Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Navy (USA) in the Carter and Reagan administrations, Everett Pyatt, bangs the drum on an increasingly familiar theme here and other places in the ‘sphere. Over at Real Clear World he opens:

The U.S. Navy shipbuilding program has run aground, high tides are not projected and heavy winds are blowing ashore. Sound bad? It is. And the situation is particularly disturbing for those who believe that a nautical pax Americana best serves world peace and stability.

Asserting a lack of leadership and uninformed planning within the uniformed and civilian Navy, particularly in the acquisition realm, he forecasts a force of 200 ships by 2018, based on lost procurement and projected retirements. Besides tossing some well aimed stones, he does offer a prescription for improvement which, in summary entails:

  1. The obvious – define a long-term building plan geared towards producing 10-14 ships per year within a budget of $11-12B per year (excluding overhauls, SLEOP, etc.). Such a plan maintains a 313 ship Navy.
  2. Stop work on DDG-1000 and CVN-78 and use remaining funds to build groups of the latest flight of DDG-51’s and CVN-77 configured Nimitz-class CVNs for the next two decades.
  3. Try to “recover something” from the LCS program. Here he is a little non-specific in what exactly is to be recovered – dollars? technology? re-channel to a foreign design license-built in the US?
  4. Review current designs on the drawing board, particularly the nuke cruiser and next class of SSBNs (which will be needed within the decade) and sort through alternatives – one of which he is apparently fond of is a modification, similar to the initial Polaris subs, of an existing SSN platform.
  5. “Make the Navy more relevant in today’s conflicts” I think the 16,000+ IA’s, carrier-based air over Afghanistan, among others, might have something to say – but snark aside, it is obvious the focus here is on the problem d’jour – piracy off the HOA and in the Gulf of Aden. An anti-piracy force based on a heavy-lift ship deploying high-speed skiffs and supported by airborne surveillance provided by blimps and/or UAVs is the proffered solution. 
  6. Fix NGFS – first step of which is getting the Navy and Marines to once and for all come to terms with what exactly is needed – and if it turns out to be dedicated fire support, then a unique class of up to four ships, employing a current hull form and deploying PGMs, T-LAMs and RPV’s to provide spotting and armed recce should be built.
  7. “(I)increase the experience levels and staff levels of acquisition planners, program managers, procurement personnel, engineers, cost estimators, lawyers and associated personnel…Project management is a profession, not a part-time job.” In that context a retrun to the General Board might also be in order.

Your thoughts?

(cross-posted at Steeljaw Scribe)

Posted by SteelJaw in Maritime Security

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  • Byron

    Sounds like a damn fine plan to me, can’t argue with any of it, especially dumping LCS and the license built option

  • Rubber Ducky

    6. Fix NGFS…

    Navy platform strategy continually fails to pick a clear answer in a key up-front question: smart platform or smart weapon? Community types (skimmers, bubbleheads, nasal radiators) always want both, the high-priced option and a prime reason Navy has perpetual SCN and ACN woes. “Both” is simply unaffordable.

    The dumb-platform/smart-weapons choice is largely unexplored, but every time we’ve even sailed in its vicinity (DE-1052, FFG-7, LCS, arsenal ship, John Boyd’s aircraft, Lehman’s CheapShot torpedo, build-to-price SSNs, etc. etc.), the offended community and its proponents lament loudly that we’re not buying all the bells and whistles. Ev Pyatt knows this – he watched the tonnage of destroyers and the cost of SSNs absolutely explode the day after Lehman left office.

    Putting tons on target from a sea platform needs a great and expensive platform … if the weapon has a dumb projectile and if the platform is otherwise unprotected. But we’ve had PGMs of increasing wide selection since Vietnam, and no ship in a battle group is unprotected. The dumb platform is the affordable choice and Pyatt’s formula (‘a current hull form’) genuflects in that direction. I’d go farther: pick the cheapest hull that floats, is self-propelled, and can carry the requisite guns/launchers, comm gear, reloads, and fire control (which, with today’s smart weapons and tomorrow’s, may fit in an iPhone).

