The Navy appears firmly committed to the development of the Flight III Burke as the next generation air defense ship which will replace both the Ticonderogas and Burkes. You’ll recall that the now cancelled CG(X) was to have been the
Ticonderoga replacement and the DDG-1000 was to have been the replacement for the Burke class. In an abrupt turnaround of historic and baffling magnitude, the Navy terminated the DDG-1000 program at three ships and restarted production of DDG-51 Flt IIa’s. The first Flt III will be procured in 2016.
The key characteristic if the Flight III will be the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) which will allow it to perform AAW and BMD, simultaneously.
The Navy estimates the cost of the first Flt III at $2.3B according to CRS. This is a patently low ball (fraudulently deceptive) figure.
Regarding funding of the Flt IIa restarts and the Flt III’s, CRS had this to say (1),
“As part of its action on the Navy’s FY2013 budget, Congress granted the Navy authority to use a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract for DDG-51s to be procured FY2013-FY2017. The Navy awarded the contract on June 3, 2013. The Navy plans to use an engineering change proposal (ECP) to shift from the Flight IIA design to the Flight III design during this MYP contract.”
The MYP is intended as a cost savings procurement measure for use on stable designs and, for the Flt IIa, that’s a fair and prudent action. The ECP is a deception on the part of the Navy to pass off an almost totally new ship, the Flt III, as a minor change to the previous Flt IIa design.
AMDR size will be 14 ft on Flt III which is substantially less than what was envisioned for the CG(X) and will provide insufficient sensitivity to meet the performance requirement. The Navy claims that 14 ft will meet the threshold requirement while ignoring the fact that the stated requirement for the CG(X) was a 20+ft AMDR. The Burke’s existing power and cooling for the AMDR is also deemed inadequate to accommodate likely future developments. Interestingly, the Flt III will not incorporate an integrated electric drive.
One option the Navy has hinted at for compensating for the reduced radar sensitivity (despite contradictorily stating that the AMDR meets threshold requirements!) is to make use of off-board data sources such as aircraft or dedicated radar ships (Cobra Judy). This is an interesting possibility but would require a radical change in doctrine. It also opens the possibility of degraded performance if the off-board sensors suffer data link degradation due to enemy ECM, jamming, or the simple destruction of the off-board sensors (such as shootdown of satellites or UAVs).
The Navy’s schedule for construction of Flt III’s is probably not realistic as it pertains to the development of the AMDR. It is unlikely that the AMDR will be ready in time. Just as the Ford’s EMALS and AAG and the LCS’ modules were not ready in time, so too, it is apparent that the AMDR schedule is not realistic.
DOT&E has disapproved both the Navy’s proposed test plan for the Flt III and the test plan for the AMDR due to the lack of a test ship and the Navy’s unwillingness to include one as part of the program (2).
Growth margin is a concern for the DDG-51. The current Flt IIa’s have used up most or all of the growth margin in the original design. A new Flt III will have little or no growth margin for future developments.
Often, we look at a flawed acquisition program and supporters deflect blame and criticism by saying that no one could have foreseen the problems that arose. Well, here’s a clear cut example where the problems are easily foreseeable. The time to take corrective action is now, not years in the future. Unfortunately, the Navy is going to push full speed ahead with yet another program that, at best, won’t meet the performance requirements, hasn’t got the power and cooling to support future growth, and has little or no growth margins. We don’t need to wait several years down the road to see the problem. The problem is quite evident today.
The most baffling aspect to this is that there is no penalty to slowing down a bit and addressing the problems now. Worst case, we build a couple extra brand new Flt IIa’s while we wait for the AMDR technology to mature, the software to be written and debugged (ask JSF how their software issues are working out!), test ships to be outfitted, actual data to be collected and, most unlikely of unlikelies(?), develop a new ship design that actual meets the performance requirements!
(1) Congressional Research Service, “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer
Programs: Background and Issues for Congress”, Ronald O'Rourke,
October 22, 2013
(2) Director, Operational Testing and Evaluation, Annual Report, 2013