USS Hartford repairs to cost $92.1 million

The USS Hartford returns to the Naval Submarine Base in Groton on May 21, 2009, following a collision with a U.S. Navy amphibious ship two months earlier in the Strait of Hormuz. Two large metal braces that were installed as a result of the accident are visible on the starboard side of the sail.

Groton - It will take several more months and $92.1 million to repair the USS Hartford following its collision last year with a Navy amphibious ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

Navy investigators concluded the collision was preventable and that the crew of the Groton-based Hartford (SSN 768) was completely at fault. The leadership was called "ineffective and negligent" and sailors were accused of falling asleep on the job, spending too much time away from their stations and chatting informally while working.

The repairs on the Los Angeles-class submarine are under way at Electric Boat, which received the original contract to assess the Hartford and determine what repairs were needed shortly after the submarine returned to Groton in May.

The Navy awarded EB several contracts and recently finalized a single, consolidated contract, Navy spokesman Alan Baribeau said. The work is expected to be completed in November, and the $92.1 million price tag is "in line with estimates," he added.

The Hartford's sail, periscope and port bow plane were damaged.

In the aftermath of the collision, the commander of the Submarine Force ordered a review of the 11 submarine collisions and groundings that have occurred since 2001 to determine what they had in common. A heavily redacted copy of the review, obtained by The Day through a Freedom of Information Act request, states that the goal was to better understand why such accidents occurred.

The seven-member team found that past incidents had been "often attributed to individuals failing to take appropriate actions and those individuals were held accountable." But these earlier investigations did not focus on identifying "system weaknesses," the report stated.

"Trained operators are going to make some errors," it said, concluding that the Navy should try to offset these errors through "equipment design and performance, procedures, training, supervisory and backup roles and the shipboard environment."

Rear Adm. William H. Hilarides, the Navy's program executive officer for submarines, said the more recent investigations "forced us to go back and look at the systems we procure, and how well those systems support the commanding officer and the crew in keeping the ship safe."

"There's no one thing that will be changing dramatically," Hilarides said in a recent interview. "It's more of a refinement of the tools."

Sailors on the Hartford noticed a ship that would turn out to be the New Orleans at close range but misread its bearing rate, incorrectly recorded its position as farther away and failed to identify it as a warship.

The upgrades to a submarine's systems and software are designed to improve the detection of contacts, including other ships, and information flow.

The USS North Carolina (SSN 777) is the first submarine to receive the upgrades.

"They're doing the in-port testing, and when she goes out to sea she will prove out those capabilities," Hilarides said, adding that the North Carolina will be the baseline for which the changes will be implemented throughout the fleet.

The North Carolina was commissioned in 2008 as the fourth submarine in the Virginia class. The Hartford was commissioned in 1994.

The Navy will pay for the upgrades out of its annual budget to make improvements to these systems, Hilarides said.

j.grogan@theday.com

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