The above statement is a part of the comments from US Representative Randy Forbes, R-Va, who chairs the House Readiness Subcommittee. He made the remarks in July, but it hardly seems as if things have been on the upswing since.

Stars and Stripes is reporting that USS Essex (LHD-2), flagship of ESG-7, will not be participating in Cobra Gold. Seems, she is broken. That’s twice, inside of a year. BEFORE the coming Defense cuts.

Following the optimistic tone of the USNI/AFCEA West 2012 speakers and panels, VADM Burke, DCNO for Readiness, provides a somewhat less upbeat analysis:

Vice Adm. William Burke, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, told the committee that the Navy has “a limited supply of forces.”

“When you have these additional deployments, you sometimes impact the maintenance, or you impact the training, which will impact the maintenance,” he said. “So what we have is one event cascading into another, so we don’t get either of them quite right.”

While a TF 76 spokesman attributes the problem to “wear and tear”, and declares the 21-year old Essex “no spring chicken”, the true cause of the problems are systemic and not mechanical. To wit, Lt Anthony Falvo from 7th Fleet:

Lt. Anthony Falvo, 7th Fleet spokesman, said the Essex may have been impacted by missing maintenance.

“Pacific Fleet ships adhere to rigorous maintenance standards and maintenance periodicities per the Joint Fleet Maintenance Manual and other Navy directives,” Falvo wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes. “On any given day we have roughly 40% of our ships underway and we are meeting the requirements of the combatant commanders.”

Ya think? The absurdly shortsighted experiment with “optimal manning”, the deferring of maintenance because OPTEMPO is too high for the numbers of ships in commission, the idea that we can DO MORE WITH LESS, those are the problems. Wear and tear? It becomes a problem without proper maintenance of subcomponents and systems. “No spring chicken”? Remind me how old the Austins were?

Over on Nate Hughes’ excellent post is some significant discussion about the economics of maintaining a Navy and getting the most for the taxpayers’ treasure. This ain’t it. Some in the Navy or associated with it will tell you that the most “cost effective” course is to decommission and dispose of ships like Essex, even though they will not be replaced one-for-one. This lays bare the absurdity of that notion. The most cost effective course is to properly maintain the vessels in commission, and if capable vessels for their mission, keep them in commission to the end of their expected service lives, or even longer if viable.

Under Secretary Work, tell us again about the National Military Strategy that won’t stretch our shrinking resources past the breaking point?



Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Coast Guard, Foreign Policy, History, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Naval Institute, Navy, Proceedings

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  • Grandpa Bluewater

    The choices are now stark. Old, pain in the neck to keep going, ships
    or new, ill considered design, ship. Note change from plural to singular.

    Meanwhile the facilities to do hands on, realistic, maintenance training sit abandoned in place, or are sold off at ten cents on the dollar. We are throwing away good senior petty officers and wondering why shorthanded ships are in bad shape and why new kids don’t get the right kind of OJT and can’t keep them in good shape.

    Then there is the little matter of paying three times as much for fuel as we need to win favor with the green’s agenda.

    “Building down to oblivion”.

  • RickWilmes

    Edward Luce at FT puts the military budget in it’s proper context.

    The mirage of Obama’s defence cuts.  29 Jan 2012

    ” US defence spending has almost doubled in real terms since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. Mr Obama’s cuts would shave 8 per cent from the budget over the next decade – a bagatelle against what is taking place in Europe. But even this overstates the reduction, since Mr Obama’s headline $487bn “cut” is from a 10-year projection that assumed yearly increases.
    Such is the state of Washington budget speak that even the most cautious fiscal recalibration can be made to sound draconian. Far better to deal in absolute measures. On that count, Mr Obama is only barely shifting the needle. By 2017, once his cuts are in full flow, US defence spending will be $567bn against what would have been $622bn. That is still almost six times what China spends today and more than the next 10 countries combined.”

  • PolluxDioscuri

    Read the Balisle report. None of those decisions were made by President Obama or Undersecretary Work, and they all preceded the late budget unpleasantness by over a decade.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    This is a lot more than a decade in the making, for sure.

    I figuratively ask Secretary Work, because it was he who commented at USNI West.


    As bad as this is, and it is bad, a little perspective here is in order.

    1. ESSEX has been forward deployed for 11 years.
    2. They will be conducting a crew swap with the BONHOMME RICHARD next month,and the ship is going back to the states to go into the yards for a major overhaul.