    What’s wrong with this concept? Skimmers hate it – it stifles command opportunity. The monkeys want to run the zoo. Screw command opportunity. Skimmers:the next time someone comes along with a really smart ship/weapons concept that impinges on command chances, do your nation a favor: shut up.

  • As Rubber Ducky states, dumb platforms married to the smart weapons is the solution here, as I stated last week in this post:

  • Dee Illuminati

    And the situation is particularly disturbing for those who believe that a nautical pax Americana best serves world peace and stability.

    Can you give me the name of one empire that endured, or a civilization that survived, that did not keep as their highest priority trade route security?

    Show me the one example in human civilization where cutting corners financially in securing access to markets and trade-routes was an economic good idea?

    In fact world history should be viewed as a rise and fall of commercial interests where cultures came into access of trade and was prohibited from conducting it.

    If our nation is in dire need of jobs we should start with plain-vanilla vessels (not pork barrel technology holes in water to pour funding in) and focus on creating a littoral vessel (corvair?) for all 50 states. Name one for each state in the union where USCG and USN use as well as peace-keeping missions can be supported.

    Anybody who believes that a nautical pax Americana does not serve world peace and stability is a fool and ignores every empirical lesson from history.

    This should be the second greatest priority to national energy policy for the next administration and along with domestic energy jobs creation be the second vehicle for job growth.

    We need 50 new littoral vessels, build 50 corvair type craft we will need them in an increasingly crowded and competitive world where mega-tankers are replaced with shuttle tankers as smaller fields in more numerous locations require logistical support and protection of vital national security. If we get serious about the artic we need 50 sooner rather than later.

  • FDNF Squid

    Great pic of the Shiloh in Yokosuka (walked past the drydock yesterday). I’d like to see a Bluewater CRUDES SLEP program for all AEGIS ships to last at least 40-45 yrs, this will match proven platforms and technology with already existing training pipelines rather than constantly chasing the next greatest fad. The CG modernization plan in progress as well as the DDG plan seem to address this.

    As far as LCS..lets give it a chance before we cut it. Frigates have always been a great asset to any great Navy in the last 200 years and lets face it…that is what an LCS is-just a 21st century version of a 19th century “do it all” vessel.

  • The only problem I ever had the the FFG 7 class was that I thought it was undergunned. I think it did (and does) it’s job very well and they were inexpensive enough to build in quantity. I think if we dropped a dozen of those into the Gulf of Aden the piracy problem would be pretty much ended.

    NGFS…I still love the idea of an old school 8 inch gun cruiser…or re commission the BB’s…but I’m old and I love those older ships.

  • FDNF Squid

    Concur with you Warthog on the FFG 7’s being undergunned, heard something once about re-activating the twin arm bandit CG 47’s and dropping an 8 inch gun fore and aft. Hell, some got the SMART ship program about 10 yrs ago and largely reduced the crew size (especially in the ENG DEPT)…so really are the differences between this and the DDG 1000 are that great?

  • Byron

    Warthog, for the role they were envisioned to play in the Battle of The North Atlantic, they were the perfect vessel. Able to carry two helo’s, lot’s of torpedos, AAW to hopefully save themselves from the barrage of incoming ASMs, and if not, eat a Shipwreck to save the carrier.

    They are easy to repair, in that there are very few instances when we have to cut a bulkhead or deck to remove anything, since they designed them to have relatively easy routes to move the big things that break down, including the engines out fairly quickly. Gas turbines to cut down the manning instead of 1200 pd steam. Last, for “low end of the mix” ships, they are very tough and have lasted way longer than supposed to.

  • sid

    It too fundamental organizational change a century agoto clean up the shipbuilding mess…Its apparent a similar change is in order for this century.

  • Great post as always. Great options for policymakers. Why we spend billions on designing new hulls with existing hulls already work (Nimitz and DDG-51s) is beyond me. We will be a 200 ship navy long before 2018. I am projecting 2013.

  • B.Smitty


    We aren’t just designing new hulls, we are designing new weapon and sensor systems to go on them. SPY-3 and VSR are the future US naval radars. AGS was supposed to be the future of NGFS (but I’m skeptical). IUSW-21 is a clean-sheet sonar design.

