Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ticonderoga Class Replacement

The Ticonderoga CG class Aegis cruisers are tasked with anti-air warfare (AAW) as their main function.  They provide area anti-air and missile protection using the combination of Aegis radar system and Standard missiles.  The ships of the class were built from 1980 -1994, making them 18-30 years old with a design life of 35 years.  The class is ready to begin retiring.  Indeed, the five non-VLS ships have already been retired and several others have been announced for retirement in 2013.

The Navy originally intended to replace the Ticos with the new CG(X) but that program has been cancelled.  It now appears that the DDG-51 Burke Flt III will be the Tico replacement with the new AMDR (Air and Missile Defense Radar) being substituted for the Aegis arrays.

Let’s take a closer look at the main capability of the AAW cruisers.  Looking strictly at missile capacity, the Ticos have 128 Mk41 VLS cells compared to the Burke’s 96.  That’s 25% less VLS capacity!  While it is possible to increase the length of the Flt III Burkes so as to accommodate more VLS cells, that does not appear to be the current stated intent of the Navy.  As reported in the recent CRS report (1) on the Navy’s destroyer programs,

“The Flight III DDGs will utilize the same hull and major systems as current Flight IIA DDGs including LM 2500 propulsion gas turbines, Mk 41 Vertical Launch System, Mk 45 five inch Gun Weapon System, Mk 15 Phalanx Weapon System (CIWS), AN/SQQ-89 Undersea Warfare System and Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System. The principle dimensions and hull form will be unchanged from Flight IIA DDGs. The AN/SPY-1D(V) radar will be replaced with the AMDR-S radar and the ship’s power and cooling systems will be upgraded to support the new radars. The deckhouse will be modified to accept the new radar arrays.”  
[emphasis added]

Fewer VLS on the Ticonderoga Replacement?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with replacing a 128 cell AAW ship with a 96 cell one, however, the anti-air capacity, the vessel’s main function, will be significantly reduced.  That seems unwise for the primary AAW ship in the fleet.  If anything, more VLS cells ought to be added.  Of course, multiple ships could pool their weapons to compensate for the individual reductions.  Unfortunately, history and budget limitations have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that each class of ship is smaller than the one before it so this scenario is extremely unlikely to play out.  Instead, we appear headed towards fewer ships with reduced AAW capacity at the same time we’re headed towards a more challenging A2/AD (Anti-Access/Area Denial) requirement.  Does this make sense?

To be fair, there are no solid, published design specs for the Flt III yet so who knows what the VLS capacity will be.  However, without increasing the length of the Burke, it will be very difficult to squeeze more VLS cells into the design.

This is an issue worth keeping a close eye on.

(1) Congressional Research Service:  “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress”, Ronald O'Rourke, August 10, 2012


  1. A bigger problem is squeezing in the new combat systems. AMDR on the Burke is smaller than what the Navy wants and may still require removal of one helo hangar to support the added generator capacity, IIRC.

    Of course there's plenty of room and power on the DDG 1000 hull...

    1. From a few comments I've seen from Navy officials, they seem to believe that the DDG-1000 is simply 2-3X more expensive than a DDG-51 approach even with the benefits of serial production.

      Based on the Navy's past manipulations of Congress, I suspect that the Navy is going to try to get Flt III included as part of multi-year plan by emphasizing that the Flt III is basically unchanged. -By law, multi-year plans must be of a demonstrated stable design, meaning it must have been built before and the design can't change very much- Once they have Flt III as part of a multi-year plan, they'll introduce "minor" changes like reworked superstructures, lengthened hull, and whatever else. Kind of along the lines of it's easier to apologize after the fact than to obtain permission beforehand. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

    2. The Flight III is analagous to the F/A-18E/F. The Super Hornet was pitched as a straightforward improvement of the Hornet. But the SuperBug is really a brand new aircraft. It has only a resemblence to the legacy Hornet. And it ran into a lot of problems like wing-drop and stores seperation issues.

      I see the same happening with the Burke with AMDR.


    3. ComNavOps,

      I'd be interested in seeing the latest figures. Last I read, serial production cost estimates for DDG-1000s were only marginally more expensive than DDG-51 Flight III estimates. But obviously a lot depends on many assumptions, which may not pan out.

    4. Obviously there are no serial production costs since the series is only three. So, here's the numbers I'm working from.

