Skip to content

Mabus Questions Exotic Ship-Buying

July 4, 2009

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

The new US Navy Secretary has his work cut out for him trying to maintain USN ship numbers, especially with a procurement budget of only $14 billion a year, while expecting it to grow  from 280 ships today to 313 in few decades. So many billions might be welcome to smaller navies, but when the typical Navy warship runs several billion each (a new aircraft carrier costs $10 billion, while the first DDG-1000 destroyer is expected to run up to $7 billion), then the money runs out very quickly. Here is Sec. Mabus via the Montgomery Advertiser:

“We’ve to got make sure that we buy the things that we buy on schedule, on budget — that we don’t unilaterally disarm ourselves because we’re buying ever-more-exotic, ever-more-expensive but ever-fewer numbers of ships or aircraft.”

In the same article Peter Singer at the Brookings Institution warns of a procurement death-spiral, not so much because of the lack of funds, but ongoing Navy shipbuilding practices of designing ever more capable, but not very practical weapons:

“Almost every new Navy ship and aircraft being bought is immensely costly and typically over-budget,” Singer said. “This in turn means we can only buy fewer and fewer, undermining national security. If Mabus doesn’t break this trend, he will preside over a Navy that could very well end up near 200 ships.”

At the same time Mabus admits our smaller fleet can do many more things than the much larger Navy of 20 years ago, but also such wonder vessels can’t be everywhere at once:

“They can do way more things than 550 ships could 25 years ago,” he said. “But at some point the numbers begin to matter. No matter how good the capabilities of any one ship are, that one ship can (only) be at one place at a time.”

Recently the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations admitted the fleet was suffering a “presence deficit” in which there was plenty of ships available for high end, Blue Water missions, but far fewer for the all important littoral mission which has been a core function since the demise of the Soviet Union. The only warship platform geared specifically toward this mission is the 3000 ton littoral combat ship, itself suffering cost overruns three times the original estimate, and consistently delayed with technical faults.

So far it seems the Navy answers have been ” business as usual”. Clearly the practice of fitting new tactics for fighting Third World threats on older 20 century warship types is failing, with such vessels increasing in size and cost but shrinking in numbers. Typical of this preference for gold-plated warships has been the DDG-1000 program, which we thought we had heard the last of after Defense Secretary Gates truncated the program at 3 ships. The new Zumwalt class destroyer is a 14,000 ton vessel, sold as a littoral vessel, but which might now be at risk because of rumors of Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles, with the Zumwalt possessing very limited anti-air capability despites its great cost and immense size.

Sadly, with so many more  urgent needs on the table, and the littoral mission still suffering from neglect, the Navy is devising ways to maintain the budget-draining Zumwalt program. The details of this plan can be read at the Information Dissemination Blog. We also point you to the comments for our opinion on this insane idea, which reveals an ongoing Navy bent toward self-destruction, their own worst enemies still fighting the wars of the past while becoming ever more irrelevant in the present.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. CBD permalink
    July 4, 2009 10:38 pm

    The best way to run the development of a littoral patrol squadron would be to prove its capability and to prove the program’s feasibility by incorporating improvements into existing systems. We have the Flight I PCs (PC-1 class, cost: ) and the Flight II PCs (PC-14 and (IIRC) 3 earlier vessels retrofitted with the boat ramp) already in the fleet. 5 more vessels (Flight III) could be built for (likely) under $30M apiece that would use Flight II designs but which would test integration of systems for a larger, final (Flight IV) craft.

    Not only would the 9 Flight II and III vessels be available for testing, and proving, new technologies but they would be available for use in the Gulf of Mexico to develop tactics and simplify the test integration of new systems.

    The ideal procurement of the Flight IV PC (PCG) would be 5 vessels, 4 to immediately deploy with the Flight II and III vessels overseas (Somalia or just for exercises) along with a test squadron (LCS 1-4, HSV/JHSV vessels, DDG-1001, etc.) to work out fleet operations and support requirements. The Flight II vessels would then be retired (to USCG) as more of the PCG vessels come into the fleet.

    600 ton, 62m(203.4ft) PC/PG/PCG (Patrol Coastal, Gunboat) Concept:
    A vessel dedicated to light littoral patrol operations. Pre-planned reconfigurable weapons systems allow a conversion from PC role to PG-type vessel capable of interdicting lighter vessels. A reduced PC version could be produced for USCG to fill the gap left by Deepwater while fulfilling interoperability requirements.

    Peacetime Role: maritime interdiction & patrol as well as regional partnership platforms.

    Wartime Role: littoral dominance operations, escort of amphibious vessels in the near-shore environment, surface fire support (yes, even their small guns, at close range, would be a big improvement) and higher-risk MIO/CP&I/VBSS operations.

    Reconfiguration: The ships could be upgraded before deployment at the nearest forward basing port (or even from a tender) to deal with the more dangerous environment. Given the systems involved, they could be placed with MPPF or any decently friendly port.

