Senior US Navy officer admits ‘painful’ teething problems with USS Ford


Expert team inspects forward weapons lift aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (USN)

Posted on Jul 21, 2021 5:12 PM by

The maritime executive

In an interview given before the annual Sea-Air-Space Symposium, the senior US Navy provided an unusually candid assessment of the limitations of the older and newer platforms in the service. The first one Ticonderoga– Class cruisers, built in the 1980s, struggle to detect threats from modern missiles using nearly obsolete radar systems. Meanwhile, the all-new USS FordClass carrier – still plagued with startup technology issues, even after years of post-delivery repair work.

The Navy has long wanted to reduce its fleet by Ticonderogaclass ships. While cruisers have more vertical missile launch cells than smaller ones Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, aging Ticonderogas are expensive to maintain, and the technology behind their radar and fire control systems dates back to the Cold War. The Navy’s budget for fiscal year 2022 calls for the decommissioning of seven of the vessels this coming year.

In a webinar recorded in preparation for the conference, Gilday said the radars on these seven ships are too outdated to keep up with the modern threat environment. Some on the list are equipped with the SPY-1A radar, a first generation Aegis component that debuted in 1983. These radars “struggle to see the threat, depending on the speed and profiles we see of the missiles. threat to fly these days, ”Gilday said.

They also show signs of years of active deployment. Their average age is 32, and in some cases they experience shell cracks due to fatigue. Gilday pointed to the high-profile fuel tank cracks affecting the USS Gulf of Vella, who had to return to port twice during an active deployment for repairs. These unpredictable material condition issues increase vessel operating and modernization costs. “It has an impact on reliability. We must be able to provide the Secretary of Defense with reliable assets that he can rely on to do the business of the nation, ”he said.

Gilday has spared no criticism in his criticism of the accelerated acquisition processes that resulted in USS Gerald R. Ford. The carrier class incorporates 23 never-before-used technological advances, some of which were never fully developed on land before being installed on board.

“Ammunition elevators are an outstanding example of a painful process over the past four or five years,” said Gilday, highlighting the longstanding difficulty of obtaining Ford 11 weapon lifts in operation. At the time of Ford delivery in 2017, none of the elevators were operational, and the Navy and its contractors only managed to get seven out of 11 online in the intervening years – even after recruiting a team of external advisers and allocating 18 additional months for a makeshift bed post-commissioning.

“We really shouldn’t be introducing more than a new technology or two on a complex platform like this to make sure we keep the risk manageable,” he said. “[We need] a much more deliberate approach to introducing new technology on any platform. “


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