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GAO Recommends US Navy Surface Fleet AOA
Aviation Week's DTI | Michael Fabey | January 25, 2012
This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

The U.S. Navy should do a "thorough analyses of alternatives (AOA) for its future surface combatant program," the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended in a report released Jan. 24.

GAO also found the Navy analysis used to restart the service's DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyer line and scuttle Navy plans for a larger, more modern DDG-1000 Zumwalt class fleet fails to justify the service's decision.

Further, GAO's report -- "Arleigh Burke Destroyers, Additional Analysis and Oversight Required to Support the Navy's Future Surface Combatant Plans" -- questions the affordability of the Navy's future destroyer and radar system programs.

The report echoes the concerns, analysis and recommendations provided in a recent exclusive series published in December by the Aviation Week Intelligence Network (AWIN).

As AWIN notes in its "Come About" series, the Navy based its DDG-51 restart decision on a still-classified hull-radar study that -- according to those involved in the study or who had read it -- was narrowly focused and skewed toward the restart decision.

Those concerns resound in GAO's report. "The Navy relied on its 2009 Radar/Hull Study as the basis to select DDG-51 over DDG-1000 to carry the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) as its preferred future surface combatant -- a decision that may result in a procurement of up to 43 destroyers and cost up to $80 billion over the next several decades," GAO notes.

But, GAO contends, "The Radar/Hull Study may not provide a sufficient analytical basis for a decision of this magnitude."

GAO cites several concerns with the Radar/Hull Study. It focuses on the capability of the radars it evaluated, but does not fully evaluate the capabilities of different shipboard combat systems and ship options under consideration.

The study does not include a thorough trade-off analysis that would compare the relative costs and benefits of different solutions under consideration or provide robust insight into all cost alternatives, auditors say.

The study also assumes a significantly reduced threat environment from other Navy analyses, which allowed radar performance to seem more effective than it may actually be against more sophisticated threats, according to the report.

GAO also cites other concerns with the restart program. "The Navy's planned production schedules of the restart DDG-51 ships are comparable with past performance and officials told us that hull and mechanical systems changes are modest," the report says. "But these ships will cost more than previous DDG-51s. A major upgrade to the ship's combat system software also brings several challenges that could affect the restart ships, due in part to a key component of this upgrade that has already faced delays."

Also, GAO says, "The Navy faces significant technical risks with its new Flight III DDG-51 ships, and the current level of oversight may not be sufficient given these risks. The Navy is pursuing a reasonable risk mitigation approach to AMDR development, but it will be technically challenging."

According to Navy analysis, GAO says, selecting the DDG-51 hullform to carry AMDR requires significant redesign and reduces the ability of these ships to accommodate future systems. This decision also limits the radar size to one that will be at best marginally effective and incapable of meeting the Navy's desired capabilities. The Navy may have underestimated the cost of Flight III.

Photo: US Navy

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Copyright 2013 Aviation Week's DTI. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

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