Friday, January 20, 2017

LCS - Not All That Fast

Arguably, the second most important characteristic of the LCS, after the modular swap capability (now abandoned), is its speed, according to the Navy.  This is the Navy’s claim despite the fact that no one seems able to come up with any practical use for the ship’s high speed.  The LCS sacrificed much at the altar of speed, as you’ll recall, paying a steep price in weight, margins, internal volume, machinery noise, and fuel consumption.  In any event, as the LCS has developed, the vessel has grown heavier and its speed and range have been steadily downgraded.  Now we see this from testing reported in the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report:

“LCS 4 failed its sprint speed requirement of 40 knots, demonstrating a maximum sustained speed of only 37.9 knots in calm waters.”

So, the much vaunted speed, which cost the ship so much, can’t even be achieved.  You’ll recall original Navy claims that suggested the top speed would be near 50 kts.  Now we’re down to 37.9 kts.  That’s a horrific price the ship paid for 37.9 kts.

To sum up, the most important characteristic of the LCS, modularity, has been abandoned and the second most important characteristic, speed, can’t be achieved ……. and the Navy wants more of these vessels!

Well, at least the ship can go fast if it ever needs to.  Kind of.  But not without problems.

“LCS 4 has long-standing problems with her ride control system hardware, including interceptors, fins, and T-Max rudders, that affect the ship’s maneuverability at high speeds. The ship also had reported recurring problems with frequent clogging of the gas turbine engine fuel oil conditioning module pre‑filters and coalescers, and found it difficult to maintain high speed for prolonged periods. The crew found it necessary to station extra operators in the machinery room (normally an unmanned space) to change fuel filters and manually control the fuel oil heaters to keep the gas turbine engines in operation during these high-speed runs.”


I repeat …….  and the Navy wants more of these vessels!

56 comments:

  1. I have yet to find any evidence an Independence variant has actually refueled at sea...

    There is several year old vid of LCS-2 alongside a T-AO but it does not show the ships tensioned up and hoses over.

    More recently, there are some still pics that suggest LCS-4 has come alongside, but still there is no evidence that any hose has been passed over...

    Why not? Are these ships too directionally unstable to safely conduct a RAS?

    And how directionally stable is either LCS variant at UNREP speed as they pitch and roll in higher seastates and those waterjets start to ventilate?

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    1. As you know, Sid, LCS 4 has refueled alongside USNS Richard Byrd enroute Singapore this past fall. Given that you and other LCS detractors claim the class can travel less than 2000nm on a tank of fuel, how would you presume that LCS made it to Singapore unless she refueled at sea at some point?

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    2. I don't know about anyone else but I deal in data, not unsupported claims. The data from the GAO report (GAO-17-262T) states that the original general LCS range requirement was 4300 nm at 16 kts. That has been downgraded to 3500 nm at 14 kts in 2009. The Freedom variant is unable to meet that requirement and is reported to have a range of 2138 nm at 14 kts.

      If anyone has more authoritative data, let me know.

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    3. "As you know, Sid, LCS 4 has refueled alongside USNS Richard Byrd enroute Singapore this past fall"

      Again Laz...

      There is zero...ZERO...evidence that either the Coronado or Independence has actually tensioned up and taken fuel from a charged hose.

      As for the Coronado, there are only some still pictures that show her alongside...not evidence at all that a hose was passed and fuel taken aboard. Show some actual pics or footage of that if you continue to insist she actually refueled.

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    4. "Given that you and other LCS detractors claim the class can travel less than 2000nm on a tank of fuel"

      Laz...I have never said that...I have only said that both hull variants are short legged due to their design attributes related to speed. Feel free to find that quote from me...Otherwise, please stop attributing statements to me that I have not made.

      Anyway, one of the things the USN has been better at than any other Navy for nearly a century is its ability to project and sustain its units across the seas. Now we see that at least a third of the "surface combatant" fleet will be filled with LCS's and LCS variants renamed as Frigates.

      So its important to demonstrate that these units can come alongside and take on fuel. As for the Freedom, we have seen she can do it (in calm seas at least):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Apn1qaze76s

      Now for the Independences, we have this video, which claims she refueled, but nowhere in the footage do we see a spanwire tensioned up and a charged hose taken aboard. Just a shotline...

