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LCS Alternative Weekly

May 12, 2010

Drawing of Chinese Fast Attack Craft - Type-022 Houbei-Class. Author Alexpl via Wikimedia Commons.

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.


Outstanding Quote

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!


30 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2016 10:24 pm

    Oye te hay una oferta para participar en una página web,
    ¿te gustaría?

  2. CBD permalink
    May 17, 2010 5:57 pm

    I fear that the Cyclones will, instead, be quietly pushed to disposal of as soon as their obligations protecting the Iraqi waters end…especially as the heat is turned up on the LCS and as the PCs remain a small ship that is actually smaller than the “small” LCS and will often do the same work for a purchase price about 1/20th-1/40th that of the first LCS vessels. I’d hope against it, but they managed to justify disposing of PC-1 even as the LCS program was being drafted.

    The Mk 38 Mod2 could certainly be fitted with 2 Stinger SAMs or 2 ATGMs (Javelin, etc). A coaxial 7.62mm machine gun is specifically mentioned (along with an up-gunning to 30mm and an expansion of the on-mount ammunition to 400 rds for each gun). The missile add-on and coaxial machine gun have been a feature of the Mk 38 Mod2’s Rafael Typhoon lineage for years, as it has been in the Typhoon’s land-based sibling, the Samson RWS. The main issue is whether the USN will pay BAE to license the additional software, equipment and ‘development costs.’*

    *- It would certainly be easier if the USN could just buy the equipment/license from Israel directly (Instead of from the “American” (English) company that is licensing & repackaging the equipment). Similarly, the Mini-Typhoon is being used for the small-boat RWS known as “ROSAM” or Mk49 Mod 0 as produced by GD…which was spec’d for both NSW craft and the RCB…which is also re-packaged foreign gear. The competition to that system is Kongsberg’s Protector/SeaProtector system, which was repackaged by a no-name American company for the CROWS competition. Lovely system of ‘buying American’ we’ve got here…

  3. leesea permalink
    May 17, 2010 1:48 pm

    CBD, I think that small AA missiles MIGHT work given the right sensors (meaing detection early enough) and crewing? A green-water warship has to have good AAW protetion. See also the Master Gunner’s comments about Mk 38 Mod 2 on the Sea Fighter thread.

    It would appear the the USN will have the Cyclones around for some time. (I need to check the SCN budget?) When the USCG Sentinels get into service, they will “give back” their Cyclones.

  4. CBD permalink
    May 16, 2010 5:19 pm

    The unfortunate program history is balanced by the fact that it can still serve as a patrol boat. It also, thankfully, did not cost a fortune. Don’t forget the problems that ensued when the USN insisted that the vessels be given proper ship’s names…adding all sorts of lovely red tape.

    The 57mm could readily fit (the Vita class ships took 76mm guns), and would provide a decently rapid-fire gun as a CIWS stand-in. I’d go for something like the Millennium gun in a high-rear position (medium gun + CIWS), but those aren’t standard gear.

    The main problem I see for air defense is the USN hasn’t had small craft, so its only small craft air defenses are the Stinger. Something like the Umkhonto or Barak missile are more appropriate (in size and weight) than the ESSM or SM-2, especially with the radar requirements inherent to those systems (which would force the ship to grow).

    A small SAM that uses IR or IIR guidance would be best as they can be radar vectored but guided by their own guidance package…perhaps a converted AAM, but those aren’t vertical launch. SeaRAM can sort-of do the work, but it’s rather large & heavy. It’s a simple problem, really, the USN doesn’t make small ships nor does it develop powerful weapons for small ships…so we can’t make small ships that are well-defended.

  5. Scott B. permalink
    May 15, 2010 5:16 pm

    leesea said : “Certainly Damen and Swede Ship and Docksvaret have some nice designs.”

    I guess what you meant was Dockstavarvet.

  6. leesea permalink
    May 15, 2010 1:15 am

    It might shock you to know that the PC rqmt was a merger of two “boat” projects at NAVSEA. They had a need to replace the PB Mk 4s which were weapons centric Swift Boats, and NSW wanted an ocean capable SEAL transport. (SOCCOM just cancelled another such boat rqmt).

    The former was meant as a green water conventional PB and the later as a modified go-fast. So look what the USN got? Instead of using any one of several boat designs like you meantioned.

    I think the 57mm might be too large for my PC? But guns and missiles for both shore & surfave targets and self-defense because they will be in the dangerous green waters.

    Mabye Vosper’s days as a good patrol boat design company are past. Certainly Damen and Swede Ship and Docksvaret have some nice designs.

  7. CBD permalink
    May 14, 2010 9:02 am

    Quite thankfully. I know that my undergrad institution closed down all high biosafety level work for a while after an early scare with Lassa fever in the late 60s…before they realized how sturdy that little bug is (and before it was BSL-4). Personally, I’m glad to not have any experiences with such projects.