    What does that mean,
    1. A 40pct OPTEMPO for CTF76 ships is no worse than they have been for at least the last 25 years so it isn’t a OPTEMPO thing.
    2. The crew is getting ready to conduct a crew swap. If you have never experienced that, it sucks pretty bad and it is difficult to keep the crew focused on keeping their ship going when they are turning it over to another crew in a month. Additionally, CTF76 has probably been trying to avoid putting any more money into her than absolutely required because she is headed back to the states.
    3. While they don’t say what system it is, it was not engineering related. Reading the tea leaves and making an educated guess, it is very possible the system that is broken is scheduled for overhaul or replacement in the yards and they don’t want to spend any money on it.

    Bottom line, ESSEX may not be the poster child you are looking for. I would be much more concerned if this was BONHOMME RICHARD IN 2013.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Not buying it. What are the records of ships missing mission as forward deployed units in the last 25 years? For Essex, twice is a trend. What role did deferred maintenance have to play in this? Even the Navy admits that. And “optimal manning”?

    The “crew swap” issue is a leadership issue, if it is an issue. Do your job and keep your ship ready to fight tonight. Period. Deferring maintenance because CTF-76 doesn’t want to pay for it is exceedingly poor business. Does not the Task Force have sufficient maintenance dollars?

    Not fixing a system because it is due for overhaul in the near future, resulting in a major combat unit not mission capable for a major training exercise? I can think of no more appropriate definition of “absolutely required”, save combat. What is the cost of the missed training opportunities? I would bet that the cost of the missed training for those 1,700 sailors, and the time, effort, and fuel to move the embarked Marines and their equipment to another platform, greatly exceeds repair costs of the item in question. Exercises such as COBRA GOLD are held for a reason. And the flagship of ESG-7 will not be there. Are we training and preparing for war, or not?

    No, Essex is just fine as a poster child. And she hasn’t yet reached twenty years in commission.

  • Bucherm

    My (completely uninformed) opinion behind the new budget cuts is this:

    (1)The US will be using economy of force stuff whenever possible(SF, UAVs, etc)

    (2)If there is some kind of regional problem, we will be able to browbeat regional allies into taking their fair share(like in Libya).

    Now, I honestly think that Barry plans on operating on this framework. The problem with this is that even if we stick to this for the next 1 or 5 years, there’s no guarantee that the next president will operate with the same narrow constraints. For that matter, there’s no reason to think that the sitting president will be *able* to operate in those same narrow constraints, since our illustrious allies in NATO don’t even have the ability to fight low-intensity air campaigns.



    Agreed it is bad but consider.

    Maintenance is deferred all the time, even on forward deployed ships. Stuff breaks on ships all the time as well, especially ships that have been 11 years forward deployed. Just a fact of life.

    I don’t know anything about this incident other than what was reported, but the impact of missing a major exercise really depends on the role ESSEX was scheduled to play in the exercise. Was she playing a critical role or was she a photo op and glorified ferry? Will cancelling her participation significantly impact the exercise or not?

    From the Cobra Gold 2012 website, the vast majority of the training scheduled is shore based and ESSEX didn’t play there. They had a landing exercise but it appears to be just amphibious tractors, was ESSEX critical for that? I don’t know. From the Colbra Gold press release ESSEX was participating (someone didn’t get the word!) so somehow I doubt she had a critical role since they still did it without her.

    So what was wrong with the ship? I don’t know, they just indicated that it was maintenance related.

    Could they have fixed it in time? I don’t know

    How much would it cost to fix? I don’t know, but is it good business to dump a few million into a system on a ship headed out of theater in a month? Especially if that system is scheduled to be overhauled anyway and she had a limited role in a largely land based exercise?

    Is it good business to totally disrupt the maintenance schedules of your other forward deployed ships (and possibly CONUS based ships as well depending on the specific failure) just to have the ship participate?

    Obviously CTF 76 (isn’t he also ESG 7?) and C7F decided that the opportunity cost of fixing ESSEX was more than the value of her participation in the exercise. Or they didn’t have a choice.

    But here is another question that I don’t have an answer to.
    – The ship has been forward deployed 11 years. Was she origionally scheduled to rotate back to the states next month or was the BONHOMME RICHARD delayed due to deferred maintenance?

    Here’s the logic you are using

    – The Navy has maintenance account shortfalls (and has had for as long as I can remember, at least to the 1970s).

