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Until last month, service sought to delay resiliency test
Ford is first in what’s now a four-ship, $55 billion program
The Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian has said the Navy should perform shock-testing soon to determine how well its new $12.9 billion aircraft carrier — the costliest warship ever — could withstand an attack, affirming the service’s recent decision to back down from a plan for delay.
“We agree with your view that a test in normal sequence is more prudent and pragmatic,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a newly released March 26 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain. The Arizona Republican and Senator Jack Reed, the panel’s top Democrat, pressed for the shock-testing to go ahead as originally planned.
James Guerts, the Navy’s chiefs weapons buyer, told reporters last month that the Navy was acquiescing to the testing after initially asking Defense Secretary James Mattis to delay it for at least six years. In its push to maintain an 11-carrier fleet, the Navy wanted to wait and perform the test on a second carrier in the class rather than on the USS Gerald Ford.
In a shock trial, underwater charges are set off to assess how well a ship can withstand them. A crew is on board, and the test isn’t intended to damage equipment. The results are used to judge vulnerabilities and design changes that may be needed.
The Ford, built by Huntington Ingalls Industries based in Newport News, Virginia, has been hobbled by cost overruns and delays. It’s now scheduled to be ready for initial combat duty in 2022.
It’s the lead vessel in what’s now a $55 billion acquisition program to build four carriers, up from $43 billion for three carriers. The increase in costs and vessels was announced Tuesday in the Pentagon’s annual Selected Acquisition Reports on major programs.
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