Saturday, May 13, 2017

More [Unbelievable] LCS Incompetence

The Navy just announced a year’s delay in the LCS “frigate” program.

“The Navy has slowed its frigate procurement timeline, looking at awarding a detail design and construction contract in Fiscal Year 2020 to allow more time to understand what it needs the ship to do and how it might affordably meet those requirements.”

You’ll recall that the initial small surface combatant evaluation took place without appropriate analysis and in a very compressed time frame.  To the amazement of absolutely no one, the recommendation was to buy more LCS!  That process and decision triggered a firestorm of criticism and the Navy was roundly mocked for attempting to pass the LCS off as a frigate. 

Now, apparently, the situation has changed.

“Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Ron Boxall told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in a hearing today that the Navy is working under time constraints but not cost constraints at the moment, as the current “Frigate Requirement Evaluation Team” works through what is now the second look at future frigate requirements.”

“…2014 SSC TF [Small Surface Combatant Task Force] and therefore didn’t want to criticize its work, he told lawmakers “the Small Surface Combatant Task Force, the environment when they created that task force was, I’ll call it reactive in nature. We were responding to criticisms and to get to a more capable, survivable ship as quickly as possible. And there was also fiscal guidance that was given to them at the time.”

So, the Navy admits to having selected and designed a ship, the LCS-frigate, in response to public criticisms and negative publicity.  Is that really the right reason to select and design a ship?  Further, the Navy now acknowledges that the prime selection criteria was financial rather than combat capability.  Again, is that the main criteria we want to use when designing WARships?

“This time, the Frigate Requirement Evaluation Team has not been given any cost guidance. Boxall told USNI News at the hearing that there wasn’t even a date yet for when the Navy would have a cost cap – rather, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs …” [emphasis added]

Now?  Now?  Now, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs?  Shouldn’t it have looked at needs in the original process?

“…the mission set [has] somewhat changed since 2014. Whereas the LCS and the frigate had been envisioned for primarily independent operations near the shore, the Navy now believes the LCS and frigate could be used by fleet commanders to support the carrier strike group out at sea.”

Littoral … out at sea … The Navy just can’t seem to decide what it wants the LCS/frigate to do.  Is this kind of dithering really the best our professional naval warriors can offer?  Apparently so.

“…Boxall said the Navy is assessing what self-protection systems, offensive weapons, strike group connectivity and more the frigate would need to be the right ship at the right price tag.”

Again, does the Navy really need to perform still more assessments?  Shouldn’t professional naval warriors pretty well know what’s needed?

“…Boxall said in 2014 the Navy discounted foreign frigate designs due to none of them exactly meeting its requirements, and the need to quickly begin work on a frigate that would quell LCS detractors. Today, Boxall said there still doesn’t appear to be any other small surface combatant design, foreign or domestic, that exactly meets its needs …”

Nothing foreign meets the Navy’s frigate needs?????  Good grief, what kind of frigate are they looking for – especially given the previous statement that the Navy is “assessing” what’s needed?  If they’re still assessing, how do they know that no foreign frigate meets their needs?  With all the amazing and varied frigate designs out there, none meet the Navy’s needs?  Does that really seem like a credible statement or does it seem more like setting the stage to choose, yet again, the LCS as the next frigate?

Okay, I’ve just suggested that this is all laying the groundwork to, yet again, select the LCS as the Navy’s next frigate.  Is there any proof other than my invariably correct opinion?  Well, consider this tidbit from a USNI News article.

“As the Navy reworks its frigate requirements in the hopes of fielding a more capable ship for a more dangerous world, the two current Littoral Combat Ship builders may still have a slight advantage due to their hot production lines, the acting secretary of the Navy [Sean Stackley] said last night.” (3)

That sure sounds like a pre-ordained conclusion in the making, doesn’t it?
“We have less data on the foreign designs than we do on most of the other designs in the U.S., but having said that, what we learned from the Small Surface Combatant Task Force was that we made some assumptions then that weren’t exactly right,” he said. “We don’t know if they can or can’t [meet the new frigate requirements] with a foreign design …”

Wait a minute!!!!!  You don’t know whether a foreign design can meet the requirements?  Didn’t you just say that no foreign design meets the requirements?  Which is it?  Do they or don’t they meet the requirements?  And remember, you’ve admitted that there are no requirements since you’re still “assessing”.

