GAO Report on Increase in Cost of U.S. Navy Ship Operations

The following is the Jan. 31, 2023, Government Accountability Report, Weapon System Sustainment Navy Ship Usage Has Decreased as Challenges and Costs Have Increased. From the report Sustainment Challenges Have Worsened across the Ship Classes Reviewed GAO reviewed key sustainment metrics for 10 ship classes and found that from fiscal years 2011 through 2021, these […]

The following is the Jan. 31, 2023, Government Accountability Report, Weapon System Sustainment Navy Ship Usage Has Decreased as Challenges and Costs Have Increased.

From the report

Sustainment Challenges Have Worsened across the Ship Classes Reviewed

GAO reviewed key sustainment metrics for 10 ship classes and found that from fiscal years 2011 through 2021, these classes faced persistent and worsening sustainment challenges. Specifically, the number of maintenance cannibalizations (working parts removed and reused elsewhere due to parts shortages), casualty reports (reports of events that impair ships’ ability to do a primary mission), and days of maintenance delay (days beyond the scheduled end date for depot maintenance) have each increased, while steaming hours (the number of hours a ship is generally in an operating or training status) have decreased. Additionally, the Navy is not fully or accurately tracking other metrics—operational availability and materiel availability—that the Department of Defense and the Navy have determined are key to assessing ship effectiveness despite a prior GAO recommendation to do so.

Changes in Sustainment Metrics per Ship across Selected Navy Ship Classes, Fiscal Years 2011 through 2021

(a)Cannibalization data for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 is incomplete. Therefore, cannibalization trends begin fiscal year 2015. (b) The first America class amphibious assault ship was commissioned in 2014, so readiness trends for this class reflect fiscal years 2015 through 2021.

Operating and Support (O&S) and Steaming Hour Costs Have Increased

Total O&S costs increased by about $2.5 billion from fiscal years 2011 and 2020 for the 10 ship classes GAO examined, including a $1.2 billion increase in maintenance costs. The Navy also added about 33 ships to these classes. Collectively, the number of steaming hours for the ships declined over the timeframe.

GAO Analysis of Navy Data

GAO found the average O&S cost per steaming hour—used to measure the cost to provide operational steaming hours—across the 10 ship classes increased from fiscal year 2011 to 2020. Specifically, most ship classes we reviewed experienced an increase in O&S cost per steaming hour across the timeframe.

Operating and Support Costs, by Ship Class, Fiscal Year 2020 and the Ship Class’ Trend in Average Cost per Steaming Hour, Fiscal Years 2011 and 2020

The increase in O&S cost per steaming hour occurred for several reasons. First, a decrease in steaming hours contributed to the increase in cost per steaming hour. Second, GAO’s prior work shows that a number of other challenges have increased sustainment costs for ships, such as maintenance delays that have resulted in some ships deferring maintenance. Over time this situation has resulted in worsening ship conditions and increased costs to repair and sustain ships. GAO has made dozens of recommendations, which the Navy has generally concurred with, to improve the Navy’s sustainment of its ships. While taking actions, the Navy has not fully implemented many of GAO’s recommendations, including that the Navy

  • establishes performance goals and measures to better manage deferred depot maintenance backlog;
  • better track data on and address challenges with executing intermediate maintenance periods; and
  • take steps to ensure that new ships are reliable and can be sustained as planned when procured.

Why This Matters

The Department of Defense (DOD) spends tens of billions of dollars annually to sustain its weapon systems in an effort to ensure that these systems are available to simultaneously support today’s military operations and maintain the capability to meet future defense requirements. Costs to operate and sustain the 151 Navy ships included in this review totaled approximately $17 billion in fiscal year 2020. GAO’s past work has shown that the Navy has faced significant readiness challenges over the last decade. This is a public version of a sensitive report issued in December 2022. GAO removed specific details on steaming hours that DOD deemed sensitive.

How the GAO Did This Study

GAO initiated this work due to: 1) continuing interest in the operational availability and O&S costs for major weapon systems; and 2) as part of our response to a provision in section 802 of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 for us to report on sustainment reviews conducted by the military services with a specific focus on O&S cost growth. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed program office officials to identify reasons for the trends in key sustainment rates and O&S costs as well as any challenges in sustaining the selected ship classes.

Download the document here.

Navy Destroyer Modernization Program Could Cost $17B, Take Up to 2 Years Per Hull

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned. The service has been […]

USS Pinckney (DDG-91) undocks SEWIP Block 3/SLQ-32(V)7 structures under either bridge wing on Aug 26, 2022. Screengrab of a General Dynamics NASSCO Video

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned.

The service has been working for the last several years to develop a plan to back fit about 20 Flight IIAs with the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3, the AN/SPY-6 air and missile defense radar and the Baseline 10 version of the Aegis Combat System.

The DDG MOD 2.0 effort is starting with the first installation of SEWIP aboard USS Pinckney (DDG-91) during a $121 million modernization period currently underway at General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a crawl, walk, run process,” commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Bill Galinis told USNI News earlier this month.
“We’re installing SEWIP on Pinckney in San Diego right now and that effort is going very well.”

US Navy Graphic

Service officials have told industry that the cost estimation to do the installations aboard 20 ships is about $17 billion, three sources familiar with the conversations told USNI News.

A Navy official confirmed to USNI News that the estimated time to install all three major systems – the Raytheon-built radar, Northrop Grumman’s SEWIP Block 3 and Lockheed Martin’s Baseline 10 combat system, along with other modernizations – could run from 18 to 24 months.

SEWIP will be a major upgrade to the surface Navy’s electronic attack arsenal and service has said it’s key to defeating incoming attacks on surface ships.

“SEWIP Block 3 will include improvements for the electronic attack by providing integrated countermeasures against radio frequency-guided threats and extending frequency range coverage,” the Navy said in a statement 2015 after issuing a $267 million award to Northrop Grumman.

