Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Idled Cruisers - Update

We’ve previously discussed the Navy’s plan to “idle” and “modernize” 11 of the 22 Aegis cruisers (see, “Idled Cruisers”).  ComNavOps suggested – no, he didn’t, he stated flat out – that the Navy had no intention of ever modernizing the cruisers.  They were being early retired by leaving them tied to the pier to rot until they’re too old to modernize.  Remember that the Navy had proposed retiring seven in the previous budget and that Congress had slapped them down and told them to keep the cruisers.  Well, what better way to bypass Congress and retire the cruisers then to “idle” and “modernize” them.  It keeps Congress happy, retires the cruisers in terms of operating costs, frees up money for new construction (which is, after all, the entire reason the Navy exists, right?), and, as an added bonus, allows the Navy to continue to count the retired cruisers as active ships in the fleet count – a PR win.  I’m sure the only regret the Navy has is that they didn’t think of this ploy earlier.  If they had, we’d have “idled” amphibious ships, frigates, and whatever else just waiting to be “modernized”.

Doesn’t it seem odd that the Navy thought the cruisers were so superfluous that they wanted to retire them and then, in the blink of an eye, now claim that they want to modernize them and extend their lives?  Doesn’t that strike you as just a bit suspicious?

Well, it appears that others are now catching on to this scheme.  Chris Cavas, at Navy Times, has posted an article that’s right up this alley (1).  Here’s a few quotes from the article,

“A level of discomfort — if not outright distrust — has been created as the service changed its original 2012 request to decommission seven cruisers under a spending reduction strategy to one where the Navy wants to keep them, but temporarily inactivate 11 its 22 Ticonderoga-class CGs under a modernization plan. Many on the Hill suspect that behind the rhetoric, there lurks a desire to save money by killing the ships.”

Cavas also recognizes that the Burkes, even in a Flt III version, are not a direct substitute for the Ticos.  He points out that the command and control functions associated with being the air warfare commander are not well supported on the Burkes.

“… the service announced its decision to put the air missile defense radar on standard DDG hulls, and the ships will be poorly suited to embark the extra staff and provide proper command and control facilities for the air warfare commander.”

Cavas appears equally as skeptical as ComNavOps about the Navy’s abrupt reversal on plans for the cruisers.  He cites an unnamed Congressional staffer commenting on the plausibility of the Navy’s plan,

“They wanted to get rid of them, then overnight they came up with this plan.”

Chris, you’re a bit late to the party but better late than never!  Welcome aboard.


  1. The FtIII will be a nightmare. They did just what they did with every other program. Added a ton of unnecessary things to a ship which had no space to put them in.

    Ditch the whole program and just restart a Cruiser or Heavy destroyer project.

  2. CNO,

    Few questions:

    Are the 11 hulls actually capable of being upgraded, or are they rusted out from neglect? How could the Ticos be modernized (better VLS, radar/FC upgrades, AGS-Lite, new IT infrastructure...)?

    What additional staff and C2 are required for the AWC? Is it just because a DDG is CDR command, and the CG is a CAPT? CAG acts as SWC, and usually has an embarked staff of less than 20; most of those personnel are involved with ADCON, training, and maintenance responsibilities vice actual war fighting. DESRON should be doing those functions for the surface force.

    I understand several of these ships are already minimally manned, and the fleet at large is already undermanned. We're pulling IAs to fill FIRESCOUT and MCM, where do we get the people to send these cruisers to sea?

    If we can actually send them to the yards, strip them down, upgrade them and get these ships back to sea with new/improved capes and proper crews, I'm all for it. More big gray things at sea are a good thing. If they're just going to sit at the pier and turn pink, you might as well tow them up to Philly and store them there. At least you could spread the crews across the rest of the waterfront.

    1. Anon, some good questions. I've not yet seen a list of what would be modernized about the cruisers. I suspect that there is no modernization plan. No one outside the Navy knows what condition the cruisers are in. INSURV inspections have been classified and watered down to just an advisory report.

      You mention spreading the crews. That's exactly what will happen. The crews will be disbanded and reassigned. The ships will be ignored with little or no maintenance. The Navy will have, essentially, achieved their desired retirement.

