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LCS Alternative Weekly

July 21, 2010

Members of Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MESRON) 2 operate alongside the coastal patrol ship USS Typhoon (PC 5) while providing opposing force support to a coalition exercise in the Arabian Gulf.

Real Clear Gunboats

In the US Navy’s mind, a 100,000 ton aircraft carrier is a gunboat, a 10,000 ton destroyer is a small boy “tin can”, and a 3000 ton frigate a cheap coastal patrol ship. In contrast are real gunboats, corvettes, and fast attack craft, built by most of the world’s navies, performing many of the same functions as their giant cousins without the expense to build, the high volume of fuel usage, or manpower needed to operate. Some navies like Somalia expand their seapower with commandeered merchant and fishing vessels. Others like the Columbian drug lords build basic submarines in jungles, without the vast industrial expertise and nautical knowledge of traditional ocean-going nations, proving that the quest for maritime supremacy isn’t always rocket science.

Small spartan warships, needed to boost ship numbers, which provide much needed work for shipyards, while producing savings in manpower and fuel costs, are much maligned today as “less capable” and “too vulnerable” in modern war. This fallacy has allowed Western navies to shrink to historic proportions, but the use of these ships in war prove their utility.

  • In 2006, a 1500 ton Israeli corvette is struck by a Hezbollah cruise missiles unawares and limps to port under its own power.
  • In a few years, Sri Lanka defeats the world’s most feared terror group, the Tamil Tigers, with great help from a few hundred small speed boats to intercept armed ships. They also use converted patrol vessels as cruisers to hunt down and destroy enemy motherships on the high seas.
  • The South Koreans can lose a 1000 ton corvette in a dispute with North Korea without starting a new world war (recalling the Panay and Reuben James incidents from the last one).


Iran’s Bladerunner Bluff

Craig Hooper of Next Navy is none too impressed with Iran’s covert acquisition of the Bradstone Challenger, a Bladerunner 51 type speed boat:

As I have said before, the Iranians could easily (and quietly) buy Bladerunner 51 vessels in Dubai and ride them across the Gulf, no problem–but getting such a “high-profile” vessel in a “high-profile” fashion has got to be a boost to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard mystique–and if there is one thing the Revolutionary Guard looooves more than anything, it’s good press.

For the Revolutionary Guard, the value of the Bradstone Challenger seems to have depended upon the vessel’s ability to boost the global perception of the platform as a potential threat. I feel like this is something of a bluff–The moment the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is not seen as the toughest bunch around, that group is going to encounter problems–both at home and in the Gulf.

But just as Tehran may be overselling the vessel’s capabilities, there is the chance the West may underestimate the abilities of small-boat navies:

Iran isn’t really a big threat, in itself.  … the real small-boat threat comes from the increasing potential for miscalculation.  As small boat performance improves, as they become operationally viable in weather and conditions that challenge even the best, most seasoned maritime surveillance assets, the margin for error gets very, very small…

Miscalculation is the real threat small, fast boats pose to the West–a threat that goes far beyond Iran.

So as the navies of NATO shrink with cuts typically falling on cheap, easy to operate escort craft which can more easily manage the small-boat swarm, the few Big Ships of the West might be under threat, or just not available when problems arise.


LCS-“The Fatal Error”

Mike Colombaro of Combat Fleet of the World has been bringing us an excellent survey of the future of the US Navy, this time focusing on small surface combatants and littoral ships. His comments on the LCS are worth noting:

Early 1990’s/2001: A initial great idea or the return to the naval littoral warfare !
In the aftermath of the cold war, with some new kind of conflicts around the world, the concept of littoral warfare resurfaced (especially the “Street-fighter” concept, a 500/800 tons fast, stealthy craft intended to dominate enemy littoral’s) rise up.

2001/mid 2003: Very trendy, many design study and some hope for a smaller 300/800 tons design…
By mid 2001, some US warships study look for a 500 tons design. The LCS is intended to be a cheap (220 $ million max), fast (40+ knots) and +/- light (up tp +/- 2000/3000 tons), highly automated (40/75 sailors) surface combatant that is to be equipped with modular “plug-and-fight” mission packages. The LCS’s primary intended missions are antisubmarine warfare (ASW), mine countermeasures (MCM), and surface warfare (SUW), particularly in littoral waters. Others missions include peacetime engagement/partnership-building operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, maritime intercept operations, operations to support special operations forces, and homeland defense operations.

Here comes what Mike describes as “The beginning of the joke”:

Unfortunately, with the building of the first 2 demonstrator’s ships, some weakness (some even severe), begin to appear:

– Cost of the first 2 demonstrators ships rise even DRAMATICALLY: LCS 1”Freedom”, from 220 to 637 $ million (+ 289%); LCS 2 “Independence”: from 220 to 704 $ million (+320%). This tremendous cost forces the US Navy to delayed/postponed the 2 others “demonstrators ships from 2007 to 2009. With this, one of the main advantages of the LCS, the affordability, disappeared….

– Delays, cost-overruns and even much worse (NLOS-LS) for some “combat modules”.

