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LCS Alternative Weekly

February 3, 2010

One of the last of the old oil-fueled supercarriers USS Constellation (CV-64) steams with patrol boats of the Singapore Navy in 2002.

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.


LCS Acronyms

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.



28 Comments leave one →
  1. CBD permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:01 pm

    Amen. The recent coverage of the New Navy Fighting Machine report from NPS makes clear the impact of small craft.

    There is another (possible) explanation, however: There’s a lot of institutional weight against building up the small ships (which are also not included in fleet ship totals because they are not considered ‘self-deployable’) …with something like NNFM coming out of NPS and the talk about improving the PCs, it’s possible that the 6th rank frigates will be built up over time, but not counted in ship numbers.

    If the 4 NECC groups are fully funded for their Riverine Command Boats (CB90s), then it could indicate a new willingness within the Navy to consider more combat boats (as long as they aren’t called ships).

    One can only hope.

  2. leesea permalink
    February 9, 2010 5:47 pm

    CBD exactly my thoughts! Bob Work is dropping the smallest box off the bottom of the SCN budget IMHO unnecessarily. While smaller combatants may not offer as much “efficiency” as the big box platforms, there are certainly good reasons to build them. A) more hulls can be built for less money. B) those hulls present less of a target in the dangerous green waters. C) the NSW and NECC units do NOT want to present such a large profile as LCS does while conducting covert or clandestine missions. D) the lost/disabling of smaller combatants will not adversely affect the large force sturcture as will an LCS.

    The other part of the LCS debate I find disengenous. The LCS was built for the littorals, but now its being talked up for blue waters. The LCS was supposed to do lesser missions better, but all we are hearing is there are weight limitations and higher costs for mission packages how is that better? And finally, it seems every senior naval and marine officer is trying to tell me the LCS is the be all to end all for every new mission they can think of and of course the LCS was NEVER designed for. That to me is a blatant sales job. And I usually know when I am being snowed?!

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 8, 2010 4:41 am

    It often seems like the best replacement for the Perry class is another Perry. The LCS is just another frigate design IMHO, more advanced, and less well armed. It appears because of the rising costs, and the need to build up numbers to match numerous threats, especially those in shallow waters, that something else is desirable. This is why I often advocate here the 1000-1500 ton corvette. It is small enough for the shallow seas and self deployable. Most version you can buy 3 for the price of one frigate, and low end version (OPVs) even more.

    The problem with the “swiss army knife” LCS it wants to be a patrol boat and mothership, in other words a gross confusion of roles. The best formula for a future frigate is to break up these roles:

    Capability and sustainability-mothership

    combat and shallow water patrol-corvette

    At the same time you get survivability, numbers, and effectiveness in different packages. Because the LCS is a do-it-all, 1 ship replaces 4 platform, you risk alot in combat because of all the capabilities you have invested in a single ship. There is no room left for error.

  4. Chris Stefan permalink
    February 8, 2010 3:49 am

    I have to wonder if maybe it isn’t time for the USN to just buy some updated versions of the Perry frigates? In theory if you didn’t go crazy with the requirements you could get some fairly low-cost warships with fairly high capabilities depending on how you outfit the weapons and sensor suite.

    You could have “low” and “high” versions with a LCS or Absalon like weapons and sensor load-out on the “low” end with perhaps some room for mission modules to a “high” end fleet escort with AAW and ASW capabilities.

  5. CBD permalink
    February 8, 2010 12:24 am

    Mike, I’m having some trouble posting…posts just don’t appear. Scott, is that what was happening to you?

  6. CBD permalink
    February 8, 2010 12:22 am

    Agreed on all counts. It especially seems a shame to not make more PC-scaled vessels given the improvements made to the Cyclones since their birth and the great utility these boats have demonstrated. The boat ramp is clearly a great improvement in terms of deploying and recovering small craft, but the JHSVs will always, as you state, be dependent upon a crane.

    As Under Sec. Work seems to say in this interview and elsewhere and elsewhen, there has been a lot of opposition to making more PCs (self deployability and capacity being apparent sticking points).

    His “boxes” plan and the break-down of ship classes by missile counts (which sounds rather familiar). Work seems to provide good structure for the large-scale categories of ships, but also classifies the PCs as “special purpose” combatants, indicating that a handful is ‘enough’ (even as they’re working to make these small, cheap craft last 30 years).

