ComNavOps has long preached that weapon system performance in combat will never even remotely approach the manufacturer or Navy’s claims.
Further, ComNavOps has long preached that only the existence of DOT&E (Director, Operational Test and Evaluation), the Pentagon’s weapon and system testing organization, ensures even a modicum of weapon performance (see, "DOT&E", for a refresher on what the group is and does). Without DOT&E, the Navy would conduct only cursory and simplistic testing before fielding systems and calling them done. For example, the Navy’s reluctance, almost refusal, to conduct ship shock testing proves the Navy’s near total disinterest in testing.
Worse, the Navy and DOT&E have an adversarial relationship with the Navy fighting DOT&E every step of the way and only grudgingly agreeing to testing when forced into it – witness, again, the mandated shock testing of the Ford. This relationship is simply insane. The Navy should be the biggest possible supporter of DOT&E. It’s DOT&E that is attempting to ensure that the Navy gets what it pays for and that the Navy’s weapons and systems maximize their performance. Isn’t that what the Navy wants? Or should want?
Consider this bit about the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 testing from the DOT&E 2015 Annual Report. RAM has been around in one form or another for many years. You wouldn’t think there’d be anything left to test and if the Navy had their way, they’d probably skip any additional testing. However, …
“Deficiencies in RAM Block 2 integration with the SSDS-based
combat system caused several RAM Block 2 missiles to miss their target during one of the IOT&E missile firing scenarios. The Navy has initiated a formal Failure Review Board to determine the required corrections.
The CVN and LHA 6 class ships defend themselves against
ASCMs by first using the medium-range Evolved SeaSparrow
Missile (ESSM) and then the shorter-range RAM. RAM uses radio frequency and/or infrared terminal guidance to home on ASCM threats. Hot debris from prior intercepts and warhead detonations can therefore interfere with RAM’s infrared guidance. While the SSDS is designed to schedule RAM and ESSM engagements to avoid this type of interference, it failed to do so during testing.”
This is just one small example of why DOT&E testing is so vital. The Navy needs to stop viewing DOT&E as an impediment and start seeing them as the thin line standing between combat success and failure.
This small example also illustrates another common occurrence during weapon discussions. There are a group of people who completely buy into manufacturer and Navy claims about performance. Those claims never materialize – never even come close. History conclusively proves this and this blog has presented that data on numerous occasions. Despite this, there are always a group who insist that, despite all the previous failings for a given weapon type, the next one will be the miracle system that revolutionizes warfare. This testing is a tiny example of why that will never happen. There are always problems. The more complex and fantastic the system, the greater the problems. The problems may be with the weapon itself, the software that runs it, the integration of the weapon with the ship’s systems, lack of operator training, or whatever. None of that changes the fact that weapons never work as claimed. See it - accept it.
Of course, it is this realization that adds even more importance to the need for testing – and that’s the point of this post. Weapons never work so let’s find out how and why during testing rather than during combat. The Navy (and too many readers!) needs to abandon blind faith in manufacturer’s claims and put their faith and support in DOT&E.
Here are a sampling of the reasons why DOT&E exists. From the DOT&E 2015 Annual Report,
“The system tested in OA 1 could not detect and track targets well enough to support weapons employment in an environment that reflects realistic fighter employment and tactics.”
“The JHSV ramp cannot handle the small, but continual, relative movement of the two ships when moored skin-to-skin. Although vehicles were successfully transferred inside a protected harbor, transfer operations at-sea failed.”
“The Navy began operational testing of the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) C-1 in April 2015. Problems identified during FY12-13 integrated testing resulted in follow-on integrated testing in late FY14 and pushed operational testing to FY15.”
No greater example of the value of DOT&E exists than the entire LCS fiasco. If the Navy had had their way, we would have already built 55 ships and none would have any functional value. As seen in multiple posts on this blog, it is only the DOT&E that is finding problem after problem with the LCS. The Navy is oblivious or, more likely, just doesn’t want to know about problems out of fear that problems will lead Congress to question the funding of the ships.
DOT&E is all that prevents us from fielding a Cold War Soviet fleet of non-functional capabilities arising from criminally irresponsible Navy policies. The Navy needs to embrace DOT&E as the watchdogs and guardians of combat effectiveness that they are.