    Ship Layout:
    A- weapons station foremost
    B- mini-VLS AD system aft of A station, fore of ship’s superstructure
    Following that, the ship’s superstructure, including an enclosed mast as on the LPD-17 series, containing radar, radio, ELINT/SIGINT and electro-optical systems. .50cal machine guns on port and starboard by the bridge.
    C- port and starboard Remote Weapons Stations (RWS) high on superstructure, just aft of the mast.
    Towards the rear of the superstructure, along the centerline is a launch and recovery area for ScanEagle UAVs.
    D- To either side of that are two additional RWSes
    E- Aft of the UAV launch, on the elevated superstructure is a CIWS station (Millennium Guns)
    F- On the deck level, an open space with wiring for Harpoon box launchers or additional RWSes
    Aft of this, a boat ramp with two stowed RIBs and 4 CRRC
    G- At the extreme rear of the craft, on either side of the boat ramp, are spaces for additional RWSes

    PC configuration:
    Crew: 38 + 18 passengers, reserve space for 6 more.

    A position: Either 1, Mk38 Mod2 RWS (25 or 30mm) or a more conventional main gun such as 57mm or 76mm.
    B position: Empty or minimal load. Below deck space used for additional berthing on USCG.
    C position: 2, Mk38 Mod2 RWS or smaller at 12.7mm (.50cal)
    D position: Empty.
    E position: 1 Millennium Gun CIWS
    F position: Empty or occupied by removable structure for additional stores.
    G position: Empty.

    Launched:
    2-4 ScanEagle UAVs
    2 RIBs
    4 CRRC

    Total:
    0-1 57mm/76mm
    2-3 Remote Weapons Stations
    1 CIWS
    1 ScanEagle group
    2 RIBs

    PG configuration
    Crew: 44 + 18 passengers.

    A position: 1, main gun such as 57mm or 76mm.
    B position: Full load, use Barak or some other system licensed for production in US, 16-32 should readily fit.
    C position: 2, Mk38 Mod2 RWS (25-30mm)
    D position: 2, RWSes (Bearing 4, Hellfire OR 8, LAHAT-type OR 4, 7-rd Guided Rocket launchers)
    E position: 1 Millennium Gun CIWS
    F position: 2, 4rd Harpoon Box Launchers or additional weapons stations
    G position: 2, Mk38 Mod2 RWS (25-30mm)

    Launched:
    4-5 ScanEagle UAVs
    2 RIBs
    4 CRRC

    Total:
    1, 57mm/76mm
    6, Remote Weapons Stations
    1, CIWS
    16-32, mini-VLS SAMs
    8, Harpoon ASMs
    1 ScanEagle group
    2 RIBs

    Alternate System Configurations
    In the place of the Remote Weapons systems, simple gun mounts could be used to reduce costs for foreign allies, as well as the elimination of many other complex systems.

    If one desired to configure this as an “Aviation Corvette” type vessel, the configuration of the PG would be maintained at A, B, C, D and E positions. The boat ramp would be eliminated and the entire aft section of the ship would be dedicated to launch facilities for VTUAVs and some medium-sized plane-type UAVs. The berthings for (18) passenger spots assigned to boarding crews and additional crew spots for operating the ASMs (6) would be assigned to flight crews and equipment space, including additional fuel. This would require the replacement of much of the internal hardware as well as the installation of better radars to provide better oversight of the UAVs. This would not be a flexible system, but the common hull would simplify the international maintenance & support footprint.

    If a RFP was put out, you’d likely get the following:
    – Bollinger (history of partnership with Vosper Thorneycroft) offering a PC-like
    superstructure on a hull based on Vosper’s 62m Super Vita with a rear boat ramp adopted from the PC-14.
    – VT Halter Marine (owned by Singapore Technologies) offering something very
    similar to the Ambassador III class vessels (Egypt)
    – Marinette Marine (owned by Fincantieri) offering a version of their 70m FAC
    design or a stretched Saettia Mk V Patrol Vessel
    – Swiftships’ Defiance-class large military patrol boat.

    Bollinger would have a head start, since they produced the Cyclone class vessels and would thus be favorites for producing advanced versions, but the competition would be nice in terms of driving the time line.

    These vessels would bear CIWS and organic air defense capability sufficient for medium-low threat environments. Given the expectation that high-threat environments would involve a greater dedication of fleet assets, the vessels do not need a means of defending themselves against all threats.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 4, 2009 8:36 pm

    Scott, that was Mr Pritchett’s opinion that you posted. It is obvious with the correspondence ongoing between the CNO and Congress that the USN and their supporters want to see this ongoing. Not my opinion, just pretty obvious!

  3. Scott B. permalink
    July 4, 2009 1:19 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “the Navy is devising ways to maintain the budget-draining Zumwalt program. The details of this plan can be read at the Information Dissemination Blog.”

    Maybe I am not too dense to understand the subtleties of Mr. Raymond Pritchett’s prose, but I don’t see where it is suggested that the Navy was *devising ways to maintain the Zumwalt program*. I am actually under the impression that the opposite is suggested in Mr. Raymond Pritchett’s piece, e.g. :

    “It should also be pointed out the DDG-1000 program has no momentum that I can see. The Secretary of Defense has clearly stated he wants to end the DDG-1000 program at 3 ships, and the Navy is trying to end the program at 3 ships.”

  4. July 4, 2009 12:52 pm

    this is my point about the FSC C2, its cheaper than C1 design which is an ‘exsquisite’; and whilst you might need a few, I think its better to build C2s, design them to be upgraded, like the Leander Class, so that in a few years time when you have more money you can upgrade them to whatever they need to be then.

    So instead of building expensive module systems, or any other of these great but expensive ideas, you build some decent off the shelf armed FFG/FSGs with plenty of hard points, so you upgrade/specialise them as and when you need to.

    yours sincerly

    Alex

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: