Tuesday, July 7, 2015

LCS-2 Class - What's the Problem?

While not a success by any measure, the Freedom class variant of LCS has at least deployed twice (admittedly, more PR deployments than anything).  What’s the Independence class variant doing?

Let’s check the history.  The first Independence class vessel began construction in Jan 2006.  Since then, 11 more of the variant have been built, are under construction, or on order.  Two vessels have been commissioned, the Independence, LCS-2, and the Coronado, LCS-4.  So, in nine and a half years we’ve commissioned two ships and none have yet deployed. 

Nine years and not a single deployment.

Nine years and not a single deployment.

Yeah, I know I repeated that sentence but it seems noteworthy.

We’ve documented the weight problems with the LCS in general and the Independence variant, in particular.  Further, the Navy performed heavy seas testing on the variant and discovered cracks in the mission bay supports.  As a result, the ships have had performance limits imposed on them.  USS Independence, itself, has never completed acceptance trials.

I’m beginning to think that there are further, serious problems with this variant that have not yet been made public.

Nine years and not a single deployment.


  1. Having talked with SWOS Officers on LCS 2, I think the Navy should have tried this design out before buying it. Reports were she was slipped sideways unexpectedly in the smallest of seas and was extremely rough riding against any swells.

    This design existed as the ferries, why didn't the Navy lease one and try it out for handling? Forget the aluminum survivability issues, if you can't get to the battle you don't have to worry about taking damage.

    The Packard Commission urged back in the 70s to PROTOTYPE first. Why can't the services get that?

    1. Agree, but I think it’s the mission modules that needed to be prototyped first. Both LCS are based around the mission modules and one big reason they have not deployed is they have no working mission modules to deploy with.

      The LCS was built before the mission modules were even to prototype stage so how could they design how much a mission modules should weigh or be sized without knowing what a working mission module is.

      They already have found that the helicopter towed sonar for the anti-mine module is too heavy for the helicopters on the LCS.

      Also if the mission modules had been completed first they might have figured out earlier that the mission modules could not be swapped out in a few days and so the whole program might have changed into one with permanent installation of equipment and separating into 3 types of ship or one ship which does all three at the same time or some other arrangement. They might have even built a frigate instead.

    2. That's a really good point that I hadn't thought of. IIRC the mission modules themselves don't hinge on the speed requirement of the ship. So... why couldn't they build a mission bay on a merchant vessel bought for the purpose and then spend a few years perfecting it? At that point, heck, you could even do things like make mini mission bays for things like maybe Torpedos, CIWS, or AShM launchers, and incorporate them on newer ships.

      Yes, I agree. It looks like the LCS program was done bass ackwards.

    3. They did try the mission module RMS on a small number (6) of the DDGs. They cut a hole in the side on the starboard stern side and tried to test the RMS in 2007. The RMA was so unreliable they stopped the testing and haven't let it be used operationally anymore on the DDGs.

      So there was PLENTY of early and often indicators that things were not right. But all of those PMs got promoted or retired and got great jobs in the Defense Industry.

    4. Dumb Question:

      What's the RMS?

    5. Remote Minehunting System - one of the pieces of the MineCounter Measure Mission Module. Another is the Umanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) which is a electromagnetic cable that is towed at speed with a mechanical noisemaker at the end. Problem with that prototype was that the cable burned up after 30 minutes, while submerged in the water (there isn't a much better heat sink). So that one is back on the drawing board also. The other is the Knifefish by Bluefin Robotics. I haven't heard how that one is doing but the other 2 are disasters that are NOT reliable or useable for the 30 days it takes to clear a path through a minefield.

    6. So... now I have a really dumb question:

      Is it even possible to effectively clear mines anymore? I mean, we aren't talking spiked balls on chains; though they may be part of it. We have things like torpedoes set up as half intelligent mines listening for a certain type of traffic. Stuff like that could be almost anywhere.