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYdIQztzy3M

      And in the links that you have provided as purported proof that the Coronado actually refueled, same thing. No pictoral evidence at all of a spanwire brought over, tensioned up and hose taken aboard to fuel...






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    5. The Navy press release says an underway replenishment was conducted between Coronado and Byrd.

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    6. It does not state, nor is there photographic evidence an actual RAS occurred...

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    7. That's probably enough on this. I'm sure we would have heard by now if the Independence class could not refuel at sea. Let's drop this line of discussion.

      sid, if you come up with proof of the lack of ability to refuel, let me know. Absence of a picture is not proof - it likely means no one considered the event noteworthy enough to post!

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    8. But more to the latest DOT&E concerns about steering...

      I know, much smaller craft, etc.etc.....But I have directly observed the characteristics of small waterjet craft. They ventilate quickly and can be a bear in chop at slower speeds when pitching, especially when paired on a semiplaning hull.

      Has the USN updated it's reports on the seakeeoing trials of the LCS-2 variant yet...Haven't seen anything new since this from 2015:

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

      For the Independence variant, the Navy conducted a seakeeping and structural loads trial event on LCS 2 in January-February 2014. In this trial the ship was subject to rough water conditions up to and including sea state 6, defined as having average waves of 8-11 feet and winds of 22-27 knots. This test event—dubbed Phase 2—was following up on earlier Phase 1 testing in lower sea states that was conducted in March 2011
      and May 2012. According to the Navy, neither the final test report for thePhase 1 seakeeping trials, nor the final test report for the Phase 2 seakeeping and structural loads trial for this variant, have been finalized, despite these trials occurring several years ago.

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    9. I'm unaware of any more recent reports. I suspect the lack of official reporting tells us something about the results. We'll keep an eye out for more information.

      Good summary comment.

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  2. LCS 4 is a developmental hull. Such problems are not unheard of when lots of new equipment is grouped together on a new hull. Apparently these "problems" noted by DOT&E (who has had mistakes in evaluating LCS in the past) were not enough to prevent LCS 4 from deploying to Singapore.

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    1. >>Such problems are not unheard of when lots of of new equipment

      Interesting. Such problems are also not unheard of when the program is a technical failure whose continuation now meets standards of Fraud, Waste, and Abuse.

      Unfortunately, LCS is a failure which has mutated into a fraud.

      And the Navy's hands are very, very dirty in this affair.

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  3. The fact that the speed comes up well short is disappointing.

    While I won’t argue that the primacy of speed was ever an ambition the LCS program should have pursued, I do think speed is a valuable ability for the ship in at least two ways.

    First, speed is valuable in ASW. From my limited research and knowledge, 45 kts is sufficiently fast to make torpedoes significantly less effective. It means subs have to be much closer when they fire to have a reasonable chance of hitting the ship before the torpedo runs out of juice. Admittedly, speed is not a silver bullet in rendering torpedoes useless, but it is a useful ability.

    The most valuable scenario though is in swarm attacks. The ship’s ability to sprint at 45 kts (assuming it could actually do it) is essential in surviving a swarm attack. It effectively prevents all but the fastest small attacking boats from closing the distance on the LCS ship. The speed also helps increase the size of the wake, which makes it harder on the smaller boats as well. The same principle has been utilized over the last 15 years during roadside ambushes in Iraq. The first thing all vehicles do when attacked is sprint away from the kill box and encircle the ambush. While a single LCS ship might not have the ability to counterattack all the ships, a fast sprint speed gives it a greater chance of survival by mitigating the speed advantage on which a swarm usually depends.

    It seems more and more obvious that the compromises made in pursuit of the speed were not worth it, but I don’t think it is fair to say the projected speed would have no benefit.

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    1. "It effectively prevents all but the fastest small attacking boats from closing the distance on the LCS ship."

      Yes, in a race of the LCS away from a boat, it could maintain any lead it might have for quite a while. However, there's a couple of problems with this line of thought.

      First, the job of the LCS is not to get away. The job is to engage and defeat. At some point, that means turning and fighting.

      Second, if the LCS is running away, its main weapon, the Mk110 57mm gun, is on the bow and masked from rear firing. The 30 mm guns, IF MOUNTED, should bear but the main weapon won't.

