Friday, October 16, 2015

LCS as FF - What Does That Do To Crew Size?

You all know that the Navy is going to build the next batch of LCS’s as “frigates”.  They aren’t even remotely capable of performing as a frigate but that’s not the point of this post.  Instead, consider what the changes mean.

It means that the ships will now carry all the equipment needed to conduct ASuW and ASW simultaneously.  OK.  So, …?

So, that means a significantly larger crew.  Think about it.  The ship will carry the equivalent of two modules instead of one.  Each module would have had a module specialist crew of 15-30 depending on what the final modules consisted of.  Now, they’ll have to carry 30-60 module specialists.  There will be more consoles to man, more weapon and electronics maintenance to perform (I haven’t heard whether the Navy will attempt to stick with the no-maintenance concept or not), a larger CIC watchstanding requirement, and so on.  Of course, there’s also the more mundane needs.  A larger crew will require more cooks and personnel to handle the ship’s hotel services.

So what are we looking at in terms of crew size?  Well, assuming a “core” crew of 50 (remember the Navy has already increased the core crew size and added 20 extra berths), plus 30-60 specialists, plus a helo detachment of around 24 and we’re looking at a crew of 104-134.  Now, bear in mind, this is just speculation and analysis on my part.  The Navy hasn’t shared their idea of crew size with me, yet.  Also, remember that if the Navy abandons the no-shipboard-maintenance concept, the crew size will have to increase greatly in order to perform all the maintenance on board the ship.  At that point, we’ll be right back to the Perry crew size.

The problem is that the LCS was not sized and designed to accommodate that much crew.  The ship does not have the berthing, galley space, food storage, refrigerated storage, water storage, heads, and all the other hotel services required to support that size crew.  Given the weight issues the class already faces, trying to add more of all those things will be a challenge.  It’s a zero sum game regarding weight.  If we add more hotel services, we need to remove something else to compensate.  What will be removed?  We’ll have to wait and see.  We already know that the modules are under weight constraints to the detriment of performance.  Calling the LCS a frigate does not suddenly make the LCS a good ship.

The original LCS concept has been pretty much abandoned, hasn’t it?


  1. On the subject of weight, I noticed they're now backing away from the high-speed sprint requirement that drove so many of the current LCS problems:

    Not sure if that should be interpreted as "we're going to design it for a slower top speed so we can use the space/weight for other things", or "it's going to get heavier so it'll end up being slower with the same powerplant".

    1. I saw that and wondered the same thing. My interpretation was that they would downsize the engines and machinery spaces but we'll have to wait and see.

    2. That demands the question, what good is this thing if it doesn't have the sprint?

      - It's very expensive
      - Not well armed given its displacement
      - Not likely to be very survivable

      Even if everything worked as expected (which it does not), what good is this damn thing?

  2. I think the next Frigate the USN builds should be based on the FREMM frigate or the Sachen class Frigates. I would even think the USN should make a deal with the British on the Type 26 GCS

    1. There are many viable options and the Navy has chosen the worst. Sad.

    2. Why can someone force the USN to make a deal with the Royal Navy on the Type 26 GCS.

  3. Ah please sign up to the Type 26, that would be so good. We could pump them off at $300 mill easy if we build 50. We can even pretend its all your idea like the F35, if you like ?

    Anywho sillyness aside.

    Does the weigh margin thing still stand for the LCS \ SSC \ FFG ? I would assume they are now dropping the 50 kts requirement, I understood the tonnage was also going up ?

    As you say though unless everyone lives off MRE and kips in a hammok for 3 months its not going to get much endurance.

    Now this doesn't necessarily invalidate it, dependant on the CONOPS, e.g. battle group ASW. It might do that fine. But it will massively limit its flexibility re:mission type.

    I think we both agree a DEDICATED ASW asset could even be a very good thing !?

    I would seriously like to see you do that.


    1. Ben, unfortunately the decision has already been made. The new LCS will be the old LCS with a few upgraded trinkets. There are many good alternatives out there. The Navy chose not to evaluate any of them from a capabilities or requirements perspective.

