News broke recently from the shipyards here in San Diego that one of the new Littoral class of Navy warships is having some issues. According to David Axe of Wired, value engineering resulted in removal of a “Cathodic Protection System” from the ship’s specifications. Entire sections of the hull will be replaced as a result.
In contrast to the first LCS, the steel-hulled USS Freedom, Independence is made mostly of aluminum. And that’s one root of the ship’s ailment.
Corrosion is a $23-billion-a-year problem in the equipment-heavy U.S. military. But Independence’s decay isn’t a case of mere oxidation, which can usually be prevented by careful maintenance and cleaning. No, the 418-foot-long warship is dissolving due to one whopper of a design flaw.
There are technical terms for this kind of disintegration. Austal USA, Independence’s Alabama-based builder, calls it “galvanic corrosion.” Civilian scientists know it as “electrolysis.” It’s what occurs when “two dissimilar metals, after being in electrical contact with one another, corrode at different rates,” Austal explained in a statement.