OCTOBER 14, 2016, SAN DIEGO (NNS) – Six Sailors assigned to amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) trained in the operation and support of a new flight deck cleaning system with the help of engineers from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Sept. 12-16.
The Mobile Cleaning, Recovery and Recycling System (MCRRS) is a shipboard, heavy duty, self-powered cleaning vehicle that utilizes water jet technology, integrated air recovery and waste-water recycling to clean, remove foreign object debris (FOD) and restore friction to non-skid surfaces. It has been in development by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Carderock Division and contracting firm Triverus, LLC with sponsorship from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) through a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) effort to replace existing flight deck cleaning methods.
The Carderock Ship-to-Shore Team (Code 634) leader, William Hertel, and key subject-matter expert (SME), Tracy Harasti, have been heavily involved since 2003 with the development of a cleaning technology and method capable of maintaining flight surface Coefficient of Friction (COF), reducing FOD (i.e. microsolids and liquid), is sufficiently intuitive to operate, be maintained by ship forces, and that integrates with mission requirements. This was the latest trip Harasti has made to train Sailors aboard a L-Class ship in the early stages of transitioning to the MCRRS. This low-rate initial production effort is a follow-on to prior developmental efforts that included initial deployment of the prototype MCRRS to aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in 2009.
“Code 634 is responsible for program execution or transition of production units during the production contract,” said Harasti, who has collectively spent months underway aboard Ronald Reagan, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), and USS Bataan (LHD 5) in his role as the subject-matter expert and technical point of contact for the Navy. “Over the last eight years, I’ve had the pleasure to travel to Alaska; San Diego; Norfolk; Sasebo, Japan; Bangkok, Thailand; Washington state and various locations in Australia for development, emergency FOD remediation and conducting training/support.”
NAVSEA Surface Ship Readiness and Sustainment (PMS 443) is in the process of establishing a formal program of record for the MCRRS, which has led to the delivery of the first MCRRS initial production model unit NAVSEA and Carderock representatives accepted June 24. This version is iterative upon previous versions tested in the fleet, according to Tristan Kenny, MCRRS engineering director for Triverus, LLC who visited America with Harasti and representatives from Carderock and NAVSEA. He said each time it has been tested aboard ships and used by Sailors who have provided feedback, the zamboni-like vehicle has improved into the machine it is today — one that meets all shipboard requirements and is easy for service members to train on and use.
“There have been different variations over the years; what we have now is working well, it’s robust, and maintainable,” Kenny said. “It’s been a process of figuring out what was actually needed. This has been a constant evolution trying to get to a product that’s going to be as robust as possible for the Navy. Bringing it to the Sailors has made a huge difference. It’s now to the point where the system is pretty intuitive to operate and easy to understand. It’s been good to see them use it and obtain that validation.”
The MCRRS improves upon other methods of cleaning flight decks in numerous ways, according to Harasti. It is designed to replace the manual cleaning process involving Sailors scrubbing flight decks with scrub brushes and mops — reducing costs, saving man-hours and increasing flight deck availability for flight operations. It also is replacing a 30-year-old warehouse sweeper modified for flight deck use. The MCRRS pumps water at 2,500 psi at its highest pressure, at a flow rate of approximately nine gallons of water per minute. It recovers and holds solid waste while recycling process water at a rate of 2.25 tank volumes, or 240 gallons, over a 60-minute operational period. The MCRRS uses no soap, minimizes wastewater through recycling, and uses no consumable media. The system picks up solids on the flight deck ranging from 4 inches to sub-micron in size, all forms of liquid FOD, and separates process water concentrates so they can be properly disposed of.
“The high-pressure, water-jet cleaning action and integrated air recovery ensure the micro-solids and liquid FOD are removed from the flight deck surface in a single pass process within the first 18 inches of travel,” Harasti said. “This technology improves the flight deck coefficient of friction, is more reliable, can be supported by ship’s force and reduces risk associated with all types of FOD.”
Harasti said the Sailors aboard America went through a combination of instructional and on-the-job, hands-on training associated with the operation and sustainment of the MCRRS. These efforts included daily vehicle inspection requirements, system terminology, human machine interface familiarization, and driving and operation of the MCRRS in all flight deck areas. The Sailors, who had never seen or used the MCRRS before this training, said it was easy to learn and operate.
“You can maneuver it easily and it fits it into tight spaces,” said Seaman Uzoma Hojo, a Sailor from Independence, Missouri, assigned to America’s Air Department. “It’s a nice machine, [and] much better than the one we were using currently.”
Harasti and Hertel were recognized for their work with the MCRRS during Carderock’s Magnificent Eight Division Honor Awards Ceremony Aug. 31, receiving the Captain Harold E. Saunders Award for exemplary achievement in leadership of a major technical area or management of a complex technical project. Saunders, a naval architect and engineer, prepared the preliminary plans and specifications for Carderock’s David Taylor Model Basin. At the ceremony, Hertel praised Harasti for his technical acumen and work in the field helping to bring this technology to Sailors. Harasti, a former Marine, talked about how he tried to get the best possible equipment deployed to Sailors and Marines.
“I attempted to bring to the fleet a piece of equipment that not only could be operated and maintained by 19-year-old Sailors, but was a model for other equipment on the flight deck,” Harasti said. “And I think we met those goals.”
According to Harasti, the plan is to continue work with PMS 443 to field more MCRRS units for cleaning, training and engineering purposes on other large deck ships for an eventual total of 47 units.