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LCS Alternative Weekly

January 13, 2010

The Problem with “1 Ship Replacing 4”

The mission bay is one of the key features of the LCS concept, which envisions a ship able to move at speeds of more than 45 knots that can take on extra equipment tailored to specific missions, such as anti-surface or anti-submarine warfare, all packaged into mission modules. Independence’s design, adapted by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works from a high-speed commercial ferry design by the Australian firm Austal, features a hull described variously as a three-hull trimaran or a monohull supported by outriggers. Either way, the configuration has never before been used for a U.S. warship.

Navy Times

The LCS proponents stand by a multi-mission idea which says you can do more missions with fewer platforms. It is wrong considering the wear and tear on hulls plus the technical difficulties placing so many capabilities in one ship. This is turn raises price, delays entrance into service, probably reducing the number the Navy will eventually buy. Neither does it answer the excessive deployments for ship and crews, since no matter how capable the vessel it can’t be in more than one place at a time.

Power concentrated is power wasted. The LCS designers seeking sailing economy instead sees the pricetag erupt from $220 million up to $700 million for LCS-2. The original intent for the ship was a 1000 ton corvette suitable for shallow water warfare. Instead we have here a traditional blue water warship, three times as large with some untried mission modules added on to create a “transformational look”.

The LCS is supposed to do the functions of at least 4 warships-

  1. FFG-7 Perry class Frigate Replacement.
  2. Avenger class Mine Countermeasures Ships replacement.
  3. Shallow water warfare like the Cyclone class patrol craft.
  4. Mothership for unmanned air and surface vehicles.

 It will do none of these missions as well as a focused mission ship, giving us mediocrity at a gold-plated price. Plus if you lose one it is the equivalent of losing a quarter your capability! A Navy is all about hulls, like an army is about troops. If you reduce the number of ships, no matter how capable, you are getting weaker not stronger.


Light Assault Transport

Add to that a 5th mission, concerning the soon to be commissioned LCS-2 Independence. The Navy is also championing it as a small amphibious ship in a new video as a Light Assault Transport (view here). Seeing as the 13-times larger Wasp class assault carrier only cost $100 million more than the LCS-2, which would you choose if you wanted capability?


Parting under good terms

The team which brought you the funny looking (It is too!) USS Independence littoral combat ship, General Dynamics and Austal USA, is breaking up their partnership. This comes after the Navy’s mandate to ramp up production of the 3000 ton warship. Story from Defense News:

All along, GD has planned to expand LCS construction to one of its own shipyards – Bath’s yard in Maine or the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) facility in San Diego – whenever LCS production ramped up. The Navy had planned to buy unspecified numbers of each team’s LCS, but in September the service changed its acquisition strategy to a single-design downselect – a decision expected to come in late spring or early summer.

But with the single-design switch, the Navy also now wants a second-supplier shipyard that can’t be associated with the primary builder. That would mean that, should the Navy choose GD’s LCS, the company’s shipyards would be excluded from bidding to become the second shipyard. As a result, GD and Austal USA are prepared to split up their partnership.

A bold move considering the Navy might just pick the lower cost USS Freedom design constructed by Lockheed and Martin Mainette. All is not lost for either shipbuilders since Austal has a contract for Army High Speed Vessels, while GD builds the much loved Arleigh Burke destroyers, the latter now set for orders well into this new decade thanks to the demise of the DDG-1000.


Yet another FFG-7 Upgrade

What, no Aegis LCS? The USS Oliver Hazard Perry Class of guided missile frigates joins the growing pantheon of “irreplaceable weapons” from the Cold War, whose successor is itself. This story from Google News concerns the Taiwan Navy’s future plans:

Taiwan plans to buy eight second-hand Perry-class frigates from the United States despite improved ties with once-bitter foe China, a local newspaper reported Monday.

The island hopes to arm them with a version of the advanced Aegis Combat System, which uses computers and radar to take out multiple targets, as well as sophisticated missile launch technology, the Taipei-based China Times said.

The defence ministry said in a reaction to the report that aging frigates now serving the navy needed to be phased out, but that it had not yet decided on the type of vessels that would replace them.

The ROC Navy also operated the old US-war built destroyers of the Gearing class long past their reasonable service period, even fashioning them into the most heavily armed versions of the old tin cans produced by any navy. Apparently the innovative Taiwanese are continuing the practice in a worthy successor.


