Wednesday, August 5, 2015

LCS Module Update

GAO’s 2015 annual weapons assessment report contains some interesting tidbits about the LCS modules (1).

ASW Module

Regarding the ASW module,

“Program officials report that currently the [ASW] mission package is 5 tons too heavy to fit within the parameters reserved for the packages.”

This is probably the most mature and useful module if only because the Navy abandoned every aspect of the original module and is now using proven, existing components:  a Thales variable depth sonar, a multi-function towed array, and a standard Navy helo.  The challenge is whether they can get the components to integrate in an effective manner.  Of course, the LCS can never be an effective ASW platform due to inherent structural problems that impact ASW performance:  the vessel is not quieted and optimized for ASW and the ship’s self-noise from the water jets not only precludes a hull mounted sonar but makes the ship an acoustic beacon for miles around.  Add to that the lack of an onboard ASW weapon and you have an extremely mediocre ASW platform.  Further, the inability to operate two helos (yes, some reports credit the LCS-2 version with the ability to operate two but that is questionable due to flight deck structural weaknesses) severely limits the extent of available helo ASW coverage. 

The Navy is currently contracting with three companies for ideas on how to reduce weight in the ASW module without removing a key component.  You know the process when things go through contracts and studies.  It will be years, yet, before we see a functioning ASW module.

MCM Module

Regarding the MCM module,

“The Navy has accepted five MCM packages without demonstrating that they meet interim—or threshold—requirements and plans to accept one more in fiscal 2015.”

As we know from various reports, the MCM module has proven particularly troublesome with most, or all, of the module components failing to meet their performance criteria.  Thus, the Navy’s continued purchases of MCM modules is puzzling, to say the least.  I guess it’s analogous to buying F-35s that are not ready.

Further, the Navy just announced that the MCM module would not reach its scheduled IOC in September due to across the board reliability issues discovered during testing.

“… LCS Mission Modules Program Manager Capt. Casey Moton said Thursday at a Mine Warfare Association lunch that across-the-board reliability problems in the two start-to-finish mine clearance runs in the technical evaluation led the program to extend the evaluation for several months rather than move prematurely to IOT&E.”

Independence, LCS-2, has been testing the MCM module for how long, now?  Since the mid-70’s, it seems like.  Despite all that work, the module reliability is still unacceptable.  How bad must the reliability be, to be unacceptable to the Navy?!  They’ve accepted barely built ships and F-35’s that have no combat capability.  For them to balk, it must be really bad!

It appears that IOC will be pushed back another year or so.

ASuW Module

The Navy has dropped the plan to use the incredibly short ranged and lightweight Griffon missile in favor of the Hellfire missile.  While there is nothing wrong with the Hellfire, it is still a lightweight, short range missile.  Wiki lists the range as 550 yds out to 5 miles.  It is doubtful that range holds for a surface, vertical launch.  The effective range will likely be more like 3-4 miles.  Also, note the minimum range.  If a target gets inside 550 yds the LCS will have to engage with guns which have, thus far, proven problematic.  The 30 mm guns have had a succession of maintenance and performance issues and the 57mm gun is inaccurate above 10 kts or so due to ship vibration.  Further, the guns are optically aimed and are not linked to radar in the ship’s fire control system.

USNI News has some disturbing news even about the Hellfire missile testing. (2)

“The program office began tests on a research vessel at the end of February against ‘high-speed maneuvering targets out off the Virginia Capes.’  That testing wrapped up in June, and based on the results, the office has to do ‘some tweaking – it’s really that level, tweaking – to the missile seeker and such.”

When you factor in the military’s ridiculously positive spin on testing – every test is an unqualified success, no matter how bad (remember the fabulously successful F-35B tests on the Wasp that actually barely achieved 50% availability? – you get the sense that the Hellfire has some serious issues integrating into a vertical launch system.  “Tweaking”, with the slight negative connotation it has, must indicate that the missile failed badly!  Getting a missile that is designed to launch horizontally to launch vertically, tip over, and acquire its target, is not a trivial feat without mid-course guidance.

The missile will have to undergo another set of tests several months down the road.

Here is GAO’s summary assessment in their typically bland style.

“The systems that comprise the Navy's mission packages have yet to work successfully together to achieve results. For example, none of the mission packages for any increment have achieved interim requirements on the Independence variant, or meet its threshold requirements for either seaframe.”

Remember, also, that the IOCs that the Navy is trying so desperately to achieve are not for the desired modules but for very stripped down versions that simply allow the Navy to field a bare minimum (many would say less than minimum) capability as a PR event.  The desired modules that the Navy sold the LCS program on are many years down the road or, more likely, will never be achieved.  Go back and read the original module descriptions to see just how much the modules have been dumbed down in the quest to get something, anything, fielded.  We’ve largely forgotten the grandiose promises made and have come to believe that the current, anemic versions of the modules are what was always intended.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As a group, the modules are an utter and colossal failure.

