Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Short Legs

Reader “Nick” pointed out some interesting data on the LCS operating range that is worth repeating as a post. Thanks “Nick”!

As reported in the DOT&E 2014 Annual Report, the LCS-1 variant failed to meet its endurance/range requirements by a substantial amount.

“During operational testing, LCS 3 did not demonstrate that it could achieve the Navy requirement for fuel endurance (operating range) at the prescribed transit speed or at sprint speed. ... Based on fuel consumption data collected during the test, the ship’s operating range at 14.4 knots is estimated to be approximately 1,961 nautical miles (Navy requirement: 3,500 nautical miles at 14 knots) and the operating range at 43.6 knots is approximately 855 nautical miles (Navy requirement: 1,000 nautical miles at 40 knots). … The shortfall in endurance may limit the flexibility of the ship’s operations in the Pacific and place a heavier than anticipated demand on fleet logistics.”

We’ve previously noted that the speed requirements have been steadily downgraded and now the endurance/range are also being downgraded on top of previous downgrades to range!  This severely limits the usefulness of the class.  

Given that the LCS is planned to make up a third of the Navy’s combat fleet (setting aside the nearly non-existent combat capability of the class), it should be a bit disconcerting that a third of the fleet won’t be able to venture far from their bases.

Honestly, this is an embarrassment for a blue-water, global navy.


  1. Replies
    1. Makes you long for a Fletcher DD, doesn't it?

    2. There are many ways we could go, but 2,000 nm at 14.4kts isn't gonna cut it.

      If you reserve a 30% fuel margin, the Freedoms will have to refuel after 1,400 nm. Assuming operations from a local base, with no CLF support, they'll have a dinky 700nm max mission radius @ 14.4kts.

      If a Freedom is 700nm from base and has to run at high speed for any length of time, it'll need immediate CLF support, or a tow.

      Given this, I don't see how the DOT&E can consider them "operationally suitable".

      Given the assumptions above, a Freedom poking along at a measly 14.4kts can't even make it to the Spratley Islands from Signapore!

      The Freedom class, at least, should be canceled.

    3. Totally agree about Freedom. That should be a show stopper right there.

      I wonder if Independence is any better. I'm guessing not much.

      That is a real horrible problem. The lack of weapons and questionable modules are one thing. But goodness, add lack of legs to this and it becomes completely useless, particularly in the Pacific. And this will make up a significant number of our fleet?

    4. @ CNO

      At this point, I'd happily accept a 'Flush-Decker' type (Clemson-class) DD... from the tail end of WW1.

      The USS Edsall (a Clemson) could outperform these pegasus-carri-... *cough* sorry, I mean '/frigates/' in just about every meaningful way (save speed and air-power) if you slapped a SeaRAM on it, let alone a pre-war Benson-class like the Laffey (the sunk one) or daresay a legend like the Fletcher, or Laffey II (Sumner).

      On that thought, a very-quick-and-dirty estimate would seem to indicate that it would probably be more cost effective to reactivate and overhaul the 6 WW2 DDs (3 Fletchers, 1 Sumner, 2 Gearings) that we have floating around as Museums than to build 15 more of these not-so luxury yachts; and, considering the relative down times of the classes (65% for the Lackadaisical Cargo Ship compared to just 15% for the War trio [due in part to a habit for getting underway half repaired]), we'd probably have more hulls in the water at one time to boot!
      Yes, I know that reactivating those worn-out hulls is an exercise in absurdity, but that's the point! The LCS' are just that cost ineffective!

      @ Jim

      From what I've heard (this is hearsay, mind), the Independence has a little-tiny-bit of greater range than the Freedom (by virtue of being capable of taking on more fuel), but its hull cannot sustain the stress from keeping any sort of speed, so its range becomes useless (If I recall correctly, it cannot even sustain 30kts, so how it's supposed to escort ships that cruise at 33kts [Carriers], I have no idea).
      The Independence and her sisters are structurally a tragedy waiting to happen; we're all familiar with the hull-cracking issues in common with both types of ships, just compound that by the typical trireme hull stress and you start to see the horror show picture in my mind, which other hearsay sources seem to vindicate.

