Archive for the 'Ford-class' Tag

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (June 11, 2016) -- Tug boats maneuver Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), into the James River during the ship's Turn Ship evolution. This is a major milestone that brings the country's newest aircraft carrier another step closer to delivery and commissioning later this year. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (June 11, 2016) — Tug boats maneuver Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), into the James River during the ship’s Turn Ship evolution. This is a major milestone that brings the country’s newest aircraft carrier another step closer to delivery and commissioning later this year. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cathrine Mae O. Campbell)

Consider for a few moments two benchmark facts.

1. Aircraft Carriers are the premier capital ship in our navy and for navies throughout the world. Sorry submarine bubbas, it’s true.
2. By the time he leaves office, SECNAV Mabus will have been on the job roughly eight years.

Mid-month, SECNAV put out this rather remarkable comment;

“The Ford is a textbook example of how not to build a ship,” Ford told reporters. “(We were) building it while it’s still being designed” — which results in costly do-overs of already-finished components — “(and) trying to force too much new and unproven technology on it” — whose teething troubles result in unplanned delays and costs.

“That was already on fire when I got in,” said Mabus, who became Navy Secretary the year the Ford’s keel was laid. “But we’ve stopped the cost growth.” The carrier’s schedule is still slipping, however, with a November delivery to the fleet postponed indefinitely due to problems in the Main Turbine Generators (MTG).

Mabus is correct. He did not conceive this baby, but it has been his responsibility to raise it. I am sure his comments are informed from what he has been briefed on via the review our Sam reported on back in August, or what led up to the review.

How could we have such a screwed up program for the crown jewel of our navy? The premier capital ship in the world’s premier navy? For regular readers, this will come as no shock; spawn of the Cult of Transformationalism that abandoned the evolutionary for the revolutionary.

FORD sprouts from the same intellectual well that LCS and DDG-1000 do. The Transformationalists decided that they could just wish aside centuries of experience on how to modernize a fleet. By their own confidence in their own self-perceived brilliance – compounding risk; technology, budgetary, programmatic, etc – none of those problems would be theirs.

I was hoping the issues with FORD would be a focus on itself, but then things got a bit strange. Mabus quickly pivoted and started to defend what almost all agree is a snake-bitTtransformationalist flop, LCS;

Isn’t LCS also a textbook example of a troubled ship program, I asked Mabus, for much the same reasons as Ford?

“No,” said Mabus. LCS is more an example of typical teething troubles on a new design, he argued.

“Every time you start a new class of ship…you’re going to have issues,” he said. “LCS gets a lot of attention, but during the first deployment of an LCS to Singapore…it was ready for sea more than the (US) Pacific Fleet average.”

“It’s got a lot of attention mainly because it looks different,” Mabus said. “It is a different kind of ship.”

Ummmm, no. FREEDOM Class does not look all that different, and eight years after the commissioning of HULL-1, “new class of ship” excuses for the cascading failures no longer applies. INDEPENDENCE looked different a decade ago. We’re used to it now. Then again, he has a lot of personal capital invested in LCS, so one would expect a bit of a blinkered view.

Why do two programs with similar troubles get such a different reaction from Mabus? It’s especially striking because the carrier program matters much more to naval traditionalists, who often disdain the relatively tiny and lightly armed LCS. But throughout Mabus’s seven years in office — the longest tenure of a Navy Secretary since World War I — he’s measured his success in terms of numbers of ships.

From 2001 to 2008, Mabus said today (as he says in every speech he makes) the US Navy fell from 316 ships to 278 and put only 41 new ships on contract. In the seven years since 2009, Mabus has contracted for 86.

“Quantity has a quality all of its own,” Mabus said — and you don’t get quantity without a small ship cheap enough to build in bulk. In the face of two skeptical Defense Secretaries and sometimes bitter criticism from Congress, Mabus’s commitment to LCS explains a lot about its survival

Perhaps it would be unkind to state that we have been engaged all month in littoral combat off of Yemen, but no one in their right mind wants a LCS anywhere near that coastline.

Perhaps it is best to leave that there so we don’t wander in to another LCS post. Let’s stick to the FORD issue.

If I may be self-indulgent a bit; when we few, we happy few anti-Transformationalists began tilting against the Transformationalist series of ships that came before FORD; LPD-17, LCS, DDG-1000 – from titanium fire mains to NLOS, one of our primary critiques was a cavalier view towards technology risk. It is great to see that, in his own way, Mabus is on the same page of the hymnal with us now.

Speaking Thursday with the massive carrier in the background, Mabus said, “I think we’re a long ways down that road” to fixing the power-generation issue.

