Problems Crop Up During Deepwater Trials

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Sea trials have found eight major concerns with the Coast Guard's new National Security Cutter, but service officials say they are confident the ship, christened Bertholf, will pass acceptance tests soon.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is building the Bertholf as part of the Coast Guard's Deepwater Modernization program, a $24 billion effort to upgrade the agency's ships, aircraft and communications gear. So far, it's been a bumpy ride -- the Coast Guard had to shelve one of its boat projects as too ambitious, while another project foundered after eight upgraded 123'-foot cutters proved unseaworthy.

Now the Coast Guard is hoping the Bertholf will change the project's momentum. The ship is a few months behind schedule, but Coast Guard officials say there haven't been any big hiccups this year. The mid-April acceptance trials were a big milestone -- the Coast Guard wants to accept the ship by the end of this month so it can start training its crew. The latest list of technical issues hasn't dented the agency's optimism.

"These acceptance trials are good news for the Coast Guard because the number of starred cards written for Bertholf is extremely low, considering this is a first-in-class ship. The Coast Guard is confident that the contractors will be able to resolve all materiel deficiencies aboard Bertholf in a timely manner," Coast Guard spokeswoman Laura Williams said Monday.

The Navy also put a good spin on the Bertholf's performance. The latest trials turned up about 2,800 "trial cards", which identify areas that need more work. That compares to between 6,000 and 16,000 cards for first-in-class Navy ship. In addition, about 1,360 of the Bertholf's trial cards dealt with previously identified issues. This led the Navy to commend the Coast Guard's "superb quality assurance" while managing the project, the Coast Guard said.

Here's the new ship's honey-do list of major things that need fixing, as identified by Coast Guard and Navy inspectors:

- Machinery Control Monitoring System: a computer system that enables automated or manual operation of main propulsion and electrical systems.

- Line Shaft Bearings-These bearings support and align the ship's propeller shafts. The bearings require maintenance and re-alignment.

- Starboard Anchor-The anchor machinery requires additional lubrication.

- Mooring Line Controllers-The Navy recommended modifying these line controllers for portable operation to improve crew safety.

- Gantry Crane Hoists-Designed to raise and lower the NSC's cutter boats (Short Range Prosecutor and Long Range Interceptor), the hoists require adjustment to the wire ropes and swivel hooks.

- 57mm Ammunition Hoist-The ammunition handling system's brake must be repaired for safe operation.

- Incinerator-Requires repair for testing.

- Flight Deck-The Navy wants the Coast Guard to correct 14 deficiencies before BERTHOLF earns certification for naval flight operations. These deficiencies include: removing hoses from the flight deck; installing sound power communications between stations on the flight deck; installing additional tie downs; correcting flight deck markings for the Aircraft Ship Integrated Secure and Traverse (ASIST) system, etc.

In addition to this major list, there are 78 other items that require additional safety-related adjustments, the Coast Guard said. The new ship also has started TEMPEST testing, a Pentagon protocol required for classified communications systems, the agency said.Integrated Coast Guard Solutions, the Lockheed Martin-Northrop Grumman joint venture that is coordinating a big chunk of the Deepwater contracting, did not have comment on the acceptance trials when contacted Monday.

-- Rebecca Christie

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