Sunday, June 28, 2015

LCS OTH RFI

No, that post title is not a random assortment of letters.  The Navy has issued a Request For Information (RFI) to industry to solicit ideas for an over-the-horizon (OTH) missile system for the LCS.  The two obvious candidates are an upgraded Harpoon and Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM) was “test fired” from an LCS in an absolutely worthless test in which the missile launcher was simple placed on the deck of the LCS-4, USS Coronado, last year and launched with absolutely no tie in to the ship’s weapon systems.  The same test could have been equally well performed from a dock or a parking lot in a shopping mall. 

In any event, the assumption was that the test was paving the public relations way for selection of the NSM as the OTH weapon for the LCS.  It is unclear why the Navy is taking a step that could be construed as a step back by issuing this RFI.  Presumably, something has come to light regarding the NSM that renders it less than ideal for use with the LCS.  Aside from mundane issues like cost or production capacity, the only technical issue I can imagine is an inability to smoothly integrate into the fire control system.  Supporting this thought is the RFI’s language calling for industry information regarding complete weapon systems for the OTH role.


ComNavOps will continue to keep an eye on this.

49 comments:

  1. This strange since wasn’t the LCS suppose to be the ultimate ‘within the horizon” ship?

    Mine clearing especially in congested waters, Anti-Submarine once again in congested waters, Anti-surface against small maneuverable boats and ships.

    The DDG’s CG’s, SSN, and Carriers were suppose to be the over horizon force.

    Sounds like they are trying to turn LCS into a frigate. Its been argued that the USN needs a new frigate but LCS won’t be a good one and if turned into one who or what is going to do the mine sweeping, anti-boat and anti sub duty? Also what is going to provide the over the horizon targeting needed and if they have money for this shouldn’t priority go to the DDG’s and CG’s for over the horizon weapons?

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    1. DJF, the LCS was originally intended to be an MCM, ASW, and anti-surface/land attack vessel. The original NLOS (now cancelled) weapon system was supposed to provide land attack up to 20 miles or so inland and anti-surface capability 20 miles or so around the ship. It was never intended to be an OTH combatant. Since the Navy opted (or was told) to modify the LCS to a "frigate", it now needs an OTH capability to act as a "frigate".

      The new "frigate" version of the LCS will NOT be performing MCM according to the Navy. That will be limited to the earlier LCS' and probably only the LCS-2 version, so somewhere between 8-16 LCS will be capable of MCM assuming they ever develop a functional module.

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  2. This is likely just the next part of the competitive contracting process. The Navy may prefer NSM, but they can't just choose it without going through the RFI/RFP/proposal process.

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    1. That's quite possible but the wording of the request suggested the Navy was looking for a complete system incorporating the weapon, sensors, and fire control software. As I said, I'll keep an eye on this and see what comes of it.

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    2. This lets them funnel the contract(s) to the Current Combat System Primes LockMart and GD. Follow the money folks, follow the money, and the next Admiral hiring by LockMart and GD.

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  3. Off topic, but I've been thinking about something.

    After retirement, the entire Spruance-class destroyer set was more or less sunk. Do you think that they will do the same thing to the Ticonderoga-class cruisers after the inevitable retiring?

    Alarmingly, in some ways, this may be a replacement for the Ticos.

    On that note, what would the implications here be?

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    1. Alt, that's a great question and exactly the kind of speculative thinking I appreciate in the readers of this blog!

      I believe the the Ticos are seen as a funding threat to the Burke Flt IIIs and that's why the Navy is trying to get rid of them. Yes, I believe they will scrap or sink them as fast as possible if they can get the retirements past Congress.

      The Spruances were a funding threat to the Ticos and were eliminated.

      The Perry's were a funding threat to the LCS and were eliminated (defanged and then retired).

      I believe you've correctly identified the Ticos as the next funding threat.

      Good comment.

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    2. I still struggle to understand the logic behind this.

