Monday, October 28, 2019

The Rot Starts At The Top

ComNavOps has long criticized Navy leadership and called – hopelessly – for their mass firing.  ComNavOps firmly believes that an organization’s character and characteristics start at, and are derived from, the top.  An organization takes on the attributes of its leaders, good or bad.

Navy leadership has, once again, shown its true, deplorable, colors.  Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer  – you remember him, right? the guy who promised Trump that he could fire him if the Ford’s elevators weren’t fixed by the end of summer? – has now come out and blamed Congress and anyone else he could think of for the Ford’s problems.  Let’s take a look at his alternate reality view of the world, as reported by USNI News.

The problem starts with Spencer utterly failing to understand where he and the Navy stand in the United States government scheme of things.

Spencer called out Congress, who he refers to as his “board of directors, …” (1)

Mr. Spencer (I’ll forego giving him the courtesy of addressing him by his title since, by his own statement to the President, he has forfeited his right to the title), let me set you straight.  Congress is not your ‘board of directors’.  Congress is the people of the United States and, as such, YOU WORK FOR THEM.  THEY ARE YOUR BOSS.  You are subservient and serve at the pleasure of the people.  Now that we have that most fundamental of understandings cleared up …

Spencer was, apparently, especially upset with comments and questions from Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) who referred to the Ford as a “$13-billion nuclear-powered floating berthing barge” during a House Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing. (1)  Spencer’s response was,

“Not one of her comments was, how can I help?” Spencer said. “I consider that disparaging. (1)

Apparently, Mr. Spencer has utterly forgotten that Rep. Luria and the rest of Congress gave Spencer and the Navy over $10B dollars to build the Ford – all the money that Navy said they needed.  Then, when the Navy failed to properly do that, Luria and Congress gave the Navy several billion dollars more and obligingly increased the spending cap multiple times!  As delays and costs have continued to mount, Luria and Congress have continued to supply Spencer and the Navy with ever more money and time.  How much more helpful can they be, Mr. Spencer?  They did everything you asked and backed you up and supported you when you failed, time after time.  

What Congress did wrong was to aid and abet the Navy as they built their floating debacle.  What they should have done was refuse to give the Navy any more money past the original budget request until those in the Navy who were responsible for that original failure were fired.  Perhaps that would have motivated the next set of program managers to perform better and more honestly.

By the way, lest you think Rep. Luria is an uninformed, know-nothing, Congressional hack, you should know that she is a retired nuclear-trained surface warfare officer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate.  That is some top notch qualifications. 

Apparently, Spencer believes that anyone who has the temerity to ask questions is ‘disparaging’.  I guess Mr. Spencer does not know that Congress’ job is to exercise oversight AND ASK QUESTIONS.  In fact, if Congress had exercised more extensive and effective oversight maybe Ford wouldn’t be such a disaster.

Here is Luria’s statement on the matter,

“I find it disappointing that the Secretary finds Congressional oversight disparaging. Here are the facts: The USS Ford will be six years delayed in its initial deployment, which causes incredible strain on the carrier fleet. Secretary Spencer himself promised the President that the weapons elevators would be fully functional by the end of this past summer. It is now fall and no elevators accessing the ammunition storage areas are functioning, which results in a carrier with no combat capability. I have yet to see a detailed plan to fix the multitude of problems with these new technologies. The Navy accepted the design of these systems and accepted the ship in an incomplete state from HII so it is absolutely my role to question Navy leadership on their current failure to deliver an operational ship to the fleet.” (1)

She could not be more on point.

Spencer also blames Congressional cost caps.

Spencer added it was Congress that placed a price cap on the carrier’s construction. The result, Spencer said, was that contractors made production decisions focused on saving money. (1)

Mr. Spencer again betrays both his ignorance and his total absence from reality.  The cost caps were established by the Navy’s cost estimates as supplied to Congress.  If the cost caps were inadequate, it was because the Navy lied utterly failed to accurately predict the costs.  In fact, Congress has increased the cost cap twice beyond the original cap, from $10.5B to $11.8B to $12.9B, as the Navy has blown through each cap (which leads one to ask what the point of a cost cap is if it’s simply raised every time the budget is exceeded – but, I digress …) .  Apparently, Mr. Spencer believes that it is Congress’ job to give him unlimited money.