      The Mar '12 GAO Defense Acquistions report lists the total program cost for the DDG-1000 as $21B which for the three ships is an average of $7B each. The report breaks out the procurement costs separate from the R&D as $10.6B for an average of $3.5B each. This is the closest number there is to a serial cost. Of course, a run of three doesn't have much economy of scale built in! Still, it's the best number available.

      Building a Tico replacement using the DDG-1000 as the basis would require the full AMDR (DDG-1000 only has half of the system) equipment and software package. Based on reports that indicate that Aegis adds several hundred million dollars (I've seen higher estimates but I'll go with the lower range) to the cost of an Aegis ship, I'm guessing that the full AMDR will add around $500M which puts the serial cost at $4B.

      By the way, the FY13 budget requests an additional $669M for completion of the DDG-1000 program which adds $223M to the average cost, making it $3.7B per ship. You know the cost is going to continue to rise as the ships are completed over the next few years. I would realistically expect the average cost to top $4B before they're complete which, adding in the other half of AMDR for a Tico replacement would put the Tico replacement serial cost at $4.5.

      What I've described is all speculation and you can certainly debate my numbers but my history of cost estimates for Navy ships is way more accurate than the Navy's! Anyway, that's my thought process on the cost for a DDG-1000 as a Tico replacement.

    5. Good numbers, but not completely representative of serial costs. The first-in-class (first few really) always eats up more money than later ships. But you're definitely right. The price will go up before it can come back down. That's the unfortunate nature of weapons system development.

      One also has to look at life cycle costs, where the reduced manning on DDG-1000 will have an impact.

      Also, a DDG-1000-based CG(X) could omit one or both AGS s, and use the space for additional VLS cells.

      My big problem with the DDG-51 FLt III is the Burke has no more room. At most, it can accommodate a 12- or 14-foot ADMR. BIW identified a design for a 21-foot ADMR on the DDG-1000 hull (granted with significant deck house modifications). Cooling and power will be a problem on the Burke. And it will have very small growth margins.

      We probably need to bite the bullet and start a clean sheet design. But in this budget environment, I don't see that happening.

    6. For me, the numbers are not the big issue. The concern for me is viability. The Flight III is a refresh of a design that goes back to the Reagan years. The Burke was built with tighter weight and growth margins at the time of its design. It was described as 75% of a Ticonderoga in terms of missile capacity and FC illuminators. It also lacked the 2D radar and accomodations for a commander. It is ironic that a modified Burke will be stretched to replace the Ticonderoga.

      The DDG-1000 is more expensive but will be viable for decades. The electric drive will allow all the power to be diverted to the radar or a future DEW. And the lower RCS will be important in some circumstances.

      I think it would be easier to fit the AMDR to a Zumwalt with out the two AGS than to cram it into a Burke.


    7. Life cycle costs will be lowered due to reduced manning. However, the manning will almost certainly be increased substantially as has the LCS. In my previous post on manning, I pointed out that the DDG-1000 is less manned than even the LCS.

      Also, the manning savings may be offset by the increased maintenance costs associated with a class of three ships that contain unique technologies. The parts, maintenance, and supply pipelines will be very costly. Of course, if the Navy goes on to build other ships that use some of the same technology, the costs will come down. Still, I look for DDG-1000 to be very expensive to operate in terms of life cycle costs. For example, think about superstructure maintenance and repair. The composite used in this isn't just laying around the shipyard!

    8. CNO,

      Sailors per ton isn't a great metric. Sailor workload is more appropriate. It remains to be see if the DDG-1000 is undermanned. My guess is yes, it is somewhat. But even with a modest increase in numbers, it is still WAY below a Burke.

    9. You're right, sailors per ton isn't the greatest metric but it's the best data I can get my hands on. Do you have a different way to express it that we can get data for?

      Intuitively, workload is related to ship size. The bigger the ship, the more things there on it that need "work". So, while it's not a perfect metric I think it serves the purpose.

      Supposedly, the Navy very carefully studied the projected workload for DDG-1000 and the crew size is "perfectly" suited for all the watchstanding and other routine tasks. From what I've read of the workload studies, combat and damage control were not part of the equation. Also, the same overly optimistic use of shore based maintenance that has thus far failed for the LCS was included so as to keep the crew size minimized. I think we're going to see significant manning increases for the DDG-1000 before it's all over.

