Surface Forces: Burkes Bust Bulkheads In Heavy Seas

October 21, 2007: The U.S. Navy has discovered that all of its 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are subject to bent bulkhead (the metal walls that separate watertight compartments) beams in the bow (front of the ship) because the ships, when slamming through high waves in stormy weather, and carrying maximum load, put too much pressure on those metal parts. As these ships return from sea, they are being examined, and metal parts found to be bent, are repaired and reinforced, to prevent that from happening again. The bent bulkheads make the ship more likely to sink if it is damaged (by a missile, or running into a rock or another ship).

The Arleigh Burkes began entering service in 1991, and cost about a billion dollars each. These 9,200 ton ships are the largest "destroyers" ever built, and carry two helicopters, plus 90 vertical cells for launching anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine or cruise missiles. There are also six torpedo tubes, two 20mm Phalanx anti-missile guns, and one five inch gun. Also carried is the Aegis radar system, which can be configured for dealing with ballistic missiles. These destroyers weigh as much as World War II cruisers, and possess far more firepower.

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