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LCS Alternative Weekly

March 31, 2010
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The Navy's newest littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS 2) is moored pier side in Key West, Fla.

A Refresher

Just a reminder, from Defense Industry Daily, what we have against the LCS:

The emerging scenario in the USA, meanwhile, is a cost for the base ships that continues to hover around $450-550 million each, plus mission modules that bring the price per equipped ship to $600 million or more. That is no longer a cheap corvette class price tag. It’s a price tag that places the USA’s LCS at the upper end of the international market for full multi-role frigate designs. Even as future procurement trends will make LCS ships the most common form of US naval power.
In that environment, unfavorable comparisons are inevitable. A versatile surveillance and special forces insertion ship whose flexibility doesn’t extend to the light armament that is its weakest point, and isn’t flexible enough to deal with anything beyond token naval or air opposition, won’t meet expectations. Worse, it could cause the collapse of the Navy’s envisaged “high-low” force structure if the DDG-1000 destroyers and CG (X) cruisers are priced out of the water, and built in small numbers. That has already happened to DDG-1000/ DD (X), now that production has been capped at just 2-3 ships…

Especially if the low end has grown to a cost level that makes it equivalent to other countries’ major surface combatants, while falling short on key capabilities that will be required in the absence of higher-end ships.

*****

Nobody Wants the LCS

I thought the following from Hampton Roads.com, which really is about the fight over the Navy carriers, quite amusing:

Now a report on the plan for the littoral homeport indicates Mayport will be the primary base for the East Coast fleet when the ships are ready for commissioning. Each ship, estimated to cost nearly $600 million, carries a crew of about 50, is designed to operate close to shore and can provide intelligence gathering, ground support and serve as a local command vessel, depending on which of several modules is installed.
Compared with nuclear carriers, which have crews of more than 3,000 each, the littorals don’t bring nearly the number of jobs or spending. U.S. Sen. Jim Webb suggests that – instead of spending money to make Mayport ready for nuclear carriers – the Navy should send all 32 East Coast combat ships there.

*****

Bringing a Ship to a Knife Fight

Here are some interesting comments picked up at CDR Salamander’s site concerning the Cheonan, the South Korean corvettes that was sunk last week:

“…look at all the guns on that ROK boat.”

“That little corvette could kick the hell out of a flotilla of LCS.  Glad someone else noticed.  Definite cannon envy.”

“yep, definitely beats the hell outta single 57mm… plus has harpoons”
 
“Armed like ship of her size should be armed!  Switch out the 3″ for 5″/38′s, and you would have a BUTLER, or RUDDEROW.  Korea is still paying attention to how warships are really armed.”

“Looks like a nasty little sucker in a knife fight. Anyone else notice the crew size for a 1200 ton ship. No minimal manning there.”

Here again are the Specs for the “Pohang class corvette“:

  • Length-88 meters
  • Width-10 meters
  • Draft-2.9 meters
  • Weight-1300 tons full
  • Speed-32 knots
  • Range-4000 miles at 15 knots (?)
  • Crew-95
  • Armament-ASW version: Torpedoes, depth charges, hull mounted sonar 2-Exocet ASM
    AAW version: 2-40mm cannons
    All-1 or 2-76mm OTO Melara cannon

Republic of Korea corvette Sinsung (PCC-783), a Pohang class ship.

*****

My Faith Isn’t THAT Strong!

Steven M Collins writes about current events from a Biblical perspective. Thought his analysis of the LCS quite interesting:

Two things come to my mind as I consider this new ship. It offers unusual capabilities to the US Navy, but it also is uniquely vulnerable. When it is operating close to enemy shores in shallow water, it will be vulnerable to any and all land-based weaponry. I hope that it was built with exceptional defensive systems because it will need them to operate that close to enemy shores. I hope it has a defense against the many new types of Chinese cruise missiles and the Russian-made, supersonic, “sizzler” cruise missile. This ship will not only have the unusual ability to engage an enemy close to its shores, but it’s ability to operate in shallow water will also mean that it can travel deep into a nation’s land mass via navigable rivers. The ship has torpedoes, missiles, and helicopters. With helicopters it can deploy US Marines inland as well. Its most immediate assignment might be the type of warfare that looms in the Persian Gulf. Iran has a strategy to attack US warships with swarms of small craft and suicide vessels. The USS Independence, if it is ready for operations, could attack the bases of all these ships right at the shores of Iran. My final thought is, I’m sure, shared by many readers. I wonder what weapons systems and capabilities this ship has that are classified (not acknowledged in any press release).

Did you get that last sentence? If I’m interpreting this correctly, considering all the myriad missions this obviously underarmed sloop/patrol boat will have to perform close to enemy waters where missiles and other nautical threats lay, there must be some secret wonder weapon onboard to defend her. You’re right Steven. Going to take lots of faith and a miracle if this ship is to fight anything thing worse than a drug smuggler!

*****

Cart Before the Horse

Here is N-LOS back in the news, fresh from failure to launch in recent tests. Greg at Defense Tech tells us:

GAO says the launcher was tested last summer, but failed due to a malfunctioning sensor and battery connector. The Navy expects delivery of another SUW package this year, this time with the launcher, but minus the missiles. As we noted in our previous write up, Army officials told us they think the missile’s targeting problems are pretty serious ones, considering how far along the NLOS-LS is in development. They’ve hinted they may look at a low cost alternative to the NLOS-LS.
Yet, the Navy is going ahead with delivery of the launcher. Why is the Navy taking delivery of a problematic launcher to fit in a mission module for an unproven missile?

Because Greg, its not about actually using the LCS in combat, but how really cool it looks chasing smugglers in speed boats. Plus, it makes the Navy appear like they really get this new shallow water warfare thingy. So if we can have aircraft carriers without planes, surely it is OK for the USS Freedom to go to sea unarmed! Because warships today are not meant to fight, duh.

*****

For the Cost of Two Destroyers

Reuters posts on the total cost of the LCS program so far:

GAO said the total cost of the LCS program so far, including research and development as well as procurement funding, was $5.1 billion, nearly 300 percent more than the $1.3 billion cost projected in 2004.

*****

What’s Klingon for “Lame”?

Scoop Deck’s ever vigilant Phil Ewing details the USS Independence’s (LCS-2) visit to Key West, with some locals liking it to a “Klingon Bird of Prey”. You Trekkies know what I mean:

There is one thing out of the ordinary, however — the alien bird-of-prey docked down on a long pier known as the Outer Mole.

The cabdrivers know about it. You can’t go far along the main drag without seeing a newsstand on which the Key West Citizen features an enormous bow-on shot of it, with the headline: “It may look NASA, but it’s Navy.” It’s the littoral combat ship Independence, and it definitely does look extraterrestrial compared to the ordinary fauna in these waters: glass-bottomed boats and boxy white cruise ships and the day-trampers bound for the Dry Tortugas.

Bringing up an interesting point, that the very large, trimaran warship is hardly “low observable” and would stand out like a sore thumb in a littoral environment. Unless your point is to scare the enemy to death! The cloaking device might come in handy after all.

And apparently Klingon for Lame is “rIgh”.

*****

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:22 pm

    From Paul McLeary’s trip on the Austal-made boondoggle :

    “Since the crew is so small, and each crewmember performs multiple tasks, “the concentration level has to be higher” Renshaw (CO of LCS-2 ) said.”

    And as is widely known, motion sickness really helps with concentration, doesn’t it !

    Doh…

  2. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:08 pm

    leesea said : “most HSVs have their ride peculiarities”

    Their *ride peculiarities* being one of so many reasons why HSVs are NOT the way to go when a low-end WARship is what’s desired.

  3. Scott B. permalink
    April 5, 2010 2:59 pm

    Navark said : “That’s true, Scott B. Unfortunately, that makes the chosen propulsion option of four waterjets look downright absurd. Not terribly efficient at 18kts…”

    Gas Guzzlers is what these boondoggles (both of them) are !!!

    And their poor seakeeping qualities won’t just be a problem for their skeleton crew, but also promises to seriously hamper vehicles launch / recovery and air ops.

    Which were supposed to be their raison d’etre

    What a disaster !!!

  4. leesea permalink
    April 4, 2010 2:30 am

    most HSVs have their ride peculiarities. I would not draw too much for from news reports.

    Pitching has alway been common with cats and tris. And quartering seas are the bain of their existence. I would be more interested to hear how she rides at 16 knots loaded fully and the resulting fuel consumption.

  5. navark permalink
    April 3, 2010 9:13 pm

    That’s true, Scott B. Unfortunately, that makes the chosen propulsion option of four waterjets look downright absurd. Not terribly efficient at 18kts…

  6. Scott B. permalink
    April 3, 2010 11:14 am

    Mike Burleson said : “So if you run Independence at full speed at all times, it will be quite usuable.”

    What this means is that both designs, – LockMart and GD/Austal -, offer poor seakeeping qualities at moderate speeds, whereas they’ll spend 75-80% of their times operating at speeds below 20 knots, as the CNO himself finally conceded recently :

    “The amount of time this ship spends in this high-end regime, even though we need that speed, and we need that speed very much, as we are seeing down in the Caribbean and other places, the amount of time a ship spends in that regime is not going to be very extensive. It’s tantamount to saying, our airplanes are in afterburner all the time, and we know that’s not the case.”

  7. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 3, 2010 8:27 am

    So if you run Independence at full speed at all times, it will be quite usuable. The pirates will only need a row boat to outmatch her!

  8. Scott B. permalink
    April 3, 2010 8:19 am

    Wanna know about LCS-2 much-touted seakeeping qualities ?

    Check this recent blog entry by the excellent Phil Ewing over at Scoop Deck.

    The quote below tells the story (emphasis added) :

    “Independence had clear skies, calm seas and only moderate winds for its transit from Key West to Naval Station Mayport, but the ship rolls and pitches like a drunken whale. Early after it sailed from Mobile, Ala., the ship hit heavy weather and eight-foot seas, and wallowed so much that life was miserable for many crew members and riders. “I’ve never seen so many people get seasick,” one sailor confided; the Night of the Living Vomit is already a crew institution.

  9. Hudson permalink
    April 2, 2010 2:39 pm

    Add to that the tankers and commercial vessels damaged though not sunk (because of their gigantic size) during the Tanker War in the 1980s between Iran and Iraq. One US warship hit a mine and nearly sank.

    Mike is right; this is a neglected area of naval warfare, with all the emphasis on speed.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    April 2, 2010 1:23 pm

    There are no unsinkable warships. From carriers, to battleships, to small patrol boats have all been victims of mines. The British lost a brand new battleship, HMS Audacious to a mine in the 1914-1918 war. There is an ongoing neglect of anti-mine and anti-submarine warfare in all navies. It is the obsession with battle force type ships, and S Korea currently is building some pretty impressive vessels which may not be so relevant in the type of conflict it is likely to engage in just off its coasts.

  11. Yuri permalink
    April 2, 2010 10:36 am

    D. E. Reddick:

    But Craig is right, no matter what you just noted. Those guns didn’t actually help the Cheonan, did they? That’s his point. Quite possibly, a dirt cheap mine – maybe a very old one – took out a well armed, capable ship. Stealthily. Unexpectedly. Or a torpedo did it, maybe – a torpedo costing a miniscule fraction of the Cheonan’s sticker price and running costs.

    There’s no point explaining how ‘silly’ someone is for not acknowledging the ‘appropriateness’ or ‘typicality’ otherwise of the Chenonan’s equipment fit, when none of its equipment turned out to be capable of saving it. Craig sees the bigger picture.

  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 31, 2010 5:16 pm

    Welcome back ScottB. Excellent cartoon!

  13. Heretic permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:08 pm

    Fabulous cartoon Scott B. ^_^

    “It only hurts, because it’s true…”

  14. March 31, 2010 4:17 pm

    I am lead to believe that when the USN started to move from conventional launchers to VLS systems they had a hard time with politicians up on the “the Hill” as the new ships appeared to have no weapons.

    Looking at that nice pic’ of the LCS all I could I think is that there is an awful lot of ship under that solitary 2in gun!!!

  15. Chuck Hill permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:54 pm

    The design of the Korean Corvette perfectly reflected the “Projected Operating Environment.”

    –They operate close to land based air, so no helo.
    –Conflict is likely to occur with little notice at short range, so they are heavily armed with guns capable of accurately delivering a high volume of fire, accurately, at short range.
    –They will operate relatively close to home port, so they can use a relatively small hull, as sea keeping, range, and endurance take a back seat to speed and number of units. (They still manage to have a loner range than the LCS)

    Soviet era Koni class seemed to have similar priorities.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:53 pm

    And finally, on a more humorous (?) note :

    Independence vs Freedom

  17. Scott B. permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:51 pm

    Then this article by Sean Reilly, with a self-explanatory title :

    Analysts: LCS contract decision could be contested

  18. Scott B. permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:47 pm

    And then the Mission Packages (pp. 97-98) :

    MCM Mission Package :

    “Four MCM systems—the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), Unmanned Sweep System (USS), Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS), and Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS)—have not yet been demonstrated in a realistic environment, and two others—the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Remote Minehunting System (RMS)—cannot meet system requirements.”