      I do not know what will happen tonnage wise. I'm sure the displacement will go up but there is little or no margin to build on so for every pound that goes on the ship, one must come off, in essence.

      A dedicated MCM vessel is probably the most useful role for the LCS. Dedicated ASW would be nice but as I've described in previous posts, the ship has fundamental ASW flaws that make it a better target than hunter.

    2. "The Navy chose not to evaluate any of them from a capabilities or requirements perspective."

      From what I've read elsewhere the Navy wanted the LCS to be affordable, and to do that they wanted it to have the same capability as the de-fanged 30 year old Perry's, so it could take over the low end roles those had assumed.They were convinced they couldn't afford anything more in numbers, and that the capability of anything more would just be a pale imitation of a 'Burke.

      Its (to me) a radical premise. I get it to an extent. I even like the idea of trying a couple as a test ships like Sea Shadow. Thinking and testing is good. And I think that the tests would have shown the premise to be false.

      Because at this point, even with a dedicated ASW ship, we have one that I would argue is maybe as good as an old Perry at ASW, at best. It has newer equipment which is presumably more sensitive, but it has stuff like the VDS which sounds like it has limitations compared to a bow sonar.

      Further, its range! Now that its been deployed and we see it has range issues I don't believe its range can realistically compare to a Perry's now that we've seen it. Nor does it sound like its endurance can.

      Damn. We'd be better off with Knox's with new Sonar equipment if we want ASW. Or the NS Cutter as a dedicated ASW vessel.

  4. I fully support smaller ships with smaller crews on austere ships to lower operating costs and the ships profile. However, such ships need tenders for other support. Our navy even had destroyers tenders until a decade ago. I would improve the tender concept with helicopter ready reaction teams for fire fighting, repair, rescue, medical ect. I'd also have nice stuff like the gym, ship store, barbershop, on the tenders. Unless our Navy proposes tenders for small ships, the idea will fail.

    1. Excellent comment. A tender might also make a good humanitarian assistance vessel, much as I hate that mission for the Navy.

    2. The Spanish Navantia helicopter ship ( Australia has two) design would make a good start. Take out the amphibious well and you have decks free for maintenance, can even keep the hospital parts. As the LCS need helicopter maintenance facilities keep the lifts and the hangar. The full 27,000t LHD is only a bit above the cost of a well equipped euro style frigate.

    3. I'm not familiar with that design but sounds like a good starting point.

  5. "A dedicated MCM vessel is probably the most useful role for the LCS. Dedicated ASW would be nice but as I've described in previous posts, the ship has fundamental ASW flaws that make it a better target than hunter."

    Given we wouldn't have to buy any other mission modules; it would make alot of sense to me to use these as MCM ships and try something else as a dedicated ASW vessel.

    You might, with some work, and with the crew all working at one thing, make them fairly decent at it.

    The thing that makes me sad is that for us to get a dedicated ASW ship given current acquisition environment we're looking at several years and many billions of dollars.

  6. Both subclasses are grossly overweight and can only carry 14 days of food for the small crew. Even with reducing the speed requirement, there is going to have to be ALOT of re-engineering within the basic hull shell.

    At what point is it not worth trying to make a silk purse from a sows ear?

    1. "At what point is it not worth trying to make a silk purse from a sows ear?"

      Day one!

  7. Capt. Dan Brintzinghoffer at the American Society for Naval Engineers. "If we don’t change anything [in the hull design] and add a lot of weight, they’re not going to go as fast as they do today,it’s acknowledging the reality of physics: it’s heavier, it’s not going to go as fast, and it’s no longer a requirement they have to design to.”

    It sounds that its going to be a expensive re-design of both the sea frames from LCS to SSC frigates

    One option would be to delete one of the two GTs (LCS 1 RR MT30/ LCS 2 GE LM2500),revised gearing and one less water jet.

    Another more likely option would be a V-line option by moving down the down flood points as with the AB FIII. The ship will be deeper in the water causing stability issues with a reduction in buoyancy, increased bending and shear loads, global loads. The hydro-static and fatigue loading on decks and bulkheads goes up so you have to strengthen the hull with additional steel / aluminium to the structure, more weight, so basically chasing your tail. The result of only specifying a 150 ton LCS growth margin, standard for USN frigates destroyers is 10%.

