$15.2-million USS Essex upgrade under way at Sasebo
Stars and Stripes June 24, 2003
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The 14-year-old USS Essex is getting a $15.2 million face-lift this summer.
Through Aug. 13, about 1,000 Essex crewmembers, Japanese workers from Sasebo’s ship repair facility and high-tech equipment contractors from the United States will be working during the regularly scheduled selected restricted availability, or SRA, period for the “Iron Gator.”
“We usually have an extensive SRA like the one this summer about every two years, scheduled in advance,” ship spokesman Chief Petty Officer Roger Dutcher said. “We aren’t doing this now because of any specific problems with the ship.”
The Essex, an amphibious assault ship, is slated for about 2,400 improvements while moored in India Basin.
New parts, old equipment, tools, forklifts and cranes cover the adjacent pier.
Cmdr. Bill Edge is coordinating the effort.
“They are rebuilding the boilers down below, cleaning out all the CHT [collection, holding and sewage transfer] tanks,” Edge said last week from the ship’s cargo bay. “And the fuel tanks are being overhauled and preserved.
“Up topside on the aviation part of the ship, we have the whole deck being stripped, refined and resurfaced with non-skid material. That’s all to get us ready for our next certification process, the required ACER as we call it, the Aviation Certification.”
The ship is being fitted with several high-tech components, including fiber-optic lighting on the flight deck and new communications systems.
To handle electronic upgrades, “We have about 200 people here working from the Space Warfare Command,” Edge said. “We’ll have new navigation systems, turning tables and new systems to allow communication throughout the ship.”
Ballast tank work also is under way.
“We had one [tank] that suffered a casualty during our last underway,” he said. “So, they are in there doing structural repairs that will allow us to use that again. And some of the valves that control the movement of fluid in these ballast tanks are being overhauled, and we have some new valves being installed.”
The Essex’s fire main system is also being upgraded.
“We are getting all new main valves, somewhere in the order of 40, installed throughout the ship,” he said.
Repair facility workers have 1,500 separate ship improvements to complete. The Essex’s crew will carry out another 800 jobs, such as painting the ship.
And the Space Warfare Command personnel have 25 installations and upgrades to finish.
Several jobs related to quality of life and creature comforts also are planned.
“A contractor has been hired to come here and do a major overhaul of a berthing space that will be occupied by our females. At present, we have them spread out,” Edge said. “The new area will allow us to sleep about 250 women, along with a head and the associated lounges, and enable us to concentrate them together.”
In addition, at a cost of “a couple million dollars,” crew lounges are being renovated.
“Each is getting LAN drops … cables so they can have computer terminals in there and state-of-the-art televisions,” Edge said.
“They are also replacing the telephones, so about 350 of the old telephones will be replaced by the new digital phones,” he said.
While work is under way, most of the crew is living on a berthing barge in Juliet Basin, a few hundred yards from where the Essex is moored.
Several officers are temporarily living in the base bachelor officers housing facility.
Edge noted that 31,000 crew days of work would take place this summer on the Essex. However, as SRAs go, he said, this one isn’t as in-depth as it might seem.
“From what I understand this one is pretty routine … not all that deep,” he said.