Monday, August 31, 2015

MCM Module Failures Continue

As you know, ComNavOps prefers not to simply repeat another website’s posting information.  ComNavOps’ job is to add value through analysis but occasionally another website has information that is just too important and too self-explanatory and must, therefore, simply be largely repeated.  Such is the case with Defense News website’s reporting of the continued failure of the LCS mine countermeasures (MCM) module (1).

You’ll recall that the Navy bet all in on the LCS as the MCM platform of the future.  The existing Avenger class dedicated MCM vessels were literally allowed to rot pierside and the Navy has had to scramble to try to bring them back to operational status due to the failure of the LCS MCM module.  The module has been under continuous development since the beginning of the LCS program and has nothing to show for the effort. 

Hints of the problems have been available in the DOT&E annual reports as well as the relative scarcity of glowing public information releases from the Navy.  The Independence (LCS-2) has been the dedicated test platform for the MCM module and has been employed nearly full time testing the system.

The individual components of the MCM module have been documented to fail to meet their performance requirements and the overall module has never operated with the mandated degree of reliability.

Defense News now reports that the Director of DOT&E, Michael Gilmore, has issued a memo to Pentagon acquisition chief, Frank Kendall, detailing the continued failings of the MCM module and, worse, the Navy’s attempts to mislead concerning system reliability.

“Recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago.”

“The reliability of existing systems is so poor that it poses a significant risk to both the upcoming operational test of the LCS Independence-variant equipped with the first increment of the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) mission package, and to the Navy’s plan to field and sustain a viable LCS-based minehunting and mine clearance capability prior to fiscal year 2020.”

What is the actual reliability data?

“… reliability has improved since then, but continues to fall far short of the threshold of 75 hours’ mean time between operational mission failure (MTBOMF).

So, the standard is set at 75 hours between failures.  What is the actual reliability performance?

“But despite all the efforts to improve reliability, Gilmore assessed the RMS system’s current overall reliability at 18.8 hours between failure, and the RMMV vehicle at 25.0 hours.”

Wow!  That’s quite a failing.  The standard is 75 hours and the equipment is achieving 19-25 hours.  That’s not even close.  But it gets worst.  The Navy is attempting to mislead concerning reliability data.

He [Gilmore] took consistent issue with Navy reliability data, pointing out that in some instances, ‘the Navy inflated operating time estimates for the MTBOMF calculations by assuming that post-mission analysis time (when the vehicle is not in the water and not operating) could be counted.’ ”

So not only is the MCM module failing but the Navy is trying to hide the failure.  I’ve stated repeatedly that the Navy’s integrity is highly suspect, to put it as politely as I can.  This is all on CNO Greenert.  He is condoning this type of fraudulent reporting. 

Now, here’s the even more stunning part of this sad story.  Despite all this failure, the Navy is set to restart production of the module!  The module isn’t even close to working so the Navy’s response is to buy more.  This is stupidity at a staggering level.  Way to go Greenert.

There is one more aspect to this that caught my attention.  You’ll recall that the Pentagon recently ordered the Navy to conduct shock testing on the new carrier Ford even though the Navy was attempting to postpone the testing for several years until the next carrier or even indefinitely (see, “Shocking”).  The Pentagon, through the office of the acquisition chief, Frank Kendall, issued the order to the Navy directing the earlier testing.  At the time I wondered who had the authority and was pulling the strings on this.  Now, it appears we have an answer.  Michael Gilmore seems to be communicating directly with Frank Kendall and Kendall seems to be buying in to Gilmore’s thoughts on acquisition and testing deficiencies in the Navy.  This is about as good news as ComNavOps could hope for.  Gilmore has apparently gotten fed up with the Navy’s games and is taking his case to higher authority in the form of Kendall.  This can only benefit the Navy although it’s almost criminally shameful that the Navy has to be forced in this manner to do what’s right.


