Thursday, December 17, 2015

LCS and Navy Spanked !

The Navy got spanked!  You recall the Navy being handed a cease and desist memo from then SecDef Hagel regarding the LCS program and being told to come up with a frigate.  You also know that the Navy promptly ignored the directive and came up with a “frigate” that was the LCS plus a few odds and ends.  They thumbed their nose at SecDef and continued merrily on with the LCS program.

Well, now the Navy has been spanked and slapped down.  As reported by USNI News, SecDef Carter has issued the Navy a directive (1) to,

  • Terminate the LCS buy at 40 hulls
  • Select a single ship type and single supplier
  • Redirect the budget funds towards F-35C, Super Hornet, and weapons upgrades
This is to take effect in the 2017 budget.

The memo takes some heavy shots at the Navy.  Consider this passage,

“This plan reduces, somewhat, the number of LCS available for presence operations, but that need will be met by higher-end ships, and it will ensure that the warfighting forces in our submarine, surface, and aviation fleets have the necessary capabilities and posture to defeat even our most advanced potential adversaries.” [emphasis added]

This is saying that SedDef realizes the LCS will contribute little to combat and that the money will be better spent in other areas.  This directly contradicts the Navy PR that the LCS is an amazing vessel that will dominate the battlefield.

Of course, the memo still doesn’t fully recognize the limits of the LCS.  Consider this statement.

“Forty LCS/FF will exceed recent historical presence levels and will provide a far more modern and capable ship than the patrol coastals, minesweepers, and frigates that they will replace.”

The LCS will provide presence and will be more modern but it will come nowhere near being as capable as the Perrys and Avengers it replaces.  Someone has forgotten that the Perrys had two helos, a larger gun, and a 40 round missile magazine capable of launching Harpoons and Standard missiles.  Unless a miracle pops up out of the current wreck of an MCM module, the Avengers were/are far more capable.

Well, this is interesting, and certainly an implied rebuke of the Navy’s policy but is that really a spanking?  Well, if you don’t consider that a spanking then read this,

“For the last several years, the Department of the Navy has overemphasized resources used to incrementally increase total ship numbers at the expense of critically-needed investments in areas where our adversaries are not standing still, such as strike, ship survivability, electronic warfare, and other capabilities.”

“This has resulted in unacceptable reductions to the weapons, aircraft, and other advanced capabilities that are necessary to defeat and deter advanced adversaries. Earlier this year the Department of Defense gave guidance to correct and reverse this trend of prioritizing quantity over lethality; however, counter to that guidance, the Department of the Navy’s latest program submission fails to do so. It is accordingly unbalanced, creates too much warfighting and technical risk, and would exceed the numerical requirement of 308 ships… This requirement should be met, but not irresponsibly exceeded.”

Ouch!  For those of you who have seen the movie Animal House, this line seems appropriate,

“Thank you, sir.  May I have another?”

The Navy was gently prodded to terminate the LCS program, they ignored it, and now they’ve been taken to the woodshed.  I’m not a fan of SecDef but I’ll give him full credit on this one!

It appears that people in Washington are getting tired of the Navy’s games.  You’ll recall that the Director of DOT&E has written a couple of backdoor memos to SecDef and Congress about Navy failings and now this.  This SecDef seems to have aligned himself with DOT&E against the Navy.  I’ve got to believe that some Navy careers will quietly end soon.

Update:  Upon reading the full text of the memo, I have to say that the tone is even more severe and critical than I suggested in this post.  It explicitly states that the Navy has been heading down the wrong path for the last several years and has ignored DoD's wishes and directives.  This is as strong a rebuke as I can ever remember seeing in Washington, the land of political correctness and sensitivity.  Someone has got to lose their job as a result of this.  Look for SecNav Mabus to "voluntarily" resign in the near future.  This also confirms and validates my exceedingly low opinion of CNO Greenert.  I know it's not the Washington way but this would be a great time to clean house in the Navy leadership ranks.


(1)USNI, “SECDEF Carter Directs Navy to Cut Littoral Combat Ship Program to 40 Hulls, Single Shipbuilder”, Sam LaGrone, December 16, 2015,


31 comments:

  1. Looks like navy is arguing for 52.

    http://breakingdefense.com/2015/12/navy-fights-for-52-lcs-after-secdef-orders-cut-to-40-warfighting-vs-presence/

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  2. Why allow 40?

