The U.S. Navy is spending millions of dollars to repair new high-speed transport ships built by Austal Ltd. because their weak bows can’t stand buffeting from high seas, according to the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester.
“The entire ship class requires reinforcing structure” to bridge the twin hulls of the all-aluminum catamarans because of a design change that the Navy adopted at Austal’s recommendation for the $2.1 billion fleet of Expeditionary Fast Transports, Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, said in a report to Congress.
“The Navy accepted compromises in the bow structure, presumably to save weight, during the building of these ships,” Gilmore wrote lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, in a September letter that wasn’t previously disclosed. “Multiple ships of the class have suffered damage to the bow structure.”The speedy catamarans are designed to transport 600 short tons of military cargo and as many as 312 troops for 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots. They’ve been deployed to Africa and the Middle East as well as to Singapore as part of the U.S.’s Pacific rebalance and are being considered by military officials for expanded use there by the Marines. The vessels fill a transport gap between larger, slower vessels and cargo aircraft.
The vessel’s latest sea tests also were marred by the poor reliability of generators made by Fincantieri SpA that supply electrical power, according to Gilmore. The generators failed “at a much greater rate than predicted.”
Required to operate 8,369 hours between major failures, the generators failed as soon as 208 hours at some points, improving to 1,563 hours in the most recent tests.
Fincantieri spokesman Antonio Autorino said in an e-mail that “the concerns described in the report have been resolved and this information was provided to the Navy, yet was not included in the report.”
Full article: New Navy Ships Have Trouble Surviving the High Seas (BloombergBusiness)