Thursday, January 24, 2019

The New Frigate - A Knee Jerk Reaction

The Navy is well along the path of acquiring a new frigate.  Well, it’s more of a mini-Burke than a frigate.  Before we celebrate what so many people have wanted for so long, let’s rewind history a bit and review how we got here.

The LCS that we produced looked nothing like its original war game lessons form.  Instead, it developed into a hodgepodge of almost random characteristics and capabilities with no clear cut mission.  Why did this happen?  It was due to the lack of a Concept of Operations (CONOPS).  Even the Navy eventually admitted that they didn’t have a fully developed CONOPS for the LCS when they designed it.  This begs the obvious question, how can you design something that you have no concept of operations for?  Well, the answer, as we saw, was that you can’t.  You inevitably wind up with a product that has no purpose and isn’t an optimum fit for whatever purpose you ultimately give it. 

CONOPS …  This is an incredibly important point so keep it firmly in mind as you read the rest of this post.

It was no surprise, then, that the LCS was met with an avalanche of justified criticism.  The Navy was relentlessly mocked and criticized.  LCS detractors loudly and continually shouted about all the supposedly wonderful frigate designs in the world that we could have had instead of the LCS.

What was the Navy’s response to the failures of the program and the incessant criticism? 

Was it to shut the program down?  No.

Was it to conduct a thorough study of fleet needs as defined by our military strategy?  No.

Was it to develop a CONOPS?  No.

The Navy’s response, in 2014, was to propose a “frigate” version of the LCS to appease the critics.  Again, the idea of a “frigate” LCS was born without a supporting CONOPS or analysis of needs and alternatives.  Well, the Navy would claim they formed a study task force and did an analysis of alternatives but it was a pre-ordained public relations exercise which, to no one’s surprise, recommended the LCS as the basis for a new “frigate”.

Again, the mockery and criticism poured in as it became clear that the “frigate” LCS was just a slightly upgunned LCS.  Congress and some high ranking military civilian leaders began to seriously question the Navy’s decision. 

As all this was going on, the Navy also experienced systematic failures with the new Zumwalt and Ford programs due to the attempt to incorporate non-existent technologies.  Again, to no one’s surprise but the Navy, the attempts failed and we witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of a Zumwalt with no gun and a carrier that couldn’t launch or recover aircraft and couldn’t move munitions because it was commissioned with no weapon elevators.

The Navy was becoming increasingly gun shy about new programs and new technology but were desperate to keep their budget slice intact and construction funds flowing.  Their solution?  Their solution was to appease critics by reopening the frigate issue once again only this time they would require that the frigate designs be based on an existing, operational ship.  This, the Navy believed, would silence critics since they would, at long last, be getting the frigate they’d been clamoring for and would eliminate risk by only using existing technology.  Of course, notable for its absence is any mention of a CONOPS for the new frigate or a rigorous analysis of alternatives to define what capability gaps exist and whether a frigate is even the best way to address those gaps.  See, the CRS report for a summary of the issues. (1) 

Clearly, the frigate’s real “mission” is to appease critics.

We see, then, that the new frigate is a knee-jerk reaction to the failure of the LCS program rather than a carefully thought out, needs-driven, CONOPS-backed, analytically based, addition to the fleet.

That brings us to today.

Setting aside the appeasement mission, what is the new frigate going to do for the Navy?

Well, it won’t gain us large numbers of cheap ASW vessels – ASW being the main role of modern frigates.  Even the Navy’s cost estimates are around $1B and when was the last time a Navy cost estimate wasn’t seriously underestimated?  The new frigate will most likely cost $1.5B+.  This ensures that only a fairly limited number will be built.

It won’t gain us any significant improvement in AAW.  We already have all the AAW we need, and then some, plus our inventory of VLS cells already far exceeds our inventory of weapons.  We have nothing to put in all these new cells unless we short cells elsewhere!

This is a classic example, once again, of building a ship without a CONOPS.  We have no idea what the new frigate will do or how it will contribute to the fleet’s warfighting capability.  It will be a ship looking for a mission.