    7. Well, it will not be "almost anywhere" - it's going to be at key choke points.

      Mines are laid in a manner such that one expects that a certain amount of enemy traffic will go over the general area. Places that see high traffic are a good location as well.

      Is it possible to clear? I fear that's a hard question that only a real war might be able to satisfactorily answer.

    8. DJF said, "Agree, but I think it’s the mission modules that needed to be prototyped first."

      While the ships, themselves, should have been prototyped, you are correct that the key to the LCS' success or failure was/is the modules. They should have been prototyped first and, when ready, a ship should have been designed around their requirements.

      Great comment.

    9. "What's the RMS?"

      Jim, as others indicated, it's the Remote Minehunting System and it consisted of an underwater vehicle that towed the -20 sonar. It was intended to go into several Burkes but it failed both in performance and in concept. The biggest flaw in the Burke-as-a-minehunter concept was that it required the ship to stay in close proximity to the RMS which both exposed a $2B ship to mine danger and shackled a powerful, multi-mission, AAW vessel to a fixed point for hours or days on end - not a wise use of a Burke.

      The head-scratching part of this is why no one in the Navy, with five minutes thought, couldn't see the conceptual flaw.

    10. "Is it even possible to effectively clear mines anymore?"

      Now that's a great question. For the Navy, the answer is no. More generally, the answer may be yes under certain circumstances.

      The problem is that unlike missile technology or aircraft technology or stealth or any number of other areas, mine countermeasure technology has not been significantly pursued and developed basically since WWII. Imagine if we had put the resources into MCM that have gone into stealth, Aegis, or any number of other technologies.

      Can we defeat mines? Not currently but there is no inherent reason why not other than a baffling lack of interest on the part of the Navy.

    11. The USN's lack of interest in MCM is sufficiently comprehensive and long-lasting that looking for reasons in the service culture seems plausible. MCM isn't glamorous, isn't "Hollywood". It doesn't involve fast ships, zooming aircraft , and destroying the enemy. It involves doing difficult stuff very carefully, with spectacular results only when you fail.

      Now, the USN has people who think like that, and like doing such things, but they tend to be submariners. Navies with smaller budgets can't afford enough subs to soak up the people with the right mind-set, so MCM seems like one of the places they go.

      Another thing you need in MCM is people who like to just sail: to spend a lot of time in coastal waters, not doing terribly glamorous stuff, but being at sea. And in the US, those people belong in the Coast Guard. Other countries just don't have a coastguard of such power; if their citizens want to be in a maritime armed service, they have their Navy, and that's about it.

      So my hypothesis is that the USN's lack of interest in MCM is (a) because of the lack of glamour and (b) because the US has other uses for the people who'd be interested in doing it.

    12. The mission modules are the least of the concerns on this variant. there are a myriad of issues on the combat system side, from the core weapons all the way through C2 and data link. LCS 4 will probably deploy before LCS 2. Both are a mess. I can not give details here, suffice it to say GD does not understand how their systems work. thus, they don't know how to fix them.

    13. Anon, from a "getting the ship to simply function in a basic mode", you're correct. However, from an overall weapon system perspective, even a perfectly functioning seaframe would be of no use without functioning, effective modules.

      Hey, there's plenty of problems and blame to go around and we're just coming at this from two different perspectives - no big deal!

      Thanks for chiming in.

  2. Until more information is available, I'd advocate for ceasing the construction of this vessel and investigations.

    Perhaps someone at DOT&E should take a very close look.

  3. Does DOT&E have any teeth other than that of embarrasing the people making the equipment?

    Are components of the LCS built across several important congressional districts?

    1. No the RMS is LOCKMART's baby in Florida. Although the old AAC and NGC and several Navy Labs have hands all over it also.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. A solid design? She was overweight, not just no future margin but overweight. She needed butt checks welded on her to stop the dry deck from becoming a well deck whenever she was underway.