Perhaps the most important point in the report, though, is this one,

“The Navy continues to procure LCS seaframes, even though the sub-systems necessary to meet full mission package requirements have not yet been fully developed, demonstrated, and integrated with either seaframe class.”

The LCS’s value and effectiveness, whether you support it or not, is predicated on the performance of its modules just as a carrier’s value is based wholly on its air wing.  An LCS without an effective module is just an overgrown Coast Guard cutter, if even that.  GAO points out that the Navy is proceeding full speed with seaframe acquisition in the absence of any useful and effective module.  The only module that even theoretically exists is the ASuW module and, let’s be real, an ASuW module that consists of a couple of machine guns and a RHIB is hardly useful or effective.

Worse is the Navy’s laser like focus on seaframes.  While the modules languish, seaframe construction continues unabated.  It would be nice if the Navy put the same effort into the modules as the seaframes and it would be even nicer if the Navy would recognize the importance of the modules.  No module, no useful LCS.  If the Navy isn’t careful, half the LCS seaframes will reach their end of life without ever seeing a useful module.  What a waste that would be (assuming you don’t consider the LCS to already be a waste!).

(1)Government Accountability Office, “Defense Acquisitions – Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs”, Mar 2015, GAO-15-342SP

(2)USNI, “LCS Anti-Sub Warfare Package Too Heavy; 3 Contracts Issued For Weight Reduction Study”, Megan Eckstein, July 30, 2015


  1. "Getting a missile that is designed to launch horizontally to launch vertically, tip over, and acquire its target, is not a trivial feat without mid-course guidance."

    Yeah that was my first thought.
    My understanding of Hellfire is that the missile is factory keyed to a laser frequency, the shooter then selects that frequency, designated and fires, the missile sees the reflection and chases it.

    If you could rotate the launcher, I suppose fly up, level, seek, might be programmable, again back at the factory, but it sounds like whats needed is to give it a level and a direction at time of launch.

    1. Hellfire has mid-course guidance, IIRC.

      This module uses Longbow Hellfire missiles, which have a MMW radar seeker, not a SALH seeker.

      Multi-shot vertical launch test,

      Complete with video.

    2. My (uncertain) understanding is that Hellfire has a lock-on-after-launch mode but not true mid-course guidance. My further (uncertain) understanding is that the LCS does not provide radar fire control just like the 57mm gun is capable of radar control but is not implemented. That leaves me wondering, then, how the target is designated.

      If you know anything more about this, let me know!

    3. What do you mean by "mid-course guidance"? Hellfire has an inertial autopilot that will keep it flying towards the target area. It does not have a mid-course datalink to accept targeting changes in flight, but its flight time is pretty short.

      My understanding is the engagement cycle works something like this,

      1. LCS radar or optics detects targets and establishes tracks.
      2. Crew decides to launch against targets.
      3. LCS generates predicted target coordinates and feeds them to missiles.
      4. Hellfires launch and use autopilot to fly towads predicted target areas.
      5. Once within range, Hellfires uses their MMW seekers to search the target area.
      6. If MMW finds a target, the missile attacks it.

      This is essentially the same Longbow Apache lock-on-after-launch mode.

      What's not clear to me is the MMW seeker's target discrimination capabilities, or its sensor footprint.

      If the target makes radical course changes after the missile is launched, can it juke its way outside the MMW seeker's footprint?

      What happens if there are friendlies mixed with enemies? Is the MMW seeker smart enough to fire into a crowd? (my guess is no)

    4. What I've heard, unofficially, is that they're having trouble getting the Hellfire to tip over and acquire the target reliably.

    5. From this it sounds like tests are going reasonably well.

      "During the mid-June tests off the coast of Virginia, the modified Longbow Hellfire missiles successfully destroyed a series of maneuvering small boat targets. The system "hit" seven of eight targets engaged, with the lone miss attributed to a target issue not related to the missile's capability. The shots were launched from the Navy's research vessel Relentless.

      The test scenarios included hitting targets at both maximum and minimum missile ranges. After a stationary target was engaged, subsequent targets, conducting serpentine maneuvers were engaged. The tests culminated in a three-target "raid" scenario. During this scenario all missiles from a three-shot "ripple fire" response struck their individual targets.

    6. Smitty, the combination of what I've heard from people involved in testing and the Navy's description of "tweaking", as cited in the linked article, suggests to me that the launch system is still having problems. The Navy's press release sounds great but this is the same Navy that described the F-35B Wasp testing as phenomenal when they struggled to get the aircraft to 50% availability.

      Also, you know the Navy's idea of tests - perfectly scripted, highly maintained weapons, tested under perfect conditions, with failures ignored or explained away. "... miss attributed to a target issue..."??? Don't you hate it when a target won't cooperate?

      That said, the issue seems to be in the initial launch and target acquisition. Hellfire, itself, is a long proven missile and functions just fine once it acquires a target.

      My personal theory (with no facts whatsoever!) is that the missile launches, tips over, and then sometimes can't find the target (a small boat) amid wave clutter, hence the reference in the linked article to needing to tweak the seeker head. Just speculation on my part.

