Monday, January 28, 2013

Budget Cuts - A Different View

In the last post, Budget Cuts, we saw that CNO Greenert has announced that the Navy will begin cutting back on maintenance in order to meet budget limitations.  We noted that there was no call for cutting new ship construction.  We concluded that CNO Greenert was either being recklessly irresponsible or was playing a dangerous political game.  Well, we have a counterpoint to the CNO’s plans from within the Navy itself.

Navy Times website (1) reported on comments from Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of Naval Surface Forces, who was responding to audience questions at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium in Arlington, Va.

“Vice Adm. Tom Copeman said the surface fleet was ‘pretty close’ to going hollow …”

“When a combatant commander says a ship’s supposed to leave on deployment and it doesn’t leave on time for whatever reason, then we know we’ve probably gotten there, “ Copeman told an audience of hundreds of officers and industry leaders.  “And there’s ships right now that aren’t doing it.”

“In a speech that centered on the challenges of shrinking budgets, Copeman warned that the surface Navy may need to sacrifice ships in the coming budget battles to ensure the ones it keeps are fully manned and equipped.”

“We’re cross-decking people like crazy to get ships on deployment, out the door.  And what does that do?  It allows the ships that are deployed to do their mission, but the ones back home – we can’t certify them because we took the people off of that team.”

“… Copeman cautioned that deploying ships in the first three quarters of next year may have to leave [on deployment] with degraded capabilities.”
Quite a difference from the CNO’s plans, huh?  Adm. Copeman sees, though dimly, that the surface Navy is on the verge of becoming a hollow shell.  In reality, it already is and has been for some time.  The cross-decking he refers to, along with several years of increasing failure rates for INSURV inspections, badly neglected maintenance, fleetwide degradation of Aegis capabilities, atrophy of ASW capabilities, and so forth have provided plenty of evidence that the Navy has been hollowed for some time now.  Still, it’s good to see that someone in Navy leadership sees the problem, however poorly, and is willing to say so.  It’s this latter aspect that really caught my eye.  Copeman just publicly told the Emperor that he has no clothes.  He’s right, of course, but I suspect that he will be severely reprimanded at the very least and, more likely, will be quietly shuffled off to a backwater post in the relatively near future.  His comments had to be embarrassing for the CNO.

I’m also struck by Copeman’s response to budget pressures.  He advocates the common sense approach of cutting back on new construction in order to ensure that the existing ships and aircraft can be properly maintained and operated – exactly what I called for in the previous post.

Perhaps this is the man who should be CNO.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Budget Cuts

A 25-Jan-13 San Diego Union – Tribune website article (1) reported on CNO Greenert’s initial efforts to implement anticipated budget cuts.

“The Navy’s top officer Thursday outlined plans for spending cuts that could affect a large segment of San Diego’s naval and shipyard communities.

The Navy plans to cancel some ship and aircraft maintenance, fire temporary employees, freeze civilian hiring, drastically limit travel and halt pier and runway projects, according to a memo from Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

The issue is a $4.6 billion shortfall in the Navy’s $39.4 billion operations budget. About $3.2 billion of that is because Congress has not yet passed a 2013 appropriations bill. The Navy must spend at 2012 levels until it does.

“Because of this, we need to cut back on ops and maintenance to get our spending rate down,” Greenert said in a memo to his admirals and senior civilian leaders. “We are making the following reductions, starting now, to ensure we can fund ongoing deployments and other mission-critical activities.”

He offered a list of near-term reductions. He also outlined more drastic steps that would be taken if Congress doesn’t pass legislation by March 1 to avert sweeping automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

Cuts the Navy is planning now:

- Cancellation of the majority of surface ship maintenance at private shipyards between April and September. This would affect about 30 of 187 warships, but Navy officials couldn’t say Thursday how many of those are in San Diego.

- Cancellation of all aircraft work at maintenance depots from April to September, affecting about 250 aircraft.”
This is what I’ve come to expect from CNO Greenert and Navy leadership, both civilian and uniformed.  The logical reaction to draconian budget cuts would be to cut new construction spending in order to ensure that existing ships and aircraft are well maintained, fully combat capable and deployable, and available for their maximum lifespans.  In fact, the entire $4.6B budget shortfall is about the cost of a single new Zumwalt.

