Skip to comments.Navy’s new $12b aircraft carrier beset with performance problems
Posted on 01/11/2014 3:32:26 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Review raises doubts about launch capacity, other vital systems in new vessel
WASHINGTON The US Navys newest aircraft carrier, a multibillion-dollar behemoth that is the first in a next generation of carriers, is beset with a number of performance problems, even failing tests of its ability to launch and recover combat jets, according to an internal assessment by the Pentagon.
The early tests are raising worries that the USS Gerald R. Ford, christened in honor of the 38th president in November, may not meet the Navys goal of significantly increasing the number of warplanes it can quickly launch and could even be less effective than older vessels. The carrier is undergoing testing at a Virginia shipyard and is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2016, with a price tag estimated at more than $12 billion.
At least four crucial components, which are still being installed on the ship, are at risk because of their poor or unknown reliability, states the 30-page testing assessment, which was delivered last month to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon leaders.
In addition to the ships launching and landing systems for jet fighters, officials are also concerned about its advanced radar system, which is being produced by Waltham-based Raytheon Company. It also remains unclear if a key weapons elevator will work as promised.
Poor reliability of these critical systems could cause a cascading series of delays during flight operations that would affect [the ships] ability to generate sorties, make the ship more vulnerable to attack, or create limitations during routine operations, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe.
We expect to wring out the rest of the problems. We have 26 months to go.
Rear Admiral Thomas J. Moore, program executive officer for aircraft carriers Quote Icon A number of other systems, such as communications gear, meanwhile, are performing at less than acceptable standards, according to the assessment by J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagons director of operational test and evaluation. Gilmore concluded that the Navy has little choice but to redesign key components of the ship.
Rear Admiral Thomas J. Moore, the program executive officer for aircraft carriers, defended the progress of the ship in an interview and expressed confidence that, in the two years before delivery, the Navy and its contractors will overcome what he acknowledged are multiple hurdles.
With these new technologies comes a lot of developmental challenges, said Moore, an MIT-trained nuclear engineer. We disagree with the characterizations of the risks. The ship . . . is going to be a fantastic ship that will provide capabilities [the current fleet] doesnt have.
But the Navy declined to discuss specifics of the assessment, saying it was an internal document and has not been made public. It also could not say how the problems might affect the delivery schedule, cost, or combat effectiveness. The ships primary contractor, Newport News Shipbuilding, also declined to discuss the findings of the report.
We are going to defer to the Navy on the report, said Christie R. Miller, a spokesperson for its parent, Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding.
The ship has had its share of critics in the past. The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found last year that the cost of producing the ship had risen 22 percent from original predictions.
The Accountability Office recommended delaying construction of the second ship in the class, the USS John F. Kennedy, until the Navy and its contractors have a better handle on a series of untried technologies.
A third vessel in the new ship class, the USS Enterprise, is in the works, and the Navy could buy up to eight more vessels.
At 1,106 feet, the Gerald Ford class ships are the first newly designed carriers in more than 30 years. The prototype has 25 decks and is 250 feet high. The carriers are intended to replace some of the 11 Nimitz class aircraft carriers that debuted in the 1980s.
Most new Pentagon weapons systems encounter development and engineering problems. In this case, the Navy still has two years before scheduled delivery to work on solutions.
But Gilmores assessment, which was based on a yearlong evaluation of the Gerald Ford ending in September 2013, is the strongest indication yet that the Navy may be falling short of its goal of increasing the number of combat flights that can be flown from an individual ship.
About 60 percent of the ship, which like its predecessors will be nuclear powered, is based on the Nimitz design, while the remaining 40 percent consists of entirely new components including a larger flight deck and high-tech systems. It is many of those new technologies that are encountering serious problems, Pentagon leaders have been told.
Primary among them is the so-called electromagnetic aircraft launch system, which is replacing the steam-powered catapult system long used to launch jets off the deck. The new system features a 100,000-horsepower linear electric motor, with a slide that accelerates along a giant rail. It has the ability launch multiple planes, one after the other, at a rapid pace.
Land-based tests of the system in New Jersey have demonstrated a reliability rate of only 240 launches without a failure, when it should be above 1,250 launches without failure at this stage of the Gerald Fords development.