    He does this even as he advocates (gently) for what is clearly a rebalancing of the fleet from all 1st and 2nd rate ships to ships from1st to 5th rates. But he leaves out the 6th rate vessels (“1-19 BFM with at least short-range SAMs”) into which category the PCs and any probable successors would fall (which might include a mini-VLSAM like the Barak and small offensive missiles like the Hellfire or guided Rockets). He is essentially saying that the fleet should be rebalanced, but that there’s really no room for small patrol boats.

    The idea of the LCS-sized JHSV-as-multimission-amphib has also been floated by some others in high places recently. I guess that’s the soft way of saying that the JHSV Flight IIs will fill in for the larger amphibs and any amphibious roles it was previously believed the LCS could handle?

  7. leesea permalink
    February 7, 2010 12:48 am

    A navalized version of the JHSV would certainly work as a support ship for NSW or NECC units. The question is how many modifications will be needed and what is their weight. While the JHSV design is optimized for payload, it stills needs to contend with HSV dynamics.

    Lets now ignore how much it takes to carry mulitple boats and crews and spares and a launch system too. TheJHSV crane can only do one boat at a time.

    I would also like to say that a smaller ship is needed to replace the Cyclones but given Secy Works theory of boxes and missiles, I don’t see the USN procuring one. That is too bad since there are so many good designs and yes some good second tier US shipyards to build small combatants.

  8. Scott B. permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:32 pm

    CBD said : “Sanity has completely disappeared.”

    Definitely, and sanity is not to return any time soon with the people currently in charge.

    Exhibit #1 is this recent comment by the current Under at the other place :

    BoB Work : ““I may be an optimist, but I think the LCS will change our thinking about what constitutes a WARship.”

    A very sad case indeed…

  9. CBD permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:12 pm

    “The JHSV is a joint use transport which the Navy apparently wants to “navalize” for other roles. It will need some modification to its current four .50s to support different roles. But the design has the capacity for much more on it. the Cyclone class PC is a minimalist ship to use as a baseline IMHO under-armed and insufficient in capability. JHSV while much larger offers more to more folks for other things.”

    Well aware. I have been familiar with the concept of the JHSV since the first HSV leases. The Cyclone class was intentionally underarmed vs its sister hulls in the Vita-class FACs to keep down the costs and complexity (back when it was a NSWC concept).

    My point was that, while the USN will not be building more PCs (for various reasons) and almost got rid of them entirely before realizing how useful they could be, the JHSV has the benefit of better fitting the perceived ‘scale’ of US warships while being adaptable enough to serve in place of the aging PCs (for some missions), air base and as a simple transport (in most other cases).

    The additional flexibility and payload is the JHSV’s selling point vs. a second PC class (which I’ve postulated on previously around here). Maybe the FSF-1’s promise has caught Mr. Work’s interest?

    Given the option of a smaller, more flexible JHSV vs a larger, more transport-oriented JHSV, the choice was made for the latter as the flexible ship title was reserved for the LCS program. Bob Work seems to want to shift the role back to the flexible JHSV, which was detailed in that (very old) JHSV document at GS.

    “The WPE has been used EXTENSIVELY for more than eight years by the US Marines to provide tactical sealift for admin lifts.”

    Which won it the contract. The WPE as a single ship has had an impressive career for the USMC admin lifts. The Incat HSVs were used in a wider variety of missions, however, including as a special operations base and for partnership stations, which sold the JHSV as multiuse platform capable of independent deployment and operations.

    “Global Security data is often out of date.
    Kiss INCAT good bye for warship or military transport buys!”
    Well aware of both of these. Hopeful thinking on the second part.

  10. Scott B. permalink
    February 6, 2010 9:54 am

    Mike Burleson said : “I said that? Wasn’t me.”

    Don’t be modest, Mike.

    Besides, that was a really good analysis. ;-)

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 6, 2010 7:33 am

    Scott posted:

    Mike Burleson said : “I just had a quick look at the FY2011 budget material for the Navy, BA1 Book, to find out what the latest budget figures for the LCS mission packages looked like.”

    I said that? Wasn’t me.

  12. leesea permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:23 am

    CBD the JHSV is a joint use transport which the Navy apparently wants to “navalize” for other roles. It will need some modification to its current four .50s to support different roles. But the design has the capacity for much more on it. the Cyclone class PC is a minimalist ship to use as a baseline IMHO under-armed and insufficient in capability. JHSV while much larger offers more to more folks for other things.

