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06 Feb 20. Here’s how much money the Pentagon found through internal savings — and where it’s going. Acting Pentagon Chief Management Office Lisa Hershman shares details on reforms being worked out at the department. The Department of Defense has identified $5.7 bn in funding that will be reallocated from current offices towards new priorities such as hypersonic weapons and artificial intelligence, department officials revealed Wednesday.
The money, colloquially referred to as “savings” found through efficiencies, is part of an internal review process of the department’s so-called fourth-estate offices, which include all the defense agencies not associated with either a service or a combatant command.
As part of that reallocation, expect a “significant” change in the Missile Defense Agency’s R&D investments and changes to an agency monitoring nuclear programs around the world, officials told reporters.
The review process was launched by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper after he took office last summer as part of several attempts to focus the department’s energy and dollars on the National Defense Strategy. This effort is largely independent of the review looking at force posture in the combatant commands.
Fourth estate agencies account for roughly $99bn in funds in the fiscal year 2021 budget, meaning the $5.7bn in savings represent about 5.8 percent of the overall budget for those offices. Another $2.1bn was transferred out of the fourth estate and into the services. However, no personnel will be involuntarily terminated from their jobs; any personnel reductions are planned to come from expected retirements.
The funds will be redirected to the following areas:
- Nuclear modernization
- Space priorities, including the establishment of the U.S. Space Force
- Missile defense, with funds going towards a “multi-layered approach to homeland missile defense” and the development of the Next Generation Interceptor
- Hypersonic weapons, with the review providing for a “major increase in this investment” in both FY21 and the following years
- Artificial intelligence, with review funds “significantly” accelerating investment in AI for “maneuver, intelligent business automation and logistics, war fighter health analysis and intelligence data processing”
- 5G communications technologies, with money going towards providing test facilities for 5G prototyping
- Response force readiness, part of Esper’s plan to have forces that can rapidly respond to issues around the globe with a flexible posture
A trio of senior defense officials, speaking on background ahead of Monday’s budget release, briefed reporters on the findings. The officials avoided sharing specific details of where the money was coming from, or how much of the savings are being rolled into specific areas of interest, due to sensitivities with the budget rollout next week. They also declined to say how these savings might reflect over the Future Years Defense Program, a five-year projection included in the department’s budget request.
Missile defense changes
The officials said that there were over 130 decisions made that combined for the total; some saved a hundred thousand dollars, and others saved millions. And the officials gave four large-scale examples of the kind of work that has led to the $5.7bn.
The first is right-sizing 50 medical treatment facilities by studying the workloads and shrinking or growing the capacity at those locations based on what work is actually needed. Another comes from transferring all remaining storage, supply and distribution missions to the Defense Logistics Agency, something that was a left-over requirement from the 2005 BRAC effort which should lead to savings via economies of scale.
A chart showing the five categories of fourth-estate offices, how much their budget is expected to be, and how much in savings have been found as part of the defense wide review. (DoD)
A third example comes from reducing the number of operations run through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program, which was stood up to track and monitor weapons of mass destruction. While CTR will continue to monitor potential threats like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, it was also running a number of programs tracking the work on chemical or nuclear programs from allied nations, one official said — requiring dollars and assets that could be better put to use studying and countering potential threats.
“What we found when we dug into it [is] it had expanded,” the official said. “This has really turned into partnership building, capacity building far beyond the CTR mission. So then we had to ask the question in those areas, is that more impotent than hypersonics? In a lot of those cases we said no, hypersonics is more important than that.”
A fourth example, perhaps the most eye-catching, comes from the Missile Defense Agency, with the official saying a line-by-line review of MDA led to a decision to “divest significant legacy capabilities.”
The review gave MDA an “opportunity to go through and look at some of the investments they are making that are really targeted at things that had either lessened in importance or were declining, and really realign funding to the new threats,” the official said, hinting that a major focus is in changing where MDA dollars are going to R&D as opposed to buying equipment needed now, including on technologies focused on discrimination of threats.
“We could really start to say, what about bringing together some of the things we’ve been doing at the regional level into a new underlay,” the official added. “And we said, the ability to shoot down actual missiles and putting more capability on the ground to shoot down missiles was a higher priority than some of the advanced R&D work which was really taking us from an already good capability to a really exquisite capability.”
Esper has already tasked officials to continue the review in FY22, with a plan of finding more savings.
