Sunday, July 21, 2013

They Were Expendable ... But Not Any More

Expendability is a time honored characteristic which impacts tactics.  Commanders trade expendable units for mission accomplishments.  In WWII, the naval commander was willing to trade F6F Hellcats for enemy units (in a favorable ratio, of course!) because he knew that he could replace the lost aircraft.  The ability to spend units, wisely, imparts tactical freedom and flexibility.  Conversely, the few fleet carriers available early in the war had to be carefully conserved and committed to battle only when circumstances offered the possibility of significant gain or the necessity to prevent significant loss.

In modern times, we’ve seen that the B-1 and B-2 bombers have been used only very sparingly and only in low threat environments while the B-52 continues to be a workhorse.  It’s understandable because we can’t replace any lost B-1’s or B-2’s and they represent a huge investment.  We can’t replace B-52’s, either, but they don’t represent much of an investment.

Expendability boils down to two closely linked characteristics:  cost and producibility.  A unit is expendable because it can be easily and readily replaced.  A unit can be easily and readily replaced because it is cheap to build.  Unfortunately, the Navy has lost sight of the value of expendability.  Currently, the Navy has few, if any, units that could be considered expendable.  Even our aircraft, at $150M or so each for the JSF, are no longer expendable.

I’ve touched on this before:  excessive cost leads to excessive caution.  No one wants to risk a major fleet unit in a minefield, restricted passage, or near-shore engagement.  I’ve read multiple reports on Navy wargames and they are strikingly similar in one respect:  no commander will risk his major units.  This was one of the main driving forces for the original LCS concept.  Wargames demonstrated that an expendable vessel was required for the clearing operations and near-shore operations that the wargamers refused to allocate to more expensive units.  Hence, the birth of the LCS.  Unfortunately, along the way, the LCS became far too expensive to be expendable and its value, in that respect, was lost.

The Navy’s current unwillingness to conduct amphibious landings from a near-shore (inside 25-50 miles) position is a reflection of the risk-averse attitude derived from the excessive cost of the units involved.  By contrast, in WWII the Navy routinely operated destroyers a thousand or so yards offshore during amphibious landings.  They were willing to accept the risk of counterfire because the destroyer was expendable – we could always get more.

Consider the Navy’s primary surface ASW platform, the Burke DDG.  Does anyone really think the Navy will risk sending multi-billion dollar Aegis ships, the backbone of the fleet, to conduct incredibly risky ASW warfare against non-nuclear diesel subs?  It’s even unlikely that Burkes would be committed against nuclear subs other than in the course of escorting carrier or amphibious groups.  If that’s the case, one has to wonder about the usefulness of placing ASW capabilities on Burkes – but that’s a topic for another time.

When one considers the small size of the fleet relative to the requirements imposed by a major war (China) combined with the total inability to replace losses (reserve fleet of only seven ships and new construction times of several years) the Navy’s risk aversion not only is understandable, it’s inevitable.  The tactical boldness of WWII, fortified by the expendable nature of most of the ships of that time, will probably not be seen again in modern naval combat unless cost trends can be reversed.

The point is that not only is the fleet slowly pricing itself out of existence, as we’ve discussed previously, it’s also pricing itself out of usefulness.  What good is a fleet that the commanders are unwilling to commit to combat out of fear of losses?


  1. I strongly agree with the sentiment of this article and offer a couple of other points.

    Our Navy has become a as much a victim of success, as a victim of out of control budgets - both factors have created a force that became significantly more risk adverse over the 25-years I served.

    The time is coming when the country will be challenged upon the high seas, and if we expect to prevail, we will have to accept the reality that sailors are going to die, ships are going to be sunk, and aircraft shot down.

    Yes, the fleet needs "low mix" forces, but more importantly it needs a serious injection of fighting spirit and focus on combat readiness.

    1. Anon, I love your comment about the Navy being a victim of its success but I'd like to hear more about what, specifically, you mean by that. Please tell me more.

      Your observation is correct - that ships and planes will be destroyed in war. I've posed the question repeatedly, where will we get replacements in a usable time frame given that we have no reserve fleet and new construction times are measured in years?

