The most recent Congressional Research Service report on the Navy’s DDG programs has an incredibly damning statement concerning the Navy’s surface combatant roadmap(1).
You’ll recall that the Burke class has pretty well used up its growth margins and, therefore, the announcement that the Navy would use the Burke as the foundation for the new AMDR radar system was a bit of a head scratcher. The Burkes lacked internal volume and ship’s utilities to properly support the Navy’s stated AMDR requirement. Despite this lack, the Navy opted to go with the Burke class (Flt III) as the AMDR host with the predictable outcome that the installed AMDR will be significantly less capable than the Navy’s stated requirement. The Navy’s response to the shortfall is that the smaller AMDR will meet the immediate needs but may be inadequate to deal with future threats.
Thus, we see that the Navy is committing to building a ship with little growth margin at a time of blossoming new technologies such as lasers and rail guns which will have voracious appetites for ship’s volume and utilities. Further, the Navy is committing to building a ship that they have admitted is inadequate for dealing with future, reasonably foreseeable threats. The Navy is committing to a 35 year lifespan ship that it acknowledges won’t be able to meet the threats over that time period. Is this wise???
Anyway, here is the report’s statement on the subject.
“The Navy’s pre-2008 plan to procure DDG-1000 destroyers and then CG(X) cruisers based on the DDG-1000 hull design represented the Navy’s roadmap at the time for restoring growth margins, and for introducing into the cruiser-destroyer force significant numbers of ships with integrated electric drive systems and technologies for substantially reducing ship crew sizes. The ending of the DDG-1000 and CG(X) programs in favor of continued procurement of DDG-51s leaves the Navy without an announced roadmap to do these things, because the Flight III DDG-51 will not feature a fully restored growth margin, will not be equipped with an integrated electric drive system or other technologies that could provide ample electrical power for supporting future electrically powered weapons, and will not incorporate features for substantially reducing ship crew size or for otherwise reducing ship O&S costs substantially below that of Flight IIA DDG- 51s.”
So, not only will the Flt III Burkes have little growth margin, less than desired radar performance, and known shortfalls over the course of their lifespans, but they will not be equipped with the Navy’s Holy Grail of propulsion/power, integrated electric drives, and will not be minimally manned.
Does anyone have any idea how this sounds like a good idea to the Navy?
Of course, if you’ve followed this blog you already know the answer. The Navy has purposely chosen an unwise course strictly to avoid Congressional oversight that would come from a new ship design. The Navy has passed the Burke Flt III off to Congress as a minor upgrade of an existing design. Setting aside the fraudulent nature of that maneuver, the Navy is knowingly accepting a very poor design just to avoid critics and critical review of a major acquisition program.
They were burned so badly with the LCS that they’ll do anything, no matter how unwise, to avoid more criticism. That doesn’t need to be the case, though. If the Navy would simply be upfront with Congress and run a disciplined program they could have their new design and reasonable oversight, too. Consider the Zumwalt program. That’s a major undertaking and the Navy is receiving no undue criticism so it can be done (we’ll set aside the value and wisdom of the Zumwalt for the sake of this discussion).
When the criticisms are being formally written into Congressional Research Reports, you have a problem. Assuming the Navy was being honest with us about the need for the full version of the AMDR (and that’s a big assumption given the Navy’s habit of manipulating the truth!) they need to terminate the Flt III immediately and move the AMDR to some other platform. The Internet has offered plenty of alternatives any of which would be an improvement over the worst option which is the Flt III.
(1)Congressional Research Service, “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress”, Ronald O'Rourke, Jun 2015