      - The Navy is insanely focused on building new ships/weapons
      - Such weapons are overhyped and often exceed their cost targets
      - Usually they do not match reality

      - After these weapons come to reality, the Navy resists every attempt to conduct realistic tests
      - There is no interest it would seem in training beyond a few scripted exercises
      - Maintaining existing weapons is not a priority

      - Afterwards, applying past lessons does not occur to designing new weapons
      - Weapons are scrapped often prematurely or before a proven replacement is available to make room for the new

      It would seem the only answer is that the defense industry has total control over procurement.

      This can only do one thing: maximize the defense industry's profits. The US public interest by contrast is deeply threatened by this mentality.

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    3. Alt, you've summed up the situation nicely. However, I draw a different conclusion. While I can't disprove your conclusion that industry is the main reason for the observed behavior and, indeed, your conclusion is a reasonable fit to the facts, I don't believe (or don't want to!) that industry has that much control and influence. I believe there's some other reason that I have not yet figured out. Navy leaders aren't inherently stupid people despite the never-ending litany of stupid decisions. Something else is motivating them and I don't know what it is. On the other hand, you may well be right.

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  4. Perseus and other Supersonic/Hypersonic weapons are superior. Actually Perseus missile by UK/FRA is to have HE filled effectors which can be jetisoned to target different parts of the same ship or different ships.

    Such an attack would multiply the work required by a CIWS system, and therefore an attack of two such missiles on a single ship would in effect require 6 interceptions to prevent a direct hit to some critical system (i.e. the main-gun/vls stations/bridge and the engine room).

    It is also of note that this advantage stacks with the fact that faster missiles are much harder to intercept due to their speed, and therefore more effective. Therefore the effectiveness of such a missile as perseus, is actually far greater than 3x a standard missile (because of the effectors), it is actually that multiplied by whatever the advantage of the faster speed is!
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    TLDR: the selection of missile is silly.....

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    1. yeah, concept videos are always attractive. MBDA's more so than most. But unless you have an actual reference to actual development work on this missile, it's best to consider it vaporware. AKA, AFAIK no *real* thing such as the Perseus missile exist or is in development.

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    2. Development has probably already started, I don't know how you can say it hasn't, they don't have to advertise it, and it doesn't need to take decades to be developed.

      Anyway its not the 'video' that is interesting, it is the share speed and the effectors that are jettisoned and triple the amount of interception required to defeat the missile

      My point is that this is probably going to be the sort of missile required to defeat modern interception systems, not very slow missiles that can be shot down by cannons, and need to be fired in such large numbers they literally deplete the adversaries interception systems.

      At this point, opting for a legacy short range, ineffective subsonic cruise missile is really just box-ticking, so that operators can say, yes 'we have this capability'. And at the end of the day that is all the LCS is, a 'box ticker'. It technically is a fully multirole frigate, it just can't do all these things at once, or well... This box ticking is not the way to run a navy.

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      That is the point I am making, that these subsonic missiles are legacy systems with limited effectiveness against a properly defended surface combatant.

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    3. Unless you have a contract reference sitting around, any belief that they are actually building it or developing it is pure speculation. These things are literally just conversation starter ads. Its like believing Airbus or Boeing are building whats in their concept videos.

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    4. "At this point, opting for a legacy short range, ineffective subsonic cruise missile is really just box-ticking"

      NSM is a 'legacy' missle? I would think the curren Harpoon is, but NSM and LRASM are brand now. Sure, they are subsonic, but do we know for sure they aren't survivable with stealth coverings and compex manuevering?

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    5. Yes, its a very slow, very short ranged, subsonic cruise missile with a unitary payload. Considering the much larger warhead in the harpoon missile, the weight difference is probably negligible. And the harpoon has been in service since the 70s, and is somewhat retired by the USN...

      LRASM is bassically the JASSM-ER, which is an upgrade of the JASSM, and consider that its sort of similar to TASM UGM-109B Tomahawk in function, a system which entered service long before JASSM development really kicked off. So I don't see what is new there, from a ship-launched perspective. A TASM like soloution is actually better, because it shares commonality with the TACMs, already exists, and has far greater reach.