Instead, CNO Greenert proposes further shortening the lifespans of ships and aircraft by deferring maintenance and accelerating the effects of wear and tear.  Sending sailors to sea in poorly maintained ships and aircraft is a gross violation of the trust of the people for whom CNO is responsible.  I’ve previously pointed out that the Navy worships at the altar of new construction to the exclusion and detriment of everything else.  This is merely further proof. 

Of course, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that this is political gamesmanship being played by the military.  The Navy deliberately sets up a scenario involving actions that they don’t really intend to take but that intentionally lead to all manner of dire results with the idea being to put pressure on Congress to revoke the budget cuts.  This is not a political blog so I’ll leave that aspect alone beyond saying that I would hope that the military was above that sort of thing.  Sadly, my read of the situation is that the Navy is, indeed, posturing in an attempt to influence Congress but that if the budget cuts happen, the Navy will do exactly as CNO outlined.  The entire naval force will be further hollowed out to ensure that new construction continues unabated.


Friday, January 25, 2013

LCS Survivability

One of the major criticisms of the LCS is the lack of survivability.  Many people understand this to mean that the ship has either no rated survivability or a minimal Level I.  Defenders of the LCS and the Navy itself claim the ship is Level I+ (there is no such rating as we will shortly demonstrate).  I have even heard claims that ship is Level II with only the absence of Nuclear/Biological/Chemical capabilities preventing it from being fully Level II.  Let’s look into the LCS’ survivability and see what it really is.

Survivability requirements and classifications for Navy ships are defined in a memo,  OPNAVINST 9070.1, issued from the CNO’s office.  This document describes the Survivability Levels, types of damage and effects that may affect survivability and the Survivability Levels that various classes of Navy ships should meet.

The document starts by defining survivability in very simple terms.  The definition is exactly what one would reasonably expect.

“For the purposes of this instruction, survivability is defined as the capacity of the ship to absorb damage and maintain mission integrity.”
So far, so good.

The document then makes a further, common sense statement for naval warships.

“Warships are expected to perform offensive missions, sustain battle damage and survive. As such, the total ship, comprised of combat systems and vital hull, mechanical and electrical components, must be sufficiently hardened to withstand designated threat levels. Enhancement techniques, such as equipment separation and redundancy, arrangements and personnel protection form an integral part of this effort. DC/FF training and associated maintenance of ship survivability features are also essential elements to ensure sustained capability.”
Warships are, well, war ships and are expected to sustain battle damage and survive.  Pure common sense and, yet, here’s where the LCS begins to separate from Navy policy, tradition.  The Navy has stated publicly that the LCS is not expected to survive battle damage and that it can only operate under the umbrella of an Aegis ship or group.  This seems at odds with the both the description of the LCS as a Littoral COMBAT Ship and its stated missions and role which clearly put it squarely in the middle of littoral combat. 

Moving on, the document then describes survivability as an inherent characteristic of warships and equally as important as any other design characteristic.

“Survivability shall be considered a fundamental design requirement of no less significance than other inherent ship characteristics, such as weight and stability margins, maneuverability, structural integrity and combat systems capability. The Chief of Naval Operation’s (CNO’S) goal is to maintain ship operational readiness and preserve warfighting capability in both peacetime and hostile environments.”
LCS - Survivability Level Nothing

This statement recognizes that it is assumed that every warship has survivability as an inherent characteristic.  Further, the last sentence constitutes recognition that survivability is how warfighting capability is preserved.  Ships that have the ability to absorb damage and survive can be repaired and their warfighting capability won’t be lost to simple damage.  In other terms, this document doesn’t recognize the existence of throwaway combat vessels.

The document describes a minimum survivability effort from a design perspective,

“Ship protection features, such as armor, shielding and signature reduction, together with installed equipment hardened to appropriate standards, constitute a minimum baseline of survivability.”
There is even an interesting tidbit about responsibility.

“Chief Engineer of the Navy (CHENG) is the Ship Survivability Advocate for the U.S. Navy and, in coordination with the CNO, shall develop appropriate programmatic and budgeting plans to implement all surface ship survivability requirements in the ship design and equipment procurement/installation processes.”
Where was CHENG when the LCS was being designed?

Now, the heart of the matter.  The document designates three levels of Survivability.

