28/09/2020

A recent report from the Pentagon’s testing office suggests that the USS Gerald R. Ford’s self-defense systems still aren’t ready for combat.

The USS Gerald R. Ford — the US Navy’s $13 billion supercarrier that is over budget and behind schedule — may not be ready to defend itself in combat, according to the latest assessment from the Pentagon’s testing and evaluation office.
Testing aboard a test ship revealed deficiencies and limitations with three important combat systems, namely the SLQ‑32(V)6 electronic warfare system, the SPY-3 Multi‑Function Radar (MFR), and the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), the Office of the Director of  Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) reported.
“These deficiencies and limitations reduce the overall self-defense capability of the ship,” DOT&E explained in its report.
During developmental tests, the MFR and CEC “failed to maintain directions and tracks for one of the threat surrogates in the multi-target raid,” and the SLQ-32(V)6 electronic surveillance system “demonstrated poor performance that prompted the Navy to delay additional operational tests until those problems could be corrected,” the testing office revealed.
The US Navy only conducted only one of the four planned CVN-78 self-defense test ship (SDTS) tests. “If the Navy does not conduct all of the remaining events, testing will not be adequate to assess the operational effectiveness of the CVN 78 combat system,” the report explained.
The Navy’s self-defense test ships are usually a decommissioned vessel that has been turned into a testing platform for various combat systems for newer vessels.
In the case of the three problematic systems, the Navy would have run them through different scenarios aboard the test ship to see how they track, manage, and communicate to other systems about specific targets.
As Bloomberg, which first reported on the Ford’s self-defense setbacks, wrote, the various self-defense capabilities of a carrier are important, especially given rising concerns about their vulnerability to stand-off weapons, such as anti-ship missiles. 
“Those three systems are intended to provide the self-defense function for the carrier,” Bryan Clark, a defense expert and former Navy officer, told Insider.
“The SLQ-32 is designed to detect active missile radars and also jam them,” he explained, adding that this system can inform the Ford’s self-defense capabilities, such as the Rolling Airframe Missiles and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and close-in guns.
“The multifunction radar is supposed to pick up that contact,” he added. “And, then that gets passed by the CEC to maybe a nearby ship that can help figure out how to engage the target.”
These combat capabilities, Clark told Insider, are “necessary to defend the Ford class carriers. But, also, if it doesn’t work right, it is missing a huge opportunity to be able to be part of a battle network as opposed to simply being the defended asset.”
The Navy’s older Nimitz-class carriers have limited sensor capabilities and are very dependent on the cruisers and destroyers that escort them for radar tracking and missile defense.
“The Ford has improved sensors,” he explained, “that should be able to at least detect potential threats or be a part of the network of sensors that is detecting threats and share that information. So, if these systems can’t work together, then the Navy misses out on a lot of the investments they made in self-defense for the Ford.”