First T-AO, USNS John Lewis completes builder's trials
Warship Technology March 2022
USNS John Lewis (TAO 205), the lead ship in a class of new fleet replenishment oilers for the US Navy, has completed initial builder’s trials. The trials were initiated on 4 February 2022.
The trials were conducted to enable the US Navy and the ship’s builder, General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO), to assess the vessel’s systems and readiness prior to acceptance trials and delivery.
The US Navy wants to procure a total of 20 TAO-205s. Its proposed FY2022 budget requests US$668.2 million for the procurement of a seventh TAO-205 class ship, and an additional US$76.0 million in advance procurement funding for the procurement of another TAO-205 in a future fiscal year.
NASSCO is currently in production on USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO 206), USNS Earl Warren (T-AO 207) and USNS Robert F Kennedy (T-AO 208). The future USNS Lucy Stone (T-AO 209) and USNS Sojourner Truth (T-AO 210) are under contract.
Although largely based on the use of existing, proven technology, the TAO-205 programme has not been without issues. In August 2021, the US Navy told the Congressional Research Service that the estimated procurement cost of the lead ship in the class had increased to US$759.4 million, an increase of US$85.2 million, or 12.6%, compared to the ship’s originally estimated and funded procurement cost of US$674.2 million.
The delivery date for the ship has also been delayed. One cause of the cost growth and delivery delay for the programme as a whole is an incident in July 2018 that flooded a dry dock at the yard. Other causes of cost growth include cyber security change orders that were not provided in the original shipbuilding construction contract award, and cost growth in government-furnished equipment (GFE) for the ship. The delivery dates for subsequent ships in the programme have also been delayed.
The programme’s schedule continues to experience delays due to the events of the last two years and, as a result of events that began with the 2018 flooding of one of the shipbuilder’s dry docks, planned delivery of ships two through six slipped by five to 12 months.
The US Navy stated in July 2021 that the delivery date for TAO-205 has been delayed from June 2021 to March 2022 due to the graving dock incident, late delivery of outfitting materials, and a need to repair or carry out rework on other parts of the ship, and that the delivery dates of the second through sixth ships in the class have been delayed by 12 to 15 months due to the graving dock incident, late delivery of materials, throughput delays caused by delays in building the first ship, and impacts from Covid-19.