Friday, February 16, 2018

Australian Hobart Class Destroyer

Australia’s HMAS Hobart class destroyer has generated a lot of interest from naval observers.  Let’s take a closer look at it.

The Hobart class is intended as an anti-air warfare destroyer.  The ship is 483 ft long with a displacement of around 6200 tons.  Relevant weapons include a 48 cell Mk41 VLS, two Harpoon quad launchers, two triple torpedo tube launchers for lightweight torpedoes, a single Phalanx CIWS, and one 5” gun.  The main sensors include the Aegis/SPY-1, SPQ-9B for low level detection, two missile guidance illuminators, hull-mounted sonar, and a towed array/variable depth sonar.

Just as a frame of reference, here’s a brief comparison of the Hobart’s characteristics and the Burke, as another example of an anti-air warfare ship.



              Hobart            Burke

Length        483 ft            509 ft
Displacement  6200 tons         9200 tons
Range         5000 @ 18 kts     4400 @ 20 kts
Speed         28 kts            30 kts
VLS           48 cells          96 cells
Harpoon       8x                8x
Torpedo       2x Mk32 Triple    2x Mk 32 Triple
Gun           1x 5”/54          1x 5”/62
Close In      1x CIWS           1x CIWS
Illuminators  2x                3x
Helos         1x Seahawk type   2x Seahawk type


It is clear that the Hobart is a slightly smaller version of the Burke with the main difference being the Hobart’s VLS capacity is half that of the Burke and one less illuminating radar for missile guidance.  That reduced capacity classifies the Hobart as a frigate, at least in comparison to the Burke.  Unfortunately, this also illustrates the problem with frigates – they tend to be 80% of the cost of a Burke with half the capability. 

In this case, for the vessel’s main function, anti-air warfare, the Hobart has half the capacity on a hull that is 95% of the Burke’s length.

Hobart Class Destroyer


A cost comparison between countries borders on pointless but Wiki lists the cost as A$8B (US$6.2B) for 3 ships (US$2.1B per ship versus the $1.8B per Burke).  Wiki also reports that the program is A$1.2B over cost.  Thus, the Hobarts are as expensive as Burkes or more expensive.  As I say, take the cost figures with a huge grain of salt.  It’s hard enough getting accurate US Navy cost figures, let alone Australian costs.  While the Hobart’s capability is decent, though limited, the ship appears to be poor value for the money.  It would seem that Australia could have simply purchased full Burke for the same cost.  I won’t pretend, however, to understand Australian acquisition policies since I can barely explain our own!

US naval observers and commentators tend to ascribe near miraculous characteristics to foreign ship designs but, inevitably, when the designs are examined more closely their luster tends to fade.  The Hobart is a decent ship but a poor value for the money.  It offers nothing for the US Navy.

79 comments:

  1. Hi CNO,

    As far as cost concerned, countries like Canada and Australia will always pay a premium because of politics and inefficiencies of scale. It's not quite as bad as first glance because some of that money goes back into the government via taxes from workers, and the shops which support the workers and their families. But with the need to rebuild infrastructure and retrain new workers each time a new ship is built, it'll always be pricier than the USA building them.

    I agree with you about having half the vls issue. I've often wondered what goes into a warship, given the missiles are a small rectangular area- what's taking up the rest of the ship?

    According to Wikipedia, at the time of selecting the destroyer, it was between the Spanish frigate and the Arleigh Burke. The AB was dropped due to crewing issues and the flight IIa version wasn't finalized yet.

    As for being useful for the USN, I don't see why not. The USA won't have the same price issues as Australia. Having said that, it's not the newest design around, and arguably the Type 26 from the UK Could provide a better ship.

    Cheers!

    Andrew

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    1. "As for being useful for the USN, I don't see why not."

      We've thoroughly discussed the lack of need for a mini-Burke. That aside, if we're going to build a ship with 50% of the combat capability (half the VLS, the ship's main weapon) then we should, reasonably, expect to pay around 50% of the cost. Accepting, for the sake of discussion, your theory about increased costs for Australian ships (and I can make an equally compelling discussion about why US costs will always be higher due to the lack of competition due to lack of shipyards), do you really believe that an American production of a Hobart could reduce the cost by almost 60% to get down the 50% cost point of a Burke? That's a leap of faith that borders on fantasy!

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    2. FYI USNI is reporting the navy has narrowed the FFGX competition has narrowed to 5 the 2 LCS designs the NSC design the Fremm and the Spanish design all made it.

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    3. Australia sugnificantly overpays for defense equipment because Australia insists that much of the work get done inside Australia. Inefficiencies in there work down in Australia are a significant cost driver (see their ssk replacement program).

      The main cost savings of frigate vs ddg is crew cost. The Hobart class frigate has 90 less crew and an approximately 15 person smaller air wing. Ballpark at $50000 cost per sailor per year that is $5.25M per year and $157.5M over the 30 year ship life.

      Also you are going to save around $100M in the initial missile purchase plus the cost of upgrades and replacements.

      Finally, USN's ffgx program is seeking a hull for under $1B. After GSE easily save around $750M in acquisition cost vs Burke flight III.

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    4. I'm not sure what you're arguing for or against, if anything.

      "The main cost savings of frigate vs ddg is crew cost. ... $157.5M over the 30 year ship life."

      Your own supporting statement about lifetime crew costs contradicts your statement about the main cost savings between a frigate and DDG being crew cost. A lifetime savings of $157M is only 17% of the nominal $900M construction cost savings between a frigate and DDG.

      As I say, I'm not sure what point you were trying to make. Maybe I missed the point?

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    5. The headline salary of a crewperson is the tip of the iceberg. Once you factor in training, certification, and the training of replacements, then chuck a pension on top you've multiplied that many times.

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  2. CNO, you have long stressed the importance of conducting realistic live-fire training against multiple incoming missiles for the Aegis system, but the Navy doesn't really seem to want to do that.
    Do you know if our Aegis equipped allies in Australia/Japan/Korea/Spain have conducted such simulations, and if so what conclusions/recommendations did they draw?

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    1. Sorry, I've never heard of any such test.

      On a closely related note ... Are you aware that the US Navy has a remote operated self defense test ship that is designed exactly to perform live weapons tests against live incoming missiles? The current test ship is the USS Foster, a former Spruance class destroyer. The Navy has been trying desperately to early retire the Ticonderoga class so why not let them "retire" one and repurpose it as an Aegis self defense test ship. The cost would be minimal and the lessons learned would be priceless.

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    2. Chris, good question, I think the American-Japanese SM-3 Block IIA missile has been tested but I don't think fired from a ship, US or Japanese yet. The Dutch F802 has fired ESSM and Standard tests but ABM capability hasn't been tested, it's possible but probably years away. UK Type 45 has participated in some ABM tests but I don't think they fired anything.

      I would say most foreign AEGIS and other EURO radars/missiles have the possibility of doing ABM but are probably many years behind USA and maybe a few years behind Japan too....foreign navies generally have tested taking out a cruise missile and aircraft but same as USA, testing is somewhat limited and canned, it's just so freaking expensive.

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  3. What are the crew requirements and operating costs for Hobarts? Burkes are notoriously complicated and expensive to run and the Navy is constantly whining about not having enough sailors.

    The VLS number seems like kind of a red herring, too. I was under the impression that most US Aegis ships rarely run with a full load and missiles have to be swapped between ships because of shortages. Other than an all-out land bombardment with Tomahawks, when do US ships need anywhere close to the full compliment? AU is definitely not worried about the land attack role in the near future.

    Just like with the mythical 355 ship Navy I feel like there should be a sober review of just how many VLS cells are needed for any and all roles.

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    1. "review of just how many VLS cells are needed for any and all roles."

