Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Two More LCS Ships Break Down

Now this is just getting silly.  I didn’t report on the LCS program’s latest failure, the engineering breakdown of USS Freedom which will require a complete diesel engine rebuild or replacement due to salt water in the lube oil and engine.  This occurred in mid-July.  I didn’t report on it because another LCS failure isn’t even noteworthy anymore.

However, we now learn that USS Coronado has just suffered an engineering casualty while underway from Hawaii to the western Pacific for its first deployment to SingaporeCoronado is now returning to Hawaii for damage assessment and repair.  Nice start to the deployment!

You’ll recall that Fort Worth suffered an engineering breakdown during her highly publicized attempt at deployment and sat in Singapore for months while the Navy tried to figure out what to do.  The Milwaukee also suffered an engineering plant failure and had to be towed back to Virginia.  Freedom has suffered multiple engineering casualties in its, so far, ill-fated career.  Coronado also suffered engine fires during builder’s trials in April of 2013.

These are no longer first of class issues.  These are systematic engineering failures across all the LCS vessels that have ventured out to sea.  I feel bad even talking about LCS problems because it’s like beating a dead horse – it’s just no fun anymore.

Typically, I offer analysis on whatever I post but there's no analysis needed for this.  What a waste of a program.  A lot of Navy leaders are losing a lot of credibility over this joke of a ship.

39 comments:

  1. Every now and then, I see articles in the news about the latest yachts being created for the ultra-wealthy. I wonder if the Navy could sell off the LCS's to a shipbuilder who would convert them into luxury yachts, thereby recouping at least some of the taxpayers' money.

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    1. First good suggestion I've heard for what to do with the LCS !

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    2. No Russian oligarch would be caught dead on a converted LCS super yacht. hehe

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    3. Either that or convert them into museum ships.

      The problem is that in the civilian world, results matter much more than they do in the military. There's fewer opportunities for corruption to reign over quality.

      People should have listened to Eisenhower's warming about the military industrial complex.

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    4. We could stop making them, give the ones built to the coast guard, and start making modernised perrys again.

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    5. @Andrew:

      I'm honestly getting to the point that I don't think we should 'just start making' anything right now, unless we do it correctly. No concurrency. Lets define a mission first. We might not need a Frigate per se. A cheap, lightly armed combatant might be fine in an age where we have what, 70 'Burkes?

      But we shouldn't do anything till we define mission and create a rational design to fit the mission.

      If we do that maybe we can even execute it quickly.

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    6. I agree. Lack of clear, defined roles and reliance on unproven tech is whats killing the lcs, along with the rest of the navy's projects.

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    7. @Andrew S

      The Coast Guard needs reliable ships as well. That would simply not work out.

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  2. I honestly saw the second breakdown and thought to myself "this is old news, I read about the Freedom yesterday". Nope, just another ship.

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  3. I don't know if I should laugh or cry... We are still buying these ships when we haven't figured out what to actually use them for. Except for giving more junior officers a chance to get a sea command punched on their ticket.

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    1. well,
      Most commanders given command of one of these puppies seem to lose their career over another blown up engine, they're probably trying to avoid them like the plague.
      But your points well made. This has the air of the absurd about it.

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  4. The analysis of these events is how to re-introduce performance feedback into the Navy Leadership.

    CNO is responsible to provide to the Fleet capable ships and crews. NavSea is tasked to design said ships for the CNO. The Fleet is to take these ships and crews and make sure they operate them in the designed manner. SecNav is responsible to make sure that the leaders he nominates do their jobs.

    So the jury is still out as to whether the Fleet operated the ships correctly. I think they did in the case of Coronado, but not in the case of Freedom. We do have to be fair and find out the root cause.

    Bottom line a lot of highly paid people in positions of responsibility are NOT DOING their jobs. When is the SecNav, CNO, Cmdr NAVSEA, PEO LCS, CO LCS Squadron, whatever Fleet Commander, etc. going to get canned and REDUCED in Rank for gross negligence?

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  5. I don't mind a small surface combatant. I don't mind a small, single purpose surface combatant designed to mainly civilian standards for the sake of affordability; like the Flower class, if that is what we truly need.

    But here we have a ship with Civilian build quality; a large, hideously complex engineering plant, and few native weapons or working modules, all in search of a need they can fill.

    Sheesh.

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  6. "A lot of Navy leaders are losing a lot of credibility over this joke of a ship"

    But they won't lose their jobs. In fact, they'll be rewarded with positions at LM and Austal upon retirement. The people who foisted the LCS on the USN really DGAF about the future of the Navy.

