Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shocking!

It’s not often that the Navy does anything that surprises ComNavOps.  Disappoints, yes.  Surprises, no.  And it’s absolutely unheard of that the Navy surprises ComNavOps in a positive way.  And yet, that’s exactly what has happened – well, kind of – and not by the Navy.

Navy Times website reports that the Pentagon has instructed the Navy to conduct full ship shock tests on the carrier Ford (1).  The Navy had attempted to put off the shock tests either indefinitely or until the next Ford class carrier, CVN-79, was ready which would be in 2023 or so.

You’ll recall that the Navy has thus far declined to perform shock tests on any LCS.  Also, I’ve not read of any plans to conduct shock tests on the Zumwalt DDG or the America LHA although, to be fair, there may be such plans and they just haven’t been made public. 

As a more general statement, the Navy has been trending towards less and less testing of ships with many tests being indefinitely deferred according to the various DOT&E reports.

This abrupt change in plan is good news.  Building an entire class of ship without doing shock testing is just asking for unexpected and unwelcome findings when damage actually occurs.  Waiting until several ships into a class to conduct the tests simply means that any required fixes will assuredly cost much more by having to be retrofit than if they were incorporated into the vessels during construction.  This is identical to the concurrency issues that help drive up costs on the F-35.  Plus, do we really want our sailors deploying on ships that may have structural and shock issues?  Don’t we want our warships to be as ready and resilient as possible?  Why has the Navy begun to defer shock testing?  But, I digress …

While good news, the directive was totally unexpected.  The Navy was firmly “committed” to not performing the test.  Something changed and for the directive to come from the Pentagon means that whatever changed had to have occurred at a pretty high level.  I can’t even begin to speculate who has sufficient clout and interest in the Navy to mandate this. 

The directive came from the office of Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official.  I had no idea he had the authority to order something of this magnitude if, indeed, he is actually the person behind this.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this and watching to see if this affects the Navy’s plans, or lack thereof, to conduct shock testing on other ship classes.

This is a very good development for the Navy.  It’s a shame that it had to be imposed rather than embraced.


(1)Navy Times, “Pentagon Directs Shock Tests on Carrier Ford”, Christopher P. Cavas, August 11, 2015


7 comments:

  1. The look of panic in the eyes of the shipbuilders will be a thing of beauty?. Will they say, can we do a computer simulation instead ? Or even do a series of live small tests and 'extrapolate' on a graph?
    Best of all, why dont we delay any such test until the problem goes away...not the real problem, but the person who ordered the test in the first place

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  2. The real question is, are they going to follow through?

    I think that there is going to be a powerful faction within the USN that will oppose this and fight this like crazy.

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    1. Why do you believe that? I tend to agree but for the life of me I can't come up with a reason why the Navy would balk at such testing. It can only make for better ships and there is no downside other than a few months delay in the initial deployment. Any thoughts?

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    2. You answered your own question. Better ships are not the goal here. Keeping the money flowing is the goal and ship designs and manufacturing that looks bad jeopardizes the flow of money.

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    3. Sadly, you're probably right. I'd just like to believe better of our military leaders.

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    4. The past few decades of actions has not been grounds for much in the way of optimism about the quality of leadership - military and civilian alike.

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    5. Maybe we need a blog that focuses on the managers we keep picking instead of the leaders we need. Some investigative sunshine on what these managers have REALLY accomplished BEFORE they are promoted might help. Lord knows the troops know the ones that do things and know the ones that are politically correct.

      People first, ideas second, things third.

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