The John S. McCain became the first destroyer to fail a Board of Inspection and Survey assessment since 2008 (MC3 Paul Kelly / Navy)
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A destroyer flunked the fleet's toughest ship inspection in June, Navy officials confirmed Nov. 8 — the first failure in nearly a year.
The destroyer John S. McCain, based in Yokosuka, Japan, scored an "unsatisfactory" grade at the Board of Inspection and Survey assessment, said Naval Surfaces Forces spokesman Lt. Rick Chernitzer.
"The ship received an overall grade of unsatisfactory due largely to propulsion, damage control and combat systems issues," Chernitzer said. "On Sept. 21, the ship passed a full material inspection and was found fit for combat operations."
The Navy withheld the news of the INSURV failure until the major problems had been fixed and the ship had been recertified as combat-ready.
These inspections gauge the state of a ship's hull and installed equipment, from the engines and propellers to the inflatable life jackets and the deep-fat fryer. Normal preps last months. Outside of the nuclear Navy's assessments, INSURV is regarded as the fleet's most invasive check, an assessment completed every five years that demands long hours of crews.
Failing it has ended careers. However, the latest failure hasn't prompted any reliefs or "personnel changes," Chernitzer said.
Cmdr. Scott Hattaway, the ship's captain, took command of the destroyer seven weeks before the inspection. The 1996 Naval Academy grad has been aboard John S. McCain since November 2010, when he became the ship's executive officer.
Chernitzer was unable to offer specific details regarding the circumstances of the INSURV failure, which downgraded three mission areas. A ship scores "degraded" if it is unable to complete one mission area, such as deck, navigation or habitability. If it is unable to complete two missions or more, the ship fails.
The destroyer did not require a maintenance period to fix the problems, Chernitzer said. The ship is now deployed with the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.
The John S. McCain is the first Aegis-equipped destroyer to flunk INSURV since 2008, when a spate of failures and degraded scores prompted an independent review that found the surface fleet on a downward slide. Officials launched a back-to-the-basics focus and now say the fleet is on the mend, citing improvements in very specific INSURV checks known as equipment operability checks, or EOCs.
"Our conclusion is that inspection results are getting better," said Rear Adm. Robert Wray, INSURV's president, in an early September interview. This judgment relies heavily on slicing and dicing the millions of EOC scores compiled every year by inspectors across the fleet.
"We're like the Gallup poll," Wray added. "We have more data than you can possibly comprehend."