The Navy has been incrementally improving the electronic warfare systems on its destroyers over the 1970s era AN/SLQ-32 “Slick 32s,” with Block I awards to General Dynamics and Block II to Lockheed Martin.

SEWIP will be housed in a sponson between Pinckney’s existing SPY-1D(v) faces. A video released in August from NASSCO shows the destroyer undocking with white plastic over the areas where the system were installed.

NAVSEA told USNI News that the DDG Mod 2.0 program will use the Raytheon AN/SPY-6(v)4 radar, a version of the active electronically scanned array radar that the service is building its new Flight III guided-missile destroyers around.

SPY-6 is based on two-foot squared cubes that are linked together to create the radar. The version for the Flight IIIs is made up of 37 blocks per radar face, while the Flight IIA back fit will include 24 blocks.

AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3 array in 2019. Northrop Grumman Photo

“The engineering has already been done and matter of fact is what the shipbuilders will do is they’ll remove all the SPY-1 equipment off the ship. Our 24-[cube] array configuration has an adapter plate that goes on the array that actual bolt into the exact location where the SPY-1 was and there’s no weight issues at all from a topside perspective,” Raytheon SPY-6 program director Mike Mills told USNI News on this month.

It’s unclear when the Navy will move ahead with the back fit program in earnest beyond the SEWIP installations. The Navy is approaching DDG MOD 2.0 as a major acquisition program, Galinis told USNI News.

“What we’re really looking at doing is trying to manage [DDG MOD 2.0] more like an acquisition program where we determine the contractor that’s going to do that work, to provide that on a repeatable basis to drive learning, and to lower the costs and scheduling applications to the ship,” he said.

For their part, some in Congress have been skeptical of the program based on the Navy’s largely unsuccessful attempt to modernize its guided-missile cruise fleet.

“It is unclear to the [Senate Armed Services] committee how the Navy’s more ambitious near-term modernization plans for destroyers, including back fitting a SPY-6 radar and installing a larger electronic warfare system, could succeed if the Navy cannot manage the cruiser phased modernization program,” reads report language from the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Western Navies See Strategic, Tactical Lessons from Ukraine Invasion

The lessons emerging from the war in Ukraine for Western countries and their navies, and for maritime matters more broadly, ranging from the strategic to the tactical levels, the chiefs of the French, U.K. and U.S. navies told the recent inaugural Paris Naval Conference. “One thing we should all take away is the importance of […]

RTS Moskva (121) following an April 13, 2022 strike from Ukrainian missiles. Russian MoD

The lessons emerging from the war in Ukraine for Western countries and their navies, and for maritime matters more broadly, ranging from the strategic to the tactical levels, the chiefs of the French, U.K. and U.S. navies told the recent inaugural Paris Naval Conference.

“One thing we should all take away is the importance of the will to fight,” U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said during a press briefing with the three chiefs following the conference.

Gilday underscored the depth of the Ukrainians’ desire to “fight for their freedom … down to every single person in their society.”

Adm. Pierre Vandier, the French navy’s chief of staff, noted that while the war in Ukraine seems based around a land campaign, it has a significant maritime dimension, while speaking at the Jan. 18 conference along with Gilday and U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord Adm. Ben Key. Amongst a range of strategic-level maritime challenges in the Black Sea region, Adm. Vandier pointed to the importance of keeping open the port of Odesa in southwestern Ukraine.

“It was very important to have this [as a] free port,” he said.

Key, who also serves as the British chief of the naval staff, said that despite the heavy land emphasis, the ability to keep Odesa has strong maritime implications.

“The loss of Odesa would have strangled the Ukrainian economy because of the inability to export grain,” Key said. “That would then have created huge food shortages in countries many thousands of miles away from Ukraine […] Even in something that is being contained to a small region, the maritime implications of not having secure sea lines of communication are considerable and will impact the international community.”

Adm. Mike Gilday, Adm. Pierre Vandier and Adm. Ben Key on Jan. 18, 2023.

At the operational level, there are a number of maritime activities underway, including maritime patrol, amphibious forces operations, mining and countermining, blockades and unmanned vessel use, Vandier said.

The war in Ukraine saw the use of USVs in an offensive role, with USVs contributing to strikes. In addition, technologies like cruise missiles have been used in strikes both from sea to shore and shore to sea. Several warships have also been lost.

“[This is] nothing new, but the range of what has been done shows the dimension of the maritime aspect of this war,” Vandier said.

During the conference, Gilday discussed how the Ukrainians are learning lessons themselves, and how their fighting spirit is even filtering down to the tactical level.

“The Ukrainians are learning war while they’re fighting the war, and they’re doing so in a way that is so agile, and so flexible, and so nimble,” Gilday said. “They’re leveraging technology down at the tactical level. This goes down to the soldier on the battlefield.”

“For all our navies and our sailors, that’s the kind of spirit we want,” he continued. “That brings an asymmetric advantage to our navies that perhaps puts you in a position of advantage in a fight.”

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.

U.S., South Korea Pledge to Expand Military Cooperation; NATO and Japan Deepen Ties

The U.S. and South Korea will step up joint field exercises and bolster joint capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the defense chiefs of both countries said on Tuesday. In a joint statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup condemned North […]

South Korea’s 28th Infantry Division, Artillery Brigade, U.S 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Striking Brigade,2-17th Artillery Battalion combined live-fire Exercise were held at Kkotbong Shooting Range in Gyeonggi Province. Jan. 23, 2023. ROK Photo

The U.S. and South Korea will step up joint field exercises and bolster joint capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the defense chiefs of both countries said on Tuesday.

In a joint statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup condemned North Korea’s continued provocations and violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, including its missile launches and recent drone incursions. The defense chiefs also affirmed that the ROK-U.S. Alliance, along with the international community, will continue to take a strong stance against any further provocations by North Korea.