    2. Success: I hesitate to call it strategy, but our post WWII principal is to support freedom of navigation. We have been enormously successful in achieving that goal and have come to take it for granted. Now, war at sea has become almost unthinkable. Our post-cold war military strategy is not completely thought through with implications for force structure and training.

      For example any ground campaign will have to be sustained from sea. Since an enemy will likely defend/destroy harbors, and mine beaches and approaches - after gaining sea/air/space control, we need MCM forces, modern landing craft, ships that can actually land on a (cleared) beach to disgorge the initial supplies, and the ability to rapidly construct an artificial port complete with cranes, POL, and warehouses to support the astronomical logistics required by a modern ground forces.

      Since we have de facto conceded any "in stride" breaching of sea mines we have discarded any idea of opposed landings. This in turn means that we have de facto conceded the cheapest means of NSFS (15-21 cm guns, and 160-203 mm rockets) as impractical, as well as landing heavy fighting vehicles like tanks and self-propelled artillery. We have embraced light forces in spite of clear experience from Russia, and Israel that tanks and artillery are key tools in urban warfare. We now propose to build "sea bases" 50-250 nm from shore, and conduct vertical envelopments. The English Channel saved the UK in WWII, and the Taiwan Strait saved Taiwan from the PRC. Our ability to provide logistical support for even a regiment at 50 nm, let alone 250 nm is questionable. I am not criticizing sea basing, or vertical envelopment, or light forces, but when you limit your force structure, and doctrine, you make it far easier for the enemy to effectively counter your operations.

      This in turn drastically affects national strategy. I scoff at the idea that: we no longer need heavy forces; that no one will use nuclear, biological or chemical weapons against us; or that we will never do an opposed amphibious landing. Assaulting Baghdad in chemical protective suites put paid to the myth that “we will never have to fight in a chemical warfare environment.” And what would we do if it became necessary to introduce land forces into Iran? The alternatives appear to be unfeasible. Nothing tempers bad behavior like having both capability and will to take the fight into an opponent’s house.

      Replacement ships: I think that that is a part of the broader issue of the collapse of the American ship building industry. In spite of enormous borders with our two largest trading partners, 95% of our trade (incoming and outgoing) travels by sea. If we cannot build ships and operate commercial carriers for the bulk of our trade; then we are no sea power. Solve this issue and you will fix many others.

  2. Excellent discussion of the impact of more and more expensive ships. However address the root cause - ship costs. I have pointed out the following while working on several of the Navy's newest (and most expensive) ships. Where are the Navy'[s best and brightest System and Production Engineers? Navy engineering and production experts have a proven history of:

    Putting coal fired steam plants on wooden ships.

    Building solid iron floating turrents (monitors)

    Building a ship a day

    Putting a controlled nuclear reaction on a ship designed to sink

    Throwing a missile form underwater, getting it to ignite (not explode), orient itself, and hit the continent (now city) that is it aimed at from halfway around the world.

    Figuring out how to build a ship sections upside down, to increase worker productivity, and then right them and get them to connect correctly.

    The Navy should be looking at what drives the cost of shipbuilding and apply some of the same drive and professionalism that past generations have shown, to drive costs down.

    Col Boyd figured out how to make a very effective (maybe the best?) fighter (F-16) less expensive than its predecessor (F-16) and successor (F-22). He did it by only putting things in the aircraft that contributed to it being an excellent fighter.

    Having worked on these ships I know there are dozens of ways to make them cheaper, but the institutional Navy does not want to hear it. NavSea only wants more budget, and that is what is driving more expensive ships.

    1. Anon, I've addressed ship costs repeatedly in various posts and comments. Many factors impact costs: concurrency, poor design, lack of mission definition, over emphasis on technology, overuse of MilSpec, simple waste, etc. However, the single biggest factor, I believe, is volume and I address it in this post. To be honest, though, without seeing a detailed breakdown of costs, I can only speculate (though highly intelligently, with logic and data, so I'm undoubtedly correct!). Read it and tell me what you think.

    2. Good prior post I had not seen that one.

      However it only addresses the volume argument. Given that we will NEVER have a large enough volume in warships to really drive the total cost down (remember overhead is calcualted as a percentage of costs so wall you do is bring the unit costs down not the totoal cost), we have to address OTHER cost drivers. That is my point.

