Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Official: Goodbye LCS, Hello Frigate

Aviation Week provides this look at DefSec Hagel's budget preview.  I’ve omitted a reference link because the link was too long for blogger to accept.  You’ll have to trust me on this one!

“In order to help keep its ship inventory ready and modern under the President’s plan, half of the Navy’s cruiser fleet – or eleven ships – will be “laid up” and placed in reduced operating status while they are modernized, and eventually returned to service with greater capability and a longer lifespan.”

On the face of it, I can’t argue with this plan.  It reduces costs in the near term while modernizing ships for the longer term.  In reality, though, these 11 cruisers will be prime candidates for further budget cutting since they “won’t be operational, anyway”.  We’ll have to watch closely to see whether modernization funding is actually forthcoming.

And here’s the news you’ve all been waiting for:  the LCS.

“Regarding the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward. With this decision, the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions.

The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific. If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal constraints, we must direct shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict.

Additionally, at my direction, the Navy will submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.”

There it is.  An end to the LCS and pursuit of a frigate.  Many of you are, undoubtedly, jumping for joy! 

I thought it was interesting that Hagel identified the same issue ComNavOps has been harping on for years:  the LCS was going to make up a third of our combat fleet without having any combat capabilities.

36 comments:

  1. Now that they are capping the LCS at 32 and realizing that the LCS is never going to be a Frigate. Maybe now they can ARM the LCS like a Corvette that is so common in Europe, Middle East and Asia. I'd arm the LCS in similar fashion to the Braunschweig-class corvette, Steregushchy-class corvette, Sa'ar 5-class corvette, or the MILGEM project. At the same time, start looking at buying a Frigate Design from Europe Such as the FREMM Frigate, F-125 Frigate, Blohm+Voss MEKO® A-200 Class Frigate, Blohm+Voss MEKO® 600 Class Escort Frigate or the Type 26 GCS

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    1. Nicky, I strongly suspect the Navy is going in a different direction. The Navy now views a small combatant as the frigate. They don't need a corvette. The LCS-1 will become the ASW platform and the LCS-2 will become the MCM. The LCS' ASuW role will be dropped. I think the resulting module development and procurement will reflect this. I also assume that no spare modules will be procured. Each ship will have one module and there will be no swapping.

      Time will tell if I'm right or not.

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    2. The problem their is the US navy is trying to shoehorn the LCS into a frigate role, when they should have built them as Corvettes that are so common in European, Middle eastern and Asian Navies. What the US Navy needs to realize that the LCS is never going to be a Frigate. It's going to be a Corvette or MCM Ship. What they need to do is take the lessons learned from the Braunschweig-class corvette, Steregushchy-class corvette, Sa'ar 5-class corvette, and the MILGEM project. Arm them in the same fashion as them and simply class them as an ocean going Corvette.

      As for the Next frigate project, now is a good time to talk to Europe on getting in with the FREMM Frigate, F-125 Frigate, Blohm+Voss MEKO® A-200 Class Frigate, Blohm+Voss MEKO® 600 Class Escort Frigate or the Type 26 GCS. That way we can have a frigate to do all the low end missions and act as a Command and control ship for the LCS.

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    3. I doubt the US is looking for any more 5000+ ton ships. so that knocks out the FREMM, F-125, and likely the Type 26. The MEKO 600 is just a re-badged F-124 so that's out as way too old. The Type 26 might be viable but is still a little big.

      Realistically they are probably looking for a frigate in the 3000-5000 range which is basically looking at up sized Formidable and MEKO 200 sized ships.

      Though I'm sure we'll just end up with the proposed international configs of one of the LCS types.

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    4. Realistically, I would think more of the lines of the FREMM Frigate, F-125 Frigate or the Type 26 GCS. Though Right now, only the FREMM frigate & F-125 Frigate are being built right now. The Type 26 is only on paper at the moment and the first steel hasn't been cut yet. As for te Formidable or MEKO 200, the last of them that were built were around 2009, so I doubt we can bring them back. Which is why I think maybe a version of the FREMM frigate would be good for the US Navy.