The two leaders emphasized that the two nations will continue to bolster the alliance capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, as well as to expand information sharing and joint planning. The two defense chiefs additionally pledged to closely cooperate in order to continue to deploy U.S. strategic assets in a timely and coordinated manner in the future.

The U.S. and South Korea will hold a Deterrence Strategy Committee Table-top Exercise (DSC TTX) in February, with the goal of assessing and developing response options to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat. The two sides highlighted the combined air exercises in late 2022 that involved U.S. strategic bombers and demonstrated a range of deterrence capabilities of the U.S.-ROK alliance.

“Going forward as well, we will seek together for various measures to enhance extended deterrence implementation, show the public of the Republic of Korea the firm will of the United States commitment to the defense of the ROK,” Lee said in a press conference with Austin.
“We will further reinforce the alliance capability and posture and the combined defense through expanded execution of field exercises and large scale combined joint fires demonstration.”

Neither Lee nor Austin provided details on the exercises that would be carried out, but they will likely be on the same level as the Foal Eagle joint exercises, which were suspended in 2019.

Asked about the types of deployments that the U.S. would carry out in the future to the ROK, Austin referred to the past year’s activities which included the deployments of F-22s, F-35s and the visit by the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG).

“You can look for more of that kind of activity going forward,” he said, adding that deeper consultations between the two countries and leaderships and more tabletop exercises are planned.

Both Austin and Lee also discussed measures to strengthen regional security cooperation, including ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation, according to the statement, and committed to following up on developing specific courses of action to facilitate trilateral sharing of missile warning data. Conversations are expected to be addressed at a future meeting of the Defense Trilateral Talks.

Both defense chiefs agreed to hold Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) at the earliest opportunity to discuss concrete measures on how to strengthen security cooperation among the three nations, the statement read.

Japan, Korea and the U.S. already carry out a number of joint missile defense activities like the Pacific Dragon exercise and held a ballistic missile defense drill in October 2022 in response to North Korean missile launches

Austin will now head to the Philippines where he will meet Philippines President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. while hosted by acting secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez, Austin will also meet with Gen. Andres Centino, the chief of defense, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo.

NATO and Japan

In Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged to deepen ties between Japan and NATO.

In a joint statement, Kishida and Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The pair reiterated their support for Ukraine and called for North Korea to fully comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions and to abandon its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.

Both leaders also shared concerns with Russia’s growing military cooperation with China, including through joint operations and drills in the vicinity of Japan.

Kishida and Stoltenberg raised concerns about Chinese and Russian attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, as well as the militarisation, coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea, due to China’s rapid strengthening of its military capabilities in the region. Both also stated that Japan and NATO’s positions on Taiwan remained unchanged and encouraged a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.

“Beijing and Moscow are leading an authoritarian pushback against the international rules-based order,” Stoltenberg said in his opening statement during his meeting with Kishida.

He said the Indo-Pacific faces growing challenges, from China’s coercive behavior to provocations by North Korea

“If President Putin wins in Ukraine, this would send a message that authoritarian regimes can achieve their goals through brute force. This is dangerous. Beijing is watching closely. And learning lessons that may influence its future decisions,” Stoltenberg said.

He added that what is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow.

Both leaders welcomed progress toward the new framework cooperation document between Japan and NATO, the Individually Tailored Partnership Programme (ITPP), in order to expand current Japan-NATO cooperation. Japan and NATO are exploring expanding cooperation to areas such as defense science and technology including activities with the NATO Science and Technology Organization (STO) and are also accelerating efforts to enhance information sharing.

Stoltenberg wrapped up a two-day visit to the Republic of Korea on Monday with talks with President Yoon Suk Yeol. The two leaders discussed common security challenges and how to strengthen the Alliance’s partnership with Seoul

In the South China Sea

On Friday, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fighters embarked on amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) carried out dissimilar air combat training in international airspace in the southern reaches of the South China Sea with Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG fighters, according to a social media post by the service.

On Sunday, embarked Rafale fighters and an E-2C Hawkeye from the carrier FS Charles De Gaulle (R91), currently deployed around the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, carried out a drill off India’s west coast with Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI fighters, an IAF Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft and an IL-76 tanker.

Australians, French Avoid AUKUS Talk in Paris Ministerial Meeting, Commit to More Pacific Operations

Australian and French defense ministers pledged to produce artillery shells to support Ukraine against the ongoing invasion from Russia in the first meeting between the two countries since Canberra walked away from a conventional submarine deal with French sub-builder DCNS. French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles met in Paris Monday just […]

(left to right) Australian foreign minister Penny Wong, defense minister Richard Marles, French foreign minister Catherine Colonna and defense minister Sebastien Lecornu. Australian Government Photo

Australian and French defense ministers pledged to produce artillery shells to support Ukraine against the ongoing invasion from Russia in the first meeting between the two countries since Canberra walked away from a conventional submarine deal with French sub-builder DCNS.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles met in Paris Monday just over two years after plans to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins-class submarines with DCNS’ Barracuda diesel-electric attack boats were dropped in favor of a nuclear submarine agreement with the U.S. and the U.K., signed in 2021.

“It is the first time that our consultations have taken place at this level — in the so-called 2+2 format – since an incident I shall not come back to,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters in a press conference with the defense ministers and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

The meeting series was a reset in diplomatic relations following the rift between the two countries following the May election of Australian Prime Minster Anthony Albanese and the installation of a new national security team.

Rather than talk submarines, the defense ministers agreed to produce thousands of 155mm artillery shells for use by the Ukrainian military against the Russian invasion.

“There are actually complementarities between our defense industrial bases, which allows this to happen,” Marles told following the meeting. “It’s also true that we wanted to act together as a statement about how importantly Australia and France regard the support of Ukraine in the current conflict.”

