Navy may face problems with DD(X) engineering development models

DD(X) features sophisticated automation systems that will allow the Navy to operate with smaller crew numbers than older destroyers.

Courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corp.

As the Navy builds and tests 10 subsystems under its multibillion-dollar DD(X) warships program, the Government Accountability Office has found that none of the technologies used in the engineering development models will demonstrate a high level of maturity before a contract is awarded for construction of the first ship.

Four of the subsystems'the ship computing environment, peripheral vertical launch system, hull form and infrared mockups'are progressing as planned toward demonstrating complete subsystems, GAO found. Four other systems'the integrated power system, autonomic fire suppression system, dual-band radar and integrated deckhouse'have encountered problems.

And the two remaining systems, the integrated undersea warfare system and the advanced gun system, will not be finished by the time the systems are installed on the first ship, according to GAO.

GAO found that the dual-band radar would be delayed because of the Navy's decision to change a radar type, and the integrated power system had exceeded its weight allocation.

'Best practices call for demonstrating technologies before entering system design, and stability of system design before proceeding with production. None of the 10 engineering development models were demonstrated when system design began,' Paul L. Francis, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management, wrote in the report.

Risky business

'DD(X) technology maturity and design stability will not be demonstrated before the decision to authorize construction of the lead ship, creating risks for establishing and meeting realistic cost, schedule and performance objectives,' Francis wrote.

The Defense Department disagreed.

'The DD(X) program is on track' to show fundamental capabilities under a schedule the Navy has in time for ship installation, said Glenn F. Lamartin, director of Defense systems in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Lamartin said the Navy allocated additional capacity to accommodate the weight of the integrated power system. He added that changes in the development schedule for the dual-band radar were the result of a Navy decision to change from L-band to S-band, not of issues with the technical approach.

The project is in the system design phase, including integrated combat systems and advanced networking. Northrop Grumman Corp. leads the design phase of the program.

DD(X) features sophisticated automation systems that will allow the Navy to operate with smaller crew numbers than older destroyers. The program uses a spiral development acquisition model to equip the ships with the latest technology.

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