    10. Unfortunately I don't have a better way. The only way is to do what the Navy is doing and model the crew workload in various conditions and situations.

      The systems on board DDG-1000 are supposed to be less manpower intensive than the Burke or Tico, but how much less remains to be seen.

      DDG-1000 at least should have sufficient room for growth if they need to add crew.

  2. One thing the Tico’s have that the Burkes don’t is extra room for unit commander or his staff.

    My first ship was an Adam’s class DDG and it managed to squeeze in a unit commander stateroom, the much larger Burke’s doesn’t have one. Nor any dedicated space in Combat.

    Also while stopping the DDG 1000 production for more Burke production might have been the right idea, they waited too long so that they had to restart production lines at a greatly increased cost. And Burke III’s will be even more expensive.

  3. I their is talk of taking a Burke Flight IIA and enlarging them into a Burke CG. Here's the pics and specs of what a Burke CG would look like

  4. Also, if you want a Cruiser out of a Burke, go take a look at that ROK Navy and their Sejong the Great class destroyer. It's the world's most heavily armed ship second to the Burkes & Tico's. The Sejong the Great class destroyer should be the basis for a Burke CG.

  5. The fact is we don't fully understand the advanages and disadvantages of size on naval vessels. Larger ships are more costly to build, but are easier to maintain thus lowering operating cost. Manpower require are reduce by the lower maintains requirement. And while larger ships are more survivable, the smaller crew means the adopting automatic damage control system, which increase building cost. And the trade off continue as the design process continues.

    On the other hand squeezing into as small hull may not save money, and does increase operating cost. Maintains cost go up as access to machinery is more difficult so that crew size increase as the manhour to operate the ship increase.

    Frankly, I think we need to start building larger ships, so that we can learn how to take advantage of they size while learning to cut these ships building cost.

  6. "Unfortunately, history and budget limitations have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that each class of ship is smaller than the one before it so this scenario is extremely unlikely to play out."

    What strange revisionist history do you read?

    Forrestal > Kitty Hawk > Nimitz > Ford
    Austin > San Antonio
    England/Belknap > South Carolina > Virginia > Ticonderoga
    Iwo Jima > Tarawa > Wasp > Makin > America
    Forrest Sherman Mod > Adams > Kidd (not really USN but still) > Burke
    Forrest Sherman > Spruance > DDG-1000
    Bronstein > Garcia > Knox > Razerblades (OK, those are smaller)
    Brook > Perry > Burke FltIIA (Don't even whine about the FFG being replaced by a LCS, the high end FFG spot in the fleet is being replaced by DDG-51s. The FFxG-7 patrol ships are being replaced by LCS but they long ago gave up being frigates.)

    So.... Which ones were smaller than the ones before? Outside of the CGNs that were larger because of nuclear power, every class of virtually every ship type has been larger, more capable, and more expensive (except where they were discontinued).

    And of course, how much is enough? Your argument is simplistic.
    The first CVBG I deployed with had 10 ships nominally attached to it (1 CVN, 2 FFGs, 2 FFs, 2 DDs, 2 CGNs, and an AOE). A current CSG with only 4 DDGs, even without a cruiser, has far more strike missiles, far more area defense missiles, far more helicopters, and an SSN in support as well. Outside of ASW (although that is debatable and really scenario driven) and long range AAW against multi-regimental raids of backfires (and even here it is debatable), the modern CSG is more capable in every mission area.

    So saying 96 isn't good enough because we used to have a 122 before (yes, CGs are limited to 122 VLS due to strikedown units) is at best simplistic. Once you have enough, you have enough, and with dramatically more and better capability resident in the rest of the force, why do you need more than 96? Especially as you can short your strike capability if you need more (after all, you now have SSGNs as well).

    1. I apparently didn't make it clear enough that when I said each class was smaller than the one before, I was talking about numbers of ships. Budget limitations and escalating construction costs have made each class numerically smaller then the preceeding one. The same applies to aircraft programs.

      Your argument that current carrier groups are more powerful than past groups is irrelevant. It doesn't matter how any platform compares to previous platforms; what matters is how they compare to the current threat. On that basis, one can make a very good argument that current carrier groups are less effective than previous (consider the current threats like supersonic ASCMs, IRBMs, thousand mile A2/AD, modern non-nuc subs, and so on). If one only compares the current to the past, we can stop building altogether because we're always better than the past. Heck, I bet a current carrier group could easily handle a Revolutionary War sailing ship!