    You can see the same outcome due to the limited weight margins on the AB FIII, no mention of it fitting the HED EM as will be retro fitted to the AB FIIA starting next year and even IIA limited to one prop shaft not both as original plan, it will give an extra 2.5 days between refueling. The HED would have also given the AB FIII, operational from 2023 to 2070 approx., the option of 2 MW PTO per EM so 4 MW available for the future directed energy weapons and electromagnetic rail guns plus the option of the extra range so needed by the short legged AB's.

    The other drawback is the reduced freeboard, can see the effect even on the AB FIIA with the loss of the SH-60 and two pilots swept off the flightdeck, one of 13 incidents reported with seas over flightdeck, the FIII will have a lower freeboard.

    As no change in the hull design,at the lower speeds the high resistance LCS-1 semi-planning monohull requires more fuel than the 8000 ton DD963 hullform. The SSC hull will be lower so the wetted area higher increasing resistance still further than the current LCS-1 whoose max. range of 2,000 nm at 14.4 knots will be reduced unless SSC fuel tanks increased.


    1. Nick, very nice article about the interview with the DDG51 manager. I hadn't seen that. Thanks!

      Nice comment overall. That's the kind of informative comment I love to see.

    2. More evidence that we should just start from scratch.

      A modular Navy ASW/MIW/presence ship should look more like the Damen Crossover series or Absalon than LCS. Big, roomy, modest propulsion requirements with quiet hybrid drive. If we stick with an LCS combat suite, a Crossover shouldn't be THAT much more expensive than the LCS's, even though it's a couple thousand tons larger.

      Just MHO.

    3. No, no, no. An ASW ship cannot be modular and hope to be effective. Subs have most of the advantages now, anyway, and sending non-optimized ships to attempt ASW is just sending target drones to be sunk. An ASW vessel must be ASW designed from day one with all the usual quieting, acoustically isolated machinery, hull form designed for quiet operation, engines designed for quiet operation, an optimized combination of sonars, dipping sonar of some sort, and on and on. You wouldn't send a pickup truck with a modular engine to race a Formula 1 car. You wouldn't send a cargo plane with a modular missile to take on an F-22. Why would you send a cargo ship with a modular sonar to take on an SSK/N?

      Modular only works for support functions. I've addressed this before.

    4. You can build a quiet, acoustically-optimized ship that is also modular. There's nothing about modularity that prevents this.

      ASW isn't a race, so the analogy doesn't hold water (so to speak). Ships performing ASW don't need to go extremely fast. The platform specializations for ASW are relatively straight-forward and modest (e.g. quieting). These same specializations also happen to also be important for MIW.

      A non-modular, ASW-optimized ship needs to be quiet, carry a twin tail, HMS, a few organic ASW weapons, and a helicopter or two.

      A modular, ASW-optimized ship can carry exactly the same components and have similar acoustic signatures. It will just be somewhat larger, due to the weight/space penalties of modularization.

    5. Uh, the pickup truck analogy was not about speed. It was about a non-optimized platform trying to compete with an exquisitely optimized one.

      Certainly, if we choose to build a modular ship that is completely optimized for ASW, that would be fine but then it's no longer modular in the Navy's sense of the concept. The Navy believes you can place an ASW module on a tramp steamer and you've got an instant ASW vessel. That's sheer idiocy.

      An ASW optimized, modular ship would be wasteful and expensive when not carrying the ASW module.

      Frankly, the entire concept of dynamically swapping modules on a daily basis as the momentary tactical challenges change is ridiculous. Modularity for combat vessels sounds great on paper but fails the reality test.

    6. Certain missions require exquisitely-optimized platforms. For example, car racing, traditional air combat, penetrating strike. For these, you need nth-degree performance and are willing to pay the price.

      However most missions do not require exquisitely optimized platforms. The law of diminishing returns kicks in. The last few degrees of optimization are an order of magnitude more expensive and just aren't worth it.

