Monday, December 10, 2018

To Distributed Lethality & Battlemindedness, We Need Robustness

One of the topics we raised in yesterday's Midrats with CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN, was the importance of a clear and unflinching eye towards survivability in a warship.

Each time a modern warship is hit with an ASCM, mine, or even the odd merchant ship - we need to make sure our engineers make a thorough review of what did or did not help keep that ship afloat. That way, when the green-eyeshade people want to skimp here and there on "expensive" robustness, or a construction standard waved - those focused on survivability have the data they need to push back with facts.

As the Norwegians begin to look at the loss of their NANSEN Class frigate KNM Helge Ingstad following her collision with the Maltese registered tanker Sola TS in Hjeltefjorden, this little bit caught my eye;
The AIBN has found safety critical issues relating to the vessel's watertight compartments.

This must be assumed to also apply to the other four Nansen-class frigates. It cannot be excluded that the same applies to vessels of a similar design delivered by Navantia, or that the design concept continues to be used for similar vessel models. The AIBN assumes that its findings are not in conformity with the required damage stability standard for the Nansenclass frigates.

To start with, flooding occurred in three watertight compartments on board 'KNM Helge Ingstad': the aft generator room, the orlob deck's crew quarters and the stores room. There was some uncertainty as to whether the steering engine room, the aftmost compartment, was also filling up with water. Based on this damage, the crew, supported by the vessel's stability documents, assessed the vessel as having 'poor stability' status, but that it could be kept afloat. If more compartments were flooded, the status would be assessed as 'vessel lost' on account of further loss of stability.

Next, the crew found that water from the aft generator room was running into the gear room via the hollow propeller shafts and that the gear room was filling up fast. From the gear room, the water then ran into and was flooding the aft and fore engine rooms via the stuffing boxes in the bulkheads. This meant that the flooding became substantially more extensive than indicated by the original damage. Based on the flooding of the gear room, it was decided to prepare for evacuation.
Read the AIBN’s preliminary report and safety recommendations at the bottom of the page at this link.

I don't think it can be understated that in long periods of peace, the hard lessons of what it takes to keep a ship afloat when damaged can easily be forgotten or at best placed on the unfunded priorities list. It is one of the most important fights a peacetime navy has when designing its ships.

Over and over again we see where the skimpers win - and the results feed more fire, flooding, death, and sinkings. For someone who has a record of being a fan of the NANSEN, if it comes out that from a damage control point of view this is a flawed design - then let's bring out the details in public, gibbeted for all to see. 

At least with the HELGE INSTAD, if this bears out, then these lessons will only be learned with the loss of a ship, and not the death of Sailors. I would also place a bet that somewhere there is a Norwegian marine engineer saying, "I told you so!"

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