– The monohull design was clearly over-powered : 113 000hp for the LCS 1 “Freedom; but only 60 000hp for the LCS 2 “independence” (this difference were due to the better efficiency of the Trimaran hull design). Although with a sufficient range for littoral warfare, unfortunately a very too shorter endurance for effective long oversea deployment (1150 miles at 15 knots, 3350 miles at 18 knots for the LCS 1; and 1940 miles at 46 knots and 4300 miles at 20 knots for the LCS 2…… compare with 4200 miles at 20 knots or 5000 miles at 18 knots for a O.H.Perry FFG).

– Some serious concerns about survivability in littoral environment (again supersonic or even future hypersonic cruise missile, very fast rocket propelled torpedoes, advanced mobile mine, improvised naval mine, suicide frogmen with limpet mine/charge, suicide midget submarines, suicide small fast crafts, improvised rocket). Don’t forget that the first 2 ships failed during shock hardening tests (ability to keep operating following an nearly underwater explosion) and even more worse, LCS-1 could be easily swamped when fully loaded.

– With too fewer crew, serious doubt rise about the capabilities…to conduct efficient battle damage repairs…

Mike’s conclusion is what you’d expect:

Although usually a mass warships building reduce the unit cost, growing warships cost and inflation will most likely keep the cost per furthers LCS above 600+ $ million, without combat modules…

In fact, it is clear that despite the official 55 goal vessel requirement of the U.S. Navy, this reach, AT THE EXTREME BEST CASE (if any future budgets cuts/delays/cost overruns occurred during…….2012-2032……………), only around +/- 53 ships. Because with the current plan, the 55th LCS will be ordered by FY 2031 and commissioned by +/- 2034 (at the same time as the 1st LCS will be retired).

Clearly the Navy is in dire straits when it’s only low cost ship is unaffordable, with the craft being essentially useless except in benign operating environments.


Astounding Quote

In stark contrast is the following press release from Lockmart which glosses over the first LCS’ major deficiencies. Here’s just the headline:

Lockheed Martin Team Increasing Affordability and Producibility of Littoral Combat Ship

So why can’t they get it back to the original estimate price of $220 million and restore the fleet? Still, though it would be too underarmed, undermanned, and unprotected.


Explaining small warships

The return to small warships seem to be the answer to most of the Navy’s warship woes. Such cheap and even off the shelf craft would be the antidote to too few warships compounding presence deficits, trying to create lean manning through automation which has proved a failure, high cost of fuel, and well as the continued complications of large multi-mission ships intended to “be all and do all” like the LCS. Also because they are needed in large numbers, this would give continuous work to our impoverished shipyards, instead of 5-9 vessels a year constructed there would be dozens and scores of new craft.

Here is more on the subject of small warships which I wrote in January, within a post titled “Small Answers for Big Problems“:

  • The fleet being smaller than ever, it is also busier than ever. The consistent solutions have been “lets build fewer platforms, but make them bigger and more complicated to get more work out of them”. We then have one warship replacing four, one fighter replacing dozens, and so on. So I have to question whether the Navy’s large ships which they assure us are so capable, are really up to the task set of a new era of warfare?
  • With small warships, you already have reduced manning. Today we deploy an all-battleship-navy, on a small navy budget!  Aircraft carriers also regularly go to sea with fewer airplanes than they can carry, yet we insist on building them bigger…
  • It isn’t just smaller warships and cheaper weapons we want to see. It is a return to basics, a return of simple warfighting and shipbuilding skills, and most of all a bigger fleet of reasonably priced warships. It’s all about the tyranny of numbers and no matter how good your technology, it can’t be in more than one place at a time, or in other words, you can’t do presence if you aren’t present!


The Stiletto Advantage

If you want another high-priced, Blue Water warship, to add to the Navy’s overwhelming advantage, though shrinking number of such vessels, perhaps the littoral combat ship is right. On the other hand, for craft intended to go into harm’s way in shallow seas, where lurk naval mines, suicide boats, and midget subs, then the M Ship Stiletto stealth boat has some advantages. Brad Graves at the San Diego Business Journal points to the need for small craft in the Navy’s force structure today:

The federal government is talking about cutting its budgets, and the littoral combat ship project has substantially exceeded its original budget. There are two versions of the ship, one each built by General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. The Navy plans to choose its preferred model this summer.

The two littoral combat ship designs are fast and relatively small, but they are really oceangoing vessels, professor and author Milan Vego noted in a 2008 article. The two designs displace roughly 3,000 tons apiece, and need 20-foot-deep water to operate. One is made of steel, the other aluminum.

Swarms of small enemy craft, opponents in suicide boats and shallow waters such as the straits of the Middle East call for something different, Vego says. Vego lays out the case for launching a fleet of craft much smaller than the littoral combat ship in an essay titled “Think Small” in the July 2008 issue of Armed Forces Journal.

The Stiletto displaces 45 tons, operates in 3 feet of water, and is made of carbon fiber. It costs $6 million.


58 Comments leave one →
  1. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 23, 2010 5:35 pm

    All of the 327 ft cutters also carried aircraft prior to 1941. In fact it was the requirement to carry aircraft that drove up the size from the preceding 250 ft class. Original intent was that they also have a hanger, but that was abandoned before construction. I don’t think “Charleston” and “Erie” actually ever had catapults although they were considered. Like the cutters, they hoisted their aircraft over the side and they took off from the water. Aircraft were carried on cutters as small as the 216 ft “Northland” and the 230 ft “Storis.”

