Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Navy Admits AAG Failure

The Navy may be forced to abandon the Advanced Arresting Gear system for the Ford class carriers after huge cost increases, schedule delays, and continuing technical challenges.  As reported by USNI News website (1),

“…SASC [Senate Armed Services Committee] laid out a pattern of cost increases from about a $476 million in costs for research development and acquisition in 2009 for four systems to a 2016 cost estimate of $1.4 billion – about a 130 percent increase when adjusted for inflation.”

A 130% increase – sounds about right for a Navy project!

USNI suggests that the Navy will replace the AAG in subsequent Ford carriers with a traditional arresting system.

“Ultimately, USNI News understands, the goal is to have the planned AAG systems on the ships that follow carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) – John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) and Enterprise(CVN-80) – replaced with a more traditional but enhanced version of the current Mk-7 MOD 3 arresting gear.”

At least the Navy recognizes the problem as evidenced by the following statement.

“Last year Program Executive Officer for the Navy’s carrier program told reporters that the service and General Atomics discovered the water twister – a complex paddlewheel designed to absorb 70 percent of the force of a landing – was under engineered and would be unable to withstand prolonged use without failing.”

“ ‘The Advanced Arresting Gear has become a model for how not to do acquisition of needed technology,’ a senior Navy official told USNI News on Tuesday.”

The issue is not the AAG, per se, but the concurrency of attempting to develop a non-existent technology while also initiating production.

Aside from the excess costs and schedule delays, a larger issue is what to do with the Ford.  We can put conventional arresting systems in the subsequent carriers but what do we do with For?  If the AAG is installed, it becomes a one-of-a-kind system that will prove difficult or impossible to maintain and eliminates any commonality between Ford and any other carrier in the fleet.  If we retrofit a conventional system to Ford, the costs to remove the AAG system, re-engineer a conventional system into place, and actually procure and install it will cause further cost overruns and schedule delays. 

This is a classic no-win situation.  The Navy’s foolish insistence on concurrent development and production has bit them in the ass once again.  You’d think the Navy would learn but they remain incapable of learning lessons.

This is why you don’t begin production that depends on non-existent technology.

The lesson can’t be any simpler or clearer.  Even the Navy’s mentally challenged leadership should be able to grasp it by now.  But, of course, they won’t.


(1) USNI News website, “Navy May Back Away From Advanced Arresting Gear for Ford Carriers”, Sam LaGrone, May 24, 2016,


  1. 'The lesson can’t be any simpler or clearer. Even the Navy’s mentally challenged leadership should be able to grasp it by now. But, of course, they won’t.'

    After so many examples of this failure I've come to the conclusion that this is a feature of the current development motif, , not a bug. Going along with it ensure Flag Officers get nice cushy jobs with defense contractors upon retirement.

    Though I am curious at how the Navy purchased something that was under-engineering. Does that mean that General Atomics didn't appreciate the life cycle demands of the arresting gear? Or did they simply scale up the land based test platform without factors in all the variables that could crop up when transferring the system to a ship? In either case, the end result is engineering malfeasance.

    1. "... end result is engineering malfeasance."

      Malfeasance generally denotes illegal or wrongful acts. I don't think this is the case. This is simply an attempt to create a new technology that did not exist before and, like all new technologies, there is a steep learning curve. Normally, that curve is learned in the lab and development and the inevitable mistakes and problems are expected. The Navy, however, insists on committing to the construction of ships based on non-existent technology and the steep cost (time and money) of traversing the learning curve is being paid in public, in budget overruns, and in schedule delays.

      The Navy simply appears to be too stupid to learn the lesson of concurrency and non-existent technology. I don't think there's any deeper, darker secrets at work than simply stupidity, though the Navy's capacity for stupidity seems boundless!

  2. WOW, you know I thought it would be the launcher that would cause the issues !?!?

    Yep, sounds like they didn't scale it up from the test model properly.

    not in terms of size, but in terms of duty.

    Combat duty at sea is going to put some "unexpected" stresses on a mechanism as compared to a nice civilian ( test bed ) land based life.

    To be honest Victorian engineering just timesed everything up by 2.5, but in the modern world we are so much more advanced right ???

    [ must be what they meant by advanced arrestor gear ? ]

    Pretty poor show actually :(

    This will have come to light a long time ago,

    They have been burning money trying to fix this thing haven't they ? and only now have they admitted there is absolutely no way to do it short of reconfiguring a serious amount of critical decks.