Mr. Spencer, instead of disparaging Congress and trying to tell them how to do their jobs, why don’t you do yours?

Mr. Spencer has already demonstrated that his word is worthless, now he’s demonstrating that he’s living in some kind of twisted, alternate reality.

It’s no wonder the Navy is in the shape it’s in.  It’s no wonder that the Navy works harder at evading and circumventing Congress than they do at preparing to defend the country.  It comes from the top.

The rot starts at the top and the top is rotten.

Mr. Spencer, show us you have a tiny modicum of integrity and resign, as you vowed to do.  You promised, you failed, now do it like you said corporate America does and resign.




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(1)USNI News website, “SECNAV Spencer Rebuts Congressional Criticism of Ford Carrier Program”, Ben Werner, 23-Oct-2019,
https://news.usni.org/2019/10/23/secnav-spencer-rebutts-congressional-criticism-of-ford-carrier-program

54 comments:

  1. The most criminal thing Spencer did was last year when he worked to pressure Congress to begin funding the third and fourth Ford knowing the design is severely flawed. And what about the 2nd Ford that will be completed soon. Will our Navy short of sailors fully man that ship knowing it will not be deployable for years, if ever?

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  2. To understand the Congressman's comment that the Ford is a "berthing barge." Hundreds who joined our navy to serve four years were assigned to the Ford and never went anywhere, and have been discharged already. Some easy sea duty pay.

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    1. Well hopefully they werent actually getting sea pay. I made a couple deployments >100 days due to them restructuring the auxilliarys schedules for "lower maintenance costs", and due to them being shorter, we didnt get sea pay, and werent eligable for additional sea service ribbons... So if spending months in the Med and months freezing in the Adriatic dont count, those Ford sailors(??) damn sure better not be getting those perks!!!!

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    2. Back in the early 80's, the USS Enterprise CVN 65 underwent an overhaul. It was supposed to last a year. It ended up taking 3 years. Us yardworkers jokingly called her Building 65.

      Also, I know of many sailors who were assigned to the Enterprise, who never went to sea.

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  3. Spot on CNO.

    What has me worried is the lack of information concerning the elevators and now this attack on asking questions....which leads me to believe there's more bad news and not much of a solution....why is it taking so long to install and calibrate (fix?) them? What was he told or did he lie when he said that they would be ready this fall? Who dropped the ball? Now, we hearing 2024 deployment, that's inadmissible and still no shock testing until when? Second of class? Third? Fourth? Never???? Why, are these things made out of glass or steel???

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  4. In somewhat related news, Breaking Defense has a good post on all Eastern Coast carriers being in port and facing some trouble to replace the one in the Gulf. Why bother having carriers or even building more if you cant get them out to sea? And that's not even bothering with air wings! Also, seems like USMC is pushing to use the amphibs with F35Bs as "replacements", I doubt USN will appreciate that....

    Sorry, cant post the link. Just check it out on BD.

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  5. Exactly right CNO!!! This debacle should create an absolute harvest of rolling heads. The complete lack of accountability for this mess is beyond disturbing!! The follow-on ships should have been cancelled after the second unit. Is it too late???

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    1. Shoot, the follow ons shouldn't have been ordered in my book till we knew for sure Ford worked but we know concurrency never fails and always works!!!

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  6. Hello CNO. This comment is not related to this article, but your earlier comments on backing up words with actions. I have come across the Korean Poplar Tree incident of August 18, 1976 and Operation Paul Bunyan. Plainly Difficult has a concise video of the event on Youtube. I thought it illustrates your point well.

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    1. Yes, there are many such incidents that offer relevant examples. The shame is that there are so many.

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  7. I'm sorry? Are you expecting the president to fire someone who's been criticised by a Democrat who's a expert on the issue? And played the victim in response?