    – The ESSEX is a ship in the Navy

    – The ESSEX had a high visibility failure

    – Therefore the ESSEX problems stems from the maintenance shortfall.

    I would argue it could be random chance, it could be an impact of the lack of a Defense Budget for the last two years disrupting maintenance schedules, it could be good business practice (although bad PR), it could be a result of underfunded maintenance accounts, it could be the culmulative effects of the Revolution in Training, the elimination of SWOSDOC, minimum manning, changes in Fleet Business Practices, focus on political correctness, (insert favorite demon here), etc. Or it could be a combination of the above, but I don’t know.

    Since I don’t know the answer to any of those questions, I will hold judgement until I do know.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Your desire to explain away such failures that are increasingly occurring in the maintenance and readiness of this nation’s Navy speaks to precisely the problems the article identifies.

    We are not properly manning or maintaining our warships. Deferring scheduled maintenance is a poor choice. Making it a routine one is a path to high expense, low readiness, and shortened service life. Failing to have enough crews to perform routine maintenance exacerbates those things exponentially. It is as predictable and inviolable as the tides.

    Attribution of such failure, the second in seven months, to “random chance” is to be willfully blind to the systemic failures that have put us at 285 ships, with the concomitant maintenance and training issues our Navy faces.

    The other items you mention, the “revolution in training”, the underfunding of maintenance accounts, losing SWOSDOC, or any other “demon”, as you term it, are symptoms of the disease. The disease is the loss of focus on the Navy’s mission. Train your sailors for war, and in their jobs operating and maintaining the ships on which they sail.

    Failure to do so is a failure of the Navy and its leadership. The cost in peacetime is taxpayers’ treasure. In war, it is the lives and blood of its sailors. On that point, one cannot withhold judgment.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    For those of you who would like to see what 32nd street looked like when we had a real Navy:

    Pay attention to Grandpa Bluewater. You can only do less with less. Let me know when you solve the problem of having one ship in two places at the same time.

    – Kyon

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Astounding photo. Have you any more? Admin can send you my e-mail.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    The photo is on the San Diego Navy Historical Association web site. Here’s a link to the home page:

    I hope that all of you modern day hard chargers can still put up with those of us who have slowed down some, but still remember what it was like.

    – Kyon

  • Jim

    If I may contribute,as this has jogged my memory. Was enlisted, stationed at then TACRON ONE, NAB Coronado. Deployed for WESTPAC January, 1980. Sked to go on USS New Orleans, New Orleans had major engineering prob approx two weeks prior to deployment. On short notice, USS Okinawa took New Orleans place, so we deployed on Okinawa. Departed San Diego and ship broke down right off coast of San Diego. Took a few days to repair. Rest of ARG was way ahead of us. Got underway, broke down again steaming for Hawaii. Towed for about three days by USS Gridley CG-21, then by USS Beaufort ATS-2(??) for about one week. We did manage to steam into Pearl under own power, for about the two final days. Ship was repaired in Pearl. Finally caught up to ARG in Guam. Just an example of material state of two ships of the fleet at that time. Oh, Gridley had us up to around three kts, Beaufort around six or seven kts. Also, Okinawa had a bit of a hand in hostage rescue attempt in Iran. Three or four H-53s from HMM-165 flew to Nimitz. Believe they were used in a back up role, memory sketchy on this. See, even a brokedown ship can slog through and contribute to national commitments. Though I was a young punk with my head straight up my ass frequently in those days, I’d do it all over again. I love the United States Navy.
    Jim R., Hemet, CA.

  • ShawnP

    First thing to get Navy ship maintenance/manning back in line. Have the CNO scrub all LCDR and above ranks for anyone that has a MBA. If they come having a MBA immediately start out proccessing procedures. Rid the Navy of the MBA’s and things will start looking realistic from maintenance/manning problems. MR CNO MBA started the Navy on a glide scope to failure with his MBA ways.

  • phrank

    So what I hear some say is that to defer the things that needed fixed is ok since it might be replaced in month. What if tomorrow we are at war and that ship is needed? Do we ask nicely for whomever we might be fighting to give us until the ship is back from it’s overhaul. Do we write letters to the mothers of the people on that ship telling them that their children died because it made good business sense to wait to repair the ship? In the end our ships have to be ready to fight right now if they are the ones set to deploy. If it is sitting in a drydock then I can understand it not being ready.