      You make a good observation that once you have enough, you have enough (assuming you don't lose any in combat!). However, if you think today's ships have enough, you're not clearly thinking through some of the potential high end scenarios.

    2. A comment has been removed as inappropriate. I will not allow comments that are personal attacks on other commenters or myself. If the person who posted the comment would like to reword their comment so as to contribute to a respectful discussion, they are most welcome.

    3. Saw the comment before you removed it. Seemed to want to get personal and snarky. I believe you did the right thing.


    4. Thanks WGM. People may argue passionately but politely.

  7. The Navy is always under pressure to justify to Congress every ton on a warship. As I said on the Burke, it was pitched as an Aegis DDG with 3/4 of the Ticonderoga. I believe the same has happened with the Zumwalt.

    The public is shocked at the growth in size from the Burke to the Zumwalt. Anyone familiar with stealth knows it adds size and complexity to a platform. Whether it is needed is another debate, but the Zumwalt is about as stealthy as a ship can be whilst not being a submarine. That adds to the size compared to a Spruance or Burke.

    This affects public debate about the ship. "It's too big" is a straight-forward criticism. The Navy can react a couple of ways. One is to make a case for the bigger ship, justifying the need for whatever reasons apply.

    The other approach is to shrink the size of the ship wherever possible. An easy area is missile capacity. It doesn't matter if the cost for 25% more missile capacity only adds 2% to the cost, it must be cut to meet public scrutiny.

    That's why the Zumwalt has only 80 VLS and for that matter why a Burke derivative will only have 96 if it replaces a Ticonderoga.


    1. You state that stealth adds size and complexity. To a degree I get the complexity part. The shape of the hull and superstructure cause problems, equipment placement becomes a challenge and must be compatible with the stealth requirement, and so on. You've got me on the added size part, though. I've not heard that and I can't reason out why that would be. How does stealth add to size?

    2. So I am wondering why not look at the Sejong the Great class destroyer as an alternative to the CG. They are heavier and are more equivalent to the Ticos

    3. Nicky, there's no technical reason at all why a foreign ship couldn't be considered. There are several reasons why they won't, though. The reliability of parts supplies, availability of expert assistance, and legal recourse become, potentially, more difficult when dealing with an overseas supplier. Also, and this is probably the major reason, Congress would never approve the purchase of foreign ships over American jobs for their constituents. Perhaps a license build could be arranged?

      In any event, your comment is completely valid but I can't see it ever happening. I'm trying to remember the last time, if ever, the Navy bought a foreign built ship. There's probably been one but I can't think of an example, off hand.

    4. I wouldn't mind the US Navy buying the design rights to the Sejong the Great class destroyer and building a Cruiser based on the Sejong the Great class destroyer.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. We don't need to consider foreign ship designs. We can design and build our own that meet our specific requirements. Once we get a design in serial production, the costs will come down. We just have to be disciplined with costs and risk.

    7. "... disciplined with costs and risks."

      And do you see that happening anytime in the foreseeable future, given the Navy's recent history of project management?

      The Navy has painted themselves into a corner on ship construction. Congress won't let them buy foreign and they've proven they have no clue how to run an acquisition/construction program.

      An Army of One? The Navy is headed down a death spiral of runaway costs towards a Navy of One. One ship, that is.

    8. I think it's more likely than getting a foreign design through Congress.

  8. Stealth adds to size by forcing the designers to place everything inside the vehicle as much as possible.

    We both know the F-117 and F-22 carry weapons internally to allow for stealth. Enough fuel and weapons for a typical mission must be carried without changing the exterior profile.

    On ships the antennas, anchor chains, gun barrels, and the ship's boats have to be inside the ship or flush with other surfaces to make for stealth.

    Ships like the Burke and San Antonio are designed with low angle radar signature reduction. In other words, if radar on a plane or ship is just peeking over the horizon the angles of the ladders, bulkheads, and decks will reduce the radar cross section very significantly. But if the radar is higher up and looking more downward, the ship will have a larger RCS.

    The San Antonio is very conspicuous in this way. The boats and cranes are behind vertical surfaces to hide them from radars low on the horizon, but are exposed at the top. This was a deliberate compromise to keep costs (and size) down. But it means at a certain angle, radar will get a good reflection of the LPD.