    Spencer has demonstrated that he's in tune with the president's policies, and is making a bid for promotion within the administration.

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  8. Good post. What an ongoing shambles with no end in sight. What's next?

    I missed your "board of directors" point. If SecNav is the equivalent of the COO of a division (Navy) of the company (Dept of Defense) then the reference to congress being the Board of Directors holding his feet to the fire is apt. The President would be the Chairman of the Board in that metaphor. Its an imperfect metaphor but that's how I read his comments.

    Where it breaks down is I've never met a COO that is that dumb/aggressive when talking to his bosses.

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  9. A good post, but the Ford Class still represents a huge financial investment that shouldn't be allowed to continue. CVN-79 is expected to cost about $11B. CVN-80 and -81, in a two-ship contract, are expected to cost about $10B each. We can't afford to build another 6 to 7 $10B aircraft carriers without affecting other shipbuilding needs. We need resume building the Nimitz-class, incorporating new technology wherever practical, while doing everything possible to reduce cost.

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    1. You are extremely optimistic about those costs! No one but the Navy thinks they'll come in at those price points.

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    2. Nimitz-class was maxed out on the margins, similar to the Burke, there was no more room for new technology. Navy needed a new design- but Navy did NOT need e-mag catapults, advanced arresting gear, e-mag elevators, and a Mongo dual band radar- none of which were finished with development before being included, hence this catastrophe.

      I'm amazed Spencer went before Congress like that, and still has a job.

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    3. "Nimitz-class was maxed out on the margins, similar to the Burke, there was no more room for new technology. Navy needed a new design"

      So it would seem. However, ponder this question … If the Nimitz was max'ed out on weight, how did the Forrestal, with 20,000 tons less displacement manage to carry as large or larger and heavier an air wing? Where's all the extra weight and displacement going? If it's not going to the air wing then you have to wonder if it's going to functions that contribute to combat?

      How did we operate an 80,000 ton Forrestal with the same air wing as a 100,000 ton Nimitz that was max'ed on weight? Something seems wrong with this picture.

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    4. Those extra ice cream machines do make a difference. Both their own weight and the extra mass it inspires on the sailors. I joke, but how much do extra amenities affect weight and space margins.

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    5. Growth margin on Nimitz-class is limited by electical power generation and by weight. From an old article online:

      The new system provides 2.5 times the electrical generation capacity of the Nimitz class, and it offers an electrical availability growth potential of 23 percent over planned CVNX consumption. Adm. Richardson compares this to the 10 to 12 percent growth margin designed in the original USS Nimitz.

      https://www.afcea.org/content/future-carrier-designed-evolution

      For weight, from a Naval Postgraduate School thesis:

      "Any inherent list imposes operational constraints on
      the ship, particularly when the carrier has embarked a full air-wing and full fuel loading (Combat Load Condition). Nimitz class carriers have a history of inherent starboard list, due primarily to the ship's configuration. History shows that modifications to the Nimitz class are have increased the inherent starboard list of each carrier"

      https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/36730228.pdf

      Forrestal was conventional, Nimitz is a nuke, I'm not a naval engineer (please correct my inaccuracies!), but I figure that makes some of the difference, and I assume that the rest of the weight difference is going (hopefully!) into greater fuel, weapons, food, maintenance, and everything else that makes up sustainability for the airwing and the ship's crew.

      I do strongly dislike that we have such small airwings that lack diversity on such large ships. I don't for a second buy the idea that we'll somehow load the carriers up with more jets in combat contingencies.

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    6. "How did we operate an 80,000 ton Forrestal with the same air wing as a 100,000 ton Nimitz that was max'ed on weight? Something seems wrong with this picture."

      Maybe sortie rates and fuel and food reserves? How many sorties of fuel did the old carriers have in reserve? And in weapons?

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  10. As bad as his view of his place in things and what he is it isn't a uncommon one.

    WAY to much of the government has become a "company" culture. Its over taking the Culture of the Military more and more.

