Virginia Class: Announcing the USS Hawaii MIP SHT failure watch

by Craig Hooper on September 25, 2010

UPDATE: Interested news media can contact Craig Hooper at

Earlier this week, the Virginia Class Program Office indulged in some nimble footwork to minimize the scope of their emergent hull treatment debonding problem. First, they told observers that only three of the first four Virginia-class subs suffered the most serious hull treatment failures–the USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Texas (SSN 775) and the USS North Carolina (SSN 777).

They continued, in the same calming vein, to assure us that, at least according to Daily Press scribe Peter Frost, “the debonding occurred over a period of several years.”

But is the Virginia-class Program Office being honest?

Let’s see! The USS Hawaii (SSN-776)–commissioned in May 2007–left for her initial West Pacific deployment on August 24-25, her shark-like skin intact. (Some background: The USS Hawaii had, in November 2009, arrived at Hawaii, skin in tatters, and went into dry dock in April 2010 to enjoy some TLC–and get that special hull treatment repaired.)

But, as the leading (top of the page) closeup of the USS Hawaii (SSN 776) demonstrates, by September 3 (only about ten days into the deployment) the Special Hull Treatment began to fail. The sub pulled into the Japanese port of Yokosuka, sporting a little tear by the sail. See it? (The original high-rez picture is available here.)

Well, it turns out that little tear grows pretty fast. This next blurry closeup is the USS Hawaii (SSN 776) pulling into Guam on September 24, exactly one month into her deployment. And look! (Sorry about the small size) The initial failure has grown into a nasty gash of about 12-20 feet long. (original high-rez photo is available here.)

I couldn’t get an angle on the second Yokosuka tear (the third picture), but I’ll bet that one is growing too.

What is the USS Hawaii going to look like in two months?

I mean, it’s ugly when a high-profile Program Office can’t just acknowledge that a certain problem is serious and then demand that the problem get fixed before proceeding.

Put bluntly, if the Virginia-class Program Office cannot muster the cojones to even recognize a problem that is staring ‘em in the face, how in the heck is the rest of Big Navy going to muster the will to get the problem solved?

This lack of intestinal fortitude will, in a shooting war, get our sailors killed. I hate to say it, but, to really fix this MIP SHP problem, it seems we’ve gotta fix the Virginia-class Program Office first. They don’t even know when the MIP SHP problem started, for god’s sake!

Surely there is a nice recruiting billet or two available in, oh, Boise? Or a retirement home someplace?

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