    IPS and the Total Ship Computing Environment will also be important for future classes.

    I think we need to finish the first two DDG-1000s just to finish work on these systems, and to prove whether automation can replace sailors (or not).

  • sid

    It took fundamental organizational change a century ago to clean up the shipbuilding mess…Its apparent a similar change is in order for this century.

    What is needed is long term shipbuilding plans to be formulated away from operational staffs concerned with the exigencies of that particular day…And the sharp zig and zags in the course of shipbuilding that occur shortly after the band gets done playing at the latest Change of Command desperately need to be smoothed out.

  • pk

    a good bit ago there was a movement in the force to establish a seperate part of command (like line officers, supply weinies, medical types …)which would specialize in a career path dedicated to procurement, maintainence and conversion. it was supposed to be mainly limited duty officers but not totally so. (we should bear in mind that the commander of a public shipyard would have twice the compliment of an aircraft carrier under him and maybe three times the budget,) the idea being that the current business of rotating officers hither thither and yon was not exactly working. (you had guys that had ~20 minutes experience fixing or designing ships bossing crews that had an AVERAGE of 25 years time at that particular work.) not mentioned was the fact that a public shipyard is a huge heavy industrial package but that navy did operate them much more efficiently than many commercial outfits did.

    was that idea ever implemented?

    maybe the duty just wasn’t sexy enough of a career path to attract the “high flyers”.

  • Warthog:

    The PF-109/FFG-7 was supposed to carry the LWGM – the 5″ 54/Mk 45. I knew this as my GMGC (Later CMMC – SURFLANT MCPOC) Don Dolence was the commissioning gunner on DD-984 and, as GLO, I spent come time with him as he bleed the air out of the hydraulics. He said, int he interest of keeping the weight of the mount down, so they could put them on the FFGs led to deletion of the self venting blocks, saving about 300 lbs/mt. On a DD963, designed to have the 8″ Mk 70s, they easily could have had the self venting version and saved lots of time in maintenance/operation.

    But…we all know the historical outcome of those ideas.

    And, side note: We did have to shoot NFGS from a FFG when we were set up to head to the PG after the Tanker Wars (and before the Gulf War). It was resident in the Mk92/Mod 2 software and I did get to nail a school bus on the range at GTMO with 10 rounds of BL&P. Two correction…8 rounds on target from self observation from the bridge wing.

  • Byron

    Might have been cancelled because of the cracking problems (long, ugly story behind that) that the FFGs have at FR 198

  • b2

    I like it- ships that work and are proven, not niche boutique boats, and in numbers that increase the size of the fleet. A fleet that can project power. Who can argue with that logic?

    5- I find fault with that. Naval Aviation (Tom’s mainly) was first over Afghanistan after 9-11 and for several months after that. Has he forgotten? As far as combat airpower I suggest folks check the airpower summary website daily and read the reports:

    ..Naval airpower is relevant and supporting our ground forces every day…The pirate thing, while newsworthy, IE “Crazy Skinnies Take Supertanker” it is hardly something to create a new acquisition strategy over, dontcha think?

    7- I work in that ‘bidness’ and I’ve got years of experience on active duty and as a civilian. Sorta in the middle, though I’ve both ends I got a clear view in both directions. Experience simply comes from doing it and NOT making the same mistake twice. Those in command worshiping at the altar of the constantly changing process is good philosophy and behind the power curve one size fits all training and efficiency drills like Lean Six just takes away from developing, testing and buying stuff…

    Any retired flag who comes to your organization with a team and a plan to streamline procurement I recommend you kindly show him/her (ain’t I PC?) the door.


  • SWO JO

    I’m a division-officer level SWO who is currently having the time of his life on a FFG. Within the context of this thread, I don’t understand is why we’re not beginning a SLEP program for Perry-class frigates. If we took all funds currently committed to LCS we could probably do something like this:

    1) Install 2 Mk 38 Mod 2 mounts in place of the Mod 0 mounts on the main deck. This system, already being installed on new build DDGs and retrofitted on CGs, is far more accurate and will also alleviate the manpower requirements of the old manually stabilized mounts (additionally beneficial considering that FFG manning in general is cut to the bone these days).