      >Yes I don't think we know the RCS or how easy it is to detect these missiles, although given the fact that they skim the sea, that the distance to the horizon is relatively short, and that ships have very large and powerful sensors, I think it's safe to say that such a missile will probably be seen once it crests the horizon (if the ship is scanning it).

      We do however know that there is plenty of time once it crests the horizon to intercept it, modern interception systems fire many large calibre rounds, each containing >100 tungsten submunitions that literally create a wall/cloud of tungsten balls that the missile can not fly through. We also have missile based systems from buth russia and the USA that have very high claims of interception probability.

      Definitely, if it's moving about it's going to be harder to train and lead the gun and score hits, but it's probably not that difficult, that it isn't effective, because nowadays you are trying to hit the missile with a wall/curtain of tiny pellets, that have an effective speed approaching mach 2.

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      I know I wrote quiet a bit but bear with me:

      The advantage of the higher speed missiles, is even if you detect it, train your guns, or fire missiles, and manage to intercept it in time after it crests the horizon, it's travelling so fast that its probably come so close, that whatever is left is going to most likely continue towards and hit the ship anyway and do significant damage.

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    6. I consider NSM and LRASM to be upgraded versions of legacy technology. Having said that, I have no problem with a solid performing upgraded legacy weapon if it can be procured in large quantities.

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    7. "We do however know that there is plenty of time once it crests the horizon to intercept it, modern interception systems fire many large calibre rounds, each containing >100 tungsten submunitions that literally create a wall/cloud of tungsten balls that the missile can not fly through. We also have missile based systems from buth russia and the USA that have very high claims of interception probability."

      Bear in mind that the horizon is 10-20 seconds from impact for a supersonic missile and only 120-180 seconds for a moderately high subsonic missile. Given minimum engagement (arming) distances, that doesn't leave much time for engagements. That also assumes that the defending ship is fully alerted and all systems are up and functioning automatically. The last point is key. If the systems are not in full auto mode, most of the reaction time will be consumed trying to get a human to report the detection, assess the threat, make a decision, and issue engagement orders. The USN does not operate its systems in full auto under any but highly unique circumstances. CIWS has been known to shoot down friendly helos operating from and around the defending ship, for example. Despite the wall of lead (or tungsten, as the case may be), CIWS has not proven to be the infallible weapon that the manufacturer claims.

      Manufacturer claims are notoriously overstated, bordering on fraudulent. History (and this blog) has clearly demonstrated this. Missiles and guns just don't enjoy anywhere near the success rates that the manufacturers claim.

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    8. Oh completely agree, its definitely a much better soloution than no missiles, and probably an improvement over the harpoon. It's just that 120-180seconds is an awful lot of time for interception, whereas 10-30 seconds is a completely different ball park.

      At that sort of speed, even a successful interception can easily see a large mangled, metal rod with an aweful lot of kinetic engergy, slam right into the side of your ship, fragmenting and/or going straight out the other side.

      And yes agree with manufacturers claims, I did point out both US and RUS interception systems make such claims, but I believe against slow moving subsonic missiles heading towards the interception system, it is probably not too hard. The interception missiles should enjoy a substantial energy advantage and be able to out-turn the ASMs, but it isn't like the ASMs are fighter pilots evading SAMs. They probably don't have that sort of capability.

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      Also yes, agree about the full auto thing, they don't operate on full auto, if it were upto me, ironing out the flaws to enable the CIWS to operate in auto would be a priority, especially given a a coordinated Sub Attack might plink one or two Carrier groups, but hey...

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  5. Perseus although impressive is a long way off, we are unlikely to see it on Type 26 until 2025 +.

    Its physically large and extremely expensive, I’m not sure it’s really the right fit for LCS (SSC) frigate.

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    1. If even then. AFAIK, no contracts nor funding is allocated to the Perseus missile. And even then, the concept was for a 2030 introduction!