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    5. Navantia F100/Hobart class. AFCON reborn.

      Already has SPY/AEGIS, SPS-67, Mk41 VLS, H-60/SQQ-28, SQS-56, GE LM 2500 turbines.


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  2. I'd take a step back and ask someone to define what the overall future fleet architecture will look like, given the expected budget constraints, and trying to use realistic budgeting (I know, a big ask). How does this frigate fit in?

    Is the future frigate a CVBG/ARG, open-ocean escort with some offensive capability? Is it a big Streetfighter? Or is it something else? Does it need modularity? If so, how much? Is it a strike asset?

    I have in my head what I'd like to see as a frigate, but it's a term used to define ships anywhere from 3000 tonnes to 7000 tonnes with a huge range of capabilities.

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    1. I think this all points to the need for a formal Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) which - if done right - can be accomplished in a year.

      If I were in charge, I would not allow OPNAV to lead the AoA. They've bungled LCS for the last decade - what makes us think they'd do a better job defining FFX requirements?

      I'd bring in a board of retired surface flags with operational experience, analytical skills, and no connection to shipbuilding industry. Give them a blank sheet of paper, unlimited access to war plans, and a 1 year timeline.

      Matt

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    2. I would do the same for the LCS as well. I would hire a board of Corvette & MCM ship Experts, Corvette & MCM ship captains, who have no connection to the shipbuilding industry. I give them one order, and it would be to redesign the LCS as an ocean going Corvette and an MCM ship.

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  3. It's almost eerie when the DoD does something that actually makes sense especially when it contradicts a previous decision.

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  4. Ah, reality finally begins to seep through on the Versailles on the Potomac. I think the decision to cap the LCS program at 32 ships and go with a proper frigate is a step forward. I have serious doubts about the effectiveness of the LCS as an ASW platform, but can see the merits of something along the line of the old World War II DMS's. The USN's decision to neglect conventional minesweeping capabilities has boxed the fleet into a corner, but it would also be very useful to have some minehunters that can keep up with the fleet and have at least some self-defense capabilities.

    I have two concerns though. One is the premature mothballing of 11 Tico's, ostensibly while they are being modernized. I suspect CNO is right, and if they are retired as part of future cost cutting moves, this will be a major blow to the fighting power of the fleet, which has already been seriously hurt by misguided policies and the lack of a coherent strategy during the last few decades. Hagel has already signaled that major cuts are coming, and though I disagree with some of his specific proposals, major cuts are inevitable sooner or later. Unfortunately, many of the worst and most bloated projects, such as the F-35, remain politically untouchable and this drains resources away from other, more essential programs. Sadly, I keep having this vision of the USN sharing the fate of the once proud Soviet Navy, most which rusted at anchor after the fall of the USSR. The US military does seem to have a penchant for self-inflicted wounds these days...

    The other is that it seems like it takes forever for the USN to develop a new ship type these days and the Navy seems unable to resist the temptation to gold-plate the heck out of everything, which drives costs through the roof. So how long will it take for these new frigates to enter service, and at what cost? I agree that it would make sense to adapt an existing design such as the FREMM, Type 26 or Akizuki classes or one of the MEKO variants, but I think we all know that any such efforts will run afoul of the NIH Syndrome and political interference from Congress.

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  5. Hagel is directing the Navy to prepare recommendations for a new “capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.” The Navy, he said, will “consider a completely new design, existing ship designs and a modified LCS. These proposals are due to me later this year in time to inform next year’s budget submission.” (Navy Times)

    **********

    This is concerning to me. The SECDEF essentially wants an FFX solution to inform next years budget submission. And I read the above to mean no later than the end of this fiscal year (i.e. September 2014).

    I applaud the sense of urgency, but six months is simply not enough time to do a formal and well-thought out analysis of alternatives (AoA) for an ACAT 1 program. We may very well end up repeating the same LCS cycle.