    The WPE has been used EXTENSIVELY for more than eight years by the US Marines to provide tactical sealift for admin lifts.

    Global Security data is often out of date.

    Kiss INCAT good bye for warship or military transport buys!

  13. Scott B. permalink
    February 6, 2010 3:03 am

    D.E. Reddick said : “USS Freedom (LCS-1) can fling up a rooster-tail…”

    In the same vein :

  14. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 5, 2010 6:58 pm


    USS Freedom (LCS-1) can fling up a rooster-tail…

    Check out posting number 17 of this thread at Military Photos. The second photo shows USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) in the foreground with LCS-1 churning up the sea in the background. USS Freedom has been conducting maneuvers with USS Bunker Hill and USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) during exercise Southern Seas 2010.

  15. CBD permalink
    February 5, 2010 5:00 pm

    Sanity has completely disappeared.

  16. Scott B. permalink
    February 5, 2010 4:15 pm

    Meanwhile, the LCS spin doctors keep spinning…

    From Defense News :

    Bob Work (speaking of LCS) : “Total ownership cost has been designed right into that ship – small crew, open architecture combat systems, reliance on offboard systems.”

    I know that Bob Work is some kind of rock star on the blogosphere, but hey, $46.5 million per ship per year in terms of operating and support costs should be sobbering in itself, even for the most rabid LCS supporters out there.

    Or has sanity completely disappeared ?

  17. Scott B. permalink
    February 5, 2010 4:04 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “I just had a quick look at the FY2011 budget material for the Navy, BA1 Book, to find out what the latest budget figures for the LCS mission packages looked like.”

    Thanks a lot for posting this comment, Mike. Now, moving forward :

    1) As we’ve seen previously, the Navy expects the next 17 LCS to cost an average of $636 million per unit (seaframe only) and have a service life of 25 years.

    2) With one mission package costing an average of $72 million per unit, what you get with LCS is a one-trick poney that costs $708 million for a service life of 25 years, which is equivalent to $850 million over a period of 30 years. So the $900 million mark is right around the corner.

    3) And it gets worse when you look at the most expensive mission package, the MCM MP, which, when complete, costs around $125 million per unit. What you get is by far the most expensive MCMV in the world at $761 million per unit for a service life of 25 years, which is equivalent to $913 million over a period of 30 years.

    And it’s not like there isn’t plenty of room for more cost overruns, is it ?
    Minehunting System Breaches Nunn-McCurdy


    Full steam ahead towards the $1 billion dollar Mine Counter Measure Vessel !!! ;-)

  18. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 5, 2010 3:35 pm

    If I’m reading things correctly regarding the availability of mission modules over the course of several future years of acquisition, then both USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Independence (LCS-2) are going to be nothing much more than helicopter-deploying gunboats during workups and initial deployments.

    Defensively, LCS-1 will have a 21 tube RAM SAM launcher while LCS-2 will have an eleven tube SeaRAM SAM launcher.

    As gunboats, each type will have a single short-ranged, low-mass, small-round 57 mm cannon. LCS-1 presently also carries two 30 mm chain-gun cannon. What else might be mounted aboard LCS-2 isn’t yet known to those of us in the blogosphere. Machine-guns are / will be undoubtedly mounted on each type of LCS.

    Frigate-sized. PC-armed. Over-engined and overtly too fast speedboats. Short-legged, fuel-guzzling speedboats. The only redeeming aspect to these two designs as presently found is their ability to deploy a two helo det. An updated, modernized OHP FFG program would have provided a better open ocean escort than what either type of LCS can provide. Now we’re getting a “littoral” warship which is -literally- too large to get in close to the truly shallow waters of the littorals. Emasculated frigates and literally incapable of littorals presence “littoral” warships – that’s what we’ve come to getting delivered to our sailors. President Eisenhower was wholly right to warn us of the military-industrial complex…

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 5, 2010 2:48 pm

    Scott B. said : “LCS mission modules, which adds another $60 million or so to the unit cost”
    I just had a quick look at the FY2011 budget material for the Navy, BA1 Book, to find out what the latest budget figures for the LCS mission packages looked like.
    Here is what I learned (so far) :
    Page 319 :
    1) 16 mission packages are to be procured through FY2015, at a total cost of $1,157.6 million (including spares), meaning an average cost of $72.35 million per unit.
    2) One MCM package will be procured in FY2011, at a cost of $91.1 million (including spares).
    Page 321 :
    1) The MCM package to be procured in FY2011 is NOT complete, since it lacks :
    * 1 x USV ($5.7 million each)
    * 1 x USV sweep ($2.6 million each)
    * 1 x USV craddle ($0.1 million each)
    * 2 x RMMVs ($12.7 million each)
    * 2 x Support containers ($0.25 million each)
    2) Missing items above adds up to $34.3 million, which means the complete MCM mission package would cost $125.4 million per unit

  20. Scott B. Mk2 permalink
    February 5, 2010 1:47 pm

    I’ll share my thoughts whenever I can post again. There seems to be a problem with wordpress right now.