And, hanging over the entire issue is the likely (ComNavOps believes, certain) specter of the LCS being chosen as the basis for the new frigate, as the Navy previously did in 2014, with all the attendant and inherent flaws that the LCS brings with it.  Navy leadership wanted a LCS frigate in 2014 and nothing has changed so why would the decision change?

We see, then, that ultimately the new frigate is the result of not having a CONOPS for the original LCS.  Incredibly, the Navy is repeating their original mistake by failing to have a CONOPS for this ship!!!!  I wonder what misguided, knee-jerk abomination will eventually be born out of this failure?


(1)Congressional Research Service, “Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress”, Ronald O’Rourke, Oct 2018


  1. I wonder if the Navy believes that a higher unit cost protects the budget allocation better than a lower unit cost. In other words, if you want a particular slice of the budget, it's better to have that slice made up of fewer larger chunks than many smaller chunks. This would guard against someone cutting the acquisition down the road.

    For example, if the navy is targeting $10 billion in funding, it makes more sense to cut that into 10 $1 billion chunks than 20 $500 million chunks. With the smaller chunks, it easier for someone to come back later and whack off a unit. Plus with a smaller unit acquisition, it's easier to make the case that cancelling any of the units represents a threat to US security.

    And of course the sunk cost fallacy is a powerful force in military acquisitions.

  2. Also, historically, the navy has never liked small, cheap ships. For example they have always focused on capital ships at the expense of escort ships. This goes back to the Jefferson administration and the controversy about the gunboat navy.

    1. @jay
      With good reason, the instances of smaller ships beating bigger ships is shockingly rare.

    2. "With good reason, the instances of smaller ships beating bigger ships is shockingly rare."

      What an absurd statement. We don't ask small ships to sink big ones. That's not their job.

      The instances of a single soldier sinking a big ship are shockingly rare so I guess we should disband the Army … or is it simply not the job of an individual soldier to sink a ship?

    3. @Domo - the US Navy was woefully prepared for the U-boat campaign when it entered WWII despite it's experience in WWI and despite the war having been underway for two years(!!) when it entered. And since FDR had declared the western Atlantic to be an American defense zone and the Brits were begging for escorts, it wasn't like no one could foresee the need for plentiful, small and cheap escorts. And yet there was a shortage of escorts for the first six months of US Navy combat and DEs weren't available until 1943.

      And this is after the same thing happened in 1917 when many of the US Navy's WWII leadership were active. The WWII situation was a direct result of US Navy policy preferences.

  3. Nice post.

    I think (And you have touched on this before) that the main meta issue is that the Navy doesn't know what it's main mission is; and without that it's difficult to create conops for the ships you are building.

    Prior to WWII We had several plans, and wargamed around those plans, and tried to build according to those plans. It was flawed, but it made sense. And because, (in my opinion) we had the mental and bureaucratic process in place to actually identify needs and plan around them when we had to pivot a bit (more carriers, less BB's) during the war it was easier.

    the 600 ship Navy of Lehman had a very definite mission in the Atlantic and Pacific. Protect reforger and keep the sea lanes open. Keep the possibility of nuclear or non nuclear strikes against the Kola open. We knew the threats against those missions.

    So you got things like the Aegis ships, the outer air battle, and the Perry's that fit into that idea.


    We don't even want to suggest we might go to open war against China, who's *rapidly* building a blue water fleet and militarizing the SCS. It certinaly doesn't appear we are planning for it. In fact, we seem to have things Bass Ackwards. 'Well, the LCS if deployed in squadrons around choke points with ASCM's could be valuable....'. We're seeing how to jam ships into missions rather than making ships for missions. (That would be fine if war started tomorrow and you were trying to make do, but we aren't there yet).

    So, to me it seems like no overall mission = no real CONOPS is possible = we flounder in shipbuilding.

    Why the Navy doesn't want to settle down and say 'We're going to build a fleet to make sure we can own the Pacific and defeat China' (or whatever mission you want the Navy to do) is beyond me.

    And I think our hubris of 'We've got these sweet 80's era vessels and weapons systems designed for another conflict that are so awesome we don't even need to really train like crazy, we could beat the Chinese' is going to get a lot of guys killed if the worst happens.