      One of the recent CNOs hit on a way, but never implemented it, standardizing parts. How many different types of 3 inch 25 HP pumps does the Navy need? Why allow the DDG-1000 to use the MT 30 Rolls Royse engines vice teh LM 2500? Why let LCS use BOTH the MT-30 and LM2500C engines?

      To continue on just this one theme, the Navy will always be a small customer (at least until WWIII) so standardize and DICTATE standard parts that have been proven to work. Allow new parts to be become standard ONLY AFTER they have been thoroughly tested in static shore and research ships and training and spare costs are quantified. Then mandate their use on ALL new ship classes.

      I don't know all of the ways to reduce cost, but I know that with the proper leadership, the Navy has good people on the deckplates that can find the ways to reduce costs. I know that saying jsut let us build more with and increased amount added to the ship building budget is not going to bring the total ship cost down

    3. Anon, YOU HAD NOT SEEN THAT ONE?!? Each and every post is a gem of literary genius. Most readers assemble these posts into books that they carry with them at all times.

      OK, getting serious again and just to clarify, my contention in the volume post was not to build more ships with more funding (isn't going to happen) but to build more smaller, simpler, limited function ships (two for the price of one Burke - that kind of logic) for the same budget.

      Standardization is a great topic and it illustrates one of the (many) negative consequences of farming out ship design to the manufacturer instead of performing design in-house (I assume you're aware that the Navy no longer designs ships?). The Navy largely loses control over equipment selection. I'll say it again, the Navy needs to get back into the design business.

      How much does the lack of standardization (or any other factor) contribute to the cost of a ship? Who knows, without being able to see an itemized breakdown of costs? As I stated, I believe that volume is far and away the number one factor. Just out of curiousity, which factor do you think has the most impact?

      Good thoughts! Now get back to reading ALL the older posts! They're dripping with wisdom.

    4. I agree with your volume posting but upgrading existing ships must be done in a very hard headed manner.

      “”””Also, upgrade existing ships. Shipyards don't have to just build new ships, they can rebuild existing ones. Instead of early retiring good ships, let's drastically upgrade them. It will still be way cheaper than new construction and will provide more work for the yards and more projects for the yard's costs and profits to be spread over.””’

      Yes fixing older systems and adding some new systems to make the ship more effective can be cost effective, however ‘drastically upgrading them” can be a very slippery slope to high costs.

      Its like old houses, old cars, old aircraft, fixing them enough to allow them to be used turns them into a “beater”, not pretty but effective, fixing them enough to allow them to be used and then adding some new features and a new coat of paint can also be a good use of money. But avoid any drastic upgrades and rebuilding since that often very expensive, especially when new standards are applied to the work and the law and regulations often require new standards be applied. Sure totally rebuilding a old car might be fun, it might have sentimental value, it might give you a great car but its going to cost a lot of money especially when paying someone by the hour.

      Not saying that old ships should not be upgraded, the Spruance’s for one were a good candidate but watch out for the slippery slope to very high costs and be prepared to wave some rules and standards especially new ones if you want to save some money.

    5. DJF, you are correct that we need to be realistic and wise about applying upgrades but when done intelligently they can provide many more years of worthwhile service life. You're probably aware that most ships are retired well before their service lives are reached? That's just wasting assets and money.

      Think about the monetary aspect, in particular. Suppose we build a ship with a 20 year design life for $1M (simple, unrealistic numbers for easy discussion). At the end of 20 years we build another ship with a 20 year life and $1M (adjusted for inflation). But, if we take the first ship and retire it at 10 years then we have to build a replacement, say another 20 year ship at $1M. That means we've built two ships in the 20 year period that should have only seen one ship and the total cost was $2M for that 20 year period. We've doubled the cost of shipbuilding because we've retired the ship early. Well, the Navy is doing exactly that with all the early retirements.

      No reasonable upgrade comes anywhere near the cost of new construction. Consider the Perry FFGs. The Australian Navy did a comprehensive upgrade on them (when we said it couldn't be done) that reportedly cost around $100M. That's very expensive but compared to the billion dollar new construction cost for a new frigate, it's a small fraction of the cost and the result is a "new" frigate with modern capabilities and many more years of useful life. The point is that what's considered high costs for an upgrade are peanuts compared to new construction costs.

