Surface ship readiness continues to struggle, US Navy inspections show

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s surface fleet continues to struggle to keep its ships adequately maintained, according to the Board of Inspection and Survey, an entity responsible for monitoring the condition of the service’s ships.

The surface fleet was scored as “degraded” in more than half of the “functional areas” scored by the famously invasive INSURV inspectors, with 11 of 21 being so designated, according to the annual unclassified report to Congress. Those areas include main propulsion systems; electrical systems; damage-control systems; anti-submarine warfare systems; and for the second year in a row, the Aegis weapons system, which serves as the combat brain of the Navy’s cruisers and destroyers.

Furthermore, 14 of 21 areas were listed as below the six-year scores average for the surface fleet, meaning 67 percent of the areas inspected were either degraded or worse than the surface fleet average over the past half decade.

It’s the latest sign that the Navy is continuing to have difficulty properly caring for its surface ships, which have increasingly fallen short of the rest of the fleet’s INSURV scores.

The inspections in 2021 covered three cruisers, 16 destroyers, one Freedom-class littoral combat ship, one Wasp-class amphibious assault ship, one Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, one Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship and one Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship.

The surface fleet saw a dip in overall performance from last year, where nine functional areas were scored as “degraded,” though some areas did improve over last year’s scores. Both main propulsion and electrical systems, while still degraded, showed some improvement over last year.

The submarine fleet also saw a slight dip in its INSURV scores. Whereas in each of the last five years the fleet has not listed a single functional area as “degraded,” in 2020 there were two areas that fell into the high end of “degraded” — more than 10 submarine inspections, auxiliary engineering systems and combat systems were listed as such.

But more than half of the functional areas were listed as below the six-year average, which may point to maintenance challenges starting to show in the submarine fleet as well.

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