Archive for the 'LCS' Tag
Grant Greenwell and Chris Barber join us for the 7th edition of Sea Control. We careen around the road, covering with particular attention intelligence collection, the DDG-1000, and force planning for Amphibious Operations. Join us for Episode 7, the Defense Knitting Circle (Download).
Sea Control comes out every Monday. Don’t forget to subscribe on Xbox Music or Itunes!
VADM Al Konetzni, USN (Ret.) – “Big Al, the Sailor’s Pal…” – everyone who has met or worked with him has their memory. Mine was a brief and accidental encounter a bit over a decade ago at an event outdoors at Pearl. Adult beverages, cigars, and a magnetic leader who was that rare combination of fresh air and seemingly out of another time. Had the effect on JOs that I really never say another Navy Flag Officer have. In a word; unique.
Last week I ran in to Dave Booda’s recollections of his run in with Big Al once in Annapolis;
I just thought he was another guy using the urinal next to me at Riordan’s, a local bar in Annapolis.
“So, what do you want to do when you graduate?”
“Uh, I’m deciding now between Surface Warfare and Submarines”
“Ah, I remember those days. I keep thinking I’ll retire but they always pull me back in. The key is to just take it one tour at a time.”
We were taught to avoid living in the present by procrastinating our happiness. If you constantly say “I’ll be happy when I graduate”, you’ll miss out on what it’s all really about … Take it from Al Konetzni. Stop waiting to live in the future,
Good advice, and like much good advice – difficult to put in to practice.
That evidently has been simmering in my nogg’n for a week, because it came to the fore yesterday when I read the latest apologia on LCS – this time from our own pal, Craig Hooper, now with Austal;
DARPA is working on a program to use Independence variants of LCS as “platforms for medium altitude, long-endurance, fixed-wing unmanned aircraft for strike and ISR missions,” Hooper said. “This is a sign of what is to come — energy weapons, rail guns, unmanned craft. Embrace this. The future is in flexible platforms that capable of quickly and cost-effectively integrating new payloads. That’s what my two ships can do.”
Stop. I’ve seen this movie before.
The homing torpedo will end the submarine threat. You don’t need carriers in the nuclear age. We will have an all nuclear surface fleet. The Royal Navy will never need guns again, everything will be missiles – and it won’t need those carriers either – the RAF can cover it. We must get rid of the A-6 so we can move forward with the A-12 …. errrr …. F-18. We must decom the SPRU-CANS early so we can invest and recapitalize with DDG-1000 (nee SC-21). We don’t need frigates. NLOS will handle the surface fires requirements.
Yes, it is always better to get rid of what you have that works now, because the promise of the future is perfect, clean, shiny and … well … new and perfect and clean and shiny … and transformational!
It is comfortable to live in the future, to assume that all plans, systems, and CONOPS play out in line with with you want – or need – it to be. Making the present work is hard – but going to war in the present when you have neglected the “now” for the fuzzy future is even harder.
Reality is tough to get right.
For each weapon, there is a counter. One tactic/weapon does not work in every situation. Money and technology is not universally accessible. A single point of failure is just failure. Technology risk is real and usually higher than industry and program managers think.
I think we have learned this lesson again in spades over the last decade from LCS to F-35. If nothing else, perhaps we should hedge and mitigate more; we should have a set of requirements and stick with them instead of chasing shadows that only add cost, weight, and lost treasure.
Are those lessons sinking in? I think so as things start to displace water and make shadows on the ramp (or not) – then yes, reality starts to overtake the PPT. That is what seems to be happening – goaded on by a gang of ruthless facts; a move away from the transformational mindset. Smart and inline with historical experience, if a bit late.
So, Craig has job to do, but so do others.
But any weapons changes on the horizon for LCS won’t happen until the Navy revises its requirements for its newest vessels, said Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden, director of Surface Warfare.
“I’m the keeper of the keys for requirements,” Rowden said. “And I am here to tell you that LCS meets the requirements.”
Well, that is subject to debate – but at least he is sticking. Enough chasing shadows with LCS. Make it the best as we can, and move on with what treasure we have left to move on with.
Get what you have now right, or dump it. In the future, focus on the evolutionary, not revolutionary so we avoid another lost decade. Build a little, test a little, learn a lot. Prototype, test, evaluate, deploy. Work for the future, but in the spirit of Big Al; you are living, building, and deploying now – make the best of it.
