Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Isles gain with Navy ship work

The upgrades to nine vessels at Pearl Harbor will generate hundreds of jobs

By William Cole


Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is about to embark on a decade-long, $1.86 billion warship modernization program to extend the life of the fleet -- an undertaking that will double surface-ship workers here while the ships are in dry dock or pierside for work.

The work is part of a Navy-wide program to modernize its 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers and 62 Arleigh-Burke destroyers at a cost of $16.6 billion, representing the most comprehensive effort in Navy history, officials said.

All three cruisers at Pearl Harbor, the Chosin, Lake Erie and Port Royal, will undergo improvements here, along with Pearl's six destroyers, the Chung-Hoon, Hopper, Paul Hamilton, Russell, O'Kane and Chafee.

First up for six months and $71 million worth of hull, mechanical and electrical system upgrades is the cruiser USS Chosin, which entered Dry Dock No. 4 on Dec. 9. The majority of the work is expected to start on Jan. 19, the Navy said.

The Chosin will return to the shipyard in 2014 for combat systems improvements. The tentative schedule calls for the destroyer Russell to go in for modernization in 2013, with the cruisers Lake Erie slated for 2015 and Port Royal for 2016, officials said.

Overall, the work is expected to cost $220 million per cruiser and $200 million per destroyer, the Navy said.

The work on the Chosin and other ships means 600 to 700 island shipyard workers will be used -- nearly maxing out the available pool -- while another 600 will be brought in from the mainland.

"In this economy, the ability to hire people at a good salary -- that's good," said Robert Lillis, president of the International Association of Machinists Local 1998, which represents about 160 surface-ship workers. "I would say because of the numbers, it's a very big deal, because of the amount of employment it will generate."

Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard has a civilian and military work force of about 4,800, and 90 percent of its efforts are directed at submarine work.

Private contractor BAE Systems Hawaii Shipyards will be performing a heavy share of the work on the Chosin and the other ships, the Navy said.

The roughly 200 BAE shipyard workers will be augmented by Marisco Ltd., Pacific Shipyards International, HSI Electric and other marine businesses, BAE Hawaii President Dean Araujo said.

"Our goal is to put everybody that was trained and ready to work and on the island to work before we did anything else," Araujo said.

THE CYCLICAL nature of surface ship work means 1,200 workers can't be kept employed in Hawaii at all times, the Navy said.

The other 600 workers needed will arrive in early January, primarily from San Diego and Norfolk, Va., Araujo said.

Those coming in are expected to add to the local economy with hotel stays, restaurant visits and other expenditures.

The program will result in a jump in the shipyard's surface workload from approximately 68,400 "man days" in fiscal 2010 to more than 140,000 days in 2013, the Navy said.

"While I would like to have all the employment stay here on the island, they're simply not capable of doing the amount of work that's necessary with the local crew," Lillis said.

The modernization work is intended to ensure that the ships can be operated cost-effectively throughout their entire 35- to 40-year intended service life as the Navy strives to have a 313-ship fleet. The Navy now has 287 deployable battle force ships.

The Navy has said it cannot depend on the construction of new ships alone to achieve its goal of 313 ships.

Modernization and stretching extra life out of current ships is essential. New DDG-1000 destroyers that are projected to cost $3.3 billion are an example of the price tags that come with new ships.

The upgrades to all 62 destroyers and at least 10 of the cruisers will include installation of the capability to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles, the Congressional Research Service said.

As countries such as Iran and North Korea continue to develop ballistic missile capability, the Navy's ships with shoot-down ability have been increasingly in demand as a shield for American interests and allies.

Six Pearl Harbor ships already have shoot-down capability, including the cruisers Lake Erie and Port Royal and destroyers Russell, Hopper, Paul Hamilton and O'Kane.

The USS Bunker Hill was the first guided-missile cruiser to receive a complete set of upgrades and completed sea trials off San Diego in February 2009. Ship improvements included a new Aegis Weapons System and AN/SPQ-9B radar. A key feature of the upgrade was the installation of Aegis Open Architecture, providing the capacity for future mission expansion, including ballistic missile defense, the Navy said.

The USS Mobile Bay completed a 10-month modernization by BAE Systems in San Diego in April. For the Chosin improvements coming up, the Navy decided to split the shipyard time into two segments.

"This work represents a significant surge in our shipyard's workload and we will rely heavily on our partnership with the private sector to accomplish both needed repairs as well as modernizing Chosin," said Navy Cmdr. Kate Dolloff, director of surface ship maintenance at Pearl Harbor. "Two cruisers have been modernized in San Diego by BAE Systems, but we are the pioneers of cruiser modernization in the public shipyards."

The Navy maintains four shipyards: Pearl Harbor, Norfolk, Portsmouth, N.H., and Puget Sound, Wash.

Bunker Hill's screws were removed and refurbished in dry dock, and its hull was repainted. Watertight doors were improved and the hull and deckhouse were structurally strengthened. The work also included removal of steam piping and conversion to an electric system.

The Navy said the destroyers, in addition to hull, mechanical and electrical improvements, will be upgraded with a combat information center redesign, capability to use SM-6 missiles against anti-ship cruise missiles, and a new anti-submarine warfare combat system.

The Navy said the workload in the shipyard is increasing across all of its programs, including the addition of Virginia-class submarines to the waterfront, and the cruiser and destroyer modernization is one more piece of job stability.

"It really helps the long-term look for the island and the workplace for the shipyard," BAE's Araujo said.

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