Tag: USN

Navy Ships Kept at Sea Despite Training and Maintenance Needs, Admiral Says

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) being towed by tug to Yokosuka, following a collision with a cargo ship

WASHINGTON — After a string of deadly accidents in the western Pacific, a top admiral acknowledged on Thursday that the Navy had knowingly operated warships there despite a growing number of major training and maintenance shortfalls — all to meet increasing operational demands.

An unusual hearing of two House Armed Services subcommittees offered no new information about what caused four Navy mishaps in the western Pacific this year, including two fatal collisions between Navy destroyers and foreign cargo ships that left 17 sailors dead. Those accidents remain under investigation.

But the hearing painted a disturbing portrait of fatigued crews and commanders on a shrinking overseas fleet saddled with constant deployments — including confronting an expansionist Chinese military and keeping vigil on a nuclear saber-rattling North Korea — with little time left to train or to repair aging ships.

“The Navy is caught between unrelenting demands and a shortage of ships,” John H. Pendleton, a director of the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, told lawmakers. The office has chronicled the Navy’s woes in several recent reports.

“We have allowed standards to drop as the number of certifications has grown,” said Adm. William F. Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, referring to waivers of required tests certifying Navy crews and ships had met certain standards, such as seamanship.

As of June, 37 percent of the certifications for the crews of cruisers and destroyers based at the Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, had expired, Mr. Pendleton said. That was more than a fivefold increase in the percentage of expired certifications for the crews of those ships since a Government Accountability Office report in May 2015, he said.

Thursday’s hearing marked the first time that Navy officials publicly responded to Congress since the destroyer John S. McCain collided last month with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, killing 10 sailors. In June, the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a cargo ship off Japan. Seven sailors died in their flooded berthing compartments.

After the McCain crash, the Navy relieved the commander of the Seventh Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin; directed all 277 Navy ships worldwide to suspend operations for a day or two to examine basic seamanship and teamwork; and ordered a comprehensive review of fleet operations, training and manning to be completed within 60 days.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Lawmakers, however, seemed unsatisfied that the Navy was taking enough immediate measures to prevent another accident, and demanded to know why the Navy did not pause its operations after the Fitzgerald crash.

“It should have,” Admiral Moran said.

Much of the hearing focused on the differences between Navy ships based in the United States and those overseas.

Since 2006, the Navy has doubled the number of ships based abroad. That allows the Navy to respond quickly in a crisis with a formidable number of combatant ships and aircraft.

In the past two decades, the number of Navy ships has decreased about 20 percent, though the time they are deployed has remained the same, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington research group funded by the Defense Department. The increased burden has fallen disproportionately on the Seventh Fleet.

That tempo, Admiral Moran acknowledged Thursday, has frayed readiness. Government and military investigators have drawn similar conclusions, warning that the mission pace was leaving crews unprepared. Mr. Pendleton noted that a 2015 study by the Government Accountability Office found that the high demands of Navy fleets based overseas, like the Seventh in Japan, affect maintenance and training.

Investigators found that ships spent so much time at sea that there was not enough time for routine preventive repairs. And they said that while crews based in the United States were almost always completely qualified before deploying, ships based overseas and juggling multiple missions relied on a “train on the margins” approach.

“Over all, the negative trend lines associated with the operational readiness of our forward deployed ships are deeply troubling,” said Representative Rob Wittman, Republican of Virginia, who heads the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. “These negative training trends clearly contributed to the lack of seamanship evident onboard the U.S.S. John McCain and the U.S.S. Fitzgerald.”

Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chair of HASC Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

Navy officials seemed taken aback by some of these findings, even though alarms have been sounded for years. Admiral Moran, for instance, said he always presumed the Seventh Fleet was one of the Navy’s most proficient because of its vast operational experience. “It was a wrong assumption,” he said.

The admiral said the comprehensive review will address how much risk the Navy can accept to accomplish all its missions in the western Pacific. “We should not and cannot have collisions at sea,” Admiral Moran told lawmakers. “You have my promise we’ll get to the bottom of these mishaps.”

USS James E. Williams concludes port visit to Riga, Latvia

USS James E. Williams (DDG-95) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) departed Riga, Latvia, Aug. 31, following a scheduled port visit.

While in Riga, James E. Williams engaged in topside preservation, loaded food onboard, held tours for Latvian military members and participated in community relations projects. The crew of the James E. Williams was also given liberty throughout their time in Riga.

The ship also used this port as a chance to receive parts and make repairs.

“The port served as an opportunity to replace worn parts and replenish supplies,” said Cmdr. Allen Siegrist, commanding officer of the James E. Williams. “Now that we have worked hard to improve our operational readiness, we are ready to get back out there and continue our mission.”

The James E. Williams is now back underway continuing its routine deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.


U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Diving to Resume

ALAMEDA, Calif. — U.S. Coast Guardsmen and U.S. Navy Sailors conducted shipboard dive operations from a Coast Guard cutter in the Arctic July 29 for the first time since two Coast Guard divers perished in a subsurface accident almost 11 years ago, the Coast Guard said in a Aug. 10 release.

Shipboard Arctic dive operations increase the Coast Guard’s ability to assure year-round access for national security, sovereign presence and increased maritime domain awareness in the region. The shipboard dive operations also highlighted the interoperability between joint Coast Guard and Navy dive teams.