    The aircraft were useful in making initial surveys of Greenland looking for places for airfields.

  2. D. E. Reddick permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:45 pm

    Read the two following entries from Wikipedia regarding the Erie and Treasury classes. I have a copy of Norman Friedman’s “US Cruisers” and the Erie class gunboats started out as cruisers, conceptually speaking. Mounting four 6″ (152 mm) guns, then they were armed much like cruisers (initially with aircraft and catapults, to boot). The Treasury class were much more cutters or destroyer-like escorts than those gunboat cruisers.

    USS Erie (PG-50)

    USS Charleston (PG-51)

    USCG Treasury class cutter

  3. RW2 permalink
    July 22, 2010 9:46 pm

    I was lucky enough to check her out during Fleet Week awhile back when she was moored in Downtown San Diego. Cool boat, however she was nowhere near combat ready. To make her that, I promise each boat will cost 150 to 200 million per boat. If not more.

    I would really like to see to an enlarge version of the MK V boats used by Speacial Boats Units and SEALs. Those boats are sweet!

  4. Bill permalink
    July 22, 2010 8:42 pm

    “if LCS costs $500+ million per unit, then Stiletto should cost $20+ million per unit. Aaahhhhh…”

    Bingo. We have a winnah….

  5. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 8:31 pm

    T-6, thanks.

  6. Scott B. permalink
    July 22, 2010 6:02 pm

    Bill said : “Typo that needs correcting: It ‘cost $6 million’. No way a hypothetical ‘production’ version would cost less than twice that much after loaded up with sensors and gear and more likey three to four times;”

    Even the good folks at M Ship Co. conceded, at least implicitely, that their Stiletto would cost MUCH MORE than $6 million.

    E.g. consider their slogan : “Get 25 Stilettos for the Price of 1 LCS”

    If Stiletto costs $6 million per unit, then LCS should cost $150 million per unit. Naaahhhh….

    Let’s try something else : if LCS costs $500+ million per unit, then Stiletto should cost $20+ million per unit. Aaahhhhh…

  7. Bill permalink
    July 22, 2010 5:30 pm

    RE: “The Stiletto displaces 45 tons, operates in 3 feet of water, and is made of carbon fiber. It costs $6 million”

    Typo that needs correcting: It ‘cost $6 million’. No way a hypothetical ‘production’ version would cost less than twice that much after loaded up with sensors and gear and more likey three to four times; I don’t care what kind of ‘sensors, wepaons or gear’ you point to. Witness the CC-M cancellation; how much do you think the replacement for a ‘simple’ 11m RHIB should have cost? Hmmm?

  8. July 22, 2010 5:10 pm

    Hello Chuck Hill,

    there seems to be some confusion about some of the losses on that list.
    I googled M.T.B.448 and came up with this:

    “53rd MTB Flotilla Based on Portsmouth
    MTB 689, MTB 690, MTB 691, MTB 692, MTB 693, MTB 694 and MTB 695
    10-11/6/44 At 2300, S 100, S 112, S 136, S 138, S 142, and S 143 of the Fifth S Boat Flotilla sortie from Cherbourg to make torpedo attacks on the eastern side of the Cotentin Peninsula. Shortly after midnight, S 112 breaks down with a rudder defect and the force is attacked by the destroyer HMS Duff MTB 448 and MTB 453. S 112 is repaired enough to retreat to Cherbourg. S 136 engages MTB 448 resulting in both vessels being sunk.
    0206 Fifth S Boat Flotilla fires torpedoes at two destroyers claiming one as sunk.
    MTB 448 (SO) and MTB 453 are on patrol off Barfleur when they sight the Fifth S Boat Flotilla. MTB 448 and MTB 453 make a gun and depth charge attack. MTB 448 passes through the line between the first and second E Boats and drops a depth charge which explodes abeam of the second E Boat. Both E Boats also suffer considerable gunfire damage. MTB 448 is hit by several 40mm shells below the waterline loses speed and begins to settle. MTB 453 engages the second and third E Boats expending 70 6pdr shells and 400 Oerlikon rounds. All three E Boats have serious problems. MTB 453 takes off the crew of MTB 448 two of whom are wounded. A war correspondent has been killed and his body is recovered. A scuttling charge fails to detonate and MTB 453 sinks MTB 448 with gunfire. MTB 453 transfers the survivors of MTB 448 to HMS Stayner and then joins up with MTB 691 and MTB 693. . The E Boats return and are attacked by MTB 453, MTB 691 and MTB 693. One E Boat is lagging and is cut off, disabled and set on fire. Five or six survivors are taken prisoner and transferred to HMS Duff. MTB 453 then departs for Portsmouth to land the wounded at Haslar.”

    Googling another torpedo victim M.T.B.671 came up with this:


  9. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 4:38 pm

    Tangosix said, “The British experience was rather different:

    Thanks, very interesting, I notice not only was MTB316 sunk by a torpedo from an Italian Cruiser, MTB 448 was apparently sunk by a torpedo from an “friendly” aircraft and ML1163 by a torpedo apparently from surface vessel.

    What did they do, drop them on them?

