23 June 21. Duqm Naval Dockyard (DND), the Joint Venture between Babcock International and ASYAD Drydock (Oman Drydock Company), has completed a first of its kind double engine replacement for the Royal Navy in the Middle East. Undertaken at Asyad dry dock facility at Duqm, in Oman, this complex operation to replace the Forward Auxiliary Machinery Room generators was a package of more than 500 items, and enabled the Royal Navy to sustain operations within the region as the latest example of Babcock’s global reach. Part of an extensive fleet time support programme for HMS Montrose in the Middle East, the team also stripped back the flightdeck and fully repainted it; completed funnel cowling repairs; and built and tested a brand new, main shaft seal cofferdam. All activities during the eleven-week repair period were completed against the backdrop of strict COVID working protocols and challenging temperatures.
Will Erith, Babcock’s Marine Sector Chief Executive, said: “Once again, our Joint Venture team has supported the Royal Navy in Oman, delivering an on time, to cost comprehensive maintenance programme, including the first Forward Auxiliary Machinery Room double engine replacement in the Middle East. Our global support approach underpins the service we deliver whenever, wherever our customers require.”
Commander Collins, Commanding Officer, HMS Montrose, said: “As the Royal Navy continues to maintain a forward presence around the globe, utilising Duqm as an engineering and logistical hub has provided an outstanding opportunity to conduct improvements and upgrades to HMS Montrose. It ensures we can sustain operations at reach from the UK and reinforces our strong relationship with Oman.”
Duqm Naval Dockyard offers global navies a comprehensive repair and logistics hub to support operations at reach and for sustained periods.
23 June 21. WFEL to supply Philippine Army with Rapidly Deployable DSB Mobile Military Bridges. UK Military Bridge manufacturer, WFEL, is to supply a number of its Dry Support Bridges (DSB) to the Philippine Army under the Horizon 2 phase of the revised AFP Modernisation Programme.
The DSB systems can be deployed in around 90 minutes to provide temporary infrastructure and will be supplied with pedestrian walkways, for use in Disaster Relief operational situations, as well as other military scenarios. The Philippine Army, having a choice of launch vehicle chassis for its bridges, opted for the Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) 45m 10 x 10 systems.
Intended for use by the Philippine Combat Engineers, the Dry Support Bridges will be manufactured at WFEL’s production facility in Stockport, UK; delivery will begin during 2023.
An Integrated Logistics Support package is also included in the contract for this new Combat Engineering Equipment, ensuring back-up and support from WFEL’s Technical Engineering Teams and giving confidence to the Combat Engineers of continued through-life support and spares availability.
Ian Anderton, WFEL’s Managing Director, commented, “We warmly welcome the Philippine Army into our ever-growing user base of DSB Military Bridging Systems. We are proud of the fact that the Dry Support Bridge is the world’s most technically advanced, rapidly deployable military bridge of its type and has proven its worth in both Combat and Disaster Relief situations time after time.
“By adopting the Dry Support Bridge, the Philippine Army is ensuring it has the future capability to quickly manoeuvre across wet and dry gaps in complex, physical terrain, including man-made gaps, ravines and rivers, as efficiently as possible and under the widest possible operational scenarios.”
With a 120 tonnes Military Load Classification, the Dry Support Bridge was initially designed and developed by WFEL for the US Army. Offering full interoperability with any other DSB bridging system, it has been adopted by various countries worldwide, including USA, Turkey and Australia. Switzerland has also acquired a number of Dry Support Bridges and is known to have extensively deployed the DSB as temporary infrastructure following flooding and other natural disasters.
This increasing worldwide user-base provides an off-the-shelf, low risk military bridging solution. The DSB is currently being evaluated by UK MoD as a replacement for their BR90 bridging systems.
21 Jun 21. U.S. Navy’s Deadliest New Subs Are Hobbled by Spare-Parts Woes. The U.S. Navy has swapped more than 1,600 parts among its new Virginia-class submarines since 2013 to ease maintenance bottlenecks as components that are supposed to last 33 years wear out decades sooner.
