Monday, July 23, 2018

Ship Service Life Extensions

In their latest act of delusional fantasy, the Navy is looking at arbitrarily extending the service life of ship classes.  Of course, followers of this blog are well aware that very few Navy ships even make it to their current service life endpoints before being retired.  The Los Angeles class submarines, for example, are being retired, on average, several years prior to their service life endpoints.

Here are some of the current and proposed service life endpoints as documented in a 25-Apr-2018 NAVSEA memo.

Class      Current, yrs   Proposed, yrs

CG  52-73     35             42-52
DDG 51-78     35             45
DDG 79-       40             46-50
LHD 1-8       40             46-53
LHA 6-8       40             47-49
LSD 41-52     40             45-52
LPD 17-28     40             47-53
LCS 1-26      25             32-35

How can the Navy seriously propose extending service lives when they can’t even reach the current endpoints? 

Some of these service lives are already delusional.  For example, the DDG 79 has already been arbitrarily extended from 35 to 40 years with no physical or maintenance changes that would rationalize the extension.  It was just an arbitrary extension to make things look better when devising 30 year shipbuilding and fleet size plans.  Does anyone think we’re going to take a Burke class that was designed for a 35 year life span and, without doing anything to actually improve that span, suddenly make it to 50 years just because of a memo?

There are two main reasons for premature retirement of ships.

  1. Physical abuse due to insufficient and chronically deferred maintenance.  This is self-inflicted neglect and is an ingrained aspect of the Navy’s failure to properly maintain the ships they have.

  1. Technological obsolescence.  This is the excuse trotted out whenever the Navy wants new toys but can’t otherwise justify them.  Of course, this utterly ignores the ease and cost effectiveness of upgrades.

Do you recall the Perry class?  They were standing in the way of the LCS but the Navy couldn’t come up with a good reason to retire them so they removed their weapons and then claimed that they had to be retired because they were underarmed and couldn’t be upgraded.  Of course, the Australians and others promptly went and upgraded them, putting the lie to the Navy’s claims.

Does anyone believe that when the next new ship toy comes along that the Navy wants, they’re going to stop and say, “Wait, we can’t get our new toy yet because we still have service life remaining on the current class.”?  Of course not!  They’ll early retire the current ships just as they do now.

To be fair, NAVSEA points out that in order to meet these proposed service life endpoints, the Navy must adhere to the class maintenance plans – something the Navy has never done.

The memo might just as well call for extending the service lives to 100 years, or a thousand years, because they have an equally good chance of reaching those points as reaching these delusional points.  Heck, we could project a 1000 ship fleet if we simply make the service lives infinity!


  1. The idea of an LCS lasting 35 years is just laughable. With the amount of problems and strain affecting them now, I'd be surprised if they lasted for 15 years. What a black hole to throw money down.

    1. Most of them haven't ever really been on a deployment either.

    2. Seal O' Lion, not deploying the LCS is part of a subtle plan to make them last 35 years.
      Fill the tanks with Sta-Bil and park'em in the
      garage as it were.

    3. Atlantic Turtle....there hasn't been one class of ship that the Navy has not had problems with. To follow your argument, the Navy may as well not build any ships. The LCS as well as the new Frigates will last 35 years and maybe longer because the Navy needs to build more cheaper ships to bring the costs down. This is why the cruisers and new destroyer design have been combined into one. You won't see anymore cruisers once the Ticonderoga class finally retires the last one. This is the same reason why the Navy is looking to build lots of drone ships...because the cost is cheap.

    4. Also note the russian fleet filled with 40 and 50 year old soviet era ships. I stack our Navy against theirs any day....or look at North Korea, they still count old Migs from the Korean War as part of their air force. That is not where the US Navy wants to be but i agree that the US Navy should have a stick in the sand for 35 years to 50 years depending on the ship class. Congress should force that on them...and not waste tax payers money. I understand that over 35 years, technology can improve a ships capability but i don't think that is the way the navy should be thinking. The older systems still work. Even the cruiser that the US is retiring, with 122 missiles and the Aegis system of combat still works. Why not park these ships in some country ports in the Pacific and Mediteranian sea in semi retirement mode. They don't have to move but with their firepower, they bring a formidable combat ship to the area and they could keep it there for another 30 plus years. No maintenance needed on the ship since it isn't going anywhere.

  2. Focus on getting a SecNav who won't tolerate BS.

    A good Thought Piece would be what makes a good SecNav?

