LCS Alternative Weekly
Bracing for the LCS Delay
If the ship’s own construction faults and over-ambitious requirements weren’t enough for the USN to get some type of non-billion dollar warship in service, the likelihood of a protest by the losing bidder may push the schedule fighter back. The Navy is preparing itself for the inevitable, according to Cid Standifer at Inside the Navy (subscr. only):
Rear Adm. James McManamon, the deputy director for surface warfare at Naval Sea Systems Command, told Inside the Navy May 5 he hopes that’s not the case, but the Navy is prepared to deal with it if it happens.
“We’ll look at the mission,” McManamon said. “We’ll look at our ship decommissionings and we’ll work that product.”
McManamon said that the protest process normally takes 100 days, which would not significantly impact the fleet. If the delay stretches into several months, he would look at the fleet schedule and review the options.
One possibility would be to rearrange ship availabilities to compensate for the lack of LCS’s. With a “heads-up” of six to 12 months, McManamon said he can adjust in-service fleet schedules to fill the gap.
Alternatively, the Navy could extend the lives of some of its ships. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS), head of the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee, has pressured the service to extend the lives of its frigates to prevent the fleet from shrinking next year.
Likely then the very expensive DDG-51 and the very old Perry frigates, both Cold War designs will continue to hold the frontlines for yet another decade. What a state the Navy has got itself in, but the LCS program preceded Secretary Gates, who has been accused of trying to destroy the fleet. Apparently, the admirals need little help in this regard.
Likely the Carrier’s Shadow
The Navy can’t wait to send the LCS-1 to sea with the carrier groups, according to builder Lockheed, which is likely what the admirals had planned all along:
“The opportunity for Freedom to work with a carrier strike group for the first time is icing on the cake of our first operational deployment,” said Cmdr. Randy Garner, Freedom’s commanding officer in a Navy press release. “We are demonstrating how Freedom and future littoral combat ships are capable of working as part of a CSG when needed.”
To me, this is further proof of the Navy’s lack of interest, or understanding of shallow water warfare, since Blue Water and littoral warfare entails two different concepts of operations. It is much like using tank division to battle insurgents. It rarely ever works unless there is much blood-letting on both sides, and you end up destroying that which you sought to save.
Instead of building a ship geared especially for littoral work, a real patrol boat, the USN has given us an aberration that tries to coincide the Blue Water role with shallow water sailing. All the trouble the LCS is having in terms of cost growth and mechanical woes, stems from this multimission mantra that warships can be all and do all. It also entails a clear mindset as we note in the above quote, that every warship in the fleet must in some way support aircraft carrier operations. Since a patrol boat can’t escort aircraft carriers, it has no place in today’s navy. Oh, wait…
No lessons from NLOS?
The idea of rail guns sounds intriguing, and like lasers may actually be applicable in warfare one of these days. I fear our trust in wonder weapons to solve new threats and problems of seapower may be a false hope, though. Here is Greg Grant at DoD Buzz:
One of the more intriguing technologies spotted at this week’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo was General Atomics’ electromagnetic rail cannon. The company has been working for a number of years with the Office of Naval Research on a 200-nautical mile gun system. In a parallel effort, they’ve been developing a smaller, pulse-power technology demonstrator, called the Blitzer, for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles and small boat swarms.
Didn’t we learn anything from the NLOS-LS debacle apparently to give teeth to the extremely expensive and underarmed LCS? But here is the faulting thinking. We spend exorbitant funds trying to match new threats with high technology, when the answer might be similar type swarming hulls, that are low cost and available off the shelf. But we like our Blue Water battleships, except they cost so much to defend, we can only afford a shrinking number of them. All the speed boat swarms have to do is wait until we sink ourselves from costs, then they can overwhelm our defenses, no matter how sophisticated they are.
In this way the allies overwhelmed the Germans in WW 2, who also put much false hope in wonder weapons. Except they were defeated by much cheap but plentiful hardware.