  21. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 4, 2010 11:10 pm

    Thanks, Mike, it was unwieldy.

    CBD, thanks, I was impressed with their potential as helicopters carriers.

  22. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 4, 2010 8:09 pm

    Chuck, very interesting page that I’ve never seen before. (I embedded the link!)

  23. CBD permalink
    February 4, 2010 7:55 pm

    Do you mean the same JHSV? If so, then yes and no.

    The Globalsecurity page (which I remember being a favorite of mine several years ago) is mostly based on the Incat HSV design. It also takes some lessons on the possibilities of HSVs from the (winning) Austal design.

    Of the 4 HSVs rented by the various branches of the military for evaluations, 3 were built by Incat and one by Austal. The HSV-X1 Joint Venture, HSV-2 Swift and TSV-1x Spearhead were built by Incat (with a wave-piercing catamaran design) and used to great success as ocean-going transports by the various services. The last vessel, an Austal product, the Westpac Express, was used by the USMC in a limited role to ferry Marine equipment around the pacific rim and in limited other operations, albeit for a longer trial period (following a more conventional catamaran ferry design).

    In the end, the Austal design was able to carry more cargo with the existing model design and, it seems, that won it for them. It also looks less like a ‘warship’ (which may have kept the LCS proponents from hacking at the JHSV acquisition budget) and the Austal design seems much less likely as a stand-in possibility, should the LCS program fail.

    Who knows, maybe Incat could recover something by having its loosing JHSV transform into a winning patrol boat/mothership? Or, honestly, the Austal design wouldn’t be horrible…and it’s affordable!

  24. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 4, 2010 7:23 pm

    Not sure my last post is really the same thing.?

  25. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 4, 2010 7:21 pm

    With more range they might also make a decent USCG Offshore Patrol Cutter.

    Very interesting presentation here that suggest range is 4000 miles at over 30 knots.

  26. CBD permalink
    February 4, 2010 6:31 pm

    Adding to Chuck’s link:

    The JHSV may just be in consideration if the LCS fails…
    “The [JHSV] ships will even be used, in some situations, as replacements for the current flock of small, 170-foot patrol coastal craft.

    “There was a big debate within the [Navy] department on patrol craft, PCs,” Navy Undersecretary Bob Work said Wednesday during an interview. “People said these are very good for irregular warfare. But when we looked at it we said we wanted to have self-deployable platforms that have a lot of payload space that you can take to the fight whatever you need — SEALs, Marines, riverine squadrons. So we decided to increase the Joint High Speed Vessel program.”

    It makes sense that, rather than shaming the LCS program (or tempting gold platers everywhere) by developing a new PC to conduct patrols, Work would tag on extra orders to the JHSV. Not as small and hard to notice as the PCs…but it has air facilities, can mount significantly more fire power (especially if the SEALs get a hand in the design process) and can haul a good number of auxiliary personnel (enough to do VBSS and raids!). It sounds like the Marines don’t like what they see in the offered LCS platforms and may go to the JHSV for their related needs.

    They are, however, still rather large (as long as the LCS), comparatively expensive and don’t have the rear boat ramp that the SBUs and SEALs seem to like for their RIBs.

  27. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 4, 2010 2:44 pm


    Thought you might appreciate this little tidbit, found here:

    “Work (Bob Work, Undersecretary of the Navy) outlined a possible vision ahead for the JHSV. Flight I would be civmar crewed, with a Flight II version potentially being milcrewed for Riverine and SEALs.”

    —an auto-cannon, a helicopter/UAV, boat, and a boarding crew?

  28. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 3, 2010 7:40 pm

    Problem with the LCS manning concept is that it requires that you “eat your seed corn.” Only highly trained and motivated sailors need apply, but then they have no junior ratings to pass along their experience to.

    It’s not unlike special forces, put all your best people together in small units and while they may perform brilliantly, you have gutted the larger units of their leaders.

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