ComNavOps has pointed out in previous posts and numerous comments that manufacturer’s performance claims are almost always significantly over exaggerated. History guarantees this with near 100% certainty. Despite this, many people continue to latch onto manufacturer’s claims while discussing weapons and systems.
The LCS was the poster child for this phenomenon for the longest time. Supporters would continually fall back on PowerPoint-ish claims of capabilities to defend the program. Of course, the LCS has now gotten to the point where even the most ardent defender has pretty much admitted that the LCS isn’t ever going to do all those wonderful things that were promised.
Historically, we’ve noted the abject failure of the USN’s WWII torpedo, the Sparrow missile, Soviet SAM systems, and so on.
More recently, the JSF has taken over as the poster child for manufacturer’s claims. The list of things the F-35 will do is simply amazing, bordering on magical. Of course, at the moment, after two decades of development, the plane can barely (and only sporadically) get off the ground and then only utilizing a multitude of workarounds to get past the maintenance software fail safes. Despite an unbroken history of weapon systems failing to live up to their billings the JSF true believers still cite the wonders of the future JSF.
Here’s the most recent example – the Mk110 57mm naval gun that’s mounted on the LCS. You remember the glowing claims about this gun, don’t you? It would singlehandedly decimate scores of small boats and transform littoral warfare. Of course, ComNavOps noted long ago that the only publicized tests involved shooting a land mounted gun at a fixed, unmoving small boat on what appeared to be an isolated lake or inlet. The result was a bunch of pinholes appearing in the boat which seemed totally insufficient to sink the boat. Still, the Navy bought in on the hype and outfitted the LCS with the Mk110 without even providing radar fire control for it – just EO guidance.
|Mk110 - Debunked|
Anyway, it turns out that the Mk110 has significant reliability and performance problems on the LCS as documented by various reports. As if that’s not bad enough, it turns out that the Mk110 is rendered ineffective due to vibration when the LCS is at any speed. To be fair, that’s probably more of an LCS structural design issue than a gun failing.
Now, though, it turns out that the Zumwalt program looked at the Mk110 and decided that it lacks the lethality needed to stop small boats and they’ve opted, instead, to select a smaller 30 mm gun. So, the main claim of small boat lethality turns out to have been vastly overstated – just as the history of manufacturer’s claims have shown. Who could have seen that coming? Well, anyone who reads this blog, I guess.
Is my point to beat up on the Mk110? No. My point is that here is yet another example in an almost unbroken chain of examples where the manufacturer’s claims were significantly overstated.
We must begin to recognize this phenomenon as we discuss weapons and systems. We have to stop blindly citing claims with no allowance for reality. For example, the F-35 isn’t going to do all those wonderful things. It may, eventually, do some of them to a partial degree – and that’s the best case. ComNavOps offers this blog, in part, to educate readers about the realities of war and weapon systems. This phenomenon is one of those realities.
As bad as it is when outside observers, like us, opt to wholeheartedly and blindly believe manufacturer’s claims, that’s just an irrelevant side issue. The real impact is when our professional, uniformed military leaders wholeheartedly and blindly buy in to manufacturer’s claims. Someone in the Navy bought into the manufacturer’s claims about the Mk110 without looking critically at the claims and the testing. Along comes the Zumwalt program and their folly is exposed. [A salute to someone in the Zumwalt program, by the way. Now, I hope they’re carefully scrutinizing the 30 mm claims!] The Navy bought into the LCS claims. The Navy bought into the JSF claims. And so on.
Whatever the next great program is, ComNavOps can already predict with near 100% certainty that it won’t work as claimed. I don’t even need to know what the program is. There’s a simple lesson to be learned here that’s supported by overwhelming historical evidence, right up to current events, and yet the Navy refuses to learn. If you hit me on the head 37 times in a row with that board you’re holding after promising each time that you wouldn’t, isn’t it kind of stupid of me to believe you the 38th time? And yet the Navy keeps believing!