WASHINGTON --- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is weighing a Navy request to delay for at least six years the shock testing intended to determine how well its new $12.9 billion aircraft carrier could withstand attack.
The decision pits the Navy’s push to have an 11-carrier fleet ready to deploy as soon as possible against warnings from the Pentagon’s testing office that the USS Gerald R. Ford shouldn’t be deployed for initial combat duty until it’s gone through the tests, which involve setting off underwater charges to check the resilience of a ship’s key systems.
Mattis’s decision will be an indication of how he balances the need for rigorous weapons testing against delivering on his national defense strategy, which calls for deploying a more lethal force. In its proposed budget for fiscal 2019, the Navy removed funding for the test, which had been scheduled to start late next year.
The Ford is now scheduled to be ready for initial combat duty in 2022. The service wants to put off the shock testing and do it on the second carrier in the new class, the USS John F. Kennedy, which is scheduled for delivery in September 2024.
In a shock trial, a crew is on board, and the test isn’t intended to damage equipment. The results are used to judge vulnerabilities and design changes that may be needed. (end of excerpt)
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