Virginia Class: When does hull coating separation endanger the boat?

by Craig Hooper on September 6, 2010

UPDATE: Interested news media can contact Craig Hooper at

After the Pentagon’s top weapons tester at DOT&E released a scathing report on the Virginia Class sub’s tendency to shed it’s sound-dampening hull coating, Alan Baribeau, the Naval Sea Systems Command’s talking head for the Virginia Class program office, told Inside the Navy (sorry, no direct link) this for a July 26 story:

Hull coating separations have not caused any fail-to-sail events so far, the program office adds.

“The debonding issue has been aggressively pursued since its recognition in 2006,” the statement reads. “The problem was largely due to immature application processes, which have been corrected on later ships. Because of the parallel construction process, [the hull treatment] was applied to several ships before the first at-sea testing of Virginia. The program office continues to monitor the performance of all ships and pursue improvement.”

Well…the Virginia Class office had best be monitoring performance–because it looks like every single Virginia Class sub is suffering from this ugly tendency to shed their hull treatment…. And, well, um, maybe I shouldn’t ask, but, ah, when does hull treatment debonding become an acoustic/ship survivability issue? When does it become a fail-to-sail issue? Because this looks rather bad:

And, no it is not a tile-shedding Soviet Sub from the closing days of the Cold War…It is the multi-billion dollar Virginia Class submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) returning to Pearl Harbor Hickam on Aug 23 after a 4 month deployment to the 4th Fleet–one of it’s first.

And the next photo is of the USS Virginia (SSN 774) leaving Submarine Base New London…on August 30—looking awful:

And the last photo is USS Hawaii (SSN 776), arriving in Japan on September 3. She left Pearl Harbor just 9 days ago–and the surface treatment is already ripping away:

What will USS Hawaii look like in six months? And what will her acoustic signature sound like?

Maybe the Virginia-class office can ask the Chinese for some help in, ah, monitoring this under-reported fiasco-in-the-making.

{ 8 trackbacks }

Dear Virginia-class Program Office: Get yer story straight
September 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm
Virginia Class: Announcing the USS Hawaii MIP SHT failure watch
September 25, 2010 at 12:03 am
Virginia-class Sub Managers have a truth problem:
October 26, 2010 at 9:22 pm
LPD-17 and the rage of J. Michael Gilmore
October 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm
Show, don’t tell: Circumspection over Virginia Class MIP/SHT woes
January 21, 2011 at 8:35 pm
Virginia Class Submarines Losing Their Coatings « lesterriola
August 15, 2011 at 6:02 pm
Virginia Class Submarines Losing Their Coatings « US General Contractor News
August 24, 2011 at 1:21 am
In Press: The Daily Press and Mother Jones talk sub skin failures
January 31, 2013 at 5:52 pm

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