The 32-year-old USS Radford last month left active service and became a technology
test platform for the Navy’s next-generation surface combatant, the DDX.
The Spruance-class Radford destroyer was decommissioned in Norfolk, Va., and
subsequently towed to the Navy’s inactive ships maintenance office. It
soon will be heading south, to the Northrop Grumman Ingalls shipyard, in Pascagoula,
Miss., where it will be converted into a so-called “DDX testbed.”
Those plans may change, however, if it turns out that the Radford is in worse
condition than anticipated, said a Navy spokesman. “As other DD 963-class
ships are decommissioned prior to towing Radford to Northrop Grumman Ship System
Ingalls, the Navy may elect to designate a different ship as the DDX test ship,
depending on the ship’s material conditions or other cost factors,”
said the spokesman.
Concerns about the condition of the Radford are warranted, given the extensive
damage the ship suffered in 1999, when it collided with a 30,000-ton container
ship off the cost of Virginia Beach. A pie-shaped gash, penetrating into the
centerline of the Radford, left a hole from the deck to the waterline, toppled
its 5-inch 54-caliber gun and damaged Tomahawk cruise missile tubes. The repairs
cost nearly $33 million.
The contractor responsible for the DDX design, Northrop Grumman Corp., proposed
the notion of having a real ship as a testbed for DDX, to give the Navy an opportunity
to see advanced technologies perform at sea, rather than the laboratory.
Among the technologies to be tested aboard the Radford is an integrated power
system, a composite deckhouse with apertures and a dual-band radar. The power
system could involve significant engineering work. A turbo-electric propulsion
system will replace the gear reduction equipment.
It will take at least a year to convert the Radford into a test ship, the Navy
said. At-sea testing will take place in the Gulf of Mexico and Virginia Capes
operating areas. Among the organizations expected to participate in the testing
are the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center Range, based in the Bahamas;
Lambert’s Point Range, in Norfolk, Va., and Wallops Island Range, on the
eastern Virginia shore.
The DD-968 was named after Admiral Arthur W. Radford, who served in World War
I, World War II and the Korean War; and was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff from 1953 to 1957.
This will not be the first time the Radford was used as a test ship. Since
1998, the destroyer served as the testbed for the Navy’s advanced enclosed
mast sensor system, or AEMS. This was the Navy’s first-ever advanced hybrid
The AEMS is a 93-foot high, hexagonal structure, 35 feet in diameter, enclosing
radar, major antennas and other sensitive equipment to protect them from the
weather. The Navy was trying to demonstrate that the mast can help lessen maintenance
and repairs on the ship, as well as reduce the radar signature.
The DDX design will not be completed until 2005, at the earliest. The ship
will have a 6-inch gun that will fire satellite-guided projectiles out to 100
nautical miles inland.
In a highly contested competition two years ago, Northrop Grumman—partnered
with the Raytheon Co.—beat an industry team led by General Dynamics and
Even though it was on the losing team, Lockheed Martin recently joined the
DDX program for the system design phase, as a subcontractor to Raytheon. A Lockheed
Martin spokesman said the company will participate in areas such as “total
ship systems rngineering, command and control, integrated undersea warfare and
phased array radar.”
Specifically, Lockheed Martin will become the “system engineering deputy
and integrated undersea warfare deputy to Raytheon,” said the spokesman.
The company will provide mine warfare arrays, will held design displays and
networks. In the area of phased-array radar, Lockheed Martin will supply the
L-band volume search radar antenna.