“In particular, Boxall said, the 2014 task force didn’t get as much information as desired on alternative foreign designs, something the new effort hopes to correct.”

Not to beat a dead horse, here, but, again, if you didn’t get as much information as desired on foreign designs, how do you know they don’t meet the Navy’s [still being assessed] requirements?????

And what was that bit about, “we made some assumptions then that weren’t exactly right”?  I’ve got news for you Adm. Boxall, you made a LOT of assumptions that weren’t exactly right – in fact, they were exactly wrong.  Still, I wonder which one he’s referring to?

Is this enough or do you want more incompetence?  Of course you want more incompetence!   Consider this confused and contradictory statement.

“If we choose to go with a vertically launched system that could take any other longer-ranged missile of the future, that would be a bonus if you will, it would increase the flexibility to adapt to future weapons, but from an anti-surface standpoint that is not one of the focuses of this team at this time,” Boxall told the subcommittee. (Emphasis ours). “Most of the efforts we’re looking at right now is focused on the survivability aspects, (especially) improving the air defense capability.” (What he didn’t mention was that the Navy’s most powerful air defense missiles are all fired from, you guessed it, VLS).” (2)

The Breaking Defense article that this came from got it exactly right with their imbedded comment.  If the Navy is looking at improving the air defense capability of the LCS, the VLS is the most flexible and powerful way to achieve it and yet, in the Navy’s mind, a VLS is not a focus.  How’s that for confused and contradictory?

The LCS has, from day one, been beset by incompetence on an unbelievable scale and this is just continuing that trend.  The Navy lacks even the slightest clue about how to run the LCS program.  This would be hysterically funny if we weren't talking about a ship that will make up a third of our future combat fleet.

Adm. Boxall is a blithering idiot attempting to justify and speak for a confused and utterly incompetent Navy. 

Are you getting the picture, here?  This is utter lunacy and rampant incompetence run amok.  This is the best our “professional” naval warriors can offer??  Crap, we’re in trouble!


(1)USNI News website, “Navy Slowing Frigate Procurement To Allow Careful Requirements Talks; Contract Award Set for FY2020”, Megan Eckstein, 3-May-2017,

(2)Breaking Defense website, “LCS: HASC Seapower Chair Praises Frigate Delay”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., 4-May-2017,

(3)USNI News website, “Stackley: More Capable Frigate Requires Full and Open Competition, But LCS Builders May Have Cost Advantage”, Megan Eckstein, 12-May-2017,


  1. It looks like USN might have JUST NOW!!!! woken up to the fact that LCS isn't survivable, the weird part is they want it to be networked to have some forward anti-air capability but don't want the VLS?!?

    In reference to last article on Harpoon being removed form competition,if USN is so focused on networking, maybe your ASM should be network capable too....

    So the L for Littoral is now going to be tossed?

  2. If they don't want Mk41s then deck mounted MK56 could work. They carry ESSM. Probably extremely inexpensive but not nearly as flexible.

  3. I just don't understand this emphasis in anti air warfare: LCS will make a third of the future combat fleet. The other 2/3 are DDGs and CGs, i.e., anti air warships. Do the US Navy need a 100% anti air surface fleet? Isn't this too much "defensive"?

    If the Navy could develop a "surface-offensive" frigate, two of such ships could team together with a DDG for a SAG. And/or if the Nave could develop an ASW frigate, two such frigates and a DDG could form an independent ASW group.

    I think both alternative would be much more useful than another anti air ship.

    1. A purpose built ASW frigate would be a nice addition to the fleet. A CONOPS should be written.
      Are their foreign designs having better ASW capabilities than what we have now ?