Marles also fielded questions from the French press on if Australia would consider buying diesel-electric submarines. The questions were prompted by reports the Navy had closed four of its submarine repair dry docks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to a report in Sky News.

“We’re obviously working closely with the United States and the United Kingdom to develop a nuclear-powered submarine capability and develop the optimal pathway to achieve that capability,” Richard Marles said.
“There are no plans for any interim conveniently powered submarine capability.”

The first outline for the plan to produce nuclear attack submarines for the Royal Australian Navy is due in March.

First steps under consideration for the partnership include basing a number of U.S. nuclear attack boats at the RAN’s submarine base near Perth in Western Australia. Those attack boats could be manned by a blended crew of RAN and U.S. sailors, several sources familiar with the ongoing discussions have told USNI News.

The timeline for the Australians to field their own nuclear attack boats is unclear, but U.S. officials have said those subs could be decades away.

In a joint statement, France and Australia committed to continuing to operate in the Pacific and join in international exercises in the region.

“Ministers reiterated their strong opposition to any coercion or destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of disputed features,” reads a joint statement from the meeting.
“They reaffirmed their intention to continue transits and deployments in the Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

To that end, Paris and Canberra pledged greater military logistical support in the Pacific for each other’s forces. Additionally, Australia will take part in the Croix du Sud exercise series off of New Caledonia while France will join the Talisman Saber 2023 drills off of Australia, the Monday statement reads.

The statement also opposed “unilateral changes in the status quo” regarding Taiwanese sovereignty and the statement echoed concern with human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the “erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, rights and freedoms.”

Bath Irons Works Delivers Destroyer Carl M. Levin to Navy

General Dynamics Bath Iron Words delivered the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) to the Navy last week, the service announced. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer finished acceptance trials in December off the coast of Maine, USNI news previously reported. “A Flight IIA destroyer, DDG 120 is equipped with the latest Aegis Combat System. The Aegis […]

USS Carl Levin (DDG-120) at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. BIW Photo

General Dynamics Bath Iron Words delivered the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) to the Navy last week, the service announced.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer finished acceptance trials in December off the coast of Maine, USNI news previously reported.

“A Flight IIA destroyer, DDG 120 is equipped with the latest Aegis Combat System. The Aegis Combat System provides large area defense coverage against air and ballistic missile targets, and also delivers superior processing of complex sensor data to allow for quick-reaction decision making, high firepower, and improved electronic warfare capability against a variety of threats,” the service said in a news release.

Carl M. Levin is slated to commission into service sometime this year.

The destroyer’s delivery comes as Bath Iron Works digs out of a backlog at its Maine yard that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and labor issues at the yard over the last few years. The Navy issued BIW the contract for Carl M. Levin in March of 2014 and the company started building the destroyer in September of 2016, according to the Fiscal Year 2023 budget documents. Those documents listed the delivery for Carl M. Levin as September 2022.

The yard last delivered USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) in March of 2021 and the destroyer was commissioned later that year.

BIW has several Flight IIAs and Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers under construction at its yard in Bath. Those include future destroyers Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG-124), John Basilone (DDG-122), Patrick Gallagher (DDG-127), Quentin Walsh (DDG-132), William Charette (DDG-130) and Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG-126), according to Naval Sea Systems Command.

The FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act included language allowed the Navy to ink another multi-year procurement deal for as many as 15 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as lawmakers push the service to work up to buying three destroyers per year. The last multi-year deal went through FY 2022.

Navy Closes 4 Puget Sound Submarine Dry Docks Following Earthquake Risk Study

Four dry docks the Navy uses to overhaul nuclear submarines in Washington are temporarily closed after the service found they are at risk for earthquake damage, service officials told USNI News on Thursday. The dry docks, three at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., and the delta pier at the […]

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) arrives at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for a port visit in January 2017. US Navy photo.

Four dry docks the Navy uses to overhaul nuclear submarines in Washington are temporarily closed after the service found they are at risk for earthquake damage, service officials told USNI News on Thursday.

The dry docks, three at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., and the delta pier at the Trident Refit Facility in Bangor, Wash., are still certified to overhaul nuclear submarines, but the Navy has decided to keep the dry docks empty pending further investigation.

“The seismic assessment and expert validation enhances the Navy’s knowledge of the potential issues associated with a large earthquake occurring during a submarine maintenance availability,” reads a statement from the service.
“With this new knowledge, the Navy determined that it needs to remediate specific vulnerabilities to ensure the safety of the shipyard workforce, sailors, the local public, the environment and the submarines.”

As a result of the findings, the Navy over the last week brought in about one hundred experts from across the fleet and outside the service to assess the seismic risk to the dry docks, a Navy official told USNI News.

“The risks are still not fully quantified. What we’re doing is no different from what anyone in the Northwest that has facilities is doing – the risk is not localized here. It’s really a regional risk,” a separate service official told USNI News.

The pause at the dry docks will not result in the reduction of the 14,000 personnel working at the yard, the Navy said on Thursday.

The Navy established PNSY in 1901, with the oldest of the six dry docks originally built in 1906. The dry docks the service has closed are four of the newest ones. Dry Dock 4 and 5 were both built in the early 1940s, while Dry Dock 6 – used for aircraft carrier overhauls – was completed in 1962.

The delta dry dock that’s 13 miles away in Bangor was completed in the 1980s as part of the Navy’s support systems for its nuclear ballistic-missile submarine fleet.

“They are all constructed differently and out of an abundance of caution we want to take a look at all of them,” a second Navy official told USNI News.
The Navy has for years known of the seismic risk to Puget Sound, as the facility sits on multiple fault lines, USNI News understands. It’s unclear what new information the Navy gleaned from the recent seismic assessment.

Undated photo of the TRF Bangor Delta pier

The yards in Bremerton and Bangor sit near a major fault line that runs from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, Calif. In 2001, an earthquake with an epicenter near the shipyard prompted the service to look at the risk to the shipyard.