      Of course, don't take my hearsay as anything other than hearsay, the fine gents here may be able to provide concrete reference to the contrary.

      - Ray D.

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    6. If we wanted to stick with a tried-and-true CONOPS, I'd prefer a new design in the spirit of the long-hulled FFG-7.

      There are more exotic fleet designs, but selling them to a conservative Navy community might be tough.

      So 4-5k tons, 2 helo-equivalents hangar, 32+ cell VLS, local-area AAW, hull and twin tail sonar, CODELAG/CODELOG propulsion with a quiet electric mode, speed/range/endurance necessary for global task force operations, "Level 2+" survivability.

      Don't build any new, high-priced components. Select from existing sensors, combat suites, propulsion, and so on.

    7. @Smitty,

      So, basically a modernized Perry similar to what the Australians have done with them.

      I could get behind that, but I'd prefer a larger Sumner-Gearing.
      They'd turn out very similar, I'd imagine, and in the same weight range too (~5,300 l.ts, if I had to guess).
      I'd just be asking for a 2 shaft, 2 rudder (or two pump-jets and no rudders, that's an option too), IEP/IFEP version with a mounted 5in gun and 'thick' (by modern standards) hull-skin of HY-80 or better steel.
      ...But we've been over that book before, and I still have yet to finish designing what I was talking about back with the submarines (I've not gotten much farther than a Spring-Style of what I thought was a feasible plan, after the umpteenth redesign)... so, I better quit before I commit to designing yet another ship.

      Any particular reason that you'd go with the CODELAG/CODELOG instead of IEP/IFEP? I mean IEP using already existing well understood components, not ha-ha vaporware like Permanent Magnet-Synchronous Motors.

      Also, what are you referring to by 'twin tail sonar'? I'm not familiar with that term.

      - Ray D.

    8. Price, primarily. CODELAG/CODELOG is usually cheaper and lighter than a full IEP/IEFP and offers many of the same benefits.

      By 'twin tail', I meant CAPTAS-4 VDS and MFTA: the same setup used in the LCS ASW module.

      I wouldn't go with just using a modernized Perry design. I'd do a clean sheet design in the spirit of the Perry, if that makes sense.

      I'd want some degree of radar signature reduction, but not any exotic hull form. I'd prefer a fixed panel AESA radar. Maybe TRS-4D FP, CEAFAR, or a 'lite' version of SPY-3 or AMDR.

    9. I'd take a 'reimagined' Perry in a heart beat. The HI Frigate proposal I spoke of before appealed to me because it was at least feasible based on an existing hull; but an honest to God Frigate design would be great.

      And, like the Perry's, it doesn't have to be the greatest at everything. It just has to be good, and numerous. Built correctly the ship that can do open ocean escorting of our supply ships and oilers during war can also do anti-piracy work during peace.

    10. Has anyone really sat down and thought about the fact that a 1940's Fletcher could KILL a LCS (either version) without breaking a sweat?

    11. @ Smitty,

      Makes sense to me!

      Recently, I've been leaning towards IFEPGTBA (Gas Turbine only Integrated Fully Electric Propulsion with Battery as Auxiliary) systems since they need Li-Ion certified maintenance personnel anyway for the Fords now, and it means I can ditch the Diesels, saving weight and cost (and having battery backup power is a smart plan anyway). Basically a Gas Turbine version of Diesel Electric.
      Or IFEPGTBP (Gas Turbine only Integrated Fully Electric Propulsion with Battery as Primary) if I wanted to disconnect the engine from the hull for acoustic reasons (as with the ss/dd hybrids) and do away with the cost of the main reduction gear (seriously, $33.5M right there).
      The system is used in yachts, but I've not heard of it being used in military functions.

      2 LM-2500+G4 and 1 LM-500 (for low speed operations, or for power when going full speed) with 2 x RR Kamewa SS-180 Pump-Jets (running from either batteries or the GTs) would give you 88,500shp, right there.
      That's enough to drive a 5,000lts ship to about 42kts safely.
      You'd still need about 450 tons of fuel bunkerage, but this would allow a range of about 4000nmi or more at 20kts (a little less range than the Burkes).