      All these missile tend to have roughly the same dimensions, fyi. NSM is ~4m and LRASM is 4.27m. For the F-35 there is a difference, for a ship, not so much. Main difference is weight, NSM is 410 KG while LRASM is 1021 KG.

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    2. *OFFICIALY/PUBLICLY* from governments. That does not mean development isn't happening, not that this is my point, as I said my point is that this is going to be the sort of missile required to defeat modern interception systems.

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  6. Despite it being a larger missile and still under development, it is exactly the sort of missile needed to defeat modern interception systems. Its also worth noting that it is probably vastly more effective than it is heavier than these subsonic missiles, it also has a much longer range (twice) and a much larger warhead (more than twice).

    So overall it probably works out better from a size/weight perspective. But the USN should develop, procure, or wait for what is required, rather than trying to jerry-rig something that does not meet requirements, onto a platform that is inadequate. To go back after the LCS has been designed, redesignate them into frigates, then try and squeeze the systems of a modern frigate onto such a platform is stupid...

    The LCS does not have the weight and room for all these systems, despite being frigate sized... It also has serious design flaws, so spending more money on a ship, that has questionable sea-worthiness is beyond questionable....
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    Now being fair, the LCS probably does not have room for real missiles on it, but development of such missiles could probably be accelerated if it were made a priority. And subsonic cruise missiles are much easier to intercept than something like perseus, or the hypersonic russian ASMs under development.

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  7. Why are the LCS' so close to their weight margins? Didn't they start out as ferries? And, without mission modules, aren't they close to empty with just huge mission bays? Its not a tiny ship at 3000 tons.

    Is it just the Freedom class that has that issue?

    I'm just wondering at their ability to take on any real OTH missile, and have the ability to target for it. Especially considering that this isn't the only thing that the US had planned in its SSC upgrade package. That stuff could get heavy quick.

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    1. Probably to satisfy their speed requirements.

      Gas turbines are fuel inefficient and there must be huge fuel requirements within the ship.

      That and probably cost savings because the whole program is so overbudget (for similar reasons they lowered the survivability standards).

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    2. Jim, see "Fat, Drunk, and Stupid" for the background on the LCS weight issues.

      Why those weight issues occurred is a multi-faceted issue. The two main reasons are the Navy's obsession with speed which drove the engineering plant weights up and the lack of a mature design at the begining of construction which caused an endless series of modifications and add-ons, each of which increased the overall weight.

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    3. Just re-read. Thanks.

      I'd forgotten that the marks they are missing are honestly quite low for combat ships or even 'phibs.

      *sigh*.

      With issues like this, and the recent articles about the poor showing of the F-35 with ACM vs. the F-16, I'm getting increasingly gloomy about the Navy's combat power in the future.

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    4. Jim,

      If true, the F-35's ACM showing is actually worse for the Navy, since it was the most nimble F-35A that had the issues. The B and especially C are worse performers.

      From the sound of it, though, this was more traditional ACM. HOBS missiles like AIM-9X with a HMS change these dynamics considerably.

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    5. Good comment. To be fair, the F-35 was never designed for dogfighting ACM. The original specs only called for F-16-like maneuverability. With the subsequent increases in weight and reductions in some performance parameters, it is hardly surprising that the F-35 would only be on par, or a bit less, than the F-16.

      We can debate whether the most expensive plane in history, one that was expected to be the premier aircraft in the world for decades, should have been designed to a mere F-16 standard for ACM but it was so it's not fair to criticize it for meeting the standard it was designed to.

      I'm the last guy to defend the F-35 but in this case it's doing what it was designed to do.

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    7. With respect,

      I don't think it is meeting its designed standards. It was supposed to be the low end compliment to the F-22; like the F-16 was to the F-15.

      But in this test it was a clean F-35 vs. an F-16 with drop tanks; and the F-35 was badly beaten. So it misses design benchmark there.

      To make matters worse, not only is it not going to meet its original design spec, its going to be forced into situations for which it was not designed because we don't have enough F-22's to reliably fill that high end role.