    In a perfect world with unlimited budgets for maintenance, you would fix everything immediately. Of course, we don’t now live, and never have lived, in a perfect world. We have limited budgets of money, facilities, and trained people.

    So people have to make decisions on priorities. On the case of the ESSEX, would it make sense to spend $1 million to fix it for a month? $2 million? 5 million? What is your pain threshold? Would it be worth it to canabalize WASP (and spend a fortune on transportation) and have it miss Bold Alligator to get ESSEX underway for Cobra Gold?

    Every dime you spend on the ship today comes out of someone else’s money available to keep ships operating that are not going into the yards. How much is one ship for one month worth?

    While URR and I may disagree (basically, I choose to actually see what the casualty is before assigning a cause) on how the ESSEX got to this point and what it may imply, the basic facts are this.

    – The ship has been forward deployed for 11 years and is scheduled for replacement in one month.

    – It has a unspecified casualty that precludes it from participating in an exercise. (This is not as uncommon as you would think, and has always been the case, at least as long as I have been in the Navy).

    – The Navy has limited resources and competing priorities.

    One final thought. Just because a ship may not be able to participate in an exercise does not mean it is unavailable in wartime or for real world requirements. As an example, in the middle of the 600 ship Navy buildup (the designated good old days), I was on a ship with a sonardome rupture (extended utilization beyond the normal service life) and a sonar casualty (random chance to a part that wasn’t ever supposed to fail) limiting our capability. You would not normally be deployable as a result of this type of casualty and certainly you would not go to an ASW exercise. However, we would have deployed in wartime if required. The powers that be decided to leave the casualties for almost six months until the ship was scheduled for drydocking as opposed to expend the resources required for a fix. Much as I didn’t like it, it was the right decision.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    How much longer are we going to be willing to fool ourselves with explaining away the poor material readiness of the US Navy, and the inadequacy of its size and composition to execute the Maritime Strategy?

    We keep moving the “pain threshold”, as you call it, higher and higher. Until, when war comes (and it is a when), we understand just what pain is really involved.

    A flagship missing an operational commitment may be explained away in isolation. But this is much more than isolation, even for ESSEX. It is becoming indicative of the material readiness of our Navy. Ignore the signposts at the peril of the nation and its fleet.



    I am not ignoring the signs, just waiting to see what they are before leaping to conclusions and assigning blame. You very well may be right that this is a result in systematic underfunding, undermanning, lack of focus or whatever, but you are making assumptions based on extremely limited data that I am unwilling to make. The idea that everything that goes wrong can be laid at the feet of lack of focus on warfighting or properly resourcing maintenance is total nonsense.

    What is the nature of the ESSEX casualty? Do you know? If so, please enlighten me because I haven’t seen it listed anywhere (which is good OPSEC!).

    Was it a result of deferred maintenance? If so, was the deferred maintenance the result of real-world operational commitments in support of the Maritime Strategy or because of lack of funds? According to the spokesperson, it was the former and asking too much from our forward deployed ships has been a fact of life since we forward deployed them.

    Forward deployed ships have priority on everything! (Well, except ice cream for strategic missile submarines, in drydock, but I digress).

    You are taking one instance and making inferrences on it without any factual basis.

    Your overall position is valid, we need to better resource ship repairs, we need to man the ships with the right people with the right training, and we need to match resources to strategy (and visa versa). But the case to use the ESSEX to support your arguement hasn’t been made, at least not yet.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    The material condition of the Navy’s warships is well known. “Optimal manning” was an ill-conceived catastrophe.

    The Navy also admitted that deferred maintenance was a contributor, something that they would not have if it could at all be avoided. Whether the cause of that deferral is not enough ships or not enough money makes little difference, as they are two sides of the same coin.

    I would caution you that “making my argument” by using ESSEX as an example has been done by the Navy. A flagship missing an operational commitment for a major exercise is a big deal. It is WHY forward deployed units have priority. And even with that, ESSEX is unavailable again, for the second time in eight months.

    ESSEX is not yet to half her expected service life, yet the Navy is already referring to her as “old”? Why is that? Wear and tear? Only a problem when improperly maintained. So…. I stand by what I assert above. The problem, regardless of the specifics this time on ESSEX, are systemic and not mechanical.

    VADM Burke admitted as much. And that opinion is shared across the Navy. No, my “argument” is made in myriad places. Hearing a compelling counter-argument that can tell us that it isn’t so, that isn’t filled with “maybe” and “perhaps” would be interesting.



