SAN DIEGO (April 26, 2011) — The Surface Navy is seeing tangible results as it continues to focus resources and leadership to improve the warfighting readiness of the mine countermeasures (MCM) force.
Avenger class MCMs, USS Defender (MCM 2), USS Champion (MCM 4) and USS Avenger (MCM 1) each passed milestone material inspections by the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) in 2011, signaling a positive trend for the force and the efforts to improve the material condition of the Navy's oldest collection of combatants.
"We all recognize the challenge facing the readiness of the MCM force, as well as the vital requirement for mine counter-measure capacity from operational commanders," said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, Commander Naval Surface Forces. "These successful INSURVs not only demonstrate that we are turning the corner on MCM readiness, but that leadership on the deckplates is engaged to keep these ships in the fight and get them to their expected service life and beyond."
With MCMs today averaging greater than 20 years of age, the Navy has established a task force to focus on sustaining the service life of these ships until they are replaced by the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) equipped with MCM modules after 2017.
"The challenge was bigger than any single command or type commander (TYCOM) to fix, we needed to leverage the support of the entire Surface Warfare Enterprise (SWE) to get to the roots of the issues and provide effective solutions for the Avenger class." said Curtis.
The MCM Readiness Task Force was formed to jumpstart corrective actions, and engage all organizations who had a hand in MCM warfighting readiness including a coordinated effort from the fleet and the expertise of Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Rear Adm. James McManamon, Deputy Commander for Surface Warfare, NAVSEA SEA 21, and Rear Adm. (Sel) David Gale, Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Command (RMC). The task force first had to conduct a coordinated, comprehensive readiness assessment of the fleet of MCMs and issue a set of recommendations to improve their readiness.
Co-led by Rear Adm. McManamon and Capt. David Chase, Commodore, MCM squadron two (MCMRON), the task force singled out four areas for emphasis by the review; manpower and personnel; training; integrated logistics support; and sustainment. The goal remains to focus on the "root cause factors" impacting readiness and identification of both actions and resources to effect long-term improvements.
One program put in place to help with MCM readiness, the Engineering Readiness Assessment Team (ERAT), is delivering positive returns on investment. The ERAT concept started several years ago, with teams composed of 5-6 retired limited duty officers (LDO) or senior enlisted experts led by a retired senior LDO (O-5/O-6). The teams provide deck plate assessments and mentorship with crews as they prepare for major evolutions, certifications and inspections. The MCM ERAT team is relatively new and Avenger, Defender and Champion have all tapped into this resource and from all feedback received from ships it continues to prove itself as being an invaluable set of "critical eyes" to support success.
Beyond successful INSURVs, specific areas of the review are already gaining traction on the waterfront, The logistics community continues to make dramatic improvements in material
"Given the age of hulls and equipment, the Avenger class faces a lack of spare parts for a growing list of obsolescent systems requiring innovative solutions in how best to ensure effective logistics support," said Captain Andy Benson, Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics at Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
In March, Curtis convened key stakeholders from around the world for an "MCM Day of Logistics" conference, and the outcome was the development of an aggressive set of actions to improve parts support, among them, the development of mitigating strategies related to obsolescent/long lead-time repair parts, and a focused effort to pre-stage critical spares in forward operating areas, such as Bahrain and Sasebo, Japan, to reduce equipment down time.
"The provider community has responded magnificently, and, in particular, the efforts of the Naval Supply Systems Command have been nothing less than heroic, with every echelon of their global command providing invaluable support to this critical mission area, and to our ships," said Benson.
The MCM mission is critical in future crises and conflicts, as Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead noted in June 2009: "Successful mining of the sea lanes of communication is a show-stopper." MCMs serve the active force forward in Sasebo, Japan and Bahrain and from their home port of San Diego, CA.
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