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USS The Sullivans Only Requires $100K in Repairs Following July Missile Failure  

The resulting fire on USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) following the explosion of a SM-2 Block IIIA guided missile. US Navy Photo obtained by USNI News

The resulting fire on USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) following the explosion of a SM-2 Block IIIA guided missile. US Navy Photo obtained by USNI News

The guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) suffered only cosmetic damage following the unexpected explosion of a SM-2 missile shortly after launch on July 18, Navy officials told USNI News on Thursday.

Following an assessment, the service determined The Sullivans would only need about $100,000 in repairs to fix the damage caused by the fire caused from the debris from the missile.

“The damage was all topside – there was not structural or internal ship damage,” Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, a spokesman with Naval Surface Force Atlantic, told USNI News on Thursday.
“The repairs will take place while the ship is in the ongoing continuous maintenance availability. The repairs are expected to be completed during this event, which ends Aug. 17.”

The missile failed during an exercise and exploded just above the ship’s mast, according to pictures of the accident obtained by USNI News.

The resulting debris rained down on the ships port side sparking a fire that scorched the deck of the ship and was quickly extinguished by the ship’s crew.

Several experts consulted by USNI News said if the explosion had occurred in the ship’s vertical launch cell the damage to The Sullivans could have been significantly worse.

Following the failure, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) mounted an investigation. Preliminary results pointed the finger at the missiles more than 25-year-old Mk 104 Mod 2 Dual Thrust Rocket Motors (DTRM) manufactured by the defunct Thiokol Corporation.

A limited number of SM-2 IIIAs equipped with the suspect Thiokol engines were restricted to “wartime use only.”

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Categories: Budget Industry, News & Analysis, Surface Forces, U.S. Navy
Sam LaGrone

About Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.

  • PolicyWonk

    The Burkes are pretty though ships – this is a downright cheap repair given what happened. But the Burkes are built to the Navy’s Level-3 standard – so they are designed to take something of a beating.

    Given that none of the LCS variants (on the slipways or in planning) are built even to the lowest navy standard (Level 1), one has to wonder what would’ve happened to one of them?

    • NavySubNuke

      Luckily the Navy didn’t see fit to include very much in the way of weapons for the little crappy ships. So they will at least be safe from themselves. From others…..
      But hey even a little crappy ship should be able to clear at least one mine.

      • PolicyWonk

        My concern is whether LCS can even survive a near-miss of a naval adversary’s war-shot.

        According to Adm. Greenert, in an interview with Breaking Defense, LCS was never intended to carry weapons of significance (hence – little room for growth). Nor was LCS ever intended to “venture into the littorals to engage in combat…”.

        When I first read that, I was sufficiently stunned (in jaw-dropping disbelief) to have to re-read the statement.

        Then taking into account:
        1. The Navy Inspector General’s report, that declared that LCS (either variant) was unlikely to survive the missions commanders were likely to assign it.
        2. One of the major justifications for skyrocketing LCS costs were due to modifications made on the slipways to upgrade the sea-frames to the Level-1 standard.
        3. The revelation (reported by Defense Industry Daily) that no variant of (current, or the so-called “FF” version) is at or will ever meet the Level 1 standard (hence legally – they cannot even be commissioned as US Navy ships).

        Even fleet tankers (non-combatants) are built to the Level-2 standard (as were OHP-class Frigates, for example).

        My conclusions: This is one of the worst-disguised corporate welfare programs ever; The denizens of the LCS program office should be court-martialed for defrauding the taxpayers, and dishonorably discharged from the service; LCS and its so-called FF variant should only be manned by volunteers (and given hazardous duty pay); and shock testing of these sea-frames should be immediately conducted with the entire board-rooms of Lockheed and Austal USA aboard their versions at the time.

        • Rick Elkin

          I can’t argue with a point…The LCS has turned out to be “Jack of all trades and Master of NONE!”…These ships should never have been built. To save money they should have just built an improved/modernized OHP class Frigate!

      • Rick Elkin

        I agree…it’s time to go about building a ship as strong as the Perry Class Frigates. If you disagree, look at what happened to USS Stark and USS Samuel B. Roberts…Those two incidents should explain it all

        • NavySubNuke

          I agree – though I would also point out that what happened to Cole is a good example of how tough Burke’s are as well.

          • Rick Elkin

            Yes, The Burke’s are strong, and the Cole survived a pretty intense explosion…But much of that also came down to the damage control training of her crew…Ironically, THE SULLIVANS had been the original target of the boat bombers!

  • NavySubNuke

    “only $100,000” —- while this is cheap by Navy standards the phraseology leaves a little bit to be desired when it comes to talking to the general public.
    I am willing to bet that 10 out of 10 people would say that $100K is a lot of money.

  • Ken harrod

    Back in the 1960’s all we did was get a work party of Bosun Mates,paint and elbo grease to clean up the mess.may $200 worth materials

    • Bob Lamar

      Yup… in the ’80’s and ’90’s, that working party would have included a Hull Tech to assess and repair any structural damage, and a Damage Controlman to change the door gasket on the ballistic door next to where the fire occurred. $100K my backside!!!

  • Ruckweiler

    25 year old missiles? Have we descended to the depths where our weapons are more of a hazard to us than the enemy?

  • Richard Oberreiter

    This illustrates a clear problem with the military procurement process today. To say that minor cosmetic damage costs $100k to repair tells me that Navy officials are out of touch with reality.

  • Rick Elkin

    As an Honorary Plankowner of DDG-68, I am glad to know that no injuries occurred to the crew and that the physical damage was rather minor. HOWEVER, this highlights the problem of having a Commander-In-Chief who has no experience with the military and is drawing down ALL of our forces to below dangerous levels in an INCREASINGLY dangerous world!!! We end up with older, less stable armament and weapons systems that are not up to the tasks they are asked to fulfill…I hope the next President has the wisdom to rebuild the Navy we had about fifteen years ago!!!

  • Marjus Plaku

    Wartime use only? What, take them out of service or do more peacetime tests. Saving them for when it really counts and for when you cannot afford a problem is a terrible gamble. Worse, a future conflict could be tomorrow or 10 years down the line, and all of these missiles will be older then than they are today.

  • Bob Lamar

    A limited number of SM-2 IIIAs equipped with the suspect Thiokol engines were restricted to “wartime use only.”
    So, we’re going to send these ships into potential war zones with potentially faulty SM2s that explode in proximity to the ship… with LIVE WARHEADS????

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