      I've discussed this many times. Peruse the archives and you'll get a pretty good feel for it. More to the point, what do you think about the number of VLS cells needed? Bear in mind that US Navy ships carry Standard, ESSM, Tomahawk, and VL-ASROC.

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    2. "The VLS number seems like kind of a red herring"

      So, I assume from this that you're not in favor of the vertical launch missile tubes in Virginia class subs and that you don't see much value in building frigates with yet more VLS cells for a fleet that already can't fill the existing cells?

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    3. 48 cells seems like a decent number for a frigate. 8-12 cells quad packed with ESSMs, 12-16 cells for Standards and 24 Tomahawks aught to give it more than enough capability, especially if combined with Harpoons and 2 SeaRAM launchers. 36 cells would probably also work for escort, local air defense, and maybe land attack support for Spec Ops missions. I will definitely check out the archives to see what you have discussed before.

      As far as Virginia's, considering what they are meant to replace, giving them a pittance of cells and expecting them to cover the mission set of the Ohios seems like folly. It seems like a case of distributed lethality never giving you enough lethality when and where you need it.

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    4. "It seems like a case of distributed lethality never giving you enough lethality when and where you need it."

      So, you're arguing for MORE VLS? I'm getting mixed messages on this!

      48 cells IS a decent number for a frigate (depending on what its purpose is) if that frigate also cost half of a Burke instead of equal to the cost of a Burke!

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    5. "The VLS number seems like kind of a red herring, too. I was under the impression that most US Aegis ships rarely run with a full load and missiles have to be swapped between ships because of shortages."

      You have a couple of misconceptions here. Partial loadouts, if indeed they do partial loads, are common during peacetime when there is no significant need and storage shelf life can be better maintained in warehouse. During war, deployed ships will load up and then VLS cell number will be quite desirable, at least, to a point.

      Also, as far as swapping missiles, I've never heard of that for VLS missiles but I have heard of it for Harpoons. The Navy's Harpoons have reached the end of their shelf lives and, to save what inventory they have, the Navy is deploying low threat region ships with partial or no Harpoon loads and swapping missiles when needed.

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    6. I'm not sending mixed messages. I am addressing two of your questions, and addressing them in two different paragraphs. 48 cells for a frigate = fine because of it's prospective missions and because Burkes will always also exist. The Virginia's tubes = not nearly enough because they are supposed to replace the Ohio missile boat capability entirely and would theoretically be tasked with the same large scale land attack the the Ohio's are currently. For a missile sub I would think no fewer than 60 Tomahawks should be considered. They should have brought back the Seawolfs and tried to squeeze double in double the tubes.

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  4. Very,very interesting! As you mention, difficult to really compare with different ways to price weapon systems in each country, currency differences, years of fabrication,etc,etc BUT still super informative! Would be interesting to see a chart of Burke, Houbart, Type 42, F802 and FREMM to compare a little, maybe we would see that USN Burke isn't all that bad or maybe the least worse of the bunch!

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  5. The limited buy quantity is one reason ships like the Hobart-class are expensive compared to the Burkes. Had Australia procured 20-30 ships, the unit cost would be much less. In comparison, we're buying Burkes through multi-year procurement contracts which has saved the Navy billions.

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    1. Serial production cost savings are often claimed but seldom realized. For example, the U.S. builds carriers non-stop but the cost continues to rise above the rate of inflation. On an inflation adjusted basis, they're more expensive now then they were years ago.

      The cost of Virginia class subs has not come down.

      The cost of amphibious ships is steadily rising.

      Actually, the Burkes may be the best example of serial production cost savings but with the many accounting games that the Navy plays (GFE, hull only contracts, post delivery construction, etc.) it's very difficult to document. I know, I tried to and failed. It appeared that there might be some savings but it was obscured by the accounting games.

      So, claiming that had Australia produced many more ships, the cost would have been less is pure speculation that is not generally supported by historical data.

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    2. CNO:

      Here's an article which discusses how costs went down during the building of the Hobart Class.

      http://adbr.com.au/awd-to-ddg-the-air-warfare-destroyer-program-has-cause-to-celebrate-with-the-commissioning-of-hmas-hobart/


      It suggests that had Australia built a 4th Hobart, it would have been done faster and more cheaply, as they finally got into their groove after the mismanagement of building the first one.

      Andrew.

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  6. The hobarts have been problematic to say the least for the RAN. Many people in the RAN would have preffered to have three Bourkes. It was a close run decision to choose the F-100 over the bourke. The decision was made for a number of reasons. Primarily it was two things, both finacial. One was that Navantia was also building the new helo amphibs (canberra class) for ther RAN and it was mistakanly hoped that working with the same ship builder would be cost beneficial. The second was that the F-100 was supposed to be cheaper to build and have significantly lower crew size and therefore lower manning costs over the lifetime of the ships.
    In reality the ships have been delivered way over budget, years behind schedule and have had a number of engineering issues.
    The canberra class have also had issues. The quality of something as simple as the welding in Navantias shipyard in Spain has been heavily criticised.
    There were orignally likely to be four F-100s but the fourth option wasn't taken up in large part because of the difficulties. Its unlikely too that Navantia will win the contract for the 9 new Aegis capable frigates the RAN is building. The RAN now looks likely to go with the British Type-26.

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    1. Thank you for an interesting and informative comment. You sound like you have some working knowledge of the Australian situation. Thanks for sharing.

      This also illustrates the fallacy among U.S. naval observers who tend to think that all foreign naval construction programs are far superior to U.S. when the reality is that it's generally just a case of same problems just less publicized.

      Keep sharing your Australian insights with us.

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    2. The idea that only the US experiences cost overuns, delays and bad procurement decisions is of course ridiculous. The US does have some problems peculiar to their situation - the Byzantine, bizzare way that budgets are approved through Congress is one. There isn't the same level of strange accounting or weird budget approval practices in most Western democracies, where the parlimentary system makes it easier for governments to pass budgets.
      But Australia has plenty of it's own unique problems - a lack of shipyards, the need to integrate multiple weapons systems from completely different countries into something uniform and which also integrates with the US Navy. I could go on and on.

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  7. When it comes do defence purchases in countries like Australia and Canada i think it's 90% politics, and who's got the right connections at the right time.
    The Hobart is based on the Spanish F100 Frigate just as the Canberra class is a Spanish design, so i guess there is a warm connection between the two countries, or just better corruption practices :D

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    1. "When it comes do defence purchases in countries like Australia and Canada i think it's 90% politics, and who's got the right connections at the right time."

      One might suggest that the situation is the same in the US. How else can one explain the Navy's preference for the clearly inferior (by any measure) LCS?

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    2. I think they should just split Lockheed Martin like they forced the famous Microsoft split in 2000 because it had a monopoly.

      Do you think this can legaly be done based on LM monopoly and the defence blunders they did ?

      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2000/jun/07/microsoft.business1

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    3. The F-100 wasnt chosen over the Burke (the only two designs seriously considered) because Australia has some kind of corrupt relationship with Spain. That's a little ridiculous, no?
      If anything Australia has a warmer relationship with her closest ally, the US.
      Not that there's any problem with Spain, we just aren't as close economically, politically and certainly in terms of our security relationship as we are with the US.
      It really just came down to a belief in government that the F-100 would be cheaper to build, crew and maintain than burkes.
      An assumption that is proving wrong on the build and maintaim front but will probably prove true in terms of crew costs.
      Frankly most people in the RAN would prefer Burkes. But they don't have to pay for this stuff and the goverment has the right to go for what seems the more economically sustainable option.
      The RAN likes US ships. If the US built more frigates and diesel subs, the RAN would come knocking more often.

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  8. Would mention that the Navantia F100/Hobart, basis of GD BIW bid selected for the FFG(X) Conceptual Design phase is an old generation design dating back in the 90's, Navantia/Spain now moved on with their 21st century design, the ~ 5,000T F110 frigate to replace their six Oliver Hazard Perrys.