Well – all 4-stars are terminal, in a fashion – and when a 4-star is about to head out of the service at the pinnacle of their career, a cynic might look askew at last minute conversions – but I don’t think that is always fair. There can be something else going on when a Admiral or General goes off the reservation; “The Craddock Effect.”
In May 2009 as General Craddock was heading out the door at SHAPE, he gave a speech that said what everyone inside the lifelines knew about NATO and AFG and the story of half-truths we all sold. It was nice to hear in the open what was said behind closed doors – but one had to wonder what the impact might have had if he made the speech a year or so earlier in mid-tour – when he wasn’t a lame duck – when the full truth of his opinion could have informed the public debate … but … it was what it was.
There is a lot be be said for working within the system. Highly successful men and women get to where they are by having a track record of “making it happen” without burning those they work for and with. They often think that once they reach a certain level – then they can make things work. It usually doesn’t work that way.
When they they are running out of time or after soaking long enough that they reach a moment of clarity – often a refreshing wave of candor can come from a senior leader. It is a wave that isn’t quite at odds with what they have said in the open before – but sounds more like the missing chapters of a book half read.
In that light – over at his CFFC blog, Admiral Harvey has a post out that from my perspective is, in a word; remarkable. It is somewhere between a splash of cold water and sobering slap to the face to the professional drift our Navy has been under for a decade+.
This is Admiral Harvey from his blog;
When I look at some of the big issues we’ve encountered over the past three years with programs such as LPD-17, Aegis 7.1.2, VTUAV (Fire Scout), and the many software programs (e.g. R-Admin) installed on our ships, it is apparent to me that we were not doing our jobs with a focus on the end user, our Sailors. In these instances, the desire/need to deliver the program or system became paramount; we did not adhere to our acquisition standards and failed to deliver whole programs built on foundations of technical excellence. Then we accepted these flawed programs into the Fleet without regard to the impact on our Sailors.
Yes, yes – great Neptune’s trident – YES! Sailors are our greatest asset – not our most costly liability.
I would personally add two things – everyone and Admiral Harvey knows this problem is much older than his three years at CFFC – and to change this will take the right people in the right places in power. How do we get them there? Hard question.
His comments are so spot on. Just to drag out the usual suspect; designing manning plans for LCS that has Sailor burn-out considered a feature as opposed to a bug, and is baked in to the design that we will have to deal with for decades? How do you fix that? … but let’s not get in the Admiral’s way here;
… we have entered a period in which the resources we have now and can expect in the future will no longer support the behaviors of the past. The likelihood of decreasing budgets and increasing demand for Naval forces leave us with no margin for delivering poorly designed, poorly delivered or unnecessarily burdensome programs to the Fleet. We must keep the Fleet and our Sailors at the center of the programs, systems and platforms we deliver and ensure operational effectiveness is the bottom line of our efforts, not simply increased efficiencies.
Though my selfish side wishes he put this out years ago, the professional side of me has to give him a nod to a timing that he felt worked best given his responsibilities. More responsibilities do not always translate in to more freedom to speak.
I’ve been a fan of Admiral Harvey’s curious intellect, open mind, and tolerance of other views for a long time, and this is a very welcome addition to the conversation that must be brought to the front – larger, louder, and to more readers.
To fix these problems, the hour is already late, and more delay just means a more difficult fix later.
There is more at his post to to reflect on what is creating the dysfunction we have watched over the last decade in our Navy. Admiral Harvey states the catalyst for his post was the book by Bob Lutz, the Vice Chairman for Product Development at General Motors; Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. When you think of GM from the last few decades, one car that should be in anyone’s “GM Bottom 5″ would be the Pontiac Fiero. As a smart friend pointed out to me at the linked article;
The Pontiac Fiero an economy commuter car? That’s how GM marketed the sporty coupe, which was Pontiac’s first 2-seater since 1938. GM had originally intended the Fiero to be a sports car (hence, the Ferrari-sounding name), but budget constraints forced them to ditch the original suspension design and steal parts from other GM cars. The result was a sporty coupe that didn’t actually deliver racing performance with a meager 98-hp 2.5-liter I4 engine in a heavy body.
Sure, let’s go there again to what remains the poster child to what Admiral Harvey describes – to the gift that keeps on giving.
