Tag Archives: Austal

New report sheds more light on U.S.S. Independence corrosion issue

A new report from Maritime Reporter & Engineering News sheds a little more light on the corrosion issues that hampered the U.S.S. Independence earlier this year.
Independence is the first littoral combat ship built at Austal USA’sMobile River shipyard. The company is Mobile’s largest industrial employer, working its way from 2,400 employees to about 4,000 over the next few years.

Austal worked as a subcontractor for General Dynamics Corp. on Independence and the future U.S.S. Coronado, which is under construction now. Austal will be the prime contractor on 10 more LCS after that.

Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Chris Johnson is quoted in the Maritime Reporter story saying:
“The General Dynamics and Austal USA approach to prevent corrosion on LCS 2 was based on commercial practices and included a coating system on the exposed metal, electrical insulation of dissimilar metals and cathodic protection via sacrificial zinc anodes in the water jet tunnels. This design proved to be less effective than intended due to multiple factors including improper electrical insulation during installation. To provide more comprehensive protection, an ICCP system and additional sacrificial protection design is being finalized and will be implemented on LCS 2 during its Post Shakedown Availability (PSA); has already been installed on LCS 4; and will be included on LCS 6 and follow as a baseline change prior to the start of construction.”

U.S. Lawmakers Order New LCS Study

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., recently rebuffed by the U.S. Navy in asking the service to review its Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, has turned to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to further examine the shipbuilding effort.

In a July 27 letter to the GAO, Hunter, joined by Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., cited his concerns about the program’s historic cost overruns and schedule delays, and more recent corrosion and structural issues with the ships.

Hunter and Wittman asked the GAO to “review and as necessary update the August 2010 [GAO] report on the LCS program.” Specifically, the lawmakers want GAO to examine:

■ what the Navy is doing to overcome technical design flaws in the first two ships;

■ what the Navy is doing to make sure follow-on ships are delivered with cost and time estimates;

■ what actions the Navy has taken to make certain that mission packages have the capabilities they were intended to have; and

■ provide performance and operational maintenance date on the propulsion systems for both LCS variants.

Hunter, in a July 1 letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, had asked the service “to immediately conduct a formal review of the entire LCS program, provide an assessment of the technical design flaws of the current fleet and determine the best way forward to include the possibility of rebidding this contract so that the program can be put back on a fiscally responsible path to procurement.”

Mabus, in a July 7 reply, said the Navy had “faced and overcome the program’s past cost and schedule challenges,” and addressed many of the issues presented in the GAO’s 2010 report.

Noting that both ships have yet to complete all test and trial programs, Mabus wrote that the service now “is confident that we are on a path of success” with LCS.

In addition to Hunter, a group of seven senators, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have questioned the Pentagon’s handling of the LCS program. In a July 12 letter to Pentagon acquisition chief Ash Carter, the group questioned the Pentagon’s certification procedures allowing the program to go forward, and asked for more information on corrosion problems affecting the ships.

Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter, explained that the San Diego-area congressman’s intent “is not to terminate the program.”

Rather, Kasper said, “it’s about efficiency of production, it’s about efficiency of dollars. And if there’s an opportunity to improve production and reduce costs in the process, then that’s important and something worth considering.”

SOURCE: http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=7220977&c=AME&s=SEA

7 senators question certifications for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program…the saga continues

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., long has been a critic of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program (LCS). In Senate hearings last December and this spring, he lambasted Navy leaders for a series of problems with the LCS and decried the pressure put on Congress late last year to permit the Navy to change course and buy both, rather than only one, of the LCS variants.

And McCain is leading a new assault on the program in a letter sent to Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer. The letter, dated Tuesday and sent on Senate letterhead, is co-signed by three Republicans and three Democrats, and asks for more information on the corrosion problem that has plagued the second LCS, the aluminum-hulled Independence.

Perhaps more significant, however, is that the letter opens up a newer area of concern and questions several Pentagon procedures that allowed the LCS program to move forward.

McCain was joined in the effort by five colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) — Republicans Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Rob Portman of Ohio, and Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia — and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

“It is highly unfortunate that we first learned about the discovery of significant corrosion on the Independence, and obtained your letter about your decision to waive certain certifications,” after the SASC marked up its 2012 defense bill, the senators wrote to Carter.

“Needless to say, it is absolutely vital for the committee to have in a timely fashion all information material to its deliberating the Department of Defense’s funding requests.”

The senators gave Carter until July 25 to respond to the letter, “to assist in our further deliberation of the act by the full Senate.”

The letter questions and asks for further information on several moves by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to allow the program to move ahead.

Specifically, the senators asked the following:

• Question an April 7 OSD certification to move the LCS to Milestone B, or the engineering manufacturing and development phase of the program. OSD waived several requirements of the certification — a move prompting concerns from the senators that specific reasons for the waivers were not provided.

• Ask why OSD allowed the program to use Navy acquisition cost estimates, rather than those developed by Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) group, as required by law under Title 10 of the U.S. Code. “Please provide a full explanation of the CAPE’s position, the analysis the CAPE relied on to support its position, and why you chose to use the Navy’s cost estimates rather than the CAPE’s,” the senators wrote.

