The US Navy currently tests hull strength of their ships by doing shock testing. This includes setting off a large explosive near the ship, with a
crew on board, to test how the hull withstands a large impact. This does NOT test their ability to defend themselves against incoming threats,
Now the Director of OT&E wants the Navy to test those defenses with real missiles. They want them to build an unmanned test ship that they can shoot
at, and test new defenses under realistic conditions. The Navy currently has the USS Foster, a former destroyer that is used as a Self-Defense Test
Ship, but it's incapable of handling the latest technology, such as the new Arleigh Burke defense package being designed for the Flight III ships.
The AMDR can't be tested component by component, it needs to be tested all at once, and the Foster can't do that, due to the size of the system.
The DOT&E and the Navy are currently at odds over shock testing for the Gerald Ford class carriers. The Navy has been conducting the testing on
components of the hull, while the DOT&E office wants it conducted on the entire hull at once. The Navy's response is that they will "eventually",
and that they will possibly conduct the testing on the second, or even third hull.
You’d expect the nation’s top weapons tester to be a stickler about testing. But there’s “rigorous testing” and then there’s
“let’s shoot cruise missiles at you and see what happens.”
It’s not that the Navy is wimpy about testing. The service conducts “full-ship shock trials” like the USS Roosevelt test pictured above, where
it sets off a huge explosion next to a ship with a test crew aboard, as in this video of the destroyer USS Winston Churchill:
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