      We early retired the first five Ticonderoga Aegis CGs that had the arm launchers instead of giving them an upgrade to VLS. The upgrade probably would have cost around $100M but compared to the multi-billion dollar cost of new ships that's a bargain! Plus, we'd have five more ships in the fleet instead of a fleet that's five ships smaller.

    6. The Adelaide upgrades always intrigued me. They seem like capable little ships, though it took the Aus Navy a long time to do the upgrades, and they might not get much use out of them according to their plans.

      Could we do it with our existing OHP's were the LCS to go down in flames? And how many years would we get out of them?

      I've heard that the OHP's were worn out, but in what way? Is the hull girder wrecked through corroded parts or cracks? Or is it an accumulation of so many broken systems on the ship that to fix it would cost hundreds of millions per ship to come up with a group of ships that would only last a few more years?

      Were the Adelaides in better shape when they got upgraded?

    7. Jim, I'm with you in that the Perrys have always intrigued me as reasonably capable ships that could be upgraded to get more life out of them.

      You'll recall that the Navy removed the missile launchers, claiming that they could not fire SM-2s. Well, the Australians are launching SM-2s from that launcher so that's untrue.

      The Navy claims that the ships are too worn out (whatever that means) to continue to serve even with an upgrade and, yet, they continue to serve with foreign navies and we're planning to sell the Perrys that are currently being retired to other navies. Are the other navies too dumb to know that the Perrys we're selling them are moments away from spontaneously sinking or is this another misleading statement from the Navy?

      The Spruances were sunk (SinkEx'ed) to avoid becoming competion for the, then, new Aegis ships. People wanted to upgrade the Spruances so the Navy sank them to eliminate the possibility. Similarly, the Perrys are being sold off to eliminate the argument that they could be upgraded as an alternative to the LCS. Can't upgrade what you no longer own!

      Think about the whole situation of the Perrys and LCS logically and see what conclusion you come to.

  3. I think that nearly from top to bottom our military acquisition is just broken. Part of the problem, IMHO, is vendor consolidation. Part of it is the (insane) decision to let the vendors design the ships (oh, that's the $2.00 bolt that works fine. Don't use that, we want to sell the Navy the $15 specialized bolt that needs the special tool we build...). Another part of it is just that (apart from the LCS) we seem to have lost the idea of an attrition unit that is limited in cost with a decent, but not godlike set of abilities. Something akin to a WWII sub. Finally, I think that military construction has gotten so horribly political. The congolmerates design the hardware, lobby Congress for the designs, and spread the manufacturing out to touch as many districts as possible.

    What's the solution?

    A) The Navy has to have an internal come to the Lord discussion and start defining a mission, then *The Navy* designs the ship around that mission. (this is the most important step, IMHO) Part of that religious experience will be a new found faith in discipline. 'No Admiral. The new Frigate won't be able to launch supersonic nuclear tipped shells from a 5" gun...'

    B) The government needs to have a seance with the ghost of Hyman Rickover every time they have a meeting with the builders; and let Hyman haunt them every time the builders try to tack on more time or expenses to the contract due to builder error.

    C) Work hard to play up the bravery of the fleet to the public, and let them know that its a DANGEROUS JOB where people WILL DIE if there is a shooting war. This sounds odd, but it has a dual effect. One is to let people know that their foreign policy choices have costs beyond what it takes to put fuel in a ship. Another is that if they decide to make that choice, they are mentally girded against casualties.

    D)Work like hell to try to recruit more people toman the fleet.

    E) If you retire a ship, but it in reserve. Rebuild the reserve fleet. It doesn't have to be what it was in the 50's, but it has to be there. Now that the DDG 1000's are only going to be a class of 3, wouldn't it be a nice option to have the Kidd's and the Spruance's back and maybe do a limited SLEP on them?

    Oh, and

    F) Cancel the LCS. Find something else. I'm a fan of the 'built for but not with' frigates built on Burke hulls, but I'm open to suggestion.

