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Subject: broken ships
stinger    4/21/2008 4:35:23 AM
Most of the missiles couldn't be fired, and neither could any of the big guns. The Aegis radars key to the ships' fighting abilities didn't work right. The cruiser Chosin, above, along with the destoryer Stout, were found unfit for combat operations. (U.S. Navy) The flight decks were inoperable. Related TopicsAmericas Naval Warfare Most of the lifesaving gear failed inspection. Corrosion was rampant, and lube oil leaked all over. The verdict: "unfit for sustained combat operations." Those results turned up by an inspection by the U.S. Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey - commonly known as an InSurv - would be bad enough if they came from one warship. But they came from two. In different fleets, in different oceans. Within a week of each other. And each ship represents the Navy's most sophisticated front-line surface combatants. "This is worse than I remember seeing," a recently retired surface flag officer said after reading the reports of InSurv inspections conducted in March aboard the Norfolk, Va.-based destroyer Stout and the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii-based cruiser Chosin. "I don't remember seeing two that stood out like these." Copies of both reports were obtained by Navy Times. "I don't think I have ever seen anything so bad," said retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded the cruiser Hue City, a sister ship of the Chosin. "The aggregate number of discrepancies is disturbing, particularly in the Combat Systems area," another former senior officer said. The retired admiral went further. "There's enough commonality between the two to make me think there's an endemic problem in the force," he said. Navy Times was unable to reach the commanding officer of the Stout, and Navy officials did not make him available for comment. The CO of Chosin also could not be reached. Naval professionals know the point of an InSurv is to list and detail all known problems with a ship's physical condition, but these two reports are exceptional. "InSurv is by its nature an inspection that will always reveal a fairly large number of deficiencies, hopefully most of them minor," said retired Capt. Jan van Tol, who commanded a destroyer and an amphibious assault ship. "However, the scale and scope of the deficiencies, spread across all of the ship's departments and including the [executive officer] and command master chief, suggests that there is a severe and long-standing problem with low standards; low initiative in finding/fixing/managing problems and following up on documented problems; poorly managed programs; and an apparent inability to train junior people in material management." High-ranking officers now are searching for what led to the problems revealed by the two inspections. "There's a discussion active inside the community about self-assessment issues and processes," said Capt. David Lewis, the assistant chief of staff for maintenance and engineering with Naval Surface Forces in San Diego. Lewis pointed out that a great number of the problems on the two ships were known even before the inspections. But the InSurvs turned up more problems than were expected. "The thing that popped at me was the volume of the discrepancies. Normally, we don't get that much on a given ship," he said. Stout, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer - or DDG - was particularly afflicted by corrosion, which Lewis said has become a problem on all ships of that type. "DDGs have a corrosion trend, we are seeing that more and more," Lewis said. "We are starting to address that in our work batches for depot-level repair. It's in areas that are generally hard for ship's force to get into, places they don't go routinely. Uptakes and that kind of stuff." The ships' material condition was not due to lack of funds, Lewis said. "We are 100 percent funded to our requirement for maintenance," he said. Among the issues leading to the ships' condition is that they both recently returned from deployments, said Capt. Pete Gumataotao, chief of staff for Naval Surface Forces. Overhaul periods already were planned for the ships, he said. But under the Fleet Response Plan, ships returning from deployment remain in readiness status for some time, and often are considered "surge-ready" for several months before standing down for a shipyard period. Lewis also noted the ships are entering mid-life. "Stout is an earlier DDG and due for a mid-life upgrade in about four years," he said of the 14-year-old destroyer. The Chosin, commissioned in 1991, is scheduled for an upgrade under the cruiser modernization program. Based on calculations in the most recent 30-year fleet plan, Chosin is meant to remain in service for 35 years, or until about 2026. The Stout and its sister ships are to last for 40 years - until 2034, in the Stout's case. How common? The InSurv inspectors pore over about 45 to 50 ships a year. Forty-seven ships underwent the inspections in 2007, Lewis said. Each ye
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