  10. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 1:46 pm

    Bill, you might want to offer them to the US Naval Institute for their photo collection. Not sure how they would handle that, I’m sure you don’t want to loose them.

  11. Bill permalink
    July 22, 2010 1:27 pm


    I ended up in possesion of about 6 prints official Morper aireal pictures of the Taney, taken when my grandfather was CO, as she steamed out of San Diego in to open water.

  12. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 11:33 am

    All US surface ships sank 38 U-boats during WWII (+Japanese and Italian subs of course). Of those 38, 327s sank 3.5, Campbell sharing credit for one with the Polish destroyer Burza. This in spite of the fact that they only served as ASW ships during the first half of the war and were subsequently converted to amphibious force flag ships (AGC).

    Actually there are two still around. In addition to Taney, Ingham is in Key West along with the 165 foot Cutter Mohawk that is even a little older.

    I was XO of Duane for a couple of years so I also have a soft spot for them.

    In some ways the 327s were examples of Scott B’s “think big-not small” philosophy. They were 50% larger (and four knots faster) than any previous cutter, and were larger than most contemporary destroyers. Unlike their Navy half sisters, that were armed with 4×6″ and two quad 1.1″, the cutters started modestly armed, so that they had plenty of room for depth charges and K-guns when they were needed.

    They were also the first US ships to get HF/DF that proved very useful for detecting U-boats and avoiding them.

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 22, 2010 10:23 am

    On the Treasury class from Wikipedia:

    The Treasury-class high endurance cutters were a group of seven ships launched by the United States Coast Guard between 1936 and 1937. The class were called the “Treasury-class” because they were each named for former Secretaries of the Treasury. These ships were also collectively known as the “327’s” as they were all 327 feet (100 m) in length.[1] The Treasury-class cutters proved to be highly adaptable, dependable, versatile and long-lived warships; most served their country for over 40 years. In the words of naval historian John M. Waters, Jr., they were truly their nation’s “maritime workhorses. The 327’s battled, through the ‘Bloody Winter’ of 1942-43 in the North Atlantic, fighting off German U-boats and rescuing survivors from torpedoed convoy ships. They went on to serve as amphibious task force flagships, as search and rescue (SAR) ships during the Korean War, on weather patrol, and as naval gunfire support ships during the Vietnam War. Most recently, these ships-that-wouldn’t-die have done duty in fisheries patrol and drug interdiction. Built for only $2.5 million each, in terms of cost effectiveness we may never see the likes of these cutters again.”

    $2.5 million then would be a little over $38 million in today’s dollars.


  14. Bill permalink
    July 22, 2010 9:07 am

    Chuck said: “arguably the best American surface ASW escorts of WWII, the 327 ft, Treasury Class”

    Such a soft spot I have for those great ships too. My grandpappy was skipper of the Taney in the ’50s (and skipper of the Dione before that, conducting Atlantic ASW in ’42) and I’ve made more than a few trips to Baltimore to walk through her again. Taney is the last of them..and not long for this world herself either. But the USCG, as they do with so many other hulls, kept those ships in service for a VERY long time. Navy?..heck, how old is the youngest of the MCMs and MHCs we’re retiring right now?

  15. Distiller permalink
    July 22, 2010 7:25 am

    I still say that in an offensive expeditionary environment you need an aviation complex large enough for two H-60. And that puts you at around 4000 ts minimum monohul-equivalent displacement.

    That the USN doesn’t like ships below the 10.000 ts region is a tribal problem, and that it is able to act out this bias is – again – caused by lack of political leadership.

    It’s pitty that the DoD and the Navy are both too inflexible to adjust to temporal regional conflicts (in the case of Persia this is going on for 30 years now) and acquire some bespoke small units. This would be completly independant from the carrier-centric surface battle fleet, and a much needed – and sadly missing – presence/patrol/ISR frigate flotilla.

  16. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 22, 2010 1:01 am

    The only time I am aware of when the Navy and Coast Guard intentional designed ships for their respective services based on the same hull, was when the Coast Guard decided to base a new class on the Navy’s Erie Class gunboat in the 1930s. The Navy ships, Erie,, and Charleston,, weren’t particularly successful, but the Coast Guard cutters were probably the most successful in the history of the service and arguably the best American surface ASW escorts of WWII, the 327 ft, Treasury Class,

  17. Fencer permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:21 am

    leesea, while the US Navy and Coast Guard have wanted different types of ships so far, the current situation basically requires the US Navy to function as a sort of “international coast guard”; hunting pirates, stopping smuggling, etc. So is it time buy a handful of coast guard type ships? Since the LCS cost three times as much as an OPV/cutter if the Navy bought 55 OPVs instead of LCS they would save enough money to buy a CVN!

  18. leesea permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:26 pm

    whenever I see discussions about USCG and USN sharing hulls, I always think it more than a Ford vs Chevy problem. The USN typically wants warships for attack, escort and offensive purposes. The USCG wants cutters which can do many middle of the fight missions, for long periods at sea in many places (i.e. hulls).

    I just don’t see the overlap ever being large enough to merge two services needs into one hull platform? Maybe that is simplistic but I have seen similar comments by both naval and coastguard officers.

