PORT HUENEME, Calif. (NNS) -- In a wharf-side ceremony March 27, the decommissioned USS Paul F. Foster (DD 964) was turned over to Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division as the Navy's new Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS).
Foster will be outfitted with up-to-date technological and weapons systems, and numerous remote capabilities. The ship will begin service as the SDTS by fiscal year 2005 at Port Hueneme and on the waters of the Pacific Sea Test Range.
Paul F. Foster, in becoming the Navy's new SDTS, will play a significant role in the Navy's future. It becomes part of a program that has proven its efficiency by providing the most realistic combat scenarios for test events, while leaving ships and their Sailors available to the fleet to perform their normal duties. The remote-controlled ship provides a flexible test platform, free from the safety constraints and in-port problems associated with manned ships, and alleviates the impact that scheduling difficulties have on fleet assets.
"Foster is here today because new innovations must be tried, new weapons tested, and new procedures checked out," said Capt. Alan Maiorano, commander Port Hueneme Division. "Testing cannot be conducted and evaluated on the battlefield, because it is these critical tests and evaluations that enable our Sailors to sail into harm's way with confidence, whenever called upon. It is a test ship like Foster that ensures that confidence."
During a typical live fire test, various threats are launched at the SDTS, and the installed combat or weapon system being tested responds to that threat in defense of the ship. While this predetermined attack is actually aimed at a decoy barge pulled 150 feet behind the unmanned SDTS, protecting the ship and its assets, it provides an opportunity to assess the responsiveness and success of onboard systems. Navigation is performed from Naval Air Systems Command's Weapons Division at Point Mugu, Calif., and combat systems are controlled from Port Hueneme Division's Surface Warfare Engineering Facility.
Because Foster was turned over to Port Hueneme Division directly, conversion costs will be greatly reduced. Many combat systems elements are already installed, including the MK-41 VLS. It also has a uniquely robust all-electric plant configuration, a sizeable superstructure to support possible future Multi-Function Radar and SPS-48E installations, and a logistical support infrastructure.
Since its commissioning in 1976, Foster has experienced many milestone firsts, including being the first Spruance-class destroyer to deploy to the Western Pacific, first to successfully fire a NATO Sea Sparrow missile, first to demonstrate the feasibility of landing H-46 helicopters aboard, and after major modifications in the 1980s, being the first "all-electric destroyer."
Paul F. Foster will replace ex-USS Decatur (DDG 31), which Port Hueneme Division acquired in 1994 and refurbished as a remote-controlled vessel to support self-defense engineering, and test and evaluation. The current SDTS will continue testing operations through the end of fiscal year 2003.
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