An article in the current issue of Proceedings (1) points out, as a notable benefit, that the Ford’s dual-band radar allows considerable reduction in topside equipment,
“Further reductions in topside equipment were envisioned by leveraging the dual-band radar from the … DD-1000 destroyer program, a move that could replace six radars – SPS-48, SPS-49, SPS-67, SPN-43, SPQ-9B, TAS Mk23 – and four NATO Sea Sparrow Target Illuminators.”
What the authors fail to point out is that the consolidation puts 10 separate functions into a single point of failure. If the dual-band radar is rendered inoperative due to battle damage (or simple electrical/mechanical failure) the ship loses ten functions. The older system of separate radars may have caused topside clutter (I’m not sure why that’s inherently bad) but they also offered a degree of redundancy in that they represented multiple points of failure – a much more battle worthy system.
The Ford’s radar may represent a more desirable system from a peacetime acquisition and ease of construction (hence, cost) point of view but does it represent a better combat arrangement? Only a very detailed analysis from someone with intimate knowledge of the various systems could answer that. The point is that the Navy almost surely made the decision based on accounting concerns rather than combat needs. We’ve discussed this before – the Navy has to recognize that combat is generally not compatible with accounting and business practices. Many combat issues will not make good accounting and business sense (until, of course, they save a ship in combat!) especially when considered from a peacetime perspective. The Navy must drive its designs from a combat imperative. If that means higher costs, and it will, that’s simply the price of being combat ready. There are plenty of areas for productive cost cutting (have I ever mentioned reducing the glut of Admirals and their staffs?) but combat readiness is not one.
On a related note, the authors point out that the Ford will have fewer aircraft elevators. Again, a construction cost saver, undoubtedly, but is it a combat and battle damage advantage? Undoubtedly not. When the ship takes damage and begins losing capability more elevators will be desirable, not less – that’s called redundancy.
So, is the Ford’s radar system more combat ready than the older arrangement? I don’t know but this type of decision must be driven by combat concerns not business.
(1) US Naval Institute Proceedings, “Christened by
, Challenged by Cost”, Capt. J. Talbot Manvel Jr. (USN, ret.) and David Perin, May 2014, p. 42 Champagne