  19. leesea permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:21 pm

    that numbered post was mine~

    I happened to have the PC project officer in my reserve unit about 20 yrs ago. He said that NAVSEA had TWO “boat” rqmts. One was for a bigger patrol boat to replace the Mk IVs. The other was for an ocean capable SEAL transport. The “brains” in NAVSEA merged those 2 rqtms reagardless of how different and out came the Cyclone PC. What a checkered history!

    Google the Maritime Security Vessel a recent paper done by NPS students and read it. Verry interesting. NOT a warship, warboat and definitely not fast or expensive. The lads at NPS acted like it was a new great idea, when in fact MSC has been chartering OSVs for NSW missions for a couple of decades now.

    IF the congressional critters would not object (which of course they would) the USN could charter a foreign built ship for R&D and testing before going the buy foreign/build here route.
    The myopia on Capitol Hill is great and stupid.

  20. Hudson permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:09 pm

    I have a theory about the Navy and ship size. I’ll bet that every Naval officer has at least one color print of ships underway on the ocean blue: a carrier group, squadron or the like, on his office wall and the same at home. Small boats just don’t look impressive even if they are in the foreground. They don’t cut as grand a wake, for one thing.

    Add to that films like “Top Gun” and “Behind Enemy Lines” that feature supercarriers. This is the image the Navy sees of itself: great ships making great photos = The U.S. Navy Today. When the admirals sit before Congress at budget time, they don’t say: “You see, I have this picture on my wall…” But the image is lodged in their heads as they give their rational explanations for the grand ships they will need now and forever more.

  21. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 7:23 pm

    My last post brought out the frisky in me. Some of you must remember the famous ‘Mikey’ cereal commercials: “Give it to Mikey..he’ll try it!..He’ll try anything!”

    Well..that about sums up in a nutshell the Navy’s long and often bumpy relationship with the USCG. From the PHM foils, the BH-110 WSES surface effect ships, through the Cyclones..and many others.. The USN has always tried to force, cajole, bribe or beg the USCG to take their ‘small craft’ orphans, prototypes or just generally anything much under BB size.. It’s so endemic and so long-lived a tradition that there is probably a great book in there somewhere, just waiting to be written.

    My grandpappy was USCG Chief of Engineering around about I know more about the older stuff than my age would suggest..not that I’m of tender year, mind you. ;-)

  22. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 6:48 pm

    “Interestingly, the Navy keeps the Cyclones around,”

    LOL…but not for lack of trying to get rid of them..and trying very hard at that! As hard and as long..almost desparately hard and Navy have tried to get shut of those pesky ‘skiffs’ that they never wanted, the damned things keep coming back. ;-)

  23. July 21, 2010 6:43 pm

    Hello Chuck Hill,

    that is very interesting.
    The British experience was rather different:

    There are some unusual losses listed there such as Motor Torpedo Boat 316 being torpedoed by a cruiser and 430 being rammed by a schnellboot.


  24. Anonymous permalink
    July 21, 2010 6:21 pm

    Scott B. said “What you want to do is THINK BIG, not small !!!”

    The trouble is there an implied correlation between size and capability (and that the latter costs.)

    I think the term size gets banded about to freely here.

    As Brown points out in his “Options” book there is case for very long range corvette approaching 5,000tons which only carries a helicopter and has a 30mm deck gun. Is this a small ship because of its capabilities? Or a large ship because of displacement?

  25. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 21, 2010 5:42 pm

    Only one US PT was sunk by an aircraft. In that case the PT was totally unaware of the aircraft and was steering a straight course. The plane spotted the phosphorescent wake in the moon light, cut his engine, and glide bombed it following the wake.

    Normally they were too maneuverable.

  26. Hudson permalink
    July 21, 2010 5:16 pm


    No wonder, they were lightly armed (.303 mgs ?) Channel boats used mainly to rescue downed British pilots. Not a match for a heavily armed and armored FW-190. Our PTs were better armed, although I’m not certain that .50 caliber would have penetrated the underside armor of the FWs, possibly the cockpit coming in, possibly the engine block. Maybe the 20mm. I don’t think the 37mm or 40mm guns on some boats had high angle mounts. My Old Man, who flew the B-17, said the .50 caliber slug would go through an inch of metal.

    I loved your history lesson of UK hybrid and full scale wars several posts back!

  27. Hudson permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:51 pm

    The Cyclones seem to have been influenced by Vietnam-era riverine boats–they have the same kind of armament in a larger hull. The Navy could easily build a more heavily armed fire support ship, as it did in the past, to fight close inshore. Obviously, it doesn’t want to. Interestingly, the Navy keeps the Cyclones around, even making tiny improvements to the rear gun mount.

  28. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:43 pm

    On the subject of Iran and the hypothetical ‘Bladerunner bluff’…I heartily concurr and said as much earlier when they first got their mitts on one. Nothing but PR and hype that will find plenty of audience in the lay community that don’t know much about high performance naval craft and their design. Another example of ‘looks cool and radical’ being equated with increased capabilities that…are simply not there.

  29. July 21, 2010 4:41 pm

    Hello Hudson,

    you brought this to mind:

    German pilots used to refer to these things as eiders because engaging them was like shooting ducks.


