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LCS Alternative Weekly

February 10, 2010
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The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) performs high-speed maneuvers during open-sea operations.

The Shrinking Frigates

The old Perry’s aren’t just shrinking in quantity. This is the part we left out when posting the other day on David Axe’s “USA Should Have a Bigger Small-Ship Navy“:

The LCS fleet could eventually number up to 55 ships. “They want Burkes and they want LCS,” the anonymous officer said. But the Burkes and LCS will not help the Navy grow the fleet, or extend into coastal waters. They are too expensive at a time when annual shipbuilding budgets average below $15 billion. And they are not ideal for near-shore missions.

“People talk about LCS as a ‘small ship,’” Commander Don Gabrielson, Freedom’s first skipper, said at a meeting of the Surface Navy Association on Nov. 12. “Last December, we tied up in Norfolk across the pier from an FFG [Perry-class frigate]. My first reaction was, ‘Who shrank the frigates?’ From our bridge wing, we looked across the top of the superstructure of the FFG — and we had two more decks above our heads.”

Which is why we say: patrol boat armament, on a frigate hull, for the cost of a destroyer!

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Counting the Cost

We all know the price of the LCS has ballooned from the original estimate of $220 million to $663 million-$700 million each. But what about total operating cost for a 3000 ton frigate size warship that can speed to nearly 40 knots? Sean Reilly at Al.com blog tries to find answers:

Such “operating and support” expenses can amount to some 70 percent of the long-term price tag for a major weapons system, according to the newly released report by the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress.

With the Navy poised to choose between two competing models of the LCS — one built by Austal USA’s Mobile shipyard — “decision-makers could lack critical information to assess the full costs” of the two designs, the report says.

Among other recommendations, it urges the military to put together complete estimates of operations and support costs before deciding which version to buy. In a written reply to the GAO, the Pentagon agreed to do so but stopped short of saying that those estimates would factor into the final decision in the winner-take-all showdown.

As of late Wednesday, the Navy had not provided answers to written questions from the Press-Register submitted earlier this week.

Maybe the USN don’t know themselves? But I imagine a ship constantly racing along at 30+ knots would burn up a lot of fuel, and since the increase in crew size, that would definitely be another cost factor.

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Littoral Combat Ship versus HMS Hood

A brief comparison of the two radical warship designs:

  1. Both very attractive ships.
  2. Touted as revolutions in warfare.
  3.  Forced into several different roles not envisioned by their designers, for lack of anything better.
  4. Suffered from cost-overruns.
  5. Sisterships were canceled while under development.
  6. Overweight issues.
  7. Considered at risk in combat situations.
  8. Comparatively light protection for their size.
  9. No better armed than smaller ships of the era.
  10.  Had the need for high speed!

And they both Look Cool offShore! Can you think of anymore comparisons of LCS with the failed battlecruisers of the last century?

You can read more on the battlecruiser HMS Hood, a magnificent but fatally flawed design here.

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Fractured LCS Acronyms

You guys are getting very creative!

  • Little Crappy Showboat
  • Literally Crappy Ship
  • LockMart’s Cash Sucker
  • Literally Corpulent Speedboat
  • Likely to Collapse Suddenly
  • Life onboard Could be Short
  • Likely Can’t Survive
  • Likely to Capsize and Sink in 1 minute
  • Literally Collapsible Speedboat
  • Literally Collapsible Showboat
  • Literally Collapsible Ship
  • Lickity Cwick Speedboat
  • Lickity Cwick Showboat

You can post on the special LCS Acronym Page above anytime!

*****

LCS Alternative-Baynunah Class Multipurpose Missile Corvette

This excellent class of small warships was built by France for the United Arab Emirates. Recently she conducted her first sea trials, according to Palestine-Defence:

The Baynunah Corvette First of Class, which has been launched end of June 2009 in CMN shipyard, has carried out mid-January 2010 her first sea trials in Cherbourg roads, with sea states up to 4 which proved her good sea keeping qualities.

Further tests and trials will be performed later on and the Vessel is due to be delivered by mid-2011 to the UAE Navy.

Specifications:

  • Length-71.30m
  • Beam-11m
  • Draft-2.80m
  • Displacement-915t
  • Cruise Speed-15kt
  • Maximum Speed-Over 32kt
  • Range-2,000nm
  • Armament-OtoBreda 76 mm / 62 calibre cannon
    8 x MM40 Block 3 Exocet
    4 x MK56 eight-cell VLS for ESSM
    1 x Mk 49 launcher for RAM missile
*****
21 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 11, 2010 6:48 am

    D.E. wrote “Courageous, Glorious, and Furious have more in common with the Littoral Combat Ship -concept- than just speed.”

    Very good point since they also were very large “littoral ships” or shallow water warships. The comparisons to the old battlecruisers are getting creepier.

