Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fort Worth's Successful(?) Deployment

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.  Fort Worth’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.

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.  Fort Worth 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?

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 Fort Worth’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?

Let’s look closer at the Fort Worth’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.

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”
For Fort Worth:  “Lower severity average”, “Shorter average time to correct”

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.

Freedom                    Fort Worth

Category 2     58        36 days          61        35 days
Category 3     9          23                    8          22
Category 4     1          14                    0          -

The data shows that Fort Worth 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.

In summary, we see that, while the Fort Worth 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.

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.

(1)USNI, “LCS Fort Worth Integrates Fire Scout UAV, RHIBs Into Bilateral Exercises For First Time”, Megan Eckstein, August 26, 2015 


  1. Nice in depth analysis that also shows just how silly and inneffective minimal manning / Smart ship initiatives are. First major ships for which official policy is to abandon ship if the ship takes serious damage like that suffered by the Stark or Samuel B Roberts. For serious damage, automated damage control is a joke compared to having properly manning the warship.

    1. Mike, I don't recall your name so welcome to the blog! You're quite right about minimal manning's impact on damage control. I also like your observation about automated damage control. Industry has known for many years that automated damage control invariable fails to work. Any significant disaster will incapacitate the automated damage control and firefighting capabilities.

      Good comment.

    2. Thanks, I find myself agreeing with you 90 percent plus of the time. An incredibly high percentage for someone such as myself. Would be interested to get your feedback on my latest National Review article on the value of green-water ships. BTW: I just plugged you on my Facebook page.

    3. "Thanks, I find myself agreeing with you 90 percent plus of the time."

      Great! That means you're only wrong 10% of the time!

      Heh, heh! :)

  2. Were these ships designed for underway replenishment.? Are they expected to deploy with and support a carrier task force ( which takes a replenishment force with it)?
    And lastly, what was the deployment cycle for previous similar sized ships, the FFG?
    Another factor is todays deployment cycles are money driven, rather than actual capability, an example is fleet carriers which over a standard 3 year period have had their home port periods increased from 49% to 68%.
    Unsure where the 2 week max at sea cycle for LCS came from, the only detail is back for '5 days every few weeks'.
    Is that the admin cycle that costs the least or the maximum not to exceed time

    1. My (limited) lookup for 'designed endurance' for LCS is 21 days. ( before before underway replenishment)
      Another factor is their designed high speed may be the limiting factor in endurance. ie a low speed mine warfare role may have a longer than 21 days endurance, and if you are supporting a slower amphibious group then more endurance is possible, and vertrep of extra supplies if you are carrying larger crew.
      Bob Works history of the LCS concept gives lots of interesting detail.

    2. The two week figure is the amount of stores the ship can carry. It can support a crew for about two weeks and then needs to replenish.

    3. Oops! Ended too soon. continued ...

      The original target was 21 days. The increase in crew size, larger than intended module manning, and the need for civilian tech ride-alongs has reduced the stores endurance to 14 days (probably less).

      I'd be real careful about referencing Works "history". It's a total revisionist writing. For instance, he claims the Navy got the ship it wanted, at the price it wanted, with the capabilities it wanted. Not even the most ardent LCS supporter believes that!

  3. Further information about Fort Worths maintenance period.

    The compelling part for me was using the civilian contractor's ashore was much more efficient, as they focused on the preventative maintenance.
    Another point was the 3-2-1 crewing rotation:

    "Fort Worth is the first LCS to deploy under the "3-2-1" manning concept, which allows LCS to sustain a 16-month rotational presence without fatiguing the crew during the extended deployment. The concept allows LCS to deploy more than twice as long as typical U.S. Navy ship deployments. It is named 3-2-1 because three rotational crews support two LCS ships, one of which is deployed. Future LCS deployments to the region will employ this concept, allowing for enhanced U.S. Navy presence throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

    Of course as its a littoral ship, its expected to be near coastlines and ports not open ocean areas like Pacific, North atlantic or Arabian sea. Im thinking caribbean , mediterranean and its smaller seas, South China Sea, north to coastal waters around Japan , Korea and even Alaskan waters

  4. Currently I don't have time to research this, but you may have this information at hand.

    How does the Fort Worth's maintains record compare to that of the first few deployment of the early OHPs. As I remember it the OHF first year were pretty bad, and the history of first in kind ships are also full of troubles, so it would be interesting to know how the LCS compare to similar early ships.

    1. This would be fascinating to know but I have no information on this.

      Just a reminder, though, the point of the post was not the degree of difficulty of either Freedom or Fort Worth's deployment but, rather, the fact that the Navy portrayed the Fort Worth's as so much better when the maintenance data indicated that they were the same.

  5. Unfortunately, if the USN wants to paint things in a rosy image, it will be hard to get the real on the ground situation.


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