PORTSMOUTH, Va (NNS) -- Collaboration and innovation are essential components of mission success.
A team of Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) production resources and engineering employees proved this when they completed a new aluminum testing enclosure ahead of schedule.
The enclosure will be tested on the two Moored Training Ships currently undergoing conversion at NNSY before replacing its aging steel counterpart, currently in use at Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in Charleston, South Carolina.
USS San Francisco (SSN 711) and USS La Jolla (SSN 701) are being converted from operational fast-attack submarines into next-generation Moored Training Ships to be used for training nuclear officers and Sailors at NPTU.
"The enclosure at NPTU is at the end of its service life and needs to be replaced," said Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department (Code 2300) Design Engineer Brandon Waltemeyer. "We've started using aluminum for these kinds of projects because it doesn't rust, it oxidizes, which actually provides a protective layer, requires less maintenance, and ensures the structure's longevity."
While the enclosure's actual lifespan is difficult to predict because of its uniqueness, it will likely last as long as the new Moored Training Ships are in service.
Aside from the use of aluminum to fabricate the structure, the team also completed a number of upgrades to the new enclosure's internal components.
The walls of the enclosure must be able to support the several hundred pounds of testing equipment used by Ship's Force. The thickness of the aluminum used in the walls was specifically selected to be able to carry the load.
Similar enclosures supporting other projects use plywood to hold up the testing equipment, but aside from a wooden desk, the new enclosure is made of entirely aluminum.
"The new testing enclosure includes many upgrades and modifications to the first enclosure at NPTU," added Nuclear Engineer Christina Toroc. "The layout is more practical and takes a lot of things into consideration. The design of the new box makes it really easy for Ship's Force to execute their work. The valves are easy to reach, the wiring and inlet and outlet piping are hidden, and the new box is designed to be hauled down the highway when it's taken to Charleston after San Francisco's conversion is complete."
Building the enclosure required various shipyard shops and resources to work together, and the team even managed to complete the job in just two and a half months, beating the schedule they set.
"Code 2300 provided the Pipefitting Shop (Shop 56) a schematic for the piping with very little detail and they knocked it out of the park," said Waltemyer. "They did some of the best brazing I've ever seen. Just the other day we were down there with the La Jolla assistant project superintendent and the Test Coordinator Lt. Benjamin Carver and they commented on the how great the brazing was. It's rewarding for this work to be validated later on by a Navy Lieutenant because we are doing this work to support our servicemembers and to keep the fleet fit to fight."
The Production Resources Department Facilities Division (Code 900F), which supported Code 2300 with the electrical outfitting and air conditioning installation when the Temporary Facilities Shop (Shop 99) workload prevented them from assisting, also received special recognition from the rest of the team.
"Code 900F stepped in to fill the gap when Shop 99 was tied up with the current six availabilities on our waterfront," said Waltemyer.
According to Michael Mercer, the project's fabrication supervisor, "Aluminum has a tendency to shrink or grow on you, and this project had a very tight tolerance, so we had some struggles there, but we overcame and we learned a lot. It was a miracle we had so many experienced, talented welders working on this job. The welders, insulators, sheet metal workers, and everyone really worked hard and did a great job. We turned a pile of metal into an innovative, usable product that will last for decades and we take a great deal of pride in it."
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