      Third, the likely job of an LCS caught in an anti-swarm scenario is to protect a higher value ship. In other words, the LCS will likely be escorting some other ship. Turning and running will leave the escorted ship defenseless. To be an escort, you have to stand and fight OR EVEN APPROACH CLOSER!

      That wake stunt was a PR gimmick put on by the LCS program. If a swarm boat is close enough to be affected by the LCS wake, it will have long before that launched its rockets and whatever other weapons it had.

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    2. "45 kts is sufficiently fast to make torpedoes significantly less effective."

      That's true, to an extent. In littoral ASW, which is what the LCS is intended to do, detection ranges will be very short and it may not be possible to outrun torpedoes. Also, modern torpedoes have sprint speeds significantly greater than the LCS.

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    3. 1. I think all you can ask any single ship to do when attacked by a coordinated and surprise effort is survive.

      I'm not sure any single ship could be made that has the ability to win a battle most of the time when the opponent controls the terms of engagement. As designed, it can "win" by surviving the attack until the Calvary can arrive.

      2. It's true, the main gun can't fire directly rearward. But, the main gun will still be largely effective if the ship utilizes a zig-zag pattern as it flees.

      3. See point 1. If the idea was to act as a bodyguard to high value ships, it should have prioritized armor over speed. You know more about the history of the design concept, so I will defer to you on that. If the LCS tries to stay with the ship it was escorting in a coordinated swarm attack, you will have two sunken ships instead of one.

      I think the wake is a factor, regardless of past gimmicks. A 3,000 ton ship traveling that fast puts out a massive wake. When I was younger we used to jump the wake of large ships returning to the harbor in wave runners. For the larger ships it was a wall of water coming at you. At the very least small boats have to slow down. I wouldn’t put my hope for the ship’s survival on it, but it is a factor worth considering.

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    4. "That wake stunt was a PR gimmick put on by the LCS program."

      And has caused harm several times to innocent and unaware boaters in Green Bay...

      http://wbay.com/2015/09/08/naval-ship-damages-more-than-40-boats-over-labor-day-weekend/

      Not sure you can get more boneheaded and straightup "lubberly" than that!!!

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    5. "But, the main gun will still be largely effective if the ship utilizes a zig-zag pattern as it flees."

      And zig-zagging cuts the effective forward speed in half, allowing the pursuer to catch up. Given the Mk110's documented accuracy problems, the inability to fire to the rear is probably a moot point, anyway!

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    6. "But, the main gun will still be largely effective if the ship utilizes a zig-zag pattern as it flees."

      Don't count on the optically directed system-which is all there is for the 57mm gun direction- to be all that effective while maneuvering at speed...

      Especially in poor light/IR conditions.

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    7. "I think all you can ask any single ship to do when attacked by a coordinated and surprise effort is survive."

      I'm not sure exactly what scenario you're referring to but I'll assume it's the swarm. You'll recall that the LCS was explicitly designed to defeat a swarm so we can certainly ask that a single LCS ship do much more than merely survive until help arrives. It was designed to be its own help!!!!!

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    8. The main battery of LCS is NOT the 57mm gun, but rather whatever the sea frame is carrying in its modular space.

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    9. The main gun's accuracy problems are discouraging, but irrelevant. They are not caused (as best I know) because the ship is able to go fast so I’m not sure why you brought that up.

      I think the ship CAN survive (largely because of its speed), it just can't stay by the side of another ship to do it. If the ship was originally designed to act as a bodyguard to larger ships by staying put and slugging it out, they probably shouldn’t have made it out of tin foi... I mean aluminum.

      p.s. It looks like those boaters in Wisconsin realized the boat’s wake was a bit more than a PR stunt...

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    10. "It looks like those boaters in Wisconsin realized the boat’s wake was a bit more than a PR stunt..."

      Wonder how much we the taxpayers ended up underwriting Fincantieri for all that?

      And those boaters were anchored enjoying their Labor Day, until...

      They were not intent on conducting a swarm attack, so your attempted point is meaningless. The idea that the LCS wake is a useful tactical tool in a sea battle with small boats is a joke.

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    11. "The main battery of LCS is NOT the 57mm gun, but rather whatever the sea frame is carrying in its modular space."

      Come on, now. Let's be objective here. The 57 mm gun is the main anti-swarm weapon of the LCS unless it happens to have a properly armed helo aloft.