Level I - low
Level II - moderate
Level III – high

A simple description is provided for each level.

Level I represents the least severe environment anticipated and excludes the need for enhanced survivability for designated ship classes to sustain operations in the immediate area of an engaged Battle Group or in the general war-at-sea region. In this category, the minimum design capability required shall, in addition to the inherent sea keeping mission, provide for EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR, including decontamination stations, the DC/FF capability to control and recover from conflagrations and include the ability to operate in a high latitude environment.”
Level II represents an increase of severity to include the ability for sustained operations when in support of a Battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area. This level shall provide the ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact. Capabilities shall include the requirements of Level I plus primary and support system redundancy, collective protection system, improved structural integrity and subdivision, fragmentation protection, signature reduction, conventional and nuclear blast protection and nuclear hardening.”

Level III, the most severe environment projected for combatant Battle Groups, shall include the requirements of Level II plus the ability to deal with the broad degrading effects of damage from anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMS), torpedoes and mines.”
Let’s look closely at Level I since that is the Level that is of concern.  The Navy claims that the LCS is Level 1+.  Of course, there is no such thing.  Presumably, this is the Navy’s way of saying that the LCS meets Level I plus some aspects of Level II.  Does it?

Note that Level I mandates “EMP and shock hardening, individual protection for CBR”.  As we saw in the previous post about the DOT&E report for the LCS, LCS’s 1-4 did not have any shock hardening and LCS’s 5 and beyond seem to only have sporadic shock hardened equipment.  To the best of my knowledge, the LCS class has no CBR (chemical, biological, radiation) protection or EMP resistance.  So, based on this portion of the requirement alone, the LCS does not even meet Level I.

Further, Level I mandates the ability to “control and recover from conflagrations”.  The Navy’s own public statements say that the LCS is designed merely to survive long enough for the crew to safely abandon ship.  So, again, the LCS fails to meet the Level I criteria.

Note, also, that Level I describes itself as applying to ships that are not expected to see combat (the first sentence).

Clearly, then, the LCS is Level Nothing rather than Level I+.

Finally, the document even lists the appropriate Survivability Levels for each type of ship.

Level III
Aircraft Carriers
Battle Force Surface Combatants

Level II
Amphibious Warfare Ships
Underway Replenishment Station Ships

Level I
Patrol Combatant And Mine Warfare Ships
Naval Strategic Sealift
Material Support Ships
All Other Auxiliary Ships/Craft

We see that there is no Level 0.  Level I is the lowest Level there is and includes the very ships that the LCS is intended to replace, the Patrol Combatant and Mine Warfare ships. 

We’ve shown that the the LCS is Level Nothing and that the Navy is spinning/lying (you pick the word) when it claims that the LCS is Level I+.  This should settle the Survivability issue.

Having said all of the above, there is a valid rationale for a non-survivable, small, lethal missile boat although the LCS does not meet any of portion of that rationale.  We’ll leave that discussion for another day.

(1) OPNAVINST 9070.1, Ser 09/8U501139, OP-03, 23-Sep-1988, Survivability Policy For Surface Ships Of The U. S. Navy

Thursday, January 24, 2013

War Games

As regular readers know, ComNavOps loves history and the lessons that history offers to those who will take the time to heed them.  Along that line, the current issue of Proceedings (1) has an article advocating increased academic study of war by the Navy, as an institution.  There’s nothing surprising or controversial about that.  I’ve dealt with the Navy’s lack of warfighting focus in numerous posts.  There was, however, an interesting passage about the use and value of war gaming.  As the author points out,

“War gaming is another important way to educated and train, yet very few U.S. naval officers take part in such games.”
Here we see yet another example of the Navy’s current focus on peacetime activities at the expense of its core mission which is warfighting. 

Now here’s the historical fact and lesson.  The article offers a quote from Admiral Nimitz about the value of pre-WWII war games.

“War with Japan had been re-enacted in the game rooms at the Naval War College by so many people and in so many different ways, that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise … absolutely nothing except that kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war;  we had not visualized these.”
Adm. Nimitz - The Value of War Games

Think about that statement.  It’s an absolutely amazing statement that I had never heard before.  I had viewed many of the developments of the war in the Pacific as having come as a surprise (night naval battles, the devastating use of torpedos by Japanese ships, island defense tactics, occupation of so many islands, and so on) to our military leaders and yet it seems that was not the case.  I assume that Adm. Nimitz was speaking on a higher level regarding broader strategy because, clearly, there were surprises at a tactical and technological level.  Still, to make the statement that nothing surprised him is an incredible testament to the value of the pre-war war games.

