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LCS Alternative Weekly

December 23, 2009
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Danish Flyvefisken class guided-missile patrol craft HDMS Viben (P562).

Visby to the Gulf?

From Jane’s via Springboarder, comes news on a much loved stealth warship of the Swedish Navy:

From Janes’ Navy International (no link, but do subscribe) comes a small snippet that suggest the Visby Class Corvettes Harnosand and Helsingborg are preparing for an out-of-the-region deployment, getting improvements that include:

“…additional HF and VHF communications, improvements in safety/emergency systems, a 100 per cent uplift in fresh water production capacity, the provision of an astern replenishment sea rig, and modifications to cooling and ventilation systems to improve performance in warm climates. In addition, each ship has been prepared to receive additional .50 cal and 7.62 mm gun mountings…”

What the LCS might have been. Now we will see who is the real pirate buster!


A Legend Before Her Time

LCS deserves the moniker of “pirate buster” as much as I deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, since it has yet to see service, and has so many issues which may prevent its deployment in adequate numbers anytime soon. So, I love excited, howbeit misinformed posts like the following:

Can you imagine seventy miles per hour on this beautiful vessel all the while tracking targets with satellite imaging, laser, radar and sonar while readying attack helicopters in the hangar bay? 
Here’s a Look at The U.S. Navy’s New Pirate Catchers!

WOW! A couple of these should be able to clean up the pirates off the coasts of Africa ….

It also pays to research the subject:

These ships are also relatively inexpensive.  This one’s a bargain at $208 million, and the Navy plans to build 55 of them.

Regular readers might know they are a tad more expensive than this, according to Defense News for starters:

  1. LCS-1  $637 million
  2. LCS-2 $704 million
  3. LCS-3 $548 million

These are the latest figures. As you noticed on average the costs have nearly tripled, likely reducing the purchase number. Outwardly, the Navy says it wants a bigger fleet, but the way it builds ships suggest just the opposite.

As for anti-piracy missions, there is no evidence the USS Freedom, which is scheduled to deploy next year to the Indian Ocean will fair any better than traditional warships have done, even if it is allowed into the danger zone off Somalia. Its primary asset in this mission would be its helicopter, but vessels of all types deploy the same and haven’t been any more successful, though there have been individual successes.

No disrespect is meant to the poster above. Just goes to show how the Navy manages to foster mediocre but still gold-plated weapons on a mis-informed public and get by with it. Which is why we are here, to sound the alarm against waste.


Nordic Influence Squadrons

D.E. Reddick points to this article via Defense News of cooperation beaten Nordic Naval Forces specifically for patrolling the arctic ice regions. The constitution of this proposed force sounds vaguely familiar:

The armed forces of Finland and Sweden have engaged in amphibious cooperation since 2000, so such a specialized unit is not far-fetched.
“A Nordic amphibious unit could be built on this cooperation and on other existing units and weapon systems. In order to have an Arctic capability, the unit would need logistic support adapted to Arctic conditions,” the report said.
“This support could be provided by one logistic support vessel, which could function as a command platform, transport and supply vessel and amphibious landing platform,” the report said. “These functions could also be provided by a combination of various types of vessels.”

This just isn’t about amphibious equipment:

The report proposes that the amphibious unit work with a Nordic Maritime Response Force (NMRF) comprising coast guard and sea rescue units that would conduct regular patrols in the High North seas and Arctic waters in the Barents Sea.

The NMRF could call on support from Nordic naval wings and have access to special support equipment, including ice-breakers.

Considerable assets are available, not the least from Sweden:

Sweden’s Berga-based 1st Marine Regiment includes a corvette squadron (two Göteborg class and support ship), a mine-countermeasures squadron (Landsort class and support ship), one submarine (Gotland class), and a forward naval support element. The Swedish Navy’s Gotland and Södermanland-class submarines are customized for operations in Arctic waters.

Sweden’s Arctic-capable naval assets also include newly built Visby-class stealth corvettes.

Other assets would come from small boat navies like Denmark, while Norway could deploy Aegis frigates. Perhaps individually these wouldn’t stand much a chance, but combined into the Influence Squadron concept, would be a formidable force to use against any known threat.


The Other Littoral Ship

This is the Navy’s new Joint High Speed Vessel, and Austal has just started work on JHSV-1 Fortitude:

The vessel is a 103-meter, high-speed military transport ferry that is part of a potential $1.6 billion, 10-vessel contract.