  2. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 10, 2010 6:05 pm

    Chuck,

    Courageous, Glorious, and Furious have more in common with the Littoral Combat Ship -concept- than just speed. Jackie Fisher envisaged them (the Courageous class) as shallow draft “large light cruisers” (i.e., semi-battlecruisers) which could enter the Baltic Sea and cause havoc to Imperial German operations. They were to have maneuvered through the Baltic Narrows with lighter warships and then conduct amphibious operations along the German Baltic coast. They certainly were extremely lightly built – their hulls flexed whenever they fired their main armament.

    Courageous & Glorious each carried four 15″ gun in two twin turrets, fore and aft. Both were converted into aircraft carriers since there was no purpose to be found in their original design.

    Furious was to have mounted two 18″ in two single mount turrets, fore and aft. But she was modified prior to commissioning into a hybrid aviation vessel. She had a limited flight deck forward and retained her single major gun aft. Afterwards, she was progressively converted into a double-ended aviation vessel and then into an aircraft carrier.

  3. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 10, 2010 5:36 pm

    For the extreme in Fisher’s obsession with speed, look at Courageous, Glorious, and particularly Furious.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 10, 2010 5:06 pm

    Chuck-No argument there, as the 15 inch mount on the Hood and other HMS battleships are today considered by some the best mount ever. My point was she was no better armed with 8X15 as the 10,000 ton lighter Queen Elizabeth’s BBs, or the nearly 10 knots slower Revenge. Comparable to the LCS which is no better armed than most corvette classes 1/3 her size, very often less as seen with the Baynunah.

    Concerning the Baynunah, as Tangosix mentioned they are very good considering the environment which they will operate. Some within naval circles look down on small craft concerning their endurance and seakeeping, which makes me suspect their understanding of operations in shallow waters.

    Also concerning if Hood was revolutionary or not, it might be argued she was the first “fast battleship” and except for the fact that a vital refitting was post-poned due to the war, might be with us today as a museum ship? But concerning battlecruisers as a whole, I don’t have a link but you gather from such books as Dreadnought and Castles of Steel by Robert Massie that Fisher early on considered the battlecruisers as the new capital ships, mistakenly thinking “speed was armor”. Ominously much also is made today of the LCS’ speed.

    As a mothership, keeping out of harm’s way, she may be fine (as the battlecruiser later became a mothership of sorts, for aircraft), but you have other, larger, cheaper, more efficient vessels for such a mission. I fear because she looks like a frigate some commanders will use her in this fashion. Isn’t this deja vu all over again?

  5. Scott B. permalink
    February 10, 2010 4:55 pm

    Another quick comment on the pic anchoring this post.

    Take a look at the hi-res version of this pic here

    See that fuzzy band right above the *ship* between the exhausts and the stern ?

    Whatever speed she’s making, the heat signature she produces on the pic isn’t exactly stealthy…

    Just sayin’ ;-)

  6. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 10, 2010 4:40 pm

    In all fairness, the Hood was well armed.

  7. February 10, 2010 4:22 pm

    Hello Mike Burleson,

    what a very good post,I can’t find anything to argue with!

    It is good to see operating costs getting the attention they deserve but so often don’t get.
    Consider that two Rolls Royce MT30 turbines propel the 65,000 tonne Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers to 28 knots.
    Those same two MT30s propel the 14,000 tonne Zumwalt class destroyers to 30 knots.
    The 3,000 tonne Littoral Combat Ships make 45 knots powered again by two MT30s.
    In return for a 60% speed advantage over the carriers,the Littoral Combat Ship needs twenty times as much power (and fuel) per tonne of ship.

    Your comparison between H.M.S.Hood and the Littoral Combat Ships was also interesting although I would quibble with Hood being regarded as revolutionary.
    Battle cruisers were not new by the time Hood was on the slips and her sister ships were cancelled as a direct result of the battlecruiser’s poor performance at Jutland.
    Hood was the last of her breed.
    Incidentally,with her great speed and length,Hood and her sisters would have made excellent aircaft carriers.

    The Baynunah class appear to be very well designed for the needs of the United Arab Emirates.
    Their short range,limited endurance and seakeeping and a lack of anti submarine capability would all be undesirable to any expeditionay navy.
    However,none of these things is a problem for a fleet conducting defensive operations in shallow waters like this:

    Given the nature of planing hulls,I suspect it would be better to use a new hull rather than lengthening the Baynunah,increasing it’s mass and raising the centre of mass as suggested by D. E. Reddick.
    Though I am guessing there are others here who could do that subject more justice than I could.

    tangosix.

  8. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 10, 2010 4:10 pm

    Scott,

    I wondered about whether the MLG 27 is a true CIWS. It seemed as though it might be, but then it isn’t. Obviously, then – the RAM system is the CIWS carried aboard Baynunah while the two MLG 27 cannon represent defense against swarming Iranian attackers. Which is why I have suggested replacing those two 27 mm revolver cannon with the more capable, dual-purpose, 35 mm Millennium revolver cannon CIWS for an improved & enlarged Baynunah class design corvette meant as an alternative to the two LCS designs.

