The US Naval Sea Systems Command awarded General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company a USD147.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to overhaul and upgrade the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63) on 14 August.
This long-term availability will include a combination of maintenance, modernisation, and repairs, the US Navy (USN) said. The contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to USD154.8 million. Work will be performed in San Diego and is expected to be completed by December 2019.
With the Cowpens contract, the USN is starting the modernisation of the second half of its 22-cruiser fleet. During the first years of this decade, the service tried to essentially mothball the fleet, but Congress forced it to keep, repair, and upgrade the ships instead.
One of the reasons USN officials said they wanted to keep its cruisers pier-side was due to the extensive work that the ships would need to be repaired, maintained, and modernised.
As with all major long-serving surface combatants, there is the usual amount of major work to be carried out, such as accessing, cleaning, and replacing tanks, upgrading weapons systems, and replacing communications equipment.
However, with cruisers, there are also other concerns. The superstructure has historical cracking issues throughout the entire class that require continuous repairs.
The reason the cruiser’s superstructure is so prone to cracking is because it is made of aluminium. Unlike steel, which becomes more flexible and ductile as it flexes over time, aluminium stiffens and then cracks. The cracking can lead to major structural failures and it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to weld to, depending on how extensive the cracking has become.
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