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One West Coast-based ship flunked the surface fleet's most rigorous material inspection in April, making it the first ship to fail before the Board of Inspection and Survey this year, Naval Surface Force Pacific confirmed April 14.

The crew of the cruiser Mobile Bay, based in San Diego, learned April 8 that its ship had failed the congressionally chartered material inspection, said Cmdr. Jason Salata, spokesman for Surface Force Pacific.

"Specific functional areas of challenge were in main propulsion, operations, communication and aviation," he said.

Citing the fact that board results — which evaluate whether the ship is capable of sustained combat operations — are now classified, Salata did not provide any additional details about the discrepancies or the measures needed to fix them.

"The ship received an overall grade of unsatisfactory and largely due to deficiencies in the as-found condition during the underway material portion of the inspection," he said. "Most of the deficiencies were corrected during that underway phase or shortly following their return to port. However, the overall INSURV grade is based on the as-found conditions, which impacted seven of the nine underway demonstrations."

A reassessment has been scheduled for late April, in which Mobile Bay will have to demonstrate the failed areas for the INSURV team, Salata said.

Nonetheless, Salata said the ship needs minimal repair work, as many of the fixes were made the week after inspectors pointed them out. The failure won't affect Mobile Bay's upcoming deployment this summer with the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, he said.

"This is the first UNSAT INSURV for the surface forces in the Pacific in more than two years," Salata said. "We believe it's due in large measure to the success we've experienced on the deck plates with the back-to-basics approach that the surface force has embraced over the last three years."

‘Comprehensive upgrade'

But unlike other recent failures, Mobile Bay was not the victim of an unrelenting schedule. The ship returned from a Western Pacific deployment in January 2010 and entered the yards later that year.

It was the second cruiser to complete a midlife overhaul, a 10-month process that Naval Sea Systems Command labeled "the most comprehensive upgrade and modernization program in the history of the U.S. Navy" in a service news story at the time.

Commanding officers have been relieved for INSURV failures, but Salata said no one has been relieved or reprimanded as a result of the failure.

After a mounting toll of INSURV failures, surface leaders convened a fleet review panel in fall 2009. Led by a retired vice admiral, the panel found that maintenance problems were spiraling out of control due to a lack of sailors and funding, as well as poor training and shifting priorities. Only a systemic approach, they argued, would arrest the decline.

Of the 41 inspections last year, there were two failures: the cruiser Philippine Sea and frigate Nicholas.

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