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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Substantial Trafalgar class RAMPs run back to back

Nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) HMS Tireless sailed from Devonport on Saturday (6 February), following a substantial 18 month Revalidation and Assisted Maintenance Period (RAMP) and life extension, successfully completed ahead of schedule by Babcock. HMS Tireless’ departure follows the docking of HMS Trenchant earlier in the month for a major RAMP that will include significant capability upgrades.

The extensive 320,000 manhour RAMP in HMS Tireless (twice the manhours of a usual RAMP) has encompassed significant life extension work, and has included a shaft change, installation of a trial outboard sonar fit, steam generator in-service inspections, and reactor system inspections and maintenance, as well as several combat system capability updates and substantial structural and mechanical system survey, maintenance and repair work.

Particular challenges included the development of in-service inspection equipment and procedures in support of reactor system integrity checks. This required close working between Babcock, MoD and Rolls Royce to minimise programme impact and provide a capability that is now deployable on other submarines.

Joint Babcock/MoD initiatives contributed to the successful completion of this RAMP, including ensuring early definition of the work specification which enabled significant pre-planning to be undertaken and close working between Babcock, ship’s staff and the MoD during the project.

Commenting on the Tireless RAMP, Platform Group Manager Submarines, Cdr Tim Roberts RN, said: “The return of HMS Tireless to service six days earlier than scheduled after an extensive and very technically challenging project has been a most impressive performance. This achievement is a testament to the improved working practices and relationships that are providing Fleet with the certainty of delivery that they need to manage the intensive submarine operational programme.“

With HMS Tireless’ RAMP successfully completed, HMS Trenchant will now undergo a challenging 11 month RAMP by Babcock, featuring a volume of work normally reserved for a Long Overhaul Period (Refuel) [LOP(R)], including the largest and most complex combat system installation and upgrade package ever undertaken in a RAMP.

Some 15 capability upgrades will include the Communications Coherency Submarines (CCSM) final increment, as well as the final upgrade to the 2076 main sonar, complete replacement of the UAP electronic warfare capability with UAA4, replacement of the automated plotting tables with the Warship Electronic Chart Display & Information System, and replacement of the weapons data bus with the TaLAN local area network, all involving considerable equipment and cabling installation, and rack and mounting modifications.

This is in addition to a number of significant defect repair packages to be undertaken, including work to the sonar flank array outboard, and removal and replacement of both water ram discharge air reservoirs (normally a LOP(R) task), plus reactor systems in-service inspections, and a large package of hull survey work.

Babcock has been working with the MoD and applying its experience in RAMP management on an on-going basis to introduce considerable efficiencies and time and cost savings; a process that has continued in planning for the Trenchant RAMP.

A number of initiatives are being put into play jointly by the MoD and Babcock to ensure the smooth running of the project. The development and management of the substantial combat systems work package requires close working between Babcock and the MoD, and has driven the implementation of a new approach to working together, including re-defined lines of communication between all stakeholders, an improved understanding of roles and responsibilities, and an agreed capability insertion end-to-end process from design phase to delivery, with the technical requirement fully understood and planned for at the start of the RAMP. A dedicated Babcock combat systems package manager will oversee and ensure the efficient management of this significant and complex workscope.

Commenting on the RAMPs, Babcock submarine operations director Devonport, Gavin Leckie, said: “Having successfully completed Tireless’ RAMP to return her fighting fit, the size of the combat systems package now provides a unique challenge to the RAMP team to deliver Trenchant with the maximum capability possible, and within the timescales agreed up front with Navy Command. We have taken a different approach with the MoD in jointly developing the specification and RAMP schedule to support a ‘managing the requirement’ initiative to improve delivery performance. Lessons learned from the Tireless RAMP and the partnering ethos being demonstrated so early in a project is encouraging.”