    Certainly so. Criticisms are appropriate–A screwed (split purposes) acquisition, screwed boat handling system, insufficient storage space and underarmed. All valid and real complaints about the PCs. But, dysfunctional as they are, they work.

    But the shipyard produced a good product for the requirements they were given and greatly improved the class with the lengthened PC-14. And the ship was intentionally armed on the low end of its capabilities to keep costs down (avoid gold plating and a conversion into a missile boat). The remotely controlled Mk 38 Mod 2 aft, which they are, thankfully, now installing is a step in the right direction…but one has to choose between being a FAC and being a patrol boat and NSW asset. And the ship came in at a price somewhere under half the yearly operating costs for the aforementioned destroyer. Its own yearly operating costs are less than the cost of many of the individual missiles on that destroyer.

    I think that the existing ship could benefit from a 57mm foreward. The installation of this system would, however, increase cost, reduce internal space and raise manpower requirements. A better air defense system would be nice, but adds a lot of cost as well as radar requirements.

    Marginal seakeeping is an unfortunate, but natural part of being a smaller boat. You’re simply going to roll more on a ship displacing less than 400 tons than while sitting in a 9,000t destroyer…but that’s one quality I don’t see as a significant drawback. Space is more of an issue.

    The use of the Vita-class (Vosper 56m FAC) hull was a good move, but the slightly larger (62m) Super Vita hull (used in the Roussen class) would provide the necessary space. A similarly down-gunned PCII based on the Super Vita hull would provide room for all of the requisite personnel in addition to boat’s company and the capability to handle much more equipment. But I’m pessimistic about the possibility of any ship of that size being built without serious gold plating along the way.

    So the PC is far from perfect, but the price is right…and the limited capabilities are appropriate to its size. And we have 8 right now, several of which are pulling far more than their fair share of fleet duties: Galrahn broke down just how much work they are doing. While the USN wouldn’t dare to admit the utility of these vessels (especially after giving one away through FMS and forcing several others onto the USCG), they’re useful and necessary…particularly as they are the only low-end vessels the USN has. They aren’t sexy, they aren’t well cared for, but they do their duty.

  8. Anonymous permalink
    May 14, 2010 2:04 am

    CBD IRT your thoughts about Cylone class PCs:

    I would like to disagree? I had a reservist who worked for me tell me how they were bought – to sum up the acquisition project – wrong! I have NOT served on them, but know sailors who have. They tell me Cyclones have marginal seakeeping qualities. When to compared to gunboats of the past they are under-armed. And when I talk to SWCCs, they point out the Cyclones cannot support more than one RHIB nor perform boat M&R nor have sufficent space for all the goodies which NSW sailors bring along.

    Sooo my entering arguments for a new PC would be guns & missiles, two boats, one UAV pad
    and space for more “other than crew”. Followed up by endurance all of which means a bigger ship. >200 ft LOA maybe.

    While it would be nice to conduct soft power ops, other ships/boats should also be acquired. Wait a minute that would mean the USN would be buying more hulls – gee what a thought!

  9. D. E. Reddick permalink
    May 13, 2010 4:15 pm


    I too align better with the National Institutes of Health. I’ve worked on several NIH-funded projects, including some involving what was close to wearing space suits while working with monkeys infected with nasty things that kill both the monkeys and humans.

    Those particular NIH projects were clearly better thought-out and planned than the monstrosity that the LCS program has evolved into…

  10. CBD permalink
    May 13, 2010 3:43 pm

    Have to credit that joke to Reddick…though the National Institutes of Health is more aligned with my education/training than the other NIH.

  11. CBD permalink
    May 13, 2010 3:42 pm

    It’s been very informative to skim (no time for thorough reading at this moment) reports from NWC, NPS and even the Army’s Command and General Staff College from the last decade+ with all sorts of solid conceptions of the Littoral, Green and Brown water environments…and the value of Corvettes, FPBs and small boat units in all three.

    I also realize that I’ve left out the PCs! While they’re limited and could stand some significant re-design (only very partially accomplished by PC-14), I believe that they’re cheap enough and useful to employ in theater security and partnership operations. Sometimes you just need a glorified patrol boat for your long-range patrol boat-type duties.

  12. leesea permalink
    May 13, 2010 12:02 pm

    CBD there you go againg talking about the National Institutes of Health~~ LOL

    But you are quite right those are all good warship designs which the USN refuses to consider. The naval leaders are required to follow what management says is the right course until the LCS program runs aground for lack of money!

    Look at NECC’s attempts to but the CB-90 aka RCB. They bought two one from Swedes and one from SafeBoats US and no more have shown up. One wonders if that is for lack of funding or because NAVSEA has gotten in the way?

    Here is a process tidbit: I believe the Navy (and other services) peform flawed Analysis of Alternatives. The ship performance rqmts are not done well – i.e too specific or high-end) and then the beltway bandits write perform and AOA looking for the “acceptable” alternatives. Then guess what happens? GIGO garbage in garbage out!

