Friday, February 1, 2019

Frigate Manning and Maintenance

For years, now, the Navy has been complaining that manpower was too costly and, indeed, the Navy embarked on an unwise, misguided, and, ultimately, ill-fated cruise down “optimal” (meaning, minimal) manning creek.  The attempt ended in disastrous maintenance problems and excessive wear and tear on ships due to neglect and many ships were forced into early retirement.

You’ll recall that the LCS was one such attempt at minimal manning.  The ship was, supposedly, going to be crewed by six people and a mascot dog who was also a qualified navigator and cross trained as a cat.  Of course, the LCS crew size has increased dramatically as the Navy has abandoned the initial attempt at three crews for two ships (3:2) and now has settled on two crews for one ship (2:1 or, to put it on a common basis, 4:2 versus the original 3:2).  That, alone, is a 33% increase in LCS manning. 

In addition, the base crew size has increased and the shore side “crew”, which performs the maintenance, has been found to far exceed initial estimates.  The net result is that the LCS now requires as much or more crew as the Perry class frigates!

Okay, that’s interesting but it’s old news.  Well, what’s new news is that the Navy, despite their ongoing moaning about manpower (having apparently forgotten that we once fully crewed a 600 ship fleet) is planning on doubling the crew size of the new frigate by using a blue-gold, 2:1 manning scheme.  That’s right, each ship will have two crews.

Boxall [RAdm. Boxall, director of surface warfare] said the Navy is planning a Blue-Gold crewing model, which means that half the crew would be out with the ship, the other crew is shoreside.

“We’re looking at the blue-gold construct on FFG(X), we’re planning on it, which gives us a larger operational availability – it should double it. (1)

Wasn’t reduced manpower the driving force behind the overall design of the LCS?  So now we’re going to have not one but two crews for each frigate (and each LCS).  Which is it?  Is manpower a crippling drain on the Navy or not?

What about maintenance?  Wasn’t the unintended consequence of minimal manning the neglected maintenance that is crippling the fleet today?  Seemingly, every day we read about more ships requiring more maintenance than anticipated due to deferred and neglected maintenance.  So, what is the Navy doing?  They’re going to keep the new frigates at sea twice as long which means HALF THE MAINTENANCE!  Is the math too complex for you, Adm. Boxall?  How do you not get this?  You’re planning to run these frigates into early graves.  Ironically, the Navy just recently waved their hands and  pronounced extended life spans for all ship classes while noting that it could only happen if the required maintenance was scrupulously performed.  Hey, Adm. Boxall, you can’t perform maintenance on a ship that’s constantly at sea.

Here’s a little bonus LCS/Boxall tidbit.  You know how ComNavOps is constantly harping on the need for a well thought out, well developed CONOPS prior to designing a ship?  Well, consider this quote from the esteemed RAdm. Boxall,

We haven't even thought of the best use of LCS yet, if you ask me. (1)

Hey, Admiral, you know why you haven’t thought of the best use for the LCS yet?  Because you never had a CONOPS and still don’t!  And, best of all, you’re proceeding full steam ahead with your new frigate AND YOU DON’T HAVE A CONOPS FOR IT, EITHER!  Talk about being learning-challenged.

I guess I shouldn’t complain.  For a naval blogger, like myself, RAdm. Boxall is the gift that keeps on giving.  He’s giving me endless material to work with!


(1)Defense News website, “Surface Navy Deleted Scenes & The NeverEnding Mission: The Drift XV”, David B. Larter, 25-Jan-2019,


  1. A few random thoughts on manning of FFG(X).

    Mabus back in 2012 quote “Every sailor costs the Navy roughly $300,000 a year, so we decided to give them all generous separation packages and rehire them as contractors at double their enlisted salary. It won’t cost a thing to recruit or train them.” Presume these figures or earlier version led to the minimal LCS crews and sub-contracting maintenance out to contractors with result cost of LCS maintenance nearly at the same as a Burke.

    Assume in 2019 sailor costing approx $350,00 per year.

    Study claimed 42% of seagoing sailors served on the CVNs.

    Old generation design even though updated Burkes crew 300 pus 30 flight detachment.

    New generation frigate with new tech/systems crew approx 120 without flight compliment eg Danish Iver Huildfeldt class, an approx one third saving on the older generation frigates eg Italian FREMM 170 crew, 190/195 with flight detachment.

    So for FFG(X) designs based on older generation frigate designs, unknown how much new tech/systems will be incorporated , so with blue and gold crews might range from 300 to 400.

  2. I literally do not understand the ideas behind having more than one crew for a ship. The only place it makes any sense to me is with the SSBNs...
    I dont understand where the cycle of shipyard, recertification, refresher training, and deployment, (RINSE, REPEAT) stopped working....
    The $300k per sailor cost can be trimmed in a lot of areas rather than rethink the wheel (and make it square along the way). If anything it sounds like crew sizes need to increased (but not by having multiple crews) to keep up with maintenance in peacetime, and damage control in wartime...

