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Problems in Ship Programs Not Systemic: Admiral

As malfunctions afflict the Zumwalt-class destroyer, littoral combat ship and Ford supercarrier, it begs the question: If the glitches are so simple to fix, why are they happening?

"We have looked in detail across all three programs at the root causes at all of these to see if there are some systemic issues," said Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command. The panel was geared around shipbuilding and programs the Navy anticipates awarding in the future.

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"We have not found any systemic issues across the programs. We have found issues that, as you look through these, in the case of the Ford class, a very complex set of electrical system controls that in hindsight I don't think anybody could have anticipated."

The $13 billion ship -- the first new carrier design in more than 40 years -- experienced engine setbacks in its main turbine generators, delaying the program. The Navy expects to receive the ship in April, officials announced at the SNA conference on Wednesday.

As for the $4 billion warship Zumwalt -- which broke down Nov. 21 while in the Panama Canal -- Moore said that's probably "the exception." Weeks later, officials disclosed the breakdowns continued because of the ship's lubrication oil coolers, which accidentally kept taking on seawater, on the main shaft.

"We've had [lube-oil] coolers since Noah had an Arc, so what's the cause there?" Moore said. "And we're still really working our way through what the root causes are there and, from our standpoint, it's a key reminder even [lube-oil] coolers -- even though the ships [themselves] are complex systems -- are relatively simple things."

The ship was commissioned Oct. 15. However, the program was canceled, leaving the Navy with a three-ship fleet.

Moore said that engineering had focused on a full-package approach to design -- maintaining electronic superiority, among other items that make the DDG-1000 stealthy -- but basic core systems should not be overlooked, especially in future programs.

When asked about the LCS program, he said, "I don't think it's a design issue."

The LCS program has experienced a series of mechanical and engineering casualties. The ship's unit cost has more than doubled from $220 million to $478 million.

"Some of those are training issues. I think we're going to work our way through those, and I think there [are] some new issues. Some of the couplings and some of the gearing that we'd used in LCS is new stuff to us, and we're learning it," Moore said.

"You're going to see, as we get more run time on these platforms, the reliability in the platforms will go up," he said.

"I like to tell the staff here, 'We don't build toasters,' " Moore said. "We have to recognize going forward that if you want to take a leap ahead in technology, and you really want to provide that capability gap against our competitors out there, then we're going to lean forward.

"Five to 10 years from now, people are going to be wondering what all of the hullabaloo was [over] -- and these will be great platforms," he said.

The panel also featured Rear Adm. William Galinis, program executive officer for ships; Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, program executive officer for submarines; Rear Adm. Douglas Small, PEO for integrated warfare systems; Rear Adm. John Neagley, PEO for LCS; and Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, director of acquisition programs and PEO for the Coast Guard.

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