More LCS Numbers

Story from Blomberg offers an apparent increase in LCS production of 2 ships:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has directed the Navy to buy 17 more Littoral Combat Ships through 2015, according to a budget document.
The ships, which are designed to operate in shallow coastal waters, are built by Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. The Navy in August proposed buying 15, down from a planned 29 because of budget pressure.
Gates, in a Dec. 23 directive to the military services, told the Navy to buy 17, adding $1.21 billion to its proposed five-year budget. Lockheed and General Dynamics each already have contracts to build two and would compete for contracts for the next 17 — the first 10 in fiscal 2011.

Up from 15, down from 29, 10 in service later in the decade. I think I got that!



Lockheed says its version of the Littoral Combat Ship is “on budget, on schedule”, but the devil is in the details. Here from Yahoo News:

Lockheed Martin Corp said on Tuesday that work on its second littoral combat ship for the U.S. Navy was on budget and on schedule and that it would take 30 percent less time to build than the first ship.
Lockheed is in a fierce competition with General Dynamics Corp  that will determine whether the Navy proceeds with Lockheed’s steel single hull design or GD’s aluminum three-hull design for the new class of ships.

Need I remind you what exactly is that budget? From Defense News the Navy said the total cost for Lockheed’s LCS 1 – commissioned in November 2008 – is $637 million“. By now it should be plain the Navy and her contractors has the building of gold-plated, too costly and most useless warships down to a science!


LCS Alternative-Armidale class Patrol Boat

From the excellent Austal, maker of high speed vessels for the Army and others, comes this class of compact patrol boats ideal for shallow water operations. Australia has ordered 12 and may get 2 more, which according to Naval-Technology “are deployed on surveillance, interception and escort missions”. This seems an ideal craft for operations against pirates, and seeing as the price is right, $25 million each, can be purchased in adequate numbers to make a difference.


  • Length-56.8 meters (186 ft)
  • Width-9.5 meters (31 ft)
  • Draught-2.7 metres (8.9 ft) (compared to 20 ft on LCS)
  • Displacement-270 tons
  • Speed-25 knots (46 km/h)
  • Range-3,000 nautical miles at 12 knots
  • Armament: 1 x Rafael Typhoon 25 mm naval stabilised deck gun
    2 x 12.7 mm machine guns
  • Crew-21


20 Comments leave one →
  1. October 9, 2014 9:45 am

    This design is wicked! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to
    start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job.

    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you
    presented it. Too cool!

  2. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 17, 2010 1:30 pm

    USS Independence (LCS-2) has entered into commission. Three news reports follow. CNO Admiral Roughead’s quote regarding a “swarm of bees” (in the 2nd report) should strike a cord with some here at this blog (although not quite as the CNO meant it).

    Austal delivers US ship

    Sarah-Jane Tasker | The Australian | January 18, 2010 12:00AM

    AUSTRALIA’S Austal Ships has delivered its first $US480 million ($520m) Littoral Combat Ship to the US Navy, and is in a strong position to be awarded a contract for up to a further 55 vessels.

    The ceremony for the delivery of USS Independence, at Austal’s facility in Mobile, Alabama, was attended by the US Head of Navy, Admiral Gary Roughead.

    “USS Independence is a new generation of combat ship,” Austal managing director Bob Browning said. “This technological leap in naval warfare will deliver significant advantages, not only in terms of increased capability, but also through vastly reduced operating costs over the life of the vessel.

    “For a shipbuilder that started in business in Australia just 21 years ago to successfully hand over such a revolutionary platform to the most powerful navy in the world is both a momentous achievement and an honour. This is definitely one of Austal’s proudest moments.”

    The company said construction was already under way on its second US Navy LCS, the Coronado, which is expected to be delivered in 2012.


    US Navy commissions newest warship, others coming

    “Looks like something out of Star Wars”

    By Andrea Shalal-Esa

    MOBILE, Alabama, Jan 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest warship on Saturday, a 379-feet (115.5- metre) aluminum three-hulled vessel built by General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), one of two designs vying for billions of dollars of follow-on orders.

    Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead told reporters as he traveled to the ceremony that the new class of fast, flexible shallow-water warships would be useful for a wide range of missions, including responding to humanitarian disasters like the earthquake in Haiti.

    Roughead said the first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), a more traditional steel monohull ship which is in Norfolk, Virginia, awaiting deployment to the Caribbean, could be used to quickly move supplies from the U.S. military base at Guantanamo, Cuba, to Haiti.