“Following the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, seismic vulnerability studies identified high-risk facilities in the shipyard, and in response, the Navy began planning and implementing significant seismic upgrades,” reads a Thursday statement from the Navy.

“The Navy continues to plan and conduct upgrades; several projects are in progress, and the remaining facilities will be addressed as part of the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program.”

An overhaul to the dry docks that would allow them to better sustain earthquake damage could take somewhere between 18 and 24 months, based on previous Navy assessments, USNI News understands. That kind of work could include removing the floor and sides of a dry dock and using different types of sand to absorb motion in the case of an earthquake.

It’s unclear how the pause in the four dry docks will affect the backlog of nuclear submarine maintenance in the service’s four public shipyards. According to a 2020 Government Accountability Office report, the Navy had more than 4,000 days of delays in submarine maintenance between Fiscal Year 2015 and FY 2019.

Program Executive Officer for Attack Submarines Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker in November said 18 of the Navy’s 50 attack submarines were in maintenance or waiting to go into a yard for an availability.

The Navy brought down its average number of maintenance days from 1,500 to 1,600 in FY 2019 to about 1,100 in FY 2022, Rucker said at the time. The Navy hopes for that number to go down to 700 days by FY 2026.

Given the physical characteristics of submarine maintenance work, a limited amount of it can get done pierside, USNI News understands.

While the Navy could divert some attack submarine maintenance to other locations like Point Loma, Calif., and even potentially Guam, Puget Sound and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard are working through a backlog of submarines.

When factoring in the potential for a conflict in the Indo-Pacific and accidents like the 2021 incident with USS Connecticut (SSN-22), which hit an uncharted sea mount in the South China Sea, the capacity could become further strained.

The ballistic-missile submarine work at Bangor, however, could become a more immediate issue. SSBNs go into the Trident facility for shorter, more intense maintenance periods that average about 40 days before heading back out for patrols. This allows the Navy to surge the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad when necessary.

For now, the Navy is continuing to analyze mitigation efforts for the dry docks and is unsure as to when it will reopen them.

“We’ve got a hundred people across different organizations and different seismic backgrounds that are bringing some unique solutions and ideas to this,” the first Navy official told USNI News.
“The Department of Defense pulled out all the stops to try and get the right people together quickly to go after this.”

Russian Arctic Threat Growing More Potent, Report Says

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found. The Arctic remains “of great strategic […]

Russian Borei-class nuclear submarine Generalissimus Suvorov. TASS Photo

Russia’s Northern Fleet’s ballistic missile submarines and strategic bomber force’s capabilities remain intact despite the heavy toll the country’s invasion into Ukraine has had on its naval infantry, army and special forces assigned to the Kola Peninsula, a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found.

The Arctic remains “of great strategic value to Russia,” Njord Wegge, a professor at the Norwegian Defense University College, said this week as the report was released. On the military side, the Kola Peninsula in the Arctic provides a gateway for Russia’s Northern Fleet’s attack and ballistic missile submarines to move through the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom [GIUK] gap to reach the Atlantic

The “Russian Arctic Threat” report noted Western-imposed sanctions on the Kremlin for the Feb. 24 invasion may have a future effect on Russian defense industry’s ability to deliver future strategic capabilities. The report mentioned their effect on ship construction and updating conventional land, sea and air weapons systems that rely on imported technology. The report cited the benefit and importance of keeping tight sanctions on dual-use computer chips that could be used for Moscow’s conventional forces in the Ukrainian fighting.

It remains to be seen how sanctions will work over the next four years, said Colin Wall, associate fellow in CSIS’ Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program. For now, “Russia will probably have to make tradeoffs” in spending and where it commits military resources as long as the war continues.

Russia has already deployed advanced tanks to the fight and could soon be sending advanced air defense systems to better protects its forces against a spring offensive, Wegge said. Both moves put further strain on the Russian industrial base.

In addition to smuggling and trading with partners who ignore the sanctions, “China has been important partner in the past” and could be again in filling in these military technological gaps, Wegge said. So far, Beijing has not stepped in to fill Moscow’s immediate military needs as Iran did with drones.

“Russia has had 10 years of successful modernization” of its forces that it can fall back on, he said, specifically citing hypersonic weapons and silencing its submarines.

Wall, who co-authored the report with Wegge, added, with Finland and Sweden applying for NATO membership Russia’s goal of “protecting its second strike capability” is of heightened concern in the Kremlin. Moscow’s other strategic goals in the Arctic are: protecting the Northern Sea Route as a potential major trade route between Asia and Europe; and protecting its energy industry in the region, a major source of outside revenue.

When Sweden and, especially, Finland are admitted to NATO, the security equation in the Arctic will change. Both panelists agreed the High North has been a region of relatively low tension.

The report noted Russia’s defense minister warned “retaliatory measures are required” such sending more land forces to northwest Russia if the two are admitted to the alliance.

CSIS Graphic

With Finland a member, the alliance would have better highway access and now rail access to the northernmost areas of Europe. In addition, Finland has a “broad mobilization base” in reserve manpower and stockpiled conventional arms, weapons and ammunition, Wegge said.

Wall described the Kremlin’s comments as “ratcheting up” tensions. He added it was unlikely immediately that United States or NATO would create a Baltic or Arctic Command in the near future.

“The Arctic is not going to shoot to the top of the priority list” of American immediate security concerns, Wall said. He expects U.S. presence to grow but to continue to rely on allies and partners to keep an eye on Russian activities.

Speaking at a Wilson Center event Thursday, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael Ryan, deputy commandant for operations, policy and capabilities, emphasized presence. “It’s about being there … to be successful” in providing security for the region, he said.

