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Only One Ship

May 30, 2009
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USS Freedom LCS-1

USS Freedom LCS-1

The Navy’s new littoral combat ship (LCS) is the poster child for everything wrong with Navy shipbuilding, from GovExec:

When Rep. Gene Taylor, chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, talks about the Littoral Combat Ship, you almost expect to see steam come out of his ears. “To call the LCS troubled would be an understatement,” the Mississippi Democrat says. The program was conceived in 2002 to deliver a high-speed, easily maneuverable ship that could perform a range of missions in coastal areas, giving the Navy an edge on what strategists believe are the most likely future maritime battlegrounds.”A look at the plan from just two years ago [shows] we should by now have at least four ships delivered, three more nearing completion from a fiscal year 2008 authorization, six more under contract from a fiscal year 2009 authorization, and today we should be discussing the authorization of six more ships for fiscal year 2010,” Taylor lectured two senior admirals during a March 10 hearing.”The fact of the matter is that this program has so far delivered one ship – one ship,” a frustrated Taylor repeated.

Specifically, here is what went wrong:

Lockheed Martin, with little shipbuilding experience, got the first contract and began work at the Marinette Marine shipyard on the Menominee River in Wisconsin. There were a number of problems from the outset. First, in an effort to save time, the Navy and contractors decided to begin construction of the lead ship before the design was complete, a decision that would prove fatal to both schedule and cost commitments.As contractors were adapting a commercial design for military use, the service was overhauling its shipbuilding codes, establishing rules that essentially would preclude the use of most commercial standards for warships. What’s more, the Navy exercised little oversight at the shipyard. A decade of outsourcing had decimated the service’s in-house engineering and acquisition workforce. By the time Lockheed delivered the first ship in September 2008, the cost had more than doubled.General Dynamics encountered similar problems building the second ship in Alabama, for which the Navy expects to take delivery this summer. In both cases, design changes during construction racked up enormous costs.

Basically the same story with every new warship design under construction, changes made after the contract has been signed and building begun. Not to sound as frustrated as Rep. Taylor, but they will do it again, and again, and again…

Numbers mean everything for small escort type warships, and decades-long procurement policies, especially in wartime when equipment becomes obsolete very quickly, can no longer be tolerated.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 5:55 pm

    Bill said : “LCS-1 has a hull shape that is a scale-up of Donld Blount’s Destriero but is otherwise and entirely a ‘clean sheet’ design with no previous lineage at all.”

    LCS-1 is (was ?) supposed to be able to sustain continuous efficient operation at sea state 6.

    I think NOT.

  2. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 5:36 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “An OPV comes in at closer the $100 million mark, which I consider a Low-end corvette.”

    An OPV is not a corvette, not even a low-end one.

  3. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 5:27 pm

    Sven Ortman said : “It’s also possible that they change the hull and propulsion system for a slower, cheaper design and recycle the expensive electronics to get a boat at FY 09 $ 400 million.”

    On May 14, 2009, ADM Roughead strongly suggested that they would not be able to meet the congresional cost cap of $460 million (seaframe only) for the FY2010 ships, and you’re hoping that the FY2009 ships might cost $400 million ?

    Seriously, a mere look at the FY2010 budget released earlier this month would have told you that the FY2009 are expected to cost $545 million each (seaframe only, excluding R&D).

    Time to get real folks : you’ll NEVER see any of the existing seaframes cost less than half a billion dollars.

    I repeat : NEVER.

  4. Bill permalink
    May 30, 2009 5:19 pm

    “Bill, my understanding is Freedom was based on the Austal ferries, but the comparison is a stretch as you say. Why didn’t they just keep buying these HSV’s off the shelf, if that was the case?”

    You are a bit confused there, Mike.

    LCS-1 has a hull shape that is a scale-up of Donld Blount’s Destriero but is otherwise and entirely a ‘clean sheet’ design with no previous lineage at all. Fincantieri built some monhull ferries in Italy that used some ‘features’ of the DLBA parent lines (and some of Erbil Serter’s mixed in) ..but not that much really and that is irrelevant because Marinette built the hull, not Fincantieri. There is absolutely nothing in LCS-1 that ever derived from anything Austal ever did.

    LCS-2 is based on on Austal’s single tri-hull ferry, ‘Benchichuga Express’ or however its spelled, that they built for Fred Olsen. Otherwise, all their ferries are cats..from whence the JHSV design is derived.

    The HSV, TSV, etc were/are all Bobby Clifford’s Incat Tasmania hulls..another entirely separate lineage and design.

  5. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 30, 2009 5:07 pm

    A high-end missile corvette such as the Israeli Saar class is about $300 million. An OPV comes in at closer the $100 million mark, which I consider a Low-end corvette.

  6. May 30, 2009 4:55 pm

    The LCS hull costs were in part due to design changes during its production. These costs (especially double work) are in part just applicable to the prototype, not the later batch hulls.