• Ask for an explanation as to why OSD granted a waiver of the need to certify program tradeoffs late in the program, rather than earlier in the development of the LCS.

• Ask Carter to indicate when he “will be prepared to certify to those provisions that you recently waived,” and provide a business case analysis for the certifications and wavers.

• And ask how, in light of the corrosion problems on Independence, the LCS program “will ensure reliability and minimize major cost growth in operations and sustainment costs” in accordance with a March directive from defense under secretary Frank Kendall requiring all Pentagon programs to do so.

The senators also ask Carter to provide detailed information on the corrosion issue discovered on elements of the waterjet system on Independence. The Navy already has been fielding answers on the issue, which involves a failed alternative to more standard efforts to provide cathodic protection against corrosion and rust in underwater areas where two or more kinds of metal are used. A more conventional fix has been designed into subsequent units of the class, the Navy said, and modifications will be made to Independence to deal with the issue.

The letter also asks Carter to respond to a charge by Andrew Bellamy, chief executive of Austal — the Australian parent company of Independence builder Austal USA — that poor maintenance by the Navy, rather than faulty craftsmanship by the shipyard, is likely to be the cause of the aggressive corrosion on the ship. Bellamy also was reported as saying, according to the letter, that any corrosion on Independence would be the fault of the operator or maintainer and not the builder. The senators ask the Navy to describe how it plans to address the problem, if poor operational maintenance is “at least part of the cause.”

The letter from the seven senators comes shortly after a similar, but less detailed, missive from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. In a letter dated July 1, Hunter cited concerns about the corrosion and other problems, along with the LCS program’s oft-reported cost growth, and asked the Navy to conduct “a formal review of the entire LCS program.”

The Navy, in a response last week to Hunter, declared it was aware of the problems Hunter cited, had fixes already in hand or applied, and was satisfied that the program now is on a satisfactory track.

SOURCE: http://www.navytimes.com/news/2011/07/navy-lcs-senators-question-qualifications-071311w/

Austal defends work after corrosion reports surface

Austal Ltd. defended its work in response to earlier reports of corrosion issues on the first littoral combat ship built at the company’s Mobile shipyard.

The Australia-based company’s chief executive officer, Andrew Bellamy, told the Sydney Morning-Herald that any corrosion on U.S.S. Independence was the fault of whoever is operating and maintaining it.

“We have built 230 vessels of this type that have not suffered from this type of problem … where the operator and the maintainer of the ship have followed the procedures in a thorough way,” Bellamy told the newspaper. “I suspect there is a problem in the area of operational maintenance if there is a galvanic corrosion issue.”

Bellamy told the newspaper that the issue was a “storm in a teacup” and unlikely to threaten Austral’s contract with the U.S. Navy to build more of the speedy, shallow-water combat ships.

The Navy did not immediately respond to questions today about Independence’s maintenance.

Austal on Friday confirmed media reports that Independence experienced “galvanic corrosion” in its propulsion system.

Chris Johnson, a Navy spokesman said in a written statement Sunday that the Navy blamed the corrosion issue on dissimilar metals used in the ship’s construction.

Austal specializes in aluminum-hulled ships, while the Navy has traditionally bought steel ships.

The problem was discovered in 2010, before the ship was delivered to the Navy, said Jim DeMartini, a spokesman for Maine-based Bath Iron Works. Bath is the prime contractor for the first two littoral combat ships built at Austal, Independence and Coronado, which is set for delivery in summer 2012.

Austal in December won a $3.6 billion contract to act as the prime contractor building 10 more littoral combat ships.

Johnson said that the Navy in 2010 started developing both short- and long-term fixes to the problem. The service will, by the end of July, install “doubler plates” around portions of the Independence propulsion system, which will make it safe to operate in the near future, he said.

Next year, when the ship is dry-docked, the Navy will install a cathodic protection system as a long-term fix to the corrosion problem, Johnson said.

Such an anti-corrosion system is going to be added to Coronado before it is launched, Johnson said. And Austal included the protection system in its prime contracting bid, so no changes to the design of those ships need to be made, Johnson said.

Austal is Mobile’s largest industrial employer with about 2,200 workers at its Mobile River shipyard. It expects to nearly double that number in the next few years as it ramps up construction of both littoral combat ships and high-speed transport ships for the Navy.

In a written statement issued today, Austal officials said the company is “intimately familiar” with how to properly deal with galvanic corrosion. If Austal is chosen by the Navy to provide post-delivery support for its aluminum littoral combat ships, it will be “a straight-forward process” for the company’s engineers to handle such upkeep. Austal said that it has six maintenance hubs worldwide that can handle the work.

“An integral part of any post-delivery support program for a high-performance, high-speed vessel .¤.¤. is to provide a cadre of qualified maintainers who can help our Navy partners,” the statement read in part.

Austal’s statement also said the company wants to be included in the investigation of the corrosion, but has not yet been involved in that process.

SOURCE: http://blog.al.com/live/2011/06/austal_defends_work_after_corr.html