Adding the Arctic is a “unique domain” for security and military operations, Ryan said. The service’s expanded commitment can be seen in its building a heavy icebreaker and looking to buy another existing large icebreaking vessel to operate continuously there. Both are part of a long-term effort to rebuild the nation’s icebreaking fleet to three heavies and three medium icebreakers.

The CSIS report stated the Northern Fleet has two “ice-class” vessels in its number and can call up 46 civilian icebreakers when needed. Some of those icebreakers are armed.

Wegge noted at CSIS the American Marines and the Army’s 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska, have stepped up training exercises in the High North with allies like Norway and large-scale exercises like Trident Juncture. For years, the Marine Corps has been prepositioning equipment in northern Norway to use in a crisis.

He added Norway can play a pivotal role in Arctic security in providing air and maritime awareness with its advanced platforms and technology.

Japan Issues Military Equipment Wishlist That Includes Hypersonic Weapons, Unmanned Systems

Japan’s Ministry of Defense this week issued a document detailing new military equipment it’s developing, with rationales and status updates for programs ranging from hypersonic weapons to unmanned underwater vehicles. The capabilities include research on hypersonic cruise missiles, the development of high-speed glide bombs for island defense, target observation munitions, Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) control […]

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), in cooperation with the U.S. Navy, announced the successful completion of Japan Flight Test Mission-07 (JFTM-07), held off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii, on Nov. 18, 2022. MDA Photo

Japan’s Ministry of Defense this week issued a document detailing new military equipment it’s developing, with rationales and status updates for programs ranging from hypersonic weapons to unmanned underwater vehicles.

The capabilities include research on hypersonic cruise missiles, the development of high-speed glide bombs for island defense, target observation munitions, Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) control technology, development of new sea mines, improved Type 12 anti-ship missiles, the mass production and deployment of high-speed glide bombs, mass production of the improved SH-60K anti-submarine warfare helicopter, a new anti-ship missile for maritime patrol aircraft, the mass production of torpedoes with a silent power unit and the acquisition of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The disclosure is in line with a 2019 MoD enactment on measures for clarification and transparency on new military equipment.

On hypersonic cruise missiles, the MoD said its study found only domestic research and development candidates met the operational concept and performance requirements. It selected a domestic operational research demonstration to develop prototypes for evaluation and funding for the research under the Fiscal Year 2023 defense budget request. (Japan’s fiscal year begins on April 1. The MoD did not disclose the amount allocated in the document, but the MoD’s FY 2023 budget request asked for 58.5 billion yen, or $454 million.

For high-speed glide bombs, the MoD said it will develop them with long ranges and make them capable of traveling at supersonic speeds and high altitudes from various points in Japan to deal with invasions of islands. An MoD study concluded that only domestic candidates can meet the requirements for operational concept and performance, so Japan will pursue domestic development. The FY 2023 budget request sought 200.3 billion yen, or $1.54 billion, for development. A second entry on building and deploying high-speed glide bombs said that while Japan expects to finish research into the bombs by FY 2025, the bombs could operationally deploy as early as possible. This could potentially happen before the research finishes, so acquisition costs were factored into the FY 2023 budget request. It did not give an exact timeframe as to when manufacturing and deployment will begin.

A tomahawk cruise missile launches from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG-86) for a live-fire exercise during Valiant Shield 2018 on Sept. 18, 2018. US Navy Photo

On the Tomahawk cruise missiles, the MoD said they are necessary to acquire a stand-off missile capability for defense as soon as possible and that the Tomahawk met the criteria, like acquisition schedule and performance. The acquisition costs were included in the FY 2023 budget request, which sough 211.3 billion yen, or $1.62 billion, along with an additional 110 billion yen, or $847 million, for software, equipment, technology transfer fees and training.

It’s unclear if the target observation munitions entry referred solely to loitering munitions or unmanned air vehicles to provide target acquisition data for other weapon systems or a combination of both. Again the MoD chose to go the domestic development path, as it was the only was to meet Japan’s requirements and development expenses that were factored into the FY 2023 budget request. The MoD said it will not disclose overall procurement cost, per unit cost, and production cost because it could suggest the number of munitions procured. But the life cycle cost is expected to be 118.2 billion yen, or $911 million.

For research on UUV control technology, Japan will acquire and build two types of domestic UUVs to test out actual operations at sea, with the test UUVs meant to control smaller UUVs. UUV1 will only be a testing vehicle, while UUV2 may evolve into a mass-produced operational model once the tests are completed. Japan will also domestically develop new compact and lightweight sea mines that can be deployed from various platforms and remotely controlled. It’s unclear when these would get operationally fielded.

Development of the improved Type 12 ground-launched anti-ship missile is expected to finish by FY 2025, though the missile will deploy as soon as possible. The MoD did not detail what the improvements would be, but it has already disclosed plans to extend the range from 200 kilometers to over 1000 kilometers. The MoD included 127.7 billion yen, or $985 million, in the FY 2023 budget for both research and development, along with production and acquisition.

A new anti-ship missile will deploy on Japan’s maritime patrol aircraft to replace the existing ASM-1C and Harpoon anti-ship missiles in service, though the type and manufacture has not been disclosed. Pictures of the missiles during flight tests show that it’s likely an improved air-launched version of the Type 17 anti-ship missile. A submarine-launched torpedo with a quieter power unit will also come online, though the document did not detail whether this is an improved version of the Type 18 torpedo or a new torpedo design. It only said that the new power unit is quieter than the one in existing Type 18 torpedoes. Per unit costs were also not disclosed.