    F110 will utilize modern thinking and shipyard tech to keep build cost down and crew will be small ~ 120-130 versus 250 of the F-100 with a high degree of automation so as to minimize operations and maintenance costs which approx. twice shipbuilding budget, as mentioned above the Navy is constantly whining about not having enough sailors. 

    Propulsion will be to the latest hybrid CODELAG standard enabling quiet ship for ASW and will include the new LM IAFCL, International Aegis Fire Control Loop, interface to control radar and SM and ESSM missiles with ships CMS.

    PS The F110 ineligible for the FFG(X) competition as Navy are in panic mode as making a mature parent ship at sea the only criteria for selection, also excluding other new generation frigates such as Brit Type 26, Italian PPA and Japanese 30DX.

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    1. "Navy are in panic mode as making a mature parent ship at sea the only criteria for selection"

      I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "panic mode". Maybe explain that a bit?

      As far as requiring a mature parent ship, that's a reaction to the string of failed concurrent design/build attempts of the LCS, Ford, Zumwalt, F-35, etc. The Navy does not want yet another concurrent development/production disaster. That's a very reasonable desire. I've strongly criticized the concurrent approach many times in this blog.

      The only reasonable alternative would be to build a single prototype vessel, operate it for a period of time, find and fix the problems, and then commit to production of the modified vessel (at this point it's essentially back to the first option). The drawback is that this is a longer overall process.


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    2. "The only reasonable alternative would be to build a single prototype vessel, operate it for a period of time, find and fix the problems, and then commit...... The drawback is that this is a longer overall process."

      I would venture to say in theory you are right, it would take longer BUT watching F35,LCS,etc,etc... are we really going FASTER this way?!? Concurrency for the military does't seem to work, maybe for civilian products but military? Not so sure...or maybe we need to try it a different way.

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    3. When I said longer overall process, I was comparing to building an existing vessel with some modifications as the Navy is doing with the FFG(X).

      Concurrency is the worst of both worlds. It's longer and produces a substandard product.

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    4. "Navy are in panic mode as making a mature parent ship at sea the only criteria for selection"

      My argument is that shipbuilding technology/knowhow has moved on in the commercial sector, building some very sophisticated ships and resulted falling cost of ships. Led by the Asian shipyards with the European and now US following and to take full advantage with the new generation of frigates designed to maximise the benefits of the new build systems to cut down hours and build time.

      You state the Navy choice to go with mature parent [old] designs for the FFG(X) is a reaction to the string of failed concurrent design/build attempts, but I would say the wrong lesson has been learned.

      The Zumwalt fiasco was the result Navy/Admirals having a joint brain fade to take a fantasy revolutionary step forward and instead have fallen flat on their faces. If they had taken an evolutionary approach with the Zumwalt, not with its stealthy tumblehome design requiring massive internal ballest tanks for counter flooding for reserve buoyancy and resulting in a 16,000T destroyer, used the 8 inch Mk 71 gun instead spending $Bs on the white elephant that is the AGS 155 mm with no ammunition, same applies to the VLS system, used the MK 41 instead of a new MK 57, used the Aegis CMS and not the brand new $Bs TSCE unlikely to be used on any other ship, it goes on with brand new/costly HMS AN/SQS 60 & 61 instead of the in production AN/SQS 53D and the 'new' $Bs DBR now consigned to history after only three half sets installed on the Zumwalts and the one and full set on Ford, follow on Ford class will replace it with EASR.

      If above happened the eighty's design Arleigh Burkes would be many years out of production and Navy would be saving big money in operation and maintenance through much smaller crews and lower fuel costs with the evolutionary hybrid electric Zumwalt.

      That's why saying Navy are in panic mode by ignoring or even looking at what the new generation frigates with similar attributes bring to table, the same big money savings in O&M, whole life costs easily four five times original cost. The Navy by going with the older generation will have to either pay for higher O&M or costly updates to bring them up to standard of the new generation. The new Fincantieri PPA with lessons learned from its FREMM class, has already cut metal on second of class with delivery for the first vessel in 2021, following deliveries in 2022, 2023, 2024 (two units), 2025 and 2026, as said before Navy has made it ineligible for FFG(X) Concept Design phase.

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    5. "Led by the Asian shipyards with the European and now US following and to take full advantage with the new generation of frigates designed to maximise the benefits of the new build systems to cut down hours and build time."

      I don't really see an overwhelming evidence that anyone is building significantly cheaper warships than the U.S. Of course, trying to compare dissimilar ships and dissimilar costs is almost pointless. Still, as an example, the Fin.PPA appears to be around $690B for a low end frigate. I don't know that I would call that any great cost savings. What makes it a good value, in your eyes?

      That said, your point about commercial shipbuilding advances is valid. The question there is how applicable those advances are to a warship? Again, do you have an example or two of commercial advances that you think warships can benefit from?

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    6. "I would say the wrong lesson has been learned."

      Interesting. So what lesson should have been learned?

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    7. Totally agree to stop concurrency lesson, but that should not stop taking advantages of newer systems (Zumwalt installed them years ago) that enable reducing crew size by minimum of one third, manpower is the main cost driver of the O&M budget. With the award of the Conceptual Design phase contracts for the FFG(X) ships chosen most new generation type frigates were ruled ineligible. As mentioned above the new generation Navantia F110 crew half of the F100/Hobart, though partially overstated as F110 a smaller ship, but one new generation frigate to take advantage of systems with reduced crew numbers was the Danish Iver Huitfeldt class though eligible was inexplicably not awarded contract.

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    8. "manpower is the main cost driver ... reduced crew numbers"

      Let's accept that manpower is the main cost driver. Now, my question for you is what is the main combat driver? When a ship takes damage in the fight, what is the number one feature that keeps the ship afloat? What is the number one feature that can replace dead personnel? What is the number one feature that can effect repairs in combat? What kept the Stark afloat? What kept the Roberts afloat. What kept the Enterprise and Forrestal afloat? What kept the ... well, you get the idea. The answer, of course, is manpower and lots of it.

      I've stated many times that cost CANNOT drive warship design. If efficient and effective combat calls for large crews then we just have to accept that. To do less is to risk our gazillion dollar ships and fleet needlessly.

      We have a minimally manned ship now, the LCS, and it is DESIGNED to be abandoned after the first hit due to the minimal crew size. Does abandoning a warship (yes, I know it's the LCS rather than an actual warship) after one hit just so we can save some personnel costs seem like a good idea in combat?

      Consider ... we were able to man and pay for the personnel to operate a 2000 ship fleet in WWII and a 600 ship fleet in the Reagan era. Have we really lost the ability to man 280 ships to effective levels? Or, have we simply redirected the budget to incredibly bad acquisitions at the expense of manpower, maintenance, and readiness?

      This is a long rant but it's important to point out that you're running the risk of buying into a badly flawed and badly reasoned assumption about the place that manpower should hold in a Navy. Please think the whole manpower issue through very carefully before calling for some of these foreign, minimally manned ships.

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    9. Nick

      *** Apologies - I accidentally deleted Nick's comment so I've copied it back below ***

      Modern design and systems can partially mitigate damage but that there is much sense in your thinking.

      Navy wants to build up ship numbers, it has a limited budget.

      Manpower is a major cost driver, it follows if you reduce head count you can fund increase budget for new build and increased operational costs for larger number of ships.

      Do not know, but surmise that crew numbers are a fairly low percentage of total Navy manpower numbers, if available would be interesting to compare manpower numbers from WWII, Reagon era and today analysed in appropriate detail so as to see where growth is, my guess would be Washington DC.

      One of the drivers of ship design is volume required for crew accommodation, its striking that AB crew accommodation looks third world due to limited space available, the new Ford class having to plan for hot racks, compare to the Danish Iver Huitfeldt class with its maximum size staterooms for four crew, another benefit of the newer generation ships with lower crew numbers. The better living standard assists in keeping experianced crew by reducing the turnover rate.