    1. Jim, good comments! Love the Rickover seance idea.

      When you talk about manning the fleet do you mean certain specialties or redistributing personnel? The Navy has plenty of manning - in fact, they're actively trying to reduce numbers as a cost savings measure.

      To be perfectly fair to industry, most of the construction delays and cost increases are the Navy's fault through the practice of concurrency, as described in this post. This is not to absolve the manufacturers of all responsibility especially as it relates to quality of workmanship. They have produced some shoddy efforts, indeed, but they are not the bulk of the problem and we need to recognize where the blame really lies.

      I'm not a fan of the Burke based "frigate" because it will probably be far too expensive to be built in the numbers required for a frigate, even with the "for not with" approach. Why don't you find some cost data for existing Burkes and take a stab at estimating the cost of what you propose and then report back to us? I'd love to see a logical cost estimate for such a ship since it seems to be a popular choice among readers.

    2. The problem with your first bullet is that the Navy tried to increase the number of people it has in house after the early DDG 1000 and LCS fiascos. However, they made a decision to hire young inexperienced people to grow the workforce. This means that the mushrooms are going to grow a a new bumper crop of mushrooms. The Navy has to be forced to bring in acquistion folks with integrity and experience.

      For example, when told that the latest release of software had 5% of requirements failing when tested at lower levels AND 10% of requirement not tested at all, the senior Government person did not find anything wrong with that at all and refused to stand for dealying system testing until the requirements passed or were at least tested. This kind of person CANNOT improve the Navy Ship Acquisition Force.

    3. Anon, you cite the example of incomplete or failed software being accepted. DOT&E is the group that is charged with testing and evaluating Navy weapon systems. Their testing is thorough and their reports are blunt and factual. The problem is that they have no enforcement function. The Navy routinely ignores their findings and bypasses their testing requirements. DOT&E can only test, report, and advise. They cannot force the Navy to act (or not act, as the case may be). It is 100% Navy leadership, at the highest levels, that is making the decisions to accept incomplete, non-functional ships, planes, and weapon systems. This is not a case of one untrained or unqualified person in the procurement department making a poor decision - this is a systematic philosophy of acquisition that is pervasive in Navy leadership at the highest levels.

  4. As to fleet manning... I'll paraphrase a quote from one of my favorite podcasts: I'm a fan of the Navy, I've never been in. So my opinions are just gathered by conversations with vets and from my reading. But...

    My point about manning was mainly seaman to actually staff the ships. I don't know the precise needs; I guess I always figured there was some sort of version of Bupers around nowadays that analyzed what the Navy needed to staff what it had or was planning to have (Is that in NAVSEA now?). The reason I said to get more people is that the Navy seems to be on a kick to automate things, and part of the reason is that I've read they've been running 'short staffed'. I'm not against automation per se; but I'd like to see a couple of test ships (use the current LCS for that purpose maybe) to see that these ships can actually do what we want. Until then, work like heck to man your fleet properly.

    1. Jim,

      The Navy is short-staffed, as you put it, in the fleet but it's been a voluntary and conscious decision on their part. In fact, in order to achieve the short-staffing, they've actively separated personnel from service for the last several years. There is no shortage of naval personnel. The lean manning is completely a self-inflicted attempt at cost savings that has failed miserably. The Navy is currently attempting to transfer more personnel back to the fleet but still in insufficient numbers.

  5. Anonymous:
    I didn't know that. I live in Michigan and my family and friends have extensive experience in the auto industry (foreign and domestic). To some extent this is a similar problem to what some of the Korean automakers faced in the 90's. You have to build that engineering staff from the ground up. Its not easy. Its not a short term project. You end up with false starts (anyone remember the Hyundai Nubira?)It is 100% worth it. Off the top of my head to kick start it you could try to bring in some 'old' knowledge from the Navy (anyone around who designed the FFG's? Spruances?' as consultants to educate the young crop. Borrow some ppl maybe from different industries (Hey, quality control person working at the Camry design studio in California, want a new interesting job?) that are experienced not necessarily in ship building, but very experienced in complex product manufacture and development. We've tried the 'Let LockMart/Austal do it' approach and its not working out for us. Though admittedly it appears at least a good chunk of that is that LockMart/Austal is trying to adapt to the 'Mission Requirement of the Year'