The improved version of the Japanese-produced Mitsubishi Heavy Industries SH-60K, – built under license from Sikorsky – commonly known outside the MoD as SH-60L, had an average unit production cost of 8.1 billion yen, or $62 million, as of August 2022, according to the MoD document. The life cycle cost is projected at 1248 billion yen, or $9.61 billion, when 80 aircraft are procured. Though not stated in the document, the helicopter is expected to enter service by the end of FY 2023, replacing the current SH-60Ks in service with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Navy Refines Littoral Combat Ship Shore Training

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The eyes of a half-dozen crew of Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) were staring at computer displays, tracking contacts and consulting manuals in the warship’s dimmed pilot house as the bridge watch team guided the ship through foggy waters. However, Jackson wasn’t at sea. The gold crew members of […]

Sailors stand a simulated watch on the bridge of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Integrated Tactical Trainer (ITT)-2B at the Littoral Training Facility on Naval Base San Diego, March 5, 2020. US Navy Photo

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The eyes of a half-dozen crew of Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) were staring at computer displays, tracking contacts and consulting manuals in the warship’s dimmed pilot house as the bridge watch team guided the ship through foggy waters.

However, Jackson wasn’t at sea. The gold crew members of the San Diego-based LCS were working on their individual and team watch-standing skills in the integrated tactical trainer at LCS Training Center Pacific ahead of a navigation assessment. Other Jackson gold crew sailors worked on their Personnel Qualifications Standards and Train-to-Qualify requirements in virtual labs.

Crews enter the immersive trainers to work through simulated scenarios in a realistic, full-scale simulation, where they can fail without fear and unlimited do-overs.

“This is orientation. This is knowledge,” Capt. Dustin Lonero, the commanding officer of LCS Training Facility Pacific told USNI News. “So when they get to their ships, they are ready to integrate it at a much quicker pace.”

That’s particularly important for the LCS community, whose blue/gold crews rotate to their forward-deployed hull every four to five months and must be ready to hit the ground running and operate their ship. With few ships typically available for at-sea training at their home station, the LTF serves a key role to provide that needed training and certification for both individual sailors and crew of off-hull ships.

“Each sailor is valuable,” Lonero said. “You can’t afford to have a sailor who’s not up to speed.”

The simulated training systems, with integrated ship navigation and combat systems, are known as Surface Training Advanced Virtual Environment-LCS. LTF-Pacific has three full-sized spaces that replicate the pilothouse, with bridge wings and 180-degree window screens that enable high-res external imagery that can mimic the swells and movements of a ship underway. Consoles and stations – including for the officer-of-the-deck (OOD), junior officer-of-the-deck (JOOD) and readiness control officer (RCO) and interior communications – are exactly as they are in the real ships.

“Everything here is the exact same model you’ll see on ship,” Lt. Cmdr. George Bank, the LTF-Pacific’s executive officer, said during a recent tour.

About 80 military personnel along with 12 civilian workers and 30 contractors work at LTF-Pacific, plus an additional 30 contractors who provide maintenance as needed, officials said. An East Coast counterpart, LTF-Atlantic, was established in September 2022 in Mayport, Fla., for the LCS-1 USS Freedom fleet of ships. The LTF provides Train-to-Qualify courses that teach sailors new to LCS about its systems and train them to be watchstanders and Train-to-Certify courses for crew certification.

U.S. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), land an AH-1Z Viper on USS Jackson (LCS-6) during exercise Steel Knight 23, in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 10, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The LCS community has minimally-manned crews by design, with hybrid sailors taking on multiple responsibilities compared to surface warfare crews on other warships. Crews on deploying hulls rotate overseas to their ships, so foundational work to build and sharpen LCS-specific skills happens ashore, mostly in simulation trainers.

Sailors training at the LTF get oriented to their hull’s systems and equipment before stepping aboard, and “they can integrate with the crew quickly,” Lonero said. That’s important, he noted, amid manning gaps that don’t leave much time for that orientation once sailors get to their hulls.

Lonero took command on Nov. 1, when the LTF was established and renamed in a Navy realignment of Surface Combat Systems Training Command. The name change from Center for Surface Combat Systems and realignment define the command’s critical mission of training surface warfighters, according to the Navy.

Upgrades Ahead

Naval Academy Midshipmen navigate a simulated Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in the Integrated Tactical Trainer (ITT) of the LCS Training Facility on board Naval Base San Diego on Aug. 2, 2021. US Navy Photo

The $46.6 million LTF Pacific, which opened in 2017 in a renovated warehouse near the waterfront, has three integrated immersive trainers, three bridge trainers, a mission bay trainer and virtual reality labs where smaller groups of students learn the intricacies of their rate, watch duties and tasks. It provides both basic phase certification and sustainment training for crews that are off-hull or preparing to get underway for training certification or large-scale exercises.

The Alpha integrated trainer is down while it gets long-term upgrades and software updates until April, and Bravo trainer will follow in June, Lonero said.

“The big one that we have our eye on is the Lethality and Survivability upgrades,” he said.

Alpha trainer is funded for the L&S upgrades, which include more consoles and software upgrades and a new combat systems suite, starting in Fiscal Year 2024. Bravo and Charlie trainers also will be upgraded, but there’s no time frame yet.

“We are just trying to match the fleet so we can just service the legacy ships and service L&S ships as well,” he said. “We are looking at numbers and we’re kind of reading the tea leaves to see when the transitions are occurring so we can adjust our timelines accordingly.”

Consoles and computer suites will change, said Mike Mershon, director of LCS Training Facility Pacific.

“For LCS-2, it’s almost a complete gut job of the combat systems part. The bridge will be the same. The watch stations are going to be in the same space, but it’s a whole new combat systems. They’re standardizing it.”

“Just like any ship in the Navy, they’re constantly getting the new and the better,” Mershon said.

If the Navy moves ahead with changing LCS mission packages from surface to mine warfare, “then we’ll match the transition as well,” Lonero added. The facility already provides a mine countermeasures capstone course for minemen, “and eventually we’ll start doing MCM certification.”

“I think the Navy is still trying to come up with what they want to see on the certification and sustainment of an MCM mission package ship. So we are just trying to lean forward and we’re just trying to build our own,” and they plan to provide a proposal to Afloat Training Group, he added. “By next year, I think, hopefully that’s ironed out.”