    Darn. I'm ranting again.

    1. The end result of our current situation - as far as fleet structure goes - is so bad that I hesitate to bring up any issues with clearly defining the role of the Navy, but here goes...

      If we publicly define the Navy's mission as (among many other things) ensuring US access to the seas and maintaining the ability to defeat any challenger in open water (if not also in foreign territorial waters), then we are showing our hand. Sure, PRC and the PLA will probably assume we're out to get them no matter what we say or do, but there could be more room for deception and misdirection in our acquisitions, deployments, and doctrines if we don't openly state that USNs primary mission (by budget at least) is to counter the PLAN. It may be that we *need* this ambiguity to have a good chance of victory. China is a more competent ship builder than any of our previous foes, and we shouldn't necessarily expect to win a drawn-out war of production, which would begin (escalate?) immediately after we openly adopt such a posture. Yes, they're building ships quite quickly now, but not nearly as quickly as they could.

    2. I would disagree on the grounds that "maintaining the ability to defeat any challenger in open water" is not a strategic concept. It's a strategy of tactics which the US all too often substitutes for strategy.

      The "ensuring US access to the seas" bit is good, but that could also use more focus. Why do we need access to the seas? The answer would probably be to protect trade and project power to support our allies and vital interests.

      Why do we need to defeat any challenger? That by itself does not allow the US to impose it's policy goals on another party. For example, sinking all of China's ships may support our goal of protecting Taiwan from invasion, but it isn't really the same thing. And it doesn't automagically lead to China surrendering.

      But I think your effort is useful in that it is attempting to be more specific than the generic mumbo-jumbo the Pentagon spews out like "the surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one" from the 2018 National Defense Strategy Summary. Any student of history can quickly point all multiple times that has not been true with WWI being the top example.

      Thanks for standing up and taking a whack at something even the Pentagon shies away from!

    3. Jay, good to see you recognizing the distinction between strategy and tactics and trying to address it. Strategy begets doctrine which begets tactics.

      One key element that most people forget when discussing naval affairs is that, "the seat of purpose is on the land". While controlling the sea may be a part of an overall strategy, it does not, by itself, produce victory. The Navy exists not just to influence events at sea but to influence events on land. The sea is just the medium that the Navy operates in to influence events on land just as the Air Force operates in the air to influence events on land.

    4. "there could be more room for deception and misdirection … if we don't openly state that USNs primary mission (by budget at least) is to counter the PLAN."

      There is no mystery. China has already determined that the US must be defeated and is already working towards that end. Whether we openly state that China is our enemy or not isn't going to change China's approach towards us.

    5. "There is no mystery...China's approach towards us."

      Strategically, I think you're right 100%. China has identified us as the primary roadblock to their (apparent) long-term strategic goal of hegemony, and there's no fooling them out of that. Tactically, however, I think there's still room to maneuver. Just as we use rogue states to justify a near-global ABM system which is aimed partly (primarily?) at peer powers, we could maintain ambiguity or outright deceit about our general naval goals and the role of specific platforms. A good example might be a specialized ship with strong anti-swarm-boat capabilities ostensibly aimed at Iran, but which could be stationed somewhere around the Indian Ocean and readily redeployed to the SCS, or anywhere we expect China/NK to deploy swarm boats.

      Of course, China would have some plans for that contingency if the platform itself isn't secret, but that's all it would be - a contingency. You've noted before in response to some simplistic comments that we can't prepare well for every contingency, we have to evaluate their likelihood and plan accordingly. What I was trying to get at in the last comment is that there's room for China to misjudge the likelihood of the USN deploying some major assets which presently have other responsibilities in a conflict with them, and we could give them either more or less room to make that mistake using our public strategy documents and other information warfare platforms.