    7. It wouldn't shock me at all if this requires a few rounds of revision to get a reliable and effective system. We haven't spent that much time or money on this effort, to date.

      I'm not ready to throw up the red flag yet. There will always be test failures and revisions. The big question is the extent and cost of fixes.

    8. You're right, as far as it goes. However, the big question is actually whether the capability, even assuming it works perfectly, is a useful and worthwhile capability for the role the LCS will fill. Unfortunately, the Navy still has no defined role for the LCS, especially in a high end conflict. Thus, we have no way of assessing whether a Hellfire missile capability is actually useful.

      The Navy is spending time building seaframes and some amount of time developing modules when they should really be spending their time working up a viable CONOPS for both peacetime and war. We might be surprised at what we find we need and don't need.

    9. Dumb question:

      How many hellfires can the LCS hold in its launchers, and can they be reloaded?

      It seems to me that a swarm attack is by its very nature one where large numbers are involved. Might it not make more sense to spend the money tying in the 57mm into the radar?

      Maybe its not a big deal; maybe the ship can hold a ton of hellfires and the launcher is easily reloaded.

    10. Are there any guns in the Navy arsenal that would effectively deal with the threats that this Longbow program attempts to address?

    11. "3. LCS generates predicted target coordinates and feeds them to missiles.
      4. Hellfires launch and use autopilot to fly towads predicted target areas."

      Thats the bit I'm not sure of
      Longbow Hellfire does "lock on after launch", but its pointed at the target and fired.
      I'm unaware (that doesnt mean it doesnt exist) of any ability to fire away from the target and correct. Some "trick shots" were made is Afghanistan, but it was a bit of a curve (or involved moving the laser) rather than a 90* turn.

      Its the platform/payload speaky bit, I'm not certain it exists, its not impossible of course, but it would require a new hellfire.

  2. I can't believe no one has been fired over these Mission Packages.

    ASW - The first fiasco was bad enough but at least they were trying some new ideas. The Second one is inexcusable. A basic part of System Engineering is making sure that the envelope (dimensions, Power, WEIGHT, etc) are met. This is NOTING MORE THAN SIMPLE ARITHMETIC.

    MCM - UISS the cable burns out when you put the current through it. REALLY no one could do a thermal analysis before you built it?

    MCM RMS - Really you can't make Diesel engine driven hydraulics system reliable? God's sake call up the Merchant Marines they have figured this out.

    MCM SUW - 2 designs of the gun controller handsets and no link to the radar system? Reliability issues with an existing gun system? No one could tell that the 57 MM would be impacted by the ships motion? Do we have CAD systems?

    Where are the heads of the idiots that ran/run these programs? They should be on stakes in front of the DAU as examples of what happens when you violate basic development principals. No VC firm would EVER condone this conduct.

    1. Not much I can add to that! I'm with you.

  3. "Further, the guns are optically aimed and are not linked to radar in the ship’s fire control system"

    I really wonder why that decision was made. The idea behind the 57mm, IIRC, was to hit swarm attacks with its high rate of fire while the ship itself is maneuvering at high speed. Optical guidance seems... just like a bad idea.

    Also, we shouldn't forget that while we are still trying to sort out the mission modules, the Navy is, (at least according to my understanding of a Lazarus article on information dissemination) looking to add an AScM to the mix for even the base level LCS' as part of their distributed lethality program.

  4. The LCS both seem to have the mission bays that were solely for the NLOS. I wonder if they could put ASROC in those. I mean, they could fit it in a pepper box.

    It still leaves the jet ski issue, but still.

    I'm assuming fitting some of these with diesels and screws would be prohibitively expensive? You could at least try to quiet those and with ASROC, a tail, and VDS you could have a workable ASW vessel.

    1. You should read "Electronic Greyhounds" by Michael Potter. It's the complete history of the development of the Spruance class. It makes you realize that a truly outstanding ASW vessel must be designed from the first nut and bolt to be ASW. All machinery must be rafted for acoustical isolation. Every item must be selected for minimal noise. The hull form must be designed for quite operation. Engines must be selected for quietness and matched to the hull so as to avoid cavitation and eddies. The hull sonar must be located and integrated to avoid interference from ship self-noise. The Spruances had Prairie/Masker systems. And so on.

      Simply slapping a sonar module on an LCS does not make it an effective ASW vessel. In fact, the ship's self-noise and water jets make it a much better target than hunter!

      Diesels and props might help but can't make up for all the other missing ASW requirements.

    2. That sounds like the type of book I'd really get into while my wife looks at me and rolls her eyes! (Hint; don't read a book on the Imperial Japanese Navy written by a man whose last name is 'dull'. That gave her too much materiel...)

      That just highlights, to me, the short sightedness in nuking the Spruances.

      I still don't get it. Why did the Navy SinkEx a group of Destroyers built for ASW work in favor of ships built for anti-air?

      Sure, the Spruances had VLS, but so what? That wasn't their reason for existence or their forte. At the very least they could provide a CVBG with good ASW (assuming they'd been continually modernized) and maybe add a few more missiles to the anti-air basket of an Aegis ship.