Part of the plan for finding more savings comes from Esper empowering Lisa Hershman, the department’s chief management officer, to take a more active role in shaping the budgets of the fourth estate agencies into something that looks more similar to how the services operate.
When a service puts together its budget, it goes through an internal process, where decisions about tradeoffs between offices and programs are fought over before a service secretary makes a final decision and moves the budget up to the secretary of defense level. However, the fourth estate agencies do not currently go through such a process — they drop their budgets at the same time as the services do, without that broad overview of a service secretary.
Going forward, Esper has ordered Hershman to act as, essentially, a service secretary for the fourth estate offices, overseeing their budget development process before presenting a unified budget alongside the services. Doing so should provide better oversight on the process and ensure savings going forward, the officials said.
“We can make the defense wide account balanced, so we’re not getting a bill from MDA and passing it to the services or taking a bill from MDA and saying [others] have to pony up,” the first official said.
However, to find more savings down the road, actual reductions may have to happen. Asked if personnel reductions could come during the FY22 review, all three officials used some version of this phrase: “All options are on the table.” Similarly, a second official said that while no agencies were limited to this round, that could not be ruled out in FY22.
And asked whether there is another $5.7 bn to be found in the remaining parts of the fourth estate, the first official carefully said “I think the secretary thinks it’s repeatable.” (Source: Defense News)
06 Feb 20. Esper Discusses 2 Years of National Defense Strategy Efforts. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper returned to the venue where the National Defense Strategy was unveiled two years ago to discuss how the Defense Department is implementing it.
Esper spoke today at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies’ Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies in Washington.
The National Defense Strategy outlines the plan to maintain a competitive U.S. advantage in a new era of great-power competition with Russia and China, Esper said. To meet that challenge, he said, DOD is modernizing its forces, experimenting with new technologies that ensure battlefield success, and reforming the way the department does business to ensure taxpayer dollars are aligned with the strategy’s priorities, such as artificial intelligence, a 5G network, hypersonic weapons and modernization of the nuclear triad.
To free up funds for these and other priorities, the secretary said, he directed a new initiative called the Defense Wide Review. “Over the course of four months, we examined $99bn in appropriated resources across the Fourth Estate, which is comprised of roughly 50 DOD organizations outside of the military departments,” he said. “Ultimately, this process generated over $5bn in savings. The majority of it came from reductions to legacy activities that don’t adequately support NDS requirements, as well as decreasing overhead and shedding lower priority programs.”
To bolster the department’s National Defense Strategy alignment, Esper said, the department is continuing to build strong relationships with allies and partners. For example, he said nations in the Indo-Pacific region recognize better than anyone the threats posed by a rising China, and share the DOD’s desire to uphold international norms and values.
On the other side of the globe, the secretary said, DOD is working to strengthen bonds with European allies who see Russia as a threat and are now becoming more and more aware of the threat China poses, as well.
“A ready and capable NATO is vital to our collective security, and we are pleased to see member states increasing their investments to advance burden sharing,” he said.
This year, Esper said, the department is launching a review of all combatant commands to identify opportunities to rebalance troops, missions and resources in support of the National Defense Strategy.
The secretary said the administration and Congress have been especially supportive of the department’s efforts at modernization, readiness and reform. In turn, he added, he has provided them with information and transparency to show efforts to align with the National Defense Strategy, ensure national security, and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
Esper said the well-being of service members and their families is a high priority. “These men and women are the backbone of our national security,” he said, “and it is our duty to ensure they and their families are cared for, so that they can focus on their mission.”(Source: US DoD)
05 Feb 20. Does the defense-industrial base deserve a passing grade? America’s defense-industrial base remains a global leader, but there are warning signs on the horizon, claims a new study from a leading industry association.
The National Defense Industrial Association gives a “mediocre ‘C’ grade” for the health of America’s defense industry, reflecting “a stressed defense industrial base that is trending negative.” The finding is part of a new “Vital Signs” report, envisioned as the first in an annual series looking at the health of the defense-industrial base.
The report, done in conjunction with government data firm Govini, serves as a follow-on to a White House-mandated report on the same topic, which was released in October 2018.
“The U.S. defense industrial base is better than the rest, but its health and readiness present several areas in need of improvement — even during a time of cyclical expansion,” the report claims. “Flattening budgets and growing international competition for defense-related sales will likely challenge that position going forward.”