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    12. "The main gun's accuracy problems are discouraging, but irrelevant. They are not caused (as best I know) because the ship is able to go fast"

      You need to start reading some DOT&E reports. The 57 mm gun has accuracy issues. The cause is still under investigation but DOT&E reports that gun shoots short to one side and long to the other, as one example of its inaccuracies. The EO director is also reported to have problems with tracking which undoubtedly contributes to inaccuracy. The 57 mm gun has also been reported to vibrate at speed to the point of rendering the gun ineffective. These are not my opinions. These are factual problems documented in the various reports. Please catch yourself up on the reports if you don't wish to accept my reporting.

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    13. "The main gun's accuracy problems are discouraging, but irrelevant. They are not caused (as best I know) because the ship is able to go fast so I’m not sure why you brought that up."

      Ever try to shoot at something from a moving truck?

      Just one driving straight and not weaving, and not against a maneuvering target...?

      Ain't easy:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiRXkbxsavA

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    14. sid, this is not the site for arguments for argument's sake nor is the site for generic comments. If you have a specific, fact supported comment to make, please do so. Otherwise, refrain.

      I've addressed the gun accuracy issue and its relationship to ship speed in a previous comment and with specific data from DOT&E reports. That's the kind of comment I'm looking for. Facts and data that contribute to a discussion, not arguments.

      I expect a lot of readers and means that readers need to put some effort and thought into their comments. I hope you'll rise to the challenge.

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    15. Well apologies....

      The issues are basic, and some simple UNCLAS footage demonstrates that.

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    16. CNO, I don’t dispute any of the problems, and thanks for providing them. The part I am missing is how the abnormally fast speeds of the LCS can be definitively shown to be the reason.

      In a previous post I recall you saying the vibration occurs over speeds of 10 kts. If that is the case, the increased speed of the LCS compared to something like a Burke would not be relevant. Since at 10 kts, the gun would have accuracy issues on any ship.

      Is the tracking issue you mention a result of the ship doing 45 kts instead of the normal 30 kts other Navy ships are able to do?

      In other words, I am still struggling to understand the conclusive connection you draw between the ship’s speed and the main gun's inaccuracy. By your own admission, the cause is still under investigation. So what am I missing?

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    17. I think you're trying to make something complex out of something simple. The 57 mm gun is accurate in static tests (the ship not moving) and loses accuracy at speed. This is not the normal degradation of accuracy experienced by any moving/shooting platform. This was a loss of accuracy due to unusual vibration, specific to the LCS (Freedom variant - I haven't heard anything about the Ind variant), as reported by DOT&E. The additional issues of gun reliability, EO sensor tracking issues, etc. are still under investigation.

      It's that simple. The LCS vibrates excessively (likely due to the cost/weight saving decisions to go with lighter construction early in the program) and it affects the gun's accuracy. The connection is not one I've drawn, it's one DOT&E has documented. Is that clear? I don't know how to make it any simpler than that.

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    18. ah, I see the point you are making.

      Thanks for clarifying.

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  4. "The most valuable scenario though is in swarm attacks. The ship’s ability to sprint at 45 kts (assuming it could actually do it) is essential in surviving a swarm attack. It effectively prevents all but the fastest small attacking boats from closing the distance on the LCS ship."

    This has always confused me. Its not hard to make an offshore boat hit well over 40 kts. There are plenty of commercial boats on the market that hit 70mph. If Iran really wants to swarm it could buy a ton of these to do its swarming.

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    1. Jim, offshore boats that do around 40 kts will not have an advantage vs an LCS that does 45 kts. Not really sure what point you are trying to make. As I understand it, the majority of Iranian "speed" boats do 50 kts or less.

      Yes, there are commercial boats able to do 70 kts. They are expensive, must be extremely light to achieve such speeds (meaning they have no armor and minimal payload capacity), and have little chance of engaging a target effectively while traveling that fast (even in calmer waters).

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  5. I'm thinking of something like this:

    "Jim, offshore boats that do around 40 kts will not have an advantage vs an LCS that does 45 kts. Not really sure what point you are trying to make."

    I think because you mis-read me.

    " Its not hard to make an offshore boat hit *well over* 40 kts

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-fast_boat

    Something that can hit 80mph and hold 5-8 people. Maybe add less people and add a bunch of RPG's.

