The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer is kicking off an independent review into the Navy’s Gerald Ford-class next-generation carrier program citing questions of performance of key systems aboard, according to an Aug. 23 memo obtained by USNI News.
The review – outlined in the memo to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus from Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall – calls for the Office of the Secretary of Defense to take a closer look at key subsystems of the carrier that Kendall said could hamper the “schedule and performance” of Ford (CVN-78) and follow on ships.
The memo was first reported by the Bloomberg wire service.
“What we have to determine now is whether it is best to ‘stay the course’ or adjust our plans, particularly for future ships of the class,” Kendall wrote
“The first step in that process has to be a completely objective and technically deep review of the current situation.”
Kendall placed the blame on the so-called “transformation” doctrine of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon that directed the services to develop weapon systems at the edge of technological possibility. Several weapon systems were developed in the early 2000s under the transformation mandate and very few survived – including the Ford class
“With the benefit of hindsight, it was clearly premature to include so many unproven technologies in the Gerald R, Ford. That decision was made long ago as part of a DoD level initiative called ‘Transformation’,” Kendall wrote.
“What we have to determine now is whether it is best to ‘stay the course’ or adjust our plans, particularly for future ships of the class. The first step in that process has to be a completely objective and technically deep review of the current situation.”
The memo identified five areas the 60-day review will cover: propulsion and electrical system components, Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), Advanced Arresting Gear, Dual Band Radar and Advanced Weapon Elevators.
From the memo:
Power Generation – Propulsion and electrical system components that could be associated with the recent issues discovered with the Main Turbine Generators.
Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System – The lack of sufficient reliability growth demonstrated to date and the ability to support both surge and sustained aircraft operations.
Advanced Arresting Gear – The technical challenges identified in system hardware and software, achievement of design performance criteria for the operational envelope, reliability growth, and the ability to support both surge and sustained aircraft operations.
Dual Band Radar – Ship integration issues discovered on C VN 78 that need to be avoided with the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar on CVN 79 and later.
Advanced Weapon Elevators – System reliability and anticipated growth affecting the ability of installed systems to support requirements for both surge and sustained aircraft operations.
Those new technologies, “compounded the inherent challenges of a first in class design,” Navy spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent said in a Tuesday statement to USNI News.
“Consequently, a comprehensive test program, the most integrated and complex shipbuilding test program to date, was developed to address the integration of these technologies. This test program has proven to be highly effective at resolving many first-of-class ship issues through the testing of developmental systems onboard CVN-78 and proving the performance of these systems.”
The $12.9 billion first-in-class ship is being built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries yard in Newport News, Va. and set to deliver to the service by the end of the year.