In a statement, retired Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of NDIA, said: “The United States and China are locked in a war for industrial supremacy unlike any struggle in our history, which necessitated this report. China is closing the research and development gap the United States narrowly enjoys, so knowing the full measure of the defense industrial base to monitor and counter this rival is paramount for our nation’s continued security.”
Of particular concern is industrial security, such as the protection of intellectual property and ensuring cybersecurity, which NDIA says is deteriorating year over year. Notably, the report comes just days after the U.S. Defense Department formally unveiled its new cybersecurity requirements for defense contractors; however, those requirements will take years to implement.
Another concern is the people who build defense systems, with NDIA putting the size of the defense-related workforce around 1.1 million, “substantially below its mid-1980s peak size of 3.2 million.” A major issue that has been identified in industrial base reports from the Pentagon in recent years concerns the age of that workforce, but NDIA also notes the security clearance process may be turning individuals away from defense-related jobs.
But there is plenty of good news for defense contractors in the near term, with major companies raking in billions of dollars in profits every year. Positives for the industry include “the availability of cash assets, the low level of market concentration of total contract award dollars, the relatively low share of total contract award dollars received by foreign contractors, and the high level of capital expenditures,” according to the study.
Demand for U.S. defense goods remains strong both domestically and with allies and partners, with total contract obligations issued by the Pentagon growing from $306.7bn in 2016 to $368.7bn in 2018.
“Acquisition expenditures also grew in all categories, rising by 11% for aircraft, ships, and land vehicles; by 33% for electronic and communication equipment; by 35% for weapons and ammunition; by 39% for sustainment; and 23% for knowledge-based services,” the study reports. “In the same way, foreign military sales (FMS) in aircraft, ships, and land vehicles grew by 113% between 2016 and 2018 while related services grew by 100%.” (Source: Defense News)
06 Feb 20. Lockheed Martin responds to concerns about Pentagon-identified F-35A issues. Following a revelatory report by the Pentagon’s Robert Behler, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), that revealed hundreds of “unresolved deficiences” with the F-35, Lockheed Martin has responded.
For reference, the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation: FY2019 Annual Report conducted by Behler, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), revealed “873 unresolved deficiencies” with multibillion-dollar platform.
Behler’s report into the F-35 program stated, “Although the program is working to fix deficiencies, new discoveries are still being made, resulting in only a minor decrease in the overall number of deficiencies.
“There are many significant deficiencies that should be addressed to ensure the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) baseline configuration is stable prior to introducing the large number of new capabilities planned in Block 4.”
Most startling of which is the revelation that airframes of the Lot 9 build and subsequent lot builds have experienced cracks in the outer mold-line coatings and the underlying chine longeron skin, located near the 25mm gun muzzle of the F-35A variant.
In response, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson told Defence Connect, “The F-35 continues to mature and is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter in the world. The warfighter identifies the F-35 capabilities as game changing, transforming the way our men and women in uniform conduct operations.
“Last year, Lockheed Martin delivered 134 aircraft, exceeding our commitment of 131, while continuing to drive down unit costs and cost per flying hour. Reliability continues to improve, with the global fleet averaging greater than 65 per cent mission capable rates and operational units consistently performing near 75 per cent. Soon we will deliver our 500th aircraft, train the 1,000th F-35 pilot and surpass 250,000 flight hours.”
Regarding concerns about the continued use of the F-35A variant’s main 25mm gun impacting the low observable skins of the F-35A and issues relating to the accuracy of the weapon system, the Lockheed Martin spokesperson explained:
“The F-35 enterprise has made significant progress regarding the F-35 gun since the data used for the DOT&E report. In the F-35A integral gun, we have implemented software updates and installed a field gun alignment aid to ensure proper gun barrel position. We tested this in December and the results were improved accuracy.”
The Lockheed Martin spokesperson added, “It should be noted that the B and C models carry a LO belly gun pod mounted on centerline and had no barrel alignment issues. As for the software on all variants, conversion conditions and algorithms were reviewed. Updated conversions have been implemented in the software and the corrected software has been delivered to the field.
“It remains the warfighter’s choice when to update to the newest software. This software provides improved precision, further highlighting the value of agile software implementation. We knew the complexity of incorporating a gun on a high performance aircraft would be a challenge, but we are confident in the steps we’ve taken and the progress we’ve made.”
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is billed as a catalyst for the fifth-generation revolution, changing the face and capability of the Royal Australian Air Force and the wider Australian Defence Force.