    Matt.

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    1. It somewhat depends, the SECDEF may already have a solution in mind. It wouldn't be unheard of for the navy/secdef to have already come to an agreement on the direction to go. There is of course an almost ready made ship in the development stages that basically has all the ingredients that would be required. It is also being developed by our closest ally and used several US DoD parts.

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    2. Certainly it wouldn't be unheard of. SECDEF Rumsfeld and the Navy had a materiel solution in mind when they pushed for LCS!

      The problem was they didn't really understand what the ship was supposed to do. Or what characteristics (speed, size, endurance, etc.) were appropriate. Or if we even needed one ship class to address all of these problems. Or the CONOPS.

      I'm concerned we are pre-supposing a solution yet again. We should figure out what sort of problems we are truly trying to address before we commit to an entire ship class.

      Matt

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  6. I would assume the SECDEF is assuming something like the following for the frigate:

    4000-5000 ton full displacement
    76-127mm main gun
    32-48 MK41 VLS cells
    2 30mm chain guns
    2x CIWS either RAM or Phalanx
    1 or 1+1 helo support + hanger

    Most of the current european "frigates" our out because they are generally too big being in the 6000-8000 ton range and their combat systems are completely incompatible with the US systems including the use of SYLVER VLS.

    The only existing Euro frigate that might be viable would be the Type 26 GCS but that would take some decent design overhaul to swap out the Sea Ceptor VLS for ESSM VLS. And its a bit big, but it is a decent design.

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    1. Why are the 5000+ ton frigates "too big"?

      I go back to what I said above. We need to know how this ship fits in the overall fleet architecture, and then and only then, as Matt said, we need an AoA.

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    2. B.Smitty, you could not be more right! Without a clear statement of strategy (we don't have one) and, therefore, needs, building a frigate (or any ship, for that matter) is just hoping that we can find something useful for it to do.

      What do we want an LCS replacement to do during peacetime? How will it fit into a strategy and force structure during war?

      So many people want to simply jump right past the requirements and start designing or buying whatever their favorite flavor of frigate is without addressing how it fill fit in to an overall fleet structure and operating concept. It may be that we don't need any frigates. It may be that we need hundreds.

      Great comment!

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  7. What worries me is that the Navy, defense talking-heads, blogs etc., seem to be obsessed with the Anti-Access/Anti-Denial part of this Pacific pivot, on the assumption we are already in theater. We aren't. We would have to use convoy packages a la WWI or the Cold War/WW III.

    I would feel much more at ease if I saw a resurgence of Naval escort planning and ship building and actually see plans to escort the convoys across an ocean as they planned to during the Cold War. Everyone just seems to assume all our "stuff" would just show up in theater. If it came to shooting, the "not the Chinese" would never let us to walk across the Pacific. The Navy needs to dust off its old convoy escort planning documents from 1940-1989, get some frigates to protect said convoys and perhaps reach out to interested Pacific partners (Japan, Australia are the only two who have the right capabilities) to share the load. just as NATO did.

    And those escort ships would need to be able to take and give a beating. That is NOT the LCS. While fiction, its good fiction.. see Red Storm Rising. The "Battle for the Pacific" would be deadly.

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    1. Anon, that's a really great point. We do tend to gloss over many aspects of a real war because we haven't had to fight a competent enemy in so long. Given whatever methods the Chinese would attempt to use to disrupt our logistics, what capabilities do we need to provide protection? Frigates? BMD escorts? Specialized ASW vessels? Who knows? The point is that building frigates may or may not be the answer.

      Great comment!

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  8. (I wrote the above post. Figured I'd put a name to the words)

    It seems that a notional war with “Not China” (but who are we kidding, that is what Air-Sea Battle is directed towards) would be both easier and harder than if the Cold War went hot in the case of naval operations.