  30. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:34 pm

    Hang on now.. Me?..I love ‘small’ and I love ‘fast’. I’ve been very fortunate to have helped build lots of both in ‘other’ countries that do a decent job of managing both small and fast because they have more than just the incentive to do it. It’s a firm practical reality and fact of life and they have no other choice. Here?…our navy and its contractors neither know nor respect such limits.

    So I guess it can be argued that, unless and until there is some kind of sea change in how we manage the design of ships, yeah..maybe we better just stick with big and slow.

  31. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:23 pm

    Bill said : “I hate to bust your bubble there Mike, but”

    Going small as the Paleo-Burlesonians advocate is only likely to make matters WORSE.

    What you want to do is THINK BIG, not small !!!

    That’s what the Neo-Burlesonians are (timidly) starting to realize…

  32. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 4:10 pm

    “they need real discipline which is why I would limit them to about 1500 tons light on surface combatants, to instill discipline in shipbuilding”

    I hate to bust your bubble there Mike, but… I’m going to have to go back and dig through dusty folders a bit, but you are not going to like the numbers from the Cyclone design program..where it started as a nimble baseline PC hull and where it ended up overloaded after Navy got through with it. And that is a lot less than the 1500 ton ceiling you mentioned…

  33. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2010 4:00 pm

    Bill wrote “Our Navy can sink ANY design though the gross mismanagement of combined requirements; the foreign designs would not have immunity from that.”

    Sad but true. they need real discipline which is why I would limit them to about 1500 tons light on surface combatants, to instill discipline in shipbuilding, as well as arm and equipping them. Coupled with fewer number of Burkes, about the only thing we build right, I’d think we’re safe enough for a while.

  34. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 3:52 pm

    “I think the US Coast Guard …should have brought the rights to the foreign designs and build it here in the US.”

    That is exactly what the new FRC is..a Damen design being built in US. Nothing new there really..the USCG and USN both have been anamored with various Vosper hull designs over the decades and built several here under license. The Island Class cutters…the new EN FMC …and if I recall correctly, even the Cyclone parent hull form.

    And although I agree that there are lots of good foreign designs to be had, to assume that buying one would have avoided the LCS debacle we see now? naive at best. Our Navy can sink ANY design though the gross mismanagement of combined requirements; the foreign designs would not have immunity from that.

  35. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 3:31 pm

    Juramentado said : “It may be time to consider trying to find ways to improve or innovate on LCS rather than forcing other solutions to it.”

    The only thing that keeps this failed program alive (albeit moribund) is the oversized ego of the people currently in charge : Gates, Mullen, Roughead, Work,…

    Other than that, there’s NO VALID reason to continue with this LCS tragicomedy.

    Oh wait, some people’s oversized ego is NOT a valid reason.

    OK, let’s terminate this failed program IMMEDIATELY (and kill the JHSV boondoggle by the same token)…

  36. Nicky permalink
    July 21, 2010 3:15 pm

    Heck, I think the US Coast Guard and the US Navy should have brought the rights to the foreign designs and build it here in the US. They should have gone with the Holland class OPV,Valour class frigate,Formidable class frigate,Gawron-class corvettes or
    even the Absalon class flexible support ship. I think a new ship should have off the shelf technology, that is plug and play, even expandable to meet the growing technology.

  37. Chuck Hill permalink
    July 21, 2010 2:37 pm

    I’m hoping the Coast Guard “Offshore Patrol Cutter” (OPC) will provide an alternative between the Cyclones and the LCS, at less than half the price of the LCS.

    Unfortunately we won’t even see the solicitation for about a year.

  38. Juramentado permalink
    July 21, 2010 1:49 pm

    Somewhere between the LCS and the Cyclone PC, there is a more reasonably priced yet capable low-end combatant suitable for both blue-water and green-water operations. The question is how much of it will be OOW, and how much of it will be traditional roles like ASuW/ASW? The answer will, in part, determine things such as speed, range, weapons and sensor fit. If it’s more patrol and OOW, you’d expect to see attachments such as RHIB, air, chainguns and reasonably priced SS/AS radar. If you expect it to at least go toe-to-toe with FAC and maybe a slightly larger combatant like corvettes and figs, then you’ll need to add some ASuW punch; 4-8 SSMs. And these all add up after a while. Probably still not as much as LCS though.

    It may be time to consider trying to find ways to improve or innovate on LCS rather than forcing other solutions to it. Unless something catastrophic happens to derail the program (like, heaven forbid an operational loss directly attributed to product defect :-( ), it’s here to stay.

    I know we had the Top Five fixes for LCS in another thread, but given what we know about the platform now, and the only major unknown (besides the true state of effectives remote systems like RMS and Spartan) is the selection of the MRSSM, what else can be reasonably and realistically done to increase the effectiveness of the platform? Major surgery is out, unless you know it can be swapped without significant impact.

  39. Juramentado permalink
    July 21, 2010 1:13 pm

    Why can’t we go with the MEKO A – 100 corvette/Frigate or even the Kedah class offshore patrol vessel.

    If you’re referring to the US Navy’s selection of LCS, it will not outsource it’s next generation of low-end combatants to a foreign design. Politically, that would be untenable; just look at the polarization over the KC-X tanker. It would have been better had the LCS Mission Module designers taken lessons already learned by MEKO and StanFlex and used them to build a much hardier modular package, but that’s water under the bridge now.

