Two of the U.S. Senate’s top lawmakers on defense policy are protesting a Navy decision to postpone for as long as seven years survival testing on its new class of aircraft carriers, the costliest warships ever built.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and ranking Democrat Jack Reed wrote March 31 to complain that delaying shock tests until the second vessel, which isn’t scheduled for delivery until 2022, while skipping them for the first adds “a great deal of risk in this program.”
Subjecting the first ship, the USS Gerald R. Ford, to “full ship shock trials” would generate data “to validate or improve” survivability, “thereby reducing the risk of injury to the crew and damage to or loss of a ship,” the lawmakers, who are both veterans, wrote the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall.
Deploying the first vessel “and potentially fighting without this testing gives us pause,” the lawmakers wrote.
In a shock trial of a ship, underwater explosions are set off to assess how well its systems can withstand them. The crew is on board, and the trial isn’t intended to damage equipment. The results are used to judge vulnerabilities and what design changes may be needed.