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    10. So much to talk about here!

      "Navy wants to build up ship numbers, it has a limited budget."

      Absolutely false - at least, in the sense you mean it. The Navy has more money now than ever before, combined with recent historically low ship numbers. This means that the Navy can't plead limited budget. The recent post Navy Budget History proves that.

      "compare manpower numbers from WWII, Reagon era and today"

      That would be a good comparison. I'll have to look into that although I suspect finding the data would be a challenge. That said, some common sense suggests that we were able to man a ?2000? ship fleet in WWII, a 600 ship fleet in the Reagan era, but now can't afford to man a 280 ship fleet without a massive budget increase, according to the Navy? Does that seem believable to you? Or, is it more likely that the Navy is throwing away gazillions of dollars on unwise purchases (LCS, Ford, Zumwalt, F-35, etc.) and then blaming it all on sequestration and limited budgets?

      "The better living standard assists in keeping experianced crew by reducing the turnover rate."

      This is intuitively appealing but I'm not aware of a single shred of evidence that supports this proposition. In fact, I can offer circumstantial evidence that this is either not true or is a very minor factor. We were able to man and retain the personnel for a 600 ship fleet in the Reagan era with ships that had far more spartan accommodations than today's ships so, clearly, living standards were not a major factor in retention. Common sense would suggest that factors like job satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, identification with a proud and thriving organization, and simple patriotism are much more significant factors in retention. I would also look at deployment length as a major retention factor. As deployments have increased, retention has fallen. No one wants to be away from home for 8-12 months at a time.

      Be sure to think these things through rather than just buy into the Navy's spin. Most of what the Navy would have you believe is "misleading", to put it politely, and lies, to put it accurately. Think these issues through for yourself.

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  9. Much of the cost for the Hobarts came from Australian insistence on a complex arrangement of local assembly of prefab blocks built in Spain. Had they just let Navantia build them, they would’ve been significantly cheaper.

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    1. Maybe, maybe not. Spain's F100 program ran well over estimated and contracted cost. Wiki reports the F105 would cost $1.2B in FY18 USD and that's a best case estimate not a final, actual cost. I don't know what the final, actual cost was. Anyone know?

      So, there was potential to be cheaper if built by Navantia but it's far from a guarantee.

      Even at $1.2B, that's 67% of the cost of a full Burke and 50% of the combat capability. Like the Hobart, not a great value.

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    2. F105 cost was 800M € (992M $ today... although F-105 was comissioned in 2012). Previous ships in the class were far cheaper (453M €, according to Wikipedia). The F-105 overcost was mainly due to the integration of many Spanish-made sensors and systems to the Aegis Combat System (this was "enforced" by the Spanish Defence Industry lobby, but Spanish seamen would have preferred to go on with the original Aegis).

      Talking about the Australian program, the main problem was the decission to build the boats in Australia (and provide long and expensive training to the ASC shipyard, in terms of technology transfer).

      Having said this, I agree with CNO: the F-100/Hobart semiDDG may not be cheap enough to chose it against further Burkes. Have you considered a smaller boat such as the Norwegian F-310 Fridtjof Nansen Class, Aegis equipped (although with SPY-1F) and probably cheaper?

      Fuerza Naval (http://fuerzanaval.com)

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    3. "Had they just let Navantia build them, they would’ve been significantly cheaper."

      From Wiki, I note that Navantia costs may not be legitimate as suggested in the following statement.

      "Navantia ... has come under scrutiny for being subsidized by the Spanish government, and has been accused by of using cheap labor on temporary contracts to push prices."

      As often stated, this is another example of why comparing prices between countries is nearly pointless.

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    4. It's a reasonable conjecture to say that it might have been cheaper to build the Hobarts in Spain from design to sea trials.
      It's not something that can be said with certainty though. The reality is that the Hobarts have completely different sensor packages and combat management systems than the Spanish F-100s. The hobarts have a significantly more complex and expensive sensor package. That added to the cost of the ships and the delays in construction.
      The reality is also that politically and strategically australia is obliged to build in Australia. Its the only hope australia has of creating and maintaining any kind of military industrial shipyard base, which is a strategic necessity for a country like Australia.
      In addition while many issues did arise out of the partnership between ADW, Navantia and the DMO, many of those issues stemmed from poor quality shipbuilding practices in Navantia's yards. Poor welding quality, faulty drawings and insufficient defect management have seriously damaged Navantia's reputation in Australia as a reliable partner for future aquisitions.
      Which isn't to absolve the Osbourne shipyards in South Aus. There are a lot of issues in that yard that need to be sorted out quickly, since the yard is about to begin construction of 9 new frigates and 12 SSKs.

      Delete
    5. Has Australia learned any lessons from the Hobart acquisition and, if so, what and how are those lessons being implemented and where are they actually showing up? Or, like the USN, do they profess to learn lessons and then totally ignore them and repeat the same old mistakes?

      Good to have a local's view of things (I assume you're from Australia?).

      Delete
    6. I'm actually a joint Australian/US citizen. But I've spent most of my working life in Australia.

      I believe lessons have been learned.
      Whether they get sorted out is another thing.

      The Osbourne shipyards have learned a lot of valuable lessons, and the quality and depth of the workforce there has improved.
      One of the challenges Australia faces is that she's too small to have a large, dedicated military industrial base (this has always been a problem).

      Building warships is expensive, difficult work. The RAN has traditionally built too few ships in peacetime to maintain a real shipyard base.
      There is literally only a single shipyard in Australia capable of building large warships (Osbourne).
      That shipyard goes in and out of production - so retaining a skilled workforce has been next to impossible. Every time the RAN orders a new series of ships, they have to rehire and upskill their workforce and upgrade facilities. Then time passes, and they let go of their workforce again.

      The Government has recognised this and is finally trying to put in place a long term shipbuilding program so that the yards have a steady supply of contracts, so they can stay open and retain their skilled workers and keep their facilities up to scratch.

      One of the big issues with the F-100s was that the yard had to be brought back online. They hadn't built anything in years and had to rehire and retrain their workforce (including skilling up in Aegis systems, which are completely new to Australian industry). So there were the predictable delays and sloppy building practices you'd expect from what was essentially a novice yard.

      Now that the F-100s are either in commission, in sea trials or fitting out, the yard actually has big new contracts in the pipeline - the 9 new frigates (likely a variant of the Type-26 but fitted with Aegis) and the 12 new SSKs (modified Barracuda class subs, with the nuclear engines swapped out for what might diesel - they will be among the largest, longest range SSKs ever constructed).

      So the biggest lessons are around maintaining a stable shipbuilding capability in Australia.

      I also doubt Navantia will win any big contracts anytime soon. It's not that the Hobarts aren't decent ships - but the relationship with Navantia has been strained due to issues with building standards on both sides.

      Delete
    7. "modified Barracuda class subs, with the nuclear engines swapped out for what might diesel - they will be among the largest, longest range SSKs ever constructed"

      We tend to think that everything we come up with today is brand new and never before achieved. The USN is certainly guilty of that!

      For example, the Shortfin Barracuda will be around 95m (311 ft) long and have a range of 12,000+ nm at 10 kts. As you suggest, we think that's about the largest, longest range SSK ever constructed. However, the U.S. WWII Gato class submarine was 95 m (311 ft) and had a range of 11,000 nm at 10 kts!

      It's been 70 some years of submarine technology development and we're at the same place we were in 1940!

      Just a little perspective to think about!

      Delete
    8. Type IXD2: 12,750 nm @ 10 kts surfaced (1,620 metric tons small). The Japanese had subs of much, much greater range.

      The notion that conventional subs have poor range is nonsense. The issue is the slow (and not very silent) cruise speed - and cruise is only safe if there's no centimetre wavelength radiation. Radars may also detect a snorkeling sub by the way it pushes water up and creates waves, which may further reduce the safe cruise speed.

