Recently, Navy Region Hawai’i and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific (MIDPAC) collaborated with Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) to improve the Recovery Assist, Secure and Traverse (RAST) system used on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The RAST allows helicopters to land on a flight deck that is pitching, rolling, and yawing in the waves. The system uses a cart that is deployed to the flight deck. Once the helicopter touches down on the flight deck, the cart attaches to the helicopter and holds it tight despite the moving ship. The cart also helps transport the helicopter into the hanger bay when needed.
As the maintenance challenges of the system were discussed, the lifespan of the paint under the cart surfaced as a potential for innovation. As the cart moves, it crushes the paint and exposes metal that quickly rusts and creates constant maintenance headaches.
PHNSY & IMF, Naval Research Laboratory - Code 6138 (NRL), Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), MIDPAC, USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), Defense Logistics Agency - Aviation Division (DLA-Aviation), and the Navy Inactive Ships Office (SEA 21I) joined together to solve this technical problem with DLA-Aviation providing the necessary funding to improve the system.
Working with SEA 21I, the shipyard’s Technical Support Division (C220) located spare RAST parts for testing. However, the problem was not simply solved by finding a preservation system that could handle the weight of the cart. There were numerous technical requirements that involved flight operations which the shipyard generally does not encounter. The shipyard’s partnership with NAVAIR provided the necessary expertise for flight operations requirements. NAVAIR relayed the critical information needed to meet requirements such as limiting reflectivity to avoid blinding the helicopter pilot and flight deck aviation inspection criteria.
Armed with all the requirements, NRL investigated several potential coatings on a small-scale test rig. With successful results for several coatings, NRL then built a full-scale RAST system. This test system was built using parts from Navy ships providing maximum assurance in the test results. NRL cycled the cart daily and subjected it to environmental tests typical of what the system would experience at sea. A National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE)-trained inspector then verified the preservation system. This torture test was repeated for a year to select the best preservation system.
The final package was shared with members of the technical community to seek concurrence that the results showed significant promise and an acceptable risk. Once all parties were in agreement, MIDPAC discussed the project with USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112). The ship was eager to try the newest RAST innovation and agreed to support the installation.
The ship generated the required paperwork to authorize the installation which was approved by our Surface Ship-Structures Branch (Code 250.6) engineers and the Chief Engineer. With the community united in this effort, the new preservation system was installed on Michael Murphy where it will be subject to the rigors of use at sea.
A service life of years instead of months is expected with the new coating. This in and of itself is a great win for the shipyard and the surface ship community. However, it is even more meaningful because throughout the pandemic, the shipyard and its partners remained open for business to support this project. If this innovation proves successful long-term, it will provide significant cost savings for the Navy and pride for the shipyard. The coating could be used by destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers across the U.S. Navy fleet and allies’ fleets.
For more news from Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & IMF, visit navsea.navy.mil/Home/Shipyards/PHNS-IMF or facebook.com/PearlHarborNavalShipyard.