Monday, February 3, 2014

Burke Flt III Status

The Navy appears firmly committed to the development of the Flight III Burke as the next generation air defense ship which will replace both the Ticonderogas and Burkes.  You’ll recall that the now cancelled CG(X) was to have been the Ticonderoga replacement and the DDG-1000 was to have been the replacement for the Burke class.  In an abrupt turnaround of historic and baffling magnitude, the Navy terminated the DDG-1000 program at three ships and restarted production of DDG-51 Flt IIa’s.  The first Flt III will be procured in 2016. 

The key characteristic if the Flight III will be the Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) which will allow it to perform AAW and BMD, simultaneously.

The Navy estimates the cost of the first Flt III at $2.3B according to CRS.  This is a patently low ball (fraudulently deceptive) figure.

Regarding funding of the Flt IIa restarts and the Flt III’s, CRS had this to say (1),

“As part of its action on the Navy’s FY2013 budget, Congress granted the Navy authority to use a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract for DDG-51s to be procured FY2013-FY2017. The Navy awarded the contract on June 3, 2013. The Navy plans to use an engineering change proposal (ECP) to shift from the Flight IIA design to the Flight III design during this MYP contract.”

The MYP is intended as a cost savings procurement measure for use on stable designs and, for the Flt IIa, that’s a fair and prudent action.  The ECP is a deception on the part of the Navy to pass off an almost totally new ship, the Flt III, as a minor change to the previous Flt IIa design. 

AMDR size will be 14 ft on Flt III which is substantially less than what was envisioned for the CG(X) and will provide insufficient sensitivity to meet the performance requirement.  The Navy claims that 14 ft will meet the threshold requirement while ignoring the fact that the stated requirement for the CG(X) was a 20+ft AMDR.  The Burke’s existing power and cooling for the AMDR is also deemed inadequate to accommodate likely future developments.  Interestingly, the Flt III will not incorporate an integrated electric drive.

One option the Navy has hinted at for compensating for the reduced radar sensitivity (despite contradictorily stating that the AMDR meets threshold requirements!) is to make use of off-board data sources such as aircraft or dedicated radar ships (Cobra Judy).  This is an interesting possibility but would require a radical change in doctrine.  It also opens the possibility of degraded performance if the off-board sensors suffer data link degradation due to enemy ECM, jamming, or the simple destruction of the off-board sensors (such as shootdown of satellites or UAVs).

The Navy’s schedule for construction of Flt III’s is probably not realistic as it pertains to the development of the AMDR.  It is unlikely that the AMDR will be ready in time.  Just as the Ford’s EMALS and AAG and the LCS’ modules were not ready in time, so too, it is apparent that the AMDR schedule is not realistic.

DOT&E has disapproved both the Navy’s proposed test plan for the Flt III and the test plan for the AMDR due to the lack of a test ship and the Navy’s unwillingness to include one as part of the program (2).

Growth margin is a concern for the DDG-51.  The current Flt IIa’s have used up most or all of the growth margin in the original design.  A new Flt III will have little or no growth margin for future developments.

Often, we look at a flawed acquisition program and supporters deflect blame and criticism by saying that no one could have foreseen the problems that arose.  Well, here’s a clear cut example where the problems are easily foreseeable.  The time to take corrective action is now, not years in the future.  Unfortunately, the Navy is going to push full speed ahead with yet another program that, at best, won’t meet the performance requirements, hasn’t got the power and cooling to support future growth, and has little or no growth margins.  We don’t need to wait several years down the road to see the problem.  The problem is quite evident today.

The most baffling aspect to this is that there is no penalty to slowing down a bit and addressing the problems now.  Worst case, we build a couple extra brand new Flt IIa’s while we wait for the AMDR technology to mature, the software to be written and debugged (ask JSF how their software issues are working out!), test ships to be outfitted, actual data to be collected and, most unlikely of unlikelies(?), develop a new ship design that actual meets the performance requirements!