We should heed the lesson.  Now, during peace, is the time for today’s Navy to prepare for war.  We should be running war games non-stop, examining every possible variation and scenario and then using the results and lessons to drive our acquisition and training programs.  Sadly, there is little evidence of this happening.  As we’ve repeatedly discussed, Navy training is sporadic and ineffective.  The acquisition process is completely broken and is driven not by any overarching strategy but by whatever the Navy thinks it can get past Congress.  As I said, we’ve covered much of this in previous posts so I won’t belabor it further.  The Navy must regain its warfighting focus.

(1) United States Naval Institute, Proceedings, “Study War Much More”, Milan Vego, Jan 2013, p. 58

Monday, January 21, 2013

DOTE Report - LCS

Continuing our look at the 2012 DOT&E report (1), we move on to everyone’s favorite, the LCS.  Lots to talk about!  Here's the link to the report.

As mentioned in previous posts, the Navy is showing a disturbing tendency to defer live shock and survivability testing in favor of simulations. 

“DOT&E also agreed to defer the Shock Trials from LCS 3 and 4 to LCS 5 and 6, resulting in a oneyear delay. With significant seaframe and system design changes expected, LCS 5 and 6 will be most representative of the respective
class for purposes of Shock Trials. LCS 5 and 6 will also be the first ships to include shock-qualified equipment.”
Did you catch that last sentence?  The one about LCS 5 and 6 being the first to include shock-qualified equipment?  That’s why the Navy has refused to conduct shock tests before now.  They knew the ships would not only fail the tests but would suffer damage from the tests!

What’s most interesting about DOT&E’s statement is not that shock testing will be deferred but that LCS 5 and 6 will be most representative of the class.  This is saying that not only are LCS 1 and 2 considered non-representative, one-offs, which we knew, but that LCS 3 and 4 are also non-representative, one-offs that are different from LCS 1 and 2 as well as the remainder of the class.  We now have four LCSs that are considered non-standard.  This gives us four ships that are going to provide maintenance and training challenges down the road due to their uniqueness.  If this doesn’t demonstrate the pitfalls of concurrency, I don’t know what does. 

After trying for years to counter the critic’s attacks on the lack of survivability of the LCS, the Navy has apparently changed course and is now defining their own set of survivability characteristics for just the LCS.  They call them Vulnerability Levels.  Here is a portion of the DOT&E’s comments on this.

“The Navy revised the survivability requirements for LCS 3 and beyond to describe the ships’ survivability requirements in terms of class-specific LCS Vulnerability Levels: 

-- LCS Vulnerability Level I – Operate emergency and damage control systems/equipment to provide for an orderly abandon ship.”
The report goes on to describe additional levels of Vulnerability.  You’ll recall that the Navy has maintained the fiction that the LCS is built to Level 1+.  First of all, there is no such thing as “1+”.  That’s something the Navy made up.  Secondly, I’ve read the Survivability Level definitions and the LCS doesn’t even meet Level 1, let alone a mythical 1+.  Third, even Level 1 is non-combat.  Fourth, the Navy has been out and out lying.  The Level 1 Survivability requirements (I’ll do a post on this, soon) explicitly require EMP and shock hardening along with other measures and, as stated in the paragraphs above, none of the LCSs prior to LCS 5 and 6 have even had shock-qualified equipment.  I’m also pretty doubtful that much, if any, of the equipment is EMP hardened.  So, again, there’s no way the LCS can be considered Level 1, let alone 1+.  I’m also quite sure that while LCS 5 and 6 may have some shock hardened equipment they’ll have nowhere near enough for the ship to be qualified as shock hardened, hence the new Vulnerability Levels.

DOT&E goes on to sum up the survivability issue,

“LCS is not expected to be survivable in that it is not expected to maintain mission capability after taking a significant hit in a hostile combat environment.”
Instead of simply admitting that the LCS was designed as a non-combat vessel, as regards survivability, the Navy has continually tried to twist and spin the facts.  Having failed at that they’re now simply making up their own definitions that they feel will sound better to the public.  Good work, Navy.

