Monday, October 04, 2010

Colton goes Salamander on LPD-17

Soon, everyone will be wearing funny hats. Welcome all, pull up a chair.

From Tim Colton's site last week, he's had enough; again.

My sources tell me that this is the skinny on the LPD gearbox problem. Apparently some of the bolts used to install the gearboxes are loose bolts, although fitted bolts are required by the design. This was done simply because installing fitted bolts upward from the void space below the gearbox was too difficult. Unfortunately, the bolt holes were in way of the frames that support the gearbox, so production management decided to burn big notches in the frames, in order to provide access for installation of the loose bolts. These notches in the frames were never repaired and, since no one ever inspected the void spaces, the damage to the frames was never seen. The loose bolts are in the middle of the gearboxes and the fitted bolts are on the outside, so the area with the highest concentration of torque and thrust is not held in place with fitted bolts. As a result, the gearbox flexes. That's the story.

I'm just reporting what I've been told, but it rings true: Avondale has always had a reputation for corner-cutting. October 1, 2010.


Defense News reports that the Navy continues to have problems with the USS San Antonio, (LPD 17), the lead ship of this misbegotten class of ludicrously over-designed and unaffordable ships. Read the story here. This ship, which had a contract delivery date of June 2002 but was actually delivered in July 2005, has been a disaster from start to finish. It's astonishing to read now, in late 2010, that the reason the drive train vibrates is that "The foundation bolts were not properly aligned or tightened. The main reduction gear was not properly installed and checked out" according to ADM John Harvey, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Good grief! And will NG pay any penalty for this? Of course not. October 1, 2010.
What amazes me is how many defenders this Class has. Yes, I know.

As I said years ago, if we throw enough money and burn through enough Sailors, we can fix this Class of ships - but look at the cost.

I know a lot of people, including me, like to beat up on NAVSEA and SUPSHIPS - hey, everyone likes to tease the geeks, but in many respects they can only do what they can do with the personnel, structure, and resources they have. It isn't the people, it is leadership and their subordinates' reaction to the direction and guidance they get from the top; as it is in any organization.

Like we learned in MBA101 - you show me a company in trouble, and I'll show you a troubled leadership.

In the last decade, the fundamentals of shipbuilding has not been a priority. Just look at LCS, LPD-17, and DDG-1000. I hate to sound like a broken record - but facts need to be pounded and pounded until they sink in to the thickest of opaque egos.

Even our pal Gal over at InfoDis is showing the wear from the drip-drip-drip of fail.
Look where all the shortcuts got us - 5 years later. I'll be more impressed with the Navy's ability to manage large programs like shipbuilding when I start seeing more accountability among those leaders on shore. NAVSEA has apparently worked very hard in the 21st century to build a reputation that does not inspire confidence.
Keep going up from NAVSEA my friend; keep going North. Get a SUPSHIPS manning document as ask what changes have been made over the last couple of decades. Look at all the money spent on SES at NAVSEA and what they have done during the last decade. Search "CNO Priority" on google.

Clues are everywhere.

Good leaders can fix this. We have a great Navy with great leaders. Great leaders need to be given the power to affect action though; if they choose the right actions to fix a challenge (see Blockbuster vs. NetFlix). We are close ... close, but will need to wait.


Byron said...

The list of really stupid things done on LPD-17 are too long to tell in this space, but my favorite was the titanium firemain system...from sea suction to nozzle head, 100% titanium. Wouldn't have stainless steel worked just as well? For a third of the cost? Or the lube oil valves that no one could fix...till a 26 year old machinists leadman asked the tech rep on the New York City, "Has anyone ever taken one of these apart?". Turns out the factory presets were all off. Took 20 minutes to take apart, an hour to figure out the problem, 20 to put it back together and it's working like a champ. Speaking of stupidity and poor workmanship, did they ever get the wireway transits to hold watertight? Or are they still a DC nightmare waiting to happen?

G Lof said...

I am not sure where the term "Over designed" applied to LPD-17. What the last few days have shown use was that there was no engineering on the LPD-17s. It sounds more like they what my old enginnering instructor call "Farner built."

It does not matter how much money is spect design a ship, if the builder don't follow the design. I have heard Avondale has had that build by thumb mentality. They did not even had a good CAD software when they design the LPD-17s in the first place, they used software intended for building aircraft becuase it was cheaper . Given that type of thinking by their designers, is it any surprise that the class was jinks from day one.

Spade said...