    2. Regarding frigates, we have nothing so, yes, there are better designs. I assume you're talking about friendly countries. China and Russia both have excellent frigate designs. You might want to check out the Norwegian Nansen class frigate for a very nice ASW vessel, among others. The UK's Type 23 ASW frigate is also noteworthy although I know relatively little about it.

    3. The Type 23 was an excellent ship for the 1990s, but it needs updating now. The Type 26 ( might well fit US practical needs, but there are a few problems with adopting it:

      They aren't scheduled to be delivered until 2021, and that will likely slip.

      The USN wants to have bigger and better ships than its allies.

      The politics of US procurement would dictate replacing all the expensive bits with US-sourced systems. Now, those are good systems, but they won't have exactly the same size, weight, power consumption and so on. The design has been optimised quite hard around its systems, and changing all of them will necessitate re-working the design.

    4. "The Type 23 was an excellent ship for the 1990s, but it needs updating now. The Type 26 ( might well fit US practical needs"

      Any ship that wasn't updated this morning, needs updating. That said, the Type 23 is a basic, solid ASW vessel with everything needed for ASW.

      NO!! the Type 26 offers nothing the US Navy needs. It's the same size as a Burke and is significantly less capable. It lacks VLS cells, a long range anti-air missile, an Aegis level radar and combat suite, etc.

      People keep wanting to build "frigates" as powerful as Burkes. WE ALREADY HAVE BURKES! We need SMALL, dedicated ASW vessels, MCM vessels, and the like, not near-Burkes.

  4. Meanwhile China just launched its 27th Type 054A frigate...

    3" main gun
    32-cell VLS for medium-range SAM and ASROC
    8x anti-ship missiles
    2x CIWS
    Torpedos, VDS and TAS
    4000 tons full load displacement

    Who knows, maybe China would be willing to sell some...

    1. The updated 054A's are a nice frigate. Kind of a modern Perry FFG.

      Meanwhile, we're launching LCS's. Bit of a mismatch there.

  5. There are modernized Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates out there (Turkey added VLS cells to theirs, for example) that are probably better frigates than what the Navy will come up with if it settles on some mildly improved LCS. Not saying that the Navy should go back to Perry's but they should go with a new purpose-built class of frigates. It'd take more time but I think that it would be worth it. I doubt the Navy would buy foreign designs, though maybe one of the American defense contractors could use a foreign design as a basis to improve on.

    If the LCS must be used, I remember Lockheed coming up with an improved Freedom-class design that they pitched to the Saudis a few years ago. I don't know what came of that design, though, but it did feature VLS cells, which I think should be included on any future frigate due to the versatility they provide.

  6. Looking at the Boxall quotes, I think he's engaged in a kind of speech designed to appeal to modern US politicians. This is full of words and phrases that sound relevant and positive but the overall sematic content is "experts are working on it, but what they're doing is complicated, so please wait for the results."

    This is comforting to politicians who work in terms of their voters' feelings, rather than their rational thoughts.

  7. ComNavOps: Your too pessimistic. After reading this article, I get the impression that the Surface Warfare group just got a serious knife-hand from our new SecDef.

    At the end of the day, what is the consensus of what we need to flesh out the 350 ship fleet? Arguments about more or less anti-air, survivability and anti-surface capability need to be settled before anyone chooses a hull.

    The LCS clearly had momentum and was the politically expedient thing to do. My read on the new guy is that he doesn't place too much weight in those factors.

    Question for the blog: What is wrong with just building more Burkes? Is it cost? As a lay-person, they seem to check off all the boxes for a general purpose warship. Do they have an inherent mechanical flaw that a new blank sheet design like the LCS addresses? Could they be built with different high/low mixes of capabilities?

    The main problem, as I see it, in defense procurement, is the incessant need to be revolutionary with each new platform and not evolutionary. History shows us that the cost savings argument is a canard of the highest order.

    1. Yes, the problem is cost. Or rather, the problem is that an all Burke fleet would consist of too few ships for all the tasks the Navy needs (or wants...) hulls in the water for. At the same time, many of those tasks don't call for Burke-level capabilities. Hence, the requirement for a small(er) surface combatant.