Strangely, there is actually a valid rationale for building a non-survivable small combat vessel (the missile armed “gunboat”).  To be fair, I think this was part of the Navy’s original thinking and rationale for the LCS.  It was to be a small, cheap, “throwaway” littoral combat vessel for which survivability would not be a concern.  Of course, the “small” and “cheap” parts of the rationale died early in the program and left the Navy with a near billion dollar vessel that had been designed as a throwaway but they couldn’t publicly admit that without looking like idiots.

Moving on, the Navy is looking at aluminum vulnerabilities.  Huh?!  Hasn’t the Navy built aluminum ships for years and found out the hard way that aluminum is a poor and dangerous substitute for steel?  Don’t we already know that aluminum is not combat worthy?  And yet, DOT&E reports,

“The Navy is planning surrogate tests to address knowledge gaps related to the vulnerability of an aluminum ship structure to weapon-induced blast and fire damage. “
Knowledge gaps?!  Aluminum is useless as a combat material.  There, I’ve filled in the gaps.

On a positive note, progress may have been made on the hull cracking issue.

“The Navy made production changes to reduce cracking on LCS 3; cracking has not been observed to date.”
Of course, LCS 3 hasn’t been in operation long enough to draw any real conclusion.  We’ll keep an eye on this.

Moving to weapons, the LCS’ much vaunted Mk 110, 57 mm gun, is having problems.  Aside from not being radar controlled (most of you probably assumed it was, didn’t you? – it’s not – it’s EO controlled), the gun is having reliability, performance, and operator training issues.  For instance, DOT&E reports,

“Ship operations at high speeds cause vibrations that make accurate use of the 57 mm gun very difficult.”
Ouch!  The high speed that was so critical to the LCS turns out to negate its 57 mm gun’s effectiveness.  Well, that’s ironic!

The weapon problems aren’t limited to the 57 mm.

30 mm Gun - Does Anything Work on the LCS?

“The 30 mm guns and associated combat system exhibit reliability problems. The Navy established a Failure Review Board to identify and correct deficiencies in 30 mm gun performance.”
It’s sounding like the surface warfare module doesn’t work at all, despite being dumbed way down from the original concept.

It gets worse.

“Performance deficiencies with COMBATSS-21 and TRS-3D affect tracking and
engagement of contacts.”
The combat control system which ties the sensors and weapons together is also having problems.  Oh yeah, this is the ship I want to ride into combat on!

What about the mine warfare (MCM) module which is reportedly the most advanced module?

“Testing of the MH-60S Block 2 AMCM System revealed significant shortfalls in performance.

- The MH-60S helicopter with the AQS-20A sonar is not operationally effective or suitable because the helicopter is underpowered and cannot safely tow the sonar under the variety of conditions necessary. The Navy cancelled the MH-60S helicopter mission to tow the AQS-20A and OASIS.

- As observed during the OA and developmental testing, the AQS-20A does not meet some Navy requirements.  Contact depth localization errors exceeded Navy limits in all AQS-20A operating modes. False contacts also exceeded Navy limits in two of three search modes.  The Navy has implemented modified tactics intended to mitigate these deficiencies; however, those tactics limit platform-level productivity (Area Coverage Rate Sustained).

- The analysis of test data collected during Phase A of the OA of the MH-60S and ALMDS is still in progress. Preliminary evaluation of data collected during the OA suggests that the ALMDS does not meet Navy requirements for False Classification Density or reliability. DOT&E expects to issue a formal test report
in 2QFY13. “
It appears that the MCM module is not as ready as the Navy publicly claims.

So, what do we make of all this? 

For starters, what the Navy says publicly differs greatly from the facts and data collected by DOT&E.  At best, the Navy is spinning the LCS news beyond belief and, more realistically, is just lying.  Anyone who has heard any of Undersecretary Work’s impassioned speeches defending the LCS and demonizing critics will recognize which side of the spin/lie line the Navy is on.

