The Navy thinks nothing of spending billions for new ships, aircraft, and weapons – even ones with questionable performance – and yet what does the Navy spend on testing of these systems? Only a tiny fraction, by comparison. Worse, what does the Navy spend on threat surrogates to ensure that the testing they do engage in is meaningful? Almost nothing. In fact, in many cases, there are no realistic threat surrogates which means there is no realistic testing possible.
Let’s take a wander through the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report and see how widespread this problem is.
Submarines – The Navy lacks a realistic diesel submarine or surrogate which is necessary for testing the BQQ-10 submarine sonar system.
“Perform an ASW event against a high-end, diesel-electric, hunter-killer submarine …”
Torpedoes – The Navy lacks realistic, threat-representative torpedo surrogates.
“In September 2015, the Navy completed a formal study that identified capability gaps in currently available torpedo surrogates and presented an analysis of alternatives for specific investments to improve threat emulation ability. The Navy has since taken the following actions to address the identified capability gaps:
- The Navy received funding through an FY16 Resource Enhancement Project (REP) proposal and is currently in development of a threat-representative high-speed quiet propulsion system.
- The Navy submitted an FY17 REP proposal to develop a General Threat Torpedo (GTT) that is intended to expand upon the propulsion system under development and provide representation of threat torpedoes in both acoustic performance and tactical logic.”
Lack of a suitable surrogate hinders Zumwalt testing.
“The threat torpedo surrogates currently available for operational assessment of the Zumwalt-class destroyer have significant limitations in their representation of threat torpedoes.”
Cruise Missiles – The Navy lacks representative cruise missile surrogates.
“…although SeaRAM has demonstrated some capability against ASCM threats, the lack of ASCM surrogate targets to adequately represent advanced ASCM threats combined with the paucity of test data does not support a meaningful and quantitative assessment of SeaRAM’s ability to provide the DDG 51 class with an adequate self-defense against threat ASCMs.”
“Develop threat surrogate aerial targets that adequately represent advanced ASCM threats.”
Closely related to realistic threat surrogates is the need for realistic test bed platforms for Aegis. As DOT&E suggested,
“Provide the necessary funding to support the procurement of an advanced air and missile defense radar [AMDR/SPY-6] and Aegis-equipped SDTS [Self Defense Test Ship] that are needed to support Aegis Modernization, advanced AMDR DDG 51 Flight III, and ESSM Block 2 operational testing.”
The lack of a realistic test bed – meaning a representative SDTS – jeopardizes Aegis modernization, AMDR/SPY-6 development and fielding, the Burke Flt III, and ESSM. What is the Navy spending on those programs? Billions. What is the Navy spending on obtaining a realistic SDTS? Zero. The Navy is willing to risk ships and crew to save an infinitesimally small amount of money. Here’s a thought … The Navy is desperately trying to early retire the Aegis cruisers. Why not convert one of them into an Aegis/AMDR SDTS? The ship is there – already paid for. The equipment is already mounted. It only needs to have some simple automation added.
As a point of interest, the current SDTS is the former USS Foster, DD-964, a Spruance class destroyer. Given that the bulk of our surface fleet consists of Aegis vessels – and soon to be AMDR/SPY-6 – the need for a representative SDTS is overwhelming.
The Navy thinks nothing of spending billions on highly questionable platforms like the LCS, Zumwalt, Ford, and LPD-17 but balks at spending the money necessary to actually test new weapons and platforms. That’s utterly illogical. That’s the Navy.