(1)Defense News, “Official: Minehunting System Shows No Improvement”, Christopher P. Cavas, August 30, 2015,


20 comments:

  1. It could be that the ultimate solution to these RMMV/RMS reliability issues is to build a larger more robust RMMV; to embark multiple RMMV's aboard a single vessel; and to develop an RMS mission module which is not constrained by the physical space limitations of the vessel which is to carry it.

    There is no question but that a larger, more robust version of the LCS would be necessary to support these kinds of upgrades to the current RMMV/RMS system. A possible candidate for this up-sized LCS is shown here, as I posted it on Commander Salamander this morning:

    http://a.disquscdn.com/uploads/mediaembed/images/2459/925/original.jpg

    There it is, LCS-53, the Gilmore-Kendall Class Littoral Combat Ship.

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    1. The Gilmore-Kendall class. Outstanding!

      Although you don't explicitly say it, you've just identified the two main failings of the LCS program and that is the failure to develop a CONOPS and a failure to insist on existing technology. Lacking both of those, the ship was built with no idea how it was going to actually be used and what it would actually need to do whatever it was going to do. Had we first developed a functioning MCM module, we would then have known exactly what size and shape ship we needed to employ the module. Had we first developed an actual CONOPS we would have known how to use the module (or whether the module was actually needed!) and questions like the degree of speed would have been answered.

      Great comment.

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    2. I wanted to separately address your thought on the size of the ship needed to operate the RMMV/RMS and the number of remote vehicles needed.

      Regarding the number, the incredibly slow pace of mine hunting demands as many vehicles in the water as possible so, yes, more is better.

      Regarding a larger vessel, that's not quite as obvious. If you've seen the launch mechanism on the Independence, it looks like something designed as a class project by a kindergarten class. I'm sure it's possible to design a much simpler and more robust launch mechanism. Thus, the ship does not necessarily need to be larger simply to launch the vehicle. Of course the ship may need to be larger simply to accommodate more vehicles.

      As far as larger vehicles, themselves, I can't comment because I don't know the specifics of the various failures and what caused them. If the failings are due to trying to fit too much equipment in too small a space or too small components in a constrained space then, certainly, a bigger vehicle is needed and probably a bigger ship to handle them.

      Again, good comment.

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    3. I went to the web to do some research and find out what the current state of the Avengers was, when I came across an article talking about them going through shock trials.

      I have to admit I'm amused that the wooden hulled Avengers went through shock trials and the Littoral 'Combat' ship didn't.

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    4. Jim, at one point, only one of the Avengers was able to get underway. The Navy has scrambled to fix them up. I believe most are capable of sailing now though how much damage was done to them due to the neglect, I have no idea. Let us know if you find anything definitive. Unfortunately, INSURV inspections have been classified after so many failures so we have little way of knowing how seaworthy and combat ready our naval forces are.

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    5. Will do...

      "we have little way of knowing how seaworthy and combat ready our naval forces are."

      Maybe I'm out of line, but that infuriates me. Classify the capabilities of a weapons system. No problem. I don't need to know how much faster than the reported 26k knots or whatever the LA class can move. But readiness? Seriously? If its classified my first assumption is 'bad'. And, here is where I maybe sound like a snotty civilian; I believe taxpayers have a right to know if the Navy is taking care of its often billion dollar babies. If a ship is obsolete, then retire it. If it has issues but is mission capable and its needed, so be it. But if things are being ridden hard and put away wet and slowly falling apart, we all need to know. That is data an informed electorate needs. That is data that might be needed to influence policy: Either we spend more $ or we decrease our commitments.

      Without that feedback loop we could end up in a situation where we need a vessel but its barely mission capable because we've been using it too hard or not maintaining it enough. Dear God, we'd be like Spain in the Spanish American war.

      Just my $0.02

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    6. Jim, the Navy had a few year run of horrible INSURV inspection results including at least one Burke. The Navy got tired of explaining why their ships couldn't pass inspection so they classified the reports to avoid having to deal with the public.

