LCS Alternative Weekly
A Day Late and a Dollar Short
Phil Ewing reveals a GAO Report spilling the beans on the Navy’s lack of preparation for an influx of 55 new littoral ships into the Fleet:
A congressional report released Tuesday raised new doubts about whether the Navy can set up the crewing and training it needs for its planned fleet of 55 littoral combat ships, and revealed the service has not done full diligence in reviewing plans and costs for LCS. The report, filed by the Government Accountability Office at the behest of House lawmakers, was also skeptical of the Navy’s plans for LCS maintenance, much of which is planned for contractors and sailors ashore — not the ships’ crews.
Overall, the Navy has not done many of the full analysis that would help its leaders and Congress, or it has only considered best-case scenarios in its plans and cost estimates, GAO found.
In other words, they don’t have a clue how to run the things, let alone deal with the technical issues already arising from the unique hulls forms. Off the shelf might have solved the last problem, but figuring out how to operate small warships in a littoral environment needs careful planning, and especially a full commitment.
It also found reason to doubt whether the Navy could execute its plans for the crewing of the shore support teams that will run the LCS class squadrons and maintain the ships and their equipment.
But I’m convinced the LCS is only about keeping ship numbers up for the Navy, as they have little interest in shallow sea operations, though this is where the threats are today. The Navy bet the farm on a “do it all nothing well” platform. Now the mortgage is due.
Choosing between Porsche or Ferrari
Chris Cavas at Navy Times tells us “RFP for LCS: Cost main factor in winning bid“:
Navy officials have indicated that cost will be the foremost determining factor in their choice between a Lockheed Martin design and one from rival General Dynamics. But the RFP makes it clear a number of other criteria will be considered — chiefly technical and management factors…
The LCS program became a poster child for cost growth in Navy shipbuilding after the $220 million ships contracted for by the Navy in 2004 more than tripled in cost. The inability of either contractor to meet a congressional cost cap of $480 million for each of the new ships led the service in September to drop plans to buy both variants. Instead, the Navy took up a new plan to buy only one design, hoping to find economies in standardization and quantity orders.
This is an about-face for a Pentagon program, which usually picks the priciest and most capable. Most in the blogosphere sees the General Dynamics ship, USS Independence as the best of an overall bad lot.
High Tech Answer to a Low Tech Threat
The $600 million USS Freedom will soon be chasing smugglers in speed boats, according to Scoop Deck:
Still, every indication is that Freedom will be doing lots of Coast Guard missions during its trial deployment to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility; it will even have a Coast Guard boarding team for part of its cruise. If Scoop Deck were a betting blog, it’d lay good money on the notion that Navy commanders really want some exciting FLIR video of Freedom using its 45-knot sprint speed to chase down cocaine traffickers, then launching its Coast Guardsmen to finish off the take-down.
This is why we can’t have nice things!! We send our best ships into these crappy backwaters, fighting low tech insurgents who match or even tax our abilities with cheap, off the shelf vessels. So we waste the special abilities of our high end warships, which means they are of no use guarding against First World threats, as in the Western Pacific, because our less than 300 ship Navy can’t be in more places at once.
Interesting that we are sending the frigate sized LCS to perform the same function of the $10 million fast patrol ship Stiletto. When the former catches her first smuggler and after the inevitable Navy media blitz, I’ll remind you.
Haven’t done one of these in a while. Keep sending them in!
D.E. Reddick-“Literal Crap Shoot”
Heretic-“Lockmart Cancels Sanity”
My Own-“Lockheed Can’t be Serious!”
The $25bn Grand Prize Game!
What would you do with $25 billion? The Navy is buying the world’s most expensive Patrol Boat. Here’s Rich Smith at the Motley Fool:
Lockheed’s first attempt at building the boat cost taxpayers $637 million, while General D’s prototype rang in at a budget-busting $704 million. Future models are expected to cost quite a bit less, fortunately. And they’d better, because Congress has already capped the price it’s willing to pay at $460 million per ship…
As for who will claim all that loot? Well, that remains to be seen. This week’s RFP asks both of the prime contractors to submit bids for a batch of 10 LCSes, additional to the two already completed. Assuming the contract is awarded on a fixed-price basis, we’re probably looking at $4.6 billion or thereabouts for whoever wins this first round of the competition. That said, the Pentagon’s effort to force its contractors to compete on price could well backfire down the road. Logically, whoever wins this first tranche of the project will develop economies of scale, and expertise in shipbuilding that will serve it well in future competitions.
The risk, therefore, is that even if it gets a good price on the first batch of ships this year (bids are due in late March), the Pentagon could find itself locked into a sole-source situation in years to come.
And with no Plan B! Yeah, put all your money in shipbuilding stock folks! Safe as the US Bank…
LCS Alternative-Fearless class patrol vessel
At 1/5 the size of the LCS USS Freedom, the 11 active Fearless class of the Republic of Singapore Navy are more heavily armed, and possesses a hull-mounted Sonar. With their shallow draft they are also more suited for the littoral environment.
- Displacement:500 tons
- Length:55.0 m (180 ft)
- Draft:2.7 m (8.9 ft)
- Range:1,000 nautical miles (2,000 km) at 15 knots