    We live in an age where its easy to get high HP marine engines. Sure. They are expensive, but not for a nation state. The real question is what sort of weapons can you put on it.

    Many times when I hear people talk about swarm boats they are talking about boghammers; and those I belive had recoilless rifles and mortars on them.

    If the Navy is really concerned about that kind of swarm attack the speed of the LCS really isn't an answer.

    What this really comes down to is ROI. Its *much* harder and more expensive, both monetarily and in terms of design compromises, to make a 3000 ton plus ship hit 40+ knots than it is an off shore speed boat that only has to have limited range.

    Even if they spend $400 million for a 40kt LCS to counter swarms, its too easy for Iran to spend an additional 10 million and probably get 10 go fast boats that can easily outstrip the 40kts mark.

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    1. I think I understand you better Jim.

      It sounds like we might just disagree on the difficulty of making capable swarm boats.

      The million dollar boat you suggests will not be effective in my opinion. If the hope of the swarm's success is dependent on manually firing RPG's from the bow of a boat doing 80 kts in open water, I like our chances. Anything more is going to get expensive quickly. Even equipping a speed boat with a fire-and-forget missile like the hellfire (and the necessary equipment to aim and fire it effectively) would move a single boat's cost up north of 10 million.

      Small boats can be fast. Small boats can be well armed. Small boats can be cheap. But they can't be all three at the same time.

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    2. I suppose this is where I don't get the entire swarm threat.

      Boghammers, etc. are armed with mortars and RPG's. Even if you're going 35kts in a small boat its not a smooth ride in open water. How mortars and RPG's are an existential threat to a 9000 ton 'Burke is beyond me.

      And yes, if you are going to defend against swarms I could see speed... but a tougher, slower ship might seem better suited. Something that will stick by the side of the big brother its protecting and have weapons appropriate to blowing up small swarm vessels.

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    3. Go back and review the Nov 2015 "Swarm Craft and Weapons" post to see the specific types of craft and weapons that Iran has. The main weapon seems to be rockets.

      I don't think either the Navy or Iran believes that a Burke is at great risk (an LCS probably is!) but that's not really the point. From Iran's perspective, the mere photo of a damaged, burning Burke, even if the damage is nowhere near fatal, would be a PR coup.

      Swarm craft are more of a terror threat intended to shut down the straits to merchant traffic rather than a US Navy fleet sinking threat.

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  6. In October 2015, USNI reported the Navy will drop the 40-knot speed requirement for future LCS-based frigates.

    USNI reported, "As the LCS program transitions to a multimission frigate, the 40-knot sprint speed requirement will go away to allow for more armor, more weapons, an over-the-horizon missile and full-time anti-torpedo protection, Capt. Dan Brintzinghoffer said at an American Society for Naval Engineers event."

    https://news.usni.org/2015/10/15/navys-future-frigate-will-be-optimized-for-lethality-survivability-will-not-retain-lcss-speed

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    1. Then there is no rationale to keep producing the same two hull types, as both were designed for the 40+ kt. speed requirement.

      A more conventional displacement hull would be more efficient, more capable across a range of sea conditions and equipment loadout, and cheaper to build.

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  7. What is deeply disturbing so far is that none of the promises of the LCS have come anywhere near success. Virtually everything on this ship has failed to meet specifications.

    Meanwhile, the cost explodes and the reliability is so bad that it cannot be used for any real mission against a hostile power with any capability.

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  8. Just curious, but what's the bet that further reductions in capability are going to happen?

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    1. What's left to reduce?

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    2. In order to reduce capabilities - you have to actually hold to some sort of standard. LCS hasn't.

      I predict things will get very interesting after SECDEF Mattis receives his first briefing on LCS.

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    3. Depends on who he believes - the Navy or DOT&E.

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  9. My 28 Reefs For Florida idea looking more and more prescient by the day.

    We can charge SCUBA divers admission and by the end of the year collect enough profit to pay for 1 round for the DDG-1000's main gun. Which we can eremonially fire at an effigy of ex-CNO Vern Clark (and, undoubtedly, miss).

    The Surface Fleet is on the Soviet-collapse track. Its stop to stop sugar coating the situation and get some adult supervision in the fetid and permissive money-flume to contractors that the Navy has become.