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    1. This. So long as senior USN leadership can look forward to cushy jobs after retirement, it will go on.

      That's the really sad part. The US has basically institutionalized corruption in the military the way you'd expect some third world authoritarian society to do so.

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  7. Does anyone actually know what went wrong on Coronado? USNI seems to be saying basically "lightning in propulsion gears". Never heard of that before...

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    1. USNI reported, "The ship is operating under its own power with a speed restriction of 10 knots, two sources familiar with the casualty told USNI News."

      And, "The statement provided to USNI News indicated the root cause is unknown, but the two sources said crew members saw electricity arcing around the Vulkan shaft and coupling system that routes the output from the ship’s General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines and MTU main propulsion diesel engines to the ship’s waterjets."

      https://news.usni.org/2016/08/30/lcs-uss-coronado-suffers-engineering-casualty-returning-pearl-harbor

      Doesn't sound like a minor repair.

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  8. I really like the concept of the LCS. The actual product needs a bit of tweaking, though. Damen is offering an alternative known as the Crossover series that I think deserves a serious look at. There are several different versions that could be made, and while they are larger and slower than the current LCS they seem more heavily armed.

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    1. "The actual product needs a bit of tweaking, though."

      A strong, strong candidate for understatement of the year!

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    2. "Damen is offering an alternative known as the Crossover series that I think deserves a serious look at."

      Why?

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    3. "I really like the concept of the LCS."

      Your credibility just took a serious hit!

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    4. Another option would be the Holland-class offshore patrol vessel, also made by Damen.

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  9. Part of the problem is that people look at the LCS and they expect it do be some kind of mini-destroyer. Not so. The LCS is functionally a replacement for the cyclone-class patrol boats as well as the avenger-class minesweeper. The large flight deck and aviation hanger of the LCS allows them to support land operations to a far greater degree than previous patrol vessels. They can launch UAV's and helicopters. They can carry Strykers. They can deploy rafts out the back.

    In terms of armament, the LCS only needs to be able to repel an attack from smaller water craft. And with a 57mm and hellfires, it should have no problem with that. They can even attach two 30mm guns on top of the aviation hanger if additional swarm defense is needed.

    The mechanical issues are frustrating, but they're not a deal-breaker.

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    1. "Part of the problem is that people look at the LCS and they expect it do be some kind of mini-destroyer. Not so. The LCS is functionally a replacement for the cyclone-class patrol boats as well as the avenger-class minesweeper."

      You're engaged in the after-the-fact fact manipulation that LCS supporters so often do. The LCS failed so you're trying to change the "facts" so that failure becomes success.

      To wit ... The LCS was built to replace THREE classes, not two. It was built to replace the Avenger MCM, the Cyclone PC, AND THE PERRY FFG. So, given that a frigate (the Perry class) IS A MINI-DESTROYER, people are correct in expecting the LCS to be a mini-destroyer.

      More proof, if you don't recall the original LCS plan: the LCS build was 55 vessels. Given that there were 12 Avengers and 12 or so PCs (depending on how many PCs were in commission in the Navy at the given moment), that's only 24 ships. If we consider the LCS to be a one-for-one replacement for those classes (and it was never intended to be that), that leaves 31 replacements for the 71 Perrys that the Navy had. That's a 1 for 2 replacement ratio of a vessel that has only a tiny fraction of the capability of the Perrys.

      Setting aside the inherently flawed logic in expecting 31 LCS to equal 71 FFGs, the LCS was intended to have the NLOS system which was to be its main weapon. That, of course, failed and we're left with a frigate replacement that barely qualifies as a Coast Guard vessel.

      So, now we've disposed of the inaccuracy in your statement. Go back and read the original documents. Don't change the facts after-the-fact!

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    2. Stryker? What are you talking about? I guess a Stryker can be loaded on an LCS but it can't be unloaded except at a suitably equipped port. I'm missing your point.

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    3. "In terms of armament, the LCS only needs to be able to repel an attack from smaller water craft."

      Really? Well, that's great news. I was afraid that an enemy would attack an LCS with whatever ship, aircraft, or missile they happened to have handy. It's a relief to know that they won't attack with anything other than a "smaller water craft". I incorrectly assumed that if an enemy missile boat, corvetter, frigate, or destroyer attacked an LCS that the LCS would have to fight back but if an LCS can only be attacked by smaller water craft then I completely understand why the LCS has such meager armament. This is very good news!

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    4. Why do we need a mini-destroyer? We have enough actual destroyers. I understand that people EXPECT a mini-destroyer, but they are wrong. Such a vessel would not be particularly useful for the US navy because unlike other navies, the USN has a large supply of real destroyers (which are much larger than the destroyers most other countries have). The point of the LCS is to handle jobs that don't require a destroyer.