He gave a similar assessment of the advanced arresting gear (AAG), which has been installed on the Ford but is still being tested.

The Navy is studying whether to continue with AAG on the next Ford-class carrier, the John F. Kennedy, which is under construction at the shipyard and about 23 percent complete.

“Everything that has been brought up lately, we have been looking at for years, and testing for years,” he said.

Kendall ordered a review of the Ford program, which is now under way and should be complete by December. Until all concerns are resolved, Mabus said he can’t specify a delivery date.

“As soon as it’s ready,” he said. “I’m not going to give you a date. But the testing is going well. Getting to the root cause of the generator problem is going well.”

He also reiterated an oft-stated observation: that the Ford suffers from a decision made more than a decade ago to pack new technology on the ship instead of phasing in new systems over three ships.

“It’s not the shipyard,” he said. “It was us doing this to them.”

How bad is the AAG issue?

The ship’s Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) is more problematic, and “has had significant delays in completing its land-based test program due to the technical challenges encountered in transitioning from design” through final testing, Mabus reported. Other Navy sources report dozens of roll-through tests have been conducted with the AAG at the Navy’s test facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey, but to date no true arrested landings have been accomplished.

Mabus noted that the Navy is reviewing whether to continue with AAG installation on the Enterprise (CVN 80), third ship in the class, or return to the standard Mark 7 aircraft recovery system operating on all current carriers. Installation of AAG on the second ship, John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), is continuing for now, Mabus noted, because design and construction work has progressed to the point where a replacement would have a significantly negative impact on costs and schedule.

That bad.

Less of a Transformationalist problem, LPD-17 has been made useful with the extra Sailor sweat and seabags of money prescribed to fix her. LCS and DDG-1000 are what they are, but there was great hope that we would somehow get FORD right. That we would be lucky and good – looks like we were neither.

I think everyone understands technology risk as a factor described above, but what is programmatic risk? Part of programmatic risk is just that; as the DDG-1000 people will tell you, if you are too much of a burden your program will be cancelled. You also can become your own parody. In doing so, you open the door for those who want to do things with that money and effort – specifically the likes of our friend Jerry Hendrix;

The first move of a new presidential administration will not be to “cancel any of these programs but we’ve shown it is possible to make significant changes in short time,” said Jerry Hendrix, one of the report’s authors and a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.

“We want to stir the debate.” he added.

The proposal was first reported by The Washington Post.

Most notably, the report calls for canceling the $40 billion Ford-class aircraft carrier program, halting construction of the littoral combat ship, and purchasing fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Those funds would be reallocated for the stealthy B-21 bomber, adding 16 additional submarines, and investing in emerging technologies like high-energy lasers, the CNAS report recommends.

Combine the latest news with FORD and the bitter fruits of the Light Attack Mafia’s bureaucratic victories in the 1990s and early 2000s, and you give other ideas room go grow. You can get the full report here.

The 2020s will be, how do the Chinese put it? Interesting.



Rhetoric supporting the new carrier launch system, EMALS, was on full display during CNO Roughead’s March 11 testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He said:

“…Among the new technologies being integrated in these ships is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which will enable the carrier’s increased sortie generation rate and lower total ownership costs. EMALS is on track for an aircraft demonstration later this year and is on schedule to support delivery of CVN 78 in September 2015…”

But, according to Inside Defense (subscription required), reality, in the form of a question from Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA), forced SECNAV Mabus to confirm that the EMALS program had experienced an ugly test failure. What happened, exactly? This:

“…According to a Navy official, on Jan. 12 during a test at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst , NJ, the shuttle was commanded to move forward 10 meters, but instead reversed direction and slammed into the catapult’s deck tensioner, causing damage to the system’s hardware. Damage to the armature and the tensioner was non-reparable, though a motor block and the end of the system’s trough, which also suffered damage, were salvageable. There were no injuries…”

That’s quite the mishap…But, never fear, they tell me this high-profile program is all still on schedule. Right?

Right?

I like EMALS, and I love this sort of high-profile challenge…and good poker games, too.

But…where’s the hedge? Did we start production of the Next-Gen Ford-class too early? If America needs to start figuring out how many MV-22s fit on the new LHA(N) amphibian, isn’t that something policymakers should know and discuss? And if the money that EMALS will, in theory, save (via reduced wear and tear, lower manning and so forth) gets eaten up by developmental costs and reliability SNAFUs, then, shouldn’t there be a debate on the strategic (and/or tactical) merits of this system?

Is a higher sortie generation rate and consistent high-power cat shots THAT important?

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