The new carrier Ford has suffered more than its share of problems due to normal shakedown issues plus the stupidity of concurrency. Well known problems include,
- Weapon elevators
- Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG)
- Nuclear propulsion / main turbines
- Dual Band Radar
Most of the problems have been well documented and thoroughly discussed but the propulsion problems are far less understood and far less public so let’s take a closer look at the propulsion problems.
Ford is currently undergoing Post Shakedown Availability (PSA) to correct the various problems identified in trials and sea periods. However, the PSA completion date has been repeatedly extended due in large part to the elevators and propulsion problems.
Problems with the propulsion system are less understood publicly. The problem isn’t resident in the two nuclear reactors aboard but rather the ship’s main turbines generators that are driven by the steam the reactors produce.
… two [of four] of the main turbine generators needed unanticipated and extensive overhauls. As Geurts [Navy acquisition chief James Geurts] told Congress, the ship’s company discovered the problem during sea trials. (1)
The turbine generator repairs are likely related to earlier propulsion issues related to a recent design change which forced the ship to return to port in May 2018. (2)
Here’s a brief timeline of the propulsion problems and the various trials that the ship has undergone:
- Jun 2016 Major turbine problems discovered
- Apr 2017 Builder’s Trials
- May 2017 Acceptance Trials
- May 2017 Delivery
- Jan 2019 Propulsion problem discovered
- May 2019 Propulsion problem forced return to port
Note the ineffectiveness and pointlessness of the trials. The Navy knew about the major turbine issues and yet accepted the ship anyway. Subsequent trials failed to discover the additional propulsion problems. I have one question: What’s the point of trials if we’re going to accept damaged ships anyway and if the trials don’t reveal problems that routine operating does? Trials have become a joke. Since they accomplish nothing, why not just do away with trials and save some money?
The first several LPD-17 ships were accepted with many thousands of hours of incomplete work. The early LCS’es were accepted with incomplete compartments. Zumwalt was accepted with none of its combat systems installed. Ford was accepted with major systems inoperable and compartments incomplete (see, “PartialDelivery – Total Obfuscation” and “Navy To Accept And Commission Damaged Ship”).
Here’s a bit more background on some of the propulsion problems.
A transformer/voltage regulator problem caused main turbine generator failures in Jun 2016.
A serious voltage regulator problem on the carrier’s four main turbine generators (MTGs) has prevented engineers from running the motors up to full power, and only now has the problem been identified and a fix decided upon.
The MTGs are a significant element in the ship’s power generation system – an all-new layout supporting a plant developing at least three times the electrical power of previous carriers.
The problem manifested itself June 12 when a small electrical explosion took place on the No. 2 MTG during testing. Navy sources disagree whether the term “explosion” is appropriate, but two sources familiar with the situation used the reference, one noting that “it was enough of an explosion that debris got into the turbine.” (5)
May 2019 propulsion system problem was found.
This second propulsion issue is unrelated to a previous one identified earlier this year. According to Navy Times, the current issues are related to mechanical failures which prevent steam produced in the ship’s nuclear plant from adequately spinning the ship’s 30-ton propellers. (3)
A propulsion system problem was found during a Jan 2019 at-sea period. The problem may have been a bad bearing.
“During at-sea testing in January, the crew identified one component in the propulsion train was operating outside of design specifications and took action to place the propulsion train in a safe condition,” Bill Couch spokesman for Naval Sea System told Navy Times. (4)
As we’ve seen with the waivers of certifications in the Pacific fleet and the complete lack of enforcement of construction standards, the Navy has totally abandoned any pretense of standards. This is simply unacceptable. Navy leadership should be fired en masse. As they’re so fond of declaring, I have lost confidence in their ability to command.
Source: Navy Matters
(1)USNI News website, “USS Gerald Ford Delivery Delayed Due to Extensive Nuclear Propulsion, Weapons Elevator Repairs; Carrier Won’t be Ready Until October”, Sam LaGrone, 26-Mar-2019, https://news.usni.org/2019/03/26/uss-gerald-ford-delivery-delayed-due-extensive-nuclear-propulsion-weapons-elevator-repairs-carrier-wont-ready-October
(2)Navaltoday website, “Nuclear propulsion system repairs delay USS Gerald R. Ford’s return to fleet”, https://navaltoday.com/2019/03/27/nuclear-propulsion-system-repairs-delay-uss-gerald-r-fords-return-to-fleet/
(3)Navaltoday website, “USS Gerald R Ford returns to port with propulsion issues”, https://navaltoday.com/2018/05/23/uss-gerald-r-ford-returns-to-port-with-propulsion-issues/
(4)Navy Times website, “Why the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier was forced back into port”, Mark Faram, 22-May-2018, https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2018/05/23/why-the-navys-newest-aircraft-carrier-was-forced-back-into-port/
(5)Defense News website, “Carrier Ford Has Serious Power Problem”, Christopher Cavas, 18-Sep-2016, https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2016/09/18/carrier-ford-has-serious-power-problem/