"Haze gray and underway" has been a mantra of U.S. Navy warships for decades, and the sight of a sleek warship sliding across the ocean has stirred many a sailor's heart.
THE CRUISER SAN Jacinto shows the effect of the current paint used on U.S. Navy ships, and how it often dries to different shades of gray. (Christopher P. Cavas / Staff)
But a lot of those greyhounds of the sea start looking a bit poorly up close. Various shades of haze gray appear as patches of dark gray, light gray, tannish gray. Here and there might be patches of green-gray. Sometimes, if a ship has received a lot of touch-up work, there might be a dozen or so different grays.
Worst of all, some parts of a ship might not appear gray at all but look downright pink.
"What you are noticing is indeed true," admitted Mark Ingle, the Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) technical authority for paint.
"The way the pink happens is a function of time, weather and ultraviolet radiation," Ingle said. "There are an infinite number of variations on the pink theme, depending on the conditions."
The phenomenon has existed since the mid-1990s, when heat-reducing paints, called low solar absorbance (LSA) paints, were introduced. The pinking problem arrived with the LSAs and, ever since, ships' crews have struggled to keep their floating homes looking spiffy.
But help is on the way. A new type of paint is being introduced fleetwide, and before too long, the Navy hopes, its ships will regain their luster, sailors will find it easier to keep their ships looking smart and some money can be saved.
The new paint - "Type 5" in Navy-speak - is called polysiloxane.
"It's basically an epoxy-functionality paint with siloxane groups grafted on that make it extraordinarily resistant to chalking, weathering degradation," Ingle said.
In English, please? a reporter asked.
"It's an extremely hard, wear-resistant coating," Ingle explained.
The new stuff eliminates the pinking problem, he said. And if it gets scuffed or banged up, it's designed to be cleaned, not repainted.
The new paint, Ameron PSX-700 from PPG Industries, Pittsburgh, was developed as an anti-graffiti coating and, rather than painting over rough spots, the Navy hopes that eventually most stains will come off with a power-wash.
Several ships have tested the new paint, including the amphibious ships Ponce, Kearsarge, Boxer and Bonhomme Richard, cruiser Antietam, aircraft carrier Nimitz, and even the museum battleship Missouri at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The new paint, Ingle said, "supports the fact that the Navy has moved toward less repainting, longer service life, longer docking intervals."
The polysiloxane is "very good for the environment, with very low volatile organic compound levels. And they are very popular. Ships want to use them all the time.
"We are in the process of these being the required paint for use in the Navy to avoid the pinking problem and save the money of having to repaint because of cosmetic color shifting of paints," he added.
But unlike the old silicone alkyd paint that comes in a can and is stirred, the Type 5 paint comes in two cylinders that are squeezed together to mix polysiloxane and epoxy glue.
"We have these two cartridges, like a double-barreled caulking gun," Ingle said. "The cartridges are fitted together and squeeze out into baffles, which mix the paint so that it comes out as a properly-mixed product ready to be applied. It uses a gun similar to a caulking gun."
Ships in overhaul availabilities already are getting the new paint, he said, and fleet technical manuals are being updated to include procedures and policies for using the cartridges.
"Sailors have never had a two-pack topside paint before," he noted, but "eventually everyone will have the two-pack systems."
The paint is available from three manufacturers: PXLE-80 from Sherwin Williams, PSX-700 from PPG and Interfine 979 from International Paint.
The new Type 5 paint costs roughly twice as much as older paints, Ingle said, "about $70 to $100 a gallon for the new paint, versus about $30 to $60 a gallon for the Type 2 or 3 LSA."
But since ships will not need to be painted as often, the paint should save money. The Office of Naval Research, working on the Future Naval Capabilities' Topside Coating program, estimates the polysiloxane will save about $153 million over 30 years.
The paint already has been in widespread use in the Coast Guard.
"The Coast Guard has been using polysiloxane for years and has had tremendous success," Ingle said. "How often do you see different shades on a Coast Guard cutter? Running rust?"
To assist sailors in using the new paint, Corrosion Control Assist Teams come pierside and provide the equipment to do a paint job.
Ingle likened it to a lending library. "The crew comes down and takes out what they need - five needle guns, two grinders, etc," he said.
A major goal is to minimize the amount of paint carried on a ship, said Stephen Melsom, NAVSEA's program manager for fleet corrosion control.
"There are hazards associated" with paint stowage, Melsom said. "I'd like to go from them having this paint locker and just having touchup kits if you will. So when you need the touch-up, they can inject it from the twin-tube system. Get away from all that stowage on the ship."