      There is nothing terribly difficult about this. USN has just made it look that way.

    2. Cost and capability of a DDG are just too much for lots of jobs out there. Wasn't USN using a DDG for anti pirate work off the coast of Somalia? That ship alone probably had more capability then all the local navies put together. In years past, USN probably would have just sent a OHP or 2.

      I never understood why we didn't have a AA Burke and a "down graded" general purpose Burke, seems like that's something most navies around the world manage to build!, a high end destroyer and a more common "good to go everywhere" destroyer....

      I think MudMarine makes a right point at the end and probably why US DoD can't get the EASY STUFF right, LCS and what USN needs is a go anywhere, survive combat alone for a little bit, do plenty of jobs ship with out BREAKING THE BANK and NOT BE TOO SOPHISTICATED. US DoD can't do that!!! We always have to be big, expensive and super technologically advanced. LCS and follow on frigate, A10 replacement, USAF tanker replacement, etc,etc,etc why are these programs so expensive, delayed time and time again, loaded with tech when its' not necessary?!?!? For some military jobs, you don't need to reinvent the wheel!!!

    3. "Your too pessimistic."

      I think you may have missed the point of the post. My concern was not which capabilities the LCS/frigate should or should not have. The point was the dithering, confusion, lack of direction, and lack of professional knowledge being demonstrated.

      A true professional naval warrior would already know exactly what type of ship is needed and what weapons and sensors that ship should be fitted with. He would know that because he's a professional who studies, lives, and breathes naval warfare all day, every day. The Navy's utter confusion surrounding this issue simply demonstrates that our naval leaders are not professional naval warriors.

      Check out tomorrow's post for more on the issue of professional warriors.

    4. "What is wrong with just building more Burkes?"

      What's wrong is the cost and it manifests itself in two ways:

      1. We need more surface ships than we can afford by just building Burkes. We need small, dedicated ASW ships. We need small, dedicated MCM vessels. We need small, general purpose convoy escort vessels. The last thing we need is more Aegis AAW ships.

      2. Burkes are too expensive to risk performing the very jobs they were created to do. Would you risk a $2B Burke playing tag with a $200M SSK that has all the inherent advantages, anyway? Of course not! You need a small, dedicated, expendable ASW vessel (think WWII corvette or destroyer escort (DE)). Would you risk a $2B Burke playing anti-ship missile tag with a $20M Chinese missile boat? Of course not! And yet, those are the jobs that the Burke was supposedly built to do.

      Burkes are the capital ship of modern times - the highest end ship in the world - the battleship of today. Would we have wanted an all battleship fleet in WWII? Of course not! Why would we want an all battleship-Burke fleet today?

  8. A downgraded Burke is not a suitable solution. The fundamental reason Burkes are expensive is because they are big ships with large crews, mounting expensive radars and armed with lots of missiles.

    You could get rid of the Aegis gear, which would probably reduce direct acquisition cost by at least 30%. But that leaves you with 96 VLS cells, most of which can't be effectively employed (ok, you could stock up with 350 ESSMs). You could get rid of half the VLS cells, and then you are left wondering why you are sailing a large, half-empty warship around that still has high crewing requirements and four fuel-guzzling gas turbines. And if you are going to fiddle any further, you may as well build a new ship.

    Trying to build a (much) cheaper Burke is like trying to turn a Ford F150 into an Audi A4.

  9. The idea they can't find a quick replacement design is ludicrous.
    While I think an "Improved" LCS would still be wretched due to high maintenance, Lockheed proposed a full on frigate of theirs (by stretching its steel hull) when they first introduced; complete with SPY-1F, 5-inch gun, torpedoes, full sonar, and 16 cell VLS. The final SSC was even a wimpier frigate than the ones offered for SSC competition!
    And since Lockheed pays great, offers jobs for retiring, offers great products...whatever, but I am guessing that is what the new frigate ends upbeing...and will cost probably what a flight 1 Burke cost.

