PORT HUENEME, Calif. —
USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), one of the Navy’s newest Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers, dropped anchor recently at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), and met its No. 1 ally in the fight against dust, vibration, corrosion, weather, age and missing or impaired parts.
For roughly a week, 70-plus engineers, logisticians and technicians who enable the command to be the In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) on the Aegis Weapon System, the SPY and Fire Control radar systems and the Vertical Launching System, put the ship’s systems under a microscope to prepare them for their first deployment, a process called a Combat Systems Assessment and Training, or CSAT, and provide engineering and logistics support.
The U.S. Navy acknowledged PHD’s capabilities, which include a deep-water port, when it recently mandated that ships home-ported at San Diego, Calif., Everett, Wash., and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, visit the command between deployment cycles to undergo similar assessment.
Jeff Fanger, combat systems project engineer, said even though the ship set sail in early 2018, it needs expert assessments and training because new ships often have new crews with little maintenance experience.
“Here, it’s more troubleshooting, repair and train,” Fanger said. “We’re trying to bring them up to as much readiness as possible.”
During the visit, the CSAT team spent numerous hours troubleshooting and repairing onboard systems and providing preventive maintenance in addition to 536 hours of on-the-job training. PHD’s Tomahawk Fleet Support trained the ship’s Tomahawk Strike Network crew at PHD’s Surface Warfare Engineering Facility, while PHD Underway Replenishment trained the UNREP crew at the PHD UNREP Test Site.
Steve Cianci, PHD electronics technician on Aegis BMD Interoperability, spent 13 hours training the crew on Tactical Data Links, which use systems to share data with external personnel.
“They’re taking notes and asking good questions, and are very well-engaged,” he said.
To USS Ralph Johnson Cmdr. Casey Mahon, that troubleshooting and training were the most valuable aspects of the visit, he said.
“Sailors on board this ship were able to build up a lot of confidence to fix things on the ship because of what PHD provides to be ready for the fight,” Mahon said. “When you’re out at sea, it’s just us.”
The CSAT team, led by Phil Pascua, CSPE, CSAT/AEGIS Port Visit Lead, assessed 43 system areas, including the Tomahawk Weapon Systems, MK 160 Gun Computing System and the cooling skids, which act as A/C units for electronics equipment, among other systems.
Logisticians evaluated and assessed On Board Repair Parts, Maintenance Assistance Modules, Publications and test equipment data.
“The ship's crew, along with the In-Service Engineering Agent, engaged in various tests and exercises to ensure the weapon systems were properly functional and can be operated safely,” Pascua said. “Constant communications with the crew and everyone involved with the CSAT was the key to the success of the DDG 114 CSAT.”
Mahon was particularly impressed that PHD repaired the ship’s 5-inch gun and the radar, which, the crew discovered just before arriving, were not aligned—too late to add to the repair schedule.
“It was really great to see the quick turnaround on this,” Mahon said. “Forty-eight hours prior to arrival, this needed to happen, and it got done.”
After the week, the CSAT team rated each assessed area on a scale of 1.0 to 0.0, with 1.0 being fully operable and 0.0 totally inoperative. Five areas received scores of 1.0.
Cianci gave his area, Tactical Data Links, the first 1.0 he’s ever given to a ship for having no cosmetic issues, such as corrosion-causing dust, and tight seals on all cabinet doors.
“Everything was perfect; we couldn’t find a single problem,” Cianci said. “Sailors and crews are doing their diligence and maintenance there.”
Overall, the CSAT team rated the ship “mission capable from a combat system perspective.”
Parts availability can be a problem for ships. NSWC PHD Commanding Officer Capt. Ray Acevedo told Mahon during an introductory meeting that included PHD Technical Director Paul Mann, among others, that the Navy is installing 3D printing onboard ships so crews can additively manufacture parts as needed. PHD has 3D metal printers and has launched new training courses teaching 3D printing to Sailors, he added.
“This is not science fiction anymore,” Acevedo said. “This provides a great capability, and you can expect to see more across the fleet.”
Until then, PHD logisticians, such as Javier Tapang Tapnio, a logistics management specialist and a member of the CSAT for USS Ralph Johnson, are ships’ heroes.
He checks ships’ inventories for critical parts and if the missing parts are being ordered. He can loan parts to ships if PHD has them.
After the CSAT’s report, Mahon lauded NSWC PHD’s organization, which put the visit process “on autopilot” for him, he said.
“It was really nice—everything was so well planned and folks here knew so well what they were doing,” Mahon said. “And that’s the best.”