WASHINGTON --- As shipbuilder Bath Iron Works laid the keel for the third and final destroyer of the DDG-1000 class, the Navy and industry were struggling to understand embarrassing breakdowns on the first ship, the USS Zumwalt. Congress fears there could be worse to come. “The hard work hasn’t really begun yet in terms of delivering the capability of the ship,” frets one Hill staffer. “We don’t even know really what we don’t know yet about the combat systems because they hadn’t done testing.”
The root cause of the problems may be something with which the F-35 program is very familiar: concurrency, developing and testing a weapon system at the same time. On DDG-1000, there are months of testing still to come even as the third ship, the future Lyndon Baines Johnson, is nearly 60 percent complete (in the form of pre-assembled modules yet to be attached to the keel). “There’s definitely a lot of concurrency,” the staffer said. “It’ll be two more years before combat systems delivery occurs, and then the ship can begin IOT&E (Initial Operational Test & Evaluation) and starting the training cycle to deploy.”
Naval Sea Systems Command is still working out the root causes of engine breakdowns that, among other things, required the $4 billion ship to be towed out of the Panama Canal. But that’s the easy part. What failed in Panama was a relatively simple component called a lube oil cooler, something ships have used “since Noah had an ark,” lamented NAVSEA’s commander, Vice Adm. Thomas Moore.
What the Navy has yet to test — indeed, what the Navy has yet to turn on as a single, integrated, ship-wide system — is the ship’s far more complex array of unique, high-tech combat systems:
-- the “integrated fight-through power” system to distribute the ship’s massive amount of electrical power to the highest-priority equipment while re-routing around battle damage, a lot like the fictional starship Enterprise;
-- the two 155 mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) cannon, designed to fire rocket-propelled precision shells that proved so costly the Navy is looking at cheaper but shorter-ranged replacements;
-- the AN/SPY-3 radar, which is new to the Zumwalt destroyers and the similarly troubled carrier USS Ford; and
-- the unique ship-wide computer system meant to control it all, the Total Ship Computing Environment Infrastructure, with over five million lines of code, based on open-source Linux software.
Even when the Zumwalt appears to resemble earlier classes, it’s significantly different. For instance, the Mk 57 Vertical Launch System that allows the Zumwalt to fire a wide variety of missiles is slightly different than the Mk 41 VLS on the Navy’s mainstay warship, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke class. In particular, the Zumwalt‘s missile tubes are squeezed in around the periphery of the ship, rather than forming one easy-to-load central block as on an Arleigh Burke.
“The combat system testing is a significant concern, since so much of it is new,” said Bryan Clark, a retired Navy commander now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments. “The Mk57 VLS launcher, AGS, SPY-3, and volume search radar are all unique to DDG-1000. While each system has been tested individually to some degree, the integration testing of all these new systems is likely to identify unforeseen problems, and subsequent delays in the ship’s first deployment.” (end of excerpt)
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