      The 9-cell AN/SPY-6 is only a 6'x6'x2' block (x 4, of course) and should be relatively cheap, but still have the power of the AN/SPY-1D (with less power draw).
      A little more costly than the others, but would give the hull otherwise unprecedented performance from such a small package.

      RCS reduction can be easily achieved by making sure everything above a certain height out of the water (depending on what range you intend that ship to fight at) is at a 15 degree slant inwards.
      It messes with the ship's flare quite a bit though, meaning a quasi-tumblehome is the better option for stealth, but it IS possible to achieve a half-way point upon more conventional lines.
      This actually also helps the ship deal with hull stress, as the superstructure becomes load-assisting structure.

      To me, this is now a Destroyer. I like it.
      ...Great, now I want to design this thing too.
      There are not enough hours in the day.

      @ Mat,

      A lot.
      A Clemson-class DD from 1919 IN 1919 could kill a LCS without breaking a sweat, if it wasn't for the Helo/s.
      They wouldn't have any idea what it/they was/were and would probably sweat trying to figure that out.
      The 3in AA gun would make short work of it/them however, and the 4-inchers would chew the LCS to bits if it didn't run away after their birds were splashed.
      The LCS apparently wouldn't get far however, it would run out of fuel before it got away.

      A Fletcher would dominate the LCS if it could run it down.
      In fact, with 'relatively minor' modifications to the design (including the removal of 4 of the guns and the 21” torpedoes, fitting a modern mast, replacing the existing steam system with a CODAG or CODELAG system, slapping on a deck-mounted modular-missile-system, etc), a new construction Fletcher would be a worthy peer to many of the worlds current Destroyers (the Burkes/Kongos/Atagos/King Sejongs/etc are all light cruisers, they don't count).

      - Ray D.

    12. It seem to me that those of you speak for the Fletcher/Sumner/Gearing classes have forgotten why the Gearing class exist. The Gearing exists because the Sumner were also short leg. To correct this problem the Navy stretched Gearing 14 ft. to allow additional fuel. Now Lockheed/Martin already proposed a stretch version of the LCS, Would not enlarging the Freedon class LCS fuels tank by same method as the Gearing also solve this range problem.

    13. @ G Lof,

      Sorry, but this is wrong.
      Not trying to cut you down, I'm just saying.

      The Sumners' somewhat limited range was a well known aspect of the ship from the design stage forward and was considered adequate for the mission they were built for - battlefleet or carrier group heavy-AA/ASW fast escort - since they'd always be working with a capitol ship that could refuel them.
      Incursions and such would be performed by the 170+ Fletchers the navy still had (80+/- were already ordered at that time), since they had the range to do so and could operate well enough in groups and they weren't just going to throw them all away (they thought).
      However, other problems 'plagued' the Sumners, which gave them their initially bad reputation.
      Firstly, most Sumners failed to achieve their design speed, and tended to drive their bow into the water when underway at speed anyway (making for a very wet forward) thanks to the great weight of the two forward 5”/38 twin mounts throwing off the balance of the ship, which also caused what was then considered to be excessive hull stress. This amount of stress is considered laughable in today's time.
      Then, the 5”/38 twin mounts failed to produce the same fire rate as the single and trained much slower, which caused complaints. These complaints vanished when the Kamikazes started appearing.
      In addition, the then-new CIC facilities, radar equipment, and machinery ate up most of the interior space of the ship, making for a very cramped working and living environment, which was bad for crew moral.

      The Gearings were the result of BuShips deciding that they should have done more than just try to slap three 5”/38 Twin mounts on a Fletcher's hull and calling it a day.
      However, in doing so, they immediately obsoleted the entire run of Fletchers.

      It had nothing to do with the Sumner's range, except maybe a footnote.

      As for the Freedom, your question directly, the answer is no.
      Well, technically yes, you could increase its range by increasing the amount of fuel carried on board. They can do this with the already existing hull without stretching it.
      But that would cause a whole slew of other problems.

