Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Aegis Test Ship

This idea has come up repeatedly.  The Navy’s main AAW weapon system, Aegis, is completely untested under any realistic conditions.  Further, the system’s combat resiliency is unknown.

Regarding function, the Aegis system has never been tested against the very threat it was designed to handle, saturation missile attacks.  We have no idea what its capabilities are and yet we’re betting the protection of our fleet on it.  We need to know how the system will actually function in combat.

Regarding resiliency, you’ll recall that when the Port Royal gently nosed aground at one or two knots, and rocked gently for a day or so until it could be freed, it left the system out of alignment and possibly inoperative, depending on what report you care to believe.  I think the fact that the Port Royal was the Navy’s first choice for early retirement of the Aegis cruisers is quite telling – this despite the Port Royal being the newest Aegis cruiser and fitted with the much valued ballistic missile defense modifications (BMD).

This does not bode well for the Aegis system’s combat resiliency.  If an entire Aegis system could be incapacitated by gently rocking for a while, what will happen when an anti-ship missile hits and whipsaws the entire ship?  We need to know.  Are Aegis ships one-hit mission kills or can they stay in the fight?

So what can we do about this?  How can we get answers?

As we’ve documented, the Navy has tried multiple times and in multiple ways to early retire the Aegis cruiser class.  Congress has rebuffed the Navy.  Even so, the Navy has managed to de facto retire six cruisers under the so-called modernization plan.  Be that as it may, if the Navy is so eager to retire a cruiser, why not let them?  Let’s retire a cruiser, automate it for remote control, put it out in the middle of the ocean, launch a saturation attack against it while it defends in full auto mode, and see what happens.  That will tell us how it functions in combat and whether it can take damage and keep fighting.


USS Paul F Foster - Self Defense Test Ship


It would cost next to nothing to automate the ship.  We’re not talking about artificial intelligence – just basic helm controls to position the ship.  Remember, the Aegis system, itself, already has a full auto mode – set it, leave the ship, and watch what happens.  We’d want to add in some extensive recording equipment to monitior the results.  We’re talking, what, a few million dollars?  That’s round off error in the Navy’s accounting ledgers. 


Aegis Cruiser - Aegis Test Ship Needed


Lest anyone believe the idea is not feasible, recall that the Navy maintains exactly such a remote controlled weapons test ship, the USS Paul F. Foster, a Spruance class destroyer converted to act as the Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship.  Given that the bulk of the Navy’s surface fleet carries the Aegis AAW system, it is long past time for a dedicated Aegis self defense test ship.

16 comments:

  1. I totally agree with this. 100%.

    The Port Royal situation makes me wonder how Aegis would work after a strong storm with severe sea states.

    Further, how has Aegis evolved as the ASCM's have evolved? What about the computing environment Aegis is based on? Has that been upgraded since the 80's or are we still working on something akin to an IBM PC in computing power?

    There are a ton of questions.

    We won't know the efficacy of this until we test it. I fear that this will never happen because the Navy fears the answer.

    Dumb Question: Aegis controls the standards, does it also control ESSM?

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  2. This is another excellent post disclosing gross negligence in the U.S. Navy. Unsurprisingly, this gross negligence appears to be accompanied by gross corruption. The Washington Post reports that:

    "Eight current and former Navy officials — including an admiral — were named in a new indictment in the “Fat Leonard” bribery case on Tuesday. Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor, has pleaded guilty to bribing “scores” of Navy officials with cash, prostitutes and other gifts — such as hotel stays, airfare and electronics — so that they would feed him classified or inside information, which he used to defraud the Navy. The slowly unfolding investigation has exposed a staggering degree of corruption within the 7th Fleet."

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/seducing-the-seventh-fleet/

    I wonder how deep this rabbit hole will go and how many other rabbit holes are yet to be discovered ... color me profoundly pessimistic ....

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    1. I've refrained from posting on this because no one outside the investigation has any concrete facts sufficient to offer meaningful analysis. Besides, the facts that are out there are pretty straightforward - the Navy has a lot of corrupt leaders. Not exactly earthshaking news to followers of this blog! I'll post on this if/when there is some analysis of value that I can offer. It's awfully disappointing, though, isn't it?

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  3. With that big radar emitting, what happens when an enemy fire an anti-radiation missile?

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    1. Aegis shoots it down. At least, that's the theory.

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  4. The folks aboard the Princeton (CG-59) might want to remind you of their mine strike and subsequent mission readiness.

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    1. That's potentially a good point except that we don't know whether the Aegis system was fully mission capable after that. One of the points that came out of the Aegis degradation investigations was that the Aegis techs didn't even know that the systems were degraded. It took in-depth manufacturer's assistance to even assess the state of the systems.

      So, we just don't know.

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    2. "One of the points that came out of the Aegis degradation investigations was that the Aegis techs didn't even know that the systems were degraded."

      That's frightening.

      I wonder if they ever did, and we lost the institutional knowledge, or if it was always supposed to be contractor dependent.

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  5. That's great! It still begs the question what happened to port royal, and how was her damage different from Princeton's?

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  6. Simple question. Had an AEGIS cruiser or destroyer ever had a real shock trial with functional equipment?

    Plus if they have are the results known.

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    1. Yes, the Yorktown and Mobile Bay are two Aegis cruisers that I know underwent shock trials. I also know the Burke class Churchill and Jones did, too. I don't know, offhand, how many others. I have no idea what equipment was on board during the trials and I've never seen any reports of the results.

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    2. The CGNs were - it did end well.

      In fact the tests were cancelled about 60% through.

      GAB

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  7. Given that the Port Royal is set for early retirement, why not use it as a target practice vessel for testing?

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  8. An AEGIS Self Defense Test Ship would be the biggest waste of money that the government ever spent. The issue with the port Royal has nothing to do with a Self Defense Test Ship. Shock trials were performed on these ships.

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    1. Testing Aegis seems eminently useful. Why do believe it to be a waste?

      Shock trials have nothing to do with an Aegis test ship.

      How does an issue with Port Royal have anything to do with a self defense test ship?

      You've offered a very poor quality comment. Please back it up with some logic, explanations, and data.

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