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    5. Think of it this way. You can have an LCS operating off the coast of Africa somewhere, supporting special operations forces with supplies, helicopters, UAV's, etc. From the LCS, SEAL teams can be inserted by raft and extracted via helicopter, or vice versa. These are activities which have great importance to counter-terrorism operations, but it would be a waste of resources to have a destroyer assigned to these activities.

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    6. Also, the Stryker was just an example. The LCS has enough space to carry all sorts of useful stuff.

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    7. "The LCS has enough space to carry all sorts of useful stuff."

      If it can't deploy it, it's of no use.

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    8. "The point of the LCS is to handle jobs that don't require a destroyer."

      You're doing it again. You're changing the story. You stated that the LCS is a replacement for the MCM and PC and that was incorrect. Instead, you're trying to change to a debate about the role of the LCS. Own it and move on.

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    9. "supporting special operations forces with supplies, helicopters, UAV's, etc."

      That may or may not be a valid use for an LCS but it certainly wasn't what the LCS was designed for. It was designed for MCM, ASW, and ASuW. The LCS has, so far, failed utterly to be what it was designed to be. Whether it can be salvaged by coverting it to some other role remains to be seen but do not try to rewrite history.

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  10. As a total outsider (Australian), it seems to me that if the USN wanted to replace PBs and MCMs, it could have done it much more quickly and easily with dedicated designs. Appropriate designs probably already exist (though they may not be of US origin).

    If the USN needs frigates, then design new or adapt an existing frigate design. The LCS clearly is not a frigates bootlace!

    The LCS simply looks like a jack-of-all trades, master-of-none.

    As an aside, the RAN is in the process of deciding upon a new frigate design, 9 of which are planned. The choice is down to 3 designs - the Italian FREMM, an adapted hull from our still-building Hobart-class DDGs, or the still non existent Type 26 from Britain. The great shame of it is that US couldn't offer a design. The RAN had great success operating 6 Perry class frigates and I think that the RAN would have favored a US design had one been available. LCS was never a consideration. Export opportunities lost big time...

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    1. "The LCS simply looks like a jack-of-all trades"

      There's the problem. The LCS is NOT a jack-of-all-trades. It's a jack-of-none. The basic seaframe has virtually no combat capability and there are, as yet, no functional modules that add any worthwhile combat capability. In fact, the only supposedly functional module is the anti-surface and it adds only two 30 mm machine guns, a rubber boat, and a helicopter. That's not exactly high end combat!

      If the LCS were actually a jack-of-all-trades, it might have at least some value.

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    2. The LCS is specialized for conducting operations in areas with shallow water. So while it can perform multiple different mission profiles, the hull itself is optimized for operations within the littoral zone, hence the name littoral combat ship.

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    3. "the hull itself is optimized for operations within the littoral zone"

      This is the myth upon which the LCS was originally sold to a Congress and public that lacked critical thinking. For example, the Freedom class LCS has a draft of 13 ft and a Burke has a draft of 30 ft. What tactical operation can be performed in 13 ft of water that can't be performed in 30 ft?

      The LCS was sold on its ability to go into shallow water without ever explaining what tactical operation would be performed in that narrow band between 13 ft and 30 ft.

      If you know of such an operation, share it with me!

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  11. Can we return them? Get ones that do work from a better company? Sometimes things I have brought from the store have had issues or didn't work properly, when I have taken them back to the store I have been able to get a refund.

    Has anyone asked what their refund policy is on goods that aren't fit for purpose and don't meet contractual requirements?

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    1. On the off chance that you're asking a serious question as opposed to a humorous observation, the answer to a refund is that once the government accepts delivery (after builder's trials, acceptance trials, and various inspections) there is no return. By performing the trials and inspections and formally accepting delivery, the government is on record as stating that the ship has met all contractual requirments. Return policies, even in stores, is not a right - it's just a courtesy that the manufacturer voluntarily elects to offer the consumer. The underlying fact is that once we pay for an item in a store, it is ours with no return option unless the manufacturer chooses to offer such.

      In the case of a ship, the manufacturer offers every opportunity for the military to examine the ship, operate it for a period of time, inspect it, and otherwise assure itself that the ship meets all requirements. From the manufacturer's point of view, having offered all that opportunity to evaluate the product and having been formally told that the ship meets all requirements, why would the manufacturer then offer a return? The blame for this lies 100% with the military for having accepted a flawed product instead of insisting that the ship meet all requirements before acceptance.

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