NAVSEA is working with the Naval Research Laboratory to develop a new, low-pressure, electrically driven power washer to clean polysiloxane surfaces.
"We're not talking about washing the entire ship at one time but a portion of the ship," Melsom explained. "Take a power washer with a brush scrubber, not that different than what you'd use at home on a deck, to get the salts off."
A corrosion control manager is also being designated aboard each ship.
"It's typically a senior enlisted sailor," Melsom said. "They're getting trained, and they'll be taught on polysiloxane and other things they need to do to make corrosion control a way of life."
The new paint is proving extremely popular, Melsom reported.
"Ships are asking where they can get it. They understand there is a difference," he said. "And when you see the difference between the new paint and the old paint, it's pretty evident."
BEIJING - Beijing said Jan. 9 that a new U.S. defense strategy focused on countering China's rising power was based on "groundless" charges, and insisted it posed no threat to any nation.
U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled the strategy Jan. 5, calling for a leaner U.S. military focused on the Asia-Pacific region and signaling a shift away from large ground wars against insurgents.
But China, whose People's Liberation Army has benefited from a huge and expanding budget boosted by the nation's rapid economic growth, said the fears were baseless, urging the U.S. to "play a more constructive role."
"The charges against China in this document are groundless and untrustworthy," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in response to a question from state media about whether China poses a threat to U.S. security.
Liu was referring to the strategy document released last week, which said the growth of China's military power "must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region."
"To maintain the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region serves the common interest of all countries within the region," Liu added. "We hope the U.S. side will play a more constructive role to this end."
Washington's focus on Asia is fueled by concerns over China's growing navy and its arsenal of anti-ship missiles that could jeopardize U.S. military dominance in the Pacific. China's responses to recent U.S. moves to boost its military presence in Asia - including the deployment of up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia - have so far been restrained.
China's official Xinhua news agency said Jan. 6 it welcomed a bigger U.S. presence in Asia as "conducive to regional stability and prosperity," while urging it against "warmongering."
China "adheres to the path of peaceful development, upholds an independent foreign policy of peace and a defense policy that is defensive in nature," Liu said. "Our national defense modernization serves the objective requirements of national security and development and also plays an active role in maintaining regional peace and security. It will not pose any threat to any country."
PARIS - Qatar and Kuwait are interested in buying French Rafale fighter jets but are waiting to see whether the United Arab Emirates will make a purchase first, France's defense minister said Jan. 9.
"They are, in effect, interested but they won't know for sure until the first one jumps in," minister Gerard Longuet said, adding that he hoped the UAE, which is talks with France to buy 60 Rafales, would make a decision "within a time frame that will allow its two neighbors, which hope to be interoperable with the Emirates, to make decisions."
Industry experts have estimated that Kuwait needs 18 to 22 new fighter jets and that Qatar needs 24.
After opening talks on the purchase in 2008, the UAE said in November that the offer for Rafales from France's Dassault Aviation was uncompetitive and opened up the tender to competition.
France has raised concerns over the future of the Rafale program, which has struggled to find foreign buyers to support a project that has so far cost more than 40 billion euros ($51 billion).
Longuet warned in December that production on the multirole fighter could halt if it remains unable to sell any abroad.
JERUSALEM - Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu announced Jan. 8 an increase of nearly $700 million in the defense budget, after saying last year that he would cut military spending to finance social reforms.
"We are going to add three million shekels to the defense budget," Netanyahu said at a news conference.
Netanyahu had in October supported the recommendations of a report he commissioned, by respected economist Manuel Trajtenberg, which were intended to address rising frustrations about the cost of living and income disparity in the Jewish state that triggered mass protests last year.
One of the Trajtenberg report's proposals was to cut a defense budget that amounts to around $14 billion, of which $3 billion comes in annual U.S. military aid, to finance a series of social initiatives without increasing the deficit.
"I have reflected on this question, but in view of what has happened in the region, I have reached the conclusion that cutting the defense budget would be a mistake, even a big mistake," Netanyahu said.
"Any sensible person can see what is happening around us. ... All these changes have strategic implications for the national security of the state of Israel, for our ability to face the new challenges and instability," he told a weekly cabinet meeting, according to a statement from his office.
The Israeli army "is the shield of the country, which is why we must increase its means," he added.
The prime minister said that in return for the spending increase, the defense ministry would have to respect the principle of transparency, which would allow the government to monitor the management of the budget.
"In the past, we discovered things late, whereas now we will become aware of them in real time," Netanyahu said.
Israel's cabinet in October approved the recommended economic reforms outlined by the 267-page Trajtenberg report, which covered housing, competitiveness, social services, education and taxation.