Navy Probes Work At Northrop Grumman Shipyard

December 21st, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Navy Probes Work At Northrop Grumman Shipyard

Wall Street Journal
December 21, 2007
Pg. 10
By August Cole
The U.S. Navy is investigating the quality of workmanship at Northrop Grumman Corp.'s Newport News shipyards, marking the latest stumbling block for the defense contractor's shipbuilding operations.
Officials discovered cracks in welded joints on at least one 377-foot Virginia class submarine, but the inquiry has been expanded to other vessels. Officials said they plan to scrutinize work dating back to 2000, a year prior to Northrop's acquisition of Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. for $2.6 billion.
The problems come at the end of a year in which the Los Angeles company has endured harsh criticism of its work on U.S. Coast Guard vessels while also continuing to recover from the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina, which left its Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard short of skilled workers.
The Newport News shipyard is critical to the Navy because it is the only place where nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are built. The Navy said the problems are located in piping and don't affect hulls or nuclear systems.
Investigators found that workers inadvertently used incompatible metals during the welding process, resulting in weak joints. Newport News said that it will retrain more than 3,000 welders by mid-January. The company said it should know by early next month how many submarines and surface ships are affected.
Officials first learned of the situation after two failures occurred during routine testing of submarines in August and October. After looking further into the matter, officials broadened the investigation to include aircraft carriers and other surface ships, as well as Los Angeles-class submarines, the Navy said.
According to the Navy, the faulty welds may be in only a fraction of the thousands of welded joints on a typical vessel. The Navy said it had found a variety of shortcomings in both training and supervision, including "improper control of welding materials" and instances of welders correcting their own errors without consulting engineers or supervisors.
Newport News said in a statement that it has "a rigorous program in place" to ensure the company's work meets the Navy's requirements. "When issues arise, it's something we address in an immediate and methodical way."
Shipbuilding problems have dogged the defense industry in recent years. The Coast Guard wrested control of a $24-billion modernization program known as Deepwater after several disappointments with work done by Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin Corp. On a separate program, ballooning costs prompted the Navy to reduce the number of high-speed, shallow-water vessels it plans to buy from Lockheed and General Dynamics Corp.

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