Today’s issue of the Undersea Warfare News republished this article:
Virginia Attack Submarines Still Restricted As NAVSEA Investigates Questionable Welding, Rest of Fleet Cleared
Sam LaGrone, USNI News, Aug 18
Naval Sea Systems Command has isolated a series of questionable welds to the Navy’s three newest Virginia-class attack boats and has cleared the rest of the fleet for normal operation, a NAVSEA spokeswoman told USNI News on Tuesday.
The supplier of the piping that connects the nuclear reactor to the submarines’ propulsion systems is alleged to have made “unauthorized and undocumented weld repairs had been performed on the fittings” used on USS Minnesota (SSN-783), USS North Dakota (SSN-784) and USS John Warner (SSN-785).
“The Navy has determined that fittings provided by this supplier are installed on ships throughout the fleet,” read a NAVSEA statement provided to USNI News on Tuesday afternoon.
“The Navy has concluded that ships operating with these fittings are safe to continue operations.”
However the three newest Virginia-class boats remain pier side as the investigation continues.
The supplier was not named by NAVSEA but Defense News reported earlier this month the company was Florida-based Nuflo.
Virginia shipbuilder General Dynamics Electric Boat discovered the suspicious welding which prompted the subsequent investigation.
The ongoing look was not related to one mounted last year over third party components found in the bow and the stern of North Dakota.
NAVSEA did not give USNI News a timeline as to when the three sidelined boats would be cleared for operations.
The following is the complete Aug. 18, 2015 statement from NAVSEA.
As part of an ongoing investigation into a quality issue, General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) determined that some pipe fittings provided by a supplier required additional testing and repair because unauthorized and undocumented weld repairs had been performed on the fittings.
The Navy has determined that fittings provided by this supplier are installed on ships throughout the fleet. Submarines USS MINNESOTA (SSN 783), USS NORTH DAKOTA (SSN 784), and USS JOHN WARNER (SSN 785) were restricted from operation based on information pertaining specifically to the fittings installed on these ships. No other ships have been restricted from operations. The Navy has concluded that ships operating with these fittings are safe to continue operations. The Navy is taking action to ensure that ships currently under construction or maintenance only install fittings that meet the Navy’s quality requirements.
The Navy is committed to ensuring the safety of its crews and ships.
Fortunately NORTH DAKOTA will be undergoing a previously scheduled post-commissioning availability at General Dynamics Electric Boat who she was built to install any necessary upgrades. Even though she is brand new, she was built under a contract signed about ten years ago. Just like when you build a house, any change orders really up the final cost. Thus the Navy wisely requires the contractors to build the boats to the specifications in the contract. When a boat is delivered to the Navy after successful sea trials its ten-year old technology might be out of date so a short return to the shipyard can get all of the latest improvements installed so a boat can joint the fleet fully up to date.