      And with the Navy; its eventually going to replace the SuperHornet. It will be the CVN's fighter.

      Combine its not meeting its meager ACM standards with the fact that its BVR may not be good enough against a EA wielding hyper manueverable peer enemy and the F-35 may well merge alot more often than we think; and be in big trouble when it does.

      Suppose it even achieves a 2:1 kill ratio due to stealth and improved AMRAAMS. If it marges alot of them will die in a fight with HOBS wielding very manueverable planes of a peer. And if those planes are an SU-35 we're trading a ~$150 million jet and pilot for a ~40 million jet.

      So again, I'm worried for a Navy with 1/3 LCS surface fleet and a questionable hyper expensive air wing.

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    8. In some regards, the F-22 is not the great fighter that it's proclaimed to be either.

      The subsonic acceleration is actually rather sluggish. It's actually outperformed in some regards by an early model F-16 and probably foreign models as well. I have wondered if the aircraft has become "classified" to hide some of the bigger problems with the design.

      Supersonic acceleration-wise, it's probably one of the top aircraft, although variants of the Su-27 probably come close.

      It also doesn't have the fuel fraction to go very far (only 0.29).


      The F-35 does have a higher fuel fraction, but it's a large draggy fueslage. Actually, on paper, the Navy one should be the best of the 3 variants (due to the larger wing so more lift), but it probably comes at the expense of structural fraction.

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    9. @Alt

      A couple of things; I know fuel fraction is important; especially to my lights for a Navy fighter.

      But it seems now that most American fighters you've brought up don't have great fuel fractions; its starting to sound more like a design plan instead of an engineering failure.

      Could it be (and I don't know) the American fighter style is to rely more on in air tanking?

      If so, if you have a huge refueling fleet, are there advantages to a lower fuel fraction?

      As to problems; I'm sure the F-22 has them. But, then again, I'm sure the SU-27 has them too.

      I'm curious in your view which is the best fighter out there now?

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    10. Best fighter? Probably the Dassault Rafale in terms of airframe design. I am not fond of dual engine aircraft and it does compromise some of it's air to air capability for air to ground (heavier hardpoints), plus it's fuel fraction is lower than I'd like (0.34 for Rafale C; 0.31 for Rafale M), but overall it's the best designed airframe.

      Probably number 2 would be the Russian Su-27 family. They have good range and are pretty good as bomber interceptors. They do suffer from their large size as pure air superiority planes though.

      The PAK FA (latest variant of the Su-27) does have it's share of issues as well, but the Russians generally seem to be more cautious in their aircraft designing. Nothing like concurrency. They use an incremental design system, Su-27, Su-35, PAK FA, with variants for each one.

      The bankruptcy of the USSR put a hold on Russian fighter development, which is partly why they are behind (probably internal problems to in Russia). Russia does have somewhat older avionics, but the gap has been narrowing. There is also greater complexity on the newer generations of fighters, something I don't agree with.

      Neither aircraft is what I'd call "truly" great at air superiority, just the least bad amongst the crop.


      If you rely on tanking, then that becomes a problem because:

      1. You have to spend money on air tankers, which means less money for fighters

      2. The tanker is a point of vulnerability that the enemy can take on

      Plus, if you enemy uses tankers too, then you're right back where you started.

      Also, the latest reports on the F-35 are not good:
      https://medium.com/war-is-boring/test-pilot-admits-the-f-35-can-t-dogfight-cdb9d11a875?source=latest

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  8. Read the GAO Report here:
    http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-749

    LCS 3 & 5 now meet the margin. After incorporating the butt cheeks on LCS-1.

    LCS 2, 4, & 6 all fail the weight margins.

    For gosh sakes in this day and age of computer aided design, how was the design ever accepted that didn't meet the Service Life requirement AND had not builder's margin.

    I know GIGO is still valid but who let them put the Garbage In? Has the Navy forgotten that much? Or are they that Career oriented that NO ONE can say the Emperor has no clothes?

