Tony Capaccio's latest article takes aim at the LPD-17 with a focus on survivability. It is an interesting article to read, made more interesting by the fact this is the latest information based on an interview with Michael Gilmore.
The San Antonio-class vessel’s critical systems, such as electrical distribution, ship-wide fiber optics and voice- communications networks, aren’t reliable, according to Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation. The ship’s armaments can’t effectively defend against the most modern anti-ship weapons, Gilmore said.Craig Hooper notes that the the annual DOT&E report to Congress has historically only been available behind the firewall at Inside The Navy, but highlights that the reports are now available online at the DOT&E website. It looks to me like the annual reports publications page was updated in September, meaning these reports may have actually only been available to the non-ITN subscribers for about a month (I have never seen them before, but have been to that website before so I believe the availability online is new). That would explain why these new details are coming out in the broader press now even though these findings were in the 2009 annual report.
The ship is capable of operating “in a benign environment,” Gilmore said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News outlining the unclassified summary of a classified report sent to Congress in June. The vessel is “not effective, suitable and not survivable in a combat situation,” he said.
Craig Hooper is right - give credit to Michael Gilmore. The interview with Bloomberg is a smart way to communicate, but giving public access to these reports is also a good way to get Congressional attention in these types of issues that have apparently not been addressed adequately over time. I can say that because by posting the annual reports for the last 11 years - someone like me has a time line and history to draw information on programs from to track progress and activity related to DOT&E findings. For example, listed below are the sections in the annual reports related to survivability over the last 4 years. Keep in mind these are neither all the problems listed, nor do they list the successes in the reports.
- PDT&T to date has shown the ship to have credible capability to defend against small manned surface threats, but has not confirmed the capability to defend against ASCMs. The IOT&E will include a ship self-defense phase focused primarily on the ship and crew’s capability to defend against ASCMs. Currently, there are too few high-diver targets. PDT&T has identified serious integration problems with the AN/SPS-48E radar performance while enclosed in the AEM/S. The Navy is conducting an AN/SPS-48E - AEM/S characterization study. However, it is too early to determine what mitigation will be required.
- The survivability of the LPD 17 class ships should be improved over the 1970’s-era amphibious ships they will replace. The increased survivability is attributed to reduced radar cross-section signature design features, strengthened hull girder design, improved bulkhead connections, improved fragmentation protection, fire insulation at fire zone boundaries, and redundant and separated vital systems.
- Based on proposed changes in the LPD 17 schedule, there is potential that TSST will not be conducted in advance of the lead ship deployment. DOT&E believes the TSST should be done before deployment as it can provide the Navy valuable data to characterize the ship’s survivability and response to damage.
- Status of Previous Recommendations. There were no recommendations made in FY05.
- FY06 Recommendations.
- Performance of the AN/SPS-48E radar is critical to the ship’s capability to control aircraft and to defend itself. The Navy should investigate and understand the impact of the AEM/S configuration before deploying the ship.
- The Navy should conduct the TSST in close sequence with IOT&E before deploying the lead ship.
- The Navy should procure the necessary number of high-diver targets.
- PDT&T identified AN/SPS-48E radar performance degradation while enclosed in the AEM/S. PDT&T and combat system ship qualification trial have not demonstrated the capability to defend against anti-ship cruise missiles; however, the IOT&E includes a self-defense phase focused primarily on this capability.
- The survivability of the San Antonio class ships should be significantly improved over the 1970’s-era amphibious ships they will replace. The increased survivability is attributed to: reduced RCS signature design features, strengthened hull girder design, improved bulkhead connections, improved fragmentation protection, fire insulation at fire zone boundaries, and redundant and separated vital systems.
- Status of Previous Recommendations. The three recommendations made in FY06 remain valid.
- FY07 Recommendations.
- Because the AN/SPS-48E radar is critical to the ship’s capability to control aircraft and to defend itself, the Navy should correct the problem and conduct OT&E on the fix before deploying the ship.
- The Navy should aggressively resolve the shortage of high-diver ASCM targets. Deficiencies with anti-ship cruise missile targets used to test NULKA must also be resolved.
- The ship is capable of supporting C4I requirements in an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) environment; however, reliability problems observed in the SWAN and the Interior Voice Communications System degraded command and control of Marine forces. The Navy still needs to validate Information Exchange Requirements per the approved IOT&E test plan, and pursue a formal Information Support Plan approved by the Joint Staff.
- Information assurance testing revealed vulnerabilities to LPD-17 systems and networks, and the ship was unable to effectively demonstrate network detection, reaction, and restoration until installation of a shipboard Intrusion Detection System designed to help defend against network attacks.
- The ship is vulnerable against specific air and surface threats likely to be encountered by LPD-17 class ships. Testing also identified integration deficiencies with the AN/SPS-48E radar in the Advanced Enclosed Mast Structure as well as other SSDS combat system elements.