    Both China and the Soviet Union would have home court advantage and the use of internal lines of communication. The US, NATO and or assorted allies would need to transport the bulk of their fighting forces and equipment to the theater of operations. Air lift would be just a small component of that. The majority would be on heavy sea lift ships. (This purposely ignores the debate about how much a roll the Army would have in a western Pacific conflict.)

    On the side of the “not Chinese” would be the geography created by the islands. NATO took advantage of this by creating the SOSUS warning net in the GIUK Gap. Similar opportunities present itself on the straights between the islands of the first island chain in the Pacific. The risks of laying a SOSUS net right under the Chinese’s noses is high, but would allow us to at least keep tabs on their sub assets. The debate on what surface combatant we need, LSC, super-LSC, Frigate, etc, and what capabilities it needs (surface, sub-surface, etc), should be based on an analysis of its missions.

    It seems to be that first we would need to ascertain the Chinese capabilities in “closing the Pacific” to cargo traffic. One can assume that this would be sub-surface since with counties like Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines etc increasingly keeping tabs on China… there is a small likelihood that China would or could deploy significant naval assets outside of the 1st island chain. In addition, these countries along the chain would prohibit the use of Chinese long range bombers. The Soviets had Bears, Backfires, Badges, etc that could range far out into the Atlantic. The Chinese will not. So it would be Chinese subs that were not dedicated to home waters that would venture out into the Pacific to attack the convoys.

    The so-called ‘Carrier Killer” DF-21 (CSS-5)… well, quite frankly why would you use it against a carrier? Target the much easier to find, much slower, much less protected resupply ships. What good is a carrier if it can’t get a resupply of weapons, engines, fuel, etc.?

    So what does this mean? If we are serious about this analysis (and this is just off the top of my head with no real research), then my recommendation would be...

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  9. 1) Develop a surface, sub-surface, air early warning net on the 1st island chain to prohibit Chinese freedom of movement. It won’t eliminate uncertainties, but will simplify our targeting solution.

    2) The LCS is worthless… except for complicating the Chinese targeting solutions. They won’t know what its capabilities are, and thus would not be able to ignore it. Assets would need to be dedicated to deal with over 2 dozen LCS hulls floating around (probably broken down). The LCS should be deployed in an arc along the 1st Island Chain (Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia) whether on extended port-calls or permanently. They serve no tactical purpose other than complicating the tactical picture for the Chinese.

    3) So the question now is, what does this new ship need to be? It would need to be less complex and cheaper than the Arleigh Burke, Ticonderoga, or Zummwalt. Based on the air and surface defense that would be able to be deployed on the 1st Island Chain, it should have more of a sub-surface capability. Its mission would be to free up the Arleigh Burkes, Ticonderogas, and Zummwalts for carrier escort and strike duties and assume convoy escort missions from the West Coast to Pearl, and from Pearl to the western pacific. (Geee… I wonder if we ever had to do this before…. Hmmmm). In the end, (and I will admit this is from wiki)… it looks a lot like FFG-7…

    “The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates were designed primarily as anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare guided-missile warships intended to provide open-ocean escort of amphibious warfare ships and merchant ship convoys in moderate threat environments in a potential war with the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. They could also provide air defense against 1970s- and 1980s-era aircraft and anti-ship missiles. These warships are equipped to escort and protect aircraft carrier battle groups, amphibious landing groups, underway replenishment groups, and merchant ship convoys. They can conduct independent operations to perform such tasks as surveillance of illegal drug smugglers, maritime interception operations, and exercises with other nations.”

    The ability to provide sub-surface protection for convoys, with also the ability to provide limited anti-air and anti-missile defense seems apparent. As for the DF-21, et. al. threat to convoys… well, that might be a topic for another time. The cost of putting an anti-BMD system onto a ship would quickly become cost and size prohibitative. A convoy package of a few FFG-7/LCS replacement to deal with subs, perhaps 1 DDG-51 to deal with any significant air/missile/vampire threats and perhaps… (if money grew on trees) a San Antonio hull based dedicated BMD ship for ballistic missile defense.

