Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Navy Testing Deficiencies

The Navy wants to build platforms and systems but they don’t want to maintain, test, or fix what they’ve built.  We’ve discussed this before but it’s becoming more and more obvious.  The recently released 2014 Annual Report from Director, Operations, Testing and Evaluation makes several things crystal clear.

  • Problems linger for multiple years – system after system in the report contains unresolved problems that have lingered for multiple years.  The Navy wants to build shiny new toys but they don’t want to do the dirty work of wringing out the bugs and making the systems work.

  • Refusal to report reliability data – this is a somewhat new development.  The Navy is beginning to engage in a pattern of not reporting data.  The EMALS and AAG reliability data that haven’t been reported for a year are a good example.

  • Refusal to carry out tests – the Navy is showing a pattern of refusing to perform tests.  The recent trend of refusing to conduct shock testing is an example as is the refusal to conduct ship self-defense tests in a realistic manner.

  • Failure to fund required tests – many DOT&E required tests are simply not being funded.

  • Failure to develop realistic threat drones and surrogates – this is a common theme among the various system reports.  The Navy is happy to spend billions on a new submarine but won’t spend a few million to develop a realistic submarine threat surrogate.  We lack realistic submarine, torpedo, and cruise/ballistic threat surrogates, among others.  The Navy is building weapons that it has no way to test!

  • Overdependence on simulation and overly optimistic simulations – the Navy has attempted to move away from physical testing and towards simulation testing.  The problem is that the simulations are ridiculously optimistic, as pointed out throughout the DOT&E report.  Everything works in simulation!

  • Extremely high failure rate of advanced technology combined with insistence on concurrent development – the more advanced the technology, the higher the failure rate.  That’s to be expected.  However, the Navy’s obsession with concurrent production and development means that the failures are costing us twice (or many times more!) as we install, remove, and reinstall in an on-going pattern as one problem after another surfaces after construction.

  • High failure rates due to lack of proper technical training for the crew – the lack of technical training is stunning.  Again, we’re happy to spend billions on procurement of highly advanced technology but we’re utterly failing to train the operators to use the technology.  The DOT&E report abounds with examples of failed or aborted tests due to lack of operator training.

  • Lack of system documentation – hand in hand with the lack of training is the lack of system documentation.  Documentation should be part of procurement (and, indeed, it is!) but it appears that while the Navy goes to great lengths to ensure delivery of the equipment they do not pursue delivery of the documentation with anywhere near the same degree of enthusiasm.

I didn’t bother citing specific examples.  Frankly, the report abounds with examples and I don’t have the room to cite even a fraction of them.  Read the report and you’ll easily find plenty of examples.

I can’t imagine how bad the Navy would be without the DOT&E group.  They are the ones insisting that the Navy’s weapons and systems actually do what they’re supposed to.  It’s clear from reading the report that, if left on their own, the Navy would skip from one new program to the next with little testing and we’d have a fleet of barely functioning equipment, much like the Soviets during the Cold War, if even that good.  The only drawback to the DOT&E is that they don’t have the authority to dictate Navy testing and test support – they can only advise and monitor.  Still, thank goodness for DOT&E !


  1. Yes thank goodness, because the Navy internally is so subverted that it is no safe anymore.

    For example on the system testing of DDG 1000 Release 4 (of 7) 15% of the lower level SW requirements were either not tested or failed. This was duly reported to the Navy Certification Team which decided NOT to tell the Certification Lead. Release 4 (and the others) were duly certified by the Navy so that the Contract continued, always with the CYA action of saying it has to get better the closer you get to Operation.

    In addition, to reduce costing tests the System Integrator proposed that System test be only 8 hours long for Release 4. Even that was too much for the Navy that quietly pushed back with Aegis has to run for 25 hours at least. So the System test time was extended to 25 hours.

    The foxes are in the Hen Houses, all to keep the money flowing.

    1. That's fascinating. Do you have any documentation or source that you can share?

    2. Yes look at the Release 4 Program Reviews - System test reported the numbers because I told them it was either going to be me or them that reported them and it would look better if they did. Fall of 2012 is the timeframe.

