LCS Alternative Weekly
LCS Competition-It’s Not about the Cost
Got your attention didn’t I? But its true. If the pricetag was the issue over the LCS competition, whether the Austal trimaran or the Lockheed monohull version, then it would be neither. I’ll explain more but first, here is Sean Reilly at the Press-Register:
In the winner-take-all face-off between Mobile-based Austal USA and a team led by Lockheed Martin Corp., the Navy’s main focus is sticker price, leaders have indicated.
“It’s crucial to us to get the cost of these ships down so that we can buy the numbers that we need,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at a Senate hearing last month.
But members of the Alabama congressional delegation have been pushing for a more expansive approach that considers not just purchase price but “capability,” and “life-cycle” costs, such as fuel.
Between the two, I’d have to go with capability. Before you accuse me of double standards, since I always preach the mantle of lower costs and numbers over capability, think about it. There is not that much different in price between the two very expensive ships. $60 million isn’t that much savings when you are talking about vessels costing in the many hundreds of millions. When you start adding up the cost of various mission modules, the price becomes further skewed.
For $60 million you could buy a Coast Guard cutter which could do most of the missions of either one just as well.
So if your choice is only between “two evils”, pick the lesser.
But Not the Ship in the Photo
The headline from Straights Times reads “US navy nabs pirate suspects“, which is correct and kudos to the Perry class frigate USS Nicholas and crew! But take a look at the headline picture.
LCS Has No Influence
Commander Henry J. Hendrix’s new and improved Influence Squadron, detailed in the Proceedings’ article “More Henderson, Less Bonds“, has a very notable omission:
Some might ask why the Littoral Combat Ship is not included within the Influence Squadron, and the answer would be is that it is, at more than $600 million a copy, too expensive for the capabilities it brings to the environment. Taken as a whole, each squadron will cost the nation $1.35 billion, less than the cost of one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (or two LCSs), but having the ability to provide ten ships’ worth of naval presence, credibility, and compassion forward in the areas deemed most likely to serve as the seedbed of problems in the future.
New Wars is extremely pleased and a big fan of the Influence Squadron, which you can tell by our recent series of posts. Well done Jerry!
Laying in a Supply of Ginger
Scoop Deck’s Phil Ewing details that sailing on USS Independence can be quite lively:
It rolls. A lot. Independence had clear skies, calm seas and only moderate winds for its transit from Key West to Naval Station Mayport, but the ship rolls and pitches like a drunken whale. Early after it sailed from Mobile, Ala., the ship hit heavy weather and eight-foot seas, and wallowed so much that life was miserable for many crew members and riders. “I’ve never seen so many people get seasick,” one sailor confided; the Night of the Living Vomit is already a crew institution.
As Ace Commenter ScottB surmises:
…their poor seakeeping qualities won’t just be a problem for their skeleton crew, but also promises to seriously hamper vehicles launch / recovery and air ops.
Which were supposed to be their raison d’etre…
What a disaster !!!
Freedom versus the Rednecks
If capturing drug smugglers in speedboats wasn’t enough for the $600 million+ Space Age warship, the LCS is now the scourge of besotted fishermen everywhere! From the same Phil Ewing post:
(Freedom’s captain, Cmdr. Curt)Renshaw described a day in which the ship was making high speed runs and a certain fishing boat kept getting closer to the ship’s path, presumably because its occupants wanted to take pictures of the Klingon warbird bearing down on them.
Independence kept altering course, but the fishermen kept drifting in, clearly not comprehending the physics involved with a warship hitting their fiberglass boat at 40 knots. But the Independence’s crew was able to put enough distance between them and the boat that they passed — barely.
“There was Bubba, holding up his beer can, going, ‘wheeeeeeeew!’” Renshaw said. His bridge crew watched with baited breath to see what would happen when the ship’s wake reached the other vessel. What happened was, nothing — or at least, nothing a civilian fishing boat couldn’t easily handle.
But what if he has to go to the Head?
The multimission mantra of the entire LCS Program extends to the crew as well, meaning fewer personnel are expected to do so much more. Here is Paul McLeary at Ares blog aboard the USS Independence:
With a crew of just 40 sailors, everyone aboard the Littoral Combat Ship Independence — the General Dynamics and Austal-made LCS, bidding against Lockheed Martin’s USS Freedom for the ultimate Navy contract — is expected to wear multiple hats.
Lieutenant Phil Garrow, the ship’s Main Propulsion Assistant, said last week while the ship was underway from Key West to Mayport that “everyone had to go to school to get out of their comfort zone,” of performing a few very specialized tasks prior to being able to staff the ship. Standing on the bridge of the ship, Garrow pointed to one of his engineers, who he described as his “resident expert on the MTU engines,” explaining that he in addition to that, “he gave me my flu shot this year. He’s also one of our range masters for gunnery, he’s one of our SAR [search and rescue] swimmers—every one of us had to go to a lot of force protection schools that I’d never gone to before. Me being the engineering officer, I’m also the auxiliaries officer, electrical officer, main propulsion system and the damage control assistant…the learning curve was significant.”
I can’t but help consider this an unbearable burden on the personnel, since they are required to continue excessive deployments little changed since the Cold War, except with a much smaller fleet. If you want smaller crews, why not just build smaller ships?
CBD-another one of our excellent Band of Readers, had this to say a while back on the issue of LCS manning:
“Lean manning saps morale, puts sailors at risk”
Agreed. But the difference is significant between trying to run a 3,000+t vessel (LCS-1) with 65-75 crew (clearly, from recent news, more like 95…with the balance in temporary berths) versus the types of crewing arrangements on most corvettes (where additional berths are to facilitate additional, not core capacities).
Baynunah Class: 660t vessel (full) (71.3m). Core mission crew: 50 + room for 12.
Sigma Class: 1,700t vessel (full) (<91m). Core mission crew: 62 + room for 20.
Qahir Class: 1,450t vessel (full) (83m). Core mission crew: 45 + room for 15.
Future Omani corvettes: 1,650t vessel (~90m). Core mission crew: 70 (incl. aviation)
Each of these currently have helicopter facilities that, were they downgraded to support UAV launches, would provide room (eliminating Av fuel, mechanical space, etc) for additional crew (by eliminating air crew and adding space), stores (like fuel for the main vessel) and small craft for VBSS.
Lean manning saps morale. True, but SMALL manning on SMALL craft is a different fish.
Lean manning means more work because the tasks of a ship don’t shrink with the crew. Small manning for ships with fewer tasks at better proportions (crew:tasks) allows your crews to rest between shifts. Hybrid sailors are good, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need sleep…
Conflation of lean manning (small crew, big ship) with small crews (small crew, small ship) should be avoided.
LCS Alternative-Sigma class Corvette
Built by the Dutch Schelde Naval Shipbuilding firm, which also constructs the Holland class patrol vessels. Sigma stands for Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach and are in service with the Indonesian and Moroccan navies.
- Displacement-1692 tons
- Length-91 meters
- Beam-13 meters
- Draft-3.6 meters
- Speed-28 knots
- Range-4800 miles at 14 knots
- Crew-20 to 80
- Armament-Anti-air missile: 2 x quad MBDA Mistral TETRAL, forward & aft
Anti-surface missile: 4 x MBDA Exocet MM40 Block II
Guns: Oto Melara 76 mm (A position)
2 x 20 mm Denel Vektor G12 (Licensed copy of GIAT M693/F2) (B position)
Torpedoes: EuroTorp 3A 244S Mode II/MU 90 in 2 x B515 launchers
- Aviation-Optional hangar for helicopter