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Carrier Ford’s Maiden Deployment Could Face 2-Year Delay Due to Shock Trials

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Nov. 17, 2013) – Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the James River during the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier three for the final stages of construction and testing. The Ford was christened Nov. 9, 2013, and is currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipyard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Aidan P. Campbell/Released)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Nov. 17, 2013) – Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) transits the James River during the ship’s launch and transit to Newport News Shipyard pier three for the final stages of construction and testing. The Ford was christened Nov. 9, 2013, and is currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipyard (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Aidan P. Campbell/Released)

The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier may see a two-year delay in its maiden deployment, after Pentagon officials announced last month it would be put through shock trials before being allowed overseas.

The Pentagon originally said the decision could delay the carrier by six months – as first reported by Bloomberg News – but the Navy’s assistant deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy (OPNAV N3/5B) told reporters today that the delay could be up to two years.

“The addition of the shock trials is modifying the deployment schedule. As it stands now, there is a significant delay in being able to deploy the Gerald R. Ford,” Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley said after a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
“We are reviewing ways in which we can mitigate the deployment schedule and the presence requirements.”

Capt. Thom Burke, director of fleet readiness (OPNAV N43), said after the hearing that the length of the delay would depend on how well the carrier performs in the test, which uses live underwater explosives to test the survivability of a ship’s system under extreme conditions.

“A shock trial is an uncertain event. What’s going to break when you do it?” he said.
“So there’s a window of uncertainty there as to how significant is the shock trial, how well is the ship going to do? It’s a brand new ship. Why do you do a shock trial? You do it because it’s a brand new class of ship. If it goes to design then nothing breaks and you don’t have that two years. But if a lot of things end up needing to be repaired then it’s going to be longer. So it’s pretty uncertain, it’s a big window.”

Harley added that U.S. Fleet Forces Command is reviewing ways to keep up its global carrier presence with only 10 carriers – Ford will bring the fleet back up to the congressionally mandated 11 carriers – for an even longer amount of time. Ford is expected to commission next year and would enter the fleet in the early 2020s, so Harley said the Navy had plenty of time to come up with a plan in the event that Ford needs significant repair work after the test.

Due to the delays in the manufacture of Ford, the Navy had pushed to conduct the shock tests — a test using live explosives to test the ship, crew and systems in a near combat situation — to the second ship in the class, John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).

However, they were overruled by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).

In an Aug. 7 memo from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L) Frank Kendall to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Kendall directed the Navy to fund the shock tests as part of the Department of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget submission and provide OSD a full plan for the tests by December.

“The operational implications of any delay to CVN-78 entering the CVN deployment cycle caused by scheduling the [shock tests] prior to initial deployment are acknowledged and were considered, “read a portion of the memo cited in Defense News.

  • charlesjordan

    Come on – whether new or new design it shouldn’t take 2 years to guarantee or perhaps warranty, workmanship and equipment. Let’s get this ship into the schedule and work from there. If the major equipment is functioning perfectly there is no excuse not to.

    • Ctrot

      It isn’t about warranty or workmanship; it’s about repairing potential damage caused by the shock test. The days of USS Yorktown (CV-5) having 2 weeks worth of repairs done in 2 days between Coral Sea and Midway, it seems, are over.

      If Ford takes 2 years to be repaired after a shock test the Chinese don’t have to worry about sinking US carriers, a near miss will put one out for years.

    • gunnerv1

      I went through a “Shock Trial” Totally trashed the ship, Engineering took the biggest hit, but was repaired within 6 months. Ordnance on the other hand took about 5 years to finally get “Healed” .

  • Greg Williams

    Why are you characterizing this delay as due to the shock trials? If the shock trials were originally part of the plan (as I would expect for a major new ship class), aren’t the delays due to the construction delays? Wouldn’t a less misleading title be, “Navy Unsuccessful in Postponing Shock Trials for U.S.S. Ford”?

    • redgriffin

      I would say because one has no idea what a shock trial will reveal and how long it would take to repair and fix those problems.