      Late in WW2 a German submarine snorkeled all the way to Argentina, never surfacing in well over 60 days.

      Delete
    9. Interesting point about the Gato. The reality is that the technological proficiency of diesel engines in terms of battery storage and range hasn't changed too dramatically in all that time.
      Its also an example of convergent evolution. The Gato was built to conduct long range Pacific patrols and the only way to do that before SSNs was to build massive diesels. The Shortfin Barracuda is being built with the exact same goal and so you get the same solution.

      Delete
  10. Military shipbuilding has become a risky business. There are few (if any) controversy-free projects. USN officers are worried about Ford, Zumwalt, LCS boats... Germany has just returned a modern frigate to her shipyard. Some Type 45 boats are still integrating SSM capabilities.

    Criticism on Navantia/ASC Hobart class may be ridden by BAE industrial interests, for instance. But, as stated, BAE may not be the solution to all the Australian Navy problems, which has a long history of problematic programs, such as the Collins class or the cracks on the Adelaide class after adding the ESSM VLS.

    Having said this, I expect the Hobarts to finally satisfy the RAN expectations. F-100 class are well-considered in European waters, since they operate well-tested systems as the Aegis and the SPY against low-rate production, ill-tested European sensors. I think the Canberras, sister ships to the Spanish Juan Carlos I, may also perform well. Marines SPMAGTF in Morón, Spain, usually operate from her with the MV-22 with good results.

    Returning to the FFGx program, I insist: maybe the Navy should not look for a short version of the Burkes. Does it need a SPY? 96 or 48 cells? Or just a low cost option with a decent escort capability to show the flag... a modern version of the resilient OHP class?

    Fuerza Naval (http://fuerzanaval.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "a low cost option with a decent escort capability to show the flag... a modern version of the resilient OHP class?"

      If you read through the archives, you'll see that I've repeatedly stated that the last thing the USN needs is a frigate - not even a modern OHP. We have so many Burkes that mini-Burkes serve no purpose. The USN has a shortage (actually, we have none!) or small, cheap, expendable ASW vessels. That's our need. In addition, we desperately need mine countermeasure vessels.

      If we ranked our needs, a frigate wouldn't make the top 10 list!

      Foolishly, the Navy is committed to $1B+ frigates. Using $1B+ ships for ASW is idiotic. $1B+ ships are not expendable.

      The Navy has failed to heed my advice, to their great detriment!

      Delete
    2. I assume you have intimate knowledge of Spanish naval matters?

      What does Spain see as the main function of its Navy?

      Does Spain see interoperability with the USN as important?

      What does the Spanish Navy want? Carriers? Subs? Surface vessels? Amphibious ships?

      Does the Spanish Navy see itself as a mainly offensive or defensive force?

      Who does Spain see as the most likely enemy that it will have to face?

      Delete
    3. Interesting questions... I am pretty sure the Spanish government wouldn't be able to provide an answer. The Spanish Navy HQ, on the other side, sees power projection and show-the-flag ops as their main mission. However, Spanish Navy is normally involved in low-activity conflicts, so major combat is not her priority when talking about training or procurement.

      Spanish Navy has a long tradition and since the Spanish-American agreements in 1953, the Spanish Navy has kept a long standing relationship with the USN. Wikileaks papers showed that the US Embassy in Madrid stated that the Spanish Navy was by far the most pro-american of the three branches of the Spanish Armed Forces (specially when talking about procurement).

      So the Spanish Navy is working hard to be a reliable ally of the US and her European partners. F-100 frigates have even been part of the BMD force, working side by side with the 4 Burkes based at Rota NAVSTA.

      Main concerns in the Spanish Navy nowadays are:

      - Replacement for the Agosta class submarines (with the S-80 AIP class... a really problematic project)
      - Modernization of the Naval Aviation Aircraft (they are operating Harriers and they see the F-35 as unaffordable) and Helicopters (we are currently buying second hand SH-60F to replace vintage SH-3, for instance).

      Spanish Navy doctrine sees herself as a Blue Waters Force, and she has ships deployed almost worlwide, but specially in the CMED/EMED and the Arabic Sea.

      The worst case scenario they foresee is Algeria or Morocco collapsing and becoming a new Libia, with ISIS, illegal inmigration...

      Fuerza Naval (http://fuerzanaval.com)

      Delete
    4. "Spanish Navy doctrine sees herself as a Blue Waters Force, and she has ships deployed almost worlwide, but specially in the CMED/EMED and the Arabic Sea."

      Interesting. If Spain (or the Navy) sees itself as a world wide navy, that implies that they are protecting some strategic interest of Spain. What strategic interests are they protecting? What does a Spanish naval presence in CMed/EMed accomplish for Spain?

      "The worst case scenario they foresee is Algeria or Morocco collapsing"

      Fascinating. What would the threat to Spain be from a collapsed Algeria/Morocco? Unwanted immigration? Terrorist attacks via sea? How does Spain's naval force contribute to Algerian/Moroccon stability, if at all? I'll have to educate myself better on this.

      Do you have any interest in authoring a guest post?

      Delete
    5. "major combat is not her priority when talking about training or procurement."

      The F100/Aegis is a fairly high end ship if major combat is not a priority. How does the Spanish Navy justify that?

      Delete
    6. Spanish Navy protects merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden and the fishing industry in the Somalian Coast against terrorism and piracy, as part of EU Operation Atalanta.

      In the MED, she is mainly focused in supporting EU Operation Sophia to fight against illegal inmigration from Libya, side to side with the Italian Navy. Italy is receiving around 300.000 illegal inmigrants every year from the Sahel countries, and it is suspected that terrorist cells may use this route to infiltrate Europe (and this is a situation that Spain would not like to happen in Morocco or Algeria... since the Spanish coasts are the closest ones).

      F-100 were planned to provide a good AAW defence to the Spanish Power Projection units (1 LHD, 2 LPD... we are a European-sized Navy = tiny navy compared to the USN). Our Admirals convinced the government that joining the national shipyard Navantia with Lockheed Martin would be beneficial: and they were right. They fitted the Aegis and the SPY in a 6000 tons design which we exported to Australia and (in a even smaller version) to Norway.

      So we got a fine AAW escort and the government was happy to see good financial results in Navantia, a win-win program. We are now starting the F-110 program, ASW-oriented (although SPY equipped) in order to substitute the Spanish OHP frigates.

      We may talk about a guest post... although my English is not very good and my kids need too much time!

      Delete
  11. "Jonwallachio" And other Australian guys i have a question, do you know if the South Korean Sejong the Great class was considered?

    I mean if you're only gonna have a number of three Aegis ships, why not consider the most powerful armed instead of the most lightly armed Aegis vessel.

    "One notable difference between the Sejong the Great-class ships and Arleigh Burkes is the number of VLS cells. Destroyers of the Sejong the Great-class have a capacity of 128 missiles, as opposed to 96 on the Arleigh Burke"


    And another thing what do you think the Shortfin barracuda australia has selected as a next gen sub will be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "South Korean Sejong the Great class "

      I have only a cursory knowledge of this ship. It appears to be a capable vessel. The main question I have about it is the cost. It's reported to cost around $930M but I flat don't believe that a ship bigger than the Burke could cost half the Burke. Some cursory checking of SKorean shipbuilding costs and issues shows that their costs are rising and have cost them some recent shipbuilding competitions. They appear to have some shipbuilding labor problems. None of this supports a cost of $930M.

      Just as the US Navy plays games with what is included or excluded from "official" costs, so too, I assume, the SKorean costs are not complete. Do you have any idea what industry subsidies, tax breaks, government furnished equipment, and other modifications make up the $930M figure?