Parts are being shuttled regularly among the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines so that vessels in the $166bn class built by General Dynamics Corp. and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. can return to operations, according to data from the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Congressional Budget Office.
The 48-ship Virginia class is the pillar of the Navy’s undersea strategy into the second half of the 21st century to counter China’s growing surface fleet, with increasing firepower in each succeeding model, or “block.” The subs can stalk underseas adversaries with torpedoes, strike surface vessels or attack land targets with Tomahawk cruise missiles while staying on patrol for months. The parts problem is a readiness issue “that goes with the overall concern that the Navy is not investing enough in maintenance, supply chains and shipyard infrastructure,” said Bryan Clark, a former special assistant to the chief of naval operations. Clark, who’s now a naval analyst with the Hudson Institute, said “the Navy may have been too slow to act on indications that some components were wearing out faster.”
Congress has continually pushed the Navy to increase construction rates for the Virginia class from two vessels a year to three. If a part isn’t available for a sub that’s finishing refurbishment, shipyard maintenance workers may be forced to borrow, or “cannibalize,” one from a submarine entering maintenance in order to reduce delays. Most cannibalized parts are for non-propulsion electronic systems, but the Navy declined to specify which ones are affected, citing operational security.
The number of swapped parts for the submarines, which began entering service in 2004, increased from 100 in 2013 to 171 in 2016, 201 in 2018 and 452 in 2019 before declining to 318 last year. The Navy projects the number will drop to 82 between this year and next.
The big disadvantage of cannibalizing parts from one submarine to another is the extra workload involved, according to the Congressional Budget Office, as well as the risk that a part might be damaged during the extra steps. The Navy doesn’t know how much the swaps add to workload, saying that at this point “there is limited range and depth of data.”
The parts-swapping problem is in addition to delays in delivery of the submarine’s newest model, the Government Accountability Office said in an assessment this month. The potential 12-vessel “Block V” version of the submarine “is already costing more than expected,” the GAO said.
The Defense Department’s fiscal 2022 request would fund the 35th and 36th vessels. The latest models will have an enlarged capacity for 65 torpedo-sized weapons, up from 37 today. By fiscal 2028, the Navy wants to deploy hypersonic weapons on the Virginia class.
Although some components expected to last for the life of a sub “have failed sooner than expected, the Virginia Class submarine design changes were revolutionary and forward-thinking” and the acquisition strategy offers “the ability to make reliability improvements in later blocks,” the Naval Sea Systems Command said in a statement.
Some parts identified to last 33 years based on engineering analysis and testing,“were subject to degradation” such as “corrosion caused by complex galvanic interactions,” or when two dissimilar metals or electrical parts come in contact for an extended period of time, “that had not been predicted in some operating environments,” the Navy said.
The Navy’s submarine leaders are “not satisfied with any material cannibalization that limits our submarine fleet’s ability to respond to national tasking and is taking all steps necessary to avoid these scenarios,” the command said. It said it is ordering parts earlier to “reduce material work stoppages and maintenance delays awaiting components.”
According to the Navy, 70% of the part swaps were between Block I subs that first entered service in 2004 and Block II vessels initially delivered in 2008.
Flaws in contractor quality and parts that were out of specification “contribute to a small percentage” of premature parts wear, the Navy said.
Liz Power, a spokesperson for Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics, said in an email, “We work closely with the Navy to help it address any unanticipated issues with parts, to include initiatives to design improvements that can be applied to future boats.”
Brent Sadler, a 26-year Navy veteran with extensive tours on nuclear-powered submarines, said his “assessment is that operational assumptions were off in the design.” He said “suppliers may have made modifications to the materials after design without considering” potential corrosion that “resulted in rapid failure of specific parts.”
It’s “not clear what steps Navy has taken to address the root cause of this situation, which to me is the most important aspect of this,” said Sadler, who’s now a naval fellow at the Heritage Foundation. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Bloomberg)