    Slotting the old system in is going to do that anyway, so this thing must have REALLY FAILED big time !!!


    ( I cant help but feel slightly glad the UK didn't go with EMALS and AAG for now, regardless of the obvious draw back of F35B vs F35C )

  3. Malfeasance generally denotes illegal or wrongful acts.

    Given that billions of dollars will be wasted, I suggest an investigation. They installed and tested this system ashore at Lakehurst. I suspect one can find whistleblowers there who will state that everyone there knew it wasn't workable. Then find those responsible and lock them up. The Navy did this for the much smaller "Fat Leonard" scandal. Do this for development fraud and that would prevent future problems.

    1. There may well have been wrongdoing throughout the testing and developmental process. My comment was directed at the manufacturer's engineering effort, specifically.

  4. Issue an arrest warrant for Captain Stephen Tedford. for conspiracy to defraud.

    Here is his excuse from a year and a half ago, when he admits reliably had not been proven. He claims this is not possible for his limited testing. But his limited testing showed failure after failure! At that time it broke down on average after 20 arrests! He, and others, knew it was not reliable! Same with ELAM.

    "GAO also raised concerns about reliability of both the EMALS and AAG systems. But certifying system reliability, Tedford pointed out, can be difficult to prove before a system is installed.

    “Reliability comes from a significant number of cycles on any system, it is statistics-based,” Tedford said. “So you have to have hundreds of thousands of cycles in order to achieve system reliability. And the way that reliability growth is established is, it’s not just from the system installed at Lakehurst, it’s in combination with the ship and the second ship of class, and the third ship of class over time. So it was never in our program, as a requirement or anything else, in order to meet threshold reliability for either system when the ship delivered, simply because it is not possible to get there statistically.”

    The single EMALS catapult at Lakehurst, he pointed out, “is as close as we can get to the ship-based system on land, but it is not a four-catapult, identical system to what they have on CVN 78. Plus, realize that the testing that we do has been just that — it has been developmental testing. We are trying to find faults in the system. We are trying to find where it fails. That is the point. We are not intentionally doing reliability testing, which would be part of the envelope — repetitive, the same test point over and over and over again — to build reliability. That actually is in the next phase of the test program that kicks off later this year.”

    Tedford admits challenges remain, but he declared confidence.

    “Both of these systems work,” he said. “EMALS is on a great trajectory right now, and advanced arresting gear is on a similar vector.

    “We are very excited,” he added.

    1. This is like a new Ford car salesmen assuring you that it works great. You drive away and 20 minutes later it breaks down. You walk back and salesman Tedford says "I said it worked, I didn't say it was reliable. There is no warranty, you pay to get it fixed! If it can be fixed."

      We don't tolerate such BS in the public marketplace. Why doesn't anyone care when it happens in our Navy?

    2. Tetford was an naval aviator but not from the carrier side !

  5. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I asked whats the max take off weight of an F35b given a 300 meter runway and a 30knt headwind......

    "what to do with the Ford."

  6. " If we retrofit a conventional system to Ford, the costs to remove the AAG system, re-engineer a conventional system into place, and actually procure and install it will cause further cost overruns and schedule delays. "

    I don't think we have a choice at this point. The Ford is half built. Our choices are A) we put her to sea with a (?) arresting gear, and run the risk that our 100K ton carrier just doesn't work half the time B) retrofit and just take the cost so we can have a running vessel (which is going to be a nightmare anyway because its already got EMALS and a one of a kind radar) or C) make the worlds biggest helicopter carrier.

    With the charlie foxtrots that are the F-35 and the Ford, does anyone seriously defend concurrency in the Navy?

    1. "... does anyone seriously defend concurrency in the Navy?"

      Well, the Navy continues to do it so, yes, I'd call that a 100%, wholehearted defense of concurrency by Navy leadership.

  7. What's the status on the Ford now?. If this system doesn't work does it mean this ship is still the builders responsibility?

    1. I suspect that AAG falls under the procurement category of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) which, as the name suggests, is equipment that the government obtains and supplies to the shipbuilder. The shipbuilder is responsible only for the installation, not the functionality or suitability.

  8. """"Ultimately, USNI News understands, the goal is to have the planned AAG systems on the ships that follow carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) – John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) and Enterprise(CVN-80) – replaced with a more traditional but enhanced version of the current Mk-7 MOD 3 arresting gear.”""""