    2) Reinstall the single arm bandit (a horrible decision to remove in the firt place) and take one of two courses: either load the magazine with only Block IIIc Harpoons and assosciated hardware or if we were feeling really generous, install the Mod 12 version of the Mk 92 which is reportedly already available as a result of an Australian program to retrofit Adelaide-class FFGs. With the upgraded Fire Control System, SM-2MRs become another available armament, and since they would be rail launched, they would have an advantage on VLS systems because of a shorter minimum engagement range…perfect for the littorals. The install would probably be less expensive then we thought if we decided to use a laptop/COTS technology to run the fire control software.

    3) Add mast mounted optics for an extended visual horizon and an all weather day/night IR capability.

    4) Explore USVs and UUVs to add a remote minehunting capability to FFGs. It’s only a half-solution, but it’s better than nothing. Also, I’m no expert, but FFGs have the “open architecture” to suuport this – stash the vehicle and a crane/buggy to launch it in a helo hangar…no “mission module” needed.

    FFGs and CGs are the only platforms in service that can fully support 2 LAMPS Mk III aircraft and deploy TACTAS, and let’s face it, we’re not going to dedicate a CG for ASW. Perform the items listed above, and you immediately have a small, comparatively shallow draft combatant with some serious teeth that would be an outstanding ASW and SUW platform that could also provide point force ASCM defense in a pinch (particularly employed against shore batteries).

    I don’t presume to know much about shipbuilding, but I do know FFGs and it seems that, for their cost, they were an extremely wise investment. I don’t see why the remaining force couldn’t be outfitted in this manner and left in commission for another 10-15 years. We could send them all to the Gulf of Aden and crack down on piracy in the very near term, and they would be much more relevent vis a vis emerging naval threats from other regions in the world.

  • Dee Illuminati

    I was reading over at about the Turkish Straights Key to Georgian Crisis in Dec. Warship International Fleet Review magazine:

    I then Googled up the The Gearing class of destroyers.

    In the late 1950s forty-four of the Gearing-class destroyers underwent extensive modernization overhauls, known as FRAM I, which was designed to shift them from more of an AA platform to an anti-submarine warfare platform.

    The FRAM MK I program was designed primarily for the Gearing-class destroyers. This upgrade includes rebuilding the ship’s superstructure, engines, electronic systems, radar, sonar, and weapons. The aft twin 5″ guns were removed. Upgraded systems include SQS-23 sonar, SPS-10 surface search radar, 2 x triple Mk 32 torpedo launchers, 8-cel ASROC box launcher, and QH-50C DASH ASW drone helicopter, with its own landing pad and hangar. [1]

    The Gyrodyne QH-50C DASH was an unmanned anti-submarine helicopter, controlled remotely from the ship. The drone could carry 2 x MK.44 homing ASW torpedoes. During this era the ASROC system had an effective range of only 5 nautical miles (9 km), but the DASH drone allowed the ship to deploy ASW attack to sonar contacts as far as 22 nautical miles (41 km) away. [2]

    An upgraded version of DASH, QH-50D, remained in use by the US Army until May, 2006. [3]


    The FRAM MK II program was designed primarily for the Sumner-class destroyers, but were used to upgrade the Gearing class as well. This upgrade program includes life-extension refurbishment, new radar system, Mk. 32 torpedo, DASH ASW drone, and most importantly, a new variable depth sonar (VDS).

    I want to point out that programs where existing hulls are modified created JOBS and inject liquidity into a deflationary economy with effectiveness that simply injecting capital into financial instutions cannot, this is effective stimulus of an economy.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    SWO JO and Dee,

    Very interesting comments, both. I wonder the same thing, as I watched the Virginia class CGN, the OHP class Frigates, and the Spruance DDs pass out of service, not be maintained, and eventually scrapped or sunk in a SINKEX. Now it’s the Mk26-armed Ticos. Most of those hulls were less than 25 years old. (The Virginias and Ticos not even twenty!) At the time of their respective retirements, they were among the most advanced warships in the world, exceeded only by new US vessels.

    A SLEP/FRAM program would have extended service life and we would not be incurring the cost of new construction to reach the 313-ship goal, which seems increasingly doubtful.