    But in the end, whatever comes next needs to pack a punch above and below the water, be able to take a few hits itself (there are no close ports in the middle of the Pacific) and be dedicated to convoy escort or picket missions (because veterans from picket duty off Okinawa in 1945 will remember how important and yet how deadly that duty could be).

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    1. RC, always good to have a name to put to a post! Again, you've offered us a well reasoned piece. Just a caution for you - you're starting from an assumption of China conducting a fairly wide ranging war (involvement of the first island chain) and, to be fair, that's a very reasonable assumption. Just for a thought exercise, what if China conducts a very limited war? Suppose they conduct a quick seizure of Taiwan (a long stated goal of theirs) and then "surrender" to the international community, meaning that they announce a unilateral ceasefire with subsequent proposals for peace negotiations. We're left with an occupied Taiwan and no actively beligerant enemy. We could "initiate" hostilities by attacking a "peaceful" China but that would cost us world support. If hostilities did occur, China would be purely defending its territory of Taiwan in a short range, limited scope defense. How does that change the overall naval picture? How does that change the role of an LCS replacement? Do we even need an LCS replacement or a new frigate?

      The point is that, along with establishing our own geopolitical strategy, we need to anticipate what China is likely to do which will allow us to establish our own military strategy. From that we can define our needs (LCS? Frigate? Big frigate? Small frigate? ASW vessel? BMD vessel?).

      I just offer this as a bit more food for thought for you.

      Another good comment!

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    2. CNO,

      The Iraqi's attempted a quick seizure of Kuwait in '91 followed by a cessation of hostilities to appear peaceful. The international community rallied against them.

      China is a much bigger fish, with far more international political muscle, but the same rationale would apply. The international community "should" rally against this sort of belligerence, regardless of the source.

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    3. Thanks CNO… sometimes work gets a bit boring and I need something to keep my neurons firing…

      True, that is the assumption and where I started, a full-up war. But I think that is the assumption that needs to be used in designing the naval ship to replace the LCS and FFG-7, or ANY naval ship for that matter. A ship is different than a Solider. I wrote my West Point thesis in 2004 on how to train the Army with limited funds and time. My research showed that you can’t train a Solider to conduct total war and then except them to dial back for counterinsurgency. It does not work. A ship is different; the FFG-7 was designed to go up against Soviet subs and naval aviation. And yet, it provides important services to places like SOUTHCOM on drug interdiction missions and doesn’t really have any weapons left on it. Any ship of war (and the LCS did not follow this rule, which was its major failings I think) needs to be designed for the worst case scenario. In a war, it’s impossible to rebuild an existing ship to make it “tougher”. So the ‘new ship’ would need to be a total-war ship and could thus be used in any operation other than total war.

      As for a war with China, this is where it gets tricky. What is total war, limited war, etc? What if China started posturing against a SCS claimant and we backed up that claimant. China conducts a ‘limited’ cyber attack against our electrical grid as a ‘shot across the bow’. That’s an attack on the homeland, and under conventional definitions would be an act of total war. But no casualties were caused…

      Another thought exercise would be if we needed to defend Taiwan. China would attack our ships with missiles based on their homeland… do we conduct kinetic strikes against China proper? That’s the only way to guarantee the elimination of the threat – destroy the launchers. But I don’t see many scenarios where we would attack the homeland of a peer or near-peer competitor. Where would the attacks stop? Launcher? C2 facilities… in Beijing? Decapitation strike? The possibilities are endless, and in some ways terrifying. The point being that the classical definitions of war, total war, limited war, etc are no longer adequate for today’s geo-political-military structure. We attack other countries with impunity, since they do not have the capabilities to attack in kind. Russia, China, to an extent Iran do… imagine if we attack DF-21 launchers on mainland China and the Chinese get a diesel boat close enough and launch a few cruise missiles at Norfolk. (As an aside, who is defending Norfolk… during the Cold War it was the FFG-7 and P-3s)

      But this then moves the debate away from the LCS to what would a war with China look like (a totally other topic!). Everyone has opinions on that. From, “No way! China needs our money from trade to buy weapons and need international stability“ to “The Rational Actor” international relations theory has been disproven a ton of times throughout history.”