    SUW Mission Package :

    “According to program officials, NLOS-LS was tested in August 2009, but was unable to fire due to a malfunctioning sensor and battery connector. The program expects delivery of the second SUW mission package in March 2010. It will include the 30 mm gun module and the NLOS-LS launcher, but no missiles.”

    ASW Mission Package :

    “According to Navy officials, recent warfighting analyses showed that the baseline ASW package did not provide sufficient capability to meet the range of threats.”

  19. Scott B. permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:42 pm

    OK, let’s start with the seaframes (pp.95-96) :

    Watercraft Launch / Recovery :

    “The Navy identified watercraft launch and recovery—essential to complete the LCS antisubmarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions—as a major risk to both seaframe designs. Watercraft launch and recovery systems have not been fully demonstrated for either seaframe.”

    “On the LCS 1, the Navy is conducting dynamic load testing, but integration with the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle—a physically stressing system to launch and recover—is not scheduled to occur until after the ship’s shakedown cruise. For LCS 2, factory testing of the twin boom extensible crane revealed performance and reliability concerns that were not fully addressed prior to installation.”

    Design Production / Maturity :

    “The Navy used a concurrent design-build strategy for the two seaframes, which proved unsuccessful.”

    “Starting construction before drawings are complete could result in costly out-of-
    sequence work and rework to incorporate new design attributes. Incomplete designs at
    construction also led to weight increases for LCS 1 and LCS 2.”

    Survivability :

    “According to the Navy, this weight growth contributed to a higher than desired center of gravity on LCS 1 that degraded the stability of that seaframe. Acceptance trials showed LCS 1 may not meet Navy stability requirements in a damaged condition.”

    Cost Control :

    “Navy officials report that the earned value management systems (EVMS) in each of the LCS shipyards do not yet meet Defense Contract Management Agency requirements.”

    “Until those requirements are met, cost and schedule data reported by the prime contractors cannot be considered fully reliable.”

  20. Scott B. permalink
    March 31, 2010 3:34 pm

    What would be the LCS weekly chronicle without some meaningful excerpts from the latest GAO assessment of selected weapon programs ?

    LCS Seaframe : pp. 95-96

    LCS Mission Packages : pp. 97-98

  21. D. E. Reddick permalink
    March 31, 2010 2:42 pm

    CBD,

    Easily concur with you on that. So many reports and comments have provided us with the information regarding how LCS-1 is overweight. The addition of those two water-wing (just in case of an emergency) additions to the transom of LCS-1 further point to such a problem.

    Craig,

    Cheonan was properly armed for a surface combat-focused corvette with a secondary (minor) role as an ASW platform in the littorals of the Korean peninsula along the NLL (sea extension of the DMZ). She carried two 76mm/62 cal Oto Melara guns and two twin mount 40mm/70 cal Dardo CIWS cannon. Those are the sorts of surface weaponry necessary and needed to deal with the 1950s & ’60s-era gun, missile, and torpedo technology employed by most of the Norks’ patrol vessels. Cheonan also carried six Mk 46 ASW torpedo tubes and twelve depth charges; she also possibly carried two or four Harpoon cruise missiles. She was quite heavily armed for her displacement.

  22. CBD permalink
    March 31, 2010 2:11 pm

    Heretic,
    By all indications…LCS-1. Much more black paint appears above the waterline in LCS-2.

  23. March 31, 2010 1:25 pm

    All them fancy guns sure didn’t help the Cheonan much.

  24. navark permalink
    March 31, 2010 1:04 pm

    looks like someone got the weight estimate badly wrong, no matter how you look at it.

  25. Heretic permalink
    March 31, 2010 11:30 am

    Mike … take a good hard look at the waterline on the LCS-2 in that picture you posted. Now go take a look at any of your past postings which has a picture of LCS-1 where you can see the waterline clearly. Notice any difference in the amount of black line above the water you can see? Guess which ship is more badly overweight and out of spec?

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