We’ve been very hard on our squidly brethren for the hash they have made of shipbuilding and procurement, with the jury out on the futuristic but seven-billion-dollar Zumwalt DDGs, the ongoing avalanche of disaster that’s the defenseless, offenseless and half-billion-dollar-apiece LCS imbroglio, and we haven’t even gotten into some of the problems with building a carrier around scheduled inventions. Now, the guys in the cute sailor suits haven’t done this all alone; they’e had an enormous assist from a meddling (and grifting) Congress, and the soi-disant defense industrial base. (That’s the guys who pay the
bagmen lobbyists who pay off the Congressmen). Hell, even Fleet Week in San Diego is bankrupt. But since we often step into these pages to flog the Navy like Jack Tar of 1812, we owe it to point out where volcanic action or something analogous raises islands of competence above Mean Bozo Level. And the Navy has one program, at least, that seems to be going right: the Arleigh Burke DDG production “restart.”
Even though the program is split between two shipyards to minimize efficiency and maximize Congressional peculation, that’s still not as bad as the LCS-doggle where the yards are building completely different ships, with little interchangeable but some nuts and bolts and the Navy Jack. (Well, and the absence of effective armament. Both classes of LCS have that in common). And the first ships seem to be coming in on time. Bath Iron Works just got the thumbs-up from the Navy after acceptance trials of the first ship of what the Navy calls the Flight IIA Aegis Burkes, USS Rafael Peralta, DDG-115. The ship be transferred to Navy authority next month, then will reposition to the Pacific for commissioning next summer. In this video, Peralta gets underway for sea trials on November with a tug in attendance “just in case” (but no propulsion casualties were had). (Warning… excessive fuzz guitar soundtrack!)
Even better, Peralta represents the survival of the noble old Naval tradition of naming ships after sea-service heroes. Sergeant Rafael Peralta was a Marine NCO who earned a posthumous Navy Cross in Iraq, diving on a grenade when mortally wounded and saving his squad to punch the tickets of the men who killed him and threw the ‘nade. He’d enlisted in the Marines on the day he got his green card as a legal permanent resident. “Be proud of me, bro… and be proud of your country,” he wrote to his kid brother shortly before his death. (Ricardo Peralta also served his country as a Marine). Appropriately, DDG-115’s motto is Fortus ad Finem. It’s a hell of a legacy to live up to.
DDG-116, too, will be named for a Naval hero: Lieutenant Thomas Hudner MOH, who bellied in his Corsair behind enemy lines in Korea to try to save the life of another Corsair pilot trapped in a wrecked plane. (He did not succeed, and was himself rescued by helicopter, but the nerve it took to try boggles the mind. We met Hudner, and he was a great and humble guy). Meanwhile, the other shipyard has two Naval heroes coming up, DDG-113 John Finn (Navy Aviation Ordnance Chief who improvised AA guns at Pearl Harbor) and DDG-114 Ralph Johnson (another Marine who had a rendezvous with a ‘nade).
Unfortunately, after that the ships succumb to Ray Mabus names: mostly grifting Congressmen and Senators. (How about a Congressional ban on this naming-for-dollars, before we wind up with USS Geico Enterprise and SSN-6969 Bank of America Topeka?) Several of the class are yet to be named, and if he runs close to form the lame duck SecNav is probably penciling in USS Trigglypuff, USS Trayvon Martin, and USS Bowe Bergdahl.
The Flight IIA Aegis relaunch hasn’t been flawless — Peralta’s schedule slipped six months to let Bath focus on the Zumwalts, and the follow-on ships are even later — but compared to the LCS disaster or the Zumwalt cost overruns, it looks like the sort of thing the Navy used to do. Indeed, the program’s probably as successful as it is because Mabus’s energies were diverted elsewhere, and he wasn’t able to bring his own manic strain of Social Justice Micromanagement to bear.
For More Information:
- USS Rafael Peralta Facebook page.
- USS Rafael Peralta Precommissioning unit website.
- USS Rafael Peralta Shipboard Lava Dog magazine — December ’16. (Lava Dogs are the men of Sergeant Peralta’s Hawaii-based unit, 1/3 Marines, and now, with the Marines’ permission and approval, for the company of “his” ship, also).
- USS Rafael Peralta Facebook page.
- USS Rafael Peralta News Story at USNI.