Monday, January 23, 2017

LCS-2 Variant Update

The Freedom (LCS-1) variant of the LCS has been quite well documented.  By comparison, the Independence (LCS-2) variant is much less known, at least publicly.  The DOT&E 2016 Annual Report sheds some light on the Independence variant.  Here are some of the findings.  All quotes are from the report and any emphasis is added.

The Sea Giraffe radar was found to have detection and tracking limitations.

“…the Navy-conducted non-firing radar tracking events against subsonic ASCM drones, the Sea Giraffe radar provided LCS crews with only limited warning to defend itself against ASCMs in certain situations.”

This illustrates the world of difference between manufacturer’s brochures and reality.  All of you who are so ready to jump on board foreign equipment based on the amazing claims by the manufacturer would do well to keep this example firmly in mind.  The only reason foreign equipment sounds good to us is because we don’t have access to actual test data for it.  If we did, we’d see all the same problems that plague US and Navy systems.

Closely related, the electro-optical detection and tracking system was found to suffer from substandard performance.

“The test events demonstrated that SAFIRE was unable to provide
reliable tracking information against some targets. Furthermore, the safety standoff requirements on Navy test ranges were so severe that they precluded meaningful live-fire gun engagements against these targets. Because of these problems and constraints, the program decided to cancel all subsequent live-fire events, including those scheduled for operational testing, conceding that the Independence variant is unlikely to be consistently successful when engaging some LSFs [Low Slow Flyers – meaning, helos and small planes] until future upgrades of SAFIRE can be implemented.”

More specifically, regarding SAFIRE,

“The ship’s electro-optical/infrared camera, SAFIRE, is the primary sensor for targeting the 57 mm gun. The system suffers from a number of shortcomings that contribute to inconsistent tracking performance against surface and air targets, including a cumbersome human-systems interface, poor auto-tracker performance, and long intervals between laser range finder returns. These problems likely contributed to the poor accuracy of the 57 mm gun observed during live-fire events, though the root cause(s) of the gun’s inaccuracy has not been determined definitively.”

The ship’s electronic support system (ESM) which provides direction finding and emitter detection and classification was also found to have problems.

“The ES-3601 [ESM system] detected the presence of the ASCM seekers in most instances but did not reliably identify certain threats.”

LCS-2 Variant

Surface warfare was a problem.  The Navy conducted 7 ASuW test events in which single boats were engaged and the ship was required to defeat the threat before the boat reached a prescribed range.  The ship failed to stop the boats in 2 of the events.  This is disturbing for a ship that was designed to defeat swarms.  The inability to consistently defeat single boats under ideal and unrealistic conditions does not bode well for the ship’s ability to successfully engage swarms.  Here’s DOT&E’s comments.

“The 57 mm gun demonstrated inconsistent performance even in benign conditions, which raises doubts about the ship’s ability to defend itself without the SUW mission package installed. The inaccuracy of the targeting systems, the difficulty in establishing a track on the target, and the requirement to hit the target directly when using the point-detonation fuze combine to severely impair effective employment of the gun, and limit effective performance to
dangerously short ranges.”

LCS-2 and LCS-4 were assessed for operational reliability and found to have problems in several areas.

“LCS 2 was unable to launch and recover RMMVs on 15 days because of four separate propulsion equipment failures involving diesel engines, water jets, and associated hydraulic systems and piping. These failures would also have limited the ship’s capability to use speed and maneuver to defend itself against small boat threats.”

“LCS 2 experienced multiple air conditioning equipment failures and was unable to supply enough cooling to support the ship’s electronics on several occasions. One or more of the ship’s three chilled water units was either inoperative or operating at reduced capacity for 159 days (90 percent of the period).”

“LCS 2 experienced failures of critical systems such as the SeaRAM air defense system (four failures and a total downtime of 120 days), the ship’s 57 mm gun (inoperative for 114 days), the SAFIRE electro‑optical/infrared system (inoperative for 25 days), and the Sea Giraffe radar (multiple short outages)  …  many of these failures left the ship defenseless against certain threats for days at a time.”

