LCS-CraigVADM 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.

default_chinese_prop_post_exc_04_0706291114_id_61245We must sacrifice now to transform for tomorrow.” Of course, that has a great track record.

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.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy
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  • The_Usual_Suspect61

    As long as the bar is so low, LCS will meet its requirements. It won’t do anything that was spec’d except for 40 kts – and that won’t outrun any of the missiles in anybody’s inventory the last time I checked. Me thinks LCS is a case of people not recognizing sunken costs and being unwilling to cut their losses. Good money after bad is still bad. In fact, it is even worse, because people know that they are burning money that could go to a more effective program.

    • LT Rusty

      “[M]ore effective program?”
      Speaking of low-set bars …

      • The_Usual_Suspect61

        Fixed it.

  • Perry McDowell

    I thought Rowden told some doozies when he was my detailer…

  • Rowden needs to put the crack pipe down and walk away…..

  • vtbikerider

    On a somewhat totally different topic– is that the French Jean Bart in the photo at the top? I know she had her main armament forward with secondaries aft, but that’s a lot of turrets on the fantail as well.

    Other than “going fast” what ARE the requirements of the LCS?

    • Guest

      I was wondering why the photo of a French Battleship. Three triple 6″ plus 24 100mm and 28 57mm.

      • Yes … why? Think non-linearly. It is there for a reason.

      • Valcan321

        Besides the Jean Bart had more firepower in its 2 smallest secondaries than the entire fleet of LCS?

      • No. You are thinking linearly.

    • I was wondering why the photo of a French Battleship. Three triple 6″ secondaries aft plus 24 100mm and 28 57mm.

      Was it the 57mm connection?

  • Craig Hooper

    We have been here before. If people who think like CDR Salamander had won a very similar debate back in the 1920’s, the Navy would have never developed aircraft carriers (or the aircraft they carried) that won a somewhat important war in the ’40s.

    And those funky old missiles from the fifties (that famously missed everything they were fired at during a review with President Kennedy) grew up to be the VLS arsenal we count upon today.

    As I said, we can build a ship that looks and fights just like amy other frigate out there. Personally, don’t think that route is the right path; With the INDY and SPEARHEAD Classes we have an opportunity to field a bunch of platforms to get the new stuff fielded quickly and cost-effectively. That’s how to move from those canvas-covered curiosities of the ’20s down the path towards F-18….and beyond!

    • Craig, don’t be silly to the point of being insulting. You’ve read my stuff through the years and know that I am a fan of what was done in both the 1920s with carriers and cruiser development and guided missile development from the 50-70s. They are text book examples of doing things right and I have been saying so for …. over eight years online. Sorry Shipmate – you are 180-deg out on that swipe. Nope, you have just made my point as those programs make my point, don’t counter it. Try again, you fail.

      • Craig Hooper

        Sigh. The Sal I once knew had a thicker skin. Rather than jump to play the insulted victim, why don’t you take your USNI audience through your thought process–why doesn’t the carrier analogy work for you? Or the missile analogy? Surely an informed debate embodies the heart of the USNI mission to a greater extent than what you wrote above.

        Address the substance of the argument rather than claiming offense–offense where you know there’s none meant.

    • Mr. Hooper, you are not a disinterested observer in this debate. CDR Salamander has no axe to grind….unlike yourself who’s job title is ” Vice President of Sales, Marketing and External Affairs, Austal USA”

  • captcentipede

    I’ve been reading CDR Salamander for some months now and every one of his posts leads me to the conclusion that he is nothing but a complainer with no viable solutions to offer other than the same old rhetoric of killing programs *yawn.* He undermines the work that is being done with his sensationalism and writes as if he is an authority on all things Navy. Like most tabloid writers, his commentary is all snarky fluff. Once you turn into a technical SME with actual credibility rather than nothing more than a naval historian, I’ll buy you that beer.

    • CC, I think you need to read more. Just go over to my homeblog – and if you are in a hurry – do a site search for “Plan Salamander” – that will help a little and grab a small % of solutions over the years. I would also offer that I am a blogg’r, not a tabloid writer. Apples and pears, in a fashion – and snark is part of the blogg’n writing style … and this is a blog written by a blogg’r.

      “Undermines the work that is being done … ” – I am not a PAO or an industry rep. If you want cheer leading, that is the place to go. I come from the “Creative Friction” school, and essential element in any productive and creative process. That is a style with much success through, ahem, history, that takes its cue from far back in the finest traditions of the US military service. Review the work done by the history of VADM Sims, VADM Connolly, BG Mitchell – just to name a few.