  4. Sorry for deleting to many mistakes to publish now to the article a lot I di agree with the LCS was never and never will be Cimbat ship it's a jobs ship to secure votes As too FFGX it us being reported that cost are down to Only 800 million if ya believe that the ships now are required to carry a loadout of at least 32 VLS which is a nice load of missiles if they can have a full load hopefully you are wrong and No lcs design is chosen or worse 2 LCS designs and we end up with exactly what we have now totally useless ship undermanned dock dwellers

  5. Maybe y'all can help but isn't the Spanish design based upon the tried and true Perry class I wouldn't mind one bit if its chosen while h means of course it doesn't stand a chance in hell of winning

    1. Not even remotely. The F-100 is a complete departure in design from the Santa Maria (Perry) class. The F-100 is a stealthy, Aegis design that has more in common with the Burke. The only thing the Perry and F-100 have in common is that they're both labelled frigates.

    2. Thanks for the clarification I thought they were loosely based on the Perry's whatever design they are based on would look good flying the US colors as would the Fremm as fir the Ldgrnd class Who knows have not seen anything about them at all cept something from around 2014 or so

    3. Yes it is, indirectly, but has a direct lineage. You can see it in the lines of the ship.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. "Original the program was suppose to start out with "

      I've deleted your comment because you've made a claim that is false. I've closely followed the LCS program and never seen anything to remotely support your claim. Unless you can provide documentation I'm not going to allow your claim to stand.

    2. CNO, I suggest you check the Congressional Record and the Hearing of the various committees that dealt with the LCS programs, between FY2004 and FY2008 and you will see that what I said is correct. The LCS development program was cut short before the Navy put the original test designs into production. And neither LCS prototypes designs was intended for production, but rather were suppose to experimental, providing baseline data for future LCS production designs.

    3. I have read every article and report ever published on the LCS, I think, and I've never seen any reference to what you claim. The first two LCS, while paid for out of R&D funds, were explicitly described by the Navy as fully capable warships. That said, they were obviously prototypes. Beyond that, every subsequent LCS was a full production model.

      I'll say it one final time, if you have any documentation to support your claim, present it. Otherwise, I'll consider the claim to be false.

  7. FWIW USNI "News Navy Homing in on Requirement for Next Large Combatant; Industry Talks Start This Week" an interview with the director of surface warfare Rear Adm. Ron Boxall (OPNAV N96) Jan. 10 prior to SNA 2019.

    Future fleet make up of Surface Warfare Combatants - highlights

    The Navy currently has a requirement for 104 large combatants and 52 small combatants. While the Navy today isn’t ready to pinpoint exactly how the balance of large/small/unmanned surface combatant requirements would change.

    Large Surface Combatant [1) No mention of ending BMD mission to protect countries/cities as CNO called for last year 2) Hypersonic missile to replace Tomahawk? 3) The end of the line for the Burke Flight III?]

    "The ship will likely be larger than today’s destroyers, and therefore more expensive. With increased space, weight, power and cooling, it will have the margin available for a larger radar if the Navy were to choose to scale up its AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar in the future (1). It will have not only Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells but also space for a future long-range missile that would be larger than VLS (2) . And it will have the command and control capability and the space for an air warfare or other domain warfare commander to embark his or her staff on the ship."

    Navy shipbuilding plans show the service will buy its first future large surface combatant in 2023, though Boxall said that could move to 2024. Still, on such a tight timeline, some have speculated the Navy would have to use the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer design and make modest modifications. Boxall rejected that notion (3).

    Boxall acknowledged budget constraints, both to the Pentagon budget as a whole but also within the Navy, as the service kicks of its $100-billion Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program just two years before the large surface combatant would start.

    “We need to grow these ships, so there’s a good likelihood they’re going to be bigger than what we have today. And if they’re bigger than what we have today, it implies they’re going to be more expensive. And the question is, how much more [expensive]?” Boxall said.

    but I’m going with an assumption that there’s not going to be a huge windfall in growth in the [Navy shipbuilding] account, so if I’m going to design a ship that’s going to be twice as expensive, I think that’s dead on arrival. … Cost is a huge consideration.”

    FFG(X) [1) Navy now specifying 32 VLS cells, previously 16 2) More FFG(X)'s fewer LSC/Burkes in future years ?]

    Boxall repeatedly noted that relying more on a highly capable frigate (1) or small combatant would be a better use of the Navy’s funds, allowing more ships to go more places and reserving the large combatants to focus on things that only they can do: haul the largest of radars into theater, launch the largest of missiles, and so on (2).