      I guess the bottom line is that we have never been right in predicting the future of war (see Gates from a few years ago), and thus, the LCS follow-on needs to be developed/designed for the worst case. Filling a gap that the current fleet (Burke, Ticonderoga, or Zummwalt) is too important for and a gap that the LCS is too inadequate for. A mission of total war with subs, missiles and aircraft all attempting to limit our force projection from the time a ship/convoy leaves Newark or San Francisco. Personally I think we need an LCS/Frigate type ship. And honestly, I think a good starting point would be to call up Bath Iron Works and Gibbs&Cox and tell them to provide an updated design based on the existing FFG-7… which has enough versatility to be all over the globe on very eclectic missions (toe-to-toe with the Soviets to drug interdiction) and tough enough to take some very big hits. And in my opinion, a 4,000ton vessel that can take a hit from TWO Exocets missiles is tough.

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    4. B.Smitty, you're correct that the international community should respond to a Chinese takeover of Taiwan. However, unlike the Kuwait example, with its overtones of international oil supply threats, there is little compelling strategic interest in Taiwan for the rest of the world. For a host of small, economically challenged countries to rise up against China over Taiwan is asking a lot. Further, unlike Iraq's invasion of a sovreign nation, China (in its view) would simply be resolving an internal matter and would present the case as such to the UN.

      The world did not rise against Syria over the use of chemical weapons. The world has not risen over the various African issues. There was no Desert Storm magnitude coalition joining the US attack on Sadaam or Afghanistan.

      Would the world rise against a Chinese takeover of Taiwan? Maybe but it's far from certain. I'm not even sure the US would do anything.

      Honestly, from the Chinese perspective, it's a pretty good scenario.

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    5. RC, you're quite right. I was not disagreeing - only suggesting that, if we want to do this right, we need to go back to strategy to obtain our requirements for a new ship. Odds are, the end result would look much as you describe.

      On the other hand, a possible alternative approach for China over the near term (next 20 years) would be to forget about interdicting convoys (the Chinese don't have that extensive of submarine capability and probably won't for the majority of the next 20 years) and, instead, hit them at the destination points. There are only a very, very few logical logistics destination points in the China/Pacific theatre. They constitute logistic bottlenecks, in essence. IRBM attacks on known, fixed logistic points would be logical and devastating. So, perhaps our next ship should be focused on AAW/BMD rather than ASW. I'm not saying this is what would happen or what we should design and build for. I'm just using this as a reasonable alternative that might dictate a different direction in next ship design. The overall point being that rather than reflexively build a "frigate" (whatever that means) we should carefully consider requirements before designing - unlike the approach that was taken with the LCS where we started building with no CONOPS or even blueprints.

      Having said all that, a fleet of frigates would certainly be of general use. The question is whether they would be the best use of funds in a time of severely constrained budgets.

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    6. RC, going with your thoughts, I've long been a believer that we need a lower end ASW focused "frigate" and you make a good case for one. A modernized Perry would be a good starting point. I also agree that those ships have proven quite tough (Stark and Roberts) and could be even more so with the use of steel rather than aluminum and some judicious armor.

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    7. CNO, that’s a great point about the lack of experience and capabilities in the Chinese submarine force, however it’s diesel subs are very quiet and gives us quite a headache. One remembers when a Chinese Song-class diesel submarine surfaced INSIDE the defensive perimeter of the Kitty Hawk… a carrier is supposedly one of the most protected assets and the Song went undetected until it breached the surface. One might not need experience or capability, just luck. Here is another scenario. The US relies on contracted civilian cargo vessels for a huge amount of its logistical movement. All China would have to do was get close enough to launch 1-2 missiles at the port of Los Angles… no damage would need to be incurred, but insurance rates would skyrocket through the roof, and would put a huge financial burden on the American military's logistics picture. Just one more of an infinite amount of possibilities….