    4. "As for the premature ordering of both the Freedom and Independence class, I still blame those LCS opponents who attempted to kill the LCS by misleading Congress about the cost of the production LCSs. It was their false claim the LCS would cost over 640 million dollar each the resulted in the Navy's foolish attempt of staging a early down selection and multi ship buy before even the first two LCS prototypes had started testing. "

      Up until this point your explanation of LCS2 is reasonable. This, however, strikes me too much of my son's excuses as to why he hit his sister. 'She was teasing me and made me do it!'

      The Navy, through NAVSEA, is in the business of procuring good vessels that fit realistic strategy. It blew it on the LCS. What it sounds like you are saying is that the LCS opponents came out and questioned the costs of the vessels, maybe throwing around bad numbers, so the Navy had a panic attack and instead of saying 'Hey, we're still prototyping. we don't know yet what the cost will be' just pulled the trigger on the purchase.

      If so, then that's on the Navy. It was a dumb decision.

      *everything* in Congress has opponents who beg, borrow, or steal to kill it. The proponents job isn't to lie to keep it in service.

      Just my $0.02

    5. Anon, do you have any idea of how many First in Class vessels are over weight? It almost a design requirement that FiC are over weight, top heavy, undermanned, and slow.

    6. Well you summarized what is wrong with Navy Shipbuilding.

      What is even WORSE is that it is accepted as "best" practice. Cars and Airplanes are not designed this way and neither are electronics.

      In this day and age of CAD how can you have an ship that is built overweight? Just un-freaking believable, and I pay taxes for this?

    7. "Does DOT&E have any teeth ..."

      Jim, DOT&E has not direct authority over the Navy and, indeed, the Navy has taken to ignoring DOT&E guidance more and more of late. The DOT&E's teeth, such as they are, come from their influence on Congress who does pay attention to their reports. Thus, if the Navy wants money from Congress, the Navy realizes they have to "obey" DOT&E at least to some extent.


  4. How often do I have to go through this.

    The Independence and Freedom were ordered as Prototype, by Congress, when the USN came to them for money. Freedom prove to be a solid design, with few critical flaws (good for LMS) But Independence was not so blessed. Her hull was a completely new design, based on a then un built Fast Ferry. It prove to be under strength because of engineering errors. To make matter worse a error during a dry docking resulted in damage to her hull that require major repairs. Those repairs were only partly successful, as Independences AL hull was stretched and could not be repaired as a steel hull could be. This was the cause of any cracking found.

    Also the people responsible for her electronics were behind schedule, so Independence was delivered late, and with bad software. In other words, the Independence was just too damage to act as a full test article, let alone as a function naval vessel.

    As a result of these problem, there was a major redesign of the Coronado, with her hull being strengthen and her electronics upgrade. The problem is she only been commissioned a single year, and because of her changes has now becomes the Independence class prototype. She is therefore unavailable for development of LCS concept.tester as Freedom and Fort Worth has become. That is why no Even has been deployed overseas.

    As for the premature ordering of both the Freedom and Independence class, I still blame those LCS opponents who attempted to kill the LCS by misleading Congress about the cost of the production LCSs. It was their false claim the LCS would cost over 640 million dollar each the resulted in the Navy's foolish attempt of staging a early down selection and making a multi ship buy before even the first two LCS prototypes had started testing.

    1. It would appear that both LCS are problem plagued.

      There are other issues. If these ships are radically modified, it will be very awkward for long-term maintenance due to lack of standardization.

      The ability of these ships to stand up to wear and tear remains suspect.

      The modules remain suspect too.

      The DOT&E reports suggest that the weapons systems are not working as expected either.

      Finally, even if all of this were working, the problem of these ships being too lightly armed and protected for ships of their size and cost remain.

    2. "How often do I have to go through this."

      Well, at least until you get it right. I have gone through this with you repeatedly. You are reinventing history to suggest that the Navy viewed the first LCSs as prototypes. They were always viewed as full up warships although the Navy took advantage of R&D funding. If you believe you have documentation to support your position, please share it. Otherwise, stop disseminating this incorrect version of history.