<span>"What amazes me is how many defenders this Class has. Yes, I know."</span>
<span>Well, is it a problem with the LPD-17 from the get go or is it a problem with Avondale? If you gave it to somebody else (and let them elminiate any really stupid stuff) would it still suck?</span>
<span>Like, I wouldn't buy a new Wrangler because if you mention reliability to Jeep lovers they start to giggle. But if the Wrangler was made by somebody else...</span>

Anonymous said...

Given the determination to use these ships to service the national money hole, it might at least be be amusing to have one built by Bath.

Sadly related...,14289/


Salty Gator said...

<span>"Keep going up from NAVSEA my friend; keep going North. Get a SUPSHIPS manning document as ask what changes have been made over the last couple of decades. Look at all the money spent on SES at NAVSEA and what they have done during the last decade. Search "</span><span>CNO Priority</span><span>" on google."</span>
<span>I was listening to C-SPAN this weekend and they had a theoretical physicist taking questions from callers.  His largest concern with the implosion of Pax Americana is with the administration:  "They are so concerned about re-distributing wealth that they do not think about producing it.  Where is the next inventor of the combustion engine?  Where is the next creator of lasers?  Where is the next Wilbur and Orveille Wright?  Probably growing up in Shanghai, and it is our own fault.  Instead of growing new wealth, we prioritize shifting around what we have."</span>
<span>And so it goes for LPD 17.  Forget new ships.  We are wallowing around in the muck of what we have, and most of it doesn't work.  OPNAV N86 has even GOTTEN RID OF THEIR FUTURE SHIPS SECTION.  That tells you ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.</span>

Salty Gator said...

OR how nobody associated with this ship has FRIED.  hell, we even promoted one to ASN(RDA) hem...Stackley.

Salty Gator said...

or how we retain consultants.

Salty Gator said...

or promote others to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of hem......Mullen

xbradtc said...

My first question, when I learned of the LPD-17 program something like 15 years ago, was "why are we building a gold-plated amphib?"

Why not build the follow on LPD class on a development of the LSD-41 class hull? Amphibs used to be dirt cheap to build. I can understand the the LHA/LHD class are somewhat more complex, but why the LPDs?

KISS would have been a very good idea here. 

xbradtc said...

Oh, and no matter how crappy the yard builds a ship, that's on the Navy. No yard does a worse job than you let them do.

Byron said...

Because there were too many pigs at the trough? Because everyone saw a big fat pie and wanted a slice? Because even the pie had no more slices, the pigs wanted MORE, and the Navy (by way of Congress) said, "Sure!"

Don't blame all of it on the Navy. I've seen far too many items I've had to order that were piddling small but stupid expensive and OH MY GOD there's only ONE vendor. Don't strain your brain trying to figure out why that happens.

Retired Now said...

EXPERIMENT:   How about taking the NAVSEA PMS-317 Program Manager for the past 4 years and reassign him FROM WASHINGTON DC.  down to PASCAGOULA MISS  ?   

Well, that's what happened  a year ago.    The CAPTAIN who ran the LPD-17 class program at NAVSEA PMS-317 starting about 4 years ago,  (LPD-18, 19, 20, 21)   was transferred last year to be CAPTAIN of SUPERVISOR of SHIPBUILDING SUPSHIP located inside the NORTHROP GRUMMAN shipyard in Pascagoula Miss.     This is/was probably a  "test":   could this 4-striper transform the forever confounded LPD SAN ANTONIO class if he were put directly in charge of supervising their construction as SUPERVISOR of SHIPBUILDING GULF COAST ?

The answer will very soon be apparent:   LPD-22 was launched earlier this year and is fitting out at the piers in Pascagoula Northrop.   LPD-23 and LPD-25 are attempting to be completed in New Orleans at Avondale shipyard which also falls directly under the command of SUPSHIP GULF COAST.    LPD-24 will soon be launched at the Pascagoula shipyard.  

so, the ACID TEST:    Can the former WASHINGTON DC Actual PMS-317 himself,  somehow  complete LPD-22, 23, 24, 25 properly ?    Can this experienced O-6 NAVY CAPTAIN who actually works inside the Northrop Grumman shipyard along with maybe 400 SUPSHIP employees,  really finish LPD Hulls # 6,  #7,  #8,  and  #9  properly ?   With decent quality ?    To heck with timely delivery or cost !    Can they be built with any sort of reasonable quality ?      

                 ALL of NAVSEA is watching this experiment !

Recall this is the NAVY CAPTAIN who worked as NAVSEA lead on LPD Hulls #2, #3, #4, and #5.   

pk said...