      First off, that's a DamCon big time no-no for that particular vessel; but let's just say they do it anyway since DamCon is impossible with only 75 people anyway.
      To achieve the required range, given the abysmal performance and the powerplant... I'd say it'd need about 600ts more fuel. At the least.
      In order to do that without taking up the precious modular space, you'd need to add 39' 1.5” to the length if you filled the entirety of the new submerged space with gas. That would add about another 200ts of metal.
      On top of that, the existing hull would need to be strengthened to prevent the ship from collapsing under its own weight. Keep in mind the Freedom is already suffering hull strain. This would add about another ~300ts of steel if I was designing it.
      As if to make things worse, ~1,100ts is a lot of weight to be adding to a semi-planing hull. The ship's speed would plummet to about 37kts when at full power, maybe 40kts on a calm sea. It'd seriously be better of with a traditional displacement hull form with an aggressive bulbous bow, it'd ride smoother.
      ~1,100ts, $100M+, and ~10kts is an awful price to pay for ~2,000nmi range.

      And let me get one issue out of the way right now, since it's a little bit off topic.
      Yes, I claimed that my 5000l.ts design would make 42kts with only 88,500shp compared to the stretched 4200l.ts Freedom with its ~113,710hp (raw).
      It has to do with hull speeds, b:l ratios, and wave-making energies between the ships.
      It's complicated and would take its own post to address.

      Also, Lockheed's stretched Freedom isn't really a stretched Freedom. The Freedom is a cut down version of that. Still wouldn't work out too well.

      - Ray D.

  2. What do you expect from Admirals that sit at desks in DC?

  3. Now that the LCS is a "frigate" this level of performance is even worse.

  4. That fuel guzzling high speed LCS/SSC / frigate probably does not have the acoustic signature of a sub hunter and going to tank up more often is not desirable.

  5. Wait, so that means it can only get about half way across the Atlantic on one tank of fuel? Actually it can't even get from San Diego to Pearl Harbour on one tank of fuel with a range as poor as that!

  6. There is a old saying, "Who Watches the Watchman." I wonder what organization checks the reports DOT&E generate. DOT&E has in the past written reports without explaining their methodology. An in a quick check, I noted that the compare the result of the LCS maximum speed trial at 43.6 knots against the set speed of 40 knots, but "forgot" to not that the ship explain that the higher speed would reduce the LCS range. In fact I suspect that the LCS range would increase near that 1000 Nm goal if their gas turbines were adjust to burn fuel for a maximum speed of 40 knots..

    1. I don't know what happened in the distant past but the methodologies are clearly laid out in the more recent reports.

  7. Just to check. The SSC shows some weight gain over the LCS, but is the same dimensions ?

    ( I think most of us anticipated a Hull stretch )

    Are we therefor thinking the displacement difference is probably simply representative of the increase in systems.

    i.e. We can expect SSC to have the same ( or more likely less ) speed and range ?

    Is there any figures for optimum speed for maximum range, and what that might be ? in both modes


  8. GLof,

    I have no problems with looking at DOT&E, and maybe seeing if someone can peer review their methodology. I think its a great idea.

    That said, it seems like they've been the only ones recently to pull back the curtain on some of DOD's more egregious activities.

    Every time I hear LM, Greenert, or Loren Thompson I hear the Lego Movie song 'Everything is awesome!!!' in my head. They just tell you how great everything is going to be. The LCS is going to dominate the littoral battlespace remember.

  9. This is a ship:

    1. That costs as much as a full scale frigate.

    2. That displaces about as much as a small frigate.

    3. Yet it lacks the real firepower and capabilities of a frigate.

    4. Apparently too, it lacks the range of a real blue water vessel and is probably only suitable for a low threat environment.

    5. It has also repeatedly been problem plagued.

    What I would like to know is what this system has to offer. Right now, not much. Smaller fast attack craft are arguably needed, as are large blue water ships, but this thing offers a very poor price to performance value.

    1. 1) No, the LCS cost haft the cost of a modern USN frigate would cost, if the Navy very built a true modern frigate.

      2) Most modern frigate, especial equipped the VLS and SPY radars would weigh almost twice as much as a LCS.

      3) Yes, the LCS are not frigates, because the USN does not need a frigate like most here want them to build. My guess such frigate would cost as you want will cost three time cost of an LCS.

      4) Yes current range is short, But unlike those bureaucrats in Washington, I don't see it as difficult problem to solve, if you don't spend all you time and resources over engineering a solution.

