Well, the 2013 DOT&E annual report is out (1) and we’ll be looking at its many topics in greater detail. As I started to quickly skim the introductory portion to get to the meat of the report, I almost missed what may actually be the meat.
To quickly review, the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), headed by Director Michael Gilmore, is the group tasked with testing and evaluating the performance of the various weapons and systems the military buys. This group provides the objective and scientific assessment of systems that counterbalances the hype, spin, and sales claims made by the manufacturers and the services. Without this group we would have very few functional systems. We’ve seen that the Navy, left to its own devices, would proceed full speed ahead with little regard for actual performance or functionality. Indeed, the Navy is consistently at odds with DOT&E and makes every effort to thwart and bypass the required testing. For example, the Navy has delayed shock testing of the LCS for several years and probably has no intention of ever doing it.
Now consider what makes the test programs possible and worthwhile. It’s the test equipment, of course. Appropriate test equipment ensures that worthwhile data is collected and that the systems are subjected to realistic test conditions. Without the proper test equipment, the DOT&E efforts are pointless.
Consider then, the true import of the following two sections taken from the introductory portion of the annual report.
“Electronic Warfare Test Infrastructure
In February 2012, I identified significant shortfalls in the test resources required to test mission systems electronic warfare capabilities under operationally realistic conditions. The Department programmed for an Electronic Warfare Infrastructure Improvement Program starting in FY13 to add both closed-loop and open-loop emitter resources for testing on the open-air ranges, to make at least one government anechoic chamber capable of providing a representative threat environment for electronic warfare testing, and to upgrade the electronic warfare programming laboratory that will produce threat data files. These test capabilities are essential to many programs, including F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), F-22 Increment 3.2 A/B, B-2 Defensive Management System, Long-Range Strike Bomber, Next Generation Jammer for the EA-18G, Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures upgrades, as well as several other programs. However, progress in selecting sources and beginning development of the test resources has been slower than needed to assure these resources are available in time for the JSF Block 3 IOT&E in 2018. Without these resources, the JSF IOT&E of Block 3 capability will not be adequate to determine the system’s effectiveness in existing operationally realistic threat environments.”
“Aegis-Capable Self-Defense Test Ship (SDTS)
As mentioned above, the test community currently relies on an unmanned, remotely controlled ship, called the SDTS, with the actual radars, weapons, and combat systems employed on some (not all) of the Navy’s currently deployed ships to examine the ability of these systems to protect against incoming anti-ship cruise missiles. … The Navy employs a high-fidelity modeling and simulation capability that relies heavily on data collected from testing with the SDTS, as well as data from manned ship testing, so that a full assessment of ship self-defense capabilities of non-Aegis ships can be completely and affordably conducted. While the Navy recognizes the capability as integral to the test programs for certain weapons systems (the Ship Self-Defense System, Rolling Airframe Missile Block 2, and the Evolved Sea-Sparrow Missile Block 1) and ship classes (LPD-17, LHA-6, Littoral Combat Ship, DDG 100, and CVN-78), the Navy has not made a similar investment in an Aegis-capable SDTS for adequate operational testing of the DDG 51 Flight III Destroyer (with Aegis Advanced Capability Build “Next” Combat System and Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR))
capabilities. The current SDTS lacks the appropriate sensors and other combat system elements to test these capabilities.
I continue to strongly advocate for the development of an Aegis-capable SDTS to test ship self-defense systems’ performance in the final seconds of the close-in battle and to acquire sufficient data to accredit ship self-defense modeling and simulation test beds. Other methods that are being examined and desired in lieu of an STDS, in my estimation, are wholly inadequate to fully examine the complex, close-in battlespace where multiple components of the combat system must work simultaneously to orchestrate shooting down multiple incoming highly-capable anti-ship cruise missiles, all within an engagement timeline of tens of seconds. The estimated cost for development and acquisition of an SDTS capability over the Future Years Defense Program is approximately $284 Million. … I have disapproved the Milestone B AMDR TEMP because, contrary to its predecessor AMDR TES, the TEMP did not provide for the resources needed to equip an SDTS. Similarly, I will disapprove the DDG 51 Flight III TEMP if it omits the resources needed to equip an SDTS.”
These two statements are saying that the proper means of testing the systems are not available and it’s not just limited to these two examples. The Navy has, for years, refused to obtain drone targets that can realistically simulate the cruise and ballistic missile threats possessed by enemy nations. The Navy has refused to obtain Meggit Hammerheads for anti-swarm testing and training. And the list goes on. Without those means, the Navy will be fielding systems that, of a certainty, contain crucial flaws that will only become apparent under the tragic conditions of actual combat. The Navy falls all over itself to fully fund a questionable program like the LCS but has to be coerced into developing and obtaining the test equipment necessary to ensure the full functioning of the systems they’re sending sailors to combat with. This is shortsightedness of a nearly criminal nature and a gross violation of the trust of the men and women of the Navy.
This is the true meat of the DOT&E report – the unwillingness of the Navy to provide the proper test equipment to ensure that the fleet’s weapons and systems function the way they’re supposed to.