A House Armed Services Committee (HASC) panel would direct design maturity in future shipbuilding programs and require the Navy use a land-based test site before building the next generation destroyer program, DDG(X).

The HASC Seapower Subcommittee included these provisions to reduce the chance of shipbuilding delays and increased construction costs over time.

The first provision says the Secretary of the Navy “may not enter into a contract for the construction of the first ship for any major  shipbuilding program” until 30 days after the Secretary certifies to the congressional defense committees that the “basic and functional design of the vessel is complete.”

The language defines basic and functional design as design through computer-aided models that fixes the hull structure of the vessel; sets the hydrodynamics of the vessel; routes all major distributive systems of the vessel; and identifies the exact positioning of piping and other outfitting within each block of the vessel.

The mark also includes a provision requiring the Navy to initiate a land-based test site for the engineering plant before starting construction on DDG(X).

The legislation says that “during the detailed design period and prior to the construction start date of the lead ship in the DDG(X) destroyer class of vessels, the Secretary of the Navy shall commence a land-based test program for the engineering plant of such class of vessels.”

At a minimum, the test program must cover the main reduction gear, electrical propulsion motors, other propulsion drive train components, main propulsion system, auxiliary propulsion unit, electrical generation and distribution systems, shipboard control systems and power control modules. All of these must be in “vessel-representative form.”

Furthermore, the test program must at a minimum include a set of test objectives “demonstrated across the full range of engineering plant operations for the DDG(X) destroyer class of vessels.”

This includes test of the full propulsion drive train; test and facilitation of machinery control systems integration; as well as simulation of the full range of electrical demands to allow the investigation of load dynamics between the hull, mechanical and electric equipment and the combat systems and auxiliary equipment.

The test program is directed to be completed by no later than the delivery date of the lead ship in the DDG(X) class.

This comes after the Navy stood up a new program office in June to develop and build the DDG(X), called PMS 460 under Program Executive Office Ships. The service expects to start building the new class by fiscal year 2028 (Defense Daily, June 4).

The Navy’s FY ‘22 budget request included $80 million in concept development funds for DDG(X) and said that would be dedicated to transitioning from conceptual design to preliminary design work, bring industry teams onboard, and continue hull form and integrated power system land-based test activities for program risk reduction.

Last year, Program Executive Officer for Ships Rear Adm. Tom Anderson said technology maturity is important for future design success. He specifically cited some form of land-based testing to de-risk a platform before moving to production when it involves new systems (Defense Daily, Aug 26, 2020).

Anderson said Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division was working on electrical distribution systems on the new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers and was bringing integrated electric plants and integrated electrical distribution systems components to the facility to conduct risk reduction before using the technology on future ships.

“We set up a land-based test site for the electrical distribution – that system onboard the ships, DDG-125 and 126 is being reduced as the result of land-based testing in Philly,” Anderson said in 2020. 

Anderson said they had started discussion on what the DDG(X) would look like. “So there already is work in the warfare centers to kind of de-risk what the next large surface combatant propulsion and electrical distribution systems look like.”

More recently, last week Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said the delays in the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier due to its multiple new technologies have taught the Navy lessons it is applying in newer ship classes, including the use of land-based test sites. (Defense Daily, July 21).

In his comments, Gilday focused on how land-based testing applies to the new Constellation-class frigates.

“The ammunition elevators are an exceptional example of a painful process over the past four or five years.  And so we are in the – in the ’21 budget we already have money dedicated to land-based test sites for the frigate so that we can perfect that technology before we – before we deliver it to the ship.”

The Ford-class Advanced Weapons Elevators have been repeatedly delayed and are finally on schedule to be delivered and certified by the end of this year.