Northrop Grumman disputes claim that some ships have design flaws

Northrop Grumman officials are

disputing a recent report that outlines possible design flaws in

U.S. Coast Guard vessels being constructed at the Pascagoula


Northrop Grumman spokesman Bill Glenn said the dispute between

the company and Coast Guard is in interpreting test data from a

computer model.

Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Brendan McPherson agreed the dispute

is technical in nature.

"We have a difference in opinion in the lifespan of the

ships," McPherson said. "There is no question of the

seaworthiness of the ships. The issue is not in the safety of the

ships. They will do the job they are designed to do."

The National Security Cutters are $750 million vessels designed

to help the Coast Guard reach into deep waters off the United

States coast.

The Coast Guard plans to buy eight of the cutters, each of which

are being built at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipyard, the state's

largest private employer.

The first two cutters, the Bertholf and the Waesche are under

construction. Last November, Coast Guard officials christened the

Bertholf, the first cutter to be constructed, and expect to hand it

over to the Coast Guard in at the start of 2008. The Waesche is

expected to enter the Coast Guard's fleet in mid 2009.

The cutters are being constructed by a partnership between

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman named Integrated Coast Guard


According to U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., the cutters have a

possible flaw near the ballast pumps, which are below the

waterline. He said flaw could cause the hull to crack, which could,

in turn, lead to water flooding engine compartments or the cutter


Bill Glenn, spokesman for Northrop Grumman, however, said the

shipbuilder disagreed with the Coast Guard about a possible flaw

that was reported Wednesday.

He said the disagreement can be traced to how a Navy model is

used to evaluate hull design. He said the model gives one answer

when it is calibrated against what is known about existing, or

proven, ships. The raw data alone, though, gives a different answer

as to hull life, according to a article.

"When you use a known or proven ship to calibrate the model it

predicts in excess of 50 years," Glenn said. "When you run the

model with raw data it predicts less than 30 years."