For the RAAF, the F-35A’s combination of full-spectrum low-observable stealth coatings and materials, advanced radar-dispersing shaping, network-centric sensor and communications suites – combined with a lethal strike capability – means the aircraft will be the ultimate force multiplying, air-combat platform.
The F-35A – the variant chosen by the RAAF – will have a projected life of 30 years in service. Ten nations are currently flying F-35s, including the US, UK, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan.
The first of Australia’s F-35A aircraft are now based on home soil after a period of training and development at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US, plus an epic Pacific Ocean crossing in December 2018.
More than 340 F-35s are operating today with partner nations, more than 700 pilots and 6,500 maintainers have been trained, and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 170,000 cumulative flight hours.
Over the coming years, Australia will purchase 72 of the advanced fifth-generation fighter aircraft as part of the $17bn AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B program – which is aimed at replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets that have been in service with the RAAF since 1985.
The full report into the F-35 program is available herehttps://www.dote.osd.mil/Portals/97/pub/reports/FY2019/dod/2019f35jsf.pdf?ver=2020-01-30-115432-173 (Source: Defence Connect)
05 Feb 20. Readiness, Safety Top Priorities of Navy, Marine Corps. The readiness of sailors and Marines, along with ensuring their safety, is the premier concern of leadership of the two sea services, senior officials from both services said at a joint hearing of two House Armed Services Committee subcommittees.
Navy Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation, testified today at a hearing of the seapower and projection forces and readiness subcommittees that focused on the Pacific region.
In response to lawmakers’ questions on safety and accident concerns, Brown said commanders at all levels embrace the standards and responsibilities associated with safety.
“There is one unified standard for ensuring readiness,” Brown said. “Our manning, training and equipping are unambiguous. We only deploy ships that have the required manning, are fully certified and have the necessary materiel readiness.”
Brown said the Navy conducted a strategic readiness review and implemented safety compliance and risk-management measures. “We undertook measures to enhance the development, assessment and sustainment of proficiency,” he said.
The Navy will also more effectively balance maintenance training with operations, he added.
“While not declaring mission complete, over the last two years the pace of enhancements and their initial results are a cause for optimism,” he said, referring to efforts to increase safety and reduce accidents.
Rudder said the Marine Corps is invested in providing transparency with regard to accidents, and that all of its findings would be provided to lawmakers, the public and families of those killed or injured in accidents.
The tempo of Marine Corps aviation operations around the globe has been high, Rudder noted, adding that this is not an excuse for accidents. In 2019, Marine Corps aviation executed 78 operations, were part of 88 major security cooperation events with partners and allies, and conducted 170 major exercises, he said.
Today, more than 19,000 aviation Marines are forward-stationed and 17,000 are forward-deployed, totaling 19% of the active-duty force engaged in 60 countries. Forward-stationed means assigned to an overseas base, while forward-deployed means being assigned to a base in the United States, but being overseas.
“The Marine Corps is the nation’s expeditionary force in readiness,” Rudder said. “We are charged and expected to always be the most ready when the nation is least ready. This responsibility is at the very core and identity of Marines.” (Source: US DoD)
04 Feb 20. Trump Touts Military Rebuilding, Space Force, Strikes Against Terror. The rebuilding of the U.S. military, the creation of the U.S. Space Force and attacks on terrorists were among the topics President Donald J. Trump covered in his State of the Union address.
“Our military is completely rebuilt, with its power being unmatched anywhere in the world — and it is not even close,” the president said in the nationally televised report to Congress last night.
Trump said the military is feeling the effects of $2.2trn invested in the services since he took office in 2017. “We have purchased the finest planes, missiles, rockets, ships, and every other form of military equipment — all made in the United States of America,” he said.
He also touted his efforts to get allies to increase their defense spending. “I have raised contributions from the other NATO members by more than $400bn, and the number of allies meeting their minimum obligations has more than doubled,” the president said.
Trump also spoke of the creation of the first new armed service since 1947: the U.S. Space Force. While it is a new service, he said, it will build on American traditions and accomplishments. He pointed out 13-year-old Iain Lanphier, an eighth-grader from Arizona, who aspires to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy and then into space.
“Sitting beside Iain tonight is his great hero,” Trump said. “Charles McGee was born in Cleveland, Ohio, one century ago. Charles is one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen — the first black fighter pilots — and he also happens to be Iain’s great-grandfather.”