      What is that old cliche … “If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking” – that works here.

      In the Navy, when everyone follows the “shut up and cover” line then one bad idea becomes a bad program, that becomes a bad bit of kit, that becomes what people take to way, that becomes an instrument of your own defeat.

      Debate is good, and I encourage you to join in the debate. No one has the right and perfect answer, goodness knows I don’t, but telling those in the debate to “shut up” is not constructive.

      As for your swipe, “…technical SME with actual credibility rather than nothing more than a naval historian…” – I would add that if we make decisions with only half our brain, we will get the expected results.

      Overly technical focus with a minimal grasp of history has a lot to do with the problems we have with the operational utility of LCS, our next fighter not having a gun, and other issues that have problems when engineering theory displaces water or makes a shadow on the ramp or has to prepare to fight an enemy that gets a vote.

      If a technical person only talks to technical people … you get the half-brained results one would expect. Open your mind a bit my friend, in the spirit of the USNI where one has “… independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.” Right now you are just attacking the messenger – if you must, go after the message with ideas and counters of your own. Who knows, you might just change my mind.

      • Sperrwaffe

        “Shut up and cover” has developed into “shut up or you will get nothing at all…”
        Derived from an conclusion just issued at our army concerning the infantry system “gladius”.

    • Sperrwaffe

      I think you do Sal wrong by assaulting him like this. I have never read his posts as mere complaining without solutions. Of course he sometimes collects different issues and provides an overview based on his “centre of gravity”/ “mission analysis”. But he never evades a discussion.
      Especially not in this forum. This form has provides an interesting way of exchange and interaction. That is why a guy like me sometimes joins the discussion by putting my way of thinking on the line. And if I receive “Gegenwind” (opposing winds) even the better. Otherwise I would not evolve in my thinking.

  • KenofSoCal

    Keep drinking the Kool-Aid RADM Rowden. Please make an LCS your flagship next sea deployment.

  • Wharf Rat

    Hey – I’m just bummed out I didn’t take up Mr. Hooper’s invitation to tour Austal when I was down there for AMERICA christening. We exchanged emails when he started there and had to discontinue his blog. I’ve had to look at both Independence class ships from across the channel.

  • vtbikerider

    I think the Jean Bart is a good example of developing a weapons platform to counter a specific threat but also could be modified to meet the needs of a changing environment. She went from being a challenge to Italian capital ships, to a potential hybrid battleship/carrier, to a flagship to a potential missile ship.

    I suppose an argument could be made that the LCS concept is similar to the JB and her sister ship, but there is a difference from messing around with one capital ship and building an entire two platform class of ship with a lot left open for experimentation. Wouldn’t it be prudent to first use the first couple as test beds and if they don’t work out have the courage to pull the plug? Whatever happened to Plan B’s?”

    • Sperrwaffe

      Prudent? Not at all. To pull the plug requires someone willing to decide. I say again: To decide.
      This holding on to both variants leaves me with the bitter taste of unwillingness to decide. Based on a very very strong Military Industrial Complex. Worse than Eisenhower ever anticipated it.
      I follow your idea of the development of platforms with space and weight for modifications.
      But there are some things that disturb me a lot with this LCS issue. Modularity, Vessel size for a platform which claims to be specialised for the Littorals, Speed as a major requirement compared to the size of the vessel, complete ignorance of signature, shock and survivability.
      But that is just my point of view, having an MCM background, confined and shallow water operations and working for a DEU shipyard (no, not in Hamburg..

      • vtbikerider

        I agree Sperrwaffe– we’re missing a key component here– leadership with enough juice to stand up and declare “This isn’t working…” What was the quote about the F–111B? Where is that kind of Admiral?

      • They are far too intelligent to have a Plan B…./sarcasm


    Well said. In addition to your statement.

    “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.”

    Each platform will have critical vulnerabilities and if you have a single platform that succumbs to a critical vulnerability, you end up with nothing. Having one aircraft that does it all and has a multi-service training and support system is a great idea for a budget guy, but a terrible idea for a warfighter.

    Ooops, just had a plane disintegrate during a BFM training hop. Red stripe the fleet. Now what do you do? Ooops, just found out that a very specific tactic will beat the radar every time and we’re not the only ones who know etc. etc. etc.

    There is a real value to diversity and in the fleet it’s having a diverse bunch of platforms with different overlapping capabilities so there is no single point of failure.