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Fire Aboard USS Iwo Jima: Another Repair Setback For Navy « Breaking Defense

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Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima is currently homeported at Naval Station Mayport.

WASHINGTON: Eleven sailors were hurt in a fire aboard the amphibious ship USS Iwo Jima  on Thursday while it was undergoing a planned overhaul, an incident that adds to a growing list of ships struggling through repair work. 

The Iwo Jima incident occurred late Thursday evening after sailors noticed smoke in a cargo hold and moved to extinguish the fire, which was put out by about 4:30am by the ship’s crew, sailors from USS The Sullivans, and the Jacksonville Fire Department. All of the sailors were treated at the scene and released, according to a statement from Expeditionary Strike Group 2.

“Sailors are rigorously trained to combat casualties such as this fire, and we are grateful for the assistance of the installation and the local community to help ensure the safety of our people and our ships,” said the ship’s commander, Capt. Darrell Canady.

It’s unclear how much damage was done to the ship, but the Navy said the fire was contained and no damage was suffered to the pier, or to neighboring ships docked at  Naval Station Mayport in Florida.

Last November, a fire aboard the USS Oscar Austin undergoing repair in Norfolk damaged the ship enough to likely keep it in dock until 2022, according to reports.

This latest fire comes as the Navy is working to overcome years of maintenance delays that have kept a number of ships from deploying on time, forcing others to stay at sea longer and delaying their own planned repair and maintenance schedules.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman is currently two months behind schedule to head out to sea after electrical issues forced it to remain in port after its planned September sail-away date. The issues forced the USS Abraham Lincoln to extend its seven-month deployment to the Middle East. The Truman’s issues have been resolved, the Navy said this week, and it should deploy soon. 

The Norfolk waterfront is crowded these days, housing six of the Navy’s 11 carriers, all in various states of repair. While the Truman is headed out, the carrier USS John C. Stennis is waiting its turn pierside as the USS George Washington wraps up its own  mid-life refueling and overhaul, slated to wrap up in late 2021. 

Readiness issues have plagued the Navy in recent years, culminating in early 2019, when only 16 percent of the Navy’s workhorse guided-missile destroyer fleet managed to get through planned repairs on time. Navy officials have insisted that the steady funding provided by the two-year budget deal reached between Congress and the White House in 2017 has helped matters. Vice Adm. Tom Moore, head of Naval Sea Systems Command, said in September that the number of destroyers getting out of their repair availabilities on time has shot up to 40 percent this year, due partially to new contracting methods that have allowed shipyards and industry to plan more efficiently for coming work.

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