Trump pointed out gains made against radical Islamic terrorism. He noted that when he took office the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria held more than 20,000 square miles of territory in the Middle East. “Today, the ISIS territorial caliphate has been 100 percent destroyed, and the founder and leader of ISIS — the bloodthirsty killer [Abu Bakr] al‑Baghdadi — is dead,” he said.
The president also discussed the motivation for killing Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani last month, citing the killing of Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake in Iraq in 2008 as part of the reason he ordered the strike.
The sergeant was killed by weapons from Tehran provided by Soleimani, Trump said. “Soleimani was the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq,” he said. “As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women and children. He directed the December assault on United States forces in Iraq and was actively planning new attacks. That is why, last month, at my direction, the United States military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever.”
“Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life,” the president said.
Trump called on the Iranian regime to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, stop spreading terror, death and destruction, and start working for the good of its people. “Because of our powerful sanctions, the Iranian economy is doing very poorly,” he said. “We can help them make it very good in a short period of time, but perhaps they are too proud or too foolish to ask for that help. We are here. Let’s see which road they choose. It is totally up to them.”
Trump said “tremendous progress” is taking place in Afghanistan and that peace talks with the Taliban are underway. “I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them innocent,” he said. “It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency. [U.S. service members] are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all. We are working to finally end America’s longest war and bring our troops back home.” (Source: US DoD)
05 Feb 20. Will Trump’s landmine policy reversal make a difference? Trump’s decision to loosen rules on the use of landmines and give combatant commanders more control is the latest step-back from international conventions, but it will likely make little difference on the battlefield.
Last week, US President Donald Trump rescinded policy governing the use of anti-personnel landmines (APL) in favour of a new US landmine policy to be overseen by the Department of Defence (DoD).
Previously, rules meant that the US was restricted from using APLs outside of the Korean peninsula. Under the new rules combatant commanders in ‘exceptional circumstances’ can employ anti-personnel mines.
A White House statement on the decision said: “As part of President Donald J. Trump’s steadfast commitment to ensuring our forces are able to defend against any and all threats, the President has cancelled the Obama Administration’s policy to prohibit United States military forces from employing anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula.
“The Department of Defence has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama Administration’s policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries. The President is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops.”
The decision the White House said was part of Trump’s ongoing ‘rebuilding’ of the US military and part of the administration’s plans “to give our military the flexibility and capability it needs to win.”
However, the rollback of regulations will likely not make much of a difference to the way the US approaches conflict, according to Royal United Services Institute Land Warfare Fellow Jack Watling.
Watling told Army Technology said: “If we think about how we fight, landmines are not a central part of our doctrine. The US has not signed the convention on landmines because it has a number of potential static defences that it sees as requiring landmines to deny ground, Korea being the most obvious example.
“Removal of the restrictions on commanders using them is an interesting one because there hasn’t really been a request from services or military commanders to employ landmines, and I don’t think we’re going to see them employed.
“Not least for the reason I mentioned, that in most of the fights that we’re looking at today, we prioritise mobility and our opponents are usually defending static areas and therefore they don’t have mobility problems that we would try and inhibit.”
Land mines are most often used as a means of denying movement to ground forces by blocking off large areas of the battlefield; this has the benefit of slowing an adversary’s movements and funnelling them into areas where artillery or other fires can be used to engage them from a distance.
Watling explained: “If you are manoeuvring across a front and you hit minefields, you are going to essentially bunch into the areas where the mines are not, and move faster through areas that are not mined, which means that you can then be shaped and moved into areas that can be targeted with artillery and crossfire and so forth.
“It’s a way of shaping how people move across the battlefield. It’s very effective; however, there are a number of downsides. The first from a military point of view is that it also denies your own movement and you don’t necessarily know when you’re going to be needing to cross ground again. “Battlefields are pretty fluid places and so, in that sense, they are also a counter-mobility inhibitor of your own manoeuvre.”
For large and mobile militaries like that of the US, the ability of the force to use speed and flexibility while engaging an enemy force means that closing off access to large areas of the battlefield can become counter-intuitive.
Ahead of the public release of the decision last week, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said: “I would just say this much; landmines are one of very many other important tools that our commanders need to have available to them on the battlefield, to shape the battlefield and to protect our forces.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that we have all the tools in our toolkit that are legally available and effective to ensure our success and to ensure the protection of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.”