“Similar to LCS 4, LCS 2 experienced several Ship Service Diesel Generator failures during the period …”

“A Mobicon straddle carrier failure left the ship unable to conduct waterborne MCM operations for a period of 4 days until a  technician could travel from Australia to diagnose the problem and make needed adjustments.”

This demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the conceptual maintenance design which relegates all repairs to shore side.  This flaw surfaces many times in the DOT&E report where failures are unable to be repaired by the ship’s crew.

“Failure of a power conversion unit that supplied 400-Hertz power to the mission bay deprived the ship of MCM mission capability for 20 days while the ship was in port undergoing repairs. The ship also lost the capability to supply 400-Hertz power to the aircraft hangar, where it is needed to conduct pre-mission checks on the MH-60S and AMCM systems. The Navy never determined the cause of the near simultaneous failures of the two power conversion units, although technicians considered them related.”

“The mission essential equipment for conducting SUW on LCS 4 had poor reliability, with a failure that caused a partial loss of capability approximately every day and a complete loss of mission capability every 11 days on average. Based on these failure rates, LCS has a near-zero chance of completing a 14-day mission (the length of time LCS can operate before resupply of food is required) or a 30-day mission (the length of time prescribed by Navy requirements documents) without experiencing an operational mission failure.”

“LCS spent 40 days of the 136-day test period with one or more engines inoperative or degraded.”

“LCS 4 experienced numerous instances in which the flow of navigation data (heading, pitch, and roll) to the combat system was disrupted for short periods, which disabled the Sea Giraffe radar and the 57 mm gun and degraded SeaRAM’s performance.”

“SeaRAM, suffered from poor reliability and availability before, during, and after operational testing aboard LCS 4. Failures caused seven long periods of downtime (greater than 48 hours) between
May 16, 2015, and June 18, 2016. Each repair required the delivery of replacement components that were not stocked aboard the ship, and most required assistance from shore-based subject matter experts. These failures left the ship defenseless against ASCMs, and would likely have forced it to return to port for repairs if it had been operating in an ASCM threat area. In addition, the SeaRAM aboard LCS 4 had five short (less than 5 minute) outages during live and simulated engagements against aerial targets, each of which might have resulted in an inbound ASCM hitting the ship. The SeaRAM aboard LCS 2 has also suffered from several long-lived failures.”

“The ship’s ride control system, used for high-speed maneuvering, did not appear to be fully functional at any time during developmental or operational testing in FY15 and FY16.”

The DOT&E report contains much more.  You can read it if you’re interested.

The discouraging aspect is not the widespread problems and failures (well, yes it is).  Those are to be expected in a new ship class, especially a class built by yards that had little or no naval construction experience and attempted to utilize and integrate so many new technologies and vendor equipment that the Navy had no experience with.  The discouraging aspect is that, given the expected nature of the failures, the Navy opted to commit to a full production run before the first ship was even built.  That philosophy took us from one prototype to 50 some failures.  So many LCS supporters fail to understand this.  They see the LCS as worthwhile due to its [in their eyes] potential while failing to recognize that that unrealized potential is actually failure when applied to 50 some ships.  It’s that failure multiplied by 50 that so upsets LCS critics.  If the Navy had built a single prototype, no one would care whether it had problems.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, the Navy essentially built or is building 50 failed prototypes.  Even if no further problems are found and every existing problem is miraculously solved tomorrow, all the built and under-construction ships will have to be rebuilt to incorporate the fixes.  Remember what that’s called? – concurrency.  That will double the true acquisition cost.

Worse, all this discussion is before we even get around to talking about the modules and their failures.  It’s looking like many LCS will serve a significant amount of their service lives without any module.


  1. >>If the Navy had built a single prototype, no one would care whether it had problems. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Navy essentially built or is building 50 failed prototypes

    Well said.

