Tag Archives: Littoral Combat Ship

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

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

Navy Finds ‘Aggressive’ Corrosion on New Ship

The U.S. Navy has discovered “aggressive” corrosion in Austal Ltd. (ASB)’s first new combat ship designed for operating close to shore.

The corrosion is in the propulsion areas of the USS Independence, the Littoral Combat Ship built by the Mobile, Alabama-based subsidiary of Australia’s Austal and General Dynamics Corp. (GD)

“This could be a very serious setback,” said Norman Polmar, an independent naval analyst and author in Alexandria, Virginia. “If the ship develops a serious flaw, you’re not going to continue producing them.”

Permanent repair will require drydocking the ship and removing its “water jets,” a key component of the propulsion system, the Navy said in a written statement to congressional appropriations committees provided to Bloomberg News.

Aluminum-hulled ships such as Austal’s tend to rust faster than steel-hulled ships, Polmar said. “But I’m surprised it happened so early,” he said. “This ship is brand new.”

The corrosion discovery in a ship that was commissioned in January 2010 marks another blow to the Littoral Combat Ship program, planned to ultimately consist of 55 ships. In February, the Navy discovered another ship in the series, from another construction team, had a crack through the hull.

Close to Shore
The Littoral Combat ships are designed to operate closer to shore than the rest of the Navy’s surface fleet. They would make up about 17 percent of the Navy’s planned 313-ship fleet. Missions include clearing mines, hunting submarines and providing humanitarian relief.

The Navy in December awarded contracts for as many as 10 Littoral Combat ships to each of two teams of builders, led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Austal.

Austal won a $465 million contract that could reach as much as $3.78 billion if all options are exercised, the Navy announcement said. Building all 55 ships will cost the Navy at least $37.4 billion, according to a Pentagon report released in April.

Officials were concerned about the potential for corrosion during construction of the ship because of “dissimilar metals,” particularly near the steel propulsion shafts, the Navy memo said.

Temporary repairs will allow the ship to operate safely in the interim, the Navy said. The Littoral Combat Ships are designed to last about 25 years. Each ship is expected to cost about $36.6 million a year to operate and support.

Two Versions
The Navy is buying two versions from two teams of builders. The other team consists of Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed and Marinette Marine Corp. of Marinette, Wisconsin.

The first Lockheed ship developed a crack as long as six inches through its hull during sea trials in February, prompting a Navy investigation of the design.

Calls to Austal and calls and e-mails to General Dynamics weren’t immediately returned.

The Austal ship is now in Mayport, Florida, undergoing additional testing, the Navy said in its statement. A permanent repair of the existing corrosion damage would be conducted next year, the Navy said. The Navy statement did not provide an estimate of the cost of the repair work.

SOURCE: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-17/navy-finds-aggressive-corrosion-on-austal-s-combat-ship-1-.html