    “Right now we’re working a lot of different options, but if the LCS would be of value in Haiti, then that’s where it’s going to be,” Roughead said, noting the ship’s shallow draft made it well-suited to bolster the U.S. military effort there.

    Regardless of which design wins, the Littoral Combat Ships will dramatically shift the way the Navy will operate, featuring interchangeable mission packages to hunt for mines, fight pirates or other enemies in small boats, or track enemy submarines — depending on what is needed at the time.

    If he had more of the new ships — which carry manned and unmanned helicopters — already available, they would be deployed like a “swarm of bees” around Haiti, Roughead said.

    Independence, whose namesake was commissioned in 1776, was the second of a new “revolutionary” class of ships because of its small crew size and the modular, interchangeable combat systems it will carry, Roughead told the ship’s crew and hundreds of guests who braved the pouring rain to attend the ceremony on the dock in Mobile.

    “It is truly unique in the world,” Roughead said, telling reporters later, “It doesn’t even look like a ship. It looks like something out of Star Wars to me.”

    The ships have a core crew of just 40 people, part of the Navy’s drive to cut the number and cost of people aboard its ships. Even adding in a mission package and air crew, the staffing will be just 78 — far less than comparable ships .

    The Navy expects to release around Jan 22 a final request for proposals for the competition between General Dynamics and Lockheed, whose first LCS ship was commissioned in late 2008.

    The contract, valued at well over $5 billion, will be 10 ships at a rate of two each year over the next five years, as well as the computer system to run five more ships. The Navy plans to buy a total of 55 of the faster, more agile ships.

    Roughead said he was pleased with LCS, and said it was critical to his plan to increase the size of the U.S. Navy to 313 ships from 287.

    He said he was pressing Navy officials to award a contract for the next batch of LCS ships “as soon as we possibly can” after allowing industry to review the terms of the competition and submitting their bids. (Editing by Philip Barbara)


    Hundreds Brave Rain For Ship Ceremony

    by Chad Petri

    MOBILE, Alabama – Even with heavy rains, the navy can put on a big show with a commissioning ceremony.

    “This is an exciting day for the US Navy and the city of Mobile,” says Paulette Stewart. Hundreds huddled under tents before braving the rain and soaked seats to sit through the ceremony. Despite the terrible weather for the ceremony, most of the people I talked with today said they wouldn’t have missed this for anything

    “Well this is the navy and the navy can do anything and this is going to represent the US in a wonderful way,” says Stewart. The ceremony is also inspiring for young members of the US Navy

    “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to commission a ship such as this the USS Independence,” says Airman Apprentice Scott Curtis. The commissioning ceremony officially puts the ship in service to the United States Navy. It already had its christening in 2008.

  3. west_rhino permalink
    January 14, 2010 10:39 am

    So let me see, if you lose that one that is the equivalent of four, does the bandit’s jockey get to paint three virtual outlines with his kills?

    In a real shooting match, several of these Little Corricles of Stuff WILL be lost, be it bunches of boghammers, series of SCUDs and STYX (how much chaff you carrying),

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 14, 2010 10:17 am

    Mrs D, thanks! I have an article about the Sri Lankans ready right now that I’m trying to find a place for.

  5. Mrs. Davis permalink
    January 14, 2010 10:15 am

    How to do it on a budget

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 14, 2010 8:58 am

    Chuck that is the impression I get, though the USN never calls the LCS a frigate replacement specifically. To do the work of the Perry’s plus other missions set out for it, thats a long row to hoe, as my Ma would say! The poor crew, small as it is, won’t just be doing double but quadruple duty!

  7. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 13, 2010 11:50 pm

    Jed, the number of LCSs was derived specifically from replacing existing ships including the FFGs. No they are not what the FFGs were designed for, but they can do the things FFGs were actually being used for.

  8. Jed permalink
    January 13, 2010 9:42 pm

    Mike said:

    “The LCS is supposed to do the functions of at least 4 warships-

    1. FFG-7 Perry class Frigate Replacement.
    2. Avenger class Mine Countermeasures Ships replacement.
    3. Shallow water warfare like the Cyclone class patrol craft.
    4. Mothership for unmanned air and surface vehicles.”

    I dont believe the USN has ever said the LCS was to replace the Perry – the LCS is a new class for the littorals, not a frigate (ocean going escort).

