Here’s a little-known system that is critical to Navy ship survivability and yet is struggling to achieve effective and reliable operation – the Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS). SSDS is intended to be the self-defense weapons control system for all carriers, amphibious ships, and LCS. The system comprises software and networking which links existing, legacy sensors to existing and new weapons. Supported weapons include, notably, Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM). In concept, any sensor or any weapon can be added to the system through software modifications.
In their 2011 Annual Report, DOT&E stated the following.
“… the ability to effectively complete the self-defense mission against the types of threats for which the overall system was designed has not been successfully demonstrated. In addition, reliability problems further degrade the ships’ ability to complete this mission.”
|ESSM - Part of a Troubled System|
Several ship classes including the LPD-17 and CVN-68 carriers have been evaluated as unable to meet their self-defense requirements. This doesn’t mean that the system is totally inoperable, only that aspects of the threat spectrum can’t be reliably countered, as yet. For instance, the report describes the CVN-68 problems,
“The CVN-68 ship class combat system has several problems that keep it from successfully completing the ship self-defense mission. Specific problems include deficiencies in weapon employment timelines, sensor coverage, system track management, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) SeaSparrow Missile System performance, as well as deficiencies with the recommended engagement tactics provided for use against multiple ASCM threat classes.”
One of the common and continued problems is that the physical placement of some of the legacy sensors has proven to be sub-optimal, leading to detection difficulties in some scenarios.
One of the major issues identified in the report is a lack of realistic threat surrogates which will allow meaningful testing. This is a several year, standing criticism/recommendation to the Navy from DOT&E. We’ve covered this general issue in multiple posts. I find it disturbing that year after year the Navy somehow finds the funds to build new ships but makes little or no attempt to field realistically performing threat drones so as to test and develop the self-defense systems that will keep the new ships afloat. The Navy’s internal priority is new construction at the expense of maintenance, training, testing, and so on. Navy leadership has their priorities completely ass-backwards and they desperately need to wake up as Adm. Harvey urged in his farewell note to the fleet.
DOT&E issued a classified report to Congress on the SSDS program in March of 2011 describing details of the problems.
This is one of those posts about which I have no meaningful analysis beyond the Navy’s scrambled priorities. Consider this simply interesting information that is worth keeping an eye on because it is the backbone of so many ships.