Risks and Training Ashore

Sailors simulate the navigation of a littoral combat ship, inside the Integrated Tactical Team Trainer 2 at the Center for Surface Combat Systems’ LCS Training Facility (LTF), April 6, 2021. US Navy Photo

Simulated training lets crews train and work on crew coordination when they cannot get to sea. They can push the limits without the risk if underway, officials say.

“Anybody can be a great watchstander in (Southern California operating area) when the weather is great, when there’s no traffic. But how do you handle things when there’s some pressure on you, there’s a lot of traffic, the weather’s bad? How do you make decisions then?” Lonero said. “This gives a window for a CO to look through to see how the watchstanders handle those situations.”

Simulation trainers can push crews and bridge watch teams through stressful events. It’s a balance to provide enough challenges for the crew to learn, even to fail, and provide enough leeway “to control the ship as they see fit,” he said. “This is a good place to test that.”

“All those extra hours that you get in – whether it’s in BRM or crew cert or just coming in for stick time – is really valuable. It’s hard to get that out in SOCAL,” he added. “You don’t get close to what you’re seeing when you’re on deployment in the South China Sea, with two [PLA Navy] shadows and a ton of traffic and your radar is going down, or something like that. There are some situations that are tough to prepare for, but if you’re going through some of the scenarios that we have here, you’re going to have a leg up.”

That means replicating missions in real-world waters, where crews have to manage congested channels, tricky ports, rough weather and the peering eyes – and sometimes dangerous maneuvering – of foreign ships and patrol boats. Among the missions that LCS crews are asking for more lately are escort and freedom-of-navigation operations, the latter a particularly dicey mission in the South China Sea.

Filling Training Needs

The littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) sits pierside in San Diego, Calif. US Navy Photo

Unlike deploying warships that get time to train underway heading west from San Diego on deployment, the rotational nature of LCS crews that fly to their overseas port means they have to hit the ground running.

“It’s not your typical warm-up,” Lonero said. Other ships deploying from the West Coast have time to train before they reach Guam, “and it slowly starts picking up in the Philippines.” But for LCS crews, he said, it’s “boom, and you’re dealing with actual Chinese ships on your first underway.”

“So the more training that you can get so you’re ready to respond for that, the better.”

Lonero, whose career includes four Persian Gulf deployments on a frigate and cruiser, has skippered crews on three littoral combat ships – USS Gabby Giffords (LCS-10), USS Coronado (LCS-4) and, most recently, USS Montgomery (LCS-8). One year, he recalled, he flew to Singapore to meet up with his ship.

“We had about five days to turn over, and then it was turn-and-burn,” he said. “There’s no workup. It’s right away into heavy traffic, dealing with the Chinese (ships), operating with a ship we haven’t done in months.”

“It’s just a lot to handle,” he added. “So, you need this, I think, if we’re going to operate this model. This is crucial” for initial training. There’s no time to waste. A junior OOD reporting aboard after completing their capstone course might get two weeks of familiarization aboard and get qualified and stand a watch, he said. “You need to get them on that watchbill in weeks,” not months.

“They may not be fully qualified watchstanders yet because they’re a couple of weeks onboard,” Mershon said. But COs “know what they’re getting from students that we output.”

The simulation trainers are well utilized, with training going into the late night, officials said. “It’s a balancing act to see who we can train and when,” Lonero said, noting “we do get a lot of requests for specialized training we try to meet.”

He said that he didn’t realize the training opportunities at the LTF until he took command. So he’s working some initiatives to spread the word across the waterfront and this year hopes to kick off a “road show” to brief about LTF and educate skippers and crews about what the facility offers.

“If you want additional stick time, other than what’s available to you, you can sign up for a sustainment course,” he said. “I want to make sure all of that is communicated very explicitly to the COs so they understand what the LTF is capable of.”

Hands-on Focus

The trainer at the Mariner Skills Training Center in San Diego, Calif., is meant to help new officers learn basic navigation, seamanship and shiphandling skills ahead of reporting to ships and serving as a junior officer of the deck. USNI News photo.

In one of the virtual reality labs, information systems technicians and electronics technicians worked through guided and unguided instruction on Day 25 of a 35-day Combat Systems Operator course. Seated at individual banks of monitors, students used avatars and waded into virtual environments as if they were aboard ship. With thick, red operating manuals in hand, they worked through the lesson plans to learn the various combat systems equipment, “from start-up to shut down,” said Electronics Technician 1st Class Anthony Reever, an instructor. The gaming-like control systems “are very intuitive.”

“This entire course is at your own pace,” Reever said. But “it’s encouraged for the students to interact with each other.”

Over in the expansive mission bay, a small group of sailors gathered outside a metal container as an instructor went over a mine warfare system. The space replicates the LCS mission bay and supports several courses, including Deck Operations and the Material Handling Equipment course. Here, sailors learn to operate forklifts to move around small metal containers, operate the boat skid for rigid-hull inflatable boats, and use a large Mobicon container handler to lift and move large containers around the large bay, said Chief Boatswain’s Mate Kendrick Taylor, an instructor. Students also get hands on the systems to operate the large stern door.

The LTF includes state-of-the-art briefing rooms where ship crews can gather for “hot washes” with instructors and review training scenarios and their watchstanders and individual performance. That can be very helpful, “as everybody has a different memory of what occurred,” Lonero said. “Here, you have the tape of what exactly happened. It makes for an effective debrief.”

It also provides each CO with detailed performance information on individual sailors, which can help in crafting watch bill sections and identifying those for leadership roles. “A lot of times, it could be different than what I saw myself,” Lonero said. “Here, seeing how teams work together… and getting feedback on the performance of the leadership, I think it’s an eye-opener.”