    I asked that very question at AFCEA 07 and got an elusive half-answer. Which makes me think there was no good reason not to have modernized.


  • Byron

    SWO JO, I concur in concept. That being said, there are issues. The FFG cracking problem will never go away, and I do mean never. It will be a constant repair issue for however long these great little ships are in service. In addition to this, the hull has serious problems due primarily to skimping on both preservation and repairs. Currently we are doing two underwater (using a closed cofferdam in two locations of the MER) and one underwater using an open cofferdam (hole in AUX 2) on two FFGs. Every yard here has cofferdams for various locations on the ship prepared and ready to use. If there is a SLEP for the FFGs (and I’m all for it) then these issues must be addressed. And I’ve seen the inside of more potable water tanks than I care to think of, since AUX 3 seems to have more corrosion issues than anywhere else.

  • SWO JO


    I concur with all of your points. I have, at one time, owned the AUX spaces on a fig and the first time I toured Aux 3 it was my personal naval purgatory. That said, I think that you would agree that the structural problems aren’t a game-ender, just as the chronic corrosion issues with Burke-class ddgs shouldn’t be an argument to decom them in the near term.

    My main point is that, apart from top speed and manning, a SLEP for FFGs would produce something that would be as good or better than LCS at a fractional cost. Since LCS endurnace is so low at top speed, the trade off would be minimal in that regard. LCS manning would save a lot of $$ but I’m not convinced it can work. How do we handle an engineering/DC casualty and emergency flight quarters at the same time?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Byron and SWO JO,

    What would the savings be in operating costs between a SLEP FFG even with current crew and the reduced-crew LCS?

    My guess is that even with a $250 million price tag (pulled out of my hat) for such a SLEP, it might take a good long while for the operating cost differences to add up to the $1 billion cost of the LCS.

  • Byron

    Preaching to the choir, URR.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Roger that, sorry. I noted that the difference in operating costs of the Virginias over the Burkes was about $17 million annually. Even using artillery math, there are a lot of $17 millions in $1 billion…

  • OldRetSWO

    I was a plankowner on a Virginia class CGN and thus paid attention to them in later years. At the time that the decision to retire them was made, I happened to be a member of a numbered fleet staff. We heard of the retirement decision when the 3 star (who retired with 4) came back from DC and told us that OPNAV had just traded 6 nuke cruisers to keep one CVN (Enterprise) to its advertised 50 yr life. That was the cost tradeoff that was done and why the Virginia and California class were decommed when they were.

    To whomever wrote about the FRAM destroyers, I rode one for a cople of weeks once and they were great ships but the FRAM/SLEP program was done when they were 10-15 yrs old. They went on to serve another 10-20 yrs afterward. The Perrys are hitting the 20-25 yr point NOW and would be a few yrs older before a program could get executed. Doing a major SLEP program with only 10-15 potential yrs of service seems like less of a solid paln.

    Oh, and “looking around at the UUVs and UAVs that might be available is not much of a plan as they need to be integrated and that is not a small task. The RMS program which is being put aboard LCS was originally planned for use on DDGs and thought was made to putting them on FFGs as well. The original proposal was done in 96 and I was part of the team and remember the installation concepts and plans.

  • Byron

    OldRetSWO, you have any alternatives? If SLEP for FFG is out, what’s your opinion on licence build a Euro design?

  • SWO JO


    Sir, admittedly the MIW modifications are a stretch. Since we seem to be content to let our capabilities go away, I’m grasping at straws on that one. With respect to FRAM/SLEP, most FFGs have or will receive brand new diesel generators…this is already occuring. A new LM2500 can be done in 72 hours. The key is the hull condition. Most fig insurv reports these days seem better in many respects than ddgs 15 years younger because the construction was better. Some hulls will have to be scrapped because of negligent maintenance/preservation, but the one I’m currently assosciated with has at least 15 years left. If we can keep LPDs from early Vietnam in operation, we could do the same with a fig, even considering the class-wide issues previously discussed.

    Byron, what about the Skjold-class corvettes from (I believe) Norway? They received a lot of press during development/sea trials but I’d be curious to know how they’re actually working out.

