LCS Alternative Weekly
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.
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-
- FFG-7 Perry class Frigate Replacement.
- Avenger class Mine Countermeasures Ships replacement.
- Shallow water warfare like the Cyclone class patrol craft.
- 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!
Yes, But WHAT A BUDGET!
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)
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