    Role number 4 is actually an integral part of the other roles, which I thought were:

    1. MCMV (Avenger class replacement as noted by Mike)
    2. Shallow water ASW
    3. Littoral ASuW with NetFires missiles and 57mm gun etc
    4. VBSS – this I believe was added later with recent talk of the “VBSS module” for the first deployment of LCS1 (i.e. some RHIBS and accomodation for boarding parties).

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    January 13, 2010 9:41 pm

    Chuck, I agree with you on the Sentinels!

  10. leesea permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:50 pm

    Here is what industry analyst Tim Colton says about the LCS divorce:

    Defense News reports that the LCS 2 team led by GD Bath Iron Works, with Austal USA doing the actual shipbuilding, is about to split up, and GD will compete for the ongoing program without Austal, building the boats at Bath or possibly even at NASSCO. Read the story here. I guess the thinking is that BIW, which needs work, can under-bid Austal and take the new winner-take-all contract. They’re dreaming, right? Here’s a teaming arrangement in which GD needs Austal much more than Austal needs GD, and GD wants to break it up. This has to be one of the dumbest ideas ever! Maybe I’m missing something: is there any kind of a rational argument for this? January 12, 2010 One alert reader points out that the plan may be to split up in order to win both the lead-yard and the follow-yard contracts. And then team up again? Hmmm. January 13, 2010.

  11. leesea permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:15 pm

    To view the LCS as a light assualt transport is like calling a mini-van a truck. When will naval officers and other commentators learn about the definitive payload limits of HSVs in general. Not to mention there is NO way to discharge troops and their gear other than flying them off.

    When discussing Sentinels and Armidale one must keep in mind that they are for patrol aka cutters. That does not make them small combatants per se. Might they be converted? Sure but mini-corvettes they are not IMHO. Are they good pirate hunters probably so, are they full scope littoral combat vessels well not really. Are they candidates to replace the Cyclone PCs well maybe with some mods like better weapons, more sensors, a UAV pad and more support capacity.

  12. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:07 pm

    Having spent a little time in them in Alaskan waters, I know what you mean. The Coast Guard is starting to get some enclosed RHIBs, but of course they don’t fit on the Sentinels:

  13. January 13, 2010 7:27 pm

    “Armidales do carry two boats.”

    They aren’t really a helicopter substitute though are they? Really R(H)IBs are only useful in temperate zones. I wouldn’t like to go to far in the tropics or cold regions. They are really just for quick insertions and personnel transfer.

    As much as I like R(H)IBs (I am qualified to “drive” them) I do prefer proper ships boats. In many ways the Armidales aren’t much more than “boats” themselves.

    They are good though.

  14. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 13, 2010 6:52 pm

    Armidales do carry two boats.

  15. January 13, 2010 6:35 pm

    Armidales are excellent. One of my favourite shows Sea Patrol (not very accurate but good fun!) features one. But Chuck is correct the Sentinel is a better choice.

    One of the things that Sea Patrol does reveal unintentionally is how limited a ship without a helicopter is for even policing duties. Of course this deficiency allows the show’s writers to include lots of drama and cliff hangers.

  16. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 13, 2010 5:07 pm

    Taiwan should be able to build their own warships by now.

  17. Chuck Hill permalink
    January 13, 2010 5:06 pm

    “LCS Alternative-Armidale class Patrol Boat”

    Doesn’t look like the Armidales do anything that the Sentinels don’t do. The Sentinels are bigger and faster, carry a bigger crew, have a tactical data system, and are already being built in the US. Very soon we should have some practical experience with them.

  18. Matthew S. permalink
    January 13, 2010 4:59 pm

    The Taiwanese should modify their Lafayette frigates so they can replace that antique chaparral system with a modern air defense system. There options must be extremely limited. I guess no country wants to incur Chinese wrath by selling them modern warships.

  19. D. E. Reddick permalink
    January 13, 2010 3:14 pm


    You left out the deadly, poisonous, noxious fumes produced by those blocked toilets…

  20. Scott B. permalink
    January 13, 2010 2:55 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “LCS Alternative-Armidale class Patrol Boat”

    At the risk of repeating myself again :

    “Dubbed “Armifail” by frustrated sailors, the fleet of frontline patrol boats have been dogged by problems, including fuel contamination, engine trouble, blocked toilets, lack of personal storage, inadequate lighting and overcrowding.”

    That doesn’t sound like *the ideal craft*, does it ?

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