    3. "14 Used from $75.00
      6 New from $190.13"

      Sorry CNO... this will be something for when my kids are out of private school...

    4. "Why did the Navy SinkEx a group of Destroyers built for ASW work in favor of ships built for anti-air?"

      The answer is NTU (New Threat Upgrade). When Aegis first came out, it had its problems and there was a competing proposal to upgrade the Spruance's (and similar ships/systems) radar via NTU. Initial reports indicated that NTU outperformed early Aegis in many cases. Thus, Spruance/NTU was seen as a threat to Aegis so the Navy removed the threat ... permanently.

    5. Not exactly. On a board I'm a member of one of the experts, of which there are a lot there of, mentioned this:

      "This is the beauty of gas turbines, they broke the link between a ship and her engines. We can re-engine pretty easily. Now, the problem at the moment is that the turbines are mechanically geared to the shafts and that gearing is problematic. That's what killed the Spru-cans (the ships were designed to achieve 36 knots on 75MW which could be provided from three LM2500s, However, three engines to two shafts is difficult and four engines provides redundancy and simple gearing. So the ships got four turbines rated at 27 MW each. Total 108 MW. The capacity of the gearing wasn't changed (the gearing was designed for 75 MW with 20 percent overload to 90MW. People kept ramming all that power into the gears to make the ship go faster and it wore the gearing out. That's one reason why the Spru-cans went early.)"

    6. Forgot to add... There were plans to do upgrades to the Spru-cans and have them take up the slack as the OHP's retired. Maybe a little big for a frigates job but with a VLS cell and great sonar they would have done a good job.

    7. Seal, although I've never heard that one, engines may have been a reason put forth by the Navy but it assuredly wasn't the real reason. You're aware that the Navy changes their stories regularly to suit their needs? Look at how many "official" stories the Navy has spun about the LCS. Years from now, someone will trot out one of the many Navy LCS stories and offer it as fact when, in reality, we know the LCS is just plain a flawed design.

  5. When you look at the threat systems just in open literature they out range the Hellfire by 3X to 4X. So a group of fast boats can launch their anti-ship missiles without ever being within the engagement range of the Longbow Hellfire. As you pointed out Griffin is even worse but how in the hell did things go this far without having this thought through? Even the NLOS system originally planned (and cancelled) did not allow you to engage multiple boats outside the range of the threat systems. Building $400M affordable boats (LCS) doesn't make sense if all they really are are targets.

    1. I'm not sure what specific threat you're referring to. I'm guessing you mean small anti-ship cruise missiles?

      To be fair, the LCS was never designed or intended to fight missile ships. You can debate whether that was a good design feature or not but the fact is that the LCS was only intended to deal with small boats. NLOS supposedly had a range of 20 miles which was considered sufficient for dealing with the small boat threat. Of course, NLOS was cancelled and the Navy was left with no viable option. Hellfire can be a reasonable option for the small boat scenario.

    2. ComNavOps: "To be fair, the LCS was never designed or intended to fight missile ships."

      That is so, but the LCS will be deployed inside a battlespace which is likely to have some number of an adversary's smaller missile-carrying FACs arrayed against it; for example, the Chinese Type 022 which can carry eight C-801/802/803 class anti-ship missiles with a range of 120 kilometers or more.

      What is becoming ever more clear as the never-ending LCS debate continues forward is that defending the LCS both individually and as a squadron/flotilla will be another of the major burdens that other force assets must carry when prosecuting either a littoral operations combat scenario or an Air-Sea Battle combat scenario.

    3. Quite right but you get the point that criticizing a ship for being unable to do something it was never intended to do is not a fair assessment. It would be like criticizing a carrier for being unable to submerge.

      That said, you are so very right about the impact of the LCS' inability to defend itself on the rest of the fleet. The very minor contribution that the LCS will make is unlikely to justify the diversion of fleet assets to the role of protecting the LCS. You'll recall that the original concept was that the LCS would actually protect the rest of the fleet from the littoral threat (whatever that dubiously was).

      Very good comment.

    4. That's one of the things I never quite got about LCS; it may be a response to swarm attacks, but its only really suited for one level of combatant, while its likely to meet a large number of more heavily armed combatants (missile armed FAC's) in the area where it is supposed to operate. And the way the Navy seems to want to deploy it might put it in harms way at the start of a war.

      The scenario that bothers me is one where a ship like Fort Worth ends up an a situation with the Chinese and its on its own. Its way outgunned.

      Adding something like the NSM or LRASM would help, certainly; but can it target those missiles effectively?

      I guess I'm confused

    5. CNO, what is happening in the naval blogoshere when the subject of the LCS and its mission modules arises is that the topic has become a proxy for examining larger questions concerning the Navy's fleet force architecture as a whole.

      For one example, advocates of the New Navy Fighting Machine (NNFM) have valid points to make as to why the surface fleet is becoming brittle in the face of emerging A2/AD threats. But their proposed solution of constructing 200 or so sub-1000 ton surface combatants grouped into three or more large flotillas has serious unresolved issues as to how it would work in practice.

