Here’s a cursory look at the cost of some ship classes relative to their expected service lives. I’ve tabulated the cost of the ship, the expected service life in years, and the calculated “value” expressed as the number of years of service that each billion dollars buys. Hence, the greater the number, the more”valuable” the ship is in terms of service life. Some of the cost numbers are highly debatable, the Nimitz class being an example because the class was spread over so many years and changed so much, but they serve to illustrate the concept.
Class Cost, $B Yrs Value (yrs/$1B)
LCS 0.6 20 33.3
Burke 2 30 15.0
Nimitz 6 45 7.5
Ford 13 50 3.8
Zumwalt 8 30 3.7
We see that the LCS far and away leads the pack. It’s a good value for service life. At the other end, the Zumwalt and Ford are the poorest values. Is it coincidence that the newest construction represents the poorest value or is it telling us that our program costs are getting out of hand? I think it’s clearly the latter.
Our programs are getting more expensive on a relative basis and I believe the two biggest reasons are overhead related to build numbers and concurrency. We’ve covered this in previous posts (see, "Shipbuilding Costs - Impact of Low Volume" and "Concurrency - Building Without a Design!").
Now before you all start pounding out replies, this little analysis is only for service life. It does not take into account operational value. Thus, while the LCS represents great service life value, it has no operational value and is an overall major disappointment. The Zumwalt, which is a poor service life value, may well turn out to have little operational value – a double negative value! On the other end of the spectrum, the Ford, with a poor service life value, may turn out to have a very good operational life value – it remains to be seen.
Take this for what it is – a simple ranking with an interesting underlying concept. Don’t get worked up about the actual numbers.