Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Miami Scrapped

Navy Times website (1) reports that the submarine USS Miami, SSN-755, which was extensively damaged in a drydock fire set by a disgruntled civilian worker will be scrapped rather than repaired.  Repairs were estimated to cost $400M-$500M.  Though expensive, the repairs were considerably cheaper than the cost of a new construction Virginia class submarine replacement which would be around $2.5B.  The Navy now claims that the repairs would have a negative impact on maintenance of other ships.

The fire and the resulting incredibly extensive damage raises the question of the effectiveness of automated damage control given that the Navy is committed to a path of minimal manning and automated damage control for its major combatants.  I have no idea what level of automated firefighting systems Miami contained and the situation is further confused by the fact that the ship was in drydock so I don’t know to what degree, if any, the firefighting systems may have been inactivated.  However, if the systems were comprehensive and on-line, the rapid spread of the fire and the extreme difficulty in extinguishing it does not bode well for the Navy’s assumptions about automated firefighting.  I’ve stated before that my experience with industrial automated firefighting shows that the systems rarely work as intended.  At the very least, this incident has to make one wonder about the wisdom of the Navy’s path.


  1. This is why I believe the US Navy should have gotten some SSK's to bolster their SSN Force. It would have been used to protect CONUS, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam.

  2. This shows how little money the repair budget has, one major accident and it will strip out most of the repair money. I was on a DDG when the USS Arthur W. Radford had its accident and the cost of those repairs cancelled many repairs and upgrades throughout the fleet.

  3. Nicky. Exactly what sort of threat will an SSK protect the CONUS, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam against?

    Bad guys don't tend to send battlegroups to those areas, other than the occasional Russian SSN. And an SSK is no match for an SSN in the open water.

    I can see some value in forward deploying a small number of SSKs in say Japan or the Middle East. But we don't need them defensively.

    1. Anon, setting aside the cost issue, SSKs could be quite useful in protecting key harbors, known approaches, and chokepoints - all shallow water applications and ideally suited for SSKs. The enemy would be forced to come to the SSK under conditions favoring the SSK. SSKs would not be a replacement for SSNs but a complement which would free up SSNs for longer range, deeper water operations.

      Do you see some value in that?


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