  2. The new Navy paradigm of building prototypes of its new LCS class of warships, Flight 0 'seaframes', the first four, two of each class, costing $billions, doesn't seem to be working.

    Before the up to 50% max. shock trials of LCS6 Independence version the Navy had to rebuild the 'seaframe'.
    1) Repaired missing and undersized foundation welds,
    2) Strengthened some bulkheads where heavy equipment was attached.
    3) Replaced some existing bolts with higher strength material.
    4) Replaced some rigid pipes with flexible connections.
    5) Added cable slack in some locations
    6) Rerouted some ducts and pipes and modified ship structure to increase shock excursion space around equipment.
    Additionally they removed equipment, including the 57 mm gun, the Tactical Common Data Link antenna and racks, the navigational radar.

    Post the shock trial contract was placed for LCS 6 to enter shipyard for repairs.

    For LCS 5 Freedom version the last shock trial was curtailed by Navy as was it was planned at two thirds maximum, its assumed the Navy thought that seaframe would be damaged beyond repair.

    I don't see any other world navy following the new paradigm of prototypes established by the USN if lessons cannot be learned.

  3. I almost hate to ask, but did the 'Burkes ever go through DOT&E testing?

    Given the rate of failures of products both foreign and domestic, What kind of testing has been done for Aegis? And how often does a 'Burke or Tico go out without key systems functioning?

    If that number is high, is that just the nature of having a Navy with high tech equipment? Or is it isolated to the USN?

    I guess my assumption was that when a Navy ship deploys, most of its key combat equipment is either functional, or will be within a reasonable period of time (within the transit time it takes to get on station). I'm not so sure anymore.

    And, given the advances of recent missiles, I wonder if anybody's AAW suite is effective any more.

    Would a new major war at sea end up being like the opening stages of WWI where our tactics and equipment get hosed by new technology?

    1. I don't know what specific testing DOT&E did, if any. DOT&E was pretty new when the first Burke was built. DOT&E was established in 1984 and got its first director in 1985, as I recall.

      Beyond that, INSURV is intended to be the "test" group that determines whether ships are ready to deploy. As you know, after a number of high profile failures, the INSURV process was changed and classified. The public now has little information about ship maintenance and readiness.

    2. The Burke's were more a evolutionary design. They used the basic engineering plant of the Spruance and Tico and the Aegis system of the Tico.

      When doing all new designs you need more experimentation and testing.

      But what is sad is that the Spruance, Tico, and Burkes got much more land and sea testing then the LCS.

      The earlier ships had land based engineering test site to test the engineering plant and both land and sea based testing of Aegis.

  4. "The public now has little information about ship maintenance and readiness."

    Which, coupled with extended deployments, is REALLY FREAKIN' OMINOUS.

  5. I just fear that we have tons of SPY radars with standards out there that may not be able to handle something like a klub in its supersonic sprint when its operating correctly. And we have 0 idea if its operating correctly.

  6. Its well to remember
    LCS-1The construction contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin's LCS team (Lockheed Martin, Gibbs & Cox, Marinette Marine, Bollinger Shipyards) in May 2004.
    LCS-2 'The contract to build her was then awarded to Austal USA of Mobile, Alabama, on 14 October 2005 and her keel was laid down on 19 January 2006' lead contract was General Dynamics.

    This was back in the era when the idea of concurrency was king in the Rumsfeld Defence department. eg USS Ford intial contract was issued in 2005, F-35 SDD was awarded in 2001.

    What has baffled me is that usual reliable main and sub contractors were able to further contract out to 3rd tier operators , eg the LCS gearboc contract went the the reputable RENK swiss marine gearbox concern, who then sub contracted the actual gears to a polish company.

  7. Is there a viable alternative FFG being looked at for replacing the LCS?

    1. I don't believe so. The new 'small surface combatant' is a recooked LCS. I've not seen much in terms of solid details as to what that involves.