    OK, so what happened to ESSEX? What was the casualty? Since you haven’t answered that basic question, I will assume you don’t know (and neither do I, which is good OPSEC. Completely unheard of, but good OPSEC). Since I don’t know, I stand by my position, which is to wait before jumping to conclusions.

    Two points,
    VADM Burke was not discussing forward deployed ships. They do not deploy (they are always deployed) and their OPTEMPO (40-50pct underway) is no different from 5, 10, or 20 years ago.

    “Lt. Anthony Falvo, 7th Fleet spokesman, said the Essex may have been impacted by missing maintenance.”

    But then again it may not have been.

    “Task Force 76 spokesman Lt. Richard Drake said. “The cause is wear and tear.”
    “Drake would not specify what piece of equipment failed on the Essex, but said it was not the engine. He added that the ship could get underway if it had to, but it is better to fix the piece of equipment now.”
    “It will be back up and running in time for its next commitment,”

    So, where does it say lack of maintenance? Improper maintenance?

    “Wear and tear? Only a problem when improperly maintained.”

    So when a tank or truck has a engine problem it was improperly maintained? That’s the only possibility? We better fire all the Marines and Sailores who fix stuff! Give me a break! Was it slated for replacement or overhaul that was posponed? Because that is the only way wear and tear equates to deferred maintenance. Stuff fails all the time in engineering plants because of wear and tear and it has nothing to do with improper maintenance.

    I am not going to jump to conclusions until I learn what the problem was. You can feel free to jump as high as you like.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I have run motor pools having only four mechanics when the unit rated twelve. When fifteen drivers had to do the work of 35. With an optempo that put the unit in the field (with hard desert use) 200+ days a year. Guys working 18 hour days, six days a week, just to keep things running and do the scheduled maintenance as best they can, which means not the way it is supposed to be done. Trucks and howitzers months and months overdue for PM.

    That is precisely what the sailors in the “optimally manned” ships are facing. The results, as I have noted, are as predictable as the tides. Wear and tear improperly addressed leads to equipment failures, down time, high repair costs, and shortened service life for the end items. Each end item has a maintenance requirement based on operating time, conditions, and climate. Fail to meet them and you roll the dice. Skimp too much and you get inevitably burned.

    You are trying to convince me that there will be some other result. Been far too long in this game to believe otherwise. If you can point to one, you will have to show me.

    Systemic failures. If the truck or tank that has “engine problems” did not receive scheduled maintenance nor operator maintenance which detect problems while they are small, then the repair cost is that of a new engine, in the tens of thousands of dollars, with weeks of down time, instead of the minor repairs in the hundreds of dollars and days of down time. Enough of those happen and a “victor” unit goes C3 for readiness.

    The Navy equivalent would be, say, an ESG flagship unable to make an operational commitment for a major training exercise.

    Jump to conclusions? You are beginning to sound like Buck Turgidson. “I hate to judge before all the facts are in, but it appears that General Ripper exceeded his authority”.



    Again, not to sound like a broken record, what was the casualty?

    What is the Engineering department manning on ESSEX? (Based on the limited info, I am assuming the engineering department owns the equipment in question but that may not be the case).

    What billets were reduced on ESSEX, if any, in the engineering department as a result of minimum manning?

    What specific, equipment related maintenance was deferred?

    When you can answer those questions, you can make a non-speculative conclusion. Until then, you are taking a potentially random event to support your preconcieved notion. It may be accurate, but then again, it may not be.

    You are absolutely correct that lack of preventative maintenance leads to pre-mature failures. But not all failures stem from lack of preventative maintenance and we don’t know if that was the case on ESSEX. “Wear and tear” does not mean lack of preventative maintenance or operator failure.

    A water pump failure indicates lack of preventative maintenance? Not the failure of the engine due to a poorly installed waterpump but the actual water pump. Really, a sealed unit that has no maintenance requirements that you only change when it fails indicates lack of preventative maintenance? That you only monitor via visual inspection for leakage, fluid level, and coolant tempurature (we call those watchstander tasks in the Navy)? Because there are numerous cases like the waterpump in the steam plant on the ESSEX. The watchstanders monitor them and replaces them (or more likely the outside maintenance people change them) when required or at specific times, usually in conjuction with a Drydocking (which just happens to be coming up). But sometime they fail before the scheduled time, and it is nothing sinister.