    USV's [1) in place of a light frigate/corvette for ASW ? 2) meet target of 355 ship Navy with USVs ?]

    The Navy now is interested in a medium and a large unmanned surface vehicle, which will add more sensors and payloads on the water for the fleet to leverage (1)
    Boxall said he is excited about the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV), also called SeaHunter, which is an Office of Naval Research asset located in San Diego.
    “We now see that we’ve got a platform we can start being innovative with. Let’s try different payloads on there, and let’s go get that thing out there,” Boxall said (2) .

    1. Welcome to the hi-lo mix for the 21st century. Except this seems a bit flipped about, because generally the idea behind a hi-lo mix is that you have more numbers on the low end of the spectrum to compensate for the lesser and more capable high end combatants. :V

  8. FYI Austal is now under investigation for the apparent spike in the the cost of USS Jackson

  9. The bottom line is we need a frigate. the idea that every combatant in the navy MUST ne almost 10,000 tons or larger is ridiculous. we need escorts, we need intelligence gathering assets. thje analysis of alternatives consistently comes up with the same thing for every problem, robots, drones, automatons, mission packages and distributed assets, as if it's a given that the " distibutors" of said assets will magically be able to ingress and egress unmolested from wherever it is they desire to go. "Systems of systems" and "Families of systems" seem to be little more than a marketing strategy to push useless doo-dads, and techno-gizmo's that anyone with half a brain can see are un-survivable and most likely un-retievable in a shooting war. Such devices should augment, not replace the planned frigate. faCT is we don't have a ship in the navy designed as and SSM combatant, not one where the plan was to use them as an integral system from day one. Waiting over 60 years after the Russians first deployed SSMs is long enough, don't you think?

    You adsvocate for a cheap ASW solution when in fact none exists. in fact the expensive solutions hardly work. I can do simple math and figure out a chines battle group can launch enough SSMs to saturate our systems, yet your answer isn't to put more VLS silos in the fleet, or even to actually buy said missiles for the VLS we have, but to do what, start, yet again, on a clean sheet design, with the assumption we will come up with anything other than a mess, like we have with the last great many ship designs we did, like the zumwalts, the fords, the LCS, and that's overlooking the fact it was almost 10 years before we could get the San Antonio's working properly? We need ships in the fleet. Now. They don't all have to be 10,000 tons or more for surface combatants. 17 years into the LCS program and not a single one has even the modules it needs to perform it's mission, and a watered down set of missions at that. How about we get a ship into the fleet that can fight and has weapons and sensors, and worry about grandiose analysis ofconcepts of operations afterwards. Why? Because the Navy needs oversight, and the fact is the navy itself has no concept of operations, and it's leadership has said REPEATEDLY over the last few years they are " searching for their mission." in short they know how to crash their ships but little else these days, down to properly training sailors in basic seamanship.

    A new proper design would be nice, but we don't have the time, unless we want to wait until after the next war is over to field a proper clean sheet design frigate. As it is we are looking at another 7 years before we get the first of these deployed as an active combatant. you want to wait longer in the blind faith the navy will do better than it's track record of the last 30 years suggests?

    I reject the idea a clean sheet design will be anything other than a disaster. it will either be largewr and more expensicve as additional requirements get hung on it, or it will be smaller and ineffective, on another words, the LCS by another name. Hell, the Navy and congress would be willing to buy more LCS hulls, and if they make minor modifications teh contractors will be overjoyed.

    I reject the idea small deployable unmanned assets , absent new ships, are the answer for ASW ops. In conjuction with new more survivable hulls, perhaps. There is no reason to think families of systems or new systems, absent new platforms, will bring much to the table, and little knick-knacks and chochkas peddled by greedy defense contractors is not the answer either.

    The 'exquisite engagement' exists only in the mind of navy planners, where their systems of systems ( whatever that means) will carry the day (with no new hulls).

  10. So, if going by Wikipedia (not claiming these as accurate numbers, only relative ones) the Burkes are $1.8B, the "SSC-Frigate" is $950-800M, and the Zumwalts are $4.2B.

