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Astounding Headline

February 23, 2009

Your many billions of taxpayer dollars at work, from the Virginia-Pilot:

Eisenhower Deploys With A New Directive: Counter-Piracy

Ugh! I was really concerned about those pirate aircraft carriers stalking the Gulf of Aden! Perhaps something like this:


For about 1% of the cost, we could have sent this:


19 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2009 7:26 pm

    On that I agree 100%, Mike.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 26, 2009 2:44 pm

    I am almost certain price estimates are purposefully down-played, and this has been ongoing for decades. And all the services do it.

  3. February 26, 2009 10:41 am

    I’ll offer an anecdotal xample of the glaring differences between a successful small fast warship program and how such are approached here.

    The initial design of the RNoN Skjold was exhaustively model tested. We determined that the full-load displacement must not exceed 260 tons to assure that ALL performance specs would be met. Fast forward through a deliberate and well-managed design build program..and the prototype is launched literally not one kilo off the design displacement that was carved in stone so many years earlier. In fact, since she was launched minus the missile and gun systems, the program manager ordered that the exact weight of those be immediately loaded in sand bags. Why he do that? make sure that whatever performance the ‘light’ protoype did achieve (it still exceeded all staff requirements handily), that it was achieved always at the design full load displacement…so that nobody would possibly gain the false impression that any ‘margins’ existed above those that were designed in from the beginning. “Keep your extra junk outa my boat..”

    Can you even imagine such an approach here? Its beyond the pale. With LCS-1, in fact, its quite the opposite. At nearly 800 tons over full-load estimates, she’s been sported around ‘still heavy but empty’ and the speed numbers oohed and aahed over. BFD. Now what?

  4. February 26, 2009 10:28 am

    I’ve seen no evidence that supports a contention that teh weight of LCS-1 (or similar weight sensitive designs) was purposely under-estimated. Instead, I see no coherent attempt to manage the weight as the programs progress. ‘Stuff’ just keeps getting added as each player and stakeholder adds to the design mix. No discipline..and the design and building of advanced and/or high-speed craft requires an incredible degree of restraint and control of the design process.

    I can tell you that the design/build of the ‘Destriero’, upon what the LCS-1 platform is heavily based, was executed with rigid and very rigorous control of the weights, throughout the entire process. But then, of course, the Destriero was not executed by anything remotely resembing the kind of ‘organization’ the put the LCS in the water. I’m not saying that it could, would or should either..but the requirements for managing performance-critical features of such craft do NOT change or ever go away.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 26, 2009 9:44 am

    2000 tons, Bill? This is not surprising, as the military often underestimates the price and the weight of weapons, on purpose I think.

  6. February 26, 2009 8:56 am


    First, I could write all I know about ‘big steel ships’ in one paragraph. I do not engage in discussions of same because I have nothing to add and only things to learn. For 25 years, I’ve been involved in design/build/test of ‘small’ fast craft and ships…that list is looong and includes many of the current ‘favorite flavors of the day,. like the wave piercer HSVs..the Skjold..Smyge..and yes, the LCS (although I was more involved with those that were not selected than with those that were Midas touch.. )

    The LCS-1 started out on the boards at around 2000 tons full load displacement. Think about that….

    Any small craft program trying to fight for air in the USN design community wil be eventually sunk by the weight of combined requirements and ‘piling on’ [every code has to get a piece of the pie or inupt to the design, no matter how small the pie is…]…and this even in spite of the ever-shrinking size and competence of the NAVSEA technical commnunity. It would require a wholesale change in the entire approach to small ship design to ever have a chance at succeeding….a change I see as highly unlikely in my lifetime.

    I often (perhaps TOO often) compare the Norwegian Navy approach to the US one. A very small group of civilian and active duty folks focus their limited resources on what is important and they keep the end-points in focus with an uncompromising tenacity. ‘Requirements creep’ and ‘rice bowl’ engineering are not allowed. Consider just this one glaring contrast with how ‘we’ do business: The program manager for the Skjold development was the same person, a Commander, from its beginning in 1988 or 89 through launch of the prototype almost 10 years later. Nearly all of his project team (active and civilian both) remained unchanged for that entire period of time as well. Continuity and consistency of direction that works…and something we will never see here. We will just continue our disjointed and ad hoc approach and make sure it is executed by a large, disjointed, constantly changing, and disparate group of varying degrees of competency and with competing agendas and rice-bowl aspirations.

  7. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 25, 2009 11:36 am

    Thanks, Bill and Lee! I’d rather be arguing about small boats any day than the Zumwalt battlewagon!

  8. leesea permalink
    February 25, 2009 11:04 am

    Bill your thoughts on how the bluewater navy screws with small warboats are truly right on! Your recounting of history is something I’ve believe for 20 yrs. Your sceanrio on how the navy would screw up the Stilletto coud probably be true of the LCS?

    The only glimmer of hope I see is IF officers in the EXO community start getting promoted to higher levels so they can impact ship decisions. Admittedly a long way off.