    Historically who have been the best and why?

  3. Think it would be appropiates that if all the Admirals had to drive 40+ year old cars, similar to the ones you see in Cuba:)

  4. The amphibious ships could actually do it, especially if they were used less. There's little reason to cruise around with amphibious assault transport ships anyway. Easily half of that fleet could be held in a kind of four-month ready reserve.
    To assemble that force from the seven seas for some real war would take weeks anyway, and to create the preconditions for some amphibious campaign that requires more than half of the fleet would take months.

    1. know that the air force in attempting to make more use of their tankers are arming them. In other words, giving them a new life as duel purpose aircraft. This is what they need to do with the San Antonio Amphibious Transport Dock ships. Instead of parking them in some port, why not have them take part as logistics ships. This is not an issue with Amphibious Assault ships as they are constantly out to sea. They are already building multi-purpose in other ships. The LCS Littoral combat ship was built with this in mind. This is why the US navy will not be building mine laying ships anymore. And i believe the will have a package for sub hunting. Even the Virginia class attack sub has multipurpose built in to it. The new Frigates will also have multipurpose capabilities. The days of single purpose for an expensive ship is over with.

  5. Not just the Perry class, just look at the older Gearing class destroyers and how long they served in other navies.

  6. Looking at the big picture at least in my opinion the paper extension life of ships won't matter. Well before the multiple year extensions we will most likely be at war with the PLAN.

    Currently with surface ships and to a greater extent the submarine force is in a "donut" hole situation with the active numbers of hulls. It's essentially in the next few years do or die time for the PLAN before our ship building catches up properly.

    I don't believe the PLAN will let this advantage slip away. This trade war ratcheting up will be the spark to get the conflict started in my opinion. The Chinese can't let domestic standard of living fall with out consequences.

    Either it will be regression and the weakening of the Communist Party. Or putting all those excess boys they have on a mission to take Taiwan, engage USN during freedom of navigation operations etc letting the chips fall where they may.

    I'm betting on the latter. Our ships will be decommissioned by PLAN torpedoes and cruise missiles is my guess. Furthermore, similar to Pearl Harbor in WW2 ineffective Admirals will be relieved and competence will start to restored to include competence and value in ship building.

    If there is anything I have learned it's that as a organization and country by extension we seemingly only do the right thing while in crisis.

    1. "If there is anything I have learned it's that as a organization and country by extension we seemingly only do the right thing while in crisis. "

      Wasn't it Churchill that said we can be counted on to do the right thing, after we have tried everything else?

  7. Wasn't there a rumor that the Spruance's were similarly ground to dust to make room for the Tico's?

    The Perry situation was particularly vexing to me. I've heard 'Well they spent $500m to upgrade them!'

    And? For the cost of an LCS they got a far more capable ship. Even if it just lasts 10 years it's a good buy.

    1. Australia only upgraded 4 ships, so maybe if the USN did 20 or so, the per ship cost would be lower. RAN also did some things badly and the USN may not have needed to to all the changes (like use MU90 torpedo and of course the SM2 was already in US service)

  8. I know I've said something similar before, but design is also part of longevity.

    Getting 30+ years out of an LCS isn't going to be worth it because the design isn't meant for it, and will be expensive as heck.

    I've read about how the engines are huge to get the space they need, and there is little room to work on them. LCS odd class is an aluminum ship.

    If you want to build a hull that can last that long then over-engineer the parts, and make it robust and simple to fix. Maybe make it with things like more power than you think you need for the forseeable future. It might cost more up front but you get to keep it longer, cheaper.

    In that sense I agree with the idea of 'payload over platforms'. But instead of the idea of modular plug in mission modules I'm thinking that if you make a rugged and robust hull you will be able to work with it with upgrades in the future.

    If you make something just on cost expect it to die sooner.

    1. The goal should not be to make ships last longer by increasing costs and complexity and building in more potential capabilities up front. The goal should be to make ships affordable enough to replace on a more frequent basis!

      Let's face it, the Navy is always going to retire ships early because they don't want to spend money on maintenance and because they desperately want new hulls all the time. That being the case, designing in longevity features is a waste of time, space, and money.

      The better approach is to build smaller, vastly cheaper ships that can be replaced often enough so that the force stays fresh. The way to do this is to build smaller, single function, basic but solid ships.

      Shorter lives and cheaper not longer lives and more expensive.