      How are these large NNFM flotillas to be logistically supplied inside a high-threat A2/AD battlespace? If two-thirds of each NNFM flotilla is lost in a series of combat actions before a major combat engagement concludes, what force elements continue to maintain control of the battlespace once initial control has been won?

      Others advocate the construction of larger non-AEGIS 4000 - 6000 ton frigates which might fill the gap between the LCS and the Burkes. But does that kind of ship make any sense in a future world where, because of force number constraints on the total size of the US Navy's fleet, every individual warship at or above 3000 tons displacement must have some good measure of AEGIS-guaranteed combat survivability inside a high threat battlespace as a baseline requirement, especially if the broader objective is to ensure the USN has control of the battlespace after a combat engagement concludes?

      In any case, the main reason why the LCS program continues forward is that in the minds of the politicians in the Congress and in the Obama Administration, the US Navy's fleet size equates directly to the US Navy's perceived combat power. If we've got 52 Navy vessels called 'warships' displacing 3000 tons each, that is what is important to the politicians, not what kinds of combat capabilities these 52 warships actually carry, either individually or in their total aggregate.

    6. Scott, I liked everything you said right until that last paragraph. I don't believe that Congress is the driving force behind the LCS program - the Navy is. Congress simply rubber stamps Navy requests although recently there has been a little push back. Congress didn't go to the Navy and demand that they build the LCS - it was the reverse. Most of Congress seemed to want a frigate to com out of this latest "reset" of the LCS program and yet it was the Navy that kept the LCS (notwithstanding the transparent redesignation as an FFG).

      A decade ago, the Navy latched onto the LCS as a budget protection measure during a period when Congress was looking at limiting the Navy's budget slice. However, things have changed since then. With China and the Pacific Pivot, I don't think the Navy needs to worry about budget slices anymore. They're the favored service. Why, then, is the Navy insisting on pushing ahead with the LCS? I don't know. Your theory that the administration wants numbers as a way of "proving" that they aren't shrinking the fleet is probably valid to a degree but I don't think it's the main reason. Frankly, I'm baffled about the Navy's stance on the LCS. Of course, I'm baffled about many Navy decisions!

      Good comment.

    7. Scott:

      Where does the LCS fit WRT those two camps? It seems to split the baby between them; and not fit either philosophy really well?

      Its a 3000 ton vessel with the armament of a 1000 ton vessel and alot of speed.

      I'm just really worried that while the Navy is cranking out hulls and trying to determine what things will work (mission modules, AScM package) on it the Navy is going to be left with alot of hulls in search of a mission they can do outside 'presence'.

      And with the acquisition environment we are in its not out of the question to me that we build the hulls and some mission modules get cancelled outright or downgraded to the point that they add very little capability.

      If that happens... a significant portion of our combat fleet, and of our fleets logistics, will be tied up in a ship that's pretty limited.

    8. Scott,

      Good points.

      We need to look at how the LCS and alternatives fit into the total force structure. That is one benefit of the NNFM approach. They looked at the fleet holistically, rather than just one piece at a time.

    9. Scott B said,

      "How are these large NNFM flotillas to be logistically supplied inside a high-threat A2/AD battlespace? If two-thirds of each NNFM flotilla is lost in a series of combat actions before a major combat engagement concludes, what force elements continue to maintain control of the battlespace once initial control has been won? "

      Logistics of small combatants is definitely a problem for the NNFM proponents.

      However if you actually look at the fleet they propose, they only have 30 Coastal Combatants (aka "Streetfighters") in the entire fleet architecture. They only spend around 10% of the annual SCN budget on their entire "Green Water" component.

      Dollar-wise, most of the NNFM fleet is still "Big Navy" platforms.

    10. I'll have more of a response tomorrow, but let's go back two years in time to an article concerning the New Navy Fighting Machine that LT Jimmy Drennan posted on Information Dissemination in April 2013:

      Many of us 'Usual Suspects' are present there in that ID thread making our various commentaries about the article; and so the article bears rereading in light of the Navy's recent decision to build all 52 LCS in 'Mostly LCS' configuration.

      In this 2013 article, Mr. Drennan uses as his illustrating example eight squadrons of the NNFM's small vessels composed of eight 600-ton surface combatants each, with each combatant carrying six or eight anti-ship missiles.

      BSmitty, a question for you, does Mr. Drennan's example of eight squadrons composed of eight combatants each square with your understanding of the alternative USN fleet architecture the NNFM people are currently proposing? Where is the very latest information concerning the NNFM proposal and the fleet architecture it is recommending?

    11. As far as I know, the only NNFM document is the original NPS paper.

      I'll take a moment to pimp my NNFM-derived analysis Google Docs spreadsheet,

      The NNFM fleet design is represented on the second tab.

      A notional $15 billion/yr SCN Navy fleet is on the first tab. I attempted to use current Navy thinking and unit costs.

