SeaRAM has been deployed in the fleet for some time now and I assumed it had gone through the standard array of testing. I was wrong. From the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report (all emphasis added),
“The Navy tested SeaRAM on the Self-Defense Test Ship (SDTS) at the Pacific Test Range, Pt Mugu, California, from December 2015 to March 2016 and on USS Porter (DDG 78) at the Spanish sea range, Rota, Spain, in March 2016. None of these tests were conducted with DOT&E-approved operational test plans or conducted by the Navy’s Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force since SeaRAM is not a formal acquisition program with approved requirements documents or milestone decisions.
DOT&E published a classified report to Congress in December 2016 since SeaRAM was deployed on operational DDG 51-class ships without having conducted any operational testing.”
This is what happens when the Navy is left on their own. Rigorous, systematic testing is abandoned. Yeah, but the Navy did conduct some testing. Isn’t that good and won’t less rigorous testing save money while accomplishing the same end result? Here’s what DOT&E has to say about the Navy’s tests.
“That report [classified Early Fielding Report to Congress] stated that, based on the results of the Navy testing, although SeaRAM has demonstrated some capability against anti-ship cruise missile (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.”
|SeaRAM - Untested|
Remember, testing is not just about whether the weapon can launch and hit its target – it’s about shipboard integration and interaction between other systems.
“An adequate set of DOT&E-approved SeaRAM operational tests against a broader, more threat representative set of ASCM threat surrogates are required to demonstrate that the DDG 51-class destroyer’s other defensive weapons do not degrade SeaRAM’s effectiveness …”
“The SeaRAM electronic warfare suite prevents SeaRAM from
utilizing the RAM Block 2 missile to its full capability.”
Will the DDG’s other electronic systems (radar, ECM, communications, etc.) interfere with the SeaRAM electronics and vice versa? Answering that requires extensive and systematic testing not a few ad hoc tests against non-representative threat surrogates. We may actually be reducing the DDG’s overall capabilities by mounting SeaRAM. That’s probably not the case but “probably” is not what we should be putting to sea with.
This is the clear cut argument against removing DOT&E oversight. We’re putting DDG-51 class ships out in the world with unproven, untested weapons and with no idea how they interact or interfere with other ship’s systems. Simply put, the Navy cannot be trusted to run their own tests and evaluations.