  9. USNI proceedings magazine Jun 2018 has article "would Nimitz win a Midway today?". The thrust is no, because we can't take the risks with our ships today because we don't build enough. He wouldn't have fought the battle because he couldn't risk his carriers. The article states the navy used to plan on 20 year life for ships. Using the 3 carrier force in Excerise Valiant Shield in 2017 as a comparison to the task force we had at Midway. Average age of ship is 20.4 years today versus 5.1 years then.
    Even more worrying, half of surface combatants under construction are LCS (13 out of 23).

    1. The Nimitz would definitely win a midway today. There are no other carriers afloat with anything like the capability. Back in 1942 the Japanese has superiority in naval forces.

      The biggest threat to Nimitz is from stealthy diesel electric submarines.

    2. "The Nimitz would definitely win a midway today. There are no other carriers afloat with anything like the capability."

      That's not the question being asked. The question posed in the article is whether Nimitz - the person, not the ship! - could win, today, a Midway battle between our forces and peer quality forces with a one-carrier numerical superiority.

      By the way, SSKs present very little threat to ships in open ocean due to their very limited speed. Unless the ships literally stumble over the SSK, the sub can't maneuver into position.

    3. There were fewer carriers available to the USN at the time of Midway (or the beginning of WW2) then there is available today within the USN.
      Sort of invalidates the logic that Nimitz would be more cautious today than he was at the time.

    4. We had approx 10 under construction. Today we have one.

    5. "Sort of invalidates the logic that Nimitz would be more cautious today than he was at the time."

      The article pointed out that we had the industrial and shipbuilding capacity to absorb losses in WWII more so than today. With almost no capacity to replace losses in a timely manner today, a naval commander would be very reluctant to risk losses.

    6. The only reason the USN had 10 carriers under construction was that it was 1942 - WW2 had begun three years previously, and had been anticipated since the late 1930s.

      In terms of shipbuilding capacity, I agree that the US doesn't have the same capacity as it did in the 1930/1940s when it was one of the world's foremost producers of commercial ships.

      The wider point though is that the USN maintained a smaller fleet of aircraft carriers leading up to and during the first years of WW2 then she has today.
      If a war seemed inevitable today, as it did in the late 1930s, she couldn't start building 10 carriers.
      She would still have a much larger carrier advantage over China or Russia or anyone else, then Nimitz enjoyed over the Imperial Japanese Navy.
      She would also still be able to begin production on more numerous, larger and more capable aircraft carriers than China or Russia could if a war was approaching or broke out.

      The advantage the US has now over China in terms of aircraft carriers is greater than that which the USN held over Japan in the 1940s.

    7. "The wider point though is that the USN maintained a smaller fleet of aircraft carriers leading up to and during the first years of WW2 then she has today."

      Not quite. The US didn't intentionally maintain a smaller fleet of carriers. The carrier fleet was limited by two main factors:

      1. The Washington Naval Treaty limited carrier fleets via tonnage and other factors.

      2. No one knew quite what a carrier could do. They were brand new technology, at the time. The US was still experimenting with carriers and, thus, reluctant to over commit to carrier construction without more operational experience. That experience, of course, quickly came with the advent of WWII.

    8. "She would also still be able to begin production on more numerous, larger and more capable aircraft carriers than China or Russia could if a war was approaching or broke out."

      No. The US has only a single yard capable of building Nimitz/Ford class carriers and my understanding is that only one can be built at a time although preparations can be made for others such as ordering long lead items.

    9. The US can currently only produce a single nuclear powered super-carrier at a time.
      That's one more than China or Russia can produce.
      The US has the capability to produce in conjunction a single America class amphibious assault ship, which is not far removed from a conventional light carrier and could operate as one. Pasacagoula could relatively quickly produce true conventional light carriers. That's the same production output that China and Russia are capable of.

      It's quite feasible that more than one America class derivative light carrier could be produced concurrently.

      So at a pinch the USN could have a single super carrier and at least one, perhaps two light carriers in production at a time. With a few years to play with, she could increase her shipyard capacity at Newport and Pasacagoula.
      It's not beyond reason that she could increase production to 2 Fords and 3-4 light carriers at a time within 4-5 years.

      In addition, in an emergency she could reactivate Kitty Hawk, and Nassau and Peleliu could be brought back and with modification operate as light carriers.

      That is well beyond the means of China, and way, way beyond what Russia can do.