  3. Im seriously becomming concerned now for the USN. I have just been reading this over at Breaking Defence.


    Entitled ;
    Navy Finally Admits It Can’t Afford Fleet, Esp. New SSBNs

    Here is a highlight

    "The problem is the Navy is still living off the Reagan buildup. “Most of our current fleet is comprised of ships being built between 1980 and 1990,” the plan says. With most classes prone to wear out after about 30 to 35 years of service at sea, that means “block obsolescence” and mass retirements from now through 2025. “These retiring ships will need to be recapitalized at rates that are unaffordable in today’s environment.”

    What seemed to be some isolated "bad" decissions appear to have stacked up. PR, spin and political wrangling will no longer hold this stuff. And Mr Putin is watching.


    1. Beno, the Chinese are watching even closer!

      You're correct that the consequences of decades of bad decisions are coming home to roost. This is why I'm so critical of Navy leadership. These weren't seemingly good decisions that had subtle, unforeseeable negative consequences. These were horrible decisions that 30 seconds of contemplation at the time would have shown to be bad. Honestly, if the Chinese had been able to slip agents into the position of CNO over the last decade or two with orders to undermine and weaken the Navy, they couldn't have done a better job than what we've done to ourselves.

      The really, really bad part of this is that we continue to make the same bad decisions even today, as I've documented in this blog. It's not like we had a bad run and are now making good decisions - we're continuing to make really stupid decisions whose eventual consequences are readily foreseeable.

    2. Ah yes, but the Chinese arnt attempting to run your borders every 2 weeks or so. Over here in the UK we STILL appear to be on the pointy end. And what with the rest of NATO sending Putin the message that we don’t really care about defence any more. I could do without the US giving him the wrong idea too.
      Now don’t get me wrong between the USN and new British fleet nothing is going to happen without our say so. But sometimes these idiots misinterpret cuts and bad decisions as a lack of will.
      I’ve followed your site for a while and fine it very informative with a well-balanced crowd of contributors. I guess I didn’t really realise what you were pointing out until now. It seemed like isolated issues, but this is now looking like it could have a systemic effects. I’m starting to think a 150 ship fleet is not too far away. ( and more worryingly not necessarily ALL top of the line ) And then things will get sticky.
      There is talk of the new Queen Elizabeth Classes taking on some of the duties of a Nimitz or 2. I’m beginning to think we are seriously going to have to mash our fleets together somehow. I’m just not really seeing how that will work whilst still defending our national interests too with the limited number hulls we seem to have.
      Any chance of ( now what do you call it ) a “do over” ?

  4. So where are all the folks that the Navy has sent through MBA school? Can they NOT do a cost analysis of ship construction to find what are the big drivers? If we can drive the cost of a PC/smart phone down by 400% or drive the life expectancy of a new car up by 300% (for the same inflated dollars), why can't the Navy figure out how to being down construction costs?
    The folks working in the ship yards are NOT millionaires and the Europeans have figured out how to build 100,000 ton cruise ships with their labor costs.

    Start applying the same problem solving skills it takes to operate and fight a ship to the problem of building them. I fear that the real reason is that decreasing the flow of money to the construction companies decreases the Admirals future employment.

    1. Anon, the reasons for high costs associated with building warships are many. You might want to check this previous post, "Shipbuilding Costs - The Impact of Low Volume".

    2. A great post that describes the environment. BUT it does not address anything about how to bring costs down in that environment.

      THAT is what needs to be done. For example:

      Design and model better before building - reduce changes during construction

      Generate a CONOPS based on the design and wargame it to see how well it performs - Reduces changes during construction

      STANDARDIZE on parts across ships - the Navy has asked before how many different 25 HP pumps do we need? How many different turbine engines do we need? - reduce construction costs AND increases volume at the part level.

      Just a start - just saying it is a difficult environment won't cut it, we have to act. War is Hell but we don't just cite that we PERFORM.

    3. Anon, I invite you to peruse the archived posts. I've addressed all those issues, described alternative force structures that would better support warfighting and industry while, at the same time, reducing costs, addressed the impact of maintenance and upgrade on industry and new construction costs, etc.

      Not only will you enjoy many hours of entertaining reading but the knowledge you recieve will make you the envy of your friends, increase your chances of job promotions, and slightly improve your odds of winning the lottery (disclaimer: one or more of the preceding claims may not be based on statistically verifiable data). Most regular readers wind up printing the posts out in book form so as to enable constant and rapid access to the wisdom contained therein.

      Seriously, check out the archieved posts and enjoy! The answers to your questions are in there.


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