‘Shock Trials’ Argument Latest Snag in $13B Saga of Ford Class Aircraft Carrier

The US Navy is reviewing plans to detonate underwater explosives near its first Ford-class aircraft carrier despite pleas from commanders to postpone the tests and get the $12.9 billion ship delivered to the overstretched fleet, American officials said Monday.

The “shock trials” will help the Navy determine whether the ship can endure hostile explosions and properly integrate the carrier’s weapons suite while under attack, Warrior Maven reported Monday, citing service officials.

The Navy and Pentagon have butted heads over whether or not the tests should be run now or postponed for six years. The Navy asked US Defense Secretary James Mattis not to conduct the tests until 2024, when the second Ford-class ship is slated to be delivered.

There weren’t any technical forms sent by the US Navy to the Office of the Secretary of Defense asking specifically to skip the tests. Instead, the Navy’s budget request for fiscal year 2019 simply didn’t include a line item expense for full-ship shock trials, Bloomberg reported.

The Pentagon’s Office of Testing and Evaluation (OT&E) weighed in by saying that with several brand-new systems on the USS Ford, skipping the trials simply wouldn’t be prudent. “I think we have to know if those systems continue to work in a combat environment,” Defense Department OT&E Director Robert Behler said in February.

While the policy debate can seem pedantic, the timing of the trials plays an important role in when the ship gets…

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