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A Navy Ship On Time, Budget

LCS. Huge cost overruns (OK- the Navy changed the requirements, but still). CVN 78 has EMALS issues and is struggling to contain cost growth that the Congressional Budget Office estimates may lead to a ship costing $900 million more than the Navy expects. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus knows he faces serious problems meeting the Navy's goal of a 313 ship fleet, especially in terms of cost. When he appeared before the Senate for his confirmation, Mabus promised an "intense" focus on acquisition reform.

The latest GAO information I could find -- July 31 last year -- on DDG 1000 summarized the program this way: "From the outset, DDG 1000 has faced a steep challenge framed by technical sophistication, demanding mission requirements, and a cost and schedule budget with little margin for error. The Navy has worked hard to manage the program within these competing goals," said Paul L. Francis, director of acquisition and sourcing management in testimony before the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary warfare subcommittee.

Francis included an admirable summary of the navy's shipbuilding challenges overall: "Across the shipbuilding portfolio, the Navy has had problems executing its programs within cost and schedule estimates, particularly with first-in-class ships. I see this as a mismatch between the scope of programs and the resources (time and money) allotted to execute them. For example, albeit a much simpler vessel, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program proceeded into construction with unstable designs and unrealistic cost and schedule estimates. Similarly, the Navy is proceeding with construction of the Ford-class (CVN 78) aircraft carrier as it faces problems with an enabling technology and a budget that has no margin for unanticipated problems. Cost and schedule problems in individual programs have a collective effect on the Navy’s long-range construction plans."

But Norm Polmar offers the view that the DDG 1000 is now on track and on budget. His story follows:

Amidst the Navy's leadership attempt to explain -- some would say rationalize -- the massive cost increases and delays in several major shipbuilding programs, the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) program appears to be on cost and on schedule. Writing in Navy Times, Christopher P. Cavas observes, "Often overlooked in all the chatter is that, methodically, steadily -- and even quietly -- major components of the first ship are taking shape all across the country. When ready, the parts will be shipped largely by barge and rail to the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard at Bath, Maine, where, since February, shipbuilders are welding together the steel that make up the ship's 600-foot-long hull."

Cavas interviewed DDG 1000 project manager Captain James Syring for his 17 August article, who ticked off progress on 13 major engineering development models critical to the DDG 1000, all but three of which have begun production. The status of these projects are highly significant because the DDG 1000 introduces many new systems to the fleet.

For example, development is complete on the ship's 155-mm Advanced Gun System (AGS), which will be the largest shipboard gun in the fleet. Each DDG 1000 will have two of these weapons, developed by BAE Systems, which will fire Lockheed Martin's Long-Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP). That "bullet" has a range goal of 83 nautical miles and a rate of fire of ten rounds-per-minute. The 155-mm gun weapon will partially compensate for the Navy's ignoring the surface fire support requirements. Cavas reported that in July the LRLAP was fired at a White Sands, New Mexico, test range to its threshold range of 63 nautical miles; further "tweaking" of the rocket motor's chemistry should push the shell ten miles farther, Syring said.

Another innovative feature of the DDG 1000 will be the Peripheral Vertical Launch System (PVLS), now in production at Raytheon, and seven of eight Peripheral VLS modules are being welded together at Bath. The PVLS replaces the Mark 41 VLS systems now found in U.S. missile-armed cruisers and destroyers. The Mark 41 has 25-inch VLS canisters while the PVLS will have 28-inch canisters that could permit the development of larger weapons for the DDG 1000. Reportedly, the PVLS also provides enhanced survivability against a missile hit.

A third innovative feature of the DDG 1000 will be its radar/computer capabilities. The ship will introduce the AN/SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and the AN/SPY-4 Volume Search Radar (VSR), combined with the dual-band radar, the effort led by prime contractor Raytheon. The radars have been installed together since January 2009 at the Wallops Island Engineering Center on the Virginia coast. Cavas quoted Syring saying that the SPY-3, an X-band radar, completed at-sea testing in the spring of 2008 off the California coast aboard the test ship Paul F. Foster (DD 964). The first two SPY-3 arrays for the DDG 1000 are being assembled; "Minor production issues" on the MFR have been worked through, Syring said. "We've had no operational issues." The SPY-4, an S-band radar, developed by Lockheed, is in production, and six arrays -- for the Zumwalt and also for the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) -- are under contract.

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