Our council was once again welcomed aboard Naval Undersea Warfare Center-Keyport for a tour on June 15, 2015. And it was a great tour.
Initially we met the new commanding officer, CAPT Francis Spencer, who had been there for just 11 days. Then Division Technical Director Alan Kent presented a comprehensive overview of Keyport, its work and where it fits into the larger Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Following is some of the information from that presentation.
There are 10 NAVSEA Warfare Centers around the country, 8 surface and 2 undersea. The other Undersea Warfare Center is in Newport, RI. The two undersea centers work closely together and share the motto “to deliver the best undersea solutions quickly”. Keyport has occupied its present location since 1914, employs approximately 2000 people and primarily serves submarines. Torpedoes and related systems occupy 75% of their work, which included maintenance and in service engineering. Most employees there are civilian, with a strong emphasis on the hiring of veterans.
In addition to its Keyport, WA location there is a fleet collocation of Keyport personnel around the USA and the world, in such places as Guam, Canada, HI, CA, NV, NH, FL , MD and VA, to name some. There have been 50 years of cooperation with Canada and there are torpedo test ranges in Canadian waters (Nanoose). There are also test ranges in Dabob Bay, Hood Canal and at Keyport. Civilians now operate the torpedo test boats. Keyport is the only US torpedo depot and performs intermediate maintenance on light and heavy weight torpedoes. Keyport is proud of their many community outreach efforts and is truly a good neighbor.
Our first tour stop was at the Torpedo Intermediate Maintenance Facility. Here Mark 46, 48 and 54 torpedoes are processed. Torpedoes configured and used for practice are recovered after use and reconditioned here for reuse. War shot configured torpedoes are periodically returned to Keyport on a scheduled basis to be rebuilt and returned to service. The Mark 46 and 54 types are considered “lightweight” and the Mark 48 is the sole “heavyweight” torpedo and the type is expected to remain in service for many years to come. Mark 46 and 54 torpedoes are launched on or above the surface from ships, aircraft or helicopters, versus the Mark 48 which is only submarine launched underwater. Keyport is the only lightweight torpedo maintenance facilities but is one of 3 heavyweight, the others being in VA and HI. We were shown the inner workings of a torpedo motor, which is included in the reconditioning/rebuilding process. Torpedo motors are powerful for their small size (450 h.p. @ 96 cubic inches) and use special fuel. They are not used for conventional surface propulsion because the motor exhaust is hydrogen cyanide!
The other area we visited was Customer Engineered Solutions and Laser Cladding. Here we were shown the machinery which performs computer guided 3-D printing using laser melted finely ground plastics, sand and, in some cases, metal. Although actual finished parts are at times produced most of the output here creates a form or mold which can then be used for a casting of the required component. This work is saving many thousands of dollars in helping to replace now obsolete parts no longer available from the original manufacturers. In the laser lab we were shown, as an example of their work, how they repair expensive helicopter blades by removing and replacing surface coatings. This also results in huge cost savings. Keyport engineers were praised for how they devised a process by which the vertical launch tubes in “688” class submarines, a component subject to serious corrosion and resultant high repair costs, could be economically ground and sealed with more cost savings. Metal bonding was also discussed.
There is much more at Keyport than what we were able to see in our limited time, but that time had run out and we needed to head back to the main gate and conclude the tour. Sincere thanks to everyone at Keyport and, of course, to our faithful tour coordinator Byron Faber for arranging everything.