August 7, 2020 – Lessons learned from a series of projects in recent months resulted in process improvements and a streamlined availability for USS Pittsburgh (SSN 720), which completed its inactivation process Aug. 5, 2020, almost a month earlier than scheduled, at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility.
These numerous improvements have reduced the cost and time of inactivations, which has also allowed highly trained submarine Sailors to return to the fleet earlier than before, to accomplish the Navy’s mission.
According to Lt. Jamison Fiebrandt, military deputy project superintendent, Pittsburgh entered Dry dock 1 here, July 25, 2019, to begin the inactivation process, and was moved to Mooring Alpha yesterday, to await recycling at some point in the future.
As with the recent inactivation of USS Buffalo (SSN 715), the sonar dome was removed and the sonar transducers were harvested during the inactivation phase, rather than waiting until the recycle phase, which allowed members of the ship’s force to assist with the work.
Fiebrandt said removing the sonar dome during inactivation will not only mean the vessel will take up less space at Mooring A, but more importantly this will also decrease the length of time it will take to recycle the vessel in Dry dock 2 later on. Removing the sonar dome during the inactivation phase does not add any time to the overall length of the project.
The Pittsburgh project team took advantage of recently developed efficiencies as well as implementing new process improvements of their own.
Inactivation project teams worked with Code 250, Structural Engineering & Planning; Code 106, Safety Engineers; and Code 138, Welding Engineers, to reduce requirements associated with heat-controlled welding. Also, Code 2310, Reactor Engineering; and Code 1010, Reactor Systems Product Line, implemented new tools to improve removal of parts of the submarine’s structure. Finally, Code 1050, Corrosion Control and Repair Product Line; and Shop 11, Shipfitters, used innovative cold-cutting techniques to reduce the time it took to remove the mud tank.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic starting to take hold as the project was finishing defueling operations, Fiebrandt said everyone pulled together to work around the challenges and keep the project on track.
“Our team’s perseverance and knowledge of the work allowed them to work through resource shortages to finish defueling without delays and then release the crew and decommission the ship 35 days early,” Fiebrandt said. “The team quickly adopted safe work practices such as social distancing, disinfecting needed areas, and they took full advantage of the current IT capabilities to support teleworking.”
Fiebrandt said the project was successful from both a time and personnel standpoint.
“Inactivations are a great training ground for employees and are a good time to try out new procedures and tools,” Fiebrandt said. “Many people were successful in first-time positions on this project. This resulted in some promotions, while other folks were able to complete qualifications.”
Fiebrandt also credited one employee for contributing to the overall success of the project.
“Our team’s [mentoring] coach, Margo Myers did a great job of mentoring people,” Fiebrandt said. “She got the team to look not just at the work, but also to look at how we could interact as a team and what we could do collectively to make it better.”