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Navy-Sea Fighter Not Ready for Combat

November 24, 2009
tags: ,

FSF-1 Sea Fighter recently spotted on the Columbia River after a major overhaul. Photo by Phil Gilston

Here is an update via Chris Cavas at Defense News* (see note), concerning the FSF-1 Sea Fighter we posted on earlier in the week. First a little history:

After basely a year of operation, the Sea Fighter suffered a mishap on Sept. 6, 2006, when it ran into some large sea swells off San Diego. At more than 30 knots, the ship suffered a structural failure, causing “significant damage,” according to Congress.
   “The ship was operating out of its de-signed operational envelope,” Kelly explained. Sea Fighter, he said, wasn’t meant to operate at high speeds in seas higher than 12 feet.
   “Anything above that and things get difficult for us,” he said. “They got into a really high-speed state, over 30 knots. There were a couple of rogue waves.”
   Towed back to San Diego, the Sea Fighter was to be fixed with money specially appropriated by Congress — and at the insistence of then-Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who represented San Diego and chaired the House Armed Services Committee — to get a combat capability never intended by its designers.
   The congressional provision in the 2007 defense authorization bill’s conference report called for the Navy to “add weapons (offensive and defensive)” to the Sea Fighter.
   The weapons capability would also mean the ship would have to operate as a commissioned, Navy-manned ship, as civilian-operated ships owned by the government do not have combatant capabilities.
   But the Sea Fighter simply didn’t make a very good warship, Kelly explained. “It’s a very lightweight ship. It’s a catamaran, not designed as a fully operational, all-weather platform. It is a test platform to prove technology,” he said. “The ship was never de-signed to be an operationally deployable vessel.”

Actually we could see the Sea Fighter even without heavy weapons operating as a mothership, with UAVs and robot craft. Still, they can increase costs on LCS two and three times over its initial estimate, but balk at $26 million for a more affordable vessel? As we once said, the Navy has no love for small ships, neither do they understand them.

From the article, we learn these present and future plans:

  • FSF has been relegated to a test platform, not a warship, and manned by a civilian/scientist crew.
  • The ship has “better command-and-control facilities, improved aviation capabilities and improved stability”.
  • She will be sent to Panama City Florida with the 4th Fleet, to Southern Command where in the past other small ship programs have been exiled to die.

*Note (I couldn’t find the link for this article on Defense News. The text is via the Navy Clips Newsletter. If anyone has a link, it would be much appreciated).

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    November 24, 2009 6:25 pm

    “The premise of the IMO HSV Operating Manual is that the crew follows its guidance.”

    Exactly what the “OE” in the ABS classification means.

  2. leesea permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:37 pm

    Lets not forget that while certain mitliary crews were operating the HSV-2 Swift, some main frame webs were bent whilst operating beyond design limits. Is there a pattern here?
    The premise of the IMO HSV Operating Manual is that the crew follows its guidance.

  3. Bill permalink
    November 24, 2009 3:26 pm

    I was also more than chagrined by the description of the situation as inaccurately described. Sea Fighter didn’t happen to accidently ‘run int to’ seas she could not handle at speeds that were excessive. She was INTENTIONALLY driven in to those seas..and hard..and long.

    That used to be called and error in ship handling and attributed to the one in in command. (and refer to my earlier comment about the errant anchor that turned in to a maniacal can opener). So now we blame the vessels instead….I got it.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 24, 2009 2:31 pm

    Bill said “Of course the PCs and LCS would have failed the same ‘evaluation’….”

    What struck me was none of the excuses we get with larger platforms which fail in initial (or subsequent) tests like LCS, like LPD17. So you get a commander overly-defensive toward their latest exquisite ship concerning the increased manning, but who is going to bat for low cost Sea Fighter?

    But the first problem for anything less than a battleship and its “well that was a mistake, back to the drawing boards with more weight”.

  5. Bill permalink
    November 24, 2009 2:17 pm

    A question occurs to me. If, as Kelly states, the Sea Fighter is not ‘suitable’ as a naval platform, but yet was been designed and built to the ABS HSNC code and hence more robust in every respect than a similarly sized cat ferry…what does that say about all the many other USN ‘lightweight high speed’ vessels in the pipeline? JHSV..LCS…by extrapolation then, they are not suited for the role of “fully operational, all-weather platform” either.

  6. Bill permalink
    November 24, 2009 2:12 pm

    Funny too, how a large unsecured and wildly swinging anchor can open up the wet deck like a can of peaches and cause an awfull lot of structural damage…even more odd that this happened during the same trip, huh?. I guess that’s another exmple of why ‘catamarans are bad’.

  7. Bill permalink
    November 24, 2009 2:09 pm

    “But the Sea Fighter simply didn’t make a very good warship, Kelly explained. “It’s a very lightweight ship. It’s a catamaran, not designed as a fully operational, all-weather platform.”

    From the mouth of someone who clearly knows nothing about what he speaks of. Nothing at all.

    I must have missed the extensive evaluations that resulted in that conclusion alluded to. Probably asleep in my nook on the port mezzanine deck at the time.
    Of course the PCs and LCS would have failed the same ‘evaluation’….

    “It’s a catamaran…” if somehow that was all that is necesary to explain the vessel away as unfit for naval service. What a total crock.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 24, 2009 1:29 pm

    I will Moose. Thanks!

  9. Moose permalink
    November 24, 2009 1:10 pm

    Good point about the foilers, but Panama City is also where the LCS mission packages are being tested/integrated. So Stay Tuned.


  1. LCS Alternative Weekly « New Wars
  2. Sea Fighter Mystery Looms « New Wars

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