Isn’t speed and handling performance are most important for a sports car? Likewise, aren’t offensive and defensive firepower performance the most important for a warship? With the similar failure of basic core competencies – couldn’t one say “GM:Pontiac Fiero” as “USN:LCS?”
Another quote from Admiral Harvey’s post;
… upon his return to GM, Lutz found that the design teams had moved away from an organization focused on product excellence and the end user – the customer – and instead transformed into a company driven by complex business processes, executive boards and working groups focused on eliminating “waste,” “streamlining” operations, and achieving “efficiencies.” As a result, GM produced generations of automobiles that met all the technical and fiscal internal targets yet fell far short of the mark in sales – what really counted.
Does that sound like OPNAV/NAVSEA track record as of late? Designing warships that meet all the technical and fiscal internal targets (except maybe cost, stealth, IOC, etc), but fail to meet the fundamental test of warfighting capability?
Interesting thing about the Fiero – by 1988 they actually go the design right – but by then it was too late and most of the run was – ahem – sub-optimal. Is that where we are going with LCS? The first 43 sub-optimal …. but the last dozen, success!?
Bravo Zulu to Admiral Harvey for putting this out there. Maybe after a few years with the gold watch and reflection, down the road someone might go with a Shoomaker option – I don’t know. In the word of the American songwriter Kris Kristofferson; freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose.
Admiral Harvey – enjoy your freedom.
Put a few things in your nogg’n for a minute. Put a little Eisenhower mixed in with the Navy’s shipbuilding performance over the first decade of this century – the lost decade of shipbuilding with such wonderfully run programs such as DDG-1000, LPD-17, and the ever-changing LCS – then leaven it a healthy cynicism that any Business Ethics professor at the post-graduate level can give you. Sprinkle generously with a knowledge of the exceptionally generous retirement packages our retiring Flag Officers receive.
As that soaks in, read this.
Chuck Goddard, a former program executive officer for ships (PEO Ships) for the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), has been named president and chief executive of Wisconsin-based Marinette Marine, builders of the LCS 1 Freedom-class littoral combat ships (LCS).
The announcement was made June 13 by Fred Moosally, a former Navy captain and Lockheed executive who is president and CEO of Fincantieri Marine Group, the Italian parent of Marinette Marine.
Goddard, who retired from the Navy in 2008, previously supported a number of programs at Lockheed’s Maritime Systems and Sensors division, which oversaw the company’s LCS effort.
A recurring theme over at the homeblog has been the cringe-inducing revolving door between the uniformed Flag Officer on day one – and the employee of the once overseen defense contractor on day two. It doesn’t smell right, and it isn’t. There should be at least a 5-year “cooling off period” between retirement from active duty for Flag Officers and employment by companies they may have had a relationship with while in an official capacity within, lets call it, 5-years of retirement.
“5-n-5 to keep faith in the system alive.” I’m sure there are better slogans, but that’s a start.
Goddard doesn’t come right to MMC from active duty though – after he left active duty he went to, shocking I know,
… Mr. Goddard was with Lockheed Martin for three years as director of Aegis Program Integration and Capture Manager for the Aegis Combat Systems Engineering Agent (CSEA) competition.
Our friend Tim Colton makes a good point.
… he has no industrial or business experience of any kind whatever – working in a naval shipyard doesn’t count – and is, therefore, totally unqualified to run a ship construction company.
Why is he running it then? I’ll let you ponder that as well.
Has he done anything wrong? No, of course not – that isn’t the point. The system is the system and all indications are that everything that Goddard has done in his professional capacity both in uniform and since retirement is exceptional and above board – again, that isn’t the point.
People, rightly, wonder what has happened to the Navy’s ability to build an affordable, efficient, and effective Fleet. There is cynicism and a lack in trust from Congress to the deckplates about the word of Navy Flag Officers. It doesn’t happen by accident. Revolving doors from Fleet to Food Trough does not help as people will question motivation, candor, and priorities.
Oh, one last note – if Goddard’s name rings a bell, here is why.
Along with co-host and fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne, we hosted a panel discussion this weekend focused on just one thing; the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).
To discuss this curious little ship for the full hour, we brought together John Patch, CDR USN Ret., Associate Professor of Strategic Intelligence at the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, and “Leesea” a former SWO who has managed sealift ships for the Military Sealift Command since 1980 to include the original charter of the HSV WestPac Express.
Why do we need JHSV, what requirement does it meet? How is the program from a manning, shipbuilding, and development perspective viewed? What missions can/should it do and how should it be armed, if at all?
Grab a fresh cup of coffee, and click here to give it a listen and help us ponder.
Here is something that has come at me from multiple sources – you can blame George Talbot for this post.
All of a sudden – everyone wants to talk about fuel and LCS – so let’s talk about fuel. I was going to do this on my home blog – but decided this was a better venue.
Join me in the LCS pain, because all of this discussion is based on a ship and CONOPS that still is in its changing infancy as emerging realities about the program manifest themselves. All we have to work with are vignettes, computer models, and the low-impact test drive going on in the Caribbean right now – none show a clear picture.
Estimates on line missions – MIW, ASUW, ASW – are even fuzzier as the Mission Modules are not ready for prime-time, and even after they “are,” there won’t be enough to swap-out to any meaningful extent during a deployment, much less the infrastructure and equipment to do so forward deployed to any meaningful extent. It will be years until you get a data sample worth anything – if then.
In that light – I request that everyone keep an open mind with this post – especially you engineers. Don’t fall in love with details – have a wide standard deviation when it comes to the numbers. Any numbers others, or I use are in very large pixels. That shouldn’t stop the conversation. Be flexible, and let’s dive in.
Note the bolded section below,
“But there are troubling indications that Austal’s bid could get scuttled by politics, potentially dealing Mobile a second devastating blow while the city is still recovering from the tanker tragedy.
One of the key advantages of Austal’s LCS is that it is far more fuel-efficient than Lockheed’s heavier ship, particularly at high speeds. The cost savings over a 30-year life cycle could exceed $2 billion per vessel, according to internal Navy documents.
That’s significant at a time when Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, is trying to cut back on the Navy’s skyrocketing fuel costs.
It’s Austal’s contention, however, that the Navy’s Request for Proposals does not include life-cycle costs as a factor in the LCS contest.
While Mabus and other top Navy officials have disagreed, a top Pentagon acquisitions executive confirmed Austal’s assessment. “
SECNAV is not bluff’n about being Green. The RFP may not have included life-cycle costs, but that was then and this is now.
Take the SECNAV’s push towards Green – and then fold in the CNO’s Guidance for 2010;
We increased our focus on Total Ownership Costs (TOC) and are integrating that into every step of the Two-Pass Six-Gate acquisition review process.
We will inject discussion of TOC into all stages of program review stages ….
Total ownership and manpower costs will be key components of all programatic discussions and decisions.
Therefore – everyone needs to pivot, ponder, and discuss. LCS is going to happen – we can mitigate the pain (especially during the Terrible ’20s) by ensuring that we have the best value Tiffany; I would bet a P-3 JO’s per diem that this concern was a major driver in the CNO’s statement.
Go back to the bolded paragraph above. $2 bil per ship savings of one design over another if that ship is rode hard and left up wet through crew swapping and max time deployed. That would be with a 25kts+ avg – but let’s run with it to make a point. A lower estimate I have seen has a delta of $400 mil based on 3-months per year deployed on average.
Let’s cut the high estimate in half and call it $1 bil (no one knows what the price of fuel will be over the next 20 years, much less the effect of an overweight LCS and/or partial MMs installed) and let’s round down the platform costs (I am feeling nice today and won’t include the higher estimates over the run and the costs of MMs) and say that at the end of the production run, each ship costs $500mil. You could replace or build the ship twice with the dollars saved.
Harumph? OK, move the decimal place over one. $40 million. Enough to think about? Well, $40milx55= $2.2 billion.