  40. Anonymous permalink
    July 21, 2010 1:12 pm

    1 – don’t believe any displacement numbers posted for LCS-1 until hearting from Bill.

    2 – the OPTEMPO planned in the past is a dream today so that is not a realistic current metric for comparison of LCS in the future.

    3 – the Cyclone class PC are NOT gunboats nor FAC their seakeeping makes them marginal patrol boats – pluseee compare or use relevant photos and ships.

    My range for small littoral combatants is roughly from 750 to 1500 tons. But hell we have be kicking around everything from ocean escorts, to OPVs to coastal warboats and that is far too big an ocean to cover in one posting~

    You want gunboats go back to the Mighthy Midgets of WW2 – LCS(L)

    Mike this fascination with Stilleto is wearing thin?~

  41. Hudson permalink
    July 21, 2010 1:01 pm

    Fearfull where I tread, but feeling ventursome at the moment, one might consider M-Stiletto as a kind of airplane. One could thus plant a WWII style top turret on it with twin fifties and limited field of fire, and B-25 side mounts foreward and aft–which would give you something like a CB90. The hull form might support a mortar firing through the top, if it didn’t knock a hole in the bottom–not a real good use of a speedboat–or shallow vertical tubes for some type of light multi-modal missiles.

    Some types of munitions would fly right through the carbon fiber skin, while others would shred large parts of the boat, in the way that 20mm and 30mm cannon shreded portions of WWII bombers without necessarily shooting the plane down.

    Then you might ask yourself what such a craft would be worth. Superior to a CB90? I’m guessing no. Or a “modernized” PT boat, with rocket torpedoes or Harpoons for regular torps? Your Stiletto would lack the big punch.

    If you click on the above M Corp. ad, you see all sorts of imaginary uses for their product, from port security to training foreign troops, to homeland security, to mine warfare (that would be a big plus!) You can’s say they don’t try.

    Steel stilettos were the weapon of choice for assassins in the Renaissance and the spring variety is still used by street gangs, so I read. That’s probably the best use for the term, though you have to admit that stiletto boats are rakish and fast.

    Now I’ll duck out for lunch.

  42. Nicky permalink
    July 21, 2010 12:08 pm

    Why can’t we go with the MEKO A – 100 corvette/Frigate or even the Kedah class offshore patrol vessel.

  43. Bill permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:59 am

    “Can this gentleman name some of these mythical small boats that might *challenge even the best, most seasoned maritime surveillance assets* ? At least one”

    Seriously, whiskey tango foxtrot??. From where I’ve been sitting and watching for the last few decades, the last significant breakthroughs in open water ‘small boat performance’ were produced by Jim Wynn and capitalized on by Don Aronow and Reg Fountain. That was a loonnnnggg time ago (pushing 50 years..ugh) ..and I’ve seen zip-dot-squat developments of any similar consequence happen since then. Just lots of unsubstantiated hyperbole.

  44. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:33 am

    Craig Hooper said : “As small boat performance improves, as they become operationally viable in weather and conditions that challenge even the best, most seasoned maritime surveillance assets,”

    Can this gentleman name some of these mythical small boats that might *challenge even the best, most seasoned maritime surveillance assets* ? At least one ?

  45. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 10:14 am

    Meanwhile, the excellent CDR Salamander unleashes another broadside against LCS and the fetish for minimalistic manning :

    With a crew in the 40s, each sailor on the LCS needs to be highly trained to take on work that would require multiple people on a destroyer.

    With more and more ships that require a small number of highly experienced sailors, Eccles said he is concerned about where those sailors will come from. “That’s not somebody who just came out of boot camp, unless he just came out of boot camp and a bunch of other schools and somehow gained the maturity that I think is only gained at sea,” he added.

    Other officers shared his concerns. Rear Adm. David Johnson, deputy commander for undersea technology, recalled that when the Virginia-class submarines were designed, several lower-level positions were eliminated in favor of putting two petty officers at the ship patrol station.

    “Great, we reduced the watch bill by six guys,” Johnson said. “But the problem is, now we don’t have a pipeline to feed to actually go and create the people that would sit in those seats because we took out the junior guys who actually learn to drive the ships.”

    Johnson also argued that pushing more maintenance off until the ship is at port has created heavy in-port workloads, and the situation may be driving good sailors out of the Navy.

    Rear Adm. Jerry Burroughs said the problem goes beyond the day-to-day operations of a ship, especially on ships where low manning was not a part of the original design.

    “The problem I think we’re at today is, you get to a point where you take manning down any lower, it gets very difficult to fight the ship from a damage control perspective and maintain the ship,” Burroughs said. “So I’m very interested in watching LCS and seeing how that model works from a manning perspective, because it’s very low, and they accounted for that in design and I’m very hopeful that they’ll be successful in showing ways to do that in the future.”

    NB : Rear Adm. Thomas Eccles is deputy commander for naval systems engineering.

  46. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 9:50 am

    Fencer said : “The main problems I see are the 90 man crew and a top speed of 20 knots.”

    Core crew is 50 (excl. air crew), with permanent accommodation (+ galley and personnel facilities) for an additional 40.

  47. July 21, 2010 9:21 am

    I have just had a read of the Wikipedia article on the Holland OPVs; I wanted another look at the super pic’.

