Featured Project: USNS Comfort

VectorUSA is proud to have had the opportunity to work aboard the USNS Comfort and to have played a vital role in helping the ship continue to carry out its humanitarian missions.

The USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), a 138 million pound, 900-foot, 24,500 horsepower, ten-story hospital ship, is the lead ship in her class of U.S. Naval hospital ships. The ship has 80 beds in its intensive care wards, 12 operating rooms and 1,000 patient beds. Her medical staff provides comprehensive care, including emergency surgery, radiology imaging services, laboratory testing services, dental care, physical therapy, burn care and more. Like her sister ship, the USNS Mercy, USNS Comfort was built as a San Clemente-class oil tanker in 1976. Her career as an oil tanker ended when she was delivered to the U.S. Navy on December 1, 1987. The USNS Comfort’s duties include providing emergency, onsite care for U.S. combatant forces deployed in war or other operations, as well as serving as a hospital in disaster and humanitarian relief missions.

VectorUSA was contacted to perform a complete dual-homed NIPR-NET backbone infrastructure overhaul, consisting of 49 single-mode fiber optic backbone cables and 10 single-mode fiber optic SIPR-NET cables, totaling nearly 35,000 feet. Additionally, VectorUSA provided USNS Comfort a new MDF and UPS power solution. The onsite design phase began in early 2017. VectorUSA engaged Marine Systems Corporation, a company specializing in marine engineering and design in support of U.S Government and commercial activities. Our team made several trips to the East Coast to collaboratively create a cabling and pathway design that would meet NAVSEA and Mil-Spec regulations. During the design phase, VectorUSA also engaged sub-contractors AFBS Inc. and C&T Marine Inc. to assist with the hot work, cable installations and electrical upgrades.

VectorUSA’s Martin Lind was assigned as the Project Manager to oversee the contractors’ work and was provided with an amazing VectorUSA Team to perform fiber terminations and testing. As a Pentagon activation order could come at any time, it was difficult to perform peer-side work outside of scheduled ship-yard visits. The Navy required that VectorUSA close up shop and for the U.S. Coast Guard to certify all penetrations within their five-day deployment preparation time. Due to fire sealant curing processes, it, in many cases, forced us to cut already installed cables to weld fire boundary penetrations shut — a risk we were willing to take and only option available to us at the time. From May to September, we managed to successfully get everything installed, tested and certified by ABS/USCG, as well as get the USNS Comfort seaworthy for a mid-project short deployment and hurricane.

Martin Lind would like to thank lead fiber technicians Elias Martin, Gabriel Cardenas and Oscar Mena for their outstanding contributions to the overall success of this project; their attention to detail and quality of work was outstanding. It’s not always easy to travel and be away from our families for extended periods of time. The level of team spirit our technicians brought to the table is not to be taken for granted, so thank you. You were all a pleasure to work with!

Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently announced in October, just 11 days after project completion, that the USNS Comfort would be sent to Colombia to provide medical care to a growing humanitarian crisis. The hospital ship will assist the Colombian medical services network to provide medical care to an influx of more than 1 million refugees entering neighboring Colombia. As for what USNS Comfort can contribute to this world, one only needs to look at its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria an example of the ship’s amazing capabilities.

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