We also have this from Defense Daily,
GD’S LCS BURNS LESS FUEL AT HIGHER SPEEDS, NAVY DOCUMENT SHOWS: The General Dynamics variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) uses less fuel per hour during higher rates of speed than the Lockheed Martin vessel, according to a Navy document. The one-page LCS Consumption Curves shows that both ships use about the same amount of fuel, or barrels, per hour between zero and 16 knots. At five knots, the General Dynamics aluminum trimaran uses 3.2 barrels per hour versus 3.9 for Lockheed Martin’s semi-planing monohull. At 14 knots, the General Dynamics ship uses 11.3 barrels per hour while the Lockheed Martin ship uses 12.7. At 16 knots, the Lockheed Martin ship uses 18.4 barrels per hour while the General Dynamics ship uses 15.5, according to the document. At 30 knots, the General Dynamics trimaran burns through 62.7 barrels per hour, while the Lockheed Martin monohull uses 102.9 barrels per hour, according to the document. At 40 knots, the Lockheed Martin ship burns through 138 barrels per hour while the General Dynamics ship uses 105.7 barrels per hour. But how often will the Navy operate either ship beyond 16 knots? According to Lockheed Martin, LCS won’t be spending a lot of time cruising at top speed. “Fuel economy is dependent on the operational profile of the ship. The Navy’s LCS mission profile, a significant criteria used to design LCS, results in the ship operating at speeds below 16 knots more than 90 percent of the time,” Kimberly Martinez, a company spokeswoman, told Defense Daily yesterday. “At this speed, Lockheed Martin’s analysis indicates its design displays better fuel efficiency due to its economical 16-cylinder diesel engines.”
And Lockheed Martin maintains that its semi-planing monohull design meets all of the Navy’s requirements. “Fuel efficiency is just one component of total ownership cost. Acquisition cost, manpower, maintenance, training and support costs are other key elements and Lockheed Martin believes its design provides the most cost-effective balance across all elements,” Martinez added. The Navy declined yesterday to comment for this article. Fuel consumption has become the focal point of efforts by Mobile, Ala.-based Austal USA and Sen. Jeff Sessions to point out that the General Dynamics-Austal USA-built LCS is more fuel efficient. At last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sessions raised the issue of fuel consumption during questioning of Navy leadership. Sessions asked (Defense Daily, 3/2)
Let’s chew some more.
On Baggett’s thesis linked to early on in the post, on page 38 you have this little graph – you can find the background data there.
So. Will the SECNAV want a more fuel efficient warship? Will the COCOMs want ships to be able to show up as needed throughout their AOR? Will the Maritime Component Commander want a ship that isn’t an unnecessary burden on what few replenishment assets he has available? Will the Commanding Officers of LCS want to carry the most fuel possible?
If the future is the Pacific, then with the practical nature of PACFLT ops, especially when we have so few “unsexy” replenishment platforms, is range even more critical?
From what I have seen, 5 knots gets you max range, with LCS-2 going significantly farther than LCS-1 at any speed (due to capacity). Don’t get wrapped up in the “why the h311 do it at 5 kts …”, but work with me here to make a point.
Using the Defense Daily numbers, at 5 knots LCS-2 can probably make San Diego – Pearl (refuel) – Tokyo without going below 50%; LCS-1 would be on fumes as she pulled in for the same transit, but would probably make it to Tokyo. The leg from Pearl to Tokyo is about 3,350 nm.
So, you’re SECNAV. Assume all other planning assumptions are a wash between LCS-1 and LCS-2 models – what call do you make?
If you did – you missed a great Navy meal – a lot more than the usual bologna sandwiches and bug juice.
After our panel discussion, fellow USNIBlog milbloggers Galrahn, EagleOne and I we are joined by prolific author and Naval strategist, Dr. Norman Friedman.
We touch on the direction our Navy should be going, the maritime strategy, LCS, and his latest book, British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War.
You really owe it to yourself to give it a listen. You can hear it archived at the Midrats Episode page – of if you want to make sure you never miss a Midrats – you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
You won’t go away hungry for anything but more Dr. Friedman.
Israel has a lot invested in doing littoral combat right. And, right now, the IDF is sending their Merkava Main Battle Tank to sea in LCTs.
Rather than call the LCTs mere landing craft, why not call them Littoral Combat Boats (LCBs)? That’s what they are.
Look. There’s plenty for IDF littoral combat forces to do. There’s plenty for smaller forces to do nearby–and given the constantly-increasing demands upon Israel’s “higher end” naval assets, the Israeli Navy seems to have decided to travel down a high-lo development path for littoral combat.
Thus the LCB.
Israel has hunted for a multi-mission littoral solution since about the nineties. After evaluating the really high (LPD-17) and high (LCS-1) end options, Israel threw in the towel on the littoral stuff, settling for a relatively conventional “small navy” supplement of MEKO-100 corvettes and some Dolphin Class subs.
But interestingly, to bulk up amphibious support and offshore fires, Israel is pursuing a decidedly low-end option–the LCB.