Fortitude, or JHSV 1, will be the first Austal-designed vessel built using new processes developed to synchronize with Austal’s new Module Manufacturing Facility, which officially opened last month.

Its design mostly complete before construction even started, the JHSV will carry military equipment, including vehicles and a helicopter, and troops at speeds of up to 43 knots.

Where we often complain about the LCS’ high speed as being irrelevant and too costly, for the JHSV we could see the benefit. As a sealifter, the unarmed craft must race into the shallow water danger zone, unload its cargo of men and matériel, and then speed away. As a warship, we would expect the LCS to hang around much longer, conserving fuel as much as possible, maintaining an extended patrol, right?


Sea Fighter for the Holidays

From my sources, I hear the Sea Fighter FSF-1 is in drydock, expecting to relaunch sometime this Christmas. Apparently someone is still interested in this vessel, and its new refit and stealthy mission modules seem to suggest a special mission. She is battle-ready, but for what?


Fast Response Cutter a Good Deal!

Here is a neat little warship for the Coasties, eminently suitable for anti-smuggling, anti-piracy operations. Best of all it is cheap but good! From Navy Times:

The Sentinel-class contract is worth up to $1.5 billion if all options for 34 cutters are exercised. The 154-foot patrol boats will replace the aging 110-foot Island-class patrol boats. The longer boats allow for larger crews — 23 people versus 16 — which the Coast Guard felt were needed, said Lt. Cmdr. Herb Eggert, the sponsor’s representative. The larger cutters also handle better in 8-foot seas and have centralized berthing, which reduces crew fatigue in stormy weather, he said. The cutter will be outfitted with communications and computer equipment that will allow the crew to communicate with the cutter’s rigid-hull inflatable boat team beyond the horizon — another advantage over the Island class.

Seems like we get nothing but bad news from Deepwater. Here is a success story at $44 million each. The USN could build a like number for the cost of 2-3 LCS vessels, to work with new Influence Squadrons. The USCG probably should stay away from large destroyers high end cutters like the expensive Bertholf class and stick with what works for her, like these small ships.


85% Over Budget

Thats the LCS’s Remote Mine-hunting System, with anti-mine duties one of the many functions loaded on this troubled program. From Navy Times:

The total cost of a Navy remotely piloted submarine has grown so much that top service officials notified Congress this week that it could end up more than 85 percent above original estimates, the Navy said Friday.
Navy officials say the Remote Mine-hunting System, which includes an unmanned submarine and its AN/AQS-20 sonar, could together cost about $22.4 million per copy, a spike of 85.3 percent over the original estimate, said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Victor Chen.
The mini-sub, the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle, by itself could cost $12.7 million per copy, or almost 52 percent more than the original estimate.

This is important because in the 18 combat-related damage on US ships in the past several decades, 14 have been from mines*. Still, I hate to see a three-quarter billion dollar frigate out performing minesweeping duties.

Here is another part of the article I just love:

The Navy initially experimented with fielding RMS gear aboard its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, six of which were modified with a door on their starboard sides to launch and recover the mine subs.

Yeah, lets pass another role onto our over-worked Burkes, since they are already BMD ships, carrier escorts, amphibious escorts, convoy escorts in wartime, pirate busters, life-guards, the list goes on. Because we only know how to build high end exquisite warships, they usually end up doing mediocre but essential functions, which a low cost vessel is better for. Also, the idea of a $2 billion minehunter. A classic blunder in the annals of history!

CDR Salamander has more, colorful info!

*See Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat-Hughes.


LCS Alternatives-Flyvefisken class patrol vessels

A total of 14 of these compact patrol ships have been built. The modular design helped inspire the littoral combat ship, though lessons in cost-savings were ignored. Stats are from Wikipedia:

  • Length-54 meters
  • Draft-2.5 meters
  • Displacement-440 tons full
  • Speed-30 max
  • Range-3860 at 18 knots
  • Crew-Up to 30
  • Armament-(With varied modules)• 8 × launchers for Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon Block II SSM
    • 12 × launchers Sea Sparrow SAM
    • 1 × OTO Melara 76 mm/62 gun
    • 2 × 12.7 mm machine guns
    • 4 × 323 mm (12.7 in) MU90 ASW torpedoes
    • 60 mines


11 Comments leave one →
  1. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 23, 2009 3:29 pm

    The contact for the OPC will require a “parent craft” so it will be “off the shelf.”

    I think which parent craft and what capabilities is a good topic for discussion.

