Here’s an interesting tidbit from the DOT&E 2016 Annual Report (p.267) concerning the LCS ASW module development and testing.
“The Navy did not conduct any at-sea testing of the ASW mission package in FY16.”
Huh??? I thought the ASW package was settled and a vendor for the variable depth sonar, Thales, was selected and the module was in the final integration and testing stages. I guess not.
What’s the hold up? Apparently, it’s weight.
“The Navy continued its efforts on a weight reduction program for the components of the mission package, including the handling system and support structures for the variable depth sonar and multifunction towed array.”
We’ve repeatedly noted that the LCS (both variants) are overweight and have no weight growth margins. Every pound added to the LCS has to be balanced by a pound removed. The LCS “growth” has become a zero-sum game. In other words, growth is no longer possible for the LCS.
Regarding the VDS vendor selection, apparently that is not the settled issue I thought it was.
“The Navy anticipates downselecting to a single vendor for the variable depth sonar in FY17 and beginning a test program soon thereafter.”
To refresh your memory, the ASW module currently consists of
- Lightweight Tow torpedo countermeasure (a Nixie-like acoustic decoy)
- Multi-Function Towed Array
- Variable Depth Sonar
- MH-60R and MQ-8B/C Fire Scout VTUAV
The Navy hopes to begin testing in 2018 or 2019. Assuming, optimistically, a typical few years of testing and a few more years to actually purchase production modules, we’re looking at 2025 or so before production ASW modules reach the fleet. That’s a lot of time and effort for what will be a pretty anemic ASW fit. Many LCS ships are going to live significant portions of their service lives without any modules.