According to a September 22, 2009 Jerusalem Post article (no direct link available, sorry), Israel purchased several landing craft (the IDF has not mounted an amphibious assault since the early ’80s). Why? Well, the Post article gives a hint–it all goes back to Gaza:
“In both conflicts, the navy faced almost zero resistance at sea, and during Cast Lead it was able to provide close artillery support for the Paratroopers Brigade – which maneuvered along the coast.”
In Gaza, fire support was provided by Sa’ar boats, and those little ships used their tiny guns to great effect, hitting some 200 targets during Cast Lead. The most recent Jane’s Navy International (again, no link available) provided more details–it seems the Israeli Navy has purchased several 25 Meter/20 knot LCTs, sticking Merkava Main Battle Tanks upon them (or some troops, or, well, whatever fits…) and sailing away.
“It is the navy’s mission to support the infantry and the best way to do it is with LCTs,” IN Captain (res) Mike Eldar, who commanded the IN’s amphibious flotilla in 1982, told Jane’s. “This is an important capability and will give the IDF more flexibility and maneuverability.”
For duty off Gaza or off Lebanon, these ultra-cheap littoral combat boats (along with their hefty ‘ole mission module) will be a game changer.
The U.S. has done similar things. Off Grenada, America supplemented its modest fire support assets by mounting tanks on LCUs. In Vietnam, we mounted tanks on LCMs, and during World War II we did the same thing. According to Oscar Gilbert’s Marine Tank Battles of the Pacific, landing-craft-mounted tanks even sank a few ships:
Rowland Hall related: “We re-embarked them [three light tanks]. As we went around the tip of the peninsula inshore we spotted some Jap landing craft. We opened up on them with the 37 and machine guns. We bagged about three of those and set them on fire. A sort of naval battle using tanks.
If I were some mischief-minded RPG-equipped yahoo in a Boston Whaler, I’d hate to run into a Merkava at sea. What could be next? Finland’s Patria NEMO landing craft? Each boasting a 120mm mortar? Or…a more water-happy EFV?
But be careful. As the LCB emerges, it won’t take long before some of those asymmetric minded kids out there start thinking up waterborne IED solutions…
As the Littoral Combat Ship program faces an abrupt down-select to a single hull, the Navy must brace for some nasty litigation. The spurned party–either Lockheed or General Dynamics–will be poised to contest the selection process.
With little in the way of “real world” operational data available, advocates of either platform will have ample grounds to poke holes in the down-select’s Record of Decision (ROD).
If the Air Force’s $35 Billion dollar tanker down-select is any guide, this LCS down-select is going to be ugly.
It is a pity. With more resources, the Navy would have been busy building and evaluating two separate LCS squadrons, and the down-select years away.
Looking back, the outline for a “data-heavy” LCS down-select was put forth in 2004. Read Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work’s essay from 2004, “Naval Transformation and the Littoral Combat Ship,” where he says:
“…the Navy would be advised to build at least two different operational prototypes. However, choosing two different prototypes will not completely resolve many of the operational issues. It seems clear that only by testing squadron prototypes will the Navy be able to fully resolve some of the outstanding issues surrounding the LCS and its support structure…”
Work isn’t going to get a firm test between LCS-1 and LCS-2 squadrons. By the time all four ships are available, the decision will be made.
That’s a little scary. Aside from the challenge of making a down-select decision with little data, the accelerated selection risks distorting LCS-1 operations.
I fear that the rapid down-select puts a lot of pressure on the deploying LCS-1 sailors to treat their platform gently. The opposite should be the case–the first model “Flight 0″ platforms must be run hard, beaten up and, quite simply, broken. Broken early and often.
Put bluntly, the Navy won’t learn much if problems are covered-up and the ship treated like a museum piece. (As an example, aside from keeping the production line going, what, exactly, did two years of babying the USS San Antonio (or hiding INSURVs) do for the LPD-17 program? I mean, how’s that USS New York treating ya’ll?)
With enough hulls to form two LCS squadrons, the pressure to “take care of the showpiece” gets reduced. But with no squadron to share the risks, the Navy’s risk-averse chain-of-command needs constant reminding (along with some additional public top-cover and, on occasion, some prodding) that the first two LCS are test platforms–nothing more, nothing less. Break ‘em and–for goodness sakes–tell folks you’re gonna break ‘em!
And, just as an aside, barring obvious dereliction of duty, no penalty should be inflicted upon crew and commander, who, in the event their platform is not up for the mission at hand, goes and breaks the vessel.