Meanwhile, a companion system, known as the advanced arresting gear, which is designed to safely snare landing aircraft with cables stretched across the deck, is similarly unreliable, according to the report. In the tests, the system of cables has averaged 20 successful landings without failure. That is far less than the 4,950 successful landings it should be achieving without failure. The ultimate goal is for the system to work 16,500 times without failure.
Unless the various problems are resolved, the Pentagon weapons testers warned, the Gerald Ford will not be able to fly the number of wartime sorties envisioned by Navy planners, and two carriers might be needed to achieve the same effect of one.
The launch and landing systems are both being built by California-based General Atomics. Gary Hopper, vice president at the company, declined to respond to questions.
I would defer your questions to our customer, he said. It is not our policy not to speak for the Navy on this program or others.
Ronald ORourke, a naval analyst at the Congressional Research Service and an expert on shipbuilding programs, said the first ship in a new class traditionally faces significant technological challenges and cost growth.
Lead ships tend to be difficult, he said. Still, he added, the number of new technologies on this ship is not extraordinary.
Admiral Moore did not address directly the Pentagons concerns about the new launch and recovery systems but said the technology was not so futuristic that problems cannot be solved.
This isnt like a laser or a proton torpedo, he said, noting that similar power systems are used to run roller coasters at amusement parks.
But he acknowledged the amount of electric power the Navy needs to generate to launch and recover hundreds of planes each day on the deck of an aircraft carrier at sea is unique.
On the scale we are talking about, we havent done this before, he said.
The assessment also raised concerns about the progress of the so-called dual band radar that Raytheons Integrated Defense Systems and Advanced Technology division in Rhode Island is helping design.
The radar, which is currently being tested along the Virginia coast, is supposed to be able to multitask: conduct air traffic control, scan the skies and the horizon for potential threats, and gather target data that can be fed into the computers of weapons systems.
There is little information on reliability, the assessment concludes about the new radar, even though an estimated 86 percent of the systems components have already been delivered to the Navy. Raytheon did not respond to requests for comment.
Moore, however, said the Navy remains confident in the new radar, although he acknowledged that testing has been limited with the ship in port, where its full power cannot be utilized unless you want to shut down everybodys TV station in Norfolk.
Moore predicted that the ship will overcome its hurdles before it enters the fleet.
We expect to wring out the rest of the problems, Moore said. We have 26 months to go.
Early tests are raising worries that the USS Gerald R. Ford may not meet the Navys goal of significantly increasing the number of warplanes it can quickly launch and could even be less effective than older vessels.
Perhaps the karma of the name the ship was christened with might have something to do with it. A president who was never elected by the people, may be just one of the aspects that manifests itself in the problem-plagued vessel.
Having spent over 30 years in the military industrial complex I can tell you that the emphasis is no longer on producing effective highly reliable weapons. The number one goal of any company is complying with EOE requirements, diversity requirements, gay friendliness and ludicrous environmental edicts that decrease the reliability of the hardware they produce. (No cadmium plating, no lead solder, not buying from any company that uses banned processes, etc.)
When you’re hiring engineers by color or sex you’re necessarily dropping your requirements for competence.
At a former ITT division where I was on contract, I applied for a regular full-time position. I wanted to know from the HR lady if they actually used the self-identification of race for anything. She said that they needed a highly compensated black so badly that the first thing she did each morning was check to see if one had applied. I asked what would happen if I left that section blank. She said, “Then we automatically assume you’re white.”
I’ll bet you can trace every problem to a non-weapons requirement put on the contractor.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vasa (or Wasa) is a Swedish warship built 1626-1628. The ship foundered and sank after sailing about 1,300 meters (1,400 yd) into her maiden voyage on 10 August 1628. She fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century. After she was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor, she was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961. She was housed in a temporary museum called Wasavarvet ("The Wasa Shipyard") until 1987 and then moved to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. The ship is one of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions and has been seen by over 29 million visitors since 1961. Vasa has since her recovery become a widely recognized symbol of the Swedish "great power period". She is today also a de facto standard in the media and among Swedes for evaluating the historical importance of shipwrecks.
Vasa was built top-heavy and had insufficient ballast. Despite an obvious lack of stability in port, she was allowed to set sail and foundered only a few minutes after she first encountered a wind stronger than a breeze. The impulsive move to set sail was the result of a combination of factors: Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus, who was leading the army on the continent on the date of her maiden voyage, was impatient to see her join the Baltic fleet in the Thirty Years' War; at the same time, the king's subordinates lacked the political courage to discuss the ship's structural problems frankly or to have the maiden voyage postponed. An inquiry was organized by the Swedish privy council to find personal responsibility for the disaster, but in the end no one was punished for the fiasco.