  6. Finally the Burke Frigates (Burkates?)...

    I will look at that! That sounds like a great project. Though I'm having a heck of a time trying to find the pricing data so far. I'll keep looking. My basic thoughts are:

    * You already have a Hull designed to level III standards already in production. So no design/tooling costs there.
    * You already have a powerplant in common with many other ships in the fleet. So you save money on maintanance/logistics cost.
    * Its big (admittedly, maybe too big. But isn't steel cheap and air free? And I think it could do a Frigate job.)
    * It has lots of room for a Frigate for future growth (Though I don't know about electrical runs, etc. That may kill that ability).
    * You have plenty of room for Helicopters.
    * You could use existing OTS technology. Do they still make the towed array used by the OHP's? Use that instead of the more expensive on on the 'Burkes.
    * You could install a VLS. But if thats expensive, what about quad Harpoon packs (I still think they used those when they remade the Kidd's for the Taiwanese navy).
    * Use existing torpedoes
    * Do they still have Sea Sparrow packs that can fit on deck? Use those. If not, maybe we are back to a VLS. But they already install those on the Burkes.
    * Use the RAM's already used by the freedom class
    * Use

    *Air search radar... I don't know what's in production. But there has to be something that can do a decent job but not be a SPY series.

    My assumptions on cost savings are (feel free to start shooting) before I can check it out and report back are:

    The Hull and weapons systems are pre existing, and by this point almost COTS. They might not be the most capable things in the world (is anyone else concerned about the age, speed, and ability of the Harpoons vs. almost every other naval missile) but its capable enough and oceans better than what is on the LCS. It can keep up with the fleet and operate on its own in a limited threat environment, with a weapons loadout not unlike other Frigates in other navies. And there isn't any money being spent on whizbang technology.

    I bow out and await the shredding. ;-)

    BTW, great blog. I really enjoy reading it.


    1. Jim, I'm glad you enjoy the blog and hope you find in informative.

      As a starting point, the cost data for the Burkes is in various GAO, CRS, and DOT&E reports that are all readily available on the Internet. Let me know if you can't find them and I'll dig out the specific references.

      The LCS represents a lower end cost data point and the Cyclones represent the very lowest end. From those three data points (Burke/LCS/Cyclone) you should be able to extrapolate a reasonable cost for a "frigatized" Burke. Keep firmly in mind what a frigate is, though. It's a low end, AFFORDABLE, ship that is a compromise, at best, in all its mission areas. Trying to pack a ship with nearly all the weaponry and capabilities of a Burke is a sure-fire way to kill affordability and, hence, numbers of ships which is critical for a frigate. Good luck!

    2. Thanks! I'll start there and look it up. I do have 2 kids under 7, so it might take me a bit.

      I agree about the Frigate. My idea for a Burkate is to basically try to take Frigate level tech off of other ships and transfer it to a Burke Hull. My hope is for a ship that would leverage COTS technology used on other NATO ships with an existing hull. It would be a compromise in alot of ways.

      Its main mission, like the OHP's or the Knox's would be shipping protection through ASW; with some limited anti air (Sea Sparrow, or maybe just RAM) and ASuW (Harpoon). It would have a decently robust hull in the Burke.

      What I really worry about is that the LCS doesn't have a very robust hull, and its mission modules seem to be just flat out failing. Despite that they are going to have to fill frigate roles, amongst other things, because the frigates are going away.

      A good place to start might be to pick a top end price that the navy could afford for 50 units over the next 15 years and work backward from there. Maybe take what the Navy is saying the total cost of the LCS program will be for 52 hulls and apply that to any frigate replacement program I imagine.

      Given what we've seen with foreign frigates and their (at least claimed) prices, I'd think we could get a better ship than what we are getting for the $350 million/copy LCS (sans mission modules, no less).

    3. Jim, where did you get $350M for an LCS? It hasn't been that since the very early days. The current price is around $500M for the bare hull with govt supplied equipment (electronics, sensors, radar, weapons, computers, etc.) probably running another $200M-$300M. Throw in a module for $100M or so and you're starting to push $1B. You might want to review the relevant GAO, CRS, etc. reports. They price and contract structure info in them.