  • WTH

    SWO JO,
    Skjold was leased by USN and evaluated awhile ago, a derivative design was proposed for LCS, and not pursued. My gut feeling: trimaran is going to be radical enough, surface effects would be beyond what we could wrap our head around.
    The key to this discussion, I think, is point 3. It’s not going to be hard to leverage technology we have developed for LCS and plug it in elsewhere. But above and beyond LCS, in our fiscally constrained world, we need to leverage existing technology/engineering. To keep costs down we need to look at engineering solutions that already exist. I doubt we’ll do anything with FFGs as there was just a pretty hefty upgrade program, problem was FFG I was on only got bits and pieces.
    But as a thought experiment regarding the FFGs specifically:
    – I agree with the upgrade of MK38s, MOD 0s are useless weapons. Commonality is key, upgraded MK 38s are OK, 30mm guns from LCS/LPD-17 might be a better option.
    – You’re not getting a MK-13 back on there, nobody is going to reverse a decision already made, try getting that one through congress. Further part of the reason to kill it was also to stop having rail launchers in the fleet with associated support/training/maint. money. Fine, plug in the 8 cell VLS from the Aussie FFG update program, that’ll get you 32 ESSM. Admittedly that program has had problems, but they seem to more or less have it figured out, so we can benefit from their lessons learned. Gibbs & Cox, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin are all contractors involved. Other useful technology there, LINK 16, upgraded software and the like, depending on costs we could cherry pick. We already stole NULKA. This one hasn’t had the engineering done, but why not plug the 57mm gun from LCS where the MK 13 was?
    – I’m with you on optics. There is no reason we should not have multiple redundant EO systems, LCS has a pretty good system, leverage that.
    -Regarding Unmanned vehicles, Byron, you just put Firescout on a FFG right? There is your UAV. It’s a new capability that is different, we have yet to see how it will play out when compared to SH-60s.
    – My quick soapbox issue, FFGs need another RHIB. Other Navies have doubled up the davit, some of ours have gotten the SLAD instead of the gravity davit. Again engineering already done, lessons learned.
    – Another Davit gives you RHIB or UUV or USV options as discussed.

    The negatives, you may not be able to do all of this, as there will probably be weight issues, which in addition to stability will possibly exacerbate hull problems. You’re also going to have to take FFGs out of the active lineup for a year or more which probably makes this a nonstarter.

    Even if we do this, what do we get? Really only up-gunned FFG with a minimal point defense capability. Institutionally we seem to have decided that we don’t need these capabilities and we may be throwing good money after bad if we continue to pin our hopes on upgrading FFGs.

    FFGs are great ships, but right now we need the next generation of FFG, and LCS is not that answer. LCS will be useful, I just don’t think we know how yet.

  • Big D

    The problem is, we need FFG-X. But not only is there no program for one, but some folks wink, nod, and point to LCS as a frigate.

    I don’t know how I feel about SLEPing the Perrys. It seems like a fairly desperate move to me, contemplated solely because there are *no* new alternatives sitting on the drawing board.

  • Byron

    SWO JO: Material condition of Perrys better than Burke? Make you a deal. Bet I could get a flashlight, your gas free guy, and a good old fashioned Navy paint scraper, and find you 20 feet of holed/thin T beams and at least three areas in voids/aux/MER that are 1/8″ away from being open to ocean.

    WTH: Agree on the Mk13. Should have gone with plan to put RAM launcher on it (which is VERY doable, and was researched, according to base scuttlebutt on the NAVSEA side). Not too sure about the additional SLAD/RHIB..that would be a ton of money, and not sure of the gain. FIRESCOUT: “I” did not install it. “We” installed it, and as a sub-contractor to the prime (though we did 100% of structural installs, and 90% of the fabs). This is still a test platform, and personally, the only advantage I see is not feeding the helo det. FIRESCOUT is essentially a recon platform (and same scuttlebutt said it was test platform for deployment aboard LCS). If you’re going to make the assumption that FFG is no longer a ASW platform, you could make a tidly little USW space out of Nixie and Tactas.

    Me? I’d like something like this: