Monday, April 21, 2014

LCS Replacement Process

As you know, the Navy has been directed to terminate the LCS program and evaluate a follow on, more lethal and survivable small combatant vessel.  One would assume that would mean carefully analyzing the role of the follow on vessel in the context of the overall fleet structure and the strategies and missions under which the vessel will operate.  What gaps do we have in the current force structure that need to be filled by the vessel?

For example, we’re in the midst of a Pacific Pivot.  Setting aside the wisdom or even the reality of that movement, how will the follow on vessel fit into a Pacific Pivot and what roles and tasks will it be expected to perform?  Having determined the requirements, the actual conceptual design becomes a relatively straightforward exercise.

Is a corvette/frigate type vessel even needed?  Most of us would think so but it would be nice to see such a conclusion supported by an actual analysis.  For instance, it could be easily argued that a dedicated MCM vessel to replace the Avenger class is a far more pressing need.  One could also make a good argument that a simple, dedicated shallow water ASW vessel to combat diesel subs is a more pressing need.  Perhaps a focused ASuW vessel to act in concert with the AAW Burkes is what’s needed, given the Navy’s lack of anti-surface warfare outside of the carrier airwing.  The point is that an analysis of needs is the first, logical step.

Unfortunately, the Navy appears to have skipped right over the needs, roles, and missions analysis and leapt straight into the design of an LCS replacement.  The lack of a rationale and developed concept of operations was the major failing of the LCS and the Navy appears set on repeating history.  I’m being as polite as I can when I say that the collective wisdom of Navy leadership is at an all time low, at least during my lifetime.

Alright, it’s obvious that the Navy is going to approach this thing ass backwards.  So be it.  We can still salvage something useful.  The next step is to at least make sure that the ship fits the requirements rather than forcing the requirements to fit the ship.  This means that you design the ship to be the size and shape that the requirements dictate rather than pre-selecting a ship and then seeing how many of the requirements you can fit on the ship.  Again, unfortunately, the Navy is going to choose the LCS as the follow on to the LCS.  This is simple, idiotic Navy logic.  They want hulls in the water as fast as possible and with as little oversight and justification as possible.  That means selecting the LCS with its pre-existing production line and pre-existing Congressional justification.  The Navy is going to add a bigger gun and some VLS cells to the existing LCS and call it done.  We will not build the ship around the requirements; instead, the Navy will attempt to force the requirements onto the LCS hull.

Yet another opportunity wasted. 

I really hope that someday I can write an apology piece stating that I was wrong about this. 


  1. What the US Navy needs to look at is look to Europe/Asia for examples of Current Frigate and Corvette designs and try to incorporate all the lessons from Europe/Asia into the next frigate.

    1. Nicky, that is a great, great comment! The world has a wealth of cummulative frigate/corvette design experience. We could save a lot of learning-the-hard-way if we'd tap into that experience.

      In fact, I suspect that you're also reminding us that the Navy no longer has an in-house design capability and depends on industry for warship design. Do we really want to depend on LM or Austal? We've seen what level of warship design capability they have.

      Excellent comment, Nicky!

    2. That's why I believe the US Navy should draw design ideas from Frigates such as the FREMM Frigate, F-124 and ANZAC class Frigates. They need to look at corvettes that are commonly used in Europe, middle east and Asia such as the Khareef-class corvette, MILGEM project, Braunschweig-class corvette and the Sigma-class corvette.

      They need to look into the lessons learned from those ships and apply that to the next Frigate & Corvette as well. It's why the US Navy lost all those Naval design talent to Europe and Asia. What we have left is LM, bath and Austral.

      We need design lessons learned from those ships so we can apply them to the next frigate or next corvette. It's basically taking the lessons from those designs and trying to see what worked for them and seeing if it can work for us as well.

    3. CNO. I think you're being a little unfair about the warship designs coming from LM and Austal. They were responding to ever changing demands from the admirals for a dubious concept ship.

      I like Nicky's idea's but it has to be remembered that the US navy operates at long distances from home so unless you want to be forward basing, a global frigate would be needed.

    4. Dave, there is a degree of validity to what you say. However, remember that the Navy did not design the basic LCS, the manufacturers did. The fundamental flaws came from the manufacturers: lack of structural strength (the cracking and the excessive vibration that has rendered the 57mm gun useless), the lack of compartmentation which has impacted survivability, the lack of hull stability which has made cargo and module transfers so challenging, the high degree of self-noise which makes the LCS a very poor ASW platform, the selection of aluminum over steel, etc.

      It's true that every change the Navy made only worsened an already bad design but the design was flawed straight from the manufacturer. What did we expect? Neither LM nor GD/Aus had designed a true warship before and, as it relates to this post, still haven't.

      Still think I'm being unfair?

    5. Not really. I don't think anyone involved in the design/ manufacturing comes out of this looking good.

    6. Dave, you're right about that! There's plenty of blame to go around. Ultimately, the blame lies squarely with the Navy in the sense that they controlled the purse strings. They didn't have to accept either LCS design. Of course, faced with two bad designs they opted to choose both!!!!

      This is also why the Navy so desperately needs an in-house naval design expertise to at least recognize the difference between a good design and a bad one, if not make their own designs. If you haven't already check out the post, General Board and BuShips.

  2. LOL..

  3. I not sure what you expect by running a complete bureaucratic ass protecting exercise, other than waste billions on paper work, keeping some consultant paid huge amount of cash, a getting a ship design that years latter and that will be absolutely wrong for the needs of the moment.

    As usual Nicks idea of a mission need statement is found in the pages of JANES fighting ship, under the heading of frigates. It does not matter if the USN may require either larger, better equipped ships that other nation designs, or smaller less expensive vessels, to bridge the gap between numbers and needs.

    What the Navy needs to do, what is originally intended to do, is to sit down an determine what improvements are necessary for the LCSs, both in the sea frames, and the modules, while letting the operation side play around with the ships we have, to determine all the neat things they can really do with them,.

    One suggestion I will make is that the evaluation staff, look at the DDG-1000 class at the same time. It was always intended to operated these ships together, What changes to the LCS will be necessary to make up for the delay in constructing new DDG--1000s should be high on their priority list.

    1. G-Lof you are right up to a point. What we all have to realize is that the current LCS variants can only be fixed within a limited payload range. Modifications which any much of any weight will require MAJOR hull redesigns which are both costly and not cost-effective.
      Senior USN officials seem oblivious to the above reality, chosing insteadn to go the easy route by saying we can up-gun etc the LCS all the way to 4000 tons - maybe gee golly we hope so~
      How can the USN do original thinking when they are directed to look BACK a the 40 year old Perry design as a baseline?
      DDG-1000s will not be part of the picture because they are POR Porgram of Record~

  4. A upgraded LCS with VLS, and basic self defense air radar capability is not about what it will be able to do in PACOM, but what it will do to help spread our limited capabilities. A Burke patrolling Africa, South America, is just overkill and a waste. A upgraded LCS will be able to fill that need allowing the Burkes to concentrate on the high end PACOM. Chasing pirates/drug smugglers, supporting SOF, having a wild card ability to throw a cruise missile, and all while being able to defend itself/support ships against your average 3rd world tin horn. That will be just enough capability to fill a huge swath of our commitments we currently have to fill with the Burkes.

    LCS without VLS or air defense radar is just a fast supply ship with a rapid fire deck gun. It could still operate in that role but you would either leave your self open, or have to keep a Burke in area because X tin horn could hit you back.

    1. Just a point of information, both LCS version are equipped with proven 3D air defense radars. There is a need for a separate fire control radar, but the manufactures of the current versions are suppose to handle that on there own.

      Adding VLS would also be useful, but don't get attach to the Mk 41 VLS. Those units are heavy and require much to much internal volume. Systems like the Mk 48 and Mk 56 VLS are not only lighter, but can be replace with newer system latter on because they are deck mounted.

    2. I don't know if I would classify the Rolling missile as a AA missile. It is mainly a point defense missile. The ability to sling some standard missiles would be more appropriate. Bottom line it just makes no sense to build a whole new system for one class of ships when we could just add VLS and get all of today's existing kit plus upgrades.

      I don't know the technical details of the difference but based on what you say the VLS type choice makes sense, we should always base part of our decisions on ability to upgrade to the future.

    3. For a missile for the ship self defense system, a the Rolling Airframe Missile is very effective. It is effective against both AShM, Fixed wing and rotator aircraft. It is after all based on the Sidewinder Air-Air missile.

      Still, beyond this both the TRD-3D and the Sea Giraffe have been used with ESSM.

    4. Any LCS replacement absolutely needs VLS. VLS is basically a required capability for any possible mission you can think of these days. The fact that the current LCS didn't have VLS is basically the biggest black mark against it.

      VLS opens up a whole world of munition options, from ESSM/CAMM, AShM, Area AA (Standard et al), ASROC, etc.

      There is a reason that world wide, you won't find a modern corvette or frigate without VLS.

      A current gen LCS with 16-32 VLS cells looks like a reasonable ship even with all the other issues.

      Ideally, designing a new LCS replacement, you would want 32+ VLS cells.

      8 Cells for quad pack ESSM for point defense. 8-16 VLS cells for AShM. And 8-16 VLS cells for Area AA and/or strike. We're almost assured that LRASM or an LRASM like VLS capable AShM will come online within the next 5 years. LRASM and all LRASM competitors are based off of medium to long range cruise missiles. As such, it is likely that whoever wins the next gen AShM contract will also off either a separate version that is VLS capable optimized for strike, or multi-mode programming so that the AShM can be used for strike.

      So total, you are looking at ~8 SDS length VLS, ~16 Tactical length VLS, and 8 Strike length VLS. Combined, that would allow the LCS replacement to do everything from convoy duty, deterrence, attack, etc.


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