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 23, 2009 3:24 pm

    Chuck wrote-“This is a little misleading”

    Notice I also wrote “

      Armament (with varied modules)”

    Also, concerning the NSC, what about one of Brian Dunn’s auxilary cruisers, or Britain’s HMS Endurance, something off the shelf or built to mercantile specs.

  3. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 23, 2009 3:19 pm

    “The USCG probably should stay away from large destroyers high end cutters like the expensive Bertholf class and stick with what works for her, like these small ships.”

    The Coast Guard does need ships larger than the fast response cutters. The NSCs might be a bit of overkill, but they regularly sail independently around Alaska, the mid-Pacific and South America. Without a fleet train, they need good sea keeping, a high cruising speed in bad weather, and better endurance than the typical frigate.

    The next class of cutters, designed to replace the 210, and 270 foot cutters will be closer to what you have been advocating. It will have “a gun, a boat, a helo, and a boarding party,” with few additional frills. I do expect it will be larger that your corvette though, roughly 3,000 tons, about the size of a WWII destroyer.

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 23, 2009 3:02 pm

    “Flyvefisken class patrol vessels

    Armament-(With varied modules)• 8 × launchers for Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon Block II SSM
    • 12 × launchers Sea Sparrow SAM
    • 1 × OTO Melara 76 mm/62 gun
    • 2 × 12.7 mm machine guns
    • 4 × 323 mm (12.7 in) MU90 ASW torpedoes
    • 60 mines”

    This is a little misleading, although I’m sure Mike did not intend to do that. All of this can not fit on at the same time.

    Can they carry the 76 mm, Sea Sparrow, and Harpoon at the same time?

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 23, 2009 2:56 pm

    Regarding the “fast response cutters,” The total program is planned to include 58 boats, 24 more than covered by existing options. Presumably the later boats will be even cheaper, adjusted for inflation. Max production rate should reach at least 6/year. Projecting this from current production schedules all 58 should be finished by 2017.

  6. December 23, 2009 2:00 pm

    “I’m all for our major ships having a mine recognition/avoidance/neutralization capability, but sometimes you want the mine work done at the same time you want the destroyer somewhere else.”

    Yes I know I was hoping Mike would bite on the large destroyer mention. ;)

    Of course there are other good reasons for using small hulls such as hull pressures etc. I do think that robotic platforms are the future. A million pounds/dollars would by a lot of robot. These could be distributed around the fleet; perhaps there could even be a specialist carrier for them.

  7. Bill permalink
    December 23, 2009 1:37 pm

    The USN would have had a remotely operated mine hunting capability for littoral waters if the joint Swedish-US SAM II program had not been cancelled. A small piece of the puzzle, yes..but another opportunity gone by too.

    I wonder how much the current composite hull construction materials and techniques cost compared with aluminum and steel hull construction. In places like Norway and Sweden..there have been a lot of advances and along with that, the cost of various fibers, particularly carbon, have plummetted in recent years. The Norwegians are now producing hulls in excess of 30m LOA that are entirely carbon-fiber/epoxy foam sandwich, and reducing over 35% in structural weight compared to their earlier GRP/sandwich methods.

  8. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 23, 2009 1:30 pm

    I’m all for our major ships having a mine recognition/avoidance/neutralization capability, but sometimes you want the mine work done at the same time you want the destroyer somewhere else.

  9. December 23, 2009 1:01 pm

    In the past mine sweeping gear was carried on sloops etc. The current trend for small hulls has much to do with the costs/complexities of using composite materials. Also large wooden hulls (as favoured by the US) became expensive too. I think I am writing in saying that the SANDOWN SRMH were the most expensive ships per ton the RN had everbuilt.

    If you had a nice large destroyer you could carry two good size remotely operated boats. The Germans have a remotely operated system The mothership could stand well clear of the danger.

  10. leesea permalink
    December 23, 2009 12:12 pm

    to be accurate the JHSV is armed with a grand total of 4 x.50 HMGs. That is less barrels than my PBR had?!>! And further the JSHV could easily be modified for more weapons if an armed naval auxiliary was desired instead.

  11. December 23, 2009 7:38 am


    Mike Burleson said:

    “Also, the idea of a $2 billion minehunter. A classic blunder in the annals of history!”

    The United States Navy has a very good reason for putting mine hunting equipment on it’s destroyers,it is cheaper than having a minehunter follow them everywhere:

    A smaller ship would have been sunk by that incident.


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