? It will interest me to see their process.


  • Byron

    Gael: Mil-Standard 1689 is the standard, you’d have to have the individual work specs to see what paragraph/line is invoked.

    The problem is two fold: welder training and lack of NAVSEA oversight.

  • gael

    ok thanks i will give it a look

  • Jim

    The problem was wider and deeper than the ocean itself.
    The yard awarded the contract went through three (3) corporate mergers (Two attempted and one successful) and a corporate takeover by a major aerospace and defense company. The end result was a serious 24 month delay in design, procurement and a brutal purge of management and yard supervision as well as forced information processing system changes due to the conquering yard’s outdated methods of working from hand sketches, change order building and outdated material control techniques being imposed on a contract mandated shipbuilding effort using all new 3D computer generated drawing with a work order and procurement process that was painstakingly developed in an environment of mistrust and chaos.

    The ships were moved for final outfitting to the conquering yard that had a completely different system of work orders. The outfitting yard demanded the spec be changed from the use of much cleaner SS tubing for lube oil and instrument piping to welded stainless steel pipe.
    As anyone should know welded pipe results in much more slag and metal deposit in the piping system requiring much more cleaning and purging of the lube systems.
    It may also be stated that the final outfitting yard could not read drawings very well or know enough about final outfitting as they left out all the pipe supports in the engine room area.
    (The welding must have been pretty good to hold up through sea trials and subsequent voyages without proper pipe supports!)