- The lack of interface between the real-time SSDS Mk 2 tactical display and the near real-time displays from the Amphibious Assault Direction System and Global Command and Control System-Maritime degrades situational awareness and increases the likelihood of misclassified contacts and potential blue-on-blue engagements.
- Major elements of LPD-17’s SSDS Mk 2 Mod 2 combat system collectively have a large number of high severity software trouble reports, increasing the likelihood of occurrence of one or more during operations.
- During the amphibious warfare phase of the IOT&E, the ship experienced system failures that significantly affected its operations and survivability.
- The SWAN experienced faults, one of which resulted in a loss of the crew’s capability to control and monitor ship equipment including navigation, propulsion, and steering in the normal mode for approximately 18 hours. Off-ship contractor technical assistance was necessary to restore the system.
- The engineering control system (ECS) and fire detection alarm system exhibited excessive false alarms and completely failed twice, resulting in the need to man additional engineering watch stations until restoration. The requirement for the crew to man additional watch stations revealed manning and training shortfalls that have implications on the ship’s capability to sustain combat operations.
- The electrical distribution system exhibited uncommanded opening of breakers and experienced a total loss of electrical power. This highlighted a continuing problem with uninterruptible power supplies, which do not provide power when required.
- The Navy’s CBRD In-Service Engineering Activity documented significant design and installation deficiencies with the Collective Protection System and Casualty Decontamination Stations. Realistic CBRD testing has not yet been accomplished.
- The survivability of the San Antonio class ships appear to be improved over the LPD class ships they will replace. However, problems encountered with critical systems during testing (particularly with the SWAN and ECS) may offset some of the survivability improvements and have highlighted serious reliability shortcomings.
- Status of Previous Recommendations. Two recommendations made in FY07 are being addressed; however, the modified target (GQM-163A Coyote) intended to represent the high-diver ASCM threat has not been flight-tested.
- FY08 Recommendations. The Navy should:
- Complete remaining IOT&E elements, including: modeling and simulation effort to support an assessment of the ship’s probability of raid annihilation requirement, an end-to-end test of the ship’s CBRD capabilities, and a demonstration of the ship’s capability to satisfy its information exchange requirements.
- Continue installing the AN/SPS-48E radar antenna corrective shroud on remaining ships of the class and complete operational testing needed to demonstrate the radar’s effectiveness inside the Advanced Enclosed Mast Structure.
- Conduct comprehensive information assurance testing during FOT&E, including testing to address privilege escalation and an assessment of LPD-17’s susceptibility to internal threats. Additionally, the Navy should re-examine protection, detection, reaction, and restoration capability after installation of an Intrusion Detection System.
- Develop, test, and field fixes to critical systems including the SWAN, ECS, and fire detection and alarm systems.
- The ship is capable of supporting Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence requirements in an ESG environment; however, reliability problems with the SWAN and the Interior Voice Communications System degrade command and control and are single points of failure during operations.
- The Navy still needs to validate critical Information Exchange Requirements and pursue a formal Information Support Plan to support a Joint Interoperability Certification.
- The LPD-17 exhibited difficulty defending itself against several widely proliferated threats, primarily due to:
- Persistent SSDS Mk 2-based system engineering deficiencies
- The ship’s RAM system provided the only hard kill capability, preventing layered air defense
- Problems associated with SPS-48E and SPQ-9B radar performance against certain Anti-Ship Cruise Missile attack profiles
- Degraded situational awareness due to Mk 46 Gun Weapon System console configuration
- LPD-17 failed to satisfy its reliability requirement during the first five hours of an amphibious assault and its total ship availability requirement during IOT&E.
- The survivability of the San Antonio class ships appear to be improved over the LPD class ships they will replace. However, problems encountered with critical systems during testing (particularly with the electrical distribution, chilled water, SWAN, and ECS) and difficulty recovering mission capability may offset some of the survivability improvements and have highlighted serious reliability shortcomings.
RecommendationsHeads Buried in Sand
- Status of Previous Recommendations. All recommendations made in FY07 and FY08 remain valid.
- FY09 Recommendations. The Navy should:
- Formally address chronic reliability problems associated with amphibious warfare support equipment, propulsion and electrical systems, critical control systems to include the SWAN and ECS, and demonstrate the efficacy of fixes during FOT&E.
- Review and investigate reoccurring INSURV deficiencies and lube oil system failures, identify related design, quality control, or training problems, and develop corrective action plans for each.
- Complete validation of critical Information Exchange Requirements and pursue completion of a Joint Interoperability Certification.
- Pursue mitigations to the identified weaknesses and longstanding system engineering problems associated with the ships ability to defend itself against threats in multiple warfare areas.
- Demonstrate the ships ability to satisfy both its reliability and total ship availability requirements during FOT&E.