    IIRC from 32 on was supposed to be the FF. So we only get 8 hulls with the extra odds and ends? Are 40 already in the water/on the ways?

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  3. Also from the memo the LCS/FF "will provide a far more modern and capable ship than the patrol coastals, minesweepers, and frigates it will replace."

    The comparison between the LCS and Perry is a joke. The Perry carries weapons - the LCS is almost unarmed. Sensors don't help that much if you can't kill the enemy.

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    1. Your read the post, right? That's almost a repeat of what I wrote!

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    2. What was the threat faced by the Perrys ( who were hated when they were built as 'underarmed') and the threat faced today ?
      And since when did the SM-1 with Mk92 fcs do anything but be a self defense missile, a bit like the RAM does.

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    3. Steve, not sure what you're actually asking. Percy's faced Soviet subs, supersonic cruise missiles, etc. The SM-1 was a medium range local area defense weapon with a range of 40+ miles versus RAMA which has a range of 5 miles. Again, not sure what you're really asking?

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    4. Ztev, sorry the computer autocorrected your name and I didn't notice it.

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    5. Your spell checker is smarter than you think!
      My mistake for not making clearer that the OHP was a greater capability- for its time and mission against the old Soviet Union. That has mostly disappeared so a reduced role ship is now worthwhile- which can be upgraded with systems more easily

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  4. What was the analysis that says 40 is all thats needed ? Its a surprise to those running the program

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    1. Yeah, that was a surprise. If there really is such a study it never even got a squeak of public dissemination.

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    2. My guess is that the forty number is what Navy says it needed for warfighting. Presumably the number came from campaign level analysis (and is undoubtedly classified).

      The fifty-two number was apparently warfighting plus forward presence.

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  5. Saudi Arabia is buying 4 upgraded Freedom class ships and apparently footing the cost for the upgrades. If it was up to me, I would use the savings from the ships being cut to either upgrade as many of the unbuilt ships as possible or buy 8-9 upgraded ships (as many as possible) on top of the 40 already on order.

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  6. Just take a look at the upgraded Turkish varriant of the OHP called the G class, and see how a Perry can be up gunned.

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    1. Australia installed both a vertical box launcher for Sea Sparrow and upped the FCS to enable firing SM2 for a few of their later OHP

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    2. Heres a detailed rundown from Raytheon/NWS on the changes needed to upgrade SM1 and its FCS to SM2.

      http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2009gunmissile/7744newell.pdf

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    3. The Navy flat out stated that the Perrys could not be upgraded to operate the SM-2. That, of course, has been demonstrated to be totally false. The Navy was obviously lying in order to justify getting rid of the Perrys to clear the way for the LCS.

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  7. The bigger issue here is who runs the Defense Department? I am very concerned at the press where Navy folks or their proxies are saying we don't have to comply with this direction, and are starting the run to their sugar daddies in Congress.

    Like it or not a policy decision has been made. SecNav needs to get in line or leave, along with the Uniforms. Once you leave, you can say whatever you want.

    Congress can choose to fund the LCS shipbuilding at 52 if they want. That sets up an interesting Constitutional issue that has never been decided. Does the Exec have to spend every penny that Congress appropriates? Does the Congress get to set detailed policy, such as you will have a total of 52 ships of 2 different types of ships? I don't think the strict constitutional interpretation school of Justice Scalia would agree.

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    1. Past Secretaries of Defense have made similar decisions. Bob Gates cut production of the F-22 to 187 aircraft. Rumsfeld cancelled the Comanche helicopter and the Crusader artillery system. The LCS program should have been truncated sooner or better yet, outright cancelled and use the remaining funds on a proper Perry replacement.

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    2. Walter, what's your opinion about the wisdom of those cuts? Which ones, if any, turned out to be good/bad ideas in hindsight?

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    3. We both know cutting production of the F-22 was a bad idea. We spent almost $7 billion on the Comanche with only 2 prototypes built. The Crusader was becoming unaffordable and didn't offer much more capability over the Paladin.

      I doubt the Secretary of Defence made these decisions without the consent from the White House and key members of Congress.

      With Russia and China planning to field more advanced fighters, it would be nice if we had a few hundred more F-22's. But, I would gladly settle for a few hundred more F-15's.

