The Navy loves to build new ship classes that push the technology envelope. The LCS, DDG-1000, Burke Flt III, and Ford class CVN, among others, all incorporate advanced and unproven technology. Unfortunately, history has shown that that approach results in cost and schedule overruns along with excessively long lead times due to drawn out R&D requirements. Certainly, new technology has to be incorporated into the fleet periodically but what’s wrong with building an off-the-shelf (OTS) ship class, especially to increase numbers and fill the lower end of the mission spectrum? Why not design a ship that uses nothing but existing technology? Remember, existing technology doesn’t have to mean obsolete technology. Consider the Mk41 VLS, the Mk45 5” gun, TRS-3D radar, RAM, ESSM, and so on. Those are state of the art technologies that have many years of service life still ahead of them. Sure, some of those technologies may not remain state of the art for the next 30 years but so what? Especially if the OTS concept is applied to low end ship designs, no one would reasonably expect that the ship would have a 30+ year lifespan and if OTS can give us a true low cost platform, who cares if it doesn’t last 30+ years?
I don’t have access to line item construction cost breakdowns for Navy ships so I don’t really know the impact that OTS could have but from the scattered costs that I’m aware of it seems pretty clear that we could build significantly cheaper low end OTS ships.
|VLS - Nothing New Here!|
The “built quickly” aspect is particularly important. New naval ship classes suffer from very long lead times from concept to construction which results in rapidly mounting costs and borderline obsolescence by the time they reach fleet service. This is simply a result of trying to design, develop, test, and incorporate brand new, unproven technologies. It’s unavoidable, in fact. Contrast that to an OTS design. There’s nothing new. Nothing to be developed. Nothing to test and prove. It’s just an exercise in where to mount the equipment. A competent ship designer ought to be able to take an OTS design from concept to construction in six months; a year at most. That, alone, would save significant amounts of money.
We don’t need to continually build cutting edge, futuristic ships. Let’s occasionally build just a basic, modern, competent warship. Sometimes, that’s all that’s needed.