That said, even when the Navy selects either LCS-1 or LCS-2 as the “LCS-of-record”, and the lawsuits get settled, I’d posit that the LCS down-selection still won’t be done.
Robert Work will get his squadron prototypes–and, again, in a couple of years, as the fiscal picture gets grimmer, the pressure to compare the LCS with the JHSV is going to be irresistible.
And that, simply put, is going to be an interesting battle.
My thoughts? If LCS-1 wins the initial down-select, the JHSV catamaran becomes a viable platform. (And given the minimum-cost focus of the LCS RfP–LCS-1 may well end up winning the LCS contract.) In that case, the JHSV gets a wide-open niche to go and exploit. Eventually, we’ll see a contest between a LCS-1 combat specialist and a do-anything up-gunned utilitarian JHSV.
It’ll be fascinating–and yes, as one of the first JHSV cheerleaders, I’m biased–but, as the civilian-crewed JHSV gets encumbered by more “combat-lite” duties, I can’t help but get a little anxious. Call me crazy, but I just don’t believe our model of using civilians for combat duty is gonna work very well. (Watch for more studies…)
If the LCS-2 wins, I don’t see why the Navy might want to keep the JHSV production line going for anything other than for risk-reduction. The JHSV and LCS occupy a similar sort of “truck-like” niche (Or, to use a “Workism”, their “boxes” are pretty similarly-sized). A civilianized LCS-2 is just a trimaran JHSV, right?
Look, a civilianized model of the LCS-2 is available right now. Rent it. If the LCS-2 hull-form works for the Navy, then wouldn’t it be appropriate to leverage savings that would stem from using the same hull-form, similar plant, identical layout and matching broad-based operational template?
If we use the same hull-form for both the JHSV and LCS-2, would it not be super-easy to, if necessary, swap out civilian crews? As the line between “combat” and “combat support” continues to shrink, it might be really useful to have the ability to seamlessly swap out civilians with a combat-ready Navy crew.
All in all, it’s going to be an interesting year. (And, just FYI, I’m betting the LCS-1 breaks on its upcoming deployment.)
Given that many of the anti-Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) crowd have adapted the FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates as a sort of “alternative” to the LCS (a legacy shipbuilding program that, in the opinion of the anti-LCS crowd, was everything the LCS program is not), a nice dose of history might be in order.
Those who now love the FFG-7 program probably don’t remember that the FFG-7, in its early days, was the LCS of the Seventies.
Don’t believe me? Here’s an excerpt from a June 1977 paper entitled “The U.S. Sea Control Mission: Forces, Capabilities, and Requirements,” detailing criticism leveled by, back then, the trendy-minded, well-heeled anti-FFG-7 crowd. Read the passage. It should sound familiar to anybody who has sorted any amount of anti-LCS agitation:
“The FFG-7 program has met with considerable criticism in recent years on several accounts. It has proved far more costly than originally planned: estimates of its unit cost rose from about $65 million to $168 million in constant dollars in just three years. At the same time, serious questions have been raised about its capabilities. Critics claim that the FFG lacks firepower and redundant sensors for operations in high-threat areas; that its single screw propulsion renders it vulnerable to attackers; that it lacks size and capacity for low-cost, mid-life modifications. Other critics have suggested that the FFG is too slow for conducting ASW operations against modern Soviet submarines. The House Armed Services Committee was particularly critical of the FFG program…”
That’s quite an inauspicious beginning…But today, more than 30 years after introduction, FFG-7s remain efficient enough for modern Navies to operate–and valuable enough to upgrade.
Look closely at those cost estimates. Plug the first FFG-7 cost estimate into an inflation calculator and the result is $230 million–almost exactly the same amount of money the Navy first programmed for the LCS.
Shove that final 1977 FFG-7 cost estimate of $168 million into an inflation calculator, and the end result is $595 million in 2009 dollars. Today, the LCS-3 and 4 cost $548.8 million and $547.7 million respectively. If one of the two LCS designs functions as advertised–and are hiding no major flaws–then we’ve got a pretty interesting higher-end FFG-7-like replacement platform.
That bit of context might give LCS critics something to think about. Of course, even with the “FFG-7 was/is better than the LCS” platform knocked about a bit, the debate over whether or not a less costly ship model might serve just as well as an LCS remains valid…and valuable. So have at it!