      Production of the B-2 was cut to 21 aircraft and 187 for the F-22. The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 F-35A's and the Navy/Marines plan to buy 680 F-35B/C's. We both know that won't happen. I think the AF will end up with 1200 to 1300 aircraft and the Navy/Marine 400 to 500 aircraft.

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  8. I’m getting that the LCS \ SSC \ FF, or whatever set of letters we want to put to it. Was not really hacking it.

    It’s a little disconcerting because we have seen nothing but a basic set of stats from the “all new” Frigate variant who competition was fairly and duly run just a few months ago.

    Phrases about distributed lethality and Naval Strike Missile ??? or something.

    OK so we acknowledge it wasn’t working. Not even a bit. But what now ?

    Is this a statement of, we can afford over 40 “frigates \ MCM” full stop,
    Or is it simply a wrap on the wrist to the hierarchy and the contractors.
    ( which might have been better done in a quiet side room about 7 years back, with the larger of the two ‘fixing’ hammers ) ?

    I can’t help but feel slightly, that you’re inappropriately screwing your national defence over, to stop some individuals screwing over the national defence?

    Tho, im hoping proper FFG ?

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    1. "... which might have been better done in a quiet side room about 7 years back..."

      That did happen and the Navy ignored it. You'll recall Christine Fox's efforts to redirect the Navy's LCS program. You'll recall then SecDef Hagel's memo directing the Navy to stop the LCS program and build a frigate. That was ignored. You'll recall Adm. Copeman's memo suggesting that the Navy rebalance its force structure a few years ago. That was ignored. I'm sure there have been other attempts to redirect the Navy's focus over the last several years, as well.

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  9. Argle.

    This whole thing is driving me nuts. The OSD tells the Navy Sec to cease and desist. The Navy says they don't have to and go running to Congress. The LCS supporters out there go on and on about 'presence', latching on to another buzzword.

    In this things tortured development life its taken more than a decade to get off the ground for something whose mission has changed multiple times, whose weapons have been truncated, and whose mission modules barely work if at all.

    But that's all fine because its there for 'presence'. What does that even mean? Okay, we put a vessel there. So what? Paint my 16 foot runabout haze gray and put a Navy ensign on it. Does that make it good for 'presence'?

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    1. Because its a funding game show, they put some in production weapons system in series of briefcases which if Congress wants to make enough guesses they get to keep and pay for ( in reverse of the TV show, where you get the money)

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    2. The term presence gets thrown around a lot. To my knowledge - there's been no real study on whether simply "being there" has any effect on a potential adversaries choice of actions.

      It's December 2015. The world knows that the US Navy exists. There's these things called the Internet and CNN. Do we really need to show the flag like it's 1915?

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    3. "It's December 2015. The world knows that the US Navy exists. There's these things called the Internet and CNN. Do we really need to show the flag like it's 1915?"

      I couldn't agree more! I've posted on deterrence before and opined that we currently have no deterrent effect. Our "presence" hasn't stopped Russia from invading countries, China from expanding illegally, NK from committing acts of war against SK, Saddam from invading Kuwait, Syria from using chemical weapons, etc.

      What has our deterrence stopped? I guess, by definition, you can't know whether you stopped something from happening (kind of like proving the negative) but from seeing what we didn't prevent I'd have to say we haven't stopped much.

      Great comment!

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  10. One more thing...

    We laid down the Perry in 77, I believe. By '89 we had cranked out 50 odd of them.

    LCS 1 was laid down in '04...

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  11. Sucks to be in LCS shop this week.

    The annual GAO report on LCS was released today. GAO 16-201. "Littoral Combat Ship: Knowledge of Survivability and Lethality Capabilities Needed Prior to Making Major Funding Decisions."

    The very 1st line says it all. "The lethality and survivability of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is still largely unproven, 6 years after delivery of the lead ships."

    http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/674367.pdf

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  12. Relevant article from Dunnigan:

    http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/The-Chinese-Navy-Has-Allies-In-America-12-22-2015.asp

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    1. What's your analysis of what was said?

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    2. Well, he seems spot-on with "The few companies that build warships figured out decades ago that they could make more money using more lobbyists and playing politics than by concentrating on quality control and giving the best (or at least adequate) value for the money spent." However, he doesn't have any suggested solution for the problem.

      He's correct in that the backlash against too much technology all at once risks the USN becoming less technologically competitive, but he doesn't offer any kind of solution for that problem, either.

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