      To be fair, the Navy at this time doesn't believe it needs an FFG.


  8. Senator McCain's white paper for the navy

    1. Do you have a point to make about it?

    2. I believe the navy needs a high low mix of weapons platforms. In this article McCain is calling for a smaller carrier , light attack aircraft and a real frigate . I know McCain is not a fan of the LCS.

    3. The challenge with a hi-lo force structure is making the lo end affordable for peacetime work and still useful in war. How would you do this?

    4. When the military sets a specification for a trainer aircraft perhaps they should expand the concept for a role as light attack as well. McCain also wants a new frigate design. But perhaps it should be designed for ASW and less multi role. Perhaps the Navy and Coast Guard could acquire the same hull with weapons sensors and modifications for each service's role. A CONOPS should be set in stone for any low end platform having usefulness in peace time and in war.

    5. "Perhaps the Navy and Coast Guard could acquire the same hull with weapons sensors and modifications for each service's role."

      That's laudable and, on the face of it, logical but look at what happened when we tried to make one aircraft, the F-35, with specific modifications for the AF, Navy, and Marines. How would you prevent a repeat of that?

    6. The F4 Phantom was a unique aircraft in that all threes services used it. However the F35 has sophisticated stealth, radar, sensors, communications, and a software package that seems to be evolving. Then the Marines needed a Harrier replacement, the navy needed the aircraft to be a carrier capable( a larger aircraft for flight characteristics while landing on a carrier) and the Air Force has the F35A without the STOL and carrier capability.
      The ASW frigate does not need to be a Burke with regard to sophistication and both services could write a CONOPS for their version.

    7. The ASW frigate may need improved acoustic signature reduction over the Coast Guard version.

  9. Again taking advantage of your flexibility on off-topic posts ... here is an interesting article from the Mises Institute currently posted at ZeroHedge ... when it comes to waste and corruption involving the U.S. Navy it seems past is prologue:

    1. I'm fine with the flexibility but please don't just post a link by itself. Add some value. Give your opinion or take on it. Add some insight. Thanks!

    2. I sympathize with the article, but unfortunately economic calculation doesn't quite work in defense like in markets.

      Instead of trying to fit defense to markets, we should fit defense to the overarching model that markets, science, and evolution works by.

      As Karl Popper says, in evolutionary biology, the trail-and-error method "appears to be the only means of progress."

      So while we want to inject skin in the game and correct incentives, that's hard in defense. A good first step is to inject trail-and-error into management that allows for optionality.

      Of course EVM requirements on MDAPs forces a lock-in to long-term plans. As Reis said in 1964: "Every program or project must be minutely planning from the beginning. The future holds no uncertainties, or if it does, they must be anticipated and treated as certainties."

      Here's a longish quote from Peck and Scherer, 1962, showing how ballistic missiles really got developed - trial-and-error:

      “There remained, as General Schriever noted, one critical problem – re-entry of the warhead into the atmosphere – about which little physical knowledge existed When ballistic missile warheads re-enter the atmosphere at speeds up to 20,000 mph, shock waves with temperatures of 15,000F or more are generated. But just how these shock waves were formed, how they behaved in contact with various physical shapes, and how the tremendous temperatures would react with materials in a shock wave environment were all unknown. In this respect Atlas was a “scientific” project. Even then, however, it turned out that the re-entry problem was resolved by [engineering] activities before a complete [scientific] understanding existed. The Jupiter IRBM nose cone problem was solved largely in an empirical manner. It was known from theoretical calculations that the nose cone had to resist certain general heats and shock waves. Guided by test data on rocket throat temperatures, one material after another and one shape after another were tried in the exhaust blast of a rocket engine until the most successful combination was found.