Beyond that, it’s become crystal clear that the Navy attempted to jump several levels of technology development and, predictably, failed utterly.  Little about the LCS works as designed.  The Navy is scrambling to find a mission for the ship.  Despite this, the Navy is moving as rapidly as possible towards replacing a third of the combat fleet with this non-functional ship.  That takes irresponsibility to an unprecedented level.  We are knowingly giving up huge amounts of future combat power.  That’s right.  The total combat fleet size is going to remain at around 180 (more likely, it’s going to decrease but we’ll set that aside for the moment) but the numbers of the LCS are going to go from a few today to 55 out of 180.  Those are the Navy’s numbers and plans, not mine.  Those are the facts.  The LCS is going to seriously gut the Navy’s combat power for the future.

Sleep well, my readers, knowing that your safety and freedom are protected by the mighty LCS!

(1) Director – Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2012, Annual Report

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DOTE Report - Ford

Next up on the DOT&E hit parade (see previous post for link to DOT&E report) is the Ford class aircraft carrier, CVN-78.  Other reports have previously documented that the Ford is a billion dollars or more over budget and the delivery schedule has slipped drastically with additional budget and schedule overruns sure to come.  Still, there have been no fatal technology flaws or rash of problems discovered, at least not as compared to the LCS, LPD-17, or JSF.  Here, though, are a few items to keep an eye on.

“In 2007, the Program Office identified discrepancies with the integration of the JSF’s F135 engine onto aircraft carriers. The weight of the F135 power module, approximately 10,000 pounds, exceeds the limit of current underway replenishment (UNREP) systems.  Although CVN-78 will include a heavy UNREP system that will allow transfer of 12,000 pounds, supply ships must include the new system for power module transfer to occur. The Navy’s plan to install heavy UNREP systems on resupply ships has slipped eight years.”
This is saying that the Navy can’t get replacement JSF engines at sea from supply ships for the next decade.  Yikes!  Of course, given the glacial progress of the JSF, that may not turn out to be a problem as the JSF may well not reach squadron service for several more years.  Ouch!  JSF – the gift that keeps on giving.

Ford’s combat system has known, major issues.  To be fair, these issues are present across several classes of ships (basically, all the carriers and amphibious ships) and are related to legacy sensor capabilities, sensor placement, legacy weapon’s performance limitations, etc.  As the report states,

“Previous testing of Navy combat systems similar to CVN-78’s revealed numerous integration problems that degrade the performance of the combat system.”
The Ford is intended to operate the JSF as its main aircraft.  Unfortunately, the Ford has numerous JSF compatibility issues.

“JSF battle damage assessment and non-traditional Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance information captured on the Portable Memory Device or cockpit video recorder cannot be shared real-time with the Distributed Common Ground System-Navy (DCGS-N). This prevents assessment by shipboard intelligence analysts for inclusion in mission reports.”
“Ships are unable to receive and display Link 16 imagery; this problem is not unique to JSF. … Limited shipboard capabilities exist with expeditionary Link 16. The Navy is considering a program of record to distribute imagery to analysts and maritime operations command and control nodes (e.g., carriers and amphibious ships). This would be a temporary workaround for the DCGS-N post-flight data gap.”
“The JSF Prognostic Health Maintenance (PHM) downlink design for ships is not mature. The uncertainty in the technical characteristics of the final design means that there are potential challenges to integrating PHM into current shipboard communications suites and networks.“
“The JSF wheel supplier’s recent rim inspection requirement may force a significant increase in shipboard tire and wheel storage requirements.”
While none of the JSF compatibility issues pose a significant technical challenge, they will negatively impact the Ford’s cost and schedule and may initially negate some of the benefits and features of the JSF.

In a recurring theme, the Navy is trying to postpone actual performance tests on ships in favor of simulations.  The Navy wants to postpone shock testing on the Ford for several years and wait to perform it on the next ship, CVN-79.  DOT&E’s comment was,

“While the Navy has made substantial effort in component and surrogate testing, this work does not obviate the need to conduct the FSST [ed.: Full Ship Shock Trials] to gain the critical empirical data that past testing has repeatedly demonstrated are required to rigorously evaluate the ship’s ability to withstand shock and survive in combat. Shock Trials conducted on both the Nimitz class aircraft carrier and the San Antonio class Amphibious Transport Dock demonstrated the need for and substantial value of conducting the FSST. Postponing the FSST until CVN-79 would cause a five- to seven-year delay in obtaining the data critical to evaluating the survivability of the CVN-78 and would preclude timely modification of subsequent ships of this class to assure their survivability. … The delay is not a sufficient reason to postpone the shock trial, since the shock trial could reveal valuable lessons, including previously unknown vulnerabilities.”