During the 1961 recovery, thousands of artifacts and the remains of at least 15 people were found in and around the hull of the Vasa by marine archaeologists. Among the many items found were clothing, weapons, cannons, tools, coins, cutlery, food, drink and six of the ten sails. The artifacts and the ship herself have provided historians with invaluable insight into details of naval warfare, shipbuilding techniques and everyday life in early 17th-century Sweden. Vasa was intended to express the expansionist aspirations of Sweden and to glorify king Gustavus Adolphus. No expense was spared in decorating and equipping the Vasa, which was also one of the largest and most heavily armed warships of its time.
The military decline of America is picking up steam.
Didn’t I read somewhere that many of our parts for military planes and ships are being made in China? That would explain the bugs/sabotage!
Did a friend of the First Lady’s company build it, like they did for the Obamacare web site? A web site that costs 1/12 that of a huge aircraft carrier. LOL. Theft in plain sight and no one held to account. No wonder the country is broke.
Tie Obama into a chair and lock him onto one electro magnetic catapult, and do the same for Holder on the other. Point the ship right at the UN building in New York and launch from a distance of 100 yards.
It is likely an Earth hugging fiasco too. Most likely Global Warming criteria exceeds performance requirements.
Pray America is Waking
[USS] Gerald R Ford stumbles out of the gate, film at 11.
Yes, sadly, all of that is true.
Even more depressing than that is the general lack of proficiency in the American government. It seems that they can’t do anything right anymore. Imagine all of the large engineering programs of the past: the Panama Canal, the Manhattan Project, the space program, etc. — I doubt that they could do any of those programs today.
” I doubt that they could do any of those programs today.”
We’ve gone from a government that was probably 80% honest in 1920 to 50% honest in the 1930’s to 10% honest today. That failed healthcare website cost as much as a navy destroyer and doesn’t even work. The money went to cronies, not software. The cronies kicked back an agreed amount. That’s how it works. Everybody involved gets rich and the public gets screwed.
People are hyperventilating about this. It is a new ship, with millions of components, more than a few making their debut.
I would be astonished beyond belief if it DIDN’T have teething problems.
The M-1 Abrams tank was the worst government boondoggle of the military industrial concept ever conceived and would have Soviet tanks crushing their dead carcasses under their treads.
Funny how that turned out.
Unfair or not, the first thought I had when I read of the Gerald R. Ford was a fumbling Chevy Chase. Left wing propaganda/satire is very effective.
I have often wondered if we could build an Iowa class battleship today...and I think not. The unique, incrementally developed skills necessary to build something like that are likely lost to memory, and would have to be re-learned.
And that is just one example.
That is sobering.
I think, with the amount of money spent, many people would expect it to be battle worthy as soon as her hull hit the water.
I think this vessel will have a more complex shakedown.
The number one goal of any company is complying with EOE requirements, diversity requirements, gay friendliness and ludicrous environmental edicts that decrease the reliability of the hardware they produce.
Having also spent 30+ years at a major defence contractor, with most of the time in mgt., I fully agree with you.
One of my sections functions involved reviewing RFPs and writing proposals relative to my particular discipline. It seems that in the early-’90s, the DoD began putting in all the restrictions that required contractors to favor women/minority businesses as vendors/subcontractors, and the overwhelming rules regarding employing women/minorities in high level management positions.
Things went downhill from there. I was miserable in my last few years there and they finally cut me at age 59, while keeping me as an employee on “unpaid leave of absence” until I reached 60 and qualified for pension. In addition, they paid premiums for full medical care until age 65. Those “gifts” to me were to prevent a lawsuit in re agism, which they knew I would have won.
I’m a much more mellow person now, so I guess I have the racism and gender bias of the Federal government to thank for the fact that I will live longer!
Apologies to all for so much blather. I’ll try to do better.
Now, think about our nuclear deterrent and the aging scientists and the shrinking group of specialists who know anything about that. One day soon, there will be nobody to manage/fix that aging collection weapons. We don’t even build new nuclear plants anymore. Skill fields such as those are lost over time, if there isn’t a steady stream of new personnel.