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  10. Did anyone else also catch this little gem in the quote?

    "The crew found it necessary to station extra operators in the machinery room (normally an unmanned space)"

    So, one of the selling points of the LCS was limited manning. But now they have to have someone be at a post normally unmanned. This on top of reports at how overworked the crew already is.

    Since they are already not making the speed requirements, let's dump them altogether and add about 20 tons of kevlar armor to this ship for survivablility, and turn the space for vehicles etc. into more bunks and supplies for the crew. Because in the end, the crew is worth the effort.

    As for the speed, I think the unreliability is more important than the speed. If we are going to continue to pretend this is a frigate, than the undependable turbines should be replaced with something like the LM2500 or another dependable diesel. It could be armed like a Burke but if it sits at the port all the time, it is still useless.

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    1. To be fair to the LCS program, the proposed frigate version has already announced that they are dumping the speed requirement. What that means in terms of specific equipment is unknown. Props instead of water jets? Navy standard turbine propulsion? Hybrid? Diesel? We'll have to wait and see.

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    2. "So, one of the selling points of the LCS was limited manning."

      The "limited manning" was always a lie. Yes, the crew on the ship was smaller but the requirement to have 3 crews for every 2 ships (and now 2 crews for each 1) makes the actual manning per ship much larger. Add in the required shore side maintenance that is part of the concept (the shore personnel are just crew that have been left in port to do maintenance) and the per ship manning goes up even further. Currently, the LCS is "manned" at a level equal to or slightly greater than the Perry FFGs. I've discussed this in various posts.

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    3. >>dumping the speed requirement.

      Point of order, CNO. How can one "dump a requirement" that was never met?

      The so-called re-specified "Frigate" version is an exercise in drawing a target around where the arrow landed.

      (viz. failed speed and range requirements, unacceptable seakeeping and maneuverability, etc., etc.)




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    4. I'm not sure exactly what your point is. The LCS had a speed requirement. It was not met but that didn't change the requirement.

      The frigate version will have a lesser speed requirement which, presumably, means a different propulsion system and machinery. That alone is significant since the LCS paid such a heavy price for its speed requirement in terms of weight and internal volume, regardless of whether the spec was met. The frigate version will have extra weight and volume margins to work with just due to having the lower speed requirement.

      I think the Navy has acknowledged that the price paid for the speed requirement was not worth it and is rectifying that in the frigate version.

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    5. No, CNO. (1) The new 'frigate' will be heavier. (2) The propulsion system will be the same. (3) range will be worse due to (1)

      Happy to table this discussion until the RFP hits the street.

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    6. This does not agree with anything I've read. Do you have a reference for this?

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  11. "To be fair to the LCS program, the proposed frigate version has already announced that they are dumping the speed requirement. What that means in terms of specific equipment is unknown. Props instead of water jets? Navy standard turbine propulsion? Hybrid? Diesel? We'll have to wait and see."

    I assumed (with all the dangers inherint in that word) that the dropped speed requirement for the Frigate has nothing to do with any change in powertrain, just a reflection that it'll carry more weight and thus won't be as fast.

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    1. My understanding is the propulsion system will be changed.

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  12. Dept. Blast-from-the-Past/Been-There-Done-That

    This time courtesy of an actually functional 6-hull ship-class by our French friends, designed in the early 1930s, i.e.80+ years ago:

    - 45+knots clocked during trials, while carrying her full offensive 5x 5.4" and defensive weapons-suite.

    - 1934 3500 tons French Destroyer “Le Fantasque” 6-ship Class of the early 1930s doing 45 knots with serious armament (5x 5.4” guns etc.) pushed via 75,000 - 81,000 hp steam-turbines

    For more see:
    - http://www.coatneyhistory.com/LeFantasque.htm
    and
    - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Fantasque-class_destroyer

    Several got to live some 30 years despite WW-2 duties and hazards.

    CNO, how about a brief naval-design review with fine illustrations and full specs. ??

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    1. What point would you want to see made? That a fast ship can be built? You've just demonstrated that. In addition, no one has demonstrated a tactical need for that kind of speed, especially in the modern world where 45 kts is slow compared to a missile.

      What aspect of these ships do you see as nothworthy? What lesson do you see from them?

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