      Regarding your statement that Independence sustained major damage to the hull during drydocking, I have never heard that. Can you supply some documentation?

      Regarding your version of premature ordering of ships, this is another rewrite of history. The Navy committed to a buy of 55 ships before the first one was built and before the cost issues arose. Go back and check your documentation. This isn't even arguable.

    3. Since you not willing to do a little research, let me point you into the right direction.

      Out of which pocket did the USN pay for Freedom and Independence?

      Which US Senator push the USN to treat the first LCS as prototypes? (Hint, he used to work with prototypes professional.)

      How and Why was the USN able to take delivery of both Freedom and Independence without finishing all the trial and SUPSHIP reviews required by law.

      Why do you think that a ship cannot both a prototype and a warships?

      While were on the subject of warships, why did the Freedom just begin a major dry dock availability.

      Now I am sorry I can't find a copy of the new article about the damage done during that dry docking, But the delays for her electronics, and hull maintains after Independence's delivery is well documented. I was during this period that there was major question about scraping the Independence because of the damage to her hull.

      Now the hint, the GAO wrote a report about the Freedom and Independences procurement last year, and while they tried to spin it as if the Navy not following regulation, the GAO did so only by claiming the LCS was not a prototype, even thought the facts in their report clearly show they were prototypes.

    4. GLof, I have nearly every document ever published related to the LCS program and I just did a search of the Internet for any information relating to significant damage sustained by the Independence during drydocking. I can find no evidence of such an event. I suspect that you are thinking of the drydocking of Independence that was performed to address propulsion system corrosion due to lack of cathodic protection. The damage was found to be much more extensive than anticipated. I have also been unable to find any reference to modifications in subsequent LCS-2 ships due to structural damage sustained by the Independence. Unless you can provide some documentation of the event, I can only conclude that such an event did not occur and that you are confusing your recollection with the corrosion damage drydocking.

    5. As someone who works on these ships, the problems go WAY beyond weight issues and late delivery of "electronics". GD has little to no understanding of how the system they bought works, hence they don't know how to fix it. I wish I could go into the litany of problems that STILL exist on both the LCS 4 AND LCS6. We are probably going to certify a system that is certainly not ready to be deployed, all in the name of meeting some programmatic deadline/goal so that we don't look bad for the reason that the blog host said: it's been XX years and not one deployment. I would be very concerned if my son or daughter were to be put in harm's way on one of these ships.

    6. I honestly wish I could but I have to tread carefully about what can be presented to the public. Suffice it to say, it ain't pretty. And I stand behind everything I said above, including the part about GD. They bought systems/elements that are essentially black boxes and do not know what the code is doing except by looking at what goes in and what comes out.
      I've said enough. Bottom line: don't go to war on one of these.

    7. Anon, fair enough. Thanks for joining in and I look forward to more comments.

  5. To Anon.

    After Independence was delivered to the Navy, she was move to a second port where GD "finished" the installation of her electronic systems. Can you tell use where that port was?

    1. Is this a test or do you seriously not know? It went to Norfolk. That was before I started working on the program but I did know that. And if that was a test, that was an easy one.

    2. Anon, thanks for the information although a bit more respectful tone would be appreciated. Not everyone follows the LCS as closely as we might. We're always ready to share info with those willing to ask and learn. Thanks!

    3. Sorry if I came off as not respectful. I guess I assumed, based on his/her perspective and comments that were defending GD's abysmal performance or, at the very least, trying to lay the blame on the Navy. The Navy owns plenty of blame but it sure would help if GD could do some engineering of their own.
      Again, I apologize if I came off that way. I tend to get upset when talking about this variant of the LCS.

    4. "I tend to get upset when talking about this variant of the LCS."

      As do we all ! Don't worry about it. Glad to have you aboard.


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