(1) Congressional Research Service, “Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer
Programs: Background and Issues for Congress”, Ronald O'Rourke, October 22, 2013

(2) Director, Operational Testing and Evaluation, Annual Report, 2013


  1. Taxpayers, here we go again! Don't worry (DDG 1000/Ford) all that technology will be ready on time and work like a champ. Don't worry (F-18) the E is only a mod to the D, hence we don't need to prototype, you'll get better range, trust us.

    Who is picking these arrogant, ignorant people to lead these programs? What rock do they crawl out from under? On the other hand we keep letting them do it so why should they stop or be humble about spending $Bs on things that aren't ready?

  2. Why can't we build a New cruiser based on the South Korean Navy's Sejong the Great-class destroyer

  3. While I agree with you the StG are great ships, may the best built today, I see some short comings that can't be corrected with minor changes, when it comes to being transformed into a cruiser for the USN.

    1) They are design to be manpower intensive. This is OK for a country with a draft so that military manpower is cheap. But it not so good where manpower is very expensive like the USN. This will require the use of advance automation to hopefully reduce the manpower requirement by half.

    2) Range, while I know USN ships have about the same range as StG, I personally would like to see a range over 10, 000 NM, may be even more. Th like this for three reasons. First being fewer refueling would reduce the work load on the crew. Second it allow the cruiser to refuel any smaller ships (like LCSs) that may accompany it. Third, fuel bunkers can helps with passive protection.

    3) There is also the heed for more shear size for a cruiser. people expect a cruiser to be larger than a destroyer, even those that should know better. A cruiser must look the part.

    4) The Gid has little margins of growth. What ever you can say about the StG, you have to admit it petty much maxi out as a design, with three VLS, up too three helos. AEGIS, CIWSs, plus a large crew. What do we do in the future when AMDS comes along and requires hundreds of more tons in top weight.

    Yes I like the StD, and would even buy them over Burke IIA or III, but they just too small for the job of a cruisers. But look on the bright side of the issue, steel is cheap, and adding the extra horsepower by adding hybrid motors and generators means we can install laser and EMG latter, larger ships are more survivable, and larger ships will improve the habitability. All of these are good things.

  4. CNO,

    How is the Flt III "an almost totally new ship"? AEGIS/SPY-1D is obviously much different, and there are upgraded generators and cooling, but that hardly constitutes a "new ship".

    AFAIK, the rest of the ship is the same ol' Burke.

    1. B.Smitty, here's a partial list of new features.

      -substantially redesigned superstructure
      -redesigned power and cooling architecture with redesigned physical layouts
      -new combat software including new Aegis software development
      -counterbattery capability (details unspecified, as yet)
      -whole ship computing network
      -enhanced armor and stronger steel construction with revised framing and bulkheads
      -greatly enhanced automation
      -reduced berthing and crew comfort
      -all electric drive (CRS says no, CNO and other sources say yes, Navy trend is clearly yes - just a matter of time)
      -revamped hangar facilities for enhanced UAV support

      I'm sure there will be additional, substantial changes as the design is developed.

      The Flt III will be a completely redesigned ship internally. It will be to the Flt IIa what the Super Hornet was to the Hornet. If you choose to view this as only minor changes, you have a future in Navy procurement!

      And, of course, the Navy may opt for a lengthened hull in the near future!

    2. Where are you getting your list of changes?

      The only things I've seen that are specific to the Flight III variant are,

      - AMDR/SPQ-9B with some superstructure changes to accommodate them
      - 5 x 300 ton AC plants replacing 5 x 200 ton plants
      - 3 x 4MW, 4160 VAC generators replacing 3 x 3MW, 450 VAC generators
      - Incremental internal layout changes.

      I haven't heard anything about electric drive, armor/steel/framing/bulkhead changes, reduced berthing or "greatly enhanced" automation.

      Every flight gets some amount of internal layout changes and upgrades, otherwise there'd be no point in calling it a new flight!

      I'd argue that the Flight III is no bigger change from the IIA than the Flight II was from the Flight I.

