Navy: In Need of Repairs, US Navy’s $2 Billion Ships Don’t Hold Up on High Seas

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The US Navy is spending millions of dollars to repair new high-speed transport ships whose weak bows cannot withstand stand buffeting from high seas, according to the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester.

 The Navy spent about $2.1 billion for a fleet of ten Expeditionary Fast Transports, built by Austal Ltd. Five of the all-aluminum catamarans are in operation, while the others are under construction at an Austal shipyard in Alabama.
US Navy Spearhead (Expeditionary Fast Transport) during sea trials in 2012

In a letter sent to Congress in September, Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, said all ten ships require reinforcing structure to bridge the twin hulls because of a design change that the Navy adopted at Austal’s recommendation, Bloomberg reported.

“The Navy accepted compromises in the bow structure, presumably to save weight, during the building of these ships,” Gilmore wrote. “Multiple ships of the class have suffered damage to the bow structure.”

So far, the Navy has spent almost $2.4 million strengthening the bows of the first four vessels, according to Bloomberg.

The speedy ships are designed to transport military cargo and troops, and serve as an intermediate between larger, slower vessels and cargo aircraft. They have been deployed to Africa, the Middle East and Singapore

The repairs have made each ship 1,736 pounds heavier and displaced 250 gallons of fuel. Because the repairs are still in progress, there has been no testing yet to verify if the fixes are sufficient.

Even with reinforced structures, the ships cannot sail on the highest seas or travel at their maximum speed, because “encountering a rogue wave” can “result in sea-slam events that causes structural damage to the bow structure,” Gilmore wrote in his report to Congress.

The ships’ latest sea tests also revealed faulty generators that failed much more than anticipated.

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Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said that the US Navy will look into improving its ability to respond to military contests at sea.

Adm. John Richardson
ADM. JONATHAN GREENERT, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

The US Navy will look into improving its ability to respond to military contests at sea, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson said in a National Press Club speech.

“We are going to strengthen our naval power at and from the sea. —the key word there is ‘at the sea’,” Richardson stated on Monday. He added that the Navy must work to “sharpen our skills for operations and conflict at sea.”

Richardson addressed concerns about the vulnerability of the US surface fleet to attacks from advanced missiles deployed by adversaries.

The admiral noted he is confident the US surface fleet and aircraft carrier fleet is “as relevant and important today as it has ever been,” but added that the United States will have to adapt to new threats.

Both Russia and China have developed advanced long-range guided missile arsenals over the course of their military modernization efforts. The Chinese and Russian missiles are seen to pose a threat to US surface assets. In response, the US Navy has begun work to deploy a new long-range anti-ship missile, fired from an aircraft, and ship-based air defense systems.

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