Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ford and the Wages of Transformationalism

If you've been mostly the "close your eyes and breath and hope for the best" when it comes to the FORD, our friend Chris Cavas has a cold bucket of water to throw in your (our) face.

The ship is a long way from being ready to take to the seas in defense of the nation. While construction began in 2005 and the Ford was delivered to the Navy and commissioned in 2017, it’s been back in the shipyard since July 2018 undergoing a series of fixes known as a post-shakedown availability, a planned event all US Navy ships go through but that is more difficult with this first-of-class ship full of new and hitherto untried technologies. It’s hard work for all involved and it will not be nearly finished when the ship comes out of the yard as expected later this month to renew testing and development of its systems whether or not they’re fully functional.

Four major systems in the ship will continue to need work: the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), the eleven Advanced Weapons Elevators (AWEs) and the Dual-Band Radar (DBR). Issues with those developmental, new-technology systems have been widely reported on for years, ever since Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under the banner of transformation ordered them installed on the first ship in the new class despite deep Navy reservations and recommendations against doing so.

We continue to be saddled with the wages of Transformationalism.

Yes, yes ... first in class has all sorts of issues ... but with time, this is starting to look like it might be a bit more than that.
Less talked about are the ship’s electrical and propulsion systems. The Ford’s more-than-100-megawatt electrical system is far more powerful than the 30 MW systems installed in the ten ships of the previous Nimitz-class carriers, and all that power is crucial to the operation of the four major developmental systems.
One issue that was reported involved the failure of main thrust bearings, fixtures that bear the weight of rotating propeller shafts. Twice, in April 2017 and again in January 2018, the Ford suffered main thrust bearing failures while at sea and was required to head back to port. The Navy did not publicize these problems, which were unknown to the public until Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported them in May 2018.

Hope is not a plan, as the phrase goes ... but let's hope we are all pleasantly surprised, and soon, by all the hard work and pallet-loads of cash we seem to be burning to make it happen.

Some of this may come from the unfortunate retreat that started a half-decade ago from persistent public engagement with media and influencers about FORD specifically, and the Navy in general. The Royal Navy, by comparison, has done an exceptional job with the QUEEN ELIZABETH Class development.

As a side note, more background on how we got here can be found in a Midrats from a few years ago we did with Tal Manvel. 

It's embedded below.

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