      "This nose cone illustration reflects a broader set of technical problems typifying advanced weapons developments. Fundamental scientific knowledge about the environments within which new aircraft, guided missiles, and space vehicles must operate has frequently been lacking during many developments of the 1950-1960 era. For example, science has yet to provide sufficient understanding of how objects behave in various supersonic and hypersonic environments to predict fully the problems which will be encountered in flight. All too often, these problems do not become apparent until a prototype vehicle is test-flown unsuccessfully. Then isolating the problem requires lengthy trial-and-error testing in which scientific theory may be of little assistance.”

  10. "A Mobicon straddle carrier failure left the ship unable to conduct waterborne MCM operations for a period of 4 days until a technician could travel from Australia to diagnose the problem and make needed adjustments.”

    What is so special about a straddle carrier that the ship's crew couldn't fix it themselves?

    1. I doubt there was anything special about it that prevented repair. Remember that the conceptual foundation of the minimal manning idea is that ALL maintenance will be deferred until pier side. That means there is insufficient crew available to dedicate people to prolonged repair efforts - they're needed to stand their normal watches. There are no spare parts. There probably isn't much in the way of comprehensive tool sets. The ship probably doesn't carry user manuals since they won't repair anything.

      In short, there was likely nothing special about the problem - repair is just not part of the conceptual design of the LCS.

    2. I hope the lessoned learned is have the skills on board to maintain mission critical equipment. A 4-day gap in MCM operations could be disastrous.

  11. Presuming the LCS TBEC and Mobicon straddle carrier chosen as lowest cost option by GD/Austal to standards / specifications set by the Navy.
    An example of modern commercial tech available that makes the LCS crane look historic.
    Ulstein contracted 24 Jan. for a Construction Support Vessel (CSV) with a Dynamic Motion Compensated Gangway system, mounted on an integrated tower with height adjustment and a personnel/cargo lift for walk-to-work transfer of personnel and cargo for wave-heights up to 3.0 metres, sea state 4+. Additionally the CSV features a 3D-motion compensated crane with 6t lifting capacity.

    "LCS 4 completed six mock Missions of State during the 2015 test period requiring the launch and recovery of two 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs). Although the ship demonstrated the capability to meet Navy requirements for the timely launch of two 11-meter RHIBs to support effective Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure operations in Sea State 2 (0.5 metre) and below, the time needed to recover the boats aboard ship often exceeded the Navy requirement because of problems with the surface tow cradle and the twin-boom extensible crane (TBEC). Testing revealed operational deficiencies and safety concerns. Observers reported that flaws in the design of the surface tow cradle used in conjunction with the watercraft launch, handling, and recovery system and other problems limit safe launch, internal movement, and recovery of boats to Sea State 2 and below. The cumbersome multi-step boat launch/recovery process has several “single points of failure” – including the surface tow cradle, TBEC, the Mobicon straddle carrier, and a forklift – that increase the likelihood of delays and the possibility of mission failure. The failure of any of these components can halt boat operations and could leave a boat stranded at sea, which happened once during operational testing."

    1. To generalize your excellent comment, the Navy is far behind the commercial state of the art in cranes, in general. Our shipboard cranes pale in comparison to what's routinely used commercially.

  12. A most excellent post. Reminds me of Armen Alchian's work in the 1950s for RAND. He said:

    “The insurance principle of diversified investments in development is superior to the principle of developing and procuring one flexible weapon."

    "Research and Development decisions are those of the Chef, who concocts new dishes and plans a menu of available alternative dishes, from which the Gourmet at a later time has the privilege of choosing in light of his tastes, companions, and income. A good Chef provides a broad menu – thereby assuring the Gourmet the opportunity to make the best selection. The difference between the Chef and the Gourmet must be kept strictly distinct. To confound the two is as disastrous in the military as in the restaurant business.”

    He goes on:

    “We, therefore, must recommend the development of a menu of several alternative weapons – guaranteeing that ignorant or malevolent critics will be able to show that a large majority of them were “useless” and “wasted” millions of dollars – but assuring ourselves flexibility in order to have safety and economy with optimal weapons in actual use."

