WASHINGTON: Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday on Tuesday conceded that the service’s choice to include almost two dozen new technologies on its latest aircraft carrier was a mistake — one he said the Navy can’t make again.
The Navy needs to take “a much more deliberate approach with respect to introducing new technologies to any platform,” he said during a pre-recorded interview published by Navy League, in advance of the annual Sea Air Space exposition. “We really shouldn’t introduce more than maybe one or two new technologies on any complex platform like that in order to make sure we keep risk at a manageable level.”
The service’s choice to introduce 23 new technologies onto the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78) has for years presented headaches, from scheduling delays and cost overruns to negative media coverage and congressional hearings with lawmakers infuriated by the latest Government Accountability Office or Congressional Budget Office reports about the ship class.
One of the most prolific examples are the weapons elevators, a capability that has been marked by an arduous testing and delivery process dragged out over several years; the service currently stands at seven of 11 elevator deliveries completed. “The ammunition elevators are an exceptional example of a painful process over the past four or five years,” the CNO said.
One of the primary drivers for those headaches, by the service’s own admission, was the lack of land-based testing sites prior to bringing the technology onboard the carrier. In recognition of that, Gilday said the service has fiscal 2021 dollars dedicated to land-based testing sites for its new Constellation-class frigates.
The idea that so many technologies onboard a new ship class was problematic isn’t new. Analysts and industry, whom Gilday said he believes “is in full agreement” with the service, have taken shots at the Navy for every cost overrun and schedule delay Ford has had.
But the admission coming directly from the CNO is significant and could foreshadow a shift in how Gilday will lead the Navy as it prepares for future capabilities, such as hypersonic weapons being placed on destroyers or the raft of unmanned vehicles the service hopes to field throughout the next decade.
Brent Sadler, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation focused on the Navy, said Gilday’s comments were encouraging and that the choice to introduce so many new technologies to the Ford “strained good engineering planning sense and the Navy is still living with the consequences.”
“While the admission is good, hopefully it is an indication needed action to remedy the root causes of this are coming,” he added.
Bryan Clark, a naval analyst at the Hudson Institute, also said he agreed with Gilday’s assessment about the Ford, noting the service initially planned to incorporate new technologies incrementally, but that approach “was insufficiently transformational for the [Donald] Rumsfeld team” in the Office of the Secretary Defense. That pressure led the Navy to more rapidly onboard new capabilities to avoid the program being truncated, he said.
Clark added the Navy had been going down similar paths on other programs such as the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle and Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle, but is now shifting towards more incremental approaches to those systems as well.
CNO: Too Much New Tech On Ford Was A Mistake – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Justin Katz for breakingdefense.com