Naval ship Live-Fire Test and Evaluation (LFT&E) programs typically conduct a Total Ship Survivability Trial (TSST) to address recoverability critical issues. However, with ships, such as the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC 100), Controlled Damage Tests (CDTs) are a more suitable alternative to the TSST, considering the craft’s limited crew size and damage control systems.
Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Carderock Division participated in a Ship to Shore Connector (SSC) CDT on Dec. 6 and 7, 2021. The testing, led by NSWC Carderock Division (CD) and Panama City Division (PCD), took place on LCAC 100 at the PCD’s tether rig in Panama City, Florida. Two pilots, a flight engineer, a loadmaster and a deck engineer were aboard the LCAC during the CDT.
Carderock’s test lead for the CDT was Vulnerability Assessment Engineer Ben Ridenour.
“We simulated damage to the craft to see how the craft communicated with the crew to enable them to effectively respond to the damage,” Ridenour said. “The goal was to evaluate the craft and the recoverability of the craft to weapons effects damage.”
The overall CDT objectives were to contribute to resolving the LFT&E critical issues established in the alternative LFT&E strategy that pertain to vulnerability and recoverability. During the testing, five objectives were addressed, including: 1) How the damaged system/craft would respond; 2) How the system responded compared to the expected system response; 3) What was the cascading damage to the craft; 4) What was the crew’s capability to perform Damage Control, Recoverability and Escape; and 5) What were the implications of the test results for craft survivability?
Data collection methods were tailored to each of the testing scenarios to achieve the objectives.
According to Ridenour, the idea for this CDT was proposed when the craft was in preliminary design and the LFT&E program was being developed.
“We put GoPro’s all around the craft before the testing,” he said. “We were physically turning off craft equipment to simulate weapons effects damage and had props to simulate damage in the compartments. We were trying to make it as realistic as possible.”
Originally scheduled to be a week-long event, Ridenour and the Panama City’s test lead, Eric Pierce, Senior Test Director for PCD’s Test and Evaluation and Prototype Fabrication Division, were able to complete the testing in only two days.
“With good planning beforehand and everyone’s best effort, we were able to safely complete all required testing in only two days, significantly ahead of schedule,” Pierce said.
Russell Kupferer, Naval Warfare action officer at the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, and Chris Yerkey, PMS 317 Test and Trials Acquisition Program Manager were present during the testing.
“Everyone was pleased with the results, especially Russ and Chris,” Pierce said. “The two of them sat behind the pilots throughout each test event, and served as data collectors. They wanted to witness crew reactions first-hand. The crew was fantastic, and knew their stuff. They continually provided well thought out, optimal solutions to each simulated damage scenario.”
This was the last of the live-fire demonstrations for the near future. The initial test took place in early 2021.
“Near the beginning of 2021, Panama City Division conducted an emergency egress test,” Pierce said. “We went off shore and let the craft settle in the silt and emulated an emergency situation requiring immediate crew and passenger egress. Some of that data will be consolidated into the overall CDT test results.”
The next step is for Ridenour and Pierce to go over the test data and make recommendations to the Program Office of ways to improve the craft.
“We will need to provide data of things that went well and of things that didn’t go so well, as well as recommendations on how to improve those things,” Ridenour said. “We need to provide a quick-look report to all interested parties 90-days after the finish of the test. The final report will be due after that.”