  3. Isn't one full size crew better than two undermanned crews ?
    Are the CVNs or SSNs being blessed with smaller crews ?

    F. Taylor.

    1. The Ford is designed to be minimally manned with several hundred to a thousand fewer crew, depending on the final numbers.

    2. DOT&E FY2017 annual report

      "The CVN 78 design is intended to reduce manning. The Navy analysis indicates the ship is sensitive to manpower fluctuations. Workload estimates for the many new technologies such as catapults, arresting gear, radar, and weapons and aircraft elevators are not well understood. Some of these concerns have required redesignation of some berthing areas and may require altering standard manpower strategies to achieve mission accomplishment. The CVN 78 berthing capacity is 4,660; this is more than 1,100 fewer than Nimitz-class carriers. Recent estimates of expected combined manning of CVN 78, its air wing, embarked staffs, and detachments range from 4,656 to 4,758. The estimates do not include Service Life Allowance for future crew growth. Consequently, CVN 78 is expected to be short of berthing spaces."

      FWIW the UK 65,000/70,000t QNLZ ship's crew, excluding aircrew, understand is 800, making arbitrary assumption would need another 200 crew for larger 100,000t carrier plus say 20% extra for catapults and arresting gear operation, total 1200. Ford ship's crew numbers have seen quoted range from 2,500 to 2,700, balance is the aircrew . Very large amount of guesswork on conventional carrier crew numbers above and may be underestimated but it does seem at first glance a large premium in crew numbers for operating a nuclear carrier, maybe other reasons.

      IF in ball park with crew numbers for conventional carrier v. nuclear correct, savings say 1200 in crew x $350K x 40 years equal approx $17B, worth asking the question are nuclear carriers worth the high cost premium for their additional operational capabilities verse ability to fund double the number of conventional carriers? Need to check if crew numbers are accurate, expect fuel costs would be more than offset by first cost of reactors, mid-life refuelling and disposal cost, say ~$4B.

      The French PA2 carrier, a conventional carrier design based on same hull as the QNLZ STOVL carrier was cancelled in 2013 and at time was mention of withdrawing the single 42,500t nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle, 1,350 ship's crew, France did operate two Clemenceau class in past. October 2018 launched 18 month study into possible new carrier, one question will be whether conventional or nuclear.

      India is funding two 40,000 carriers, first STOBAR for MiG 29K, mention of a third, propulsion four LM2500s, Indian Navy talking to US about fitting EMALS in the second carrier.

      China Type 002 in build, not much known, said to be 80,000t, conventional powered with their own EMALS.

    3. Nick, I'd be real cautious about your numbers and conclusions and, to be fair, you noted that the crew numbers needed to be confirmed. I think trying to extrapolate from a 60-70,000 ton ship to a 100,000 ton ship with many more functions is a shaky proposition.

      For example, US carriers have extensive aerial command and control facilities linked to, and working with, E-2 Hawkeyes. British carriers have no equivalent AEW so I suspect (but don't know - feel free to educate me) that British carriers don't have anywhere near the extent of electronics, analysis, and AEW command and control.

      Another example, four catapults require large operating crews both above decks and below. Again, I don't know how many and, again, to be fair, you specifically mentioned cat crews.

      In short, I suspect your crew size conclusions are very questionable and laying all the crew size differential at the feet of nuclear power is highly suspect.

      I would also note that the RN has been bitten by the same minimal manning bug that wreaked havoc on the USN. So, just because the RN's QE carrier has a seemingly small crew doesn't mean it's a good idea or a viable crew size in combat.

    4. CNO do agree with your comments and my crew numbers are suspect and need to be validated, would mention E-2 Hawkeyes operated by 42,500t Charles de Gaulle, but suspect conventional carriers much less costly to build and operate.

      As mentioned before cost of Ford looking like $16+B if you include Phase 2 build costs, excluding $6+B R&D, not the oft quoted Navy figure of $13B, that's in 2008 budgetary $, an apples to oranges comparison the cost British 65,000/70,000t conventional powered carriers approx $4B each, a quarter of Ford cost. CVN-80 Enterprise Navy estimates the ship’s procurement reduced to $12.6B in FY2018$ helped by big savings in build man hours compared to Ford, GAO said were unprecedented, plus the very expensive O&M costs due to high crew numbers and nuclear reactors.

      Navy is of the mind set that carriers are nuclear and will not countenance build of conventional carriers, would therefore argue its a numbers game and Ford class just too expensive for Congress to be able to fund procurement and operation of in sufficient numbers to match Chinese build rate and would expect the outcome will be that the Chinese Navy will have larger fleet of carriers in the out years.

  4. This would be funny if it wasn't so deadly serious BUT after so many years now of working on LCS, USN still hasn't figured out the MANNING?!? As for CONOPS,as I was reading the admiral article response that they were still looking at all the great things the LCS can possibly do, why haven't they figured out and NAILED WHAT IT CAN DO? His response was basically:"Jack of all trades, master of none" which is actually very generous....

