Here’s an example of why it is so important to dig into the Navy’s endless stream of glowingly effusive reports about the latest hugely successful accomplishment regarding whatever program is being discussed. If one were to take the Navy’s reports at face value, one would assume that every weapon system was an unmitigated success with the only source of puzzlement being that fact that the weapons under discussion are consistently so much more effective than even the designers imagined.
The Naval Institute’s website has an article about the USS Fort Worth’s (LCS-3) current Singapore/Pacific deployment. The article raves about the success of the Fort Worth’s deployment from a maintenance perspective, citing statistics such as being underway for 96 days (89 planned) out of the first 180.
’s success is compared to the Freedom’s dismal
deployment as evidence of the maturation and success of the current LCS
program. Certainly, Fort Worth ’s deployment is a success compared to Freedom’s but
the only way it could have been worse is if the ship sank – Freedom’s
deployment was that bad. Claiming
success by comparing to a previous deployment that was a dismal failure is to
grasp at a very low bar, indeed. Fort Worth
Still, though, meeting the entire planned days underway (plus an extra week) seems like a success, right? Let’s dig a little deeper and see if the claim holds up.
Let’s start with the days underway claim. OK, they met the planned days underway. Hmm … Days underway? On deployment, isn’t almost every day a day underway? Consider a typical surface ship deployment. Subtracting a few port calls, every day is a day underway.
was planned to be underway for 89 out of 180
days. That’s 49%. So, 51% of the time the ship was not planned
to be underway. Well, sure, that seems
kind of low but maybe that just means that they had a lot of port calls
scheduled. They can’t be faulted for
that, right? Fort Worth
Recall that the manning and maintenance concept for the LCS requires that they return to port for around 5 days every few weeks for maintenance and that they return to port for around 14 days every four months. So, for a 180 day deployment (6 months), that would require around 44 days of scheduled in port repair and maintenance. Thus, right off the bat as the deployment is being planned, before any other commitments or before anything has gone wrong, the ship is required to sit out 44 days of 180 or 24%. That’s right, 24% of the deployment is planned to be unable to function and that’s just the minimum. Obviously, unplanned repairs will occur as things break and since the LCS can’t repair even the simplest things at sea, that’s another chunk of unavailability that must be counted on even if it can’t be planned for. What other ship, by concept, can’t be available for operations 24% of the deployment? None.
Now, consider the LCS’ endurance. For the current expanded crew size, the ship is only sized and fitted to support the crew for about 14 days at sea without needing to return to port to resupply. Thus, unless the ship’s operating area is just a few miles outside port, the LCS will spend a few to several days transiting to the operating area and a few to several days returning to port out of every 14 day cycle. That only leaves around 7 days actually operating in each 14 day cycle. So, while the ship may be underway for 14 days, it’s only doing its assigned task half the time, at best. Of course, resupply affects all Navy ships but not to the point of requiring a return to port every two weeks.
We see, then, that the Navy loudly and proudly trumpets the
’s days underway without noting that the ship is, by
design, limited to only about 50% time-on-task availability on deployment. That’s an atrociously poor performance
compared to any other ship. The Navy
didn’t tell you that in their glowing report, did they? Fort Worth
Let’s look closer at the
’s maintenance as reported by the Navy. The vast improvement over the Freedom must
mean that problems have been eliminated, right?
I mean, the Fort Worth
incorporated design improvements and lessons learned from Freedom so the
maintenance and problems must be better. Fort
The article presents a table of data about Casualty Reports (CASREP) for the deployment. Before I give you the actual data, here is the descriptive wording accompanying the data:
For Freedom: “Higher severity average”, “Longer average time to correct”
severity average”, “Shorter average time to correct” Fort Worth
Well, that seems clear enough. Freedom’s CASREPs were obviously more numerous, more severe, and required more time to correct. Now here’s the accompanying data provided by the Navy. For those not familiar with the CASREP system, all CASREPS are reports of equipment malfunctions severe enough to impact the ship’s ability to perform its primary and secondary missions. Category 2 is the least severe and the Category 4 is the most severe. The first figure is the number of events for that category and the second is the average time the report was open which is another way of saying the number of days required to fix the problem.
Category 2 58 36 days 61 35 days
Category 3 9 23 8 22
Category 4 1 14 0 -
The data shows that
had 3 more Cat 2 incidents than Freedom and 1 less
Cat 3 & 4. The days open were
virtually identical. Thus, Fort Worth had nearly the exact same maintenance issues as
Freedom and yet Fort Worth ’s
deployment is a raving success according to the Navy. Fort
In summary, we see that, while the
had more days underway, the LCS’ entire availability
concept is poor in the extreme with around 50% availability being the MAXIMUM
that can be attained. Further, Fort Worth ’s successful deployment has been identical to
Freedom’s in terms of maintenance Casualty Report numbers, severity, and time
required to fix. No improvement at all. Fort Worth
This is why you have to dig deeper into the Navy’s ridiculous reports and this is why ComNavOps offers this blog and this level of analysis – so you can see the reality, good or bad.
Integrates Fire Scout UAV, RHIBs Into Bilateral
Exercises For First Time”, Megan Eckstein,
Fort Worth August