      The third tab has a fleet proposed by Dr Jerry Hendrix in his Fords not Ferrari's and Influence Squadron writings.

      Feel free to copy and manipulate to your heart's content.

    12. ...... The sun comes up, the moon goes down, a new day's on its way .....

      B.Smitty, your Excel spreadsheet and the pdf of the 2009 Hughes et al paper are very useful material.

      The material highlights the reality that it is not possible to compare two or more alternative USN fleet architectures without having a good understanding of how the alternative assumptions, the alternative strategies, the alternative CONOPS, and the alternative platform choices all work together to influence how someone chooses to define a total fleet architecture so as to achieve some pre-defined set of objectives.

      In comparison with the Hughes 2009 New Navy Fighting Machine (NNFM) architecture and the Captain Hendrix Influence Squadron architecture -- which is different from the Hughes NNFM architecture -- it appears LT. Drennan has his own ideas as to how many of the smaller less-than-1000-ton FAC vessels should be acquired and deployed.

      In any case, their commonly held viewpoint is that the proliferation of large numbers of anti-ship missiles among our potential adversaries will greatly impact how we must go about prosecuting both the Big War conflicts and the Not-so-Big Conflicts over the coming two decades.

      But we should also note that there are others with credentials who directly dispute that the future proliferation of anti-ship missiles is truly the problem it is being made out to be, and/or that small FACs which are in reality 'airplanes which float on the water' would be a practical solution even if the problem was real.

      When it comes to assessing how the twin issues of fleet size and fleet composition interact with each other, there is an opinion coming from those who believe that China will not emerge as a serious maritime peer competitor and that the USN is currently large enough and strong enough capability-wise to handle any foreseeable conflict.

      These people tend to say that, "These 52 LCS warships gives us all the numbers that we need, and those CVN's and Burkes give us all the combat horsepower that we need. So why do you need something more?"

      The latter opinion is one which tends to support the Tyranny of the Status Quo; i.e., we should just keep on doing whatever it is we've been doing until some largely-unpredictable future event demonstrates we shouldn't be doing it that way anymore.

    13. Well said, Scott.

      However when it comes to a specific adversary, I'd even go a step further. We can't jut look at how our Navy stacks up to theirs, or how our Air Force stacks up to theirs.

      We have to look at how their entire military capability stacks up to the "slice of our military we can reasonably expect to deploy" to the region.

      Fleet size may be less important than a robust long-range strike capability Or less important than systems and infrastructure needed to gain and maintain air superiority over the first island chain region, and/or parts of the mainland. Or less important than ground units needed to defend or retake land.

      Or maintaining the "right" set of forward-deployed capabilities to deter unwanted action in the first place.

      I agree, though, that you need to take a holistic assessment of alternative strategies, CONOPS, force designs, platform capabilities and costs. Not exactly easy to do, without a large, think tank organization.

  6. Here we go again , saying the 57mm gun is 'inaccurate above 10kts due to ship vibration' Doesnt seem to have affected the use of 40mm cannon in WW2 or its replacement by 75mm ( for proximity fuse purposes only).
    There is always a 'reason' for not using a heavier gun that isnt borne out in practice. Ask the other navies that use the 57mm

    1. Ztev, the 57mm gun vibration issue is not some generic complaint made up to pile on the LCS. This issue was identified by NAVSEA during trials and subsequently reported in various GAO/CRS and other reports. The LCS was built with insufficient structural members and the entire ship vibrates at speed. The vibration is sufficient to throw off the aiming of the gun.

      The structural weakness is the reason why the ship can only operate a single -60 helo although it has room for two and it's the reason why a larger gun probably can't be accomodated, at least not without significant structural reinforcement.

      There is nothing inherently wrong with the 57 mm, as far as I know.

      You might want to go back and review some of the older reports.

  7. The NASR-1 (C-704 class) of missiles are on the Iranian FACs. Wiki says these go about 35km. These are small swarming boats not big Navy ships that can shoot these things. The swarm can be 10+ boats all arriving simultaneously. You need to engage these guys before they all reach their launch point. How do you do that with Hellfire Longbow? The demo video show engagement of 1 boat at a time within Hellfire range and still they had issues. What happens when you have to take out a swarm of spaced out boats before they reach 35km out???

    1. The video I posted above showed a three missile, three target simultaneous shoot. However, yes, Longbow Hellfire maxes out well short of 35km.

  8. Anon, no one (well, maybe the Navy) is saying that Hellfire completely solves the LCS anti-surface engagement requirements. It's better than the Griffon but still inadequate.

  9. I think the concept of sunk cost fallacy at this point is clearly the answer - the program should be scrapped and a new series of ships designed from ground up.

    1. IMHO, the big problem with scrapping now is that a new alternative is at least 5-10 years away.

    2. What's better, a new solution that's useful but 5-10 years away or 52 LCS that don't offer any useful capability and will comprise a third of out combat fleet? The answer seems clear.