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  11. The leadership is rotten. How do you circumvent the rot. The Ford has two major flaws (weapons elevators and EMALS) that completely hamstring the Ford and make it a berthing barge.
    Crash programs for both problems should be ordered by Congress run outside of the USN. DARPA could be used as the overseer of the various teams that would build and test the hardware on land based mockups of the weapons elevators and the catapults. The winner would get the contract for the improved equipment

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    1. Arguably four rather than two.

      You might consider adding AAG and power generation/management to your list. Neither are as reliable as they need to be in a warship.

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  12. Of course, the USN should have developed the technology for the catapults and the weapons elevators and had robust, full scale, production equipment developed before the Ford was laid down. They failed and should not be involved in the solution to the problem they created. Trying to fix the problem on ship is a continuation of the lack of leadership.

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    1. The Advanced Arresting gear and the radar are also failures that should be listed as major flaws. The combination of flawed systems makes it almost impossible for the Ford to complete a day of combat without needing repairs.

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    2. The problem beyond just the fixes is that USS Ford is coming across as very fragile or highly susceptible to major failures at the slightest hiccup, misalignment or just plain usage! Even when everything works eventually (maybe one day in a few years) it's hard to believe it will approach the hard usage and rapid rates of sorties the Nimitzs could put out...she will always be a hangar queen.

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    3. "Ford is coming across as very fragile "

      The Navy has been designing lighter and lighter ships. The Burkes needed reinforcement strakes welded on just to handle the normal sailing stresses. The LCS is built so light that the guns vibrate and the flight decks can't accommodate more than one -60 type helo. And now the Ford may be flexing, possibly due to lighter steel use.

      We're no longer building for rugged combat use. We're building cruise ships.

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    4. It appears they were wrong about thinner high strength steel plates being equivalent to the thicker slightly weaker steel plates. (100 ksi vs 115 ksi) No wonder they keep putting off the shock testing.

      "These improvements enabled Newport News
      Shipbuilding (NNS), Va., to use this new HSLA-115 (115
      ksi, or 793 MPa, yield strength) steel at reduced thickness,
      and, thus, reduced weight, while meeting all performance
      requirements for a critical structure application."


      https://www.asminternational.org/c/portal/pdf/download?articleId=AMP16909P21&groupId=10192

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    5. If you have a nuclear prime mover and you have a stability problem of too much top weight, why don't you design more steel in the keel and below the waterline? Increase the torpedo defenses. I can understand if you need to fill up with fuel oil that you may want to lighten the load a bit, but the carrier is splitting the atom.

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    6. "It appears they were wrong about thinner high strength steel plates being equivalent to the thicker slightly weaker steel plates."

      That is a possibility although it is far from clear that the steel selection is a problem. Do you have any reference that cites specific problems due to steel choice?

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    7. Not specific reference to the Ford, I doubt any will be published, but a general discussion about stiffness vs strength in metals.

      "Stiffness is proportional to the cube of the thickness. "

      Less thickness equals less stiffness. Less stiffness equals more deformation with a given force. Compare gold leaf vs a gold bar. Gold leaf is so thin that it can be deformed to cover complex geometric shapes with a brush but has the same strength as the gold in the bar.

      This is why honeycomb panels and corrugated cardboard exist. The stiffness is increased by changing the geometry( making the part thicker increase stiffness)

      https://www.thefabricator.com/thefabricator/article/metalsmaterials/the-differences-between-stiffness-and-strength-in-metal

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    8. It doesn't surprise me that there is increased structural flexing if they used thinner steel plate. The Ford elevator design should have had greater tolerances for the parts than the Nimitz design to deal with the increase in deformation. If they wanted to retain the same stiffness then the plates needed to have the geometry changed.

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    9. I don't know if the Ford design would work in a Nimitz either. It appears that the tolerances needed for the linear motors may be difficult to achieve on a ship that is not tied up to the dock. It might have made sense to install one of the prototype advanced weapons elevators on a Nimitz to see if there were unforeseen problems.