  9. Scott B. permalink
    February 10, 2010 4:04 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “But what about total operating cost for a 3000 ton frigate size warship that can speed to nearly 40 knots?”

    I posted the answer last week, but this is most definitely worth a repost :

    From the latest GAO report on LCS (GAO-10-257, 50 pages, PDF), page 11 :

    ******************************************************
    “For the seaframes, the Navy’s 2009 estimate of operating and support costs projected a total of $64.1 billion based on a 25-year service life.”
    ******************************************************

    Here is the maths : $64.1 billion for 55 ships over 25 years equals $46.5 million per ship per year in terms of operating and support costs.

    And now, the multi-million-dollar question : does anyone remember how much one DDG-51 represents in terms of operating and support costs ? (PS : I also posted the answer last week).

  10. Scott B. permalink
    February 10, 2010 3:55 pm

    D.E. Reddick said : “Also, the Baynunah class carries two Rheinmetall (Mauser) MLG 27 27 mm revolver automatic cannon used in the CIWS role.”

    You cannot really expect the MLG-27 to be a CIWS.

    The MLG-27 is actually intended for Close-In Self Defense against :
    * aircraft /helicopter,
    * surface targets / speedboats,
    * floating mines,
    * shore targets

    That’s pretty much the way they describe it over at Rheinmetall Defense :

    “Based on the high rate of fire BK27 revolver cannon it enables effective engagement of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, speedboats and point targets on land. The system is particularly suitable for defending against terrorist attacks involving high-speed craft.”

  11. Scott B. permalink
    February 10, 2010 3:39 pm

    D.E. Reddick said : “So, four two-cell VLS systems would mean that there are just eight ESSM carried by Baynunah.”

    8 ESSMs is indeed the very max. the Baynunah can carry.

  12. Scott B. permalink
    February 10, 2010 3:32 pm

    Bill said : “I have to wonder what ‘high speed maneuver’ is supposedly being performed in the pic anchoring this post?”

    Here is a hi-res version of the aforementioned pic :

    I find the amount of green water being shipped in what looks like a slight to moderate sea state (SS3 most likely, SS4 being generous) to be very worrying.

    But perhaps it is just me…

  13. Bill permalink
    February 10, 2010 3:15 pm

    Thanks. The only ‘maneuver’ I could see was simply going ahead at speed in some seas…

  14. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:34 pm

    Bill,

    There is other recent imagery of Freedom with Bunker Hill and Carl Vinson showing Freedom maneuvering. In one image Freedom is sporting a rooster-tail when pulling out of formation with Bunker Hill. Freedom is shown joining up with the cruiser and carrier by catching up with them while running at high speed. It was just a photo-shoot.

  15. Bill permalink
    February 10, 2010 2:16 pm

    I have to wonder what ‘high speed maneuver’ is supposedly being performed in the pic anchoring this post?

  16. Distiller permalink
    February 10, 2010 1:33 pm

    Baynunah is a stuffed turkey, a show boat.

    http://content.yudu.com/A1gka6/WTOCT09/resources/24.htm

  17. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 10, 2010 1:17 pm

    Mike,

    I’m also fairly certain that the Mk 56 VLS isn’t available in eight-cell launchers. It’s more likely that Baynunah carries two-cell launchers (dual-packed in twin cannisters – that’s how the Mod 1 prototype Mk 56 was configured). So, four two-cell VLS systems would mean that there are just eight ESSM carried by Baynunah.

    This small SAM capacity is one reason to stretch the Baynunah class and give it some added capabilities. Lengthen the ship in its stern. Place a RHIB ramp and bay in the stern and elevate the helo flight deck and hanger by one deck. Also, lengthen the hanger so that it can host a pair of UAVs along with a manned helo. Then, add a few more Mk 56 VLS cells to the lengthened hanger structure (giving the ship some added area anti-air defensive fire capacity). Perhaps 16 or even 24 ESSM could be fitted. And while lengthening the ship add some more fuel bunkerage for extended cruising range and duration on station. Also, replace the Exocet AShM / SSM with Harpoon and install two 35 mm Millennium revolver cannon in place of those two smaller 27 mm cannon. After the design changes you might have a 1,200 to 1,500 ton corvette. It would certainly be more useful, survivable, and longer-legged than the baseline Baynunah class. At half the tonnage of either type of LCS design it would be far more deadly an opponent than the under-armed LCSes (as presently configured).

  18. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 10, 2010 12:39 pm

    Ok. I got that from the Naval-technology website. Will fix post-haste!

  19. D. E. Reddick permalink
    February 10, 2010 12:19 pm

    Mike,

    You’ve still got the Baynunah’s main gun wrong! It’s an OtoBreda 76 mm / 62 calibre Super Rapide gun. That 62 is for its barrel length / calibre rather than its bore. Also, the Baynunah class carries two Rheinmetall (Mauser) MLG 27 27 mm revolver automatic cannon used in the CIWS role.

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