The Coast Guard conducted a comprehensive dive program review following a incident on Aug. 17, 2006, that killed Lt. Jessica Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Duque during an ice dive in the Arctic Ocean aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy. In the years following the accident, the Coast Guard improved diving proficiency and retention by making diving a primary duty and created the first three regional dive lockers to centralize control, training and operations.

The joint dive operation from Healy July 29 marked the culmination of this increased oversight, training and proficiency. The crew of Healy and joint dive team held a memorial to honor the fallen divers during the cutter’s current Arctic patrol.

“There is no prospect more sobering than the death of a crew member,” said Capt. Greg Tlapa, commanding officer of Healy. “We honor the memory of our shipmates, Lt. Hill and Petty Officer 2nd Class Duque, and will never forget their sacrifices. It gives our crew great pride to re-establish dive capabilities to Healy and meet the subsurface needs and challenges our service will face in the coming years in the Arctic.”

USCG Cutter Healy

The joint dive team included personnel from Coast Guard Regional Dive Lockers San Diego and Honolulu and U.S. Navy Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Wash. Navy divers supported cold water and ice dives by providing an independent duty corpsman/dive medical technician and by conducting joint training using the Navy’s recompression chamber currently deployed aboard Healy.

“I’m humbled to be a part of such a historic operation, honoring our shipmates by reintroducing Coast Guard shipboard dive operations to the Arctic,” said Chief Petty Officer Chuck Ashmore from Coast Guard’s Joint Regional Dive Locker West in San Diego.

Divers are the Coast Guard’s primary resource for the service’s subsurface capabilities and perform a full spectrum of Coast Guard missions, including maintenance and repair to aids to navigation, underwater inspections and maintenance on icebreakers and other cutters, surveying critically endangered species habitats, assistance to marine casualty investigations and supporting search and rescue operations.

Healy, homeported in Seattle, is a 420-foot long medium icebreaker with extensive scientific capabilities and is the nation’s premier high-latitude research vessel. Healy’s missions include scientific support, search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection and the enforcement of laws and treaties in the Polar regions.



USS Constitution Returns After Restoration: Everything To Know About World’s Oldest Commissioned Warship

World’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat, USS Constitution, made a comeback Sunday after a 26-month-long restoration project. The ship that turns 220 in October was undocked from the Charlestown Navy Yard Historical Park in Boston. It later entered the Boston Harbor.

Launched in 1797, the wooden ship is one of the six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. It was designed by Joshua Humphreys, an influential and successful ship builder, and it was constructed at Hartt’s Shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts. The name “Constitution” was chosen by former President George Washington

The ship’s extreme size caused difficulty during the launch in 1797. It took three separate tries on three different days to get it off the ramps and into the water. The first duties of the ship with the newly formed U.S. Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War.

The USS Constitution fought and won three major engagements during the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom. It is best remembered for the capture of rival HMS Guerriere. In the course of the 35-minute battle with Guerriere, witnesses observed British 18-lb. iron cannonballs were bouncing harmlessly off the Constitution’s 25-inch oak hull, leading a sailor to cry out, “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” earning her the famous nickname “Old Ironsides,” according to Navy’s magazine All Hands. During this war, Constitution’s range of guns typically consisted of thirty 24-pounder (11 kg) cannons, with 15 cannons on each side of the gun deck.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but it continued to serve the country, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark, according to History.com. Since 1934, it has been based at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

Over the years, Ironsides has enjoyed a number of restorations, including the most recent one that began in 2015. The recent round of restorations extends the life of the nearly two-feet (61-centimeter) thick vessel. A report by Bloomberg said the recent work also included replacing 100 hull planks and installing 2,200 new copper sheets, 500 of which were signed by nearly 100,000 museum visitors.

The report also quoted Robert Gerosa, the Constitution’s commanding officer, saying: “The ship has been the cornerstone of the Navy for a long time. To be a part of the ship is truly an honor.

The event held Sunday in the Charlestown Navy Yard, marking the comeback, indicated the end of this round of restoration. The vessel would remain docked at a nearby pier until September to undergo more restoration, and it would then reopen for public tours.

The website of the Naval History and Heritage Command states the Constitution’s mission is to “encourage understanding of the Navy’s role in war and peace through educational outreach, historical demonstration, and active participation in public events.” As a fully commissioned Navy ship, visited by nearly half a million people every year, its crew of 60 officers and sailors participate in ceremonies, educational programs, and special events while providing free tours to visitors all year-round.

Source: International Business Times.

RCN sends divers to Black Sea exercise, Russia to keep close eye on training

Divers take part in Exercise Sea Breeze 2016 in the Black Sea. USN photo.

The Royal Canadian Navy has sent a contingent of 14 personnel comprised of divers and support staff and staff officers from Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic and Maritime Forces Atlantic to support Sea Breeze 2017. Sea Breeze is a multi-national training event in Odessa, Ukraine, led by the United States and Ukraine navies. It takes place from July 10 to July 21.

During Sea Breeze 17, the RCN, USN, Ukraine Navy, and personnel from other allied nations will “work together to exercise maritime security, safety, and stability operations with an emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, infrastructure protection, amphibious operations, and cyberspace defence missions,” according to a news release from the Canadian Forces.

Two U.S. ships and around 800 U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine personnel will take part in the annual exercise in the Black Sea. Amphibious exercises will also be held as part of the training.

The exercise will be under naval and air surveillance by Russian forces, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.

This year’s participating nations include: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Source: Ottawa Citizen.