      You are absolutely right about the “very, very few logical logistics destination points in the China/Pacific theater.” If I was China, with a huge fleet of SRBM, IRMB and LRBMs I would blanket the area. Why waste them against military targets that are defended? Cut the logistical trail. One thing I always thought was an oversight was the Army’s role in Air-Sea Battle. Why would you park a BMD ship off of Guam? The Army has the Phalanx-based C-RAM, Avenger, PAC-3, THAAD, AN/TYP-2 Radar, perhaps the upcoming land-based SM-3 (Aegis Ashore, though that might not be an Army system), plus the recently tested High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD). Why would the Navy dedicate an Arleigh Burke, Ticonderoga and Zummwalt to sit as a static target off an island? Let the Army do that.

      As for a ship dedicated to AAW/BMD rather than ASW, I think that would put it out of the frigate-class. Look at the lengths the Navy has to go to put a watered-down BMD system on the DDG-51 Flight III. The ships are going to struggle to be big enough to house just the 12’ radar (down from the original 14’) and the associated power and cooling requirements, and those are on ships big enough to be considered cruisers! A frigate couldn’t handle it. A cost-effective way - if you really wanted a static-site BMD defense ship - would be to use a San Antonio hull or the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) and slap a BDM system on it. Those have already put forward as proposals. But the strength of the Arleigh Burke, Ticonderoga and Zummwalt ships is their mobility. It would be like parking an armored brigade in the motor pool. Tying a ship of those classes to an island would strip them of one of their strengths. The Chinese know where the islands are, put the Army on them. Let the Navy maneuver.

      I’m glad you brought up the idea of a modernized Perry… its already in operation; the RAN Adelaide-class. They took a basic FFG-7, warts and all, including its laughable 32 tons of ‘growth tonnage’ and did the following…

      - Upgraded data system and architecture (NCDS and ADACS), Upgraded sensor package to include navigation, anti-air, anti-surface and anti-sub-surface capabilities, Upgraded defensive systems…

      Most impressively, they upgraded the weapons package. They seem to be attempting to do to the FFG-7 series and the U.S. Navy did in World War II to PT Boats. Jam and cram as much weaponry onto a single platform as it could possibly hold. Which now includes…

      - 40x round missile magazine with a mixture of SM-2 Block IIIs and RGM-84 Block IIs (Harpoons)
      - 8-cell VLS with up to 32x ESSMs
      - Block 1B CIWS (Phalanx)
      - 2x 3-tube Eurotorp MU90s (reportedly able to outperform US MK 46 and has a hard-kill anti-torpedo capability)
      - OTO Melara 76mm (3”) Gun
      - RAFAEL Mini-Typhoon 12.7mm RWSs

      An updated version would need to be upgraded throughout, to include much more power generation capability, but look what the Aussies did with an old design. The thing has more hitting power than every LCS we are going to buy.

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    8. CNO,

      Taiwan is a large electronics and IT exporter and has the 18th largest GDP, but yes, that's different from holding a significant percentage of the world's proven oil reserves hostage.

      Iraq did attempt to justify the invasion of Kuwait by claiming it was historically part of Iraq.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Kuwait#Iraqi_hegemonic_claims

      I have to imagine that even if the international community did not go to war over Taiwan, it could lead to some rather unpleasant results for China, such as US trade restrictions or embargoes and possibly even Japan and/or South Korea developing nuclear weapons.

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    9. I see a frigate operating in its traditional roles as an ASW/AAW/ASuW escort. It is primarily an ASW vessel first, but can contribute to the AAW and ASuW battles, and can work independently in these roles when the threat is lower.