    It’s like citing the Balisle report to prove something about engineering reliability on a CVN. As I am sure you know, the report, based on a study of 8 CGs, focused solely on the AEGIS system. So its conclusions, focused solely on the AEGIS system, really don’t apply to other cases unless you are using it to make generalizations of possible outcomes based on similiar circumstances.

    I like the Dr. Strangelove quote, but it doesn’t really apply as the President had clear cut indication of General Ripper exceeding his authority. To give you a equally dated movie analogy, when the Soviets jammed the recall code transmission in Fail Safe, it was because they jumped to conclusions based on the preconcieved notion that eventually the bombers had to be really have attack orders.

    You feel, correctly in my opinion, that the fleet is being stressed by high OPTEMPO, poorly thought out decisions on manning and training, lack of proper maintenance, and the list goes on.
    But that doesn’t mean this specific casualty is a result of any of those.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I believe the horse is dead, and the cat is flat.

    ESSEX may indeed be a random event. But enough data points exist in the system which operates and maintains ESSEX that the chances of ESSEX (second event in eight months and a major missed operational commitment) being “random” and unaffected by exceedingly unwise, shortsighted, fundamentally flawed manning and maintenance policies are slim and decreasing.

    Basic leadership, from the Gunny to the wide stripes on the sleeves. INspect what you EXpect. Look at the indicators. Scratch it, and if it bleeds you need to investigate further. And stop the nonsense about “leaner” and “optimal” and “do more with less”. It is delusion. The most dangerous kind for a commander. Self-delusion. When it is the enemy who reveals the emperor is naked, wars and battles are lost.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    I’d like to return for a moment to Grandpa Bluewater’s statement: “Old, pain in the neck to keep going, ships or new, ill considered design, ship.” – and address an issue I’ve noticed with the design and manufacturing practices of say the last 30 or so years. This issue is with CAD/CAM.

    The engineers who designed the ships and plane that won WW II used slide rules (yes, I still know how to work my K&E). Many engineers in those days started out as draftsmen. They learned how tolerances added up and where to increase margins to make up for it. They understood the limitations of the manufacturing process and how to design in manufacturability. Many of those products, while less sophisticated, were virtually unbreakable, indestructible, and unstoppable.

    Today’s CAD/CAM practices allow engineers with little original design experience to easily recycle and modify old drawings, where the original designer had long since retired. The computer checks the arithmetic and the CAM process builds exactly what the drawings specify (no more – no less).

    Back in the day, if I needed plywood for a 600 lb/sq ft load floor, the plywood catalog says: 1) ½ inch – 550 lb/sq ft 2) ¾ inch – 700 lb/sq ft. I go with ¾ inch from the catalog and have a 100 lb/sq ft margin. Today the CAD system calculates 5/8th and the CAM process turns out 5/8th to better than a 64th. I end up with no margin whatsoever, but I meet spec exactly, and with a savings in material costs of perhaps 5%.

    When 9600 tons of Aegis went into a 6600 ton Spruance hull, Jack Anderson published a piece in the WP that said Ticonderoga would capsize on sea trials. She didn’t and now you know why all of the early pictures show her heeled over in a serious turn. That is an example of margin. The B-52 was designed to bomb targets from the stratosphere. It ended up as a low level penetrating bomber because the airframe had sufficient margin.

    In the early 1970’s when Litton started the “Shipyard of the Future” on the West Bank of the Singing River, they cut plate for a few American President Lines container ships with a laser guided, computer controlled plate cutting operation designed by aerospace engineers fresh from one of their periodic down turns on the west coast. It was remarkable. Virtually no waste and the plate was cut to a tolerance of a 16th. Unfortunately ¼ inch slop was needed by the welders to join the plates and the ships ended up a few feet short. Since they now carried fewer containers, the American President Lines did not accept delivery. That was an example of insufficient margin.

    Don’t expect today’s ships designed for a 25 year life, be serviceable much beyond that. Don’t expect hulls with little or no margin, not to experience cracking and stress related failures. Don’t expect crews pared down to the minimum to be able to fight the ship and repair battle damage at the same time; and with little margin in materials, expect battle damage to be sever.

    One last thing – where are the tenders? It appears to me that the LCS Navy is a disposable fleet.

    – Kyon

  • Byron

    You know not of what you speak of, Diogenes…or in other words, you simply have no idea of how accurate modern shipbuilding methods truly work. Since I do, and have done so, I will attempt to educate you.