      Delete
    2. Sejongs weren't considered, no. Burkes were considered too expensive to crew, sejongs are in the same category.
      The idea was that, over their lifetime F-100s should be cheaper to crew and maintain. The RAN has also had trouble retaining sufficient skilled sailors in reecent years - the Australian evonomy is doing well and lots of RAN personnel leave for better paid civilian jobs.
      If we were going to buy a burke variant we'd just buy a burke i think. We spend much of our time working with the USN, so it would make sense to usr the same ships.

      I'm sorry i didn't understand your question about the shortfin barracuda - what will it be? An SSK. A big, long range diesel. A heavily modified version of the French barracuda SSN. Does that answer your question?

      Delete
    3. Well, out of the top five largest civilian ship building companies three are South Korean, so i guess thats have to play a part with it? they have a huge ship building industry.

      Witch brings me to a question how many heavy commercial vessels are being build in the US?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_shipbuilding_companies

      Delete
    4. "I'm sorry i didn't understand your question about the shortfin barracuda - what will it be? An SSK. A big, long range diesel. A heavily modified version of the French barracuda SSN. Does that answer your question?"

      Yes :) And do you plan to arm it with cruise missiles ?

      Delete
    5. Hi from another Aussie, there are a couple of things to bear in mind when looking at the total cost of the Hobart class production

      1 - The cost included the building of a new shipyard. ASC South didn't exist prior to this program, so all of the costs associated with getting a new shipyard off the ground are included in the US$6.2Bn. This needed to happen, but only amortising the costs over 3 ships means an enormous cost is added to each vessel for an asset which will be in use for decades afterwards.

      2 - Block production was spread out poitically across the country, and then the blocks were moved to Osbourne for consolidation, this directly added to the cost for purely political purposes. NOTE: It has been openly stated that this will NEVER be repeated, who knows, they might have actually learnt something.

      3 - Block work at one key supplier was faulty at production, and their QA was so poor they didn't discover it until reasonably late. This then took months to rectify which greatly added to costs as everything else waited for this to be fixed. Standard startup issues, but not picked up until way too late.

      4 - Our socialist government at the time slid the whole schedule right for political purposes, which saved them some short term money, but made the whole program cost more in the long run. NOTE: This was a significant cost driver, some estimates put the cost of this single decision at approximately US$700m.

      5 - The production cost of the 3rd ship has been quoted as approximately 40% of the first ship. This is how much learning has happened about how to build these ships efficiently. The total program cost included a massive amount of expenditure on reworking the first ship to meet Australian specs from a Spanish design. Our equivalent of the GAO is even stating that the 3rd ship wouldn't have been any cheaper had it been built overseas.

      There has finally been some realisation that in Australia it is hideously expensive to go through continual boom/bust cycles in naval shipbuilding. There is a plan to have a reasonably continuous build cycle operating, allowing for all of the efficiencies to be realised.

      Delete
    6. "all of the costs associated with getting a new shipyard off the ground are included in the US$6.2Bn"

      I would be absolutely stunned senseless if that were true. No sane government would pay the entire cost of building a private shipyard for a private company. Give me a reference that proves that.

      "slid the whole schedule right for political purposes"

      The U.S. does this quite commonly! It's pretty much a standard part of acquisition.

      ________

      I'm sorry but your cost statements don't make sense. The entire program was $6.2B (USD) and you say that includes $700M of "slide" costs and what must be billions to construct an entire shipyard???? Subtracting out just those two costs, that would mean the ships were actually just about free! Sorry, but something doesn't add up. Give me proof!

      Delete
    7. "And do you plan to arm it with cruise missiles ?"

      Follow this link to see the most complete set of specifications (the only set!) that I've been able to find ... here

      Delete
    8. "all of the costs associated with getting a new shipyard off the ground are included in the US$6.2Bn"

      I would be absolutely stunned senseless if that were true. No sane government would pay the entire cost of building a private shipyard for a private company. Give me a reference that proves that.

      This is where it gets complex and murky. ASC is not a private shipyard. ASC has a board etc, but "All the shares issued in the capital of ASC are owned by the Minister for Finance". https://www.asc.com.au/about-us/corporate-governance/

      This in practice means that the company can be held at arms length and blamed everytime something doesn't work perfectly, but it is completely federal government owned, which comes with all the interference that this brings.

      Australia has a weird quirk in that defence program costs are inclusive of everything, support, the works. So when you see a cost figure it is the total cost involved in that weapons system aquisition. In this case it included a massive capital works program adjacent to the existing ASC North submarine production facility. I understand that ASC South cost approximately US$800m including the extension of the shiplift to handle up to 10,000 tonnes. They are considering a further expansion costed at ~US$450m to allow for the proposed continuous build cycle.

      The ANAO report is at:
      https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/air-warfare-destroyer-program

      I'm trying to dig out the actual budget statements, but they appear to have been taken down as the costs for the shipyard were hidden in SEA4000 Phase 2, prior to the construction of the ships themselves occurring in Phase 3. The US$6.2Bn includes all of the costs for SEA4000 Phases 1-3.

      Delete
    9. Re: Cruise missiles. Yes, tomahawks, harpoons, capability for things like the LRASM potentially. It will be a jack of all trades but it's primary role will likely end up being reconnaissance in the naval approaches to Australia and up into the South China Sea in support of the USN.

      Delete
    10. Buxt0010 is right on all accounts. Australia hasn't ever supported a long lasting, commercial, military shipbuilding industry.
      The only wasy Osbourne was going to be able to become a proper yard was with massive government investment. In fact the ASC (the organisation that runs Osbourne) and the DMO/CASG (the aquisitions arm of the Australian Department of Defense) are just two sides of the same coin.
      There's no big naval defense contracter in Australia, no equivilant to Northrop Grunman or Raytheon. There's AUSTAL, but the biggest thing they've built is the LSC and ironically they've done a lot more business in the US than they have in Aus.

      So the only way the Australian government was going to meet their strategic goal of having a major, functioning naval shipyard in the country was to basically build and pay for the yard itself and invent a company to do the work.

      Delete
  12. For everyone who's interested: a more detailed article discussing the building of the Hobart Class:

    http://adbr.com.au/awd-to-ddg-the-air-warfare-destroyer-program-has-cause-to-celebrate-with-the-commissioning-of-hmas-hobart/


    One thing I notice about modern warships is that the first 120 odd metres of the length of the ship seems to be dedicated to the helicopter, engines and sensors/electronics. The missile VLS is only a few metres in length. eg Hobart class 148m- 48vls, FREMM 144m- 32 VLS, Arleigh Burke 160+m 96VLS.

    Remember CNO's previous article a little while back about breaking down the cost of an Arleigh Burke. The metal used to build the ship was a much larger component than commonly expected.

    Thus if your "frigate" needs to already be 85% the length of an AB, you aren't going to get a 50% price reduction, unless you reduce the cost of your electronics and weapons.

    This is just my amateur observation.

    Andrerw

    ReplyDelete
  13. Coming at this from a British perspective there are two things I'd take from this post: Firstly, attempting to compare build prices for warships is a fool's errand, and secondly, every country seems to have a school of thought saying "our kit is rubbish and everyone else is doing it much better/cheaper".

    I don't follow the US defence sphere much but there seems to be a number of people arguing that the Iver Huitfeld or the FREMM or whatever is the panacea for the US Navy's problems. Meanwhile, in the UK we have loads of people arguing that our equipment is rubbish and we should just buy whatever the US is getting instead. Doubtless similar views are popular in other countries too. Why this is I don't know but it seems like every nation has a significant faction determined that they should buy in from abroad.