      Some have asked why we need significant AAW capability if we have the Burkes. My answer is primarily numbers. At ~$1.7-2 billion each, we just can't afford enough Burkes. Yes, we have a lot right now, but they will be retiring in droves in the coming years. We aren't building replacements fast enough. We may need frigates to bolster CVBG defenses, or act as independent convoy escorts.

      Can we build a "useful" degree of AAW into an "affordable" frigate? I don't know. Whether AAW means wide-area AAW (SM-2/6) or local-area AAW (ESSM) is open to debate. As is whether it needs any BMD capability. Do we need a SPY-1/AEGIS-level package to be credible here?

      I do believe the frigate should be modular, but to a lesser extent than LCS. If the LCS derives 80% of its capability from modules, and 20% from the seaframe, I see a frigate reversing this. A frigate might derive 20-30% of its capabilities from modules and 70-80% from the seaframe.

      I'd like to buy a new design and not try to rehash the FFG-7. My short list would include one of the enlarged LCS-1 proposals, the Navantia/AFCON F100 or Nansen series, or working with the Brits on a Type 26 variant.

      An LCS-1 variant would obviously preserve work we've already done on the program and hopefully have some commonality with existing ships.

      The Navantia/AFCON designs use US systems extensively (e.g. SPY-1/AEGIS, gas turbines, sonars, Mk41) and are known quantities. Plus, there is an existing (if dormant) relationship with a US yard (Bath) and contractors (General Dynamics & LockMart).

      On the Type 26, I like the way they incorporated modularity into the design and the Brits are one of our closest allies. They also have a history of producing top notch ASW frigates.



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    10. B.Smitty, you make a great point about the pending "block" retirement of Burkes and the impact that will have on our cumulative AAW. Of course, we're apparently going to block retire 11 of the best AAW vessels in the world!

      You've nailed the frigate AAW issue with your question about whether we can build significant AAW capability into a frigate. Like you, I don't know. I suspect not, at least not without making it a specialized AAW vessel. Even if we could, I suspect that would drive the price point up to the Burke level.

      I'm intrigued by your 20% modular idea. What kinds of things would you see as candidates for the modular portion?

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    11. B.Smitty, you're undoubtedly correct that China would incur trade sanctions and what not but I doubt they'd care. They take the long view. A few years or a decade of sanctions would be a small price to pay given that at least half the world would violate the sanctions anyway. And, given China's economic power I'm not sure that even the US would enforce more than token sanctions. As I said, the Taiwan scenario I've laid out has a lot going for it from the Chinese perspective! I hope our military (and State Dept!) is gaming this stuff out to explore and understand the various scenarios and our options in response.

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    12. Take a look at the Type 26 design as a reference for what i'm talking about with modules. It has a space ahead of the hangar for 11 x 20' containers, or up to 4 x 12m RHIBs.

      I see the need for modularity because we don't know how these ships might be used in the future. Module space is a hedge against unpredictability.

      Some possible uses:

      - Small SEAL team along with their SDVs or surface craft.
      - Additional RHIBs for VBSS/MIO.
      - Unmanned systems for underwater survey, ASW, MIW or ISR.
      - Classroom containers to assist with training foreign navies.
      - General reserved space and weight for future systems.

      Unlike the LCS, though, this frigate derives its primary combat capabilities from organic systems. Module space is purely supplementary.

      I don't believe adding additional empty space and weight margins with module connection points, external access (doors), and davits/gantries will had that much to the cost of a frigate design and the benefits are well worth it.

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    13. Interesting and reasonable! I'm not a fan of modular but I could buy into your 20% idea. Classroom containers, huh? That's one I'd never thought about. Fascinating idea.

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    14. The type 26 could be a fantastic opportunity to get involved in. The weapons fit and modularity are not set in stone. Buying a British design is probably a lot more palatable considering the US used harriers.

      Commonality - across a number of navies - I believe the Brazilians and the Aussies are considering these.

      These could likely be bought very cheaply and potentially can pull through older equipment on retiring ticos etc etc

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  10. "The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment."

    That's not how it was sold to Congress and the American people originally!

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