Consider the example of the Perry class frigate, USS Stark (FFG-31), which was hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles in 1987. The initial hit caused 37 deaths and 21 injuries. Only heroic damage control efforts by the crew kept the ship afloat. Follow up interviews and reports made it clear that the number one attribute that saved the ship was the size of the crew - the number of bodies available to conduct damage control for an extended period.
Here's a list of the crew size for several surface warship classes, expressed as the ratio of crew to ship displacement - in other words, how many crew per ton of ship. The higher the number, the larger the relative crew size.
Perry FFG, 205 crew, 4200 t, 0.049 crew/ton
Burke DDG, 281 crew, 6900 t, 0.041
Ticonderoga, 400 crew, 9800 t, 0.041
Intuitively, one might expect the ratio to be a constant; the expectation being that it takes a fairly constant number of crew per ton of ship to operate the ship. Indeed, that appears to be the case with a constant ratio of 0.04 crew per ton of ship.
By comparison, here's the LCS core manning.
Freedom LCS, 40 crew, 3000 t, 0.013
That's a 67% drop in relative manning! Admittedly, modern automation has reduced the crew requirements but that's still a huge drop. One cannot help but wonder about the impact of such a drop on maintenance and fatigue levels. Sure enough, the Navy acknowledged that the crew size was too small and has increased the core crew to 60 which gives the following,
Freedom LCS, 60 crew, 3000 t, 0.02
That's still half the traditional relative manning. One is still left to wonder about the impact on combat operations and damage control. There just won't be enough sailors to absorb combat casualties and conduct effective damage control. Perhaps that's one reason why the LCS is not built to be survivable - because the Navy recognizes that the crew is insufficient to fight the ship and conduct damage control? Still, treating a half billion dollar (or more with modules) ship as a throwaway is not exactly being fiscally responsible, is it?
|Crew Size - More Important Than the Navy Realizes|
Zumwalt DDG, 142 crew, 14500 t, 0.01
That's 75% lower than traditional and 50% less than even the beefed up LCS! Yikes! Zumwalt will be the least manned ship in the fleet. As with the LCS but even more so, one wonders about the ability of the crew to conduct combat operations, absorb casualties, and conduct effective damage control. Does the Navy view a $4B, 600 ft, 14500 ton cruiser as a throwaway like the LCS? Did the Navy really learn a lesson from the LCS, or not?
Now, let's be fair - the Navy may well increase the manning of the Zumwalt as they did with the LCS but let's also be fair and acknowledge that a one minute thought exercise about crew size would point out the absurdities of crew size this small.
In a peacetime world with no possibility of combat or damage, manning could be significantly reduced with no negative impact. Merchant ships run with very small crews, for instance. However, there's no such thing as peace - the Stark has hit during peacetime, as was the Cole. Warships, as the name implies are built for combat and are always a moment away from combat and damage even in peacetime.
The Navy needs to start recognizing that they aren't a business trying to turn a profit. They're a combat organization that doesn't lend itself to analysis by spreadsheet. Come on, Navy, learn the lesson and man up!