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Surface Forces: Aging Ships and Running Men
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September 1, 2008: The U.S. Navy has begun a refurbishment program for its 22 cruisers. Costing some $200 million per ship, the work will extend the life of these ships another five years (to 35 years), while improving performance and living conditions. New equipment, both electronic and mechanical, will take up less space, enabling the installation of more amenities for the crew (like gyms, larger living quarters and the like). One of the new items to be installed is a reverse-osmosis water purification system, that will make more potable water available. This is a big deal, as it means more showers, which will be necessary for all those sailors spending time on the new treadmills in the new gym. Staying in shape has always been a hassle at sea, but is particularly critical now that the navy is strictly enforcing weight limits and physical conditioning standards. Much of the new equipment will include more automation, and more reliability. That will mean a lower workload for the crew, and but not a reduction in the size of the crew.

The navy is planning a similar upgrade program for its 70 Burke class destroyers, extending their useful life from 35 to 40 years. This is necessary because the new class of  DDG-1000 destroyers has been cancelled, and the new frigates (er, Littoral Combat Ships, that is) are delayed because of design problems and cost overruns.


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