      • Greg Williams

        That’s exactly why it’s so important, and why it’s a normal part of the construction and trial process. Why pretend otherwise?

        • sferrin

          They didn’t on the Nimitz class, and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t in the plan to do it on CVN-78 either. (Do shock trials on the first unit right out of the gate that is.) So yeah, when outside elements move requirements it’s going to effect schedule. Blame them. No tinfoil necessary.

          • Greg Williams

            The article itself suggests that the Navy always planned to conduct shock trials on Ford. Am I misunderstanding that?

            “…the Navy had pushed to conduct the shock tests — a test using live explosives to test the ship, crew and systems in a near combat situation — to the second ship in the class, John F. Kennedy (CVN-79).”)

          • KenofSoCal

            They DID do them on a Nimitz class CVN. CVN-71 on 9/19/1987.

        • redgriffin

          Because nobody budgeted and then even scheduled a shock test.

    • NavySubNuke

      Navy never planned to do the shock trials on Ford – they were going to happen on the second ship of the class instead. However, McCain is forcing them to do shock trials on the lead ship instead. Since the Navy won’t fight McCain directly they release whiney messages like this.

  • Secundius

    I Swear, if it’s the [email protected] “EMALS” take them out and Replace them with “Steam Catapult’s” in the Place. Hasn’t anyone in the Navy, above the Rank of Lieutenant Realize that “Virtual Reality” and “Real World” are TWO DIFFERENT “REALMS” of Reality. Two-Years, to Fix a Broken System that may NOT work even after the Two-Year FIX. Get a Written Warranty with it, Stating that CEO, Will Be “Keel-Hauled” the Entire Length of the Pacific Ocean if not in Proper Working Order after Being Fixed…

  • PolicyWonk

    “It’s a brand new ship. Why do you do a shock trial? You do it because it’s a brand new class of ship….”

    ====================================
    Contrast this to the total LACK of shock trials for either class of the so-called “Littoral Combat Ship”. The LCS champions claim its far stronger than its many detractors say it is, yet come up with excuse after excuse for delaying (you never do this with first ship in class, etc.). But look at all the little floating corporate welfare programs we have currently, and building on the slipways.

    If LockMart, Austal, and the champions of LCS/SSC/FF are so certain of the quality, then they have little to fear by submitting them for testing. Yet they aren’t (to my knowledge) even scheduled.

    OTOH, the continued delays and stalling feed the critics suspicions: because if they fail to be as good as the champions of LCS are – the program might very well come to a crashing halt (and deservedly so), and trigger the investigations for fraud that should’ve started years ago.

    • disqus_89uuCprLIv

      A carrier is not disposable like an LCS now FF.

      • redgriffin

        Actually FF’s are considered expendable also.

        • disqus_89uuCprLIv

          LCS have been reclassified as FFs.

          • redgriffin

            Well that’s totally stupid because the LCS is a PG or at most an OPV . The new classifications are just used to give the fleet a false number of “major” warships and hide the true designs of the hull.

    • NavySubNuke

      I’m fairly certain the little crappy ships aren’t even designed to meet even the lowest shock standard. If my recollection is correct then you don’t have to shock test since it isn’t designed to take a shock anyway.
      I don’t mean to sound like a LockMart apologist but if the ships aren’t required to be shock certified than it isn’t their fault they are not — the fault lies with the Navy for allowing such mistake.

      • PolicyWonk

        Sir,

        I do recall a few potential issues with your speculation w/r/t shock testing:

        1. The LCS Program office used upgrading the sea-frames from commercial to the level 1 standard as an excuse for the skyrocketing costs of the program. However, that said:
        2. Defense Industry Daily, just a few months ago, revealed that the LCS Program Office admitted that none of the LCS sea-frames, regardless current or future, would ever meet *any* navy standard (level 1 or above).

        Hence – which is it: the former, the latter, or both? Either way, there should be an investigation regarding defrauding of the US taxpayers. I would like to think that those ordered to serve on these boats would be given hazardous duty pay.

