Babcock has started work on a substantial Revalidation and Assisted Maintenance Period (RAMP) for Trafalgar class nuclear powered attack submarine (SSN) HMS Torbay, at Devonport Royal Dockyard. The 300,000 manhour RAMP will ensure the submarine is safe to operate for the rest of her commission, and will include significant communications upgrades and work that will improve camouflage and minimise operating noise.
Communications upgrades will include improvements to internal communications, especially through bulkheads, with the installation of the Cromwell radio antenna upgrade, and final installation of the Ship Alongside upgrade which is used in harbour to provide connectivity, television and telephone services on board.
Torbay's RAMP will also mark a 'first' with an extensive painting package to better camouflage the submarine when operating in shallow waters. A high level of work is expected to be included as a result of surveys, particularly in the ballast and internal tanks, and it is likely that the submarine tailshaft will be replaced (requiring some 33 weeks in dry dock).
As well as inspection of the hull and propulsion systems, the RAMP will accommodate a significant amount of non-destructive testing and inspection of the major components in the reactor compartment. Torbay will be the final submarine to undergo an upgrade to the discharge system that provides an additional above-waterline connection to the primary circuit, providing an improved relief path used during high pressure testing known as hot lifts (undertaken as part of the commissioning programme).
Babcock boat manager Jon Lewis points out that the sheer volume of work to be contained within the RAMP creates an enormous challenge in terms of balancing resources, as well as challenges around the painting package which has significant interface with other work on the pressure hull such as upgrades to the submarine's sonar system.
"We will develop and refine the Earned Value Management (EVM) project management technique, first rolled out for HMS Talent's RAMP, to ensure we maintain a broad view of progress across the whole platform," Lewis said. "Project milestones such as dock-down and flood-up are important pace markers in a submarine's RAMP but cannot be achieved in isolation. EVM enables us to take a more holistic view of progress and project status against budget, and ensure we keep the whole project on track."
Babcock's close working with the MoD and Royal Navy is key to the success of the RAMP, to combine Babcock's knowledge and experience to lead the planning of the RAMP project with the detailed specialist knowledge of the ship's company to ensure emphasis is placed on addressing key issues, and input from the intelligent customer (comprising MoD and Royal Navy staff) to help manage the interface with the Design Authorities.
Lewis states: "The RAMP is very much a joint project between Babcock, MoD and ship's staff. Together we will shape this project and deliver it, to schedule, cost and quality."
MoD Project Contract Manager for RAMPs, Cdr Martin Gill, said: "Torbay's RAMP is the largest package to date but I have every confidence that by utilising the improved planning, communication and execution processes the Joint Project Team will complete the RAMP on time and return a more capable and safe Torbay to the Fleet ready to operate for the rest of her commission."
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