      Surface ship ASW is one. No matter how much you try to quiet them, they're still louder than subs. Make em quiet, but recognize the limits.

      However, as I said before, it helps to be quiet in MIW too. So for a ship who's primary missions include ASW and MIW, quieting is a useful attribute.

      Extensive quieting may be less valuable in ASuW, carrying Marines, or other missions. So clearly one has to weigh the cost of building quieting into a ship class that does many missions. I don't think it's THAT expensive, so it seems like a good feature to add, IMHO.

      Who said anything about swapping them out daily?

      A ship the size of the Crossover could carry BOTH the ASW AND MIW modules simultaneously. Or it could carry one module, and a robust VBSS module or small CoLT-sized Marine force. Or a SPECOPs unit with their boats and aircraft. Or part of a riverine force.

      Big, quiet and modular.

      A ship designed without modularity can't do any of this.

      Pickup trucks are FAR more popular (and more generally useful) than race cars for this reason (and the price).

    7. I'm risking repeating a previous post. There is nothing wrong with modular for non-combat tasks. However, in combat, all else being equal, the modular platform will lose to the optimized one every time.

      The reason the pickup truck is popular is because it can do a bunch of things reasonably well and at a reasonable price. But - and this is the key point - it can't do anything supremely well. A race car will beat it in a race. A dump truck can haul more. A bus can carry more passengers. And so on. For NON CRITICAL tasks, a platform that is less than optimal is fine. There is no real penalty for less than optimal performance. However, combat is not the place for less than optimal performance.

      Sending a modular, non-optimized, acoustic beacon of a ship to perform ASW is just sending target drones to be sunk.

      Modularity in combat is a dead end branch of military evolution. The "dead" part of that will become evident when we send the LCS into combat and none come back.

    8. But if a pickup truck is good enough for a job, why buy a dump truck? You can buy way more pickup trucks and they are more adaptable to a broader range of missions.

      Why does a modular ship have to be an acoustic beacon? Just because the LCS is doesn't mean all modular ships have to be.

      The British Type 26 frigate will have significant quieting, ASW capabilities AND be modular.

  8. I suspect it's not so much "the concept has been abandoned" as "the kind of conflict this vessel was intended for hasn't happened." So now it is necessary to equip with somewhat more general-purpose ships, and using LCS hulls for the job is a combination of saving the time and money costs of a new design and saving face with the politicians.

    1. No, John, I really mean that the conceptual underpinning has been abandoned. The minimal crew, the deferred maintenance, the module swapping, the tactical flexibility, the incredible speed, the floating network nodes, etc. were all to be hallmarks of a new template for future warships. Those characteristics have now been abandoned and for good reason.

    2. Are you sure those were really different concepts that the USN actually planned on implementing? They look a lot more like buzzwords for getting money out of Congress by seeming "modern."

      In contrast, the LCS seems to be intended for fighting a conflict in the Persian Gulf against speedboat forces, which seemed plausible in the nineties, but now can't be seen to be being treated as such.

  9. The modularity concept has not been abandoned. It is just not going to be used in the LCS FF variant. Small ship crews tend to be very proficient in multitasking, so I would not expect too much of a crew increase.

    1. Unless you believe that the LCS/FF embarked modules will require no crew, the now permanent modules will require the same crew they would have needed as mobile modules - that would be 15-30 per module depending on what the final module components and manning requirements entail. I won't repeat the post analysis but those additional crew are going to need additional support personnel to perform hotel services. It all adds up. I presented my analysis of crew needs.

      If you believe the crew size will be significantly different than I've presented, why don't you do an analysis and explain it? I will gladly host a guest post from you and will help you make the post the best analysis it can be whether I agree with it or not (agreement is not a requirement to guest post!).

      If you have no analysis to offer, then you are simply doing the magical hand wave to dismiss facts you don't like or you are making ridiculous assumptions about crew performance and endurance. Regarding crew performance, it has already been reported that crew performance has suffered due to sleep deprivation and task oversaturation.

      Let me know if you'd like to do a guest post. This is a sincere offer, not an ambush.


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