US Navy Scraps Repair Plan for USS Miami
The nuclear-powered Improved Los Angeles Class (SSN-688i) submarine USS Miami was ordered in 1983 and built by General Dynamics Electric Boat. She was commissioned in 1990, is homeported in Groton, CT, and was the focus of Tom Clancy’s 1993 non-fiction book Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship. In May 2012, a civilian shipyard worker in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard caused a fire, which quickly spread through its forward compartments. It took the efforts of more than 100 firefighters to save her, and the cost of the necessary facelifts and fixes was so extensive that there was serious talk about retiring the boat.
Navy panels have been conducting wide-ranging investigations trying to figure out why the fire spread so fast, how to reduce these kinds of hazards, and how to improve firefighting response in the future. In parallel, the Navy decided that they’d get more out of spending $400+ million to fix USS Miami to support her remaining 10 years of service life, than they would spending $2.5 billion to get a full 30-year lifetime of service from a more capable Virginia Class submarine. Work started for a while, but budget cuts led the Navy to reconsider their decision, and ultimately to scrap the boat.
Aug 6/13: Scrapped. In the context of sequestration constraints, the Navy chooses to inactivate the boat rather than proceed with repairs that proved even more expensive than initially assessed. Navy Times.
March 19/13: Navy rethinks. In the face of ongoing budget cuts that have delayed maintenance for a number of serving ships, the US Navy is reportedly re-thinking whether or not to repair USS Miami. They still believe that the cost will be about $400-500 million, and believe that sum would be justified in absolute by another 10 years of submarine service.
The question has shifted, however, to whether or not it’s justified when measured against competing priorities and shortfalls. DID’s guess is that the final answer will be “no.” AP, via Virginia Pilot.
March 15/13: Sentencing. Casey James Fury receives a 17-year sentence for arson aboard the USS Miami, and is ordered to pay $400 million in restitution. After serving his sentence, Fury will be on supervised release for 5 years.
Fury was remorseful in his pre-sentencing statement, and stated that he wished he had found proper help beforehand. That’s likely true. Injured firefighter Eric Hardy, who still wakes up in pain and describes a fire that was melting the aluminum pins holding interior ladders, probably wishes the same thing. In delivering the sentence, US District Judge George Singal placed significant weight on the 2nd fire, describing it as “especially troubling.”
Nov 8/12: Guilty plea. Shipyard painter and sandblaster Casey James Fury pleads guilty to arson for setting the fire aboard USS Miami, as well as a 2nd fire outside about 3 weeks later. It’s kind of a sad story, really. He was suffering from anxiety attacks and wanted to go home, but had no vacation or leave. He started a fire on a bunk inside, at which point the story shifts from sad to scary dangerous. Beyond the intense damage to the boat, 2 crew, 3 shipyard firefighters, and 2 outside firefighters were hurt as they fought searing-hot fires amidst intense smoke. The second fire was extinguished quickly, with no damage to anything beyond Fury’s legal defense.
If US District Judge George Singal imposes a sentence greater than 19 1/2 years, Fury would be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas. Gannett’s Navy Times.
Oct 2/12: From Memphis to Miami. The recently-decommissioned Los Angeles Class submarine Memphis will be harvested as a source of spare parts for USS Miami’s repairs. That will help keep costs down. In another bit of good news, integrity checks on USS Miami’s hull didn’t show any changes to its metallurgy or strength. Re-insulate, re-cable, and re-hang fixtures is much, much cheaper than replacing hull sections.
SSN 755 has been stripped to its skeleton within the affected inner areas. Reconstruction will begin in spring 2013. Because it doesn’t make sense to tow the boat from its location in PNS, ME, the USS Providence, which was scheduled to be overhauled at Portsmouth, will now go to GD Electric Boat instead. Connecticut’s The Day | Gannett’s Navy Times.
Sept 14/12: Planning contract. General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp. in Groton, CT receives a $94 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to plan the USS Miami’s repairs, with funding based on level-of-effort man-hours and material. A negotiated priced option could bring the contract to $100 million.
It won’t all be planning, though, as the contract includes fabrication and initial installation. This work will be done in coordination with the on-going Engineered Overhaul being executed by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and the Pentagon says it was “assigned to the private sector based on workload constraints at the public shipyards.” The order was not competitively procured.
Work will be performed in Portsmouth, NH (35%); Newport News, VA (25%); Groton, CT (20%), and Quonset Point, RI (20%), and is expected to be completed by June 2013. Contract funds, on the other hand, will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-10-G-4304, 0001). GD Main | GDEB.
Sept 10/12: It doesn’t happen often, but dockyards can be a pretty hazardous place for fighting ships. From the AP article:
“Submarines that are being overhauled, like the USS Miami, which suffered $450 million in damage in a fire in May, are often crowded with shipyard workers and equipment. Temporary systems are established and there are cables running throughout the sub. Deck plating is sometimes removed, creating holes in passageways.
“Submarines face different dangers, perhaps bigger ones, when they’re being overhauled or repaired in an industrial setting,” said Peter Bowman, a retired Navy captain and former Portsmouth Naval Shipyard commander.”
June 6/12: $400M? US Navy officials say that the cost to save the USS Miami is estimated at $400 million, on top of the $200 million planned for the overhaul that was underway when the fire broke out.
There is talk of scrapping the boat, and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard faces an equally nervous future.
May 22-23/12: Fire! The Improved Los Angeles Class submarine USS Miami burns in drydock, while undergoing routine maintenance. The fire injures 6 people, and it takes about 100 firefighters to save the boat. US Navy | Seacoast Online.