The LCS program problems are many and, generally, well known. Still, there are aspects that are surprising even for this troubled program. One such issue is the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) anti-air defense weapon for the Freedom class LCS. The issue is that the RAM system has not been tested on the Freedom class and the Navy has decided not to conduct any tests. No tests. None.
The Navy has not fully tested these combat systems and the Navy does not plan to conduct further air warfare operational testing of Freedom seaframes 1 through 15 in their current combat system configuration. The Navy has accepted the risk of continued operation with a combat system that is not operationally tested. (1, p.190)
The Navy has neither resourced nor conducted any air warfare test events against anti-ship cruise missile surrogates planned as part of the DOT&E-approved Enterprise Air Warfare Ship Self-Defense Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) or the LCS TEMP. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems halted all work to develop a Probability of Raid Annihilation (PRA) M&S suite of the combat systems in FY15 and has not yet restarted the effort. (2, p.141)
Yes, the Rolling Airframe Missile itself has been tested (is that a true statement? I’m not sure) but the launcher, combat system software that controls the launcher, the sensors that have to integrate with the combat system and launcher, and possible sensor interference has not been tested. That’s a lot of potential problems. For example, prior to the Navy canceling testing, DOT&E noted the need to,
Correct the SSDS [Ship Self Defense System software] scheduling function to preclude interference with the RAM infrared guidance capability stemming from prior intercepts and warhead detonations. (1, p.209)
The Navy is knowingly sending Freedom variants into combat with untested point defense missile systems. This ranks right up there with the WWII torpedo fiasco. The only saving grace is that no one, not even the Navy, believes that the LCS is an actual combat asset.
On the plus side, the Navy appears to have standardized on the SeaRAM instead of the RAM so if they’ll quickly follow through and retrofit SeaRAM onto the Freedom variant then the testing halt is acceptable. If not, it’s simply criminal.
This does, however, raise a few questions/issues:
- Who initially thought having two different point defense systems (RAM and SeaRAM) within the same general class of ship was a good idea? Someone should be fired for that.
- Who thought a point defense system without a self-contained targeting sensor (radar) was a good idea? Someone should be fired for that.
- This is what happens when you allow two variants of the same ship to be built using completely different equipment. Who thought that was a good idea? Someone should be fired for that.
The larger point is that the Navy has been exhibiting a marked tendency to truncate or eliminate testing over the last decade or so. For example, the Navy delayed the shock testing of the LCS as long as they could and attempted to eliminate the shock testing of the Ford. Numerous other examples of the Navy skipping testing are documented throughout the DOT&E annual reports. This is what happens when there is no watchdog. The Navy cannot be trusted to conduct thorough testing or, indeed, any testing at all. This is what makes the recent decision to classify, eliminate, or significantly reduce public DOT&E reporting so concerning.
(1)Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2017 Annual Report
(2)Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, FY2019 Annual Report