Arleigh Burkes susceptible to rough seas

Report: DDG 51s heavily damaged by ‘bow slams’

DDG 81 USS Winston S. Churchill

Thirteen Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have suffered “significant” structural damage in rough seas because designers didn’t account for the effect of “bow slams” on the ships’ hulls, Navy documents say — and fixing the problem could cost almost $63 million…

Support beams and other structures inside the destroyers warp so much from the stress of withstanding high seas that they must be cut out and replaced, even in new ships — the destroyer Gridley, commissioned in February, already underwent repairs in September. The document listed the following ships as damaged: Arleigh Burke, Curtis Wilbur, Stout, Paul Hamilton, Stethem, Carney, Gonzalez, The Sullivans, Ross, McFaul, Higgins, Winston S. Churchill and Lassen.

Bath Iron Works recently began work on the last of the 62 DDG-51s.

Also, don’t forget the reports that the tumblehome hulls of the DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class DD(X)s are possibly unstable.


  1. $63 million to fix per ship, or in total? I assume that’s total, in which case it isn’t too horrible… Still I hope this kind of stupid design mistake can be avoided in future.

  2. The contractor dicked something up and now they’re getting paid $63M to fix it? Oh what a surprise. I’m sure that $63M will teach them a lesson. And if those bastards screw up again, we’ll probably hit them with $100M next time. Time after time we will do that, until these contractors learn that screwing up pays really well, by God, and we’ll not only stand for it, we’ll jump through our ass to get them more money to fix what they screwed up fixing the first thing they screwed up. That’ll teach them.

  3. My 2 cents worth. A) This mess could of been avoided or at least mitigated if the Navy did something as simple as include Voyage Data Recorders on their ships. VDR’s are mandatory on commercial craft. It might even help them monitor and improve the design of their ships. Discovering 16 years after your lead ship entered into service that you ships have a serious design defect is unacceptable. (Especially if you are sinking a Billion plus per ship. ) B) The DD(X)’s tumblehome design most likely will not suffer from this design defect as the design cuts through the waves vs the conventional going over the waves. That said, looking around at the research to date on the wave piercing designs is not encouraging. If the DD(X) is ever built IMO it is highly probable that the ship will either capsize or suffer major damage to it’s all composite deck house. Even if you could rig up some form effective stabilization to prevent the capsizing problem.(This is what the Navy is banking on, apparently)You cannot overcome the wave over bow issue. In rough sea states the ship will simply be swamped. The force of water hitting a ship is enormous and the technology of mating composts to steel is unproven. Unless someone has found a way to repeal the laws of physics, a twenty to thirty foot wave is going to come crashing over the bow and take the all composite deck house with it. ‘In head seas the Wave Piercer performed quite well – as long as only focussing on the measurement results. Viewing the model test videos however, the picture changes dramatically. The model took so much water over the bow, even at lower speeds, that it was decided not to test the Wave Piercer at the highest speed. The chance of loosing the model due to nose-diving was considered too high. Free running tests in quartering waves were not carried out with the Wave Piercer model,as the partners in the research project agreed that these expensive tests were of limited value, considering the disappointing performance of the Wave Piercer model in head waves.’

  4. It wouldn’t matter how much data they had, they still would design crappy ships. The problem there is just like the problem everywhere else. Design is a dead discipline in engineering. I used to be that you started out designing little boats or airplanes or rockets, then you graduated to designing bigger boats or airplanes or rockets. Today you do a f’ing trade-study. Here is NASA’s chief bureaucrat on design:

    [T]he fact remains that designers simply do not think or work in the same way as analysts, and this does on occasion produce a certain cognitive dissonance. When it occurs in the context of a complex system development, catastrophe is a likely result. System engineering is the link which has evolved between the art and science of engineering. The system engineer designs little or nothing of the finished product [i.e. does not contribute a damn thing]; rather, he seeks a balanced design in the face of opposing interests and interlocking constraints. The system engineer is not an analyst [i.e. does not contribute a damn thing]; rather, he focuses analytical resources upon those assessments deemed to be particularly important, from among the universe of possible analyses which might be performed, but whose completion would not necessarily best inform the final design [i.e. does not contribute a damn thing]. There is an art to knowing where to probe and what to pass by, and every system engineer knows it.

    And thank God we have dumbasses like Mike Griffin to save us from catastrophe. This is the same Mike Griffin who is deriving a 40 year old rocket design from 30 year old shuttle parts. The same loser who sole sourced a $2 billion contract to his old employer to ‘modify’ the SRB so that it has one more joint to fail. $2 billion being the same amount of money it took for then Morton Thiokol (now ATK) to build the current version from scratch. Have you never wondered where the current day Von Braun or Kelly Johnson is hiding (I’m not sure who the shipbuilding equivalent is)? Their job has been eliminated. You don’t need to know how to design a ship to design a ship. You don’t need to know how to design a rocket to design a rocket. It just happens. You get a bunch of ‘shall statements’ together in a database and a ship or airplane or rocket poops out the end. It’s like magic. It’s like magic that costs you a fortune and provides you with crappy weapons with which to defend this once great nation.

  5. The Von Brauns and Kelly Johnsons of today are either squirrled away in Skunk Works, or working for private entities like Burt Routan (sp?). NASA is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet…

  6. Defens – I agree with you that the current crop of Navy ships suck (Personally I view them as barely floating coffins waiting to sink). My point is that if the Navy at least had their ships live up to commercial standards, the design flaw could of been detected in a year or so vs 16 years down the road. One principal course for the Navy’s major suckage was the bone head decision made in mid sixties to turn over the design of ship to private contractors. Thus tossing 50 years of Navy architecture into the scrap heap. Now we have ‘war’ ships that are too flimsy to get commercial marine insurance let alone survive combat.

  7. Yeah, coolhand, I’d like to tell you you’re right, but I’ve been to the Skunk Works and Kelly Johnson ain’t there. His ghost doesn’t even stop by for a casual visit. Natually, you’re right, James. They would be much better off if the Navy had continued to design their own ships. Ships are so big and costly that it would be difficult to imagine a scenario where you could put the kinds of capitalist incentives in place for a private contractor to do the quality of design work exceeding that of the Navy’s own design team. The same is probably true of NASA’s rocket programs. They would most likely be better off to design their own rockets. It is ironic that the defense contractors sold them on letting them do the work based on the concept that capitalism would provide a better product. I say it is ironic because all of the capitalist incentives are for the contractors to provide crappy boats that barely float and spend decades fixing them rather than in building them correctly in the first place. I suppose both models could be called capitalism. The first would be capitalism for morons, and the second capitalism for those with a fraction of the sense God gave a horse.

  8. Yah, you are probably right about Skunkworks. Whatever they are doing, this isn’t capitalism. In fact it smacks more of communisim, or something similar (Read Atlas Shrugged for a scarily accurate prediction of this kind of mentality in government and buisness) where mediocrety and failure are rewarded because of who you know, and Genius, Progress, and Effectiveness are shunned because they might drive the ‘good old boys’ out of buisness. In true capitalism a company that put out a shoddy product or design would loose its contract, never get another, and someone else would be hired to fix the problem. In true capitalism you get just enough for development costs as the occur, and its monitered. If it turns out the way they want it, you get the full contract, if not, well, you are SOL. This isn’t capitalism, its croneyism.