  13. CBD permalink
    May 13, 2010 7:18 am

    The alternative being that we and all friendly traffic remains more than 500 or even 1000nm away from the shores of a hostile power? What if we need to defend a friendly littoral zone…should we try to do that from 500nm out?

  14. Jacob permalink
    May 13, 2010 12:43 am

    Eh, I dunno. I’m not entirely convinced anymore that we should be sending ships into an enemy-controlled littoral zone at all….corvettes, patrol boats, LCS or otherwise. Once you get within range of minefields, coastal defense boats, and land-based anti-ship missiles, isn’t that when everything just goes to hell?

  15. CBD permalink
    May 12, 2010 8:09 pm

    Sadly known. Personally, I’m only speaking in jest with regards to the Sa’ar 4…but give me a say in the process and you’d see an F-100 style Frigate, an updated Omani Qahir-type (Vosper Thorneycroft Mk 9+) Corvette and a modified (lengthened for aft boat ramp) Hamina-type FAC appear in the fleet balance.

    All solid designs, all readily adapted to our systems…all little more than a pipe dream.

  16. D. E. Reddick permalink
    May 12, 2010 6:59 pm


    I was wondering why you brought up the National Institutes of Health (another meaning of that acronym NIH ;)).

  17. R J Gaskill permalink
    May 12, 2010 5:41 pm

    I’ve read for A

  18. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 12, 2010 5:22 pm

    I thought someone would have pointed out the Makin Island not being a “real” carrier, other than the flight deck and aircraft of course! There is a photo of the Chilean Sa’ar boats escorting the USS Vinson, which wasn’t so clear, but still neat!

  19. leesea permalink
    May 12, 2010 5:17 pm

    CBD and DER, what you say points to the solution to the Navy’s self-induced problem of the big LCS. IF in that they take up the ocean escort role, the easiest means for the USN to fill its littoral warfare roles is to buy an existing design and build the vessels here. The USCG has been doing that for years (successfully for the most part).

    There are plenty of good snall combatant designs to chose from corvette down to OPV and FAC.

    But we all know how NIH works~~

  20. MatR permalink
    May 12, 2010 4:08 pm

    Here’s a worrying thought – what if they don’t get hungry until they lose ships and men in a conflict? There’s nothing like continuity to keep you complacent.

  21. CBD permalink
    May 12, 2010 4:04 pm

    You’ll have to go to the Sa’ar 4.5 series for that…

    Ultimately, a well-armed LCS would be better armed…but it’s all about the hunger for a good product. Is the USN still hungry? Are the Marines?

  22. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 12, 2010 3:52 pm

    “450 tons loaded…and better armed than the LCS-1.”

    Note except for the helos, carry the same weapons as the old Perry’s, doing them better with extra guns! As heavily armed as frigates as I mentioned earlier.

    We really need to get back to building fighting ships, instead of those which just Look Cool offShore!

  23. CBD permalink
    May 12, 2010 3:18 pm

    Hey Mike,
    Are those Chilean Sa’ar 4 Missile Boats escorting the Makin Island? Those aren’t even Corvettes! 450 tons loaded…and better armed than the LCS-1.

    2x guns (76mm or Phalanx fore, 76mm aft)
    2x 20mm Oerlikon guns
    3x .50 cal (12.7mm) guns
    8x Harpoon or 6-8x Gabriel AShM

    Also better range: 4800nm @19knots, 2200nm @30knots
    Crew of ~47.

    You know, we could have saved some money and bought these second hand ages ago…;)

  24. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 12, 2010 12:58 pm

    Lee, its hard to come to any other conclusion. The evidence, which is the entire LCS program, speaks for itself.

  25. leesea permalink
    May 12, 2010 12:45 pm

    Mike you NAILED it! The problem the USN has with LCS is as you state:
    “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. ”

    I am willing to bet some beers that the LCS will be “transformed” into a blue water escort shortly leaving its littoral missions to another ship type (if at all).

  26. Mike Burleson permalink*
    May 12, 2010 11:57 am

    “The icing on the LCS cake would be a prolonged protest by the sore loser.”

    This might not be a bad thing. Maybe they will buy off the shelf warships which aren’t politically sensitive. Maybe Sea Fighter will win by default!

  27. Matthew S. permalink
    May 12, 2010 10:45 am

    The icing on the LCS cake would be a prolonged protest by the sore loser. It looks LCS-2 should be the winner but of course there will be the protest and re-compete. I mean look at the tanker competition. Airbus/Northrop won it outright but then Boeing protested. Now Boeing is expected to win the re-compete.

  28. Heretic permalink
    May 12, 2010 10:22 am

    LCS-1 = Dock Queen for CSG Escort Duty

    After all … CVNs spend so much of their time within LOS of shorelines they NEED to have un(der)armed helicopter lillypads protecting them from … uh … axes, swung by bean counters?


  1. Military And Intelligence News Briefs — May 12, 2010 « Read NEWS

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