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US Navy cannibalises more ships to make up for part shortfalls

Aircraft carrier combat-system part shortfalls are forcing the US Navy to cannibalise parts from other Nimitz-class ships (Michael Fabey)

The US Navy (USN) is cannibalising ships more often than in previous years to make up for part shortfalls and meet operational commitments, according to a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“With the exception of fiscal year (FY) 2017, the average number of cannibalisations per ship increased every year from 2015 to 2021,” the GAO said in its report Weapon System Sustainment: Navy Ship Usage Has Decreased as Challenges and Costs Have Increased, released 31 January.

“We asked navy officials what drove these increases, and they told us ship cannibalisations often occur due to supply chain shortfalls for specific parts,” the GAO reported.

“According to these officials, decisions to move parts from one ship to another are made when the supply of a specific part will not meet the operational commitments of a ship,” the GAO said. “Officials further noted that the specific increase is difficult to quantify but challenges with parts availability have been a specific driver for the increase. Officials added that surface ships have experienced an increasing number of cannibalisations over the past few years. There are many contributing factors depending on the specific equipment or ship system, but most are due to increased demand for material that is not readily available. Parts obsolescence, diminishing manufacturing sources, and material shortages are common issues.”

According to navy officials, since the pandemic started, supply chain slowdowns have also become more common, resulting in increased procurement and manufacturing lead times to obtain needed parts, the GAO noted

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