The U.S. Navy has changed its coatings application process after large sections of coating came off three Virginia-class submarines.
Most affected were the USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Texas (SSN 775) and the USS North Carolina (SSN 777), the Navy said.
“The U.S. Navy has had debonding of the special hull treatment in early Virginia-class submarines,” a Navy spokesman said in a statement Wednesday (Sept. 22). “This is not a severe problem and has not measurably affected the performance of the ships.”
However, the problem did prompt the Navy to analyze and review “the entire application process,” the spokesman conceded, resulting “in improvements to hull coating adhesion.”
‘Hundreds of Square Feet’
The Connecticut news site theday.com reported Tuesday that the submarines were built by Electric Boat and the hulls coated by both Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia.
In identical statements Wednesday, representatives of both shipbuilders referred all inquiries to the Navy, because the issue “involves in-commission ships.”
The coatings problem was first reported by dailypress.com in Newport News. The news site said it had obtained a letter dated June 30 from J. Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing and evaluation, to Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, that said the coatings had debonded in "large sections up to hundreds of square feet."
In the letter, Gilmore said the Virginia-class program had experienced multiple "fail-to-sail" issues, including the hull coating problem, according to the site.
Application, Coatings Classified
The ships were coated during construction, a Navy spokesman said Wednesday. However, he would not disclose any information about the coatings or the former or current application process, calling that information classified.
A Navy spokeswoman downplayed the problem on Wednesday, saying the coating failure had been limited to three ships and happened “a long time ago.”