working and collaborating with regional maintenance
centers, which perform repairs as well as corrective
and preventative maintenance.
“The better you maintain the less you have to do for
repair,” he said.
While his office takes on the role of “modernizer,” it
works “collaboratively” with the regional repair centers to track the readiness of the ships, Graham said.
Preparing a plan for a midlife overhaul of amphibious ships entails several years of coming up with recommendations and a list of priorities.
“Our largest collaborative forum is an operational
advisory group. That is an opportunity for the warfighter
or the waterfront fleet personnel … to go over the challenges that they have seen out there,” Graham said.
“Some things are just a change in a doctrine or maintenance procedure, but when you get to a point where you
change hardware on the ship … that is when we step in.”
The latest advisory forum took place at the beginning of July.
Meanwhile, Graham’s office is working to increase the
lifespan of the Whidbey Island ships. He said the Navy
plans to overhaul 12 ships in the class at a price of $100
million each, with an additional $40 million to $50 million per vessel for corrective maintenance and repair work.
The Navy is mainly tackling mechanical and electrical systems in the ships’ hulls, but also is working on
mission-enhancement and survivability issues.
Each ship will receive a new propulsion load-management unit, which allows it to operate more efficiently as it propels through the ocean. It basically is
more modern technology that provides for a more proficient interface between the ship’s engine and propellers.
The new technology helps the ship go faster and saves
about 8 percent in fuel consumption, Graham said.
The dock landing ships also will be outfitted with
new air conditioning units, and all the steam heating
(for cooking and laundry) will be replaced with an
electric heating system.
“That is a huge manpower reducer for the ship as far
as maintaining all those steam systems and operating a
boiler on primarily a diesel ship,” Graham said.
The ship’s helm unit also is being replaced with modern control systems, as well as new control consoles for
the propulsion engine and electrical generators.
As far as increasing ship survivability, the Navy conducts a so-called inclining experiment by which a ship
is measured and a weight is placed in it to see how
much it keels over to determine the stress on the structure from loading and offloading equipment.
This is especially important as ships handle new
cargo that is urgently needed by ground forces. A key
example is the very heavy, up-armored Humvees and
the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles needed
An MV- 22 Osprey attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor
Squadron 263 takes to the air from the flight deck of the
multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Wasp Sept. 29,
2007, in the Mediterranean Sea.
to protect Marines and Soldiers from improvised
explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Having the incline information will help to load up
the ship smartly,” Graham said.
Additionally, the Navy is replacing the control system of the crane that places assault boats into the
water, which Graham called a “pretty valuable tool.”
Meanwhile, plans are under way to make changes to
the Wasp class LHDs so they can accommodate the V-
22. The changes involve providing storage for new
parts as well the machinery needed to support the aircraft on deck. USS Wasp, Essex and Bataan already have
deployed with the Osprey.
It costs about $45 million per ship to make the
adjustments to accommodate the V- 22, Graham said.
The actual midlife maintenance on the ships will start
in fiscal 2013.
The service’s newest amphibious class, the San Antonio
amphibious transport dock ship, has a couple decades to
go before it needs extensive midlife maintenance.
Meanwhile, the oldest amphibious class, the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ships (LHAs), already had its
major overhaul and two of the original five LHAs have
been decommissioned. The America class LHA will
replace the Tarawa class after 2013 and increase the aviation capacity of future big deck amphibious ships in order
to maximize the Navy’s investment in future aircraft.
The America class, also known as the LHA
Replacement, is the next step in the incremental development of the “big-deck amphib.” The class is being
designed to accommodate the Marine Corps’ future aviation combat element — including the F-35B and MV- 22
Osprey — with additional aviation maintenance capability and increased fuel capacity, while also providing more
cargo stowage capacity and a broader, more flexible command and control capability. ■