Salamander on Shipbuilding
Words to the wise from the Dean of the naval blogosphere. Here is CDR Salamander, first with some fundamentals:
– Evolutionary wins over revolutionary.
– Technology demonstration on proven platforms first – then on new hulls.
– Good beats perfect.
– Spread you eggs around many baskets.
– PPT lie, even if people don’t.
– Costs estimates are low balled.
– Actual manning requirements will be greater.
– Do not assume budgets will increase to meet expanding per-unit costs – expect smaller budgets instead.
– Configuration control with block upgrades.
Also, good leaders were fed bad information by consultants with financial conflicts and poorly led staff officers who were terrified of being the junior guy contradicting the senior guy who owned paper on them. They also know what would happen if they were blamed for putting the spike in the forehead of ADM XXXX’s pet project.We. Knowingly. Did. This. To. Ourselves.
He’s not finished yet:
We need to fix the process that produces bad shipbuilding programs or this will happen again. All programs have challenges, but the epic fail of LCS and DDG-1000 (the argument could also be made to include the Tiffany Amphib LPD-17 too) in this decade should get the attention of someone to make the changes needed. Vince Lombardi leadership – back to fundamentals. Maybe we are getting there.
I should hope so. He is discussing specifically the failure of the Navy to produce a CGX design as promised for a while now. I personally think the DDG-51 class which will likely be our only large surface combatant for the next couple decades (as it has been for the last two) is more than adequate, but the Salamander is saying we shouldn’t be here at this point where we can’t replace aged designs with newer.
I personally think that much of this failure on the shipbuilders part is a symptom of an overall obsolescence of traditional large warships. If NavSea would return to basics with the 1000+ tonnage corvette we advocate, they would be forced to become innovative. We recall the Spruance, which seems like a classic design today, but actually was very poorly armed for a 5000 ton destroyer, less so pound for pound than the warbuilt DDs it was replacing (eventually improved, then retired prematurely IMHO)!
The planners obsess over the perfect platforms so much, such as seakeeping and cargo space and range, they forget that a warship’s primary purpose is to fight. But with a lighter, more easily produced hull, they might actually get creative again, and produce good ships.
The corvette is just the start. We need to fix the submarines, the aircraft carriers, the amphibious ships, and the cruiser/destroyers. All are approaching obsolescence in all fleets because we can no longer build them right, they are too big, and we just can’t afford enough of them. Yet we still need their unique abilities.