  9. February 25, 2009 9:32 am mentioned the Sea Shadow…

  10. February 24, 2009 3:44 pm

    Mike, that is a very valid point, IMHO. I routinely fail to see why our ‘small craft’ needs get addressed in such a poor, ad hoc and random fashion, when the cost of a good design/build/shoot-off is literally peanuts by comparison with the ‘big ship design’ process (and even that is not even close to perfect..despite the incredible sums thrown in to it). If we can ‘waste’ such sums on flawed big ship designs, then surely we can ‘waste’ much smaller sums on real design efforts for small combatants too, although the question would remain as to whether that process would be equally flawed.I would suspect it would be.

    LOL..I can see it in my minds eye now: Blue water navy takes a clue from the M-80 project. Take one:

    CNO: “Gentlemen, I recently saw the artists conceptions for a cool looking destroyer hull from Erbil Serter’s drawing board. It looks really sexy. And Congressman Xray says he’ll fund a couple if they get built by Utah Iron Works in his district.

    Audience attending (in unison): “Sounds good, lets build em.”

    Voice in back (speaking under breath): “but..what will we use them for?”

    In my ‘tenure’ as a fast craft designer, I’ve been party to USN wasting 10s of millions on a poor design of a fast craft a little over 100′ LOA (that was mercifully cancelled before any metal was cut)…and have had the enjoyment of being an integral part of the RNoN Skjold design/build effort that was accomplished successfully with a LOT less total design cost.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 24, 2009 1:37 pm

    It is unfortunate Bill, that such craft are seldom placed into production. We certainly could afford some failures like this, than giant 14,000 “destroyers” which soak up several decades of funding before we realize they are not right for modern threats.

  12. February 24, 2009 1:28 pm

    The SWATH ‘Sea Shadow’ is/was a peculiar thing..built and tested initially under great secrecy to explore the limits of various stealth technologies that were quite novel at the time and for which we had little valid means of evaluating computationally (that time long past..and the old girl is getting long in the tooth). Ungainly, quite slow, and with a miniscule payload capacity, she was strictly a ‘black’ technology trial horse and never did have any direct relevance to any particular future platform or mission..other than the technology lessons learned.

    It is an unfortunate aspect of the ‘small craft’ side of the USN for much of its history, particularly recent history, that the only craft that get evaluated and/or built/bought are seldom, if ever, realized by a coherent process of needs defnition and competent craft design. Instead, a few mid-to-high-level folks will go kick an interesting tire and, if they fall in love with a particular skiff for whatever reasons, will become advocates for it and go in search of a mission to attach it to..any mission/every mission. In other cases, some naval artichoke will have a ‘bright idea’ and get the idea funded by some combination of internal naval connections and external congressional pressure and earmark funding.

    Some ‘interesting’ craft come out of that chaotic and random process..and some real stinkers too. Meanwhile, back at the ranch The SBUs are still longing forlornly for a craft that meets their requirements..and it ain’t the Stilleto or the Sea Lion or the Air Ride or ..and so on.

  13. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 24, 2009 9:12 am

    It is a start. The only other small stealth ship the US possess, the Sea Shadow, is now headed for some naval museum. Just another nautical curiosity soon forgotten while its still business as usual for the Incredibly Shrinking Navy.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 24, 2009 9:08 am

    Notice, Lee, that change often comes from odd sources (the Royal Navy invented the tank, for Pete’s sake!). So its the Army or whoever driving the Stiletto? Good for them, as they have done a remarkable job defeating terrorists on land, while the USN mostly ignores the problem at sea.

  15. February 24, 2009 8:13 am

    But ‘that’ particular unarmored eggshell came about simply as the conequence of political connections and a fortuitous ‘plus-up’. It rides like a log wagon on a corduroy trail and is notable, in terms of real capabilites or innovation, for nothing but its ‘gee whiz’ appearance. As a designer of small capable fast craft, I and many of my colleagues have little good to say about that ‘thing’…I do not share any of your enthusiasm for it, Mike. Sorry. There are far better platform concepts and existing craft out there..

  16. leesea permalink
    February 24, 2009 12:05 am

    news flash Mike the NSW crowd known for their willingness to push the envelop, gave up on the Stilleto some time ago. Why else would some carzy soldiers be driving it now?

    There are a lot more and better small warboats to start from, we send you some ideas.

  17. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 23, 2009 7:38 pm

    Never give up, never surrender, Lee. I’m hitting the Navy in its foundations, not just in the middle. And an “unarmed, unarmored eggshell” is a good place to start since the new war will be more about the new weapons, not just the platform, obsession with the latter which has given us an overpriced, stretched thin, and under-used fleet.

  18. leesea permalink
    February 23, 2009 2:04 pm

    Stiletto is an unarmed, unarmored eggshell, pls give up on promoting that boat. Now a weaponized SeaFighter, I could see in littoral ops.

    The analogy suffers a lot Mike. Why not show how the current Danish task force with Visby and Absalon compares to CTF-151 ships in capability?


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