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  13. If the Forbes is right and it's structural flexing breaking the elevators, well that explains why it's not easy to fix. https://www.forbes.com/sites/craighooper/2019/10/16/the-navys-accountability-crisis-over-a-bet-ensnares-its-top-leader/#68557cbb1098

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    1. Posted that article when it came out. Been trying to find out more about this with little success. Trying to dig thru the older articles about elevator problems
      So far, it was all about alignment and problems with all the doors. I dont know if it was author hyperbole, just the same alignment problems or something "new". I'm not a naval engineer, so though for me to know. Ford has been just sitting around so are there less forces or different forces on the superstructure? Maybe you can calibrate the elevators in drydock but not on the sea? Or vice versa? What happens when Ford hits the waves hard, you lose the elevators? Hard to believe, only time will tell if we dont hear more details....

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  14. Another thought and really no way of knowing (just thinking out loud) but if we have the example of EMALS to go by, can personal work on 1 elevator while the other ones are working? Or just like EMALS, you have to de-energize all the elevators? Been wondering why it's taking so long with doors and alignments sure take time but could the problem be compounded by the requirement that everything has to be safely de-energized and how long does it take to spool everything up? Worse scenario is all the system is tied together so while you got the first 2 elevators working and you are working on the third one, you have to go back and make sure you haven't messed up the first 2 that were working....and then when 3 elevators are working, work on fourth one and make sure now all 4 work and on and on...that would take forever till you get all 11 working.....and again, how fragile and prone to crash the whole system would be.

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  15. So heres a question: The elevators, EMALS,AAG, and all the failing systems...who is the supplier? Maybe a more focused wrath is in order? Newport News is taking a beating as the assembler of this nightmare,(not that they arent a huge part of the cost overrun debacle) but I havent heard of a separate company named as the elevator supplier, for instance. Why isnt a rep from "Bob's RV repair and Electromagnetic Elevator Company of Podunk, Iowa" standing tall in front of Congress???

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    1. Good question. Not sure why they aren't bringing them to testify at the committee. Would be nice to have more precise details of some of these problems.

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    2. A second elevator supplier was contracted by the Navy. Whether that means that the original elevator supplier was replaced or just supplemented, I don't know. The article I read kind of suggested that the original manufacturer was replaced but, again, I'm not sure.

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    3. Growing up right next to Podunk, Iowa, let me assure you that Bob, Robert to his mother and wife, had nothing to do with the advanced weapons elevators.
      Had Bob been asked to design the weapons elevators, I'm sure he would have asked "What's wrong with the current elevators". Being told that the current design of the elevators could only deliver 70% of the weapons load at the highest possible Ford launch cadence and 100% of the Nimitz launch cadence, I'm sure Bob would have said "Can't you run the current elevators a little faster?" "Maybe beef up the cables a little and put some larger motors on it?" "Aren't the Nimitz class aircraft carriers the best in the world?" Don't you want some commonality with the rest of the carriers?" "If you let me improve the Nimitz elevator design, you can improve all the carriers in the fleet."
      Still not satisfied with the current or an improved current design, Bob would have told the Navy that he would be glad to design the weapons elevators for them. Bob's design would have likely had tolerances so loose that the Ford could be tied into a knot and the weapons elevators would still function. Since Bob doesn't like software, and doesn't understand why it is needed for most things, the elevators would operate with the flip of a switch and could be repaired by a kid that took high school shop or worked on a farm.

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    4. WARships should be designed not with the most advanced and maximum equipment that we can fit but, instead, with the MINIMUM and most basic equipment THAT WILL STILL MEET THE MISSION REQUIREMENTS. This is, essentially, the K.I.S.S. system as applied to warship design.

      Everyone wants to cram the most into a ship. I want to cram the LEAST that accomplishes the mission.

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    5. Would be fascinating to see the math or at least the reasons, cost benefit analysis for going for an electrical elevator compared to old design. Was there any comparison studies, anybody compared an upgraded Nimitz design elevator to a new EM Ford design? I know USN says the EM is faster and can carry more weight BUT that's compared to the old tech (right?), wonder what the margin is if you just upgraded the old Nimitz design with modern tech? I bet the speed, lift and costs aren't as favorable to EM or performance so impossible to meet....oh well, it's only taxpayer money....sarc....