      The USN already has 10 operational Nimitz's and a Ford in trials. The America as well could operate as a light carrier (though I fully understand it's not the ships' role). The same applies to the 8 Wasp class (again, they are of course not real carriers, but could operate as small carriers at a pinch).

      China has only a single, small carrier in commission, another in trials and 1 under construction.
      None of her carriers offer anything like the capability of what the US has.
      The USN's advantage over China is much larger in terms of carriers then Nimitz held over Japan.

      In terms of the lack of USN carriers in 1942, I don't disagree with your proffered reasons for the smaller number of available carriers - I'd simply say that I didn't offer a reason, just pointed out the reality that it was the case that the US had fewer carriers at the outbreak and first year of her involvement in WW2 than she has now.

    10. "That's one more than China or Russia can produce."

      Not quite true. China is currently building the Type 002 conventional carrier which will be around 85,000 tons which is bigger than the Kitty Hawk and Forrestal types. The carrier will feature EMALS catapults.

      China is in the design phase of the Type 003 carrier which will be as big or bigger than the Fords. It will be built at the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) facility.

      So, yes, China has the ability to build large carriers and, within a few years, will likely be building multiple carriers at a time.

    11. "America class amphibious assault ship, which is not far removed from a conventional light carrier and could operate as one."

      Only in a very limited sense. The America LHA is designed to operate around 20 F-35Bs when in "carrier" mode. This hardly constitutes a useful carrier. It also can't operate electronic warfare Growlers, AEW Hawkeyes, or tankers, all of which are necessary for carrier operations.

      It is also questionable what weapons load a F-35B in short take off mode can carry and what the resulting range would be.

      An LHA is a carrier only in a very limited sense of the word. Functionally, it is not a carrier. You may as well call a cargo ship with a landing platform a carrier.

    12. The Kitty Hawk has officially begun the scrapping process.

    13. "The USN's advantage over China is much larger in terms of carriers then Nimitz held over Japan."

      You completely missed the point of the Proceedings article.

    14. I disagree with the general thrust of it.
      The US could match or exceed Chinese production if naval vessels and would begin a war fought today with a huge superiority in numbers of carriers.
      I think Nimitz would absolutley fight a blue water carrier battle with the modern USN against the PLAN.
      I think he'd win desisivley too.

    15. I'll repeat ... You utterly missed the point of the article. THERE WAS NOTHING TO DISAGREE WITH!!!! It was not an opinion piece about a US-Chinese naval battle, as you seem to think (clearly you didn't read the article). It was a factual recitation of various fleet factors and industrial capabilities.

      I'll now make an attempt to explain what the article was discussing and if that doesn't work, I'll abandon the effort. It was not about a battle comparison between the US and China. The article was a comparison of today's US fleet, proportions, age, shipbuilding capacity, etc. with the state of affairs in WWII and how those factors would impact a modern Nimitz's risk assessment thinking and operational commitment.

      The Chinese were mentioned only in passing, to note that they have no current matching naval force. The author did, however, note that China possesses significant sea denial forces (anti-ship ballistic missiles, subs, aircraft, bombers, etc.) with the implication that these would impact the commander's risk assessment.

      A better title for the article would have been, "Would Nimitz Even Commit To A Midway Today?".

      Before you comment again, please read the article and understand it.

      To illustrate your failure to read and understand the article, here's a quote from it,

      "Neither of these potential adversaries [NKorea or China] currently possesses a credible aircraft carrier threat ..."

      Thus, as you can see, the article was not imagining a China-US carrier battle.

      Read the article!

  10. Few points from my perspective.

    Canada extended the life of her ships into the 40+ years range and as a result most are fallen apart pushing her navy down to Brown water statis. Naval ships can only last so long at sea, Each year the hulls become thinner as they do rust away, each year they get banged around more from rough seas and weeks or months out on the ocean, Unless they are going to spend most of there life tied up in port they wont survive to 40 years in any useful fashion, Let alone longer.

    For the Australian navy perspective, A report was commissioned back in 2006 which found the optimal life span of submarines (conventional) and surface combatants using reports from several different navies. The sweet spot was found to be in the 18 - 21 years of life, Beyond that maintenance increased and available days decreased. It is one of the factors that helped the government decide to decreasing the life span of our submarines and ships in the future going from 30+ years each down to 24 years.

    First the USN makes every mistake possible to destroy the maintenance on her ships, Now they want to make under maintained ships be active longer? These are the decisions that will turn the USN into the laughing stock of the world.


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