      You'll quickly see that the LCS is WAY too expensive for the capabilities it has.

    4. Gentlemen:

      Why can't we do a one year long selection process to purchase a already designed, built and operated foreign frigate/corvette? S. Korea and the Europeans have many fabulous choises at reasonable cost that could be leased to be built in the USA.

      Secondly, I could see a future fleet of cruisers (land strike w/ cannon and missiles - ASurW - ABM - AAW - little to no ASW), destroyers (ASW - AAW - moderate ASurW - little land attack), frigates (limited in everything but numerous) and replacements for the existing Cyclones and a lots of a new anti-mine warfare class of warship (limited AA).

      I would not have built the Ford at this time, rather continued with another Nimitz or three. The submarine fleet and the Gator Navy seem in reasonable shape, although the number of hulls is lower than I'd like. Lastly we desperately we do need to increase our sealift by one third. What say ye?

    5. Oh, and cancel the LCS at the five? ship built/laid down. Just stop the madness. And I have no idea what to do about the JSF. THAT one IS too big to be canceled and we have nothing else to go forward with. Range & payload are very disappointing.

    6. "Jim, where did you get $350M for an LCS? It hasn't been that since the very early days."

      Well, you're absolutely correct. In short I was trying to be nice to the Navy, because in the thoughts running around in my head, and in my conversations with those in or just retired, I've been pretty harsh. My numbers came from here:

      "The Navy so far has awarded contracts to buy 10 ships of each variant, and the price of each ship will decrease over time, Mabus said. The first ships cost $439 million, while the last will cost $350 million."

      But even as I wrote it I didn't have any faith in that number.

    7. SteveCT9, the idea of selecting and building a foreign design frigate appeals to you, huh? I think it appeals to everyone. As a thought exercise, why don't you turn your proposition around and examine the reasons why the Navy doesn't that and tell us what you come up with. Are there valid reasons for not selecting a foreign design? If so, what are they and could we deal with them. Tell us what you come up with.

    8. Jim, you noted that Mabus claimed that subsequent ships of the LCS class would cost substantially less. Bear in mind that everyone (including the Navy) makes this claim for every ship class and the savings never materialize. Subsequent ships of the class (any class) are always more expensive.

    9. "examine the reasons why the Navy doesn't "

      Hrm... I'll take a flyer:

      A) A desire to keep Congress happy by funneling money to Defense Contractors. (This is a bit weakened by the fact that the contractors don't mind going to other countries, like Australia). Also, those defense contractors are now super pros at lobbying; and they don't want to build under license at partial profit what they could build by themselves at full profit.

      B) Logistics. An Israeli frigate or a German Frigate may have a whole host of things that are not common with the rest of the fleet. From electrical connections and current loads to engines and radars, you may be creating a separate supply chain just for these ships. Making them fit into our supply chain might mean a half redesign that nullifies the cost advantage. (Again, kind of weakened by the decision to make a two ship LCS 'class').

      C) NIH. Not Invented Here. The idea that something invented elsewhere doesn't fit nicely into our strategic plans for the fleet.

  7. One non sequitor question for those out there...

    I've heard it said that the Standard has a secondary anti surface ability. We have quad packs of Harpoons that are deployed on ships, trucks, etc. for anti ship duty. But they tend to be longer ranged and slower.

    It seems that they might be too slow for a ship that we want in tight environments (the littorals), where they might face opponents who have supersonic missiles and where ranges are going to be shorter.

    Is there any possibility that the Standard could be modified, similar to the way that the sparrow was modified to the Sea Sparrow, to serve as a medium/short range supersonic AShM? Maybe deployed in a quad pack that could sit on the deck?

    I guess what I'm getting at is that in times of tight budgets it might be cheaper to lean on existing technologies to fill needs, albeit imperfectly. Instead the military seems to go more along the lines of the 'revolutionary change'.

    If they could develop something like this (cheaply) it would go along way towards making cheaper ships like the LCS have some more punch in their intended area of operations.

    1. You could, but you need to develop an over the horizon targeting method since the SM2 Standard uses the ships radar to illuminate the target

      The latest version of the Standard the SM-6 is suppose to have its own active radar but I assume its optimized for air targets not ships but maybe it can be used.

