Friday, January 27, 2017

When The Inmates Run The Prison

SeaRAM has been deployed in the fleet for some time now and I assumed it had gone through the standard array of testing.  I was wrong.  From the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report (all emphasis added),

“The Navy tested SeaRAM on the Self-Defense Test Ship (SDTS) at the Pacific Test Range, Pt Mugu, California, from December 2015 to March 2016 and on USS Porter (DDG 78) at the Spanish sea range, Rota, Spain, in March 2016. None of these tests were conducted with DOT&E-approved operational test plans or conducted by the Navy’s Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force since SeaRAM is not a formal acquisition program with approved requirements documents or milestone decisions.

DOT&E published a classified report to Congress in December 2016 since SeaRAM was deployed on operational DDG 51-class ships without having conducted any operational testing.”

This is what happens when the Navy is left on their own.  Rigorous, systematic testing is abandoned.  Yeah, but the Navy did conduct some testing.  Isn’t that good and won’t less rigorous testing save money while accomplishing the same end result?  Here’s what DOT&E has to say about the Navy’s tests.

“That report [classified Early Fielding Report to Congress] stated that, based on the results of the Navy testing, although SeaRAM has demonstrated some capability against anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) threats, the lack of ASCM surrogate targets to adequately represent advanced ASCM threats combined with the paucity of test data does not support a meaningful and quantitative assessment of SeaRAM’s ability to provide the DDG 51 class with an adequate self-defense against threat ASCMs.”

SeaRAM - Untested

Remember, testing is not just about whether the weapon can launch and hit its target – it’s about shipboard integration and interaction between other systems.

“An adequate set of DOT&E-approved SeaRAM operational tests against a broader, more threat representative set of ASCM threat surrogates are required to demonstrate that the DDG 51-class destroyer’s other defensive weapons do not degrade SeaRAM’s effectiveness …”

“The SeaRAM electronic warfare suite prevents SeaRAM from
utilizing the RAM Block 2 missile to its full capability.”

Will the DDG’s other electronic systems (radar, ECM, communications, etc.) interfere with the SeaRAM electronics and vice versa?  Answering that requires extensive and systematic testing not a few ad hoc tests against non-representative threat surrogates.  We may actually be reducing the DDG’s overall capabilities by mounting SeaRAM.  That’s probably not the case but “probably” is not what we should be putting to sea with.

This is the clear cut argument against removing DOT&E oversight.  We’re putting DDG-51 class ships out in the world with unproven, untested weapons and with no idea how they interact or interfere with other ship’s systems.  Simply put, the Navy cannot be trusted to run their own tests and evaluations.


  1. What do you expect? The Navy doesn't have a professional Acquisition Force and promotes people that deliver ANYTHING reqardless of the Newspeak required to give the perception of usefulness.

    The Navy should clean their own house, the Executive branch has a duty to make sure they do it, and the Congress should cut off funding and deny promotion of individuals if they don't.

    Although I am skeptical about business people being able to run the Government effectively. At this point, Maybe SecNav Nominee Bilden can clean house and restore some semblance of a working acquisition system.

    1. "What do you expect?"

      I know you're asking that rhetorically but I have an answer. I expect integrity from Navy leadership. I write this blog in an attempt to promote that integrity and highlight its absence when I find it lacking.

    2. Question for you CNO

      Back in the day the Navy was known for good engineers principals and capability. Has this institutional capability been lost or reduced?

  2. I wonder if you could comment on why the Navy (and other services) shirk testing, requiring an oversight agency to do it for them.

    Is it because of some incentive mismatch that is inevitable, or does oversight on cost control and so forth create these unintended consequences? Or something else?

    1. I've discussed this frequently. You can read through the archives to get some detail on this. I'll give you the short answer: follow the money! It's always about money.

      With no peer competitor since the Cold War ended, the Navy's "job" has changed from combat effectiveness to budget pursuit. Understanding that, it's obvious why the Navy does not want extensive testing. Testing reveals flaws and flaws make Congress hesitate to provide funding. In the pursuit of budget, then, testing is counterproductive.

      This also explains why the Navy has an adversarial relationship with DOT&E when, in fact, they should be DOT&E's biggest fans.

    2. I'll give my 2 cents after having worked on DDG 1000 and LCS (and other non-Navy projects).

      The lack of professionalism in the acquisition workforce means the cost schedule and risk analyses on program are non-existent, pathetic, or merely Contractor Marketing. The PMs overpromise and underbid.

      So any money set aside for testing (at the end) is quickly allocated to keep the development work going and try to fix items that should have been estimated to be very difficult and expensive.

      Therefore often there is not much money left to test and when you go to the PMO to ask for more money to test, they realize testing might show just how much they overpromised and under delivered. So there is no incentive for the PMOs, SysComs, or Navy to find more money and have objective testing done.

      As CNO states we need integrity in the workforce and it is REALLY lacking.

  3. I know why the BMD Burkes pursued the SeaRam, but what is the draw for a ship like the LCS Freedom variant? Since the ship already has a RAM launcher, it also has all the necessary equipment to fire those missiles. What is the benefit of having it integrated into a single package like the SeaRam (and cutting the number of missiles available in half)?

    1. I'm not sure exactly what you're asking but I'll take a shot at answering.

      The Navy is planning to switch from RAM on the LCS-1 variant to SeaRAM which is on the LCS-2 variant. Presumably, this is due to the Navy's intent to drop the LCS-1 TRS-3D radar and stardize the LCS on the LCS-2 combat suite and radar.

      SeaRAM also has the advantage of not needing to be tied into the combat system which relieves the radar and software of the task of missile guidance. Whether this is worth the loss of rounds is questionable.

      I think standardization is the likely answer, if I've understood your question correctly.

    2. I think you've got it. I didn't realize the two LCS variants had totally different sensor suites, though I knew the Independence variant already had the SeaRAM.

      Can you help me understand radar requirements a little bit? What are the advantages of "relieving the radar and software of the task of missile guidance"? What other tasks are the main radar on the Independence variant freed up to do because of the SeaRAM?

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  5. Bring back the 20mm Vulcan guns? Test those as well.

    To be honest, a gas operated Gattling gun like what the Russians have would be highly advised.


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