As the report points out, delay will prevent the lessons learned from shock trials from being incorporated into the next carrier and will result in weaknesses being built into the class and additional expenses incurred to remedy them in already constructed vessels. 

The Navy has fully embraced the philosophy of concurrent design and construction despite overwhelming evidence that the practice causes runaway costs, perpetuated design flaws, schedule slippages, and fielding of sub-par platforms.  This approach is stupidity on a scale that’s almost unimaginable.

As the report points out, there are still several technologies (EMALS, AAG, DBR, etc.) associated with the Ford that cannot or will not be fully tested until actually installed.  Of a certainty, additional problems will be uncovered which will impact mission performance and require lengthy and costly fixes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

DOTE Report - JSF

The 2012 DOT&E report (1) has been made public and, as always, contains lots of goodies to look at.  This is the group that oversees the testing and evaluation of the Dept of Defense (DoD) projects and equipment.  These guys determine whether the latest magic toy really does what the DoD claims it does.  Often (usually?) DOT&E findings are somewhat at odds with the DoD’s public claims and there is a healthy tension between the two.  For instance, the Navy does not want to perform shock testing on the LCS (due to the anticipated negative results, I’m sure) whereas DOT&E wants it done and soon and has taken the Navy to task.

Tonight’s goodie concerns the JSF.  DOT&E notes,

“Approximately 34 percent of the total planned flight testing, based on test points completed through November 2012, has now been accomplished …”
Despite the fact that only a third of flight testing has been completed, DoD has begun production.  We’ve discussed in previous posts how this type of concurrency (simultaneous design/testing/development and production) inevitably leads to expensive redesigns and reworks of the airframes already built and yet DoD continues this idiotic practice.  Hey, DoD, those are my tax dollars you’re throwing away!

DOT&E goes on to state,

“Certain test conditions were unachievable due to unresolved problems and new discoveries.  The need for regression testing of fixes (repeat testing of previously accomplished points with newer versions of software) displaced opportunities to meet flight test objectives.”
This is telling us that not only is concurrency costing more money, but the need to test the new “fixes” is impacting the normal course of testing, further slowing an already way behind schedule.  And still DoD persists.

DOT&E comments on the impact of flight test delays,

“The lag in accomplishing the intended 2012 flight testing content defers testing to following years, and in the meantime, will contribute to the program delivering less capability in production aircraft in the near term.”
The Air Force attempted to begin pilot training on the F-35A but DOT&E noted,

“Because of the immaturity of the system, which is still largely under development, little can be learned about operating and sustaining the F-35 in combat operations … “
It keeps getting better.

“The program’s most recent vulnerability assessment showed that the removal of fueldraulic fuses, the PAO shutoff valve, and the dry bay fire suppression, also removed in 2008 [editorial note:  removed for cost reduction reasons], results in the F-35 not meeting the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) requirement to have a vulnerability posture better than analogous legacy aircraft.”
The report notes that the F-35A version is now within 273 lbs of its maximum specified weight limit.  There is no growth left on this airframe and it hasn’t even been deployed, yet!

The JSF program has announced decreases in performance specs due to observed limitations during testing.  Turn performance has been reduced from 5.3 to 4.6 sustained g’s.  Acceleration from 0.8 Mach to 1.2 Mach has been increased by 8 seconds, meaning that the plane has failed to meet acceleration specs and is being downgraded in recognition of that.

Here is a fun one.

“Horizontal tail surfaces are experiencing higher than expected temperatures during sustained high-speed / high-altitude flight, resulting in delamination and scorching of the surface coatings and structure.”
The report goes on to describe pages of individual problems.  If you’re interested, follow this link and read the report.

The main points to take away from this are,

  • This is a seriously flawed program with no end in sight.
  • Concurrency is killing the program both in monetary and scheduling terms.
  • There has been a steady degradation of specifications as a means to deal with a variety of problems.  In other words, if the plane won’t perform as expected, change the specs rather than the actual performance.  By the time the JSF is ready for deployment, it will be merely a slightly stealthier version of an F-16 or F-18 at a ridiculously expensive price.

(1) Director – Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2012, Annual Report