- Revise the Test and Evaluation Master Plan to reflect incomplete events and recommended FOT&E from the IOT&E to include a timeline for completion.
- Correct deficiencies identified in the Naval Sea Systems Command Total Ship Survivability Trial and Full Ship Shock Trial reports.
I imagine someone in the upper echelon of the Navy chain of command is not happy with Michael Gilmore for talking directly to Tony Capaccio, but the fact is the history of these reports regarding the LPD-17 has led us to this point, and whoever is doing the complaining needs to look in the mirror first.
There are clearly issues here that raise serious questions of specific industry companies as to why they have been unable to meet requirements. There are also serious questions for the Navy though, starting with why the recommendations made by DOT&E have gone ignored for several years in a row through at least December of 2009. I think that is an interesting time frame btw, because the study of the LPD-17 class that was conducted by instruction of Admiral Harvey was completed in January 2010.
The article hits on some of the points that concern me the most.
Gilmore’s office in August told Pentagon officials the vessel demonstrated “poor reliability with critical equipment and control systems,” and an “inability to defend itself against a variety of threats.”It isn't just Raytheon though, the DOT&E 2009 report specifically mentions problems with the AN/SPQ-9 radar developed by Northrop Grumman and the SPS-48E radar developed by ITT Gilfillan. For me, that seems to be at least as big of a problem because it precludes the possibility of adding ESSM to the LPD-17 class to increase the range of its defensive ring to protect the ship from ASCMs.
Navy test data indicated the vessels demonstrated an inability to “maintain or rapidly recover mission capability” after being hit by “the variety of weapons likely to be encountered,” the testing office said.
Raytheon Co. is a subcontractor providing electronics, a fiber-optics network and an anti-missile system the testing office concluded had “persistent engineering deficiencies.”
In all, a lot of this is unacceptable and some of it goes beyond just the shipyard. LPD-17 class features networks with single points of failure that appear to be perpetually unreliable, new weapon systems that don't meet requirements, and unreliable communication and information exchange equipment - all of which piles on top of the incredible number of HM&E problems identified as a result of poor construction and shipyard practices that have had most the class sidelined.
In the context of activities that we have seen regarding the LPD-17 program since December of 2009, a lot of things are making sense. For example, one of the things ADM Harvey did when he requested the Balisle Report was have them focus on the LPD-17 class, which went above and beyond the report issued by RDML Michelle Howard back in January 2010 that focused on the LPD-17s problems.
How much difference will the additional additional attention to detail led by ADM Harvey make in improving LPD-17? It is unclear if we will know anytime soon, but the real concern is that we didn't learn about most of the LPD-17 class problems sooner.
Admiral Harvey took over Fleet Forces Command in July of 2009, and if you look over the CRS report by Ronald O'Rourke (PDF) that lists the history of construction problems from pages 17-45 (28 pages!), 10 of those pages disclose problems identified and reported over the 15 month time period since ADM Harvey took over responsibility at Fleet Forces Command. The first ship was procured in FY1996 and accepted by the Navy in June of 2005, and from June 2005 until July of 2009 - 49 months - very few of the major problems that are class-wide and often discussed today were apparently identified, or reported.
Why did everyone have to wait for Admiral Harvey to assume command of Fleet Forces Command to get the LPD-17 class problems identified and addressed realistically?
Why was ADM Jonathan Greenert, who was in charge Fleet Forces Command from September 2007 to July 2009, unable to uncover any of these issues? I think it is interesting that ADM Greenert was apparently completely oblivious to these LPD-17 class problems (nevermind fleet wide maintenance problems) and was apparently not held responsible for any of these problems since exposed by his successor. As a reward for ADM Greenert's apparent ignorance (or intentional concealment) regarding the depth of the LPD-17 class problems - he was promoted to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
I would also think there are plenty of questions for VADM Kevin McCoy who was the Chief Engineer in NAVSEA from 2005-2008 until he became commander of NAVSEA in June of 2008 - because all of the problems with LPD-17 took place while VADM McCoy was part of the leadership in NAVSEA over the last 5 years.
Problems with the LPD-17 class are similar to problems seen in other classes of ships built and maintained over the last several years, and these are problems that leadership at the time did not address and have gone on to cost the Navy billions to resolve. Noteworthy, as a reward for their work (and the problems listed in the Balisle Report is basically the resume of failure at Fleet Forces Command under ADM Greenert btw), the current CNO promoted these folks and the Senate approved those promotions. It is sad that in the country known for free speech, there would be very high costs for just about anyone who observes these things about the US Navy today, with rare exceptions like myself, because to highlight these little details about the job performance of Navy leadership would cost such an observer their job.
Screw up as a leader at sea - You're Fired! Cost the country billions while leading ashore - You're Promoted! That is my definition of a leadership culture that selectively applies accountability.