    2. @ G Lof,

      ...Not trying to be rude and cut you down or anything, but:

      1) Baloney. It's possible to build a modern /small/ destroyer for little more than that.
      Nations that utilize indentured-labor State Manufacturing, such as China, could do that much for roughly the cost of an LCS.
      Aside, the TRUE Frigate/Destroyer Escort role hasn't changed from the glory days of WW2, a very limited vessel oriented entirely towards ASW, so they'd be fairly cheap to build.
      Most modern Frigates are some kind of mutant Destroyer having an acid trip, and even those are not that expensive, certainly not $1.142 Billion per unit.

      2) Baloney. The Perrys only weigh 4000ts, a 1/3 increase in weight over the Freedom; and they're /still/ considered LARGE frigates. He specified SMALL frigate.
      Adding 32 VLS cells would add <150lts, adding AN/SPY-6 would add maybe 220ts, including support equipment.
      Adding all of this to a Perry would result in a ~4500lts ship. A half increase, not a doubling, and if it was built right it wouldn't be that much either.

      3) Baloney. They ARE officially frigates (most of them at least).
      Also, is wanting a ship to be able to defend itself too much to ask?
      Is wanting a ship that is supposed to do ASW escort duty - as part of its mission statement - to be able to do ASW escort duty too much to ask?
      Is wanting a ship that was supposed to free up Destroyers for front line combat missions to actually be capable of freeing up Destroyers for front line combat missions too much to ask?
      I don't think so.

      The USN may not NEED the Frigate that we WANT them to have, but all you NEED to win a war is the same equipment and manpower that your opponent has and superior Generalship.
      That's not good enough for us, we don't want to go back to the days of Red Coat Armies marching lockstep in rank and file, we want our guys to have the absolute unfair advantage - including numerical superiority - to beat the other guy bloody, blue, and senseless without taking so much as a nick themselves.
      If we could, we'd want to show up to WW2 with a fleet of Burkes, Ticos, Virginias, Ohios, Nimitzs, Fast Supply Ships, F-16s, F/A-18s, F-22s, B-52s, B-2s, M1 Abrams, M2 Bradleys, M109s, Satellites, and the whole industrial/economical chain shebang to back it up.
      But we're not asking for all of that (although it'd be nice).
      We're just asking for a ship to do its actual job.
      It's not like we're demanding to have new Battleships built, or something like that.
      No, I take those rants/fantasies off this blog.
      But I digress.

      ~$600M is -meh- for a Frigate in my opinion, and I think a lot of people here would agree... IF it's capable of doing its job as advertised.
      The LCS cannot.
      If it could, we here would merely be laughing at it for looking stupid, but laughing with respect.
      Perhaps we would speak of cost saving methods to bring the price down further.
      But the LCS cannot perform its job as advertised, it can't even do its job at all. They're having to come up with easier tasks that are inside its capabilities, despite the ships that it's replacing being able to perform most of those harder jobs already.
      So of course we're upset about it, we're paying for it after all, they're our ships!

      4) Baloney. It's a very difficult problem to solve, especially for the ships already put to sea or underway.
      Try filling up half of the Modular mission bay and a reduction of ~8-10kts speed, and in extreme cases causing excessive keel strain, breaking the ship's back in the process.
      Those upgraded Perrys would literally out perform them in every way except landing space.
      For the same cost.

      - Ray D.

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  10. Amen.

    The range issue should be the nail in the coffin. Its useless to the United States. It makes a poor fast attack craft as is due to its lack of armaments.

    So lets see, in the future we'll have a Navy 1/8 made up of these ships that aren't useful to us either in the Atlantic or the Pacific.

    I'm frustrated. Between this and the Carrier Air Wings likely being smaller due to F-35 pricing... We're going to spend a ton of money on a huge Navy and have major gaps in our capabilities. Major gaps that may undermine our Navy's ability to do things. Yet, we'll still have spent hundreds of billions.

    This stuff is tough to swallow.

    At least our submarines are there and based on a solid design.

  11. There are other issues that need to be asked:

    1. Given that the hulls have already developed cracks, how well will this ship stand up to sustained cruises in rough seas or perhaps not so friendly waters?

