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Meddling with the LCS

May 31, 2009
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Tim Colton of Maritime Business Strategies echoes our post from yesterday over the Navy’s flawed concept of shipbuilding. Once they design a new warship, they can’t seem to let it go! Talk about your dysfunctional parents:

There are two principal reasons that the LCS costs are still shrouded in confusion.  First, the Navy is still making endless design changes – just ask Colonna’s, where LCS 1 has spent most of this year so far and where she will practically be living for the rest of the year: Admiral, you and the Navy’s acquisition executives need to stop all this messing around, freeze the designs and let the shipbuilders get on with building the ships.  Second, the Navy (and the Congress) have unrealistic expectations regarding cost: if you want to come in under the cost cap, you need to eliminate some of the bells and whistles.  Finally, if you could restructure these contracts so as to make the shipbuilders the prime contractors, so much the better.

Concerning the original cost estimates of USS Freedom, at about $220 million which Raymond Pritchett discussed recently, this is a deliberate Navy tactic to undersell a warship program to get it passed by Congress. Then when the real costs become public, they fain innocence and bewilderment at the change. Happens too often in history to be a coincidence!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott B. permalink
    May 31, 2009 3:26 pm

    Speed is GROSSLY overrated, both strategically and tactically.

    At a recent conference on naval strategy in Sweden, Dr. Robert Dalsjö, a Senior Analyst specializing in politico-military affairs at the Division of Defence Analysis of the Swedish Defence Research Agency, presented a very interesting paper entitled :

    “We No Longer Need a Sports Car, We Need a Station Wagon : Conceptual Challenges and Issues for the Royal Swedish Navy”

    In his paper, Dr. Dalsjö emphasized the need for such critical attributes as :

    1. endurance : the ability to operate at sea for an extended time without replenishment or service.

    2. seakeeping : the ability to operate in or transit rough waters while maintaining not only safety, but also operational effectiveness.

    3. versatility : the ability to solve several different tasks in differing circumstances.

    4. adaptability : the ability to reconfigure the ship’s capabilities in order to meet changing circumstances.

    5. air defense : not only for self-defense

    6. interoperability : including C3I and replenishment at sea

    7. survivability : being able to take a hit from a RPG or even a SSM, without undue casualties and while remaining not only afloat but also able to operate.

    8. crew comfort : quite important during extended deployments, especially with an all-volunteer crew.

    9. free spaces : for additional elements, functions or equipment.

    10. and at least one medium-sized embarked helicopter.

    And Dr. Dalsjö to conclude :

    The Absalon example shows that it is possible to combine the capabilities of a frigate with those of a support ship in one hull, what I would like to call a “station wagon frigate“. It would seem silly, not least in these days of Nordic cooperation, not to look closely at that option.”

    Likewise, in a context where saving fuel has become a national security issue and producing affordable designs is the only way to achieve the 313-ship goal, it would be silly for the US Navy not to look closely at the Absalon option.

    And there may be some light at the end of the tunnel : e.g. in a recent by NSWC Carderock, the Absalon was described as “very capable in the Global Fleet Station role”.

  2. Scott B. permalink
    May 31, 2009 2:52 pm

    Time for one (of many) $500M question :

    Now that Saving Fuel has become a matter of national security, can the Navy really afford a gas guzzler like LockMart’s LCS-1 ?

    Especially when the Navy has failed to provide any kind of justification for the 40+ knots sprint speed that seems to be the only thing a design like LockMart’s LCS-1 has to offer ?

  3. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 31, 2009 2:42 pm

    “$220 million for a commercial high-speed vessel … was an entirely realistic cost estimate.”

    This is true Scott, which is why we should have been buying, leasing, or building the Austal ferries which have been performing stellar service for almost a decade now, instead of LCS. Some would argue that the ferries are not real warships, but again they have been performing this role for almost a decade now, even in combat conditions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the earlier East Timor crisis. Massed produced they could be the Navy’s version at sea of the Stryker on land. meanwhile, concerning the “wondrous” capabilities of the LCS, the Navy’s version of the F-22, we keep waiting, and waiting….

  4. Scott B. permalink
    May 31, 2009 2:28 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Concerning the original cost estimates of USS Freedom, at about $220 million which Raymond Pritchett discussed recently, this is a deliberate Navy tactic to undersell a warship program to get it passed by Congress.”

    One minor comment here :

    $220 million for a commercial high-speed vessel with a displacement around 2,500 tons and a basic combat system (which is exactly what the LCS seaframes were supposed to be in the first place) was an entirely realistic cost estimate.

  5. Scott B. permalink
    May 31, 2009 2:07 pm

    VADM McCullough said : “You don’t have a realistic view of what the cost will be, the recurring expense, until about the fifth ship of any type. That doesn’t mean five LCS’s, that means five of each kind. And that’s pretty much where you figure out what the recurrent cost is going to be.”

    Bullsh*t !!!!

    What this kind of comment shows is that the LCS program remains out of control, and what McCullough is asking for here is a blank check…

    At the risk of repeating what I said earlier, it’s time to get real : you’ll NEVER see any of the existing seaframes cost less than half a billion dollars.

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