    The San Antonio has its rotating radars in an enclosed mast that blocks all radar frequencies except the one used by the radar within. The Zumwalt has flat planar arrays flush with the superstructure. That adds weight high up which might be one reason why the Zumwalt has a composite deckhouse: to reduce topside weight. (I don't know if composites are a good idea there!)

    The Zumwalt is supposed to operate even closer to the shore than an amphib. And aircraft that use terrain to mask their approach will "pop up" on the ship's radar at relatively high angles. So there are no half-measures like on the San Antonio. Even the gun barrels of the AGS and 57mm's would add to the RCS so they retract into bays with covers to preserve the low RCS of the ship. They only come out when actually firing. The F-22's 20mm gun has a similar feature.

    I understand the Zumwalt also has ballast tanks to help stabilize the ship. A ship like the Burke has an increase of its RCS if it rolls too much in a seaway. The Zumwalt's ballast tanks are an attempt to deal with that. That's one concern about the class; its stability in general and when trying to maintain low RCS. I have no idea what the size and plumbing of the tanks entail, but it adds to the whole ship.
    The Zumwalt's boats are not carried topside wherever there is some open deck available but have to be carried internally, with a retractable boat crane to service them. Space must be made in the hull for that.

    Whereas most ships have their anchor chains topside, a well-designed ship will have to keep it inside as the chains themselves are very good radar reflectors. You can see a picture of the French frigate La Fayette's anchor deck and it looks just like the bow of any other frigate with capstans and cleats, but with a smooth steel deck installed above for the forward bow's low-RCS profile.

    All these measures add to the final size. Ballast tanks, gun covers, extra decks topside for a smooth surface all add weight and space, some of which are high up on the ship.


  9. Might it be the case that fewer missiles are required because the radars are better nowadays and the missiles themselves more reliable? Aegis and Standard are very mature systems now.

    1. On the other hand, one could make a good argument that more missiles are needed given that modern anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles are far more capable than they used to be with onboard ECM, terminal maneuvering, and generally higher speeds. In other words, the AAW kill probability may be lower and therefore more missiles will be needed per engagement to achieve a kill. Of course, given modern missile speeds a single missile engagement is only going to allow so many AAW missile shots before the issue is decided. But, for a sustained engagement we may find ourselves running through the missile inventory a lot faster than we anticipate.

      Consider, also, that we don't really know the effectiveness of the Aegis/Standard system. It's never been tested in combat and the tests that have been conducted are highly scripted, unrealistically easy, set piece exercises designed to ensure success. We may be unpleasantly surprised to find that we need many more missile shots to achieve success.

      When I look at the demonstrated kill probabilities of both land and ship based SAMs (both very low), I can't help but think we're assigning way too much credit to Aegis/Standard. Admittedly, most of the data is from Soviet SAMs engaging US planes so who knows how well it translates?

      Something to think about!

    2. I agree about missile capacity. Even if Standard performs as advertised, prudence dictates that you may need to fire more than one missile at an incoming threat. If an enemy finds a way to spoof or clutter Aegis/Standard, then we will need more missiles on hand, not in a T-AKE.

      The other thing is that those VLS cells will have a mix of Tomahawk TLAM(and I hope ASuW soon) VL-ASROC, ESSM four-packs, and Standard. There will be a few Standard types: SM-1, SM-3, SM-6. SM-1 and -3 can be used for AAW, while the -3 and -6 can take out ballistic missiles.

      The smaller the number of VLS cells onboard, the more difficult it is to have enough of all these types available should you need them.

    3. CNO,

      I agree that we may be over-reliant on AEGIS/Standard. Even AMDR/Standard may not be good enough. If anything that points to the need for greater distribution of capability rather than fewer, more expensive ships. To a lesser extent, it also argues for greater ship survivability. Some leakers will get through, and in theory, survivability can be added at lower cost than significantly improving active defenses.

      Or we need to rethink the structure of our Navy altogether.

  10. A very interesting conversation. I was stationed on a Tico for 4 years and 4 months as an AEGIS computer technician. During the last couple years I was also the work center supervisor for the AEGIS computer and Display technicians. However, by late 2002 I was being referred to as a "Legacy" Computer Technician because of the new systems rolling out.

    Are they also calling the newer systems AEGIS as well? I haven't kept up since I got out a decade ago.


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