Wednesday, September 7, 2016

LCS Engineering Review

The Navy ordered an engineering stand down for all LCS ships after the fourth major engineering casualty in the last year and, specifically, the two most recent engineering mishaps.  The suggestion in the order is that poor training was at fault.  Here’s what VAdm. Tom Rowden had to say,

“These stands down allowed for time to review, evaluate, and renew our commitment to ensuring our crews are fully prepared to operate these ships safely.” (1)

OK, I’m going to assume that Adm. Rowden’s statement wasn’t just for public relations cover.  I’m going to assume that it was a genuine and accurate statement.  Typically, these stand downs are 24 hours.  So, in that short period, whatever it was, the Navy and the LCS community managed to completely review the ship’s personnel, their level of training and knowledge, their competency, review all applicable engineering procedures, evaluate the entire training pipeline, and assess that the crews are fully prepared to operate the ships safely?  That must have been some busy 24 hours!

Hmm …  I’m starting to think that I shouldn’t take Rowden’s statement at face value.  I’m starting to think that maybe it was just a PR cover stunt that accomplished absolutely nothing.

But, wait, there’s more!  According to Rowden there’s more training and reviews on the way.

“I have asked the Surface Warfare Office School (SWOS) commander to review the wholeness of our LCS engineering education and training to include the testing and retraining of all LCS engineers,” Rowden said.  “This training will occur over the next 30 days and will allow the SWOS leadership to review our training program and determine if other changes need to be made to the training pipeline.” (1)

Outstanding!  The LCS engineers, who have each spent years mastering their profession and then an additional year or so qualifying for LCS engineering in the most advanced and rigorous training in the Navy, are now going to be retrained in 30 days!  If we can completely retrain engineers in 30 days, why did it take so long to train them the first time?  Again, the 30 day “training” period is a joke.

It gets better though.

“According to the service, “the required engineering training will be conducted by the SWOS’ engineering team, who will develop both a level-of-knowledge test and specialized training that will be deployed in the next 30 days to the LCS engineering force.” (1)

So, the LCS training program which took years to develop is now going to develop a completely new test and specialized training, also in 30 days.  Again, not really credible, is it?

Unbelievably, there’s still more!

“The commanding officer of SWOS is also conducting a comprehensive LCS engineering review, which will likely take 30-60 days. From there, more adjustments may be made to the engineering training pipeline.” (1)

So, the carefully crafted LCS training program and engineering training programs, developed by many brilliant people, the best the Navy had to offer, over the course of years, is now going to be comprehensively reviewed and adjusted by the commanding officer of SWOS.  If he’s that amazingly good that he can do this along with all his other duties in a span of 30-60 days, why didn’t we have him develop the training programs originally and save untold millions of dollars and years of time?  Yet again, this is pure bilgewater.

And finally,

“In addition to announcing the stand down and the retraining, the service also announced following Sunday’s return of Coronado to Hawaii NAVSURFOR sent a team to the ship “to take a holistic look at the engineering program on board. A preliminary investigation will provide an initial assessment and procedural review of the situation, and any shortfalls will be addressed quickly to get the ship fixed and back on deployment,” read the statement.” (1)

So, yet another team is going to take a “holistic” look at the engineering program.  Setting aside the buzzword bingo aspect of a “holistic” look, this team is going to provide an initial assessment, review, and corrections in an even shorter time – virtually instantaneous, it would appear!  Why do we need all the other reviews if this one can fix everything instantly?  Setting that aspect aside, shouldn’t this kind of review have been conducted, oh, I don’t know, say, when the first LCS was built?

This sudden frenzy of LCS reviews and assessments and retraining is just blatant PR attempts by the Navy to look as if they’re doing something.  It’s also an attempt to avoid being up front and honest and simply saying, “We screwed up the manning levels and training beyond belief and now we need to start over.”