    The proposed SSC would have 32 VLS cells, helicopter/hanger, a scaled down Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar with Cooperative Engagement Capability, a SEWIP Block 3 "Lite" EW suite, and an eventual 105kW laser. Conceptual drawings seem to indicate SeaRAM, a 57mm or 76mm main gun, and ASCM (Harpoon?) launchers.

    I haven't found anything yet regarding sonar- these are AAW ships with some ASuW capability. For half the price of Burke, they seem to offer less than half the capability.

    Assuming that we don't use one of LCS-dervied designs, we'll need entirely new training and supporting infrastructure to support the new ship type. If if it LCS-derived, it'll still be sustantially different- screw propellors vice water jets- and so will the training and support. We already have a large infrastucture and training support system behind the Burke.

    If we're getting 2 FFG(X) for 1 Burke in procurement, how many FFG(X) would we need to buy to actually get financial benefit, considering the extra costs we incur for the new ship type? Has that been done anywhere?

    1. "Burkes are $1.8B, the "SSC-Frigate" is $950-800M"

      I understand that you're working with published cost figures but you need to firmly understand that the Burke cost is fairly "real" (a better cost is $2B) whereas the frigate is the Navy's estimate - actually, it's more of a hope than an estimate. No Navy estimate/hope has ever been even remotely correct so that $800M-$950M is going to increase substantially - let's call it $1.5B.

      Note that the Navy is already playing games with the estimates. Their original estimate/hope was $950M and now, suddenly, it's $800M. Does that reduction seem like it's based on anything other than wishful thinking?

      Unfortunately, that kind of scuttles your hypothesis. Rather than half the price of a Burke it's going to be more like 75% the price of a Burke and, yes, half the capability.

    2. Yes, you're absolutely correct, the cost of a Burke is a well-known, documented, and understood thing while FFG(X) is pure supposition. I apologize for missing that.

      Curious too, that FFG(X) was orignally coming in at the $950M threshold, but has now magically acheived right at the $800M objective, without even selecting the hull.

      $1.5B for FFG(X) is a frightening concept, but your argument for that being the actual cost has all kind of basis in history and in fact.

      1/3 the VLS of Burke, 1/2 or less of the radar, for a vessel 85-50% the cost, plus a new ship class/design to support- why would the Navy want these over more Burkes?

      The current fleet is overbalanced toward AAW and underbalanced towards Mine Warfare and ASW, and we're going to buy mini-Burkes. Thank you for writing about these matters, I wish the Navy could be less frustrating about its fleet.

    3. "why would the Navy want these over more Burkes?"

      You've asked the key question and this is the crux of the matter. Why, indeed? This is where the CONOPS comes in. The CONOPS spells out what role the ship will be used in - not in vague generalities but in very specific detail. What gap in capabilities exists that a frigate is required to fill? What specific tasks will it perform? How will it integrate with other ships? And so on. The CONOPS is how you know that the ship you're contemplating designing is actually needed (or not).

      So, why would the Navy want these frigates over more Burkes? No one knows why - least of all the Navy! Just like the LCS, we're building a class of ship with no pre-defined role and hoping we'll find a use for them.

      If we actually build a frigate and not an upgunned LCS (as I believe we will), we'll probably find a use for them. The problem is that they won't be filling any of the most pressing needs which, as you noted, include mine warfare, MCM, corvette ASW, submarines, long range sensor platforms, logistics support ships, etc. Nowhere in that list does "mini-Burke" appear. So, we'll have frigates, we'll find something for them to do, but they won't be filling any of our pressing capability gaps.

    4. "So, why would the Navy want these frigates over more Burkes?"

      Well if the Navy is just going to throw stuff at the wall. I would hope they pick both versions of the Patrol Frigate Ingalls floated back in 2012 of so. The NS cutter seems to shaken off it issues and has excellent range and endurance. Since neither version seemed to aim at more than 16 VLS for ASROCs or ESSMs the sensor set seems to be cheap and imply not aiming for a mini Burke.

      The lower end one with that keeps the best endurance could float around doing peace time stuff the navy does with Burkes (anti Piracy etc). The one with full ASW kit could well do ASW. Although that would in effect just be upgrading the Perrys I can't see the USN admitting that is what they needed to do.