    First, design: For years we’ve understood the properties of various materials in their various admixtures; that is to day, how much stress and what types of stress would cause destruction of the crystal matrix (all metals have a crystal matrix; disturb them at your peril. These properties can be modeled by a computer. In the old days we figured out the weight, moment, and metacenter in a tank with a scale mode. Now we do it in cyberspace and do it more accurately. Thus, the design can take into account any storm or sea state, including large amounts of fluid (read, fuel) inside the ship. Ever wonder why fuel tanks have those convoluted swash bulkheads in them? It’s to keep the fluids from flowing uncontrolled througout the tanks and the ship, causing the ship to heel past the tipping point. So, the design phase can be quite rigorous and accurate.

    Next the actual cutting stage you speak of. You CAN cut accurately to within a couple of millimeters each plate that becomes the decks, bulkheads and skin of the ship. How do I know this? I’ve DONE EXACTLY THAT LITTLE THING. Sorry for shouting, just wanted you to not miss that point. The benefit to doing this little thing is the savings in fit up of units, sub-modules and modules. The idea is to put the ship together like, well, Legos. It saves an enormous amount of man hours. It is even possible to account for the shrinkage in plate that welding longitudinal members will cause. In the case of those that I built, the weld size was around 7mm (or near 5/16″). With 1/2″ thick EH36 steel plate (that means Extra Heavy or the replacement for HY-80 steel) it computed out to be a shrinkage of 1/16″ per long member. Each plate had allowance added to its width and length to account for that shrinkage (ask any shipfitter, which I am, how badly weld shrinkage can screw you if you don’t prepare for it). It meant that after welding all the long members to the plate, the plate measured within 1mm of the nominal width. The same applied to transverse members and the longitudinal length.

    The importance of this is measure in how much time is spent assembling all the various sub-modules and modules into a completed hull. No cutting, no trimming, just align properly, tack off, strong back (bars placed along the weld joint to prevent distortion) and weld one module to another.

    Myself and my crew of shipfitters and welders assembled 25 modules each weighing nearly 110 tons into a complete deck in 9 1/2 days. That was a total of 120 workers, working two ten hour shifts. When complete, the deck was perfectly straight: over a length of 550 feet, using a laser sight, the variance was under 1mm.

    Stress fractures happen when stupid customers don’t listen to naval architects and engineers. Just that simple. Perry class frigates cracked in the superstructure because the Navy didn’t want an expansion joint in the superstructure. How do I know that? Because I’ve talked with an engineer who was part of the design team! It would have added $150,000 to each ship. Instead, shipyards have been repairing cracks for 30 years now, including yours truly.

    That site you were at? Thanks to Tim Colton for finding and hanging onto a piece of shipbuilding history. I remember those days…and I’d rather be doing it the way we do nowadays. A good shipfitter always looks for the least difficult way to get the job done, and I’m a damn good shipfitter.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Byron –

    I am criticizing the results of the process. You yourself admit that the hulls don’t stand up. The story about the container ships is true.

    With the tools, techniques and materials available in the early 21st century we should be building the best men-of-war that ever put to sea. So what is wrong with the process?

    You are understandably proud of the work you do and your accomplishments, but does the craftsmanship extend to envelope the entire process? Apparently not, if things such as expansion joints are overlooked.

    Some of my misspent youth occurred in shipyards. Large institutions. I once asked a yard worker: How many people work at this yard? He replied – about half of them.

    How many times has military shipbuilding been hijacked for work training programs for the “poor”? Let’s teach ‘em welding – that’s the ticket.

    Byron, don’t take it personally, they screw up airplanes too.

    Perhaps ShawnP has a point about MBAs.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed the link I provided. The production rates in the ‘40s were truly impressive. The feats shipbuilders accomplished in hull such as the Iowa class are unsurpassed. I have been told that it is impossible to make a forging the size of a main battery turret simply because no one alive knows how to cool it down.

    Diogenes only searches for the truth. Perhaps Byron will find it.

    – Kyon

  • Byron

    Diogenes, FFGs have problems because the Navy overuled the desires of the engineers. Had the engineers won the day, there’d be no problems.

    And no offense, I’ve spent my entire adult life building and repairing ships. I KNOW what I’m talking about. And the link? Found it not long after Tim Colton started his blog. Didn’t find it yesterday, not by a long shot.