    Attempting to compare costs for ships is bound to get you nowhere. Even leaving aside the difficulty of getting accurate data in a politically and militarily sensitive field, there are simply too many variables to draw an accurate conclusion (for most people anyway, doubtless there is a team of dedicated economists at a university who could do it reasonably well). Take the Hobart class for example: they look far more expensive than an Arleigh Burke, but that isn't accounting for flutuations in exchange rate or inflation (the $1.8bn cost quoted is, I believe, from 2011/12, allowing for inflation the cost would be more like $2bn by 2018). Plus nobody (apart possibly from the Chinese) builds ships in anywhere near the volume the US does, massively complicating the process of separating R&D/design costs from the cost of actually building the ship. It's also worth remembering that larger platforms will, ceteris paribus, always be more efficient in terms of capability versus cost - if you want to go down the route of getting maximum bang for your buck (literally in this case) then larger platforms will always win out.

    ReplyDelete
  14. CNO "I don't really see an overwhelming evidence that anyone is building significantly cheaper warships than the U.S. Of course, trying to compare dissimilar ships and dissimilar costs is almost pointless. Still, as an example, the Fin.PPA appears to be around $690B for a low end frigate. I don't know that I would call that any great cost savings. What makes it a good value, in your eyes?"

    One example of a new generation frigate that appears to be significantly cheaper is the new Japanese 30DX figate class, contract awarded to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries August 2017 for design and first ship, 3,900 standard tons displacement, ~4,500T FLD?, 133m/436ft LOA, beam 16m/52ft, CODAG with a RR MT30 and with two MAN 12V28/33D STC diesels, max. speed 30+ knots, approx. 100 crew, first ship to be begin production in 2018, budgeted 40 to 50 billion yen ~ $380 to $470 million.

    Latest multi-function phase array AESA GaN radars (euivalent tech to the new Raytheon EASR) and EO with FC radar for semi-active homing ESSMs, MK-45 Mod4 five-inch 62 caliber, MK-41 vertical launch system (16 or 24?), two groups of torpedo tubes, two sets of four anti-ship missile launchers for the Japanese XSSM or XASM-3 a 900kg/2,000lbs ramjet Mach 3+ missile with range of 80 nm, ESSM, SeaRAM, variable depth sonar (VDS) and tactical tow arrayed sonar (TAS) plus anti-mine sonar, a mine laying device, SH-60K anti-submarine helicopter plus USV and UUV.

    Another example already mentioned is the Maersk (a very, very successful commercial shipping company) designed Danish Iver Huitfeldt class, 2010 era, 6,650T FLD, 139m/455 feet, beam 19.8m/65 feet, CODAD with four MTU 20V 8000 M70 DE, max. speed 29 knots, range 9,300 nm @ 18 knots, crew ~130, cost $325 million plus $70 million for re-used equipment.

    Two main radars L & S band plus FC and EO, two 76mm guns, 32 MK 41 VLS cells, 24 Mk 56 VLS cells for ESSM, two eight deck launchers for Harpoon, two twin launchers for LWT, Millennium 30mm cannon & HMS, flight deck and hanger capable to take larger helicopter than a SH-60 plus UAV.

    I would argue that there is overwhelming evidence that a limited number of other countries are building significantly cheaper warships than the US. My main other point is that my understanding whole life costs equate four to five times original cost of ship, so very large saving possible with new generation frigates including the PPA over the old generation F100/Hobart era frigates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "One example of a new generation frigate that appears to be significantly cheaper is the " [fill in the blank]

      You missed my point. We can find any number of ships that have claimed lower prices but each time I've dug into them, they turn out not to be the bargains they appear - the costs are obfuscated, clouded, hidden, or whatever. Govt subsidized industries, govt furnished equipment that isn't counted, transfer of legacy equipment from retiring ships, partial contracts, deferred construction, fitted for but not with, labor gimmick games, unilaterally imposed prices, accounting games, use of non-construction account lines to finance construction, etc. To be clear, the U.S. Navy does many of the same things.

      So, for the [fill in the blank] that you cite as an example, have you dug into the contracts and the accounting to be able to say that the [fill in the blank] really is signficantly cheaper? If not, go back and do your homework. If you have, and the [fill in the blank] really is significantly cheaper than tell me all about it.

      As I said, my experience is that when I dig into the [fill in the blank] it always turns out to be more expensive than claimed.

      Delete
    2. The Odense shipyard closed after completing the Iver Huitfeldt class.

      Delete
    3. As you say difficult to obtain true prices, but a partial glimpse behind the veiled curtain. GD and HII duopoly build ~90% Navy ships and submarines in budget terms. Dec. 2016 HII awarded $486 million USCG contract to build the ninth NSC, whereas Eastern Shipbuilding priced the new USCG Offshore Patrol Cutter at $264.4 million, both contracts exclude GFE. NSC ~4,600T FLD v. OPC ~3,600T, FLD cost per T - $105.6 thousand per ton v $73.4 thousand per ton, so HII are ~ 44% more expensive per ton than Eastern Shipbuilding who till now have only built commercial ships, a crude comparison but telling.

      Its as realistic cost comparison as you can obtain at this time as same contracting agency, USCG, with same terms and conditions, with the exception that Eastern Shipbuilding priced based on multi year buy whereas HII priced on one off.

      The only way to know if Navy with FFG(X) contract specified that the winning shipyard had to supply full drawings, tech and IPR so they could put follow on ships to open tender, may be other US shipyards other than current duopoly would be tempted to bid.

      PS There is no doubt over the Iver Huitfeldt class costs, fully documented and re. the Odense shipyard closure, it was owned by Maersk and mainly built commercial ships till the Iver Huitfeldt class, was unable to compete on price with the Asian shipyards for new ships

      Delete
    4. "There is no doubt over the Iver Huitfeldt class costs"

      Really??? I know nothing about the class or the contract, having never looked at it but I know that the U.S. naval construction, which I examine in great detail all the time, absolutely confounds my ability to decipher true costs because of all the various factors I've cited. So, despite being unable to identify true costs for U.S. ships, you believe that the Huitfeldt class construction is absolutely understood? You know every account line, every source of funding, every accounting method applied? Possible, I guess, but it seems exceedingly unlikely. How did you come by this extraordinary level of detailed knowledge?

      For example, Breaking Defense website reports that the ship's weaponry was recycled from retiring ships. Thus, the cost of weaponry, as would be expected in a "normal" ship was not included in the claimed cost. Here's a quote from CIMSEC,

      "Danish figures suggest that the Iver Huitfeldt program used $209 million in reused equipment from scrapped vessels."

      Breaking Defense also suggests that the class was built to lesser standards than the US Navy and would cost much more to build to US standards.

      Apparently, the ships were delivered without key equipment. Was that accounted for in the claimed cost?

      The class was, apparently built using largely commercial components which are unsuited for naval warships. Is this accounted for in the claimed cost?

      The ship uses modularity. Are the modules included in the cost? We have this same issue with the LCS which has a claimed cost that is $50-$100M too low because the ship is incomplete without a module and yet the claimed cost does not have module costs included. Here's a quote from CIMSEC,

      "The Danish “StanFlex” system of “plug and play” weapons, sensors and equipment (including cranes!) officially separates these components from the advertised cost of the ship."

      I got all that from a cursory Internet search. It illustrates why I say that whenever I dig into a claimed low cost vessel, the claims are found to be incorrect.

      Your statement does not seem to be true. Care to explain?

      Delete
    5. CNO you ask the right questions, apologies for limited reply as a lot of my links now dead, but some limited answers

      "Danish figures suggest that the Iver Huitfeldt program used $209 million in reused equipment from scrapped vessels."
      That's correct the total for the three ship in class, 209/3=$69.7 million per ship

      List of re-used equipment per ship per ship
      2 x Stanflex modules, each with 1 x 76mm OTO Melara Super Rapid gun mount,
      2 x Stanflex modules, each with 2 x Mark-141 Harpoon missile quand launchers,
      2 x Stanflex modules, each with 12-cell Mark-56 VLS for ESSM

      New equipment
      Millennium four-chamber 35/1000 revolver cannon 1,000 rds/min, one per ship. Contract, signed in London on 18 September 2015 is worth around EUR20 million (USD21.4 million 2015) and includes spare parts and technical support services. Delivery is scheduled for mid-2016, three new systems bringing the RDN's Millennium inventory to 11 systems.