      Look for a brief presented in Nov 2012 to the Certification Team at Dahlgren that reported the same information and what it meant for system integration and test. That with 15% release allocated requirements failing, any mission thread that needed at least 6 of the requirements had a pretty good chance of not working. And you can't tell where in the thread that it will not work. It may not detect, it may not classify, it may not engage, it may not fly right, it may not report destruction, etc.

    3. I remember reading (I think) an Edward Beach book on the US Navy in which he stated that the US Navy in peace time could tend to fall apart in training and planning.

      Now seems worse than ever though. Bad training is one thing. Bad ships we've seen before but often because they were test beds or because they were treaty ships. But this extends massively into procurement and planning as well.

      I'm getting rapidly frustrated. With the leadership we have now I just don't see the point of spending the money if the Navy is going to use it to build CVN's that have questionable air wings and have huge gaps in protection, LCS's that are a test ship design that was rushed to full production, and skimp on maintanance on proven ship designs...

      The SSN fleet is still good but its going to shrink in the coming years.

      Am I being too dramatic? Is there another time when the Navy seemed so adrift?

  2. Off Topic
    "Malaysia’s Su-30MKMs were especially dynamic, showcasing “maneuvering speeds estimated at close to Mach 1, making training aggressive and realistic.”"

    But I thought our allies were intimidated by tier 1 kit and only wanted to train against low end corvettes.

    Seems like Malaysia was quite happy to square off against a full carrier battle group...

  3. "High failure rates due to lack of proper technical training for the crew – the lack of technical training is stunning. "

    I see this everyday at work. I have been working in the ship repair industry since retirement and it is obviously clear that he Navy, or any other service, does not train their folks to be anything but button pushers. Their idea of fixing is to try to push the button again. Talking with the young sailors that man these ships, training consists of computer based training, no hands on. What is bad for the Navy is good for me, keeps the paychecks coming.

    I saw this first hand during briefs of CWIS testing. They would brief what they were going to do, the procedures to do it, and then and that they would be submitting the CASREP when they completed. This is for a 3 second burst and they are already planning a CASREP?

    A blue water navy without a potential adversary loses its edge.

    1. Coffee Man,

      Spot on!

      Unfortunately the lists of potential adversaries is growing, but the impact on USN behavior is not addressing the situation.


    2. It does seem we have a lot of institutional inertia. Our Navy in the '90's it seems was geared towards fighting non peers in the littorals and really gutted the blue water aspect, IMHO.

      Harpoon was left to age. I don't give them too much flack over TASM because with the tech at the time it was questionable but still. Tomcats and intruders were replaced with the Super hornet, which still had short legs but a very high sortie rate and great maintenance; so you can park your CVN close to shore and just keep flying. But there goes the outer air battle and long range strike.

      ASW work seemed to be very de-emphasized. Perry's retired with the idea we didn't need escort frigates; Vikings retired; ASW drills on destroyers becoming more rare.

      Finally we all but eliminate indigenous tanking.

      And all that may have been fine for dealing with Bosnia in the '90's. The SH may have been a rational decision even. But how that we have real blue water and near shore competition; with enemies reviving old stuff (Backfires, Sunburns) and creating new (Lada, Severodvinsk, Brahmos, DF-21, etc....) we seem to be doing... very little. DDG1000 was compromised and is a 3 unit class. The LCS is going full tilt. The F-35C is... who knows. We don’t seem to be addressing the threats.

      I hear again and again in the political realm that we have an 'overwhelming battle fleet'. But That fleet is made up of 'Burkes at various stages of maintenance and upgrades, gaps in ASW, Tico's at various stages of maintenance and upgrades that the Navy wants to retire, a bunch of LCS, and CVN’s with shrinking air wings of questionable range.

      In a near peer war we could face a very realistic situation where we have the old (backfires) combining with the new (SSN's from China and Russia, AIP boats) that could cripple our CVN's. And without that punch our options are thin with Flight IIa's having no harpoons, and the harpoons we do have being old.

      To be able to go into harms way, you have to be able to handle the level of harm out there.


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  5. What strikes me as shocking is how self inflicted this whole situation is. The unwillingness to invest in training, maintenance, and serious testing is a cultural problem it would seem?

    Part of the problem is that the defense industry seems to hold so much power over the military procurement process.

    The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation office was created in the 1980s after the failures involving the Bradley due to the defense reformers back them exposing it.


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