        And, the proponents have repeatedly claimed that due to advances in materials and construction techniques, both sea-frames actually exceed the level 1 standard – and use that to justify continuing the program.

        I think we should put the problems to rest once and for all. Especially since the so-called “Fast Frigate” version will cost more than our allies high-end frigates, and at least as much as a Legend-class NSC – which is a far superior design.

        • NavySubNuke

          Agreed – the entire program is a CF that is hosing the tax payers for billions. Never mind the idiotic idea to keep both designs – doubling the logistics costs of supporting this waste of time and money. By keeping both designs we ensure that these ships keep costing us twice as much as they should throughout their entire life rather than just during production.
          The best we can hope is that each little crappy ship will find at least one mine before they are sunk and that the crew is able to escape with their lives.

    • John B. Morgen

      This is “Public Works Program,” it is not pose to work. The whole project is a “White Elephant,” and it must be cancel.

  • Quackers

    Ok. What is the COST. One of the new OHIO class subs deleted to get money
    For the shock tests. If one shows failure. COST on replacement. Then shock test
    On the replacement fails. When will it stop?

  • John B. Morgen

    How many shock tests does the Navy really needs, before deploying the Ford?

  • disqus_89uuCprLIv

    When a shock test uncovers defects in systems it’s not merely a question of repair.

    Often design changes to the equipment, different mounting arrangements, total replacement of failed units (sometimes large ones with long lead times,) time to install and remove instrumentation and analysis of the tests are involved.

    Much of the electronics are commercial “off – the-shelf” items with and without shock mounts. Also much of the equipment carried aboard by deploying squadrons and installed for deployment has not been shock tested on the class.

    Most important is the analysis of test results. These will significantly impact future ships of this and other types.

    If the Ford is to survive and fight while hurt, the Navy must know what her vulnerabilities are.

  • Secundius

    Personally, I think the “Shock Trial’s” are Pure “BS”, The Ship’s Builder, “F#$KUP and there “Buying For Time”. Ant there Coming Up with One Excuse, After Another to Delay Commissioning Dates and Get RICHER in the Process…

  • bee bop

    A cheaper shock test would be to pick it up out of the water and drop it about 20′. In the old days ships were tested by sliding down the ways at first launch slamming into the water. At least one side was tested. With this behemoth its gently lifted off the keel blocks as the dry dock is flooded. Simple float test with not a lot of water.

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  • John Nemitz

    With the even greater delays and problems that remain unresolved with the F-35 Lightning II, a two-year delay in getting the Ford to the fleet is relatively insignificant. Also, there are no Navy aircraft carriers scheduled to be decommissioned within the next several years, with the exception of the inactive USS Enterprise (CVN-65). But for counting purposes, the Enterprise was removed from the list of available carriers in 2012, when it was officially placed in “Inactive” status.

    Moreover, the already commissioned USS America (LHA-6) and the soon-to-be-commissioned USS Tripoli (LHA-7) are small (“non-standard”) aircraft carriers in their own right (small being relative to U.S. Navy standards), not to mention the eight (8) Wasp-class LHDs that are now in service. Even with the Enterprise being inactive overall, and the delay in Ford’s availability to the fleet, the U.S. Navy is in great shape when it comes to numbers and requirements for aircraft carriers. Especially considering that we have a sitting President who incredibly STILL lacks a doctrine on how, when, and where to use U.S. military power, and is very reticent, if not outright paralyze to do so.

  • John B. Morgen

    The Navy should have built full scale sectional mock-ups, and then tested them before building the actual aircraft carrier. Thereby saving unnecessary funding and delays of deployment, instead of the way the Navy is doing it—-“putting the cart before the horse.”.

  • Peter Westberg

    We will be building many carriers of this design in the coming years. With all the new emerging threats to our most important force projection capital ships, we *must* know what their vulnerabilities and weaknesses are. With all the brand new technology, the equally new high tech crew needs to know how the ship reacts and responds to a stressful combat environment. That means train train train. A mere year or 2 is a small price to gain all this much needed experience that all the following ships in the class can take immediate advantage of.