    It interesting what they say about the sensor fit. I interpret the advanced sensor fit as showing that perhaps information is more important than hard kill these days. That relaying information to to a few heavier well armed platforms in a crisis situation is the role of the frigate in a high war. (Remember Nelson said about the battle being lost for the want of frigates!) And chasing pirates is very much a secondary function; something that could be performed by a rusty old coaster and some RIBS; as long as there were some helicopters in theatre somewhere.

  48. July 21, 2010 9:09 am

    I thought the rule of thumb was a hull burned twice as much oil at 30kts as it does at 20kts?

    If so they are both darned inefficient hulls.

  49. Fencer permalink
    July 21, 2010 9:07 am

    Instead of Stiletto why not something like the Netherlands new Holland-class OPVs? For less then $170 million it has a displacement of over 3,750 tons so no one can say that it isn’t seaworthy; is equipped with a helicopter; and is armed with a 76 mm cannon, a 30 mm cannon, and four 12.7 mm machine guns. The main problems I see are the 90 man crew and a top speed of 20 knots.

  50. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 8:36 am

    Below are the LCS fuel consumption figures given in a recent Defense Daily article (subscr. only):

    GD’S LCS BURNS LESS FUEL AT HIGHER SPEEDS, NAVY DOCUMENT SHOWS: The General Dynamics variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) uses less fuel per hour during higher rates of speed than the Lockheed Martin vessel, according to a Navy document.

    The one-page LCS Consumption Curves shows that both ships use about the same amount of fuel, or barrels, per hour between zero and 16 knots.

    At five knots, the General Dynamics aluminum trimaran uses 3.2 barrels per hour versus 3.9 for Lockheed Martin’s semi-planing monohull.

    At 14 knots, the General Dynamics ship uses 11.3 barrels per hour while the Lockheed Martin ship uses 12.7.

    At 16 knots, the Lockheed Martin ship uses 18.4 barrels per hour while the General Dynamics ship uses 15.5, according to the document.

    At 30 knots, the General Dynamics trimaran burns through 62.7 barrels per hour, while the Lockheed Martin monohull uses 102.9 barrels per hour, according to the document.

    At 40 knots, the Lockheed Martin ship burns through 138 barrels per hour while the General Dynamics ship uses 105.7 barrels per hour.

  51. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2010 8:35 am

    ” range and firepower of an OPV or fast attack craft, yet the price of a guided missile frigate”

    Don’t suppose they would put that in the brochure?

  52. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 8:17 am

    The other Mike said : “1150 miles at 15 knots, 3350 miles at 18 knots for the LCS 1; and 1940 miles at 46 knots and 4300 miles at 20 knots for the LCS 2”

    1) As explained back in June 2010, the LockMart design may well miserably fail to meet the LCS requirements, with a range of merely 2,500 NM @ 16 knots and 840 NM @ 40 knots.

    2) According to GD / Austal (page 2 of the latest LCS brochure, range is 4,300 NM @ 18 knots. Further down in the same brochure (page 3), they even claim a more *conservative* figure of *over 3,500 NM*.

  53. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2010 8:02 am

    The USN Fact File gives the same data of 3000 tons each. That was my understanding that the LCS-2 was originally in the upper 2000 range.

  54. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 7:46 am

    One interesting tidbit from the PEO Ships website :

    * Lockheed Martin variant: approximately 3,000 MT full load;
    * General Dynamics variant: approximately 3,000 MT full load

    Both the NVR website and the Independence Christening Brochure give a FLD of about 2,800 MT.

    Does that mean that, much like the LockMart design, LCS-2 ended up being overweight ?

  55. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 7:34 am

    The other Mike said : “The monohull design was clearly over-powered : 113 000hp for the LCS 1 Freedom; but only 60 000hp for the LCS 2 Independence”

    1) LCS-2 has CODAG arrangement with :

    * 2 x GE LM-2500 GTs @ 22,000 kW (29,500 bhp) each
    * 2 x MTU 20V 8000 M71 diesel @ 9,100 kw (12,200 bhp) each

    That’s a total of 62,200 kW or 83,400 bhp for the Austal design.

    2) LCS-1 has a CODAG arrangement with :

    * 2 x RR MT-30 GTs @ 36,000 kW (48,900 bhp) each
    * 2 x FM 16V PA6B STC @ 6,480 kW (8,700 bhp) each

    That’s a total of 84,960 kW or 115,200 bhp for the LockMart design.

  56. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 6:28 am

    Mike Burleson said : “The return to small warships seem to be the answer to most of the Navy’s warship woes.”

    And the resulting hypertrophic coastal force is the answer to what ?

  57. Scott B. permalink
    July 21, 2010 6:24 am

    Mike Burleson said : “The Stiletto Advantage”

    As pretty well summed up by our resident leesea not so long ago :

    M80 Stilletto is a plastic POS! Orphaned but the regular Navy, rejected by the professional SWCCs. A toy boat in search of a mission.

    The innumerous fatal deficiencies of the Stiletto boondoggle have already been discussed many times on New Wars, e.g. :

    February 22, 2010

    February 16, 2010

    January 26, 2010

    Case closed !!!


  1. Small Boat Swarms: Strategic or Tactical? « Grand Strategy: The View from Oregon

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