      As far as your duty or rights as a taxpayer, the Navy prefers that you simply accept what they say and keep paying for those big ships. Don't worry, be happy. Trust the Navy.

      But you don't, do you?

      That's why I'm here. To give you the hard reality.

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  2. The more I see this, the more the concept of sunk cost fallacy comes into play. Better to end this program and extract what good money can be on something more useful.

    The existing ships can be used for research as demonstrators. They are of little combat value anyways. Not against a seriously well armed enemy, and probably not even good vs a third world nation. They are also too unreliable for Coast Guard use.

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    1. The phrase, cut your losses, applies here!

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  3. Only one of the big DoD Contractors like LockMart could get paid for over 10 years and fail to improve the reliability of a diesel based platform. The large amount of lobbying dollars and jobs to retired senior Military officers are the only way that this can be explained.

    For Gosh sake my Grandfather farmed cotton with Diesel tractors that seemed like they were ALWAYS up or were quickly repaired. The Merchant Marines know how to run diesel engines 24/7/365 on ships much bigger than this 14,000 lb pig. And if they say it is the hydraulics after the engine that are causing the problem well, let look at the mining industry that have machines that run again 24/7/365.

    The ONLY good news here is that EVERYONE should have LockMart in their 401(k) so that we can get SOME of our wasted tax dollars back.

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    1. Its a Raytheon sonar and LM remote underwater vehicle (RMS)

      When you look at the challenges they have:

      "A sampling of failures from the 2015 tests includes faulty depth sensors; throttle failures; alignment issues; inertial navigation unit failures; problems with recovery equipment; bad operator consoles; numerous computer and software connectivity problems; variable depth sonar failures; power failures; offboard communications failures; problems with maintaining line-of-sight communications between the ship and the vehicle; and repeated problems with the vehicle’s emergency recovery system, designed to float the craft to the surface should it begin to sink.

      In many cases and for a variety of reasons, the LCS was unable to recover the RMMV and it was towed back to base by support craft"

      Words fail me and Im the one trying to see the upside

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    2. As I noted in the post, they're going to buy more of these things!!! Words truly do fail in the face of stupidity of this magnitude.

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    3. Well, if their primary mission is to spend money with contractors, which at least some of the relevant politicians would probably agree with, they're doing a pretty good job.

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  4. Faking reliability stats is what (should) get program managers fired. I would not be surprised if we see some "loss of confidence" turnover at PEO-LCS soon.

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    1. With the way the Navy works today, I wouldn't be surprised if we see promotions all around!

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    2. Check out where E. Anne Sandel wound up after running the MP group prior to 2011. Certainly no firing there!

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  5. Do other countries have remote mine hunting vehicles which work? I know the US prefers to buy locally made things which don't work, so there's no chance of the foreign item being bought, but I was curious if it's just the US which has problems with this type of vehicle

    Adrian

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    1. The Royal Navy uses the Atlas Elektronik Seafox drone for doing the disposal, and ship-mounted sonar for detection. The Hunt- and Sandown- class vessels that do this are much smaller and cheaper than the LCS at 750 tons and 600 tons respectively. They seem reasonably typical of minehunters in service.

      The LCS MCM system is more ambitious than anything else in service. That's required by the much larger platform. The basic mistake seems to be the choice of an unnecessarily large, fast and expensive ship as an MCM vessel.

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    2. John,

      "Unecessarily fast" is certainly a valid criticism. But the size of the ship is dictated more by the desire for global deployability and the ability to carry MIW helicopters and drones.

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    3. I'm not sure what MIW is, but the LCS seems to be the wrong kind of ship for MCM. A multi-use platform inevitably has compromises,
      and they're quite unfortunate for this case, because they demand radical new MCM technology, which isn't working.

      How many modern equivalents to an Avenger-class ship could you buy for the cost of an LCS?

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