Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Mexico's commissioning pushed back because of problems

The submarine New Mexico is under construction at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. (Northrop Grumman, Daily Press / January 22, 2009)

By Peter Frost


2:51 p.m. EDT, September 3, 2009

NEWPORT NEWS — Construction problems on the submarine New Mexico will delay the boat's commissioning until early 2010, the Navy said Thursday.

New Mexico, a Virginia-class submarine under construction at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News shipyard, was on track to be completed this month and commissioned on Nov. 21.

But in August, the Navy said weapons-handling systems on at least four submarines — including the New Mexico — were installed incorrectly by workers at the Newport News yard. Those errors restricted the ability of sailors to move torpedoes into launch tubes.

Matt Mulherin, the Newport News yard's general manager, told the Daily Press on Aug. 21 that the New Mexico probably would be delayed as a result of the additional re-work and inspections required on the sub.

"It's going to take some time to come through" the problems on the New Mexico, he said at the time.

The Navy on Thursday said the repairs will push the submarine's delivery "at least into November 2009." Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will set a new date for the sub's commissioning in the coming weeks, the Navy said.

The problems were found on the North Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri and California. Of the four boats, none was under way. Only the North Carolina is commissioned, but it is in a maintenance period. The other subs are in various stages of construction in Newport News and in Groton, Conn.

On each of the subs, Northrop improperly installed bolts and fasteners that hold together tracks on which weapons are moved in the torpedo room. Improper installation of these pieces could result in a misalignment of the equipment, preventing the movement of weapon cradles within the torpedo room.

A misalignment could restrict sailors' ability to position weapons in torpedo tubes, essentially disabling the sub's ability to launch attacks or defend itself.

Despite the issue, the Navy noted that the New Mexico still is on track to be delivered several months early to its contract delivery date of April 2010.
Copyright © 2009, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

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