      Been digging thru the old articles and comments sections, not saying to take it an as gospel truth but does make for interesting reading. Apparently, EM requires some pretty tight tolerances and the smallest of flexing or gaps can have a dramatic drop in performance. How much drop or degrading I really don't know, does it just slow down, doesn't carry as much, no clue. The other problem someone mentioned was software, again, no clue if true or not, I'm just trying to find any nugget of info I can.

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    6. Wasn't there a Brit commenting on another thread recently and mentioning that the weapons lifts on the Queen Elizabeth were working? What technology are they using?

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  16. Perhaps we could use it for sea basing. At only 14 or so billion that's cheap. At least we would get something out of her.

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    1. @Trondude 5952, the scary part is that you are probably right....I wouldn't be surprised at all if she spends most of her time tied to a pier and serves as a training ship.

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  17. Just found this little video on elevators, one of the engineers says the tech can be scaled up no problem...I'm starting to wonder if that is true, sometimes tech works great at one scale but double or triple and it goes out the window, in this case, can this tech survive inside a warship compared to a skyscraper?

    https://www.wvxu.org/post/navys-next-generation-weapons-elevators-was-designed-here-cincinnati#stream/0

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  18. My understanding was many moons ago R&D proved that the magical magnetic levitation would work, Navy said eureka just what is required to stop fuel fires as happened on Forrestal to spread below decks via the elevator shafts as they could be closed off by hatches as maglev elevators had no cables to interfere with the hatches closing.

    In 2005 Navy placed contract with Federal Equip for the maglev weapons elevators for Ford.

    Disaster when elevators installed on Ford the magic didn't work, said to be that the elevator shafts had to square and accurate to millimetres.

    Very belatedly fourteen years after original contract in February 2019 Navy placed contract to fund land testing site for the maglev weapons elevators, results expected in 2021/22? (revealed that though Navy funded development of the elevators Federal owned the ITP, so Navy locked into Federal and whatever price they charge)

    Navy accepted delivery and commissioned the non-operational Ford in 2017 with only one of the weapons elevators working. After Ford sea trials went pierside for a 12 month "maintenance" including the third version? twister for the AAG, the combat systems and the ten remaining maglev weapons elevators, Spencer puts his job online promising that elevators would be working by end of July.

    This October three months late Ford "maintenance completed" and only 4 of the maglev weapons elevators work, Spencer now blames Congress and Ingalls NNS saying Huntington Ingalls leadership misled Navy on Ford elevator issues.

    It is to be hoped that when all the elevator shafts are working that they are structurally and stiff enough to resist ship hogging and sagging plus FSST so as not to go out of alignment, otherwise Ford will revert to a nuclear powered berthing barge.

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    1. @Nick.

      Well, the crowd at USNI is very happy and optimistic, saying nothing to see, just move along and everything is fine! Hope they are right!

      The part that is funny is if everything is going to be fixed in the next 2 to 3 months and deployment in 2020/2021 not sure why Spencer hit back so hard when he had so much good news to offer?!?!?

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  19. Correction should read IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) not ITP

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    1. Well, the "good" news was Spencer said 4 other elevators were "moving"....that's reassuring! LOL!

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  20. I am afraid that if both elevators and catapults problem is caused by the tight tolerances needed the problem will be never really fixed properly and all Ford class in construction will be the same.

    At 14bn per ship it would be the biggest blunder ever.

    Maybe that is the cause that all this is issue is being managed so badly and with so much secretism.


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  21. Well, McCain is back, tool a little under 2 years to fix.

    https://news.usni.org/2019/10/27/uss-john-s-mccain-back-to-sea-after-completing-repairs-from-fatal-2017-collision

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    1. To be fair, they did an extensive upgrade, too. Just fixing the ship back to operable status would have required a fraction of the time.

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    2. It makes sense to do an upgrade at the time it was done. Most likely, the McCain was due an upgrade around the time frame of the collision. Might as well kill 2 birds with one stone.

      A very wise decision.

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