The DoD later said that despite the decision to give commanders more flexibility to use landmines, the US is still dedicated to global demining efforts and that the policy decision will not lead to a reduction in US demining efforts or ‘exacerbate’ the problem of unexploded munitions.
Performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, Vic Mercado said: “The Department of Defense’s new policy allows planning for and use of APL in future potential conflicts, including outside the Korean Peninsula, while continuing to prohibit the operational use of any “persistent” landmines [landmines without a self-destruct/self-deactivation function].
“Under this policy, if combatant commanders authorise the use of landmines in a major combat situation, those landmines will include the aforementioned safeguards that will prevent them from being a threat to civilians after a conflict ends.”
The decision from the US falls into a wider trend from the Trump administration of moving some military decisions away from the President and to the lower levels of the military and fits with the administration’s move to pull away from other international conventions on military matters.
Watling explained: “There’s also been a persistent pattern in the Trump administration to delegating authorities to combatant commanders, so they no longer operate a kill list, managed by the National Security Council for UAV strikes. That’s pushed down to combatant commanders.
“There were a whole range of things. The use of cluster munitions is something that they have pushed down again to theatre commanders and so I think this is consistent with the general trend that they haven’t signed anything saying they won’t use them. And from Trump’s point of view, he prefers to leave these decisions at a lower level of command.” (Source: army-technology.com)
03 Feb 20. Testing suggests the US Navy’s $13bn supercarrier isn’t ready to defend itself in combat. The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of US Navy aircraft carrier, may not yet be ready to defend itself in combat, a new report revealed.
- The Pentagon’s weapons testing office reported three critical combat systems on the Ford had “limitations and deficiencies” that “reduce the overall self-defense capability of the ship.”
- These combat capabilities are “necessary to defend the Ford class carriers,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former Navy officer, told Insider.
The USS Gerald R. Ford — the US Navy’s $13bn supercarrier that is over budget and behind schedule — may not be ready to defend itself in combat, according to the latest assessment from the Pentagon’s testing and evaluation office.
Testing aboard a test ship revealed deficiencies and limitations with three important combat systems, namely the SLQ‑32(V)6 electronic warfare system, the SPY-3 Multi‑Function Radar (MFR), and the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), the Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) reported.
“These deficiencies and limitations reduce the overall self-defense capability of the ship,” DOT&E explained in its report.
During developmental tests, the MFR and CEC “failed to maintain directions and tracks for one of the threat surrogates in the multi-target raid,” and the SLQ-32(V)6 electronic surveillance system “demonstrated poor performance that prompted the Navy to delay additional operational tests until those problems could be corrected,” the testing office revealed.
The US Navy only conducted only one of the four planned CVN-78 self-defense test ship (SDTS) tests. “If the Navy does not conduct all of the remaining events, testing will not be adequate to assess the operational effectiveness of the CVN 78 combat system,” the report explained.
The Navy’s self-defense test ships are usually a decommissioned vessel that has been turned into a testing platform for various combat systems for newer vessels.
In the case of the three problematic systems, the Navy would have run them through different scenarios aboard the test ship to see how they track, manage, and communicate to other systems about specific targets.
As Bloomberg, which first reported on the Ford’s self-defense setbacks, wrote, the various self-defense capabilities of a carrier are important, especially given rising concerns about their vulnerability to stand-off weapons, such as anti-ship missiles.
“Those three systems are intended to provide the self-defense function for the carrier,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former Navy officer, told Insider.
“The SLQ-32 is designed to detect active missile radars and also jam them,” he explained, adding that this system can inform the Ford’s self-defense capabilities, such as the Rolling Airframe Missiles and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and close-in guns.
“The multifunction radar is supposed to pick up that contact,” he added. “And, then that gets passed by the CEC to maybe a nearby ship that can help figure out how to engage the target.”
These combat capabilities, Clark told Insider, are “necessary to defend the Ford class carriers. But, also, if it doesn’t work right, it is missing a huge opportunity to be able to be part of a battle network as opposed to simply being the defended asset.”
The Navy’s older Nimitz-class carriers have limited sensor capabilities and are very dependent on the cruisers and destroyers that escort them for radar tracking and missile defense.
“The Ford has improved sensors,” he explained, “that should be able to at least detect potential threats or be a part of the network of sensors that is detecting threats and share that information. So, if these systems can’t work together, then the Navy misses out on a lot of the investments they made in self-defense for the Ford.” (Source: Defense News Early Bird/https://www.businessinsider.com/)————————————————————————-
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