Lockheed Ship Limps to Rival Shipyard
Doesn’t portend too well for the rival littoral combat ship prototype to sail into General Dynamics for much needed repairs. Here is the story from Phil Ewing at the Navy Times:
Freedom’s Blue Crew — which re-took the ship upon its arrival in San Diego last month — discovered a problem with its outer starboard waterjet, said Lt Cmdr. Chris Servello, a spokesman for Naval Surface Forces. So the ship is being taken to a dry dock at San Diego’s Nassco shipyard, owned by the company that hopes its own ship design, the aluminum trimaran Independence, will win the Navy’s LCS competition this summer.
The designers of the LCS might have done well to listen to DK Brown, writing in 1991 the Future British Surface Fleet:
High speed is always useful to a warship, but the cost of obtaining it is such that a more moderate speed is usually chosen…Higher speeds can be obtained by hovercraft and hydrofoils and a number of arguments, many fallacious, are put forward to justify fast craft…
In general, however, high speed warfare is best left to aircraft.
China’s New Swarm
All the discussion has been ongoing of late concerning the Iranian Navy and the swarm tactics she performs with her fleet of hundreds of speedboats. Let’s not forget about the much more ominous fleet across the Pacific who plans such warfare themselves against our ships. The following commentary is from Planeman’s Bluffer’s Guide:
The biggest deal about the Type-022 is not its stealth, or its innovative wave-piercing catamaran hull, or its powerful anti-ship punch; it’s that there are around 70 of these boats in service!…
Generally there is a school of thought that missile boats are not a serious threat to ‘real’ navies. One popular theory propagated by the Royal Navy is that the missile boats would be easily sunk by shipboard helicopters before they could get within range of launching their missiles. This is a valid argument for a RN frigate operating in the Arabian Sea, approached by Iranian boats. Indeed RN Lynx helicopters armed with Sea Skua missiles proved very effective in both the Falklands and Gulf wars. But this argument appears less convincing when the Type-022 is taken as the adversary. It is relatively stealthy, operating in littorals, employing data links to achieve long range targeting and deployed in huge quantities. It’s also worth remembering that in a scenario where China was facing a major navy (even Taiwan’s) the opposing helicopter force would be subject to distraction of submarine hunting, and quite possibly air-supremacy. Most countries do not equip their shipboard helicopters with anti-ship missiles anyway.
Sessions pushes fuel issue
The Alabama Senator wants the Navy to keep Austal’s more fuel efficient design when it comes to considering the cost effectiveness of the LCS competition. Here’s Sean Reilly of the Press-Register blog:
The Navy has examined fuel costs for the competing models of the littoral combat ship but is not using the results in deciding the high-stakes competition, the service’s top weapons buyer said Thursday at a Senate hearing.
Although the Navy looked at the issue as part of an analysis of total “ownership costs” for the two models, fuel efficiency is not covered in the guidelines for awarding the contract, Assistant Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile.
Sessions described the issue as “a very serious matter,” and said, “I intend to follow it.”
The Alabama-built LCS-2 uses less fuel than the Lockheed designed LCS-1. According to an earlier graphic, the Independence, while being some 300 tons smaller that USS Freedom, can sail some 800 miles further on its internal fuel. Specifically it is 4300 miles at 18 knots for LCS-2, compared to 3500 miles for LCS-1 at the same speed.
I get where the Senator is coming from. With the price of fuel today and likely to remain high, those 800 miles is not an insignificant amount and certainly will effect operating costs. The USN justifies the enormous price of its battleships with life-cycle costs, including its $14 billion Ford class carriers, but not the small warships?
LCS on the Stock Exchange
Here’s a bit of commentary I picked up from the Motley Fool, which is a money and investment centered website:
Was reading my local paper today and saw a quarter page ad from a shipyard named Austal.
A pretty cool looking Naval ship was shown,(Seemed scifi like.) and they were advertising for hiring shipyard workers. I thought; wow, I should see if they are publicly traded. They might be worth a little research since if they are on a hiring spree they might be generating some cashflow, etc.
LCS a good investment? Well, if you listen to the Navy, Buy! If you pay attention to this blog, Sell!