Does this surprise anyone?  You cram high tech, complex equipment that requires careful care and attention into a ship that is horribly undermanned by engineers who have a hundred other duties besides engineering and then wonder why the equipment isn’t operated properly?  If this is a surprise, it’s a surprise only to the Navy.  The rest of us have seen this coming for years.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.



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(1)USNI News website, “Navy Ordered Littoral Combat Ship Engineering Stand Down, Retraining Ongoing”, Sam LaGrone, 5-Sep-2016,


14 comments:

  1. “We screwed up the manning levels and training beyond belief and now we need to start over.”

    I lean more towards the idea that the USN installed a propulsion plant that wasn't up to the rigors of military use. Much like EMALS and the AAG, Big Navy went out and procured a bunch overhype tech without the conducting the necessary testing.

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    1. That could well be and, if so, simply reinforces the idea that we need to rip out the existing equipment and start over with something more suitable.

      Right now, before we start building the "frigate" versions, is the time to make major revisions to the design and equipment selections. Sadly, it's unlikely the Navy will do that.

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  2. At this point, I think a congressional inquiry is required. What is the reliability of these plants to date? What were the major casualties? Has the cause of the casualties been determined and what corrective steps, if any, were taken? How much time are the engineers getting for basic maintenance tasks, and are procedures and supervision in place to ensure the tasks are done correctly? How much sleep are these guys getting? I can't imagine the same team that caused the problem is going to develop reliable answers to these questions...

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  3. Don't know if you've seen an article in national interest.org (think it may have been reproduced from somewhere else) entitled "US Navy's super frigate will be armed with some of the most lethal weapons on the planet".

    I was wondering what this "super frigate" was until I realized it was the "new" LCS. Then all I could think about were the various articles about the LCS here. Didn't even bother reading the rest of the article

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  4. Have you read about how the "US Navy's new super frigate will be armed with some of the most lethal weapons on the planet"?

    http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/us-navys-new-super-frigate-will-be-armed-some-the-most-17596

    Got far enough to figure out it was the "new" LCS before stopping. All I could think about were the various posts about the LCS
    here.

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    1. The Navy can make anything sound good on paper!

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  5. Darn right. Sadly, from my view point here in Singapore, we really need a strong US Navy (and armed forces). It has pretty much kept the peace and enabled prosperity for these many years.

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  6. At this point I think we need to ask if there is even an operational need that requires an LCS or light frigate, whatever you call it. The USA runs the bluest of blue water navies and the LCS just doesn't seem to fit into that paradigm.

    They could probably just cancel all future LCS purchases and no significant capability would be lost. That money could then be put into buying a larger number of destroyers. They could cancel all future LCS buys and that would probably free up enough money for a dozen more Zumwalt-class destroyers in addition to the new Burkes that are already on the way.

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  7. I am trying to wrap my head around what the Navy is doing. There have been ferries and catamarans (WestPac Express) that utilize the same exact propulsion system as the LCS's and they have been doing it for years. It is a proven technology. So what is the Navy's problem with it? I mean, seriously, those commercial ships do not have a third of the crew that an LCS does and they scoot along just fine.
    I know the Navy has unique things and task they do that civ mars do not. But aside from the warfighter aspect, the engineering systems are the same.

    Please, help me understand!

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    1. This link should be enlightening:

      http://breakingdefense.com/2016/09/lcs-troubles-may-stem-from-double-engine/

      The LCS uses the most complicated propulsion system of any non-nuclear vessel. However, despite this, it also has a very small crew. So the crew is overworked which leads to apathy and fuck-ups.

      For a long time I dismissed criticism of the LCS as just nitpicking from the usual suspects. But for once it appears the critics are right: the LCS is simply not a well-designed vessel. It is poorly optimized for every mission that as been pitched for it. The only thing that makes the LCS special is how fast it is, but none of the missions the Navy has delineated for the LCS require a 45 knot vessel.

      The only thing that the LCS might be good at is murdering vessels much smaller than itself, and it is very questionable if that task is important enough to merit a dedicated vessel. And for that task, it is still not even good. Merely passable. Mediocre.