    It’s also possible that they change the hull and propulsion system for a slower, cheaper design and recycle the expensive electronics to get a boat at FY 09 $ 400 million.

  7. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 4:12 pm

    Pop Quizz :

    People keep talking about a 1,000-ton corvette that would cost about $100 million.

    Any real-life example of such a design available off-the-shelf ?

    Just asking, ya know…

  8. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 4:09 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “look what they did with LCS, which was supposed to be a 1000 ton Streetfighter. Tripled in price and size.”

    The Absalon is a proven design that costs less than $250 million.

    Streetfighter was just vaporware, that gradually morphed into an even bigger vaporware program called LCS. So far, it ended up with exactly one hull that :

    a) costs well over $600 million,
    b) may not meet Navy stability requirements for the damaged ship conditions
    c) has an immature overhead launch and retrieval system
    d) is dramatically undermanned

    BIG DIFFERENCE…

  9. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 30, 2009 3:25 pm

    Scott, look what they did with LCS, which was supposed to be a 1000 ton Streetfighter. Tripled in price and size.

    Bill, my understanding is Freedom was based on the Austal ferries, but the comparison is a stretch as you say. Why didn’t they just keep buying these HSV’s off the shelf, if that was the case? Oh, right. Too sensible and cost-effective. My bad!

  10. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 1:50 pm

    A couple of quick quotes about LCS from the DOT&E FY2007 Annual Report :

    1) “The Navy still needs to complete the risk assessment to confirm that Level I survivability is sufficient for a class of small combatants.”

    2) “The Navy must continue detailed manning analyses to determine the appropriate number of personnel necessary to man LCS, with mission packages, given its level of automation and systems integration.”

    Where is the risk assessment on survivability ? Where are the detailed manning analyses ?

    Mmmmmmmhhhhhhhhh…..

  11. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 1:43 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “where the USN got through with Absolan it would be 5000 tons heavier and twice the cost”

    That’s what the pro-LCS / pro-LockMart crowd keep saying, but they’ve NEVER been able to support that claim. And they’ve NEVER been able to support that claim because it is PURE NONSENSE.

  12. May 30, 2009 10:08 am

    The outsourcing of expertise since Reagan was certainly at least partially a mistake, but I’m not positive that the cure can be found by looking at the USN procurement system and its history.

    One should look at foreign experiences as well, and I’ve heard at times that successful procurement systems simply don’t meddle much in the projects and give freedom to the suppliers.

    My standard advice is to look at how the Swedes procure air force equipment, for they obviously got it right since the late 40’s.

    A mix of enough expertise and good will in the bureaucracy to define requirements, fixed prices, milestone oversight by bureaucracy and general oversight by competent and non-corrupt politicians looks to me like a good idea, too.

  13. Bill permalink
    May 30, 2009 8:55 am

    oops …dang rented fingers. That should have read “Destriero was a very novel and complex ‘one- off’

  14. Bill permalink
    May 30, 2009 8:53 am

    “As contractors were adapting a commercial design for military use,”

    Wha.??? What ‘commercial design’? LCS-1 existed in no previous incarnation that I am aware of..some Fincantieri high-speed ferries only roughly similar excepting. LCS-1 was ‘supposed’ to be a 1500-ton scale-up of Don Blount’s Destriero..and Destriero was a very novel and complex ‘on off’ intended fora very specific mission..to set a trans-Atlantic crossing speed record. But how that situation got translated in to ‘adapting a commercial design’…stumps the heck out of me.

  15. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 30, 2009 7:43 am

    Scott, where the USN got through with Absolan it would be 5000 tons heavier and twice the cost. To build up fleet numbers, even a half billion dollar warship should be off the table.

    Ken, I would propose a freeze on all large warship construction for a decade. the idea that “we have no other choice” with the warships we currently design is ludicrous and historically inaccurate. We don’t have to have nuclear only carriers and submarines, or 10,000 ton destroyers, or 50,000 ton amphibious ships. We have chosen this route and the current crisis in shipbuilding is the fallout. The exception I would make is with small warships, and the 1000 ton corvette, patrol ships, OPVs would be a start. I think the Navy has forgotten how to build anything else on time, within budget, and not riddled with faults when they enter service. Let them go back to basics, practicing on these $10-$100 million small craft

    What to do about the shipyards? I don’t know other than the leadership at NavSea needs to be reigned in, to let the builders do what they do best. Offer up a design and then stick to the plan.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    May 30, 2009 7:03 am

    How do you spell relief ? With A-B-S-A-L-O-N !!!

    Flexible, Versatile, Survivable and… Affordable !!!

    Everything an LCS should have been. Nothing any of the existing LCS designs will ever be…

  17. May 30, 2009 6:39 am

    “Numbers mean everything for small escort type warships, and decades-long procurement policies, especially in wartime when equipment becomes obsolete very quickly”

    What would you change to correct this situation?

Trackbacks

  1. LCS Alternative Weekly « New Wars

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