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The Next Navy Procurement Disaster

February 2, 2009

Even as we suffer through reports that the new USN “destroyer”, the DDG-1000 will cost up to $7 billion each, or about the price of supercarrier, the brains at the Navy Department are laying even more grandiose plans for the next cruiser design, dubbed CGX. From Defense News:

The roughly 22,000-ton CG(X) will have an integrated power plant that can drive the powerful radars needed to pick up the fast, small warheads. It will be a challenge, Navy and industry experts concede, to create a radar and power plant that are up to the task yet able to fit in the less-than-10,000-ton DDG 51 hull.

But Navy plans show a total of only eight CG(X) cruisers over the next 30 years, far less than the stated requirement for 19 of the ships. That leaves a smaller, “CG(X) light” version of the FSC as a possibility – able, perhaps, to be fielded faster and more cheaply. The shape of the CG(X) program has been in limbo for more than a year.

Here’s hoping it stays there. Back in 2006 I wrote on this continued absurd obsession with bigger and ever more costly warships, as a Navy more concerned with the threats against it than being a threat to its enemies:

History details the account of a great naval race in the ancient world which transpired between the Greek nations that arose following the death of Alexander the Great. The navies of Macedonia, Syracuse, and Egypt built ever larger and more absurd vessels which were for little more than show. One great galley with 40 banks of oars and 4000 rowers was so large it could barely put to sea. Finally the Carthaginians and Romans put an end to the madness, by producing vast numbers of similar galleys which could be easily massed produced.

Here’s a prediction: if the CGX makes it to production, the lead vessel will be priced at $10 billion. For the first time a USN carrier escort will surpass the cost of the ship it is escorting. Might I suggest two alternatives to building future warships in the age of precision aerial threats? First there is an arsenal ship design, with a giant vessel riding low in the water, barely manned and barely visible. Such a craft would be double hulled and use water protection as armor, making it very hard to sink. In other words, it would be built to take hits, like the old wooden ships of the line, rather than trying to hit a bullet with a bullet by ever more costly radar and missiles systems which are pricing old legacy platforms out of even a superpower’s price range.

My own preference would be building many smaller warships of corvette size of less, large numbers of which can be assured of surviving any future missile exchange at sea. No vessel is unsinkable, as as we learned in the World Wars, it is better to have many warships than just a few. Even when the ships are badly handled, as the US fleet in the Guadalcanal campaign, being able to replace losses quickly and build more as needed can make a difference in victory or defeat.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Moose permalink
    February 2, 2009 8:02 pm

    The primary reason to have any stealth at all with CG(x) is to help make the ship look less appealing to an inbound ASM. As I said, stability and “some” signature reduction is looking to be the preferred way forward as opposed to less stability and a whole bunch of reduction which was the plan a couple years ago.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 2, 2009 6:34 pm

    There’s no need to place it on a stealth vessel. You can’t hide a noisy Aegis array.

  3. Moose permalink
    February 2, 2009 3:30 pm

    Most of the recent talk coming out of the industry suggests the Zumwalt hull likely will not be used for CG(x), and may never see the water if the 3 DDG-1000s are never built. CG(X) doesn’t require the advanced signature reduction DDG-1000 is supposed to have, some reduction and a stable hull are more desirable.

  4. west_rhino permalink
    February 2, 2009 2:44 pm

    Integrated power plant…. combination nuclear and gas turbine crosses my mind as an option, perhaps with a few outlets to drive electrons to support shore based activities on meals on wheels missions.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 2, 2009 2:34 pm

    But aren’t the current plans to place the CGX on a Zumwalt hull? Has this changed already?

  6. Moose permalink
    February 2, 2009 2:11 pm

    Naval BMD is not just fleet defense, so far they’re far more likely to successfully defend cities and other targets ashore than GMD is. We DO need a greater focus on the low end of the fleet, but forsaking BMD simply because a dispersed fleet is more survivable (debatable, there’s an awful lot of ASMs out there) is overlooking a key aspect of the Navy’s BMD mission. The “one or the other” procurement attitude is what has crippled USAF COIN ability and nearly sunk the Royal Navy, the key is to strive for efficiency and mission adaptability that allow the Navy get a “complete” fleet within its budget.

    As for a 22,000-ton cruiser, I want to see more information. I highly doubt your $10 billion (current USD) figure, you’re using the DDG-1000 as a rubric but it has issues such as the absurd hullform which CG(x) should avoid. It’s even been suggested that CG(x) could use a cut-down LPD-17 hull, which could bring a great deal of savings IF the lessons learned from the LPD construction are properly applied. On the other hand, it easily COULD be a stupendous boondoggle. If KEI is driving the size requirements, I’d like some signs KEI is a viable program. I want to see more information before judging.

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