    Construction rates in the 40’s were high because they could a) throw a lot of people at it, b) work as many hours as possible, and c) the ships were never expected to last more than 5 years.

    Diogenes, I didn’t learn shipbuilding in a damn book. I LIVED it. Go back to your lamp and find something else.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    It is Diogenes fate to be maligned, mistreated and misunderstood. At no time did I ever claim to possess any expertise at shipbuilding. What I pointed out is that much has changed in the process in the last thirty years and that our modern systems whether ships, aircraft or other combat vehicles, seldom outperform their specifications.

    It appears that the path being embarked upon to extend hull life is based more upon wishful thinking than actual capability. What I was alluding to is that whereas certain legacy systems were capable of exceeding their design goals, it is rare to find a modern system that lives up to that expectation.

    A computer is merely another tool. While computers and quantify and calculate requirements, an underlying understanding of the system is required in order to make intelligent tradeoffs. I imagine that “living shipbuilding” would impart that level of understanding.

    It is certainly a measure of progress that unparalleled precision is now obtained in modern shipbuilding. The question I raised is: does that precision dictate that failure will occur precisely at the edge of the specification?

    How is it that certain legacy systems were so long lived? Did you know that they are still flying the U-2 (much to the detriment of the Global Hawk program)? Were these systems over designed or did the engineers in those days know how to maximize performance in ways that would exceed the specification? How long did it take to design and build the U-2?

    Byron – let me be perfectly clear where I stand: Build more ships; build better ships.

    It would probably move things along if the people who actually knew how to do this were in charge – bean counters notwithstanding. (Yes, I know that the Navy has a budget… too bad the Senate doesn’t).

    The know unknown is that you will exceed the equipment specifications in combat. The unknown unknown is what will happen. From Diogenes’ perspective (ever the cynic) this is becoming more of a know and it isn’t good.

    Diogenes is merely the holder of the lamp. What happens to Diogenes is of little consequence. What matters is that the truth be discovered.

    BTW – I also picked on under manning and I’m still standing (and so are the Pyramids).

    – Kyon

  • Byron

    “The question I raised is: does that precision dictate that failure will occur precisely at the edge of the specification?”

    Yes, it does. A good architect or an engineer will always know the breaking point of any given material or it’s life span given any range of motion or pressure. And as long as the Navy driven by the desires of Congress does not interfere, ships will fine.

    Let me give you a case in point: the FFGs. The McInnerney was over 30 years old when we transfered her to the Pakistani navy. It’s expected that with reasonable maintenance she’ll last at least another 10-15 years. For a class that was never supposed to last more than 20 years, that’s pretty damn good. The Perry’s were called, “low end of the mix ships”. The Perry herself was commissioned in 1976 during the Carter administration!The McInereney was commissioned in 1979 and decom’d in 2010, 31 years later. Now for ships intended to only last until 2000, that’s pretty damn good engineering, wouldn’t you say?

    As far as exceeding specifications in combat, the answer regarding the failure point of materials DOES NOT CHANGE. Higher op tempo always wears out any combat vehicle or vessel quicker only because the rate of use is higher. And failure due to the intersection of high explosives is understood and prepared for: it’s called, “damage control” and don’t give up the ship.

    Last but not least, as long as ships are made of steel and NOT aluminum and preservation of the coating systems are maintained, the ship will last a LONG time…just like the USS Enterprise, CVN-65, who will be over 50 years old when she’s sent to her final rest. On the other hand, poor maintenance or ignoring the advice of engineers and architects will get exactly the result that materials science will give you.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Byron you are a man of steel and Diogenes says that we need more like you.

    Here’s another little story for you concerning poor maintenance. There once was a WW II vintage carrier that was on her third “last med cruise”. They weren’t going to fix anything serious, so when some of the bulkheads rusted thru in the voids, her ballast would shift in a hard turn and she would carry a list for about ten minutes after until it all shifted back.

    It was more serious to port, so you always knew how she was going to come around during flight ops. Must have been a ball (pun intended) for the pilots on short final.

    So if anyone is still reading this thread – how does that optimal manning help out damage control?

    – Kyon

  • Rexford L

    I can see the Navy decomissioning most of the Wasp class early, due to the fact that they are the only major class left that’s steam powered. When the Wasp was comissioned, most of the fleet was powered by boilers and their steam turning the turbines, now 99% of the fleet is either gas turbine or diesel engines.