  5. What is the expected service life of these ships? I’m going to assume decades.
    It feels to me like you are pretty much “planning” to hand away your technological naval advantage. And I’m really really not happy to see that.
    I get that cutting edge tech costs and invariably comes with teething problems. But I also can’t believe you guys haven’t moved forward in simple hull forms since the 1990’s.
    It remains to be seen exactly what a flight 3 will consist of hull wise. But I’m concerned.
    You’re in this capability vs numbers debate right now. Something I thought NATO vs USSR decided on a long time ago.
    The RN has gone a bit far with this, but in 20 years a 300 ship fleet nearly all of which are below European standard is not going to look good.
    Please dont do it !

    1. The Navy wants to get 35-40 years out of them.

      The Flight IIIs aren't going to change anything to do with the hull, propulsion, or weapons mounts, AFAIK. Really just AEGIS, AMDR and SPQ-9B are the major changes, along with the aforementioned cooling and power upgrades and the supposedly minor changes topside to accommodate AMDR.

      There has been some better news with regards to the price of the Flight IIIs,

      "An October 2013 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the cost of the Navy’s shipbuilding programs stated:
      Adding the AMDR [to the DDG-51 design] so that it could operate effectively would require increasing the amount of electrical power and cooling available on a Flight III. With those changes and associated increases in the ship’s displacement, a DDG-51 Flight III destroyer
      would cost about $300 million, or about 20 percent, more than a new Flight IIA destroyer, CBO estimates. Thus, the average cost per ship [for Flight III DDG-51s] would be $1.9 billion....

      CBO’s estimate of the costs of the DDG Flight IIA and Flight III ships to be purchased in the future is less than it was last year. Most of the decrease for the Flight III can be attributed to updated information on the cost of incorporating the AMDR into the Flight III configuration.
      The cost of the AMDR itself, according to the Navy, has declined steadily through the development program, and the Department of Defense’s Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office concurs in the reduced estimate. The Navy decreased its estimate for the average price of a DDG-51 Flight III ship from $2.2 billion in the 2013 plan to $1.8 billion in the 2014 plan, primarily as a result of the reduced cost of the AMDR. CBO reduced its estimate by a similar amount. Considerable uncertainty remains in the DDG-51 Flight III program, however. Costs could be higher or lower than CBO’s estimate, depending on how well the restart of the DDG-51 program goes, on the eventual cost and complexity of the AMDR, and on associated changes in the ship’s design to integrate the new radar.28

      So the CBO estimates a unit cost of $1.9 billion and the Navy estimates $1.8 billion.

    2. Beno, I'm intrigued. What hull form are you referring to that the USN has not pursued?

    3. B.Smitty, those are the stated costs. Given the history of ship procurements and the accounting games the Navy has been playing, do you think there's the slightest chance that the actual cost will be anywhere near that? If so, you really, really have a future in Navy procurement! :-) Just havin' fun with you!

    4. That the price is actually trending downwards (at least for now) is good news to me.

  6. I think the USN has perused Hull advancements and drive and stealth for naval vessels.
    But flight 3 will have (as far as I can tell) none of this. It will remain the “work horse” of your war fighting fleet. With 90 ( ish ) design tech in these areas.
    Whilst the advanced ships are either cancel, failing or just too few, simply because of cost.
    This seems like seawolf all over again ?
    For gods sake don’t let us get ahead ! it will do your heads in ;) Beno

  7. For the CGX or even the DDGX if we are planning to use a known hull we should go with the LPD hull. It is huge plenty of room to fit whatever needed plus allot more. Power I would prefer a nuclear cruiser for the cutting edge that is coming, but since that would mean big money and political risk the size of the LPD could allow just adding turbines either independent of the propulsion or even tied in for boosted performance.

    LPD you get more helo's, bigger internal room for turbines, cooling, modules, or whatever the mind can imagine. Plenty of deck space to install extra VLS all the way up to arsenal ship level, radar size super jumbo massive, and of course future lasers, rail guns etc...