Navy increases capacity, capability, survivability of surface fleet
By ROXANA TIRON, Special Correspondent
Particularly, amphibious lift “will
have my highest attention as we
address it in the ongoing Quadrennial Defense Review,” he told
Senate defense appropriators in a
June 5 hearing.
“We can meet operational demands today but we are stretched in
our ability to meet additional operational demands while taking care of
our people, conducting essential
platform maintenance to ensure our
fleet reaches its full service life, and
modernizing and procuring the Navy
for tomorrow,” Roughead said.
Therefore, the new management
office “will execute the complex task of maximizing the
material readiness of our current fleet by ensuring every
ship in our inventory is ready to respond to their missions today, tomorrow and well into the 21st century,”
Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, commander of Naval Sea
Systems Command, said in a May 8 Navy statement
announcing the new office.
The Navy already has started to methodically perform
maintenance on amphibious ships that have reached
midlife, and the service is setting the stage to tackle ships
that will reach midlife during the next several years.
The major challenge it is facing with ships that have
been in the fleet for about 20 years is making the necessary technology upgrades and addressing obsolescence issues, Capt. Michael Graham, the program
manager for mine amphibious auxiliary and command
ships, told Seapower.
The Navy’s main focus now is on two classes of amphibious ships. It has started a midlife maintenance program on the Whidbey Island class of dock landing ships
(LSDs), and is starting to do work on the Wasp-class
amphibious assault ships (LHDs), primarily so those ships
can accommodate V- 22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, he said.
Graham also does not discount the importance of
The Navy is modernizing and performing maintenance on the
Whidbey Island and Wasp classes of amphibious ships.
■ Among the Whidbey Island upgrades are a new propulsion load-management unit, new air conditioning and an electric heating system.
■ Cargo-handling improvements on the Wasp class will enable the
ships to accommodate up-armored Humvees and Mine Resistant
Ambush Protected vehicles.
■ Changes to the Wasp-class ships are aimed at accommodating
the V- 22 Osprey.
The U.S. Navy is ramping up maintenance of its amphibious ships to ensure the fleet is mission- capable for several more decades.
Service officials have signaled that performing aggressive maintenance, particularly when the ships reach half
their lifespan, is essential to the Navy’s goal of eventually having a 313-ship fleet. And while new ships are part
of the plan, breathing new life into existing vessels is
key, Navy officials say.
Ships are being retooled to accommodate new
cargo, ranging from bomb-resistant heavy vehicles to
the V- 22 Osprey and the F- 35 Lightning II, formerly
known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
The midlife maintenance plan on amphibious ships
also jibes with a new Navy initiative to highlight the
importance of assessing and managing maintenance
requirements of surface ships throughout their service
lives. The Navy recently stood up the Surface Ship Life
Cycle Management Activity Office in Portsmouth, Va. The
impact of the office will be seen in the service’s ability to
better plan and budget for long-term maintenance needs.
As Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations,
told Congress earlier this summer, “The stress on our
platforms and equipment is increasing.”