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    2. Are you certain that there are commercial sector vessels with the EXACT same configuration? At a glance, the WestPac Express appears to use four diesel engines whereas the Freedom LCS uses turbines and diesels with a combining gear system that WE probably doesn't have, I'm guessing.

      Check a little further and tell me what you find.

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  8. LCS when is enough actually enough? Let's Call a Sinkex and dispose of these sad excuses for ahem "warships"

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  9. There is something inherently wrong with the Admiral’s statement and probably the design of the LCS.

    First, as every Navy Officer knows, the Chiefs run the Department and the Sailors on Watch or off – not the Officers. If something happened as described on this LCS, it indicates a design flaw or flaw that occurred during the construction of the Ship. It is just like the Thresher, but fortunately for the LCS crew, they were not deep underwater. The Admiral’s comments about training the Officers is propaganda for public consumption.

    I have spoken to ENC’s who retired relatively recently and they all said the same thing – the projected manning level for an LCS crew was far too low to adequately man the watches in the Engineering Department. It seems the Navy decided this time that a bunch of arm chair Engineers / Designers were smarter than the Chiefs – and now they are paying for it.
    Also, the LCS, albeit different Hull designs, is one rather odd ship. I served on a 2200 Ton DD (World War II Vintage) and a 2600 Ton Garcia Class DE. I realize weapons and search systems have changed, having been around them in post Navy Aerospace Industry days – but they are far more miniaturized then were the systems we carried. The LCS displaces around 3500 Tons – or so I read. Absent an absurd Hull Design that should provide more than enough space for a substantial number of weapons and search systems.

    The shaping of the LCS and other ships for so called stealth is needless. You can’t hide in the shallow water area, or when you are doing ASW. So what if they can hear you or see you. If you have adequate sensors, speed, and weapons systems – you want their presence so the show can proceed. That is the approach the Japanese are taking with their AEGIS Destroyers. Here we are – come get us and let’s have a contest. Every retired and active duty Chief and Officer I speak to – there are many at the gym where I exercise, agrees with the Japanese approach. The retired fighter pilots (Navy and Air Force) all say stealth is nonsense – as they say there is no stealth in a dog fight.

    Further, there is no rational need for radar stealth when Mine Sweeping or in the ASW world. Attack Subs attack merchant shipping, or they serve no purpose. You know where they are heading and they know where you are. The primary source of Surface Ship noise detectable underwater comes from cavitation and the noise of machinery. If they were worried about incoming planes or missiles which got by a duel in the EMS world, then that is why we have AEGIS Destroyers. If that capability doesn’t work there are flares or life rafts.

    So why the absurd anti-radar Stealth Design which “appears” at first glance to rob the ship of so much space for weapons, electronics, and crew quarters? And, it can’t be the space needed for the Helicopters. They are on a rather enlarged amidships and stern area where the old DASH Hangers once were – not below decks. Then there are the supposed weight problems – as with the ASW Module. A 2600 Ton Garcia Class DE carried two 5’ 38’s and ammo lockers, a Terrier Missile Launcher, triple torpedo tubes and lockers on each side, forward mounted ASROC, a 40,000 to 50,000 pound Bow Mounted Sonar Dome, a DASH Hanger and whatever surviving Drones we had, of course a variety of radars and ECM, a Fire Control Director, and tactical nuclear weapons – in my day. It seems a 3500 Ton LCS would sink carrying that amount of equipment from all their concerns about weight.

    However, I have never been aboard an LCS, so maybe their problem lies elsewhere.

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  10. When are they going to come to terms with the idea that the LCS (both variants) are fundamentally flawed ships?

    It's best to acknowledge that it is a sunk cost and move onto something that is actually useful.

    Oh and for a Perry clsss replacement, the Perry class actually do surprisingly well in SinkEx tests.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzn5L-82GdE

    I bet a LCS would do nowhere near as well.

    ReplyDelete