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    1. And with all the 'payloads over platforms' thinking that seems to have fueled the modular design theory... you'd think you'd make a ship with extra margin than normal just so you could accomodate the growth of future modules.

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    2. Jim, the LCS had a 200 ton allowance for the module. Where that fits into the overall weight issue is unclear from the reports. Regardless, that Navy has stated that the current modules are weight-constrained. The ASW module, for example, is likely going to be fielded in sub-versions that contain subsets of the full module because the full module is too heavy. Thus, even an ASW module equipped LCS may not be the right ASW ship for any given ASW scenario.

      Further, the Navy has stated that future modules will have to give up equipment and capabilities to accommodate new equipment which kind of defeats the vision of an infinitely upgradeable module.

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    3. I think the "new" ASW module is in decent shape. It dispensed with the original's offboard systems and just carries the helo and twin-tail VDS/TAS.

      Of course whether it produces a decent ASW warship is something different. The LCS's lack of attention to quieting and (probably) towed array acoustics, lack of VLS for VLA, lack of Mk32 for last ditch LWT shots, and lack of hull mounted sonar all make me skeptical that they will be high performing ASW ships.

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    4. Smitty, brain fart on my part. I meant to say MCM, not ASW. The ASW module is at the weight limit but OK. The MCM module is overweight and will probably be fielded in subsets.

      Your comments about the effectiveness of the ASW version of LCS are on the money. It is not an ASW vessel and will likely prove unsuited to the task.

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  9. One of LCS' failure points, perhaps the primary one, was in not running out the calculations to make sure that physics could match the daydreams, and that the daydreams had any practical value. All of its other failure points follow from there.

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    1. The LCS' main failing was the lack of a concept of operations. That lack led to a "floating" design in which people added features in an almost random and haphazard manner. This led to mismatched systems, cost overruns, weight issues, and all the other problems.

      I think you may be saying the same thing in a different way.

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    2. The LCS had a concept of operations.

      Unfortunately that CONOPS rested on some unproven ideas and systems.

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    3. There was never an analytically based CONOPS. The Navy has acknowledged this. There were briefing and PR slides that showed grand and wholly fantasy based capabilities but never a rigorous CONOPS. I have all the original docs and slides. If you have an actual CONOPS please send me a copy or a link.

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    4. Oh you want an analytically based CONOPS. That's asking a lot!

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  10. Glad to hear the Navy is finally getting around to equipping the LCS with an anti-ship missile. Now, if they added ESSM and torpedo tubes, the LCS might eventually become a half-way decent warship.

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    1. It's still suffering from survivability problems - which are inherent due to the use of aluminum.

      The other issue is that what you're proposing probably would require a major redesign, because the LCS is already near it's weight margins.

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  11. I thought that was what its helicopter was for.

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    1. I'm not sure what you're saying or asking. Try again?

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  12. If the LCS is meant to hunt subs and mine sweep, then why is there so much fuss? Don't most, if not all, current mine sweepers in the world NOT have over the horizon missiles/3-5 inch guns/heavy torpedoes/heavy grade sensors?

    Besides it's size (120-130m), is there another reason why the LCS is expected to be so much more than the type of ship it was to replace?

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    1. Anon, it sounds like you're new to the blog. Welcome aboard!

      To answer your question, there are a few reasons why the LCS needs to be more heavily armed than other country's minesweepers.

      1. Unlike other country's minesweepers, the LCS is intended to fill three main roles: MCM, ASW, and anti-surface (ASuW) warfare. The latter requirement drives the need for significant anti-ship weapons.

      2. The original ASuW module was supposed to have a significant anti-surface and land attack capability in the form of the now cancelled NLOS system. That lost capability has not been replaced, hence, the criticism of the LCS' lack of weaponry.

      3. The LCS is eventually intended to make up a quarter to a third of the combat fleet (52 out of 150-180 or so). To have that much of the combat fleet unable to fight is unacceptable.

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