Photo: U.S. Navy/Chris Williamson
An incident that locked up a nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine for three months of repairs — totaling $2.2 million — boiled down to an embarrassing series of actions by the crew, reports Sam Fellman at Navy Times.
It all started when crew members of the USS Georgia heard a “whump!” noise when the vessel’s propulsion shaft started spinning.
Fellman reports their subsequent actions were in complete ignorance of “standard operation procedures and common sense.”
Instead of simply shutting down the shaft and calling for help, a naval investigation reveals the crew decided to try spinning the shaft and gears at different speeds over two whole days, trying “in vain” to figure out what was wrong.
Investigator Vice Adm. John Richardson, head of Submarine Forces, noted that “continued rotation of the shafts and gears after the noise was heard likely made the damage more severe.”
The crew’s determination to root out the strange noise by themselves caused severe consequences. USS Georgia was scheduled for operations against Libya in early 2011 but ended up docked at a shipyard, useless.
From the Navy Times:
“Failing to deploy was critical because the NATO mission against Libya needed missile-launching capability. Georgia’s sister sub, Florida, fired more than 90 Tomahawks in the operation — the first by a guided-missile sub.”
So what was the cause of the “whumping” noise?
A single bolt that cost less than three dollars, according to the investigation.
Vice Adm. Richardson said the bolt had been accidentally left in the submarine’s gear housing during a routine inspection in December 2010. That kind of accident has no place aboard a Navy vessel, according to strict maintenance procedures, which indicate crew members even “tape down their coveralls and remove all personal items, like rings, pens and watches” to prevent anything from falling into an opening.
Sailors aboard the USS Georgia did not escape punishment, reports Navy Times. The crew’s “inadequate” preparation and oversight resulted in an officer and a senior sailor in engineering getting stripped of their responsibilities. And three crew members “went to mast” (a disciplinary hearing) for dereliction of duty, while three others received “letters of caution” in their records.
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