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NEWS | Aug. 12, 2019

Process improvements to streamline Pittsburgh inactivation

By Karen Coffman, PSNS & IMF Project Engineering and Planning Manager

Inactivation process improvements gleaned from a series of projects in recent months at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility will culminate in a streamlined, less expensive inactivation effort on USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720).

These improvements and others are expected to result in a preservation cost reduction of 40 percent during Pittsburgh’s inactivation. The submarine entered dry dock July 25 to begin the process. They have also reduced the cost and time of inactivations, which has also allowed highly trained submarine Sailors to return to the fleet earlier than before, to accomplish the Navy’s mission.

Earlier this year, Buffalo (SSN 715) project completed seven weeks early. Buffalo’s sonar dome was removed and the sonar transducers were harvested during the inactivation phase, rather than waiting until the recycle phase, which allowed members of the ship’s force to assist with the work.

This process change is expected to save the Navy millions of dollars by harvesting the transducers before the boat goes into long-term storage. Also, with the sonar dome removed during inactivation, the vessel will require less storage space at Mooring A, where submarines waiting to be recycled are stored.

The 2017 inactivations of City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705) and Albuquerque (SSN 706) spanned 15 months and were in dry dock for 15 months. The 2019 inactivation of the Buffalo spanned 11 months with 9 months in dry dock. Since dry dock space is one of the shipyard’s biggest constraints, a decrease in docking duration is a huge win.

In addition, Code 250, Structural Engineering and Planning Division, challenged long-standing hull isolation requirements and obtained permission to use alternate blanking requirements on inactivation of Los Angeles-class submarines. This change saves approximately 950 man-days on each inactivation project and removes blanking from the project’s critical path. 

Code 250 also worked with the inactivation project teams and the Shop 71, Blasters, Painters and Tilesetters, to challenge preservation requirements. The team began implementing portions of these reduced requirements on the Dallas and Buffalo projects as they performed research and obtained final approval. 

The Pittsburgh project team will take advantage of these recently developed improvements as well as implementing the following new improvements:

  Inactivation project teams worked with Code 250, Code 106, Safety Engineers and Code 138, Welding Engineers, to reduce requirements associated with heat-controlled welding. 

• Code 2310, Reactor Engineering, and Code 1010, Reactor Systems Product Line, are implementing new tools to improve removal of submarine structure.  

• Code 1050, Corrosion Control and Repair Product Line and Shop 11, Shipfitters, are using innovative cold-cutting techniques to reduce mud tank removal duration.

• Inactivation project teams in execution and planning meet weekly to discuss improvements and best practices. 

“The project is off to an excellent start,” said Dustin Butler, Pittsburgh project superintendent. “The team looks forward to continuing the tradition of process improvement in inactivation work and is proud of everything our people have accomplished.”

The fourth U.S. Navy ship named for the industrial city in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh's inactivation will implement the full reduction in requirements. These improvements are expected to result in a 40 percent savings on preservation costs.

Pittsburgh’s keel was laid April 15, 1983, in Groton, Connecticut; it was launched Dec. 8, 1984, and then commissioned Nov. 23, 1985.