SINGAPORE A Fire Controlman conducts maintenance on a sea rolling airframe missile close-in weapons system (SeaRAM) aboard littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) at Changi Naval Base, Singapore. U.S. Navy photo by Amy Ressler, March 8, 2017.

Can The US Navy Protect Ships From Missile Attacks?

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April 29, 2021

By Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg) The U.S. Navy “currently does not have a well-defined strategy or funding” for testing to determine whether radar and self-defense systems aboard many of its vessels can stop anti-ship cruise missiles, according to the Pentagon’s acting director of combat testing.

The shortfalls are “creating an unacceptable risk in our ability to evaluate the operational effectiveness and survivability of future ships in combat,” according to Raymond O’Toole, acting director of operational testing and evaluation. His remarks came in a prepared statement for a hearing Wednesday by a Senate Armed Services subcommittee examining the Defense Department’s acquisition system.

Although most of this year’s debate in Washington over Navy shipbuilding is focused on constructing more vessels and improving shipyard maintenance capabilities, O’Toole shed light on the routine but urgent task of testing a completed ship’s combat capability against adversaries such as China, whose arsenal bristles with anti-ship missiles.

O’Toole didn’t single out specific ships in his statement, but his office’s last two annual reports highlighted the Navy’s failure to complete several such tests on the $13 billion Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier.

Tests of a ship’s self-defense systems against anti-ship missiles can’t be performed on an active Navy vessel with a crew aboard for safety reasons. So testing depends on the availability of an unmanned test platform to fire at, live test data and a sophisticated and verified model and simulation, O’Toole said.

The Navy “currently does not have a well-defined strategy or funding to provide any of these three capabilities,” he said.

By Tony Capaccio © 2021 Bloomberg L.P.


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