      Also, Bollinger can build Ambassadors, which would be an improvement over the LCS, literally starting tomorrow, not 5-10 years from now, and they'd be a lot cheaper. Relax, I'm not saying that the Ambassador is the ideal vessel for our needs (seriously, what are our needs? Again, the lack of strategy and CONOPS !). I'm just pointing out that there are lots of existing options out there, most of which would probably be vast improvements over the LCS and could begin production tomorrow. The argument that we'd have to wait 5-10 years is only true if we want it to be. The entire MEKO family is instantly available, as another example.

      Continuing a bad program because we'd incur a delay is not a valid reason for propagating a poor product.

    3. Ambassadors would NOT be an improvement. They can't meet ANY of the LCS mission requirements and are even shorter-ranged, pure FACs.

      Foreign designs are not instantly available, you know that. It would take a years to go through requirements definition and the competitive bid/award process alone. Foreign design would then have to be modified to meet Navy needs, and then US shipyards would have to learn how to build them.

    4. Reread my statement about the Ambassadors. I specifically said they may not be the ideal vessel for our needs.

      I also addressed the total absence of any actual mission and CONOPS for the LCS so neither I, you, or Navy really knows what's needed. It might well be that if we did an analysis of needs we might conclude that an Ambassador is EXACTLY what is needed. Or we might not. Until and unless we do an analysis of needs, we'll never know.

      "... years to go through requirements definition ..."??? You just witnessed the Navy blowing through (blowing off, more accurately) various studies and analyses in a matter of a few months in order to come up with the LCS as the "new frigate", didn't you? Clearly, the Navy does not feel compelled to go through any formal process unless they want to.

      Also, how often do we sole source contracts under the flimsiest of rationales? If we wanted to, we could begin actual construction of an existing alternative in a matter of months.

      "... learn how to build them."??? Again, you watched the LCS manuf's learn how to build the ships on the fly, right? HII and Bollinger, to name two, already know how to build vessels of this ballpark size.

      There is NOTHING that would prevent us from putting an existing design into production immediately, if we wanted to.

      Heck, we could even purchase the first two using R&D funds and then ram the remainder down Congress' throat by claiming that it's too late to change course and the program is already too big to fail. Sound familiar?

    5. The primary missions for LCS have been clear from the beginning: ASW, small craft ASuW, MIW. The original CONOPS was tainted by typical Navy/industry over-optimism of what was achievable and under-scoping the effort involved.

      The Navy "FF" design is essentially LCS with a few extra bits bolted on. They didn't decide to buy a new ship design out of the blue. In theory, the FF design will fill the ASW requirement, and existing LCS designs will fill the other two missions.

      That's how it was sold, anyway.

      Which US shipyard has experience building a MEKO design? You can't just email the plans to the factory and expect to see ships pumping out the other end tomorrow.

      It took three years from award of contract to launch of the first USCG Sentinel class FRC cutter - a vessel based on an existing Damen design. And this was just for a simple Coast Guard cutter. Good luck with that level of turn around from a warship program.

      And the FRC is part of the overall USCG's Deepwater program, which stretches back to 1993! So from start of program to first FRC launched was 15 years! For a tiny, Coast Guard Cutter.

      If the Navy asked for a missile FAC based on an existing design tomorrow, it would get three to five solid bids from various contractors using various existing designs. It would then have to sort through them, evaluate each proposal and pick a winner. The losers very well might protest the award, tying up the entire program in litigation for a year or more. Only then would the winner be allowed to start construction.

      Now if you actually require the Navy to come up with an overall CONOPS that drives requirements, add another few years.

    6. The issue I see is that even if the modules were working perfectly, which they are not and even if the entire ship was working well, which clearly it is not, then:

      1. This ship is clearly uncompetitive from a firepower to displacement standpoint.

      2. It is extremely expensive for the capabilities that it offers.

      3. Survivability is far from adequate.

      That isn't even accounting for the numerous problems on the LCS (both models) that have been discovered since.

      From where I am standing, this is a sunk cost that needs to be cancelled before more money is wasted down this sinkhole.

      Yes, it could take several years to design a new ship. But the end result could be a better ship, indeed, a much better ship.

    7. Smitty, you still haven't answered my question,

      What's better, a new solution that's useful but 5-10 years away or 52 LCS that don't offer any useful capability and will comprise a third of out combat fleet?

    8. Smitty, I find it amusing that you berate the Ambassador for being unable to perform the LCS missions while, apparently, supporting the LCS which can't perform the LCS missions.

      Again, you'll note that I never said the Ambassador could perform the LCS missions, either.

    9. CNO,

      Your assumption is that the LCS's won't ever offer useful capabilities. I'm inclined to believe that the ASW and MIW mission modules will eventually work and offer some capability. It's unclear if they will ever live up to their full requirements.

      Now this doesn't mean that a purpose-built ASW or MIW vessel wouldn't perform better.

      At this moment, we have twenty three LCS's under contract and under construction. Canceling these ships would breach those contracts and require the Navy to pay reparations.

      So, IMHO, we are stuck with them.