    They are doing the same thing with the Ford Class dual band radar, Ford will get it, but the following ships won't. The way they are going we will end up with ships with CVN Nimitz Class equipment with Ford Class price tag.

    1. Your observation and conclusion are, sadly, correct.

  9. Concurrency should immediately be terminated.

    Whatever advantages it may appear to have (early lead time on cutting edge technologies) is vastly overshadowed by the variety of technical problems that concurrent weapons have delivered.

    We have seen:
    - Cost overruns
    - Technical problems not anticipated (and beyond the usual problems with new weapons systems)
    - Delays
    - Performance metrics have to be lowered/rewritten/removed entirely
    - Systems that frankly, don't work

    Worse, contractors often profit for failures.

    Technologies that require concurrency belong in some lab somewhere. Maybe something will come out of it someday, perhaps in a few decades. But mass production of concurrent weapons systems is madness ... or blatant corruption.

  10. the article suggest the problem is one of durability, which normal is tested by repeated cycles. And "under engineering" is typical code for under sizing shafts or specifying the wrong material. These types of problems are some time easy to correct, but time consuming as thay require redoing the testing, which given the amount needed to meet modern specification or is that over specification will require more years.

  11. Has anyone seen the latest accusations of impropriety between an Austal worker and a Navy captain? There were claims that Austal was trying to get incriminating pictures.

    Alot is hearsay... but now we've had what, 2? 3? major scandels in the Navy related to contracts.

    Its starting to feel more and more like we have a culture issue.

    1. "Its starting to feel more and more like we have a culture issue."

      You think?

  12. Okay. I know that sounded naive. I just hadn't realized how deep this seems to be going. I mean... I just figured that acquisition was a 'normal' offshoot and horrible growth of lobbyist and congressional soft corruption. But this is starting to look like a 3rd world kleptocracy.

    What in God's name happened? The Navy seemed pretty competent in the early 90's. SSN21 was horribly expensive... but at least it worked.

    Now acquisition, operations, maintanance... everything. We have Captains disappearing on cruises (Cowpens); Rank corruption (Fat Leonard); Possible acquisition corruption (Austal); Sex for Secrets (Capt. Dusek)...

    with rot like that. How do we know what is good anymore? And how in God's name do you clean it out? It won't be with lean in circles.

    1. This is why DOT&E is so important - not that they're the entire solution but without them we'd really be hurting.

    2. It may be the reason why there is a faction determined to get rid of the DOT&E.

      Within the US Congress, there are those who are trying to defend the GAO. GAO isn't perfect, but it is one of the best resources that people have.

      Alarmingl, there is precedent for this. Read up on what happened to the OTA.

  13. August 2007 GAO report:

    Delays in technology development may lead to increases in CVN 78’s planned construction costs and potential reductions in the ship’s capability at delivery. CVN 78’s success depends on on-time delivery and insertion of fully mature and operational technologies in order to manage construction cost and enhance ship capabilities. Technologies that are highly integrated into the construction sequence or provide vital capabilities for the ship to carry out its mission are the most critical in achieving this goal. While the Navy has mitigated the impact of some technologies, such as the nuclear propulsion and electric plant, three systems—EMALS, the dual band radar, and the advanced arresting gear—have faced problems during development that may eventually affect the ship’s construction costs. Upcoming critical tests must be executed as planned in order for these systems to remain on schedule.

    March 14/08: During US House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee hearings about the proposed the FY 2009 budget, chairman Gene Taylor [D-MS] discusses the state of the program:

    “Another very risky program is the new aircraft carrier. Not that the Navy and Newport News Shipyard don’t know how to build aircraft carriers, they do. However, one of the major new technologies, the electro-magnetic launch system, or EMALS, has not even been tested in a shipboard configuration and the ship is already under construction. Just this last week the Navy requested an additional $40 million dollars for continued development of EMALS because, and I quote, ‘the contractor underestimated design and production cost.’ The cynic in me would say the contractor purposefully low-balled the bid to get the contract knowing full well the Navy would be forced to pay whatever the true costs of the system turned out to be. Perhaps we should have built another Nimitz class carrier until the research and design for EMALS was complete.”

  14. “ ‘The Advanced Arresting Gear has become a model for how not to do acquisition of needed technology,’ a senior Navy official told USNI News on Tuesday.”

    Unfortunately there are just too many of such models, and far fewer examples where you would say: "This is defence aquisition done just right".


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