The Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) still has concerns about the U.S. Navy’s Ford-class carrier program meeting its schedule because of radar development, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) integration and other key technological advancements for the ships being built by Huntington Ingalls Industries.

The carrier program has been facing growing uncertainty about its schedule as speculation mounts that the Pentagon will delay development and delivery due to budget concerns.

“The Navy began CVN-78 construction in 2008 and plans to deliver the ship in September 2015,” DOT&E says in its report. While “current progress supports this plan,” DOT&E says it is concerned with some of the carrier’s technological improvements, including its electromagnetic launching and advanced landing systems, and its proposed dual-band radar (DBR).

There’s also concern with the integration of JSF, one of the vital aircraft proposed for the ship. “The CVN 78 program ... continues to work through challenges with F-35 JSF aircraft/ship integration,” DOT&E says. “These challenges have the Naval Sea Systems Command’s and Naval Air Systems Command’s significant attention and priority.”

Outstanding problems, DOT&E says, include: JSF data flow aboard ship via the Autonomic Logistics Information System; JSF engine replacement logistics; lithium-ion battery stowage and operations; and low-observable material maintenance procedures.

Carrier DBR concerns surfaced when the Navy canceled that radar suite on the DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer, halting testing at the service’s site on Wallops Island, Va. (Aerospace DAILY, June 20, 2011).

Navy officials say the plan is to restart DBR testing at Wallops in fiscal 2012, but DOT&E says the hiatus could cause program delays.

“Based on these tests, if additional DBR testing is required, there will likely be cost growth in software development and required testing and a slip in completion of the post-delivery testing and trials of the DBR,” DOT&E reports.

Numerous integrated warfare system items are of concern, DOT&E says. “Historically the ship self-defense combat systems on aircraft carriers have had reliability, weapon and radar system integration shortcomings,” the office notes. “While the Navy has made efforts, it has not yet developed a detailed plan to address these concerns on CVN-78.”

Navy development of a new anti-ship ballistic missile target and the acquisition of a capability to launch multiple simultaneous supersonic sea-skimming targets lag behind CVN-78 testing-need dates, DOT&E notes. “Both are required to fully assess the effectiveness of the ship self-defense systems,” it says.

CVN-78 will use DBR continuously and simultaneously for both air traffic control and to support other warfare areas including ship self-defense; separate legacy systems now perform these missions individually.

“Merging these previously separate missions into a single system requires significant testing and integration,” DOT&E contends. “Portions of this testing are currently scheduled shipboard, instead of making more complete use of the land-based Wallops Island facility; this complicates the test-fix-test timeline.”