52 years ago my first foreman in the ship repair work told me that, it's the DUMB LITTLE DETAILS THAT WILL KILL YOU!!!!!!!

as i remember the lube oil pumped into the main reduction gears cascades out of holes in the bottom of the casing into a tank formed by the structure that holds the gearing and the inner hull of the ship. the snipes have to crawl in there about every six months and hand clean the crud out of the bottom of that tank. while you're in there all you have to do is look up and lo and behold there are the bolts that hold the gearing down. and there are also the sections of the frames in question.

public repair yards make thousands of "fitted" bolts (also called body bound on the west coast) usually at a forced draft because the schedule for that particular job is getting down to the bitter end.

yard management knows about it, ships supt. knows about it shop 38&31 know about it. ships force might not as it only comes up when machinery is removed and reinstalled.

several questions raise their ugly heads.

is the reduction gearing properly in alignment? if not it will cause vibration in the main shafting and the first line shaft bearing & bull gear bearings to wear prematurely.

have the snipes been dilligent in cleaning the main lube oil sump? and if so why haven't they noticed and "bucked up the chain" the fact that a number of beams are cut and not rewelded.

what about the inspectors? yes you have to be skinny (i bless the day that i got to fat to crawl into them spaces) but all it takes is a little tap tap with a small ball peen to check that stuff and i believe that its on the list of critical items for main propulsion.

one other thing. have the snipes actually been cleaning the sumps. there was one of the last of the APA's on the west coast in the middle 80's that they didn't and after a couple of years they had worn every bearing in the main engine lube oil system (turbines and gearing). on inspection the bearings were worn about .015" over sized and the turbine shafting etc. about .005 undersized. on discovery the skipper had a sleeve stripping session at mast (4 crows and two taxi driver hats) the Cheng and MPA retired by liberty call and the captain lost some numbers. all in a couple of days.

main engines are about as serious as you can get in the mechanical world.


ShawnP said...

I must ask is this the end of problems for LPD-17? I highly doubt as I have no confidence that Avondale did any thing right with this ship. Shame on SUPSHIPS for not having a inspection plan and/or inspectors. One would think that SUPSHIPS would have a nice salty LDO LCDR engineering type on shore duty for these types of inspections.

Southern Air Pirate said...

I have an un-pc opinion about the Navy Shipbuilding programs. Has it gone down hill since SecNavy Lehman relieved Rickover of his postion? Do we need another Rickover to come in and fix the programs, and basically rule with a despotic titatium clad fist? Or do we not have anyone with that attitude nor passion like Rickover had with nuclear power?
I would say that the submarine service and the US Nuclear Navy succeeded because Rickover had an overwhelming despotic rule on who came in, who worked at "his" yards, and what they knew. When you compare our programs to the Soviet programs and even to a lesser extent the rest of the world. We only had loss of two submarines both of which were to accidents. No reactor breeches, and for the most part the hulls came in at or under budget, and the yards were able to quickly turn around the hulls to be back in the fleet with minimual issues.

Aubrey said...

Say what you want about Rickover being a narcissistic* psychopath and a bit of a nutjob, but the man knew how to run a program...

*I am NOT spelling that again!

As a historian I am a believer in the concept that it takes incredible times to reveal incredible men, and I think the current leadership in the USA and USMC shows that the times have revealed the true leaders in their midst.  Somewhere out in the fleet there HAS to be another King or Nimitz - what does it take to find him?

Aubrey said...

USA being the US Army....not the current Teleprompter-in-Chief

At what cost... said...

<span>Sal said "As I said years ago, if we throw enough money and burn through enough Sailors, we can fix this Class of ships - but look at the cost."  The former XO of SAN ANTONIO is one of those Sailors.  He's about to go on trial for negligence, when the real cause of a small boat mishap was the poor design and cost-cutting that has caused many of the other problems.  I hope Sean Kearns is permitted to raise these troubling issues in his trial next month!  </span>

Another link said...

Also reported by Navy Crimes at

Bad link? said...

<span>Also reported by Navy Crimes at <span></span></span>

LT B said...

But hasn't NAVSEA garnered all sorts of praise and awards for their Diversity program and huggly snuggly employer of choice stuff?  I am certain the change of focus from building great sea going vessels to percentage of skin color and gender make up in all their pictures has had no effect on their production and inspection capability.  Time and money are both commodities and if you spend them on stuff that has nothing to do w/ your specific mission, you are going to lose efficacy.  We have asked for metrics on diversity and how "valuable" it is to our successful mission completion.  Sadly, the metrics are there and the lack of accountability has just furthered our misguided energy.  Diversity is wonderful, but diversity as the mission is useless.  Get back to mission focus, recruit across the spectrum and train all to the mission set.  EO is the policy.  Follow it and diversity will not be a concern.  Knuckleheads. 

pk said...

the budding Kings and Nimitzes have probably left the fleet as short commanders because of the diversity issues.


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