      The most expensive combat capability is the AAW and surface sensor. The fire-control cluster and two key radar systems in each ship will be supplied by Thales Nederland (Thales-NL) under a contract worth €165 million ($219 million).

      "Breaking Defense also suggests that the class was built to lesser standards than the US Navy and would cost much more to build to US standards."
      Built to DNV rules for Naval Vessels, NATO-standard shock protection (STANAG 4142, 4137 and 4549), nuclear, biological and chemical protection (STANAG 4447) and vital area armor protection (STANAG 4569). Ship has undergone FSST 2011.

      The class was, apparently built using largely commercial components which are unsuited for naval warships. Is this accounted for in the claimed cost?
      The clever part, where they used COTS components they mounted on shock proof 'islands', costs included.

      "The Danish “StanFlex” system of “plug and play” weapons, sensors and equipment (including cranes!) officially separates these components from the advertised cost of the ship."
      They work, have proven track record, presume why never used on LCS as NIH, have room for five StanFlex slots located amidships on the weapon deck.

      https://www.scribd.com/document/248044460/Danish-Frigate-Program-brief-May-2014
      https://news.usni.org/2015/03/05/what-the-u-s-navy-could-learn-from-danish-frigate-design
      https://breakingdefense.com/2017/07/danes-tout-340m-stanflex-frigate-for-us-navy-but-whats-real-cost/

      PS ASNE president's lunch Arlington February 2011, Hein van Ameijden (Managing Director of Damen), stated US paying over the odds for its ships, approx. three times build hours in Holland, quoted 4.4 million for a Burke. Damen successful company in expoting their Sigma class to Indonesia; Mexico; Morocco; Rumania

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    6. You see, then, my point - that claimed costs and capabilities are ALWAYS inaccurate. Costs are always understated and capabilities are always overstated.

      Before you accept any claim, dig deep and find out what the reality is.

      From my cursory look, the Huitfeldt class is probably about twice the claimed cost when you factor in used/free equipment, modules that were not included, commercial parts that are inappropriate for a warship (EMP shielding, component shock hardening, materials of construction, MILSPEC, etc.), more rigorous standards, and whatever other issues my cursory search didn't turn up.

      Now, the fact that the true cost is significantly higher than the claimed cost doesn't necessarily mean that the ship itself is not good. It may be (or it may not - it sounds ill-suited for combat?) but it's not as cheap as claimed.

      As you consider other possible candidate ship classes, dig into them before you buy into them. Hey, that's not bad. Kinda catchy! Feel free to use that one.

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    7. CNO in ninety ninety times out a hundred would agree with you but not with Iver Huitfeldt.

      It's a matter of trust who do you believe USN Admirals or the Danish Admirals, I know whom I believe.

      "From my cursory look, the Huitfeldt class is probably about twice the claimed cost when you factor in used/free equipment, modules that were not included, commercial parts that are inappropriate for a warship (EMP shielding, component shock hardening, materials of construction, MILSPEC, etc.), more rigorous standards, and whatever other issues my cursory search didn't turn up"

      If anything consider the adverse spin put out by Bryan Clark biased, he was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group closely connected to the Navy high command during the period of Ford, LCS and Zumwalt, would not be surprised if recipient of current consultation contracts from the Navy.

      Navy always saying how they are using COTS equipment to control costs for Burkes and submarines, but with Iver Huitfeldt its a no no.

      FFG(X) RFI defines Vulnerability (as defined by the capability to withstand initial damage effects and to continue to perform primary missions), as Grade A Shock Hardening for Propulsion, Critical Systems, and Combat System Elements to retain full Air Defense and Propulsion Capabilities. What is Grade A, its not Level I, II or III that's for sure.The Iver Huitfeldt built are much higher standards than Navy are specifying for the FFG(X), as said Danish ship built to DNV Naval Vessel rules NATO-standard shock protection (STANAG 4142, 4137 and 4549), nuclear, biological and chemical protection (STANAG 4447) and vital area armour protection (STANAG 4569). Don't have details of Iver Huitfeldt but predecessor ship Absalon had 16 watertight sections and two airtight bulkheads.

      Bryan Clark “The Iver Huitfeldt uses mostly commercial components that may not be rated for the run time” — the sheer wear and tear of long deployments — “and potential effects of (battle) damage that US ships are expected to experience,” he told me. “US Navy ships have a much higher OPTEMPO (operational tempo) than foreign ships, are expected to operate in a higher threat environment, and are expected to return to service after a casualty (accident or battle damage) and repairs.”
      “A ship built to U.S. military standards will have more hull stiffeners, more compartments, redundant wiring and cabling, etc. – all of which add man-hours to ship construction times,” Clark said. All told, he said, “I’m confident that a ship built to some version of US military standards will be more expensive.”

      USN have nothing to boast about, OHP required strengthening steel plates to hull, the Tico had major problems with the aluminium superstructure, 3,000 plus cracks in fleet, Navy stated the wrong grade specified, LOL, with the Burkes FLt III hull specifying thicker steel and structure, begs the question why after sixty plus Flt I, II & IIA.
      Again know whom to believe has the know how and experience to build the better ships, Maresk who operate as one of the top ten commercial operators in the world than the Navy after the demise of the General Board and BuShips.

      With a new radar and other upgrades, “the ship would likely cost around $700-900 million, which would be similar to the (Franco-Italian) FREMM, an upgraded LCS, and the (Spanish) F-105,” said Bryan Clark, a former top aide to the Chief of Naval Operations. “It would probably be a little higher than (an upgrade of the Coast Guard) National Security Cutter.”

      That's an indictment of the US shipyards efficiency and high cost of GFE, you would have thought US radars with high numbers would be the cheapest, but it appears not, the LCS radars are European sourced, will not be allowed to compete for the FFG(X).

      PS The naval historian Norman Polmar likes the Iver Huitfeldt class — “It’s an excellent design” , so who you believe Polmar or Clark.


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    8. You recall that I stated that just because the Huitfeldt cost is higher than claimed doesn't necessarily mean the ship is not a good vessel. It just means that the costs are not what is presented.

      Similarly, just because you don't like Mr. Clark or whoever else, doesn't necessarily mean that they aren't right.

      Who do I believe? No one! Not you, not Mr. Clark, not a Danish Admiral ... no one. All have their agendas and biases. I believe data and evidence. The data clearly shows that the claimed cost is misleading (I'll use that word rather than fraudulent) if for no other reason than the use of free legacy weapons. That, alone completely proves my contention that costs are always understated. Additional evidence proves (no one disputes, not even you) that the module cost, without which the ship is not complete, was not included in the claimed cost. Again, that's hard fact not opinion. Additional factors such as the degree of commercial fittings used, the extent to which commercial fittings are appropriate or not, the degree of structural strength, the degree to which the vessel meets warship design requirements are things that are unknown without access to actual construction design documents. Neither of us have that access. The totality of such factors suggests to me that the class is somewhat lightly built for combat but to what degree, I don't know. Further, that's just an opinion of mine. On those aspects, feel free to have a differing opinion.

      To remind you again, the point of the discussion is not whether the Huitfeldt is a good vessel or not. I neither know nor care. The point is whether claimed costs are believable as people point out their favorite "cheap" vessels that they want the U.S. to consider. My contention is that no one builds a significantly cheaper vessel than anyone else and that that becomes clear when you dig into the costs. This example has clearly proven my contention. The Huitfeldt's costs are significantly understated. It's as simple as that. Whether the ship design is a good one is a separate issue.

      I trust that makes the issue clear?

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