    2. How well can this ship stand up to damage in battle? Can a class of this ship take hits and keep going? It could happen in a war or a USS Cole-type situation.

    3. Can this ship possibly defend itself in a nation state type battle or even against surprise attacks from terrorist groups?

    4. What will the costs of the new modules be? How long will it take to install them?

    5. Do the modules live up to their advertised capabilities? Will there be performance penalties if these modules are installed (ex: slower, shorter range)?

    6. How well will the crew handle the loads? "Saving" money on smaller crews seems insane when the ship costs so much and the fighting characteristics (plus damage control) improves with more crew.

    7. Similarly, given how much the hull wears out, can the USN even have well trained crews?

    8. Given the price, is this the best value possible? If money is not a consideration, then is this the best ship possible for the intended job?

    The answers to these questions are pretty disquieting.
    Compare it to say, the Steregushchy Class Corvette.

  12. GLof;

    I reject the premise about the LCS cost. We've talked before on this site about the true cost of the LCS when you include the mission modules.

    As to the Navy's needs; The Navy has said two things: It needs somthing that is numerous that it can send out to do jobs for which the 'Burkes are overkill, and it is lacking a vessel that can escort its own oilers and replenishment ships (which would in turn force them to use 'Burkes...).

    Those are traditional Frigate/DE roles. The LCS *isnt* that. It doesn't have the combat power or, as we now find out, the range. Those are crippling deficiencies. We could fake it and send it out to do the low level jobs if the range was sufficient, but now we find out we'll have to task something with it to refuel or have it super close to everywhere.

    I'm curious as to what roles you think the LCS can fill? In LCS mode the thing is heavily outgunned by Corvettes like the Gowind that have more range and less displacement.Heck it gets outgunned by some FAC. And this in a ship that was originally sold as being able to go to littoral areas abroad and "Dominate the battlespace" according to one ad.

    MW? I'd go with that. Have the existing LCS' replace the avengers and make the best of it. Anything else? maybe short range ASW on the US coasts. It can't do the things the Navy has stated it needs for a small vessel.

    Given all that its hard for me to see of it as anything but a poor value and a poor fit.

  13. I am no naval architect but this is my understanding of the two totally dissimilar LCS hull designs.

    The LM Freedom class is based on the very successful Aga Khan's Destriero speedboat, a one trick pony planing hull of 400 tons, a fuel tank powered by 3 x LM1600 GT's 60,000 hp, designed for and did indeed break the transatlantic record from NY to England in 1992 at an average of 53 knots, with a max. speed of 59 knots and then laid up.

    The LCS5 Freedom weighs in at full load of 3,483 tons and uses the massive 114,000 hp to develop a moderate amount of dynamic lift to reduce the wetted surface and the drag, most of the vessel's weight is still supported through buoyancy. The price paid is that at a normal cruising speed it seems a brick might give less drag and the max. range is limited to approx. 2,000 nm. As far as I know no commercial ship has ever been designed to use this hull form.

    The Austal LCS Independence hull was based their aluminium trimaran 127 metre Benchijigua Express, a fast passenger and car ferry. It has very similar dimensions to the Independence with a max, payload of 1000 dwt, limited to 500 dwt at 40.5 knots. ( What I do not understand is the discrepancy between the gross tonnage of 8,973 of the Benchijigua Express v. the 3,157 of the Independence.)

    The LCS GAO report of July 2014 states the LCS2 with 84,000 hp achieved a max. speed of 39.5 knots, and range is expected to exceed 3,500 nm requirement by 800 nm. This reflects the advantages of the trimaran hull form which allows a thin low drag center hull and the necessary stability achieved by the small outer hulls, the other advantages being better sea keeping in higher sea states. The disadvantage is the limited payload reflected in the aluminium hull and commercial use restricted to ferries and not cargo.

    The MCW package has been tested on the Independence, but due to the limited payload capacity the Navy is thinking of reducing fuel by 100 tons and with MCM package increment 4 systems have had to separated into two with different system configurations.

    Would not surprise me if the Independence became the fastest MCM ship and the Freedom the shortest range ASW frigate



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