A U.S. Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Wyoming (SSBN-742) arrived at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Jan. 9 for its 27-month Engineered Refueling Overhaul (ERO).
As a critical piece in the country’s nuclear deterrence strategy, the submarine will be refueled and upgraded during this major availability.
In a first for NNSY, Enlisted Women at Sea ship alterations will be performed onboard, modifying the layout of berthing areas. For the other work, the availability is highly similar to the shipyard’s ERO currently being conducted on USS Rhode Island (SSBN-740), allowing the USS Wyoming project to leverage off record-setting successes and valuable experience gained during that overhaul. “Apples to apples, it’s pretty much the same,” said Project Superintendent John Walker of the two EROs. “We’re looking to get at least 70 percent of the employees who worked on the Rhode Island to roll over to the Wyoming.”
The project team is already off to a strong start with completing the Resource Constrained Schedule (RCS) 14 days early. This schedule provides an overarching integrated plan on the number of personnel needed to conduct work throughout the overhaul. “With the RCS, you’re leveling the shipyard’s resources across the whole 27-month availability. Now we don’t have to focus on that as we move into the actual execution phase. It’s a huge deal to get it done,” said Walker.
Walker said the team already has a new record in its sights for this ERO. In February 2017, Rhode Island finished refueling in 217 days, setting a new record at NNSY thanks to safety, effective planning and timely execution of quality of work. NNSY’s former refueling record was on USS Alaska’s ERO, which completed its availability on schedule in March 2009. “We’re scheduled to complete refueling in 213 days,” said Walker. “It is both aggressive and achievable. We’re taking the lessons learned from the Rhode Island and we’re utilizing much of the same team.”
USS Rhode Island also raised the bar with undocking two days early in July 2017.
Walker points out that sharing lessons learned is essential when it comes to setting new standards for Ohio-class EROs at NNSY. “I was there for most of that availability [as Deputy Project Superintendent] before I transitioned over to Wyoming, and I’m still in contact with that project team every single day.”
Reflecting on the extensive overhaul that lays ahead, Walker said, “Everything we do is a challenge, but the ship is on our side and ready to help us out in achieving our goal. The captain is excited and motivated to make 27 months or less. For the shipyard, we have a lot of experience and knowledge moving into this project. I think we’ve got a winning team!”
USS Wyoming is one of the United States’ most vital strategic assets, and combined with the other Ohio-class submarines, makes up one leg of the nuclear triad.
During a visit last year commending the Rhode Island team, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Director Admiral James F. Caldwell challenged the shipyard to continue pushing itself for even greater successes on EROs. “I want more of that,” he said. “You have my incredible admiration and my greatest respect for the work you do. You are America’s Shipyard because you fuel America’s Navy.”
Michael Brayshaw, Norfolk Naval Shipyard