    In 1996 HI built here in the US the Saar 5 corvette for Israel, with a 76mm gun, 16 cell VLS (for ESSM equivalent) torpedoes and a small ASW helo, a crew of only 70 and 1300 other words, what the LCS should have been, and it was built here.
    They Israelis are replacing it with a new one built in Germany based on the Braunshwieg class....same armament but stealthier to be launched in a year or so. So another working design and Both are somewhat short ranged (3,500-4000 miles) but are solid dependable designs.

    In fact at 1,300 to 1,800 tons both sound a lot like CNO's proposal many blogs ago for a new DE.

    And that's two designs from the small nation of Israel.
    HI has a frigate version of the Legend class cutter that can use an existing shipyard here in the US, the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate of Norway is big but nice design, France's La Fayette frigate is being built for the Singapore Navy and is pretty nice as well.
    Just ludicrous that they can't find a design.

  10. I think the hope with a downgraded Burke is the idea of a common hull and common logistics. But as CNO pointed out in another post the idea of the hull itself being cheap isn't really true.

    I don't mind a bigger hull. I don't mind using COTS solutinos has much as possible to keep prices down and ease upgrades. I think its essential, if possible, to simplify our logistics train.

    But all that is item 2 behind making a ship combat capable of ASW for the fleet.

    We all talk about DF21 and Sunburn etc; but a decent SSK can ruin alot of days. A few of them can fire a volley of missiles so close the reaction time will be very low. With a decent gun on it, it can also do anti-piracy work.

    We seem somehow unable to make this ship.

    As a cynical aside; I wonder if the 2020 date given by the Navy is intended to let them slide till perhaps the current administration is out of office, and let them come up with the LCS as the new 'fix' more easily. 'We were right all along!'

  11. Now? Now? Now, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs? Shouldn’t it have looked at needs in the original process?

    This is classic OPNAV response. As soon as an officer shows up to OPNAV staff, they become a budgeteer, and every requirement (little r) needs to be re-analyzed and assessed. That way, they do not commit the budget against the requirement but can tell the fleet and others that the concern is being addressed. You just have to wait for the results of the study, which inevitable completes either after the officer has rotated out or needs to be re-evaluated in the context of a larger study. Paralysis by analysis.

    It's frustrating to see that behavior by certain flags at OPNAV and then see those same flags singing a different tune as soon as they get back to a fleet assignment.

  12. I have a question about the LCS- not based on the incompetence issue directly. I've seen pics of the 25mm bushmaster guns online, and they seem to be bolt on guns. Why does the LCS have such wide 30mm guns turrets, and why don't they install 4-6 more 25mm guns? It seems quick, cheap and easy to do (relatively) and would take care of any "swarm attack" out to 3km.

    1. I assume you're talking about the remote version of the 25mm guns, the Mk38 Mod 2. The problem is not bolting them on someplace, the problem(s) is controlling them. If you have several guns, what you don't want to have happen is for all of them to fire at the same target and allow the other targets to close on you. In other words, you need an integrated fire control software system. To the best of my knowledge, the LCS does not have that. Lacking a software controlled system, you need more operators (you probably need more operators and maintainers, anyway!) which the LCS can't support. Remember, the Navy infamously and unwisely opted for minimal manning and the LCS is not designed to support larger crews. There is also the weight issue. The LCS is overweight and every pound is critical. Finally, the effective range of gun is very short. Swarm boat rockets and missiles outrange the Mk38 so they wouldn't be an effective defense in any case.

  13. Interesting question.

    To hazard a guess I'd say it's probably related to weight, space, manning, and power.

    Could they do it? Most likely. But the 30mm are set to fit into the LCS modules. To get Additional 25mm you'd need to find deck space, people to operate them (for whom you'd have to find space on the minimally manned LCS), power cables (probably not a big deal), and depending on the weight of the mounts "room" in the ships growth margin for the mounts and their magazines.

    Still, it's not a bad idea overall. I'm guessing a Fletcher would do fine against a "swarm attack"

    1. Right on all counts, plus effective weapon range - they wouldn't be effective! See my reply above.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.