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EB: Some sub welds not checked properly

By JENNIFER GROGAN Day Staff Writer

Publication: The Day

Published January 19. 2010 4:00AM
New Mexico allowed to proceed with sea trials as evaluation of work continues

A trades worker at Electric Boat's Quonset Point manufacturing plant did not properly check the welds on at least one Virginia-class submarine, according to the company.

The New Mexico (SSN 779) went to sea after EB looked at the type of welds the employee worked on and their placement in the submarine.

The technical review was completed this month, EB spokesman Robert Hamilton said Monday. The Navy concurred with the results and allowed the New Mexico to go to sea pending a future inspection of the welds when the sub returns to the shipyard.

EB is still checking its records to determine whether the employee worked on other submarines, and when he stopped checking the welds, Hamilton said. The employee has not worked at the plant since the problem was discovered.

"We are thoroughly evaluating all work performed by this specific individual, and that evaluation is ongoing," Hamilton said. "We hope to finish this review within the next several weeks."

None of the welds involve "subsafe" systems, or systems that, if compromised, could lead to flooding, Hamilton added. The employee was the only one assigned to inspect the welds in question.

Alan Baribeau, a Navy spokesman, said the commissioning of the New Mexico, the sixth submarine of the Virginia class, will go ahead as planned on March 27 in Norfolk, Va.

On Dec. 1, EB notified the Navy that an employee tasked with padeye testing and structural-weld visual testing did not conduct those tests, Baribeau said. A padeye is a hook attached to equipment installed on a submarine that allows the equipment to be removed for repair.

Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia, EB's shipbuilding teammate, delivered the New Mexico to the Navy in late December. EB then conducted the technical review so the submarine could proceed with the sea trials it needs to complete before commissioning.

There have been other quality-control issues with Virginia-class submarines in recent years, but those problems originated at Newport News in Virginia.

The Navy ordered the welds on all Newport News ships checked in 2007 because workers there used improper weld-filler metal.

Last year, Newport News fired a shipyard inspector for signing off on inspections he did not perform and EB discovered a problem with the bolts Newport News installed in the torpedo rooms of four submarines, including the New Mexico.

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