Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Another Breakdown - Zumwalt This Time

This is starting to get ridiculous.  The Navy seems unable to build ships that don’t suffer frequent propulsion system breakdowns.  The latest breakdown is the Zumwalt which suffered apparent seawater intrusion into parts of the system (1).  Details are still sketchy. 

“Both of the shafts locked during the passage and the transit had to be completed with tugs. The ship made minor contact with lock walls in the canal resulting in minor cosmetic damage.”

This was not the first incident for the ship.

“The latest casualty follows an incident in September following the ship’s transit from shipbuilder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Maine to Naval Station Norfolk, Va. in which the crew discovered “a seawater leak in the propulsion motor drive lube oil auxiliary system for one of the ship’s shafts,” the Navy told USNI News at the time.”


“Following its Oct. 15 commissioning, Zumwalt suffered additional unspecified engineering trouble around the time arrived at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. and spent extra time repairing and testing the propulsion system, USNI News understands.

Recall that seawater in lube oil systems is a problem that has plagued the LCS, as well.  The Navy seems unable to keep seawater out the engineering systems.

While I have no problem with occasional engineering breakdowns, the frequency and repetitiveness of the problems across multiple ship types suggests a systemic design/quality problem.  I bet that warranty that the Navy steadfastly refuses to demand from the shipbuilders is starting to look pretty appealing of late, huh?  How many hundreds of millions of dollars have we spent repairing engineering casualties on brand new ships?

Maybe the Navy will issue orders for yet another safety and engineering stand down, cause, you know, those are so effective.

The Navy is so focused on building shiny new ships that they’re totally ignoring the fact that the ones they have can’t seem to stay at sea for more than a week or two without breaking down.  Could the Navy’s priorities be wrong, he asked incredulously?


(1)USNI News website, “Updated: USS Zumwalt Sidelined in Panama Following New Engineering Casualty”, Sam LaGrone, 22-Nov-2016,


  1. Maybe instead of building land based engineering plant test facility in Philly, we should have tested this new fangled system at sea.

    Prototype, prototype, prototype! THEN put in production.

    1. When it was proposed back in the 1910’s that the USN used turbine/electric drive for its Battleships the Navy refused. They instead built 3 large coaling ships, one with steam reciprocating, one with direct drive turbines and one with turbine/electric drive to test out the ideas. The last one was USS Jupiter, later renamed the USS Langley the first US Aircraft Carrier

      They then built the New Mexico Class with the named ship having turbine/electric drive and the other two direct drive turbines. But the New Mexico was given the same internal layout as the other two ships so that if the turbine/electric drive did not work out then they could replace it with a direct drive setup.

      It was not until the Tennessee Class and the following Colorado class that they put the turbine/electric set up in a way that was best for such a system.

      So the Navy used to know how to do things step by step, testing things out before basing an entire class of ships on untried tech.

      The Jupiter/Langley managed to successfully test out the ideas of both turbine/electric propulsion and Aircraft Carriers

  2. What is this $192 million contract with BAE for?


    1. The Navy opted to issue an incomplete contract for the construction of Zumwalt. The major portion of the construction contract got the ship to the point it's at now. Now, the ship is headed to the West Coast where it will be completed. This contract covers the cost of the completion including the combat system installation and correction of all the deficiencies noted during trials, among other things.

      It's a really goofy way to build a ship and obscures the true cost of construction. Further, the ship is commissioned in the US Navy which means that it is supposed to be ready to fight and yet it is not combat capable.

  3. Does this make 100% casualty rate within first year of operation for all newly constructed vessels barring Burkes?
    Can't find a list but i think we're getting close to that. And I'm not talking about minor issues, which must happen on every ship, I'm talking about catastrophic, get the tug, cause we aint going anywhere casualty.

  4. This is just awful isn’t it.

    I think the worst bit for me, is that I assumed it was to do with the integrated electric propulsion.

    Finding that it’s to do with the inappropriate ingress of sea water is shocking (LOL). Now I’m not specifically a marine engineer, just a standard land based variant, but water getting into your boat is bad right?

    And by that I mean, I think this is a pretty basic issue.

    It also bothers me that both shafts locked. I was under the impression that 2 shafts = no “single point of failure”?

    I have generally been a Zumwalt supporter, but I’m getting the feeling I’m backing a dead donkey yet again!


    1. One of the curious aspects of the Zumwalt development and construction is that no one outside of this blog is giving the program much scrutiny and, because of that, I too am limited in the amount of analysis I can provide. By comparison, the LCS was subjected to an incredibly intense scrutiny.

      Why? Why has the Zumwalt been given an almost free pass? I have no idea. I just know that the Zumwalt undoubtedly has myriad problems, just like the LCS, but no one seems interested in them. Rest assured, I'll keep looking for information (bad or good!) on the Zumwalt.

    2. "ingress of sea water is shocking"

      Good one!

    3. With Zumwalt and LCS having issues that remind me of the auto industry in '78, I wonder if the new 'Burkes coming off the ways might have quality issues. They too are given a free pass since they are an existing design, but now I'm not so sure they warrant one.

      Beno, both shafts locking bothered me too. This sounds like an expensive fix.

      And one of the major selling points of a hybrid electric drive is that things are easier to compartmentalize. How did they have one point of failure?

    4. There are only 3 Zumwalts, so I guess they don't get as much scrutiny and the program is not going on.

    5. True, however the total cost of the Zumwalt program is somewhere in the vicinity of $24B and counting. That would buy 40+ LCS (neglecting the LCS R&D costs) so that would suggest that a commensurate degree of scrutiny is warranted. A program cost of $24B+ and a very limited combat role is a program that OUGHT to be looked at much closer!

  5. Some will remember that I had my share of concerns about the Zumwalt after the New Light Weight Mafia got it6's hands on the DD-1000. Many key design elements where changed by the DoD's MBAs for various reasons. These include making the hull smaller so that the Gas Turbine could be changes to Rolls Royce's Gas Turbines from the navy's standard LM2500. And going AC inductive motor verse the permanent magnet motors that were far simpler to designs and control. And finally increase is using common components (hence your single failure path)

    1. I don't remember, specifically, but good for you! Now, we need others to see what you're seeing. Keep me updated if you see items, good or bad, pertinent to the Zumwalt. Thanks!

  6. I'm so old I remember the LPD-17's saga with contaminated lube oil. And it's first deployment, when it landed in Bahrain for weeks--if not months?

    It's a problem that predates LCS

    1. "I'm so old I remember the LPD-17's saga with contaminated lube oil."

      You're young! I remember the Monitor and Merrimac's lube oil problems.


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