    2. Standards have been used in the anti-ship role, however, the Standard missile uses a blast fragmentation warhead which is not really effective against ships though it would do a nice job against exposed electronics and whatnot. You'd need a new warhead to get any ship-killing punch. A Standard would be effective against very small craft but that wouldn't be very cost effective.

    3. Commander:

      But if you knock out the warning and targeting radars on even the Russian battlecruiser and she can only fight with visually laid gunfire (and ASW systems of course). Three or four Standard SSMs hitting the superstructure should riddle the arrays and comms, perhaps even the bridge. Interesting idea.

    4. Another brilliant idea shot down in flames... ;-)

      Sorry if I get to sound repetitive. I just think that in the coming budget era the Navy is going to have to get creative about leveraging existing technology to fill gaps as much as possible. Or by taking existing ships and doing what you can to keep them effective.

      Your example of keeping the first five Tico's is a great example. Or not sinking the Spruances. Heck, I'd be happy to have the Kidd's sailing under a US flag.

    5. SteveCT9, you may be overestimating the impact of a fragmentation warhead on a major warship. The impact is just shrapnel and the vast majority of it would be relatively harmlessly expended on structural steel. The Russian battlecruisers (Kirov class, I assume you mean) have lots of older style radars which use "mesh screens" which are mostly air. Shrapnel would do relatively little damage.

      Having said that, there's nothing wrong with using Standards in anti-ship mode; any hit is a good hit. Remember, though, that every Standard launched in anti-ship mode is a Standards that is lost for AAW work, its primary function.

    6. Jim, your point that the Navy is going to have to change paths in light of the coming budget problems is right on point. The easiest and most economical way is to keep the existing ships for their full service life. Bizzarely, the Navy seems content to ride the shrinking fleet path right down to zero as long as they can continue to build new ships, no matter how few. If you haven't already, read this post on The Altar of New Construction.

    7. I wonder if you could take a smaller missile and give it a slightly hardened warhead so it would burrow then explode.

      Don't the Taiwanese make an AShM that is relatively small, can be fitted on a deck, and is supersonic?

      Part of my concern is both the lack of missiles for the LCS. But another part is the general lack of missile ability in the US Navy. The Harpoon is getting old, isn't deployed as much, and it seems our ships are now seriously outranged.

      Yes, we have the carriers, but if I was commanding a ship it would be nice to have a long range attack option of my own.

    8. For western AShMs, you are pretty much looking at LRASM and NSM. LRASM is the lockheed missile design that will be the primary Navy AShM. It is based heavily off of the JASSM-ER design used on navy warplanes as a stand-off cruise missle.

      The LRASM is taking the JASSM-ER, changing out the targeting/control and warhead. It will end up replacing the harpoon and is compatible with VLS which will be a major boon to the US Navy and allow up to actually equip ships with combat capable numbers of AShMs instead of the token or zero AShMs equipped on the majority of the US force currently.

      The LRASM is a high subsonic semi-stealth heavy weight AShM with autonomous control capabilities.

      The NSM is a relatively new stealth lightweigth AShM out of Norway that will be both VLS capable and can be internally carries by the F35. It has roughly half the weight/warhead/range of the LRASM.

      Both the NSM and LRASM would be capable of being carried on the LCS if the navy decided to buy the VLS version for future orders. Both LCS designs are capable of supporting ~32 VLS slots which would support 32-64 ESSM plus 16-24 LRASM/NSM/Strike missiles. The LRASM will also allow the DDG1K plus burkes to carry a combat capable number of AShM of upwards of 50+ missiles making them once again of actually being useful in a navy battle instead of just big target magnets.

      I'll repeat that, right now the burkes by and large of incapable of engaging in any real naval battle with anything approaching combat effectiveness. Many of the burkes have no AShW weapons outside of their 5" guns which have extremely limited range.

    9. ats, I'm not aware of any official US Navy interest in the NSM, are you? I may simply have missed it.

    10. Nothing official yet, but it happens to be the only AShM that can be internally carried by the F35. It is also being supported by LM even though they are the primary on the LRASM. So we'll see. NSM is basically a baby version of LRASM as far as capabilities.


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