    1. An excellent comment. I had not heard that initial quite before.

      Analogous to the distinction between chef and gourmet, we must also maintain the distinction between R&D and production, which we have failed to do and have paid an immense price for having so failed.

    2. I wonder whether Thornberry really thinks bringing back the DDR&E steps in that direction. I can't imagine so.

      Another bit Alchian writes shows his appreciation for the precautionary principle when discussing the role of systems analysts:

      “Little boys and matches neither logically nor inevitably lead to fires, but the probability is distressingly high, if it’s your boy and house.”

  13. With low end ships, is there sense in the short term, of the USN following what the RN has had to do due to budget constraints and have ships 'fitted for', but not 'fitted with'? An example of this was where the woefully armed T45s were fitted for Harpoon but are only now getting Harpoon as some of the T23s are going out of service. Not an ideal option by any means, but would allow for initial costs to be lower.
    Lean manning is not a new concept but with LCS it does seem to have been taken too far. If a crew cannot maintain the ship at sea in peacetime what on earth is going to happen to the ship, and more importantly the crew, in war time when someone has knocked several holes in the ship in the middle of the Atlantic and serious numbers of crew are then having to perform damage control as well as fighting the ship etc. You cannot square that circle.

    1. "serious numbers of crew are then having to perform damage control"

      The Navy's concept for the LCS is that it is not designed to survive a serious hit but only to stay afloat long enough for the crew to get off. This is not my opinion, this is the Navy's statement. They recognize that the crew can't perform effective damage control and that the ship is not optimized for survivability (too few compartments which leads to susceptibility to fatal flooding). Their logic is consistent with the minimal manning and low survivability. Whether it's wise to consider a half billion dollar investment to be a throwaway vessel is highly debatable, of course.

    2. "ships 'fitted for', but not 'fitted with'"

      That's a horrible idea!

      When a war starts, you'd have to recall all your ships for days or months while you frantically retrofit them with missing weapons, assuming you had enough weapons to outfit them (and if you did, why don't you just fit them; and if you don't, the ships are useless for their intended purpose). Is it likely that the enemy will obligingly wait for a few months while you bring your ships up to speed?

      Peacetime is a time for training. If you don't have weapons and sensors fitted, what are you training with? The obvious answer is you aren't training. When war comes, even if you then get the missing equipment, you'll be untrained on how to use it both mechanically and tactically. That's a recipe for defeat.

      Bad, bad idea.

    3. CNO I do not disagree with anything you have said, it is just the way that the RN has had to operate for the last 15 - 20 years in order to get the totally inadequate number of hulls in the water that we have owing to the short sighted politicians and the spineless senior officers who haven't stood up to them.
      Both countries seem to have forgotten that peer opponents are not going to give you an even break, that there will be casualties both in terms of personnel and equipment. If you do not have a suitable force mix you are going to lose high class assets on low class tasks. All too soon we forget the lessons of history. We seem to have forgotten the lessons of the Falklands war and it appears that someone should have sat the LCS designers down and made them watch the destruction of HMS Sheffield, HMS Antelope etc until they had got the message about survivability.

    4. I ask this as a serious question: how does the RN think they'll suddenly fit the missing equipment onto their ships when a crisis arises if they don't have the equipment on hand now? Where will this missing equipment come from? The U.S.?

      If you have a better understanding of RN thought, let me know what they thinking is. I'm genuinely curious!

    5. I have no way of knowing but past experience across all three services would suggest that there would be a raft of Urgent Operational Requests (UORs). These UORs would depend on the capacity of our defence industry to deliver, and/or the willingness of our allies to provide. In the meantime there will have been unnecessary casualties due to not having appropriate up to date kit. After that there will be,I'm afraid to admit, the oh sh*t moment when the powers that be have to go cap in hand to you to ask for help in closing the capability gap. We now have so few ships that if we were to lose a couple, especially the Type 45s we would be up the proverbial creek with no way back.