      Although for ASW I still think the Japanese have a better model of smaller inexpensive dedicated ship.
      Or maybe just say to hell with take the ASW off the Burkes (save money) and admit you need a lot more Virginia class subs to do the job.

    5. "Japanese have a better model of smaller inexpensive dedicated ship."

      What ship is that?

    6. "The lower end one with that keeps the best endurance could float around doing peace time stuff"

      You realize that for "peacetime stuff" we don't need a warship, right? A commercial vessel with a few minimal guns is adequate. The Cyclone class, as a semi-example, cost around $20M (admittedly some years ago so the price has probably increased) and can do anti-piracy, patrols, show-the-flag, etc. almost for free!

    7. "You realize that for "peacetime stuff"

      Do the Cyclones have independent range and endurance the low end NSC variant would have and say a helicopter and fast response boat?

      "What ship is that?"

      Abukuma-class. No Helo but basically just a ASW ship first and secondary surface warfare. If I translated the Japanese government documents right current dollar cost is ~250 to ~300 million. I suppose you have to toss in the towed array they were designed for but Japan did not buy.

    8. "Abukuma class"

      Not bad but they seem a bit large for the capabilities they have, especially considering the lack of hangar. They're almost the same size as the LCS.

    9. "Do the Cyclones have independent range and endurance the low end NSC variant would have and say a helicopter and fast response boat?"

      No but they don't need it for peacetime work. If they require a few pit stops along the way, it doesn't matter. There's nothing that urgent in peacetime that extended range is mandatory. The positive trade off is that they cost many times less to build and operate.

      They do have a RHIB and could operate a small UAV (Scan Eagle type or thereabouts) to fill the aerial observation role, if needed. All in all, the Cyclones are potentially a pretty useful and very cost effective vessel.

    10. "Not bad but they seem a bit large for the capabilities they have, especially considering the lack of hangar. They're almost the same size as the LCS."

      Hard to tell since so much about them technically is just Japanese language. But I think - not sure- the size buys them blue water and endurance.

    11. " size buys them blue water and endurance."

      A couple of points:

      1. Japan is not a global military. Their forces are intended for home waters defense. Yes, they operate at sea but range and endurance are nowhere near the issue they are for us.

      2. The WWII Flower class corvette, a small ASW vessel, was 205 ft long and had a range of 3500 nm at 12 kts, according to Wiki, and conducted Atlantic convoy escort duty routinely. While size certainly provided the opportunity for greater range, a properly designed ship can have great range without being overly large. I don't know what the Abukuma range is but I seriously doubt the ship's size was dictated by range considerations.

      The larger point, here, is that we've forgotten how to design ships. We've forgotten what our ships were capable of in WWII. The range specs on our WWII ships (with armor!) put today's ships to shame. We need to remember what we used to be able to do and we need to relearn how to design ships.

  11. If a Concept of Operations is so important surely there must be a Navy instruction to address that requirement. What is that Navy instruction?

    1. In theory: CONOPS are the purview of Naval Warfare Development Center (NWDC).

      In practice it really doesn't work that way. CONOPS development is fractured and not at all standardized.

    2. A CONOPS is important when planning to fight a war. It's not important when securing budgets from Congress.

      I consider the "devotion" to the nuclear triad to be the best example of this, plus the ongoing attempts to add more types of nuclear weapons. This is strictly budget posturing divorced from how we would actually use the weapons strategically. We're not going to send manned bombers to drop gravity nuclear weapons, period.

  12. "Well, the Navy would claim they formed a study task force and did an analysis of alternatives..."


    The Navy never did an actual, formal Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for either the LCS or FFG(X).

    A true AoA follows a documented process. The first and most important step being to identify the capability gap and requirements the system is attempting to fulfill. A CONOPS should logically follow and supports this.

    Every report that Congressional Research Service (CRS) has written on LCS points to an extremely weak analytic foundation.

    Naval War College did develop a draft LCS CONOPS in early 2000s, but it was largely buzzwords and unexecutable nonsense.


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