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April 21, 2008
Two Ships Deemed 'Unfit for Combat'
Senior officers in the Navy are aghast. And judging by these inspections of two combat ships, they would seem to have reason:
Most of the missiles couldn’t be fired, and neither could any of the big guns. The Aegis radars key to the ships’ fighting abilities didn’t work right.Evidently, the problems are not for lack of money - "100 percent funded to our requirement for maintenance" according to Capt. David Lewis, the assistant chief of staff for maintenance and engineering with Naval Surface Forces in San Diego. And part of the problem is that both ships have recently returned from extended deployments. But nevertheless, the condition of the two front line combat ships shocked senior officers. What could have caused the problems?
The flight decks were inoperable.
Most of the lifesaving gear failed inspection.
Corrosion was rampant, and lube oil leaked all over. The verdict: “unfit for sustained combat operations.”
Those results turned up by an inspection by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey — commonly known as an InSurv — would be bad enough if they came from one warship. But they came from two. In different fleets, in different oceans. Within a week of each other. And each ship represents the Navy’s most sophisticated front-line surface combatants.
But numerous officers familiar with the InSurv reports are concerned that myriad causes are resulting in such poor material inspections. There is worry among the brass that the problem is not limited to these two ships. What the Navy calls "Basic Preventive Maintenance" was simply not followed on the two ships and the concern is that other ships also suffer from the same deficiency.
“Where was the chain of command? Why did the parent squadron not know of the terrible material condition?” van Tol asked. The ship’s command, he said, “has a lot to answer for, either in terms of not finding and fixing the problems, or at least advising his seniors of the problems.”
The ship’s enlisted leaders also are partly responsible, van Tol said. “One could also ask where the chief’s mess was in all this, since they are the technical experts as well as the senior enlisted leaders onboard.”