Virginia Class Submarines Losing Their Coatings

The US Navy has had some coating issues recently with their Virginia class submarines – their anechoic (anti-sonar) coatings have been falling off on patrol! This is particular worrisome as the anechoic coating has been proven to make the subs extremely difficult to detect under water. As the coating fails however, active and passive sonar sweeps are more likely to detect the submarine. While it may not “look” like a submarine on sonar, if too much of the coating un-bonds the submarine is at risk.

Each Virginia class submarine costs approximately $2 billion to build and the Navy has scrambled to fix their coating issues as quickly as possible. Last summer the Navy admitted that large swatches of the coating have been disconnecting from their submarines on patrol. Since that time, the Navy has focused on improving their coating processes and while the details are classified, they appear to have fixed the problem as submarines that have been produced more recently have not had to make the repairs.

In the coating world, surface preparation is always half the battle. If a secure bond is not formed, the coating will never perform up to expectations and will most likely fail early and often (especially if spot failure leads to the entire coating failing). When a coating fails it means unexpected costs, but in some circumstances it can be the difference between life and death.

What do you think? Has the Navy responded appropriately to their coating woes? Let us know in the comments. Thanks for stopping by and happy coating!