Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Skunk at the Big-Z Party

Yes, you know you were waiting for it ... so here we go.

Well, the last 24-hrs have been fun with all the wowing and carrying on now that DDG-1000 is displacing water.

No need to go through the entire catalog, feel free to click the DDG-1000 tag to review.
There was no band. No streamers. No champagne.

The Navy's stealthy Zumwalt destroyer floated out of dry dock without fanfare Monday night and into the waters of the Kennebec River, where the warship will remain dockside for final construction.

The largest destroyer ever built for the Navy, the Zumwalt looks like no other U.S. warship, with an angular profile and clean carbon fiber superstructure that hides antennas and radar masts.

"The Zumwalt is really in a league of its own," said defense consultant Eric Wertheim, author of the "The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World."
The NavyTimes article yesterday was actually one of the better ones out there ... and it had a few Easter eggs that had me chuckling, especially Eric's quote above. Yes, the Pocket Battleship sized warship is, ahem, as the French might say, special.

I love all the stealthy comments ... just a few paragraphs after the "s" word above, we have this moment of truth;
"It's absolutely massive. It's higher than the tree line on the other side. It's an absolutely huge ship — very imposing. It's massively dominating the waterfront," said Amy Lent, executive director of the Maine Maritime Museum, who watched the process from her office down river from the shipyard.
As we have said from day 1, even if it wasn't leaking all sorts of electronic noise from communication and "networking" activity, just the size of her makes any thought of "stealth" just silly. Amy is my hero.
The big ship was supposed to be christened with a bottle of Champagne crashed against its bow by the two daughters of the late Adm. Elmo "Bud" Zumwalt, but the ceremony earlier this month was canceled because of the partial federal government shutdown.
Well, there you go. Yea Navy.

On a serious note, and there are some reasons to be a fan of DDG-1000, John Young's lament over at DefenseNews is worthy of a careful read, but there are some bones to pick there, as this ship deserves no hagiography.
Skeptics were concerned about a ship that relied on several new technologies: automated fire suppression to enable smaller crews, electric drive for fuel efficiency and electrical power, stealth, acoustic quieting, infrared suppression, etc. However, the DD(X) program — before its name was changed to DDG 1000 — was well-structured and relied on engineering development models for all of the key systems.

Despite projections from critics, DDG 1000 has delivered multiple new technologies without the cost growth associated with other DoD development programs. The program has confirmed the importance of techno­lo­gy maturation and prototyping.
Guilty. Putting all our chips on those odds was an irresponsible gamble with the taxpayer dollars, future Fleet sustainability, and Fleet operational risk. To just accept all that technology risk in one platform? One where we ignored decades of experience that taught us to build a little test a little learn a lot, and we did not operationally test any of it on existing ships before committing to the program? No. It should not stand.

It is the height of hubris to believe your own PPT. Just the crew issue is enough to CANX the entire ship. We are already seeing the foolishness of small crews on LCS and are growing size already to meet those needs. A Graf Spee sized ship with that kind of crew? What if it is given a deployment like the 11-month USS New Jersey (BB-62) had off Beirut? Good googly moogly; a h311 ship that would be from a habitability standpoint, not to mention basic maintenance.

It does not deliver anything John, it promises. Hull-1 has another ~18-months until we can start to test anything under operational conditions.
Operational requirement. Many people questioned the utility of a gunship in modern warfare. Advocates promoted smaller ships for interdiction and coastal missions while others focused on sea-based missile defense. These discussions culminated in a meeting between Navy Secretary Gordon England, Clark, Defense Undersecretary Edward Aldridge and myself, which birthed the coherent long-term plan for LCS, DD(X) and CGX.

Importantly, DD(X) would provide the defensive support needed in littoral environments by a lower-cost littoral combat ship (LCS) with no defensive capability. The DD(X) hull would also evolve into a future cruiser.
The operational requirement for the 155mm is solid and good, people who question it are just being pigheaded in the face of experience. Every naval engagement, including anti-piracy and the operations off Libya have shown the utility of the gun. You won't find an argument here. 

As for the future cruiser, Shipmate, DDG-1000 is a CL; you have your cruiser. Anti-air cruiser based on the hull and power plant ... yes, that was discussed. Nothing another universe's shipbuilding budget wouldn't fix. We need the gun, we didn't need all that other technology risk to go along with it.
The plan was largely derailed by a coalition of pundits who bear no responsibility for the nation’s future naval capability and garner attention through sensational forecasts.
The course change undermined a coherent, long-term naval strategy that sought to provide the Navy with the capability to execute missions in a hostile littoral environment, to evolve to a fleet of more survivable and capable cruisers, and to sustain a stable industrial base. Sensational projections about DD(X) technical risk and cost have proved inaccurate.

There may still be time for the Navy to review these decisions as they learn from the highly capable new DDG 1000 destroyer.
Everyone has a responsibility for the nation's future naval capability - and planning a sub-optimal Tiffany Navy is a sure way to shrink a Fleet. LCS, DDG-1000, LPD-17 ... what about these ship programs make sense in the budgetary environment we are going to face for the next two decades? Do we even need to discuss other design issues with the hull's ability to sustain damage in the "hostile littorals" given the significant historical record of tumblehome designs historical and modern?

Young makes some very good points about the industrial base, but that too is the fault of the Lost Decade of wishing for a Tiffany Navy with Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams.

Good people can disagree about DDG-1000, but in many ways it is a touchtone of how things should not be done, and canceling it at 3 hulls was the right call. The Terrible 20s will be bad enough without the risk of having a suboptimal big ship (DDG-1000) matched up with a suboptimal smallish ship (LCS).

All three ships of this class will be test platforms for new technology. That is something that should have been done first on existing hulls ... then implement in to follow-on ship classes.

As for DDG-1000 being all that and a box of chocolates - for now it is all PPT deep. The plant, the weapons, the hull form, the manning concept, the radar, the whole thing is all one thing - a known-unknown. My hope, the 155mm gun works the best of all of them.

History tells us that some of this will work, some will not - to assume that all will work on time, on spec, and under budget is a gamble the Navy simply cannot afford. The best lesson WRT the DDG-1000 program? Look to it and LCS for the next program ... and don't do that.

I will give you this, she is nice to look at.

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