      We've established that it's unlikely that we can turn around a new ship design in less than five years, even if we awarded the contract today.

      So the options for the next five years are to either cancel the fourteen ships we're scheduled to buy during that period (2016-2020), reduce the buy, or go forward as planned.

      What would we do with the money if we canceled them? It amounts to around $1.6-1.7 billion per year.

      In the FY16-FY20 timeframe, we could really only modify existing, in-flight contracts, meaning ship classes we have in production now.

      Option 1:

      Buy a third FLT IIa/III Burke per year. That would add four-ish Burkes to the fleet at the expense of fourteen LCS's (we only plan to buy 2 LCS's in FY19, which would not be enough to buy a Burke that year).

      Clearly Burkes have different capabilities than the LCS's, and numbers do matter, but that could be an option.

      Option 2:

      Buy eight JHSVs per year. They clearly have far less potential as warfighting platforms, but could be configured as MIW or Streetfighter "ships of opportunity". This would increase the unit price. Not sure I like this option.

      Option 3:

      Buy around one additional LPD-17 per year, for a total of 4-5. Clearly the Marines would like this option. They could also be used as MIW motherships. They wouldn't have much value as ASW ships, other than hosting MH-60s.

      Option 4:

      Use some or all of the funds to secure the SSBN design and development.

      Option 5:

      Buy additional CLF ships.

      Option 6:

      Transfer SCN funds to another part of the Navy or another service (e.g. USCG for additional OPCs or NCSs).

      I don't know if any of these options are really viable in this timeframe, given the need to justify changes, contractor protests, long-lead and ramp up of alternatives, and so on.

      So honestly, we really only have two options. IMHO, we either cancel the FY16-20 ships and buy nothing, or continue to buy the ships in the plan.

      After that, we have more choices.

    10. Smitty, nice comment! You've correctly summed up my view. The LCS will never live up to its full potential (you and I disagree in that I don't believe that the LCS has much potential, whereas you believe it does but wonder whether it will live up to it). I firmly believe that we would be far better off constructing dedicated MCM and ASW platforms.

      So, having recognized each other's positions, you offer options. You've left out the option I would select and that is to cancel the remaining LCSs that have yet to be ordered and devote that money to upgrades and maintenance of existing vessels. The fleet is still suffering from extensive maintenance problems, spare parts shortages, etc. Further, all of the ships could use upgrades to varying degrees (remember the Navy's recent announcement that they would forego Burke upgrades?). Let's accept whatever delay (you and I disagree on the length of that delay but it depends on whether we opt for a new design or adopt an existing one) and use the time to improve what we have. Hand in hand with that approach, I would put some of the freed up money into testing per DOT&E recommendations (realistic target surrogates and such). That's my preferred option and it would result in a much stronger fleet in the end.

      I would use the delay time to design a dedicated MCM vessel, a dedicated ASW vessel, and conduct a needs analysis rather than just leap into a new frigate program. I'm not convinced we need a frigate and if we do I have no idea in what numbers. Read today's post and you'll see where I'm coming from - it's my favorite "have a strategy" theme and then build from that.

    11. I'm not sure how easy it is to "divert" SCN funds to upgrades and maintenance accounts. You may find Congress and shipbuilding lobbyists kill your plan to "preserve industrial base".

      Your plan will result in a smaller fleet, by at least 14 ships in the short term.

    12. Yes, the practicalities of accounting are always a challenge, however if the Navy can figure out how to use R&D funds to build two warships, I'm sure they can figure out how to use "saved" shipbuilding funds for maintenance.

      I don't consider 14 fewer LCSs to be a detriment!

  10. Was Hellfire ever engineered, and/or tested, for the Naval Ordanance EM environment?

    1. It's fired from AH-1s (though not the Longbow variant).

  11. I am talking specifically about HERO (Hazards of EM Radiation to Ordnance) design/testing.
    NAVSEA OD 30393, Design Principles And Practices For Controlling Hazards Of Electromagnetic Radiation To Ordnance (Hero Design Guide)

    1. Yes, I know. Marine AH-1s and Navy MH-60s carry Hellfires today, but those aren't the Longbow Hellfire variants.

  12. ASuW
    Sea Skua missiles had 3x the warhead or hellfire are were hardly "ship killers"
    Two destroyed the bridge of an 800t tug and a third destroyed the RHIB, although apparently 200t fast attack craft did go under when hit.

  13. I'm late to the party but my two cents. Since the LCS is basically a long range high speed lightly armed corvette, use those features.

    Instead of expecting it to outgun anything more than a human standing on shore with a BB gun, let's use it to do anything not requiring much force.


    - hunting pirates.

    - disaster aid. This is a good one because the high speed with which it can arrive at the location- up to 80kph is the same speed as an ambulance on the road! And you can have specialised "modules"- build hospitals into cargo containers- the LCS's can handle a few of those, and they have high speed boats and helos to fly injured people onto the ship. This also frees up large capital ships from diverting from their missions.

    - Show the flag.

    - Test bed for other tech.

    Just some ideas


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