    How can anyone take USN leadership seriously? They seem so far outside of reality, they are in another dimension.

  5. guess you'll like this one ( about LCS officers:

    “What we're seeing is they are doing very, very well against their contemporaries coming off the bigger ships,” Boxall said. “Why is that happening? It's fairly logical: More stick time, better fidelity trainers and more time in the trainers.”

  6. there's a british way to fill in the crew , pressganging people into service .. of course not by whacking random ppl in bars , but can be done to non violent criminals serving jail time , offered to serve in navy as choice..

    either that or start the military draft again , because let's face it , all volunteer navy is too expensive.. best way should be combining volunteer officers and highly technical crew , and conscripts

  7. It strikes me that given the nature of modern designs and computers etc that there a lot less room to repair the ship at sea aside from just replacing parts. So if these ships will now be at sea longer is there any related plan to increase support and supply ships to make all the bits and bobs that break available? But I suppose budgeting for that is not sexy.

  8. "crewed by six people and a mascot dog who was also a qualified navigator and cross trained as a cat."

    Oh by the way that was a surprise I spilled my coffee over that... Nice post.

  9. "crewed by six people and a mascot dog who was also a qualified navigator and cross trained as a cat."

    That was most excellent!!!

  10. Some answers to questions that claim enable long deployment periods with lower manning and maintenance on the new generation ships, re. SNA 2019 video interview with Fincantieri Vice Adm Hunt, Ret., by Vago Muradian, Defense and Aerospace Report on FREMM for FFG(X), a mini Burke to meet Navy specs, final Navy expected within next three months).

    Highlights the use by FREMM of the new tech/systems, Condition Based Maintenance, with sensors embedded into all equipment to give real time condition at component level, allowing ability to predict when maintenance required and only take action when necessary. Current Navy maintenance practice is based on planned time, events or intervals, Hunt says Burkes and Ticos requires 200+ hours a day, 25 plus sailors, FREMM only 40 to 50 hours. Another factor aiding the FREMM low crew hours required for maintenance is the layout and space available to work in, FREMM a much less dense ship than Burke, steel is cheap and air is free? Condition based maintenance an outcome of Fincantieri experience in building of large cruise liners where minimising time in port is a priority when changing over passengers to max revenue, time is money.

    Result is ship's crew of 130/135, with aircrew ~165, accommodation for 200, max size staterooms with heads and showers are four berth, luxury compared to a Burke.

    FREMM actual operational availability of ~75%, Hunt states significantly higher than Ticos and Burkes achieve. Maintenance requires two 20 days pier side visits per year, third year several months, six years drydock, again significantly lower than Ticos and Burkes require.

    Has the capability of a Flight IIA with less capacity, emphasised the EASR has performance of a SPY-1A
    Mentions the VDS but not the Low Band Hull Array, assume LBHA for weight/volume constrained ships?
    The FFG(X) FREMM will be slightly larger than the 6,900t Italian FREMM to meet Navy damage control, stability and survivability standards. Saying 7,000t ship will be the sweet spot for the top side weight required, by implication other contenders for FFG(X) contract too small (the LM Freedom FFG(X) contender is a new ship as now quoted by LM as 6,000+t, makes a mockery of Navy choice of conceptual phase contracts with qualification limited parent hull in water, LCS Freedom is 3,500t ship.)
    Navy requires standard common equipment to be used where ever possible, FREMM an ASW platform of Italian/French origin, Fincantieri checking if US equipment can be modified through better engineering to meet their vibration and acoustic signature standards required for a acoustically quiet ship, which also aids MTBF.

    Need for increasing electrical power for DEW and sensors, Fincantieri planning larger diesel gensets to replace the four Isotta Fraschini VL 1716 C2ME 2MW diesel gensets that power the two shaft mounted 2.1MW electric motors, maybe use the MTU 20V 4000 M53B 3MW gensets as on Type 26. FREMM is CODLOG hybrid, mentioned that when using the single GT LM2500G4 in mechanical propulsion mode would be able syphon off power for electrical generation, presume the shaft mounted motor is an electric machine that can act as both motor or generator.

    1. Interesting. Now analyze it. Ignore the marketing aspects and dig in. Apply logic to the claims and see what you get.

    2. Understand its a sales pitch by Hunt for Fincantieri, a few thoughts

      Condition Based Maintenance, a major step up from planned maintenance, think may be semi-true, commercial jets on wing have operated 50,000+ hours on wing before need to visit shop, can Fincantieri apply this to ship's equipment, they must have a good track record as successful in the commercial world with their cruise liners, ship operational time all important to the owners to recover their massive investment and maximise profits, they would soon lose sales if not. Hunt saying FREMM actual operational availability of ~75% on the Italian FREMM ships, presuming this can easily verified, so expect true, and as with later Burkes hard numbers should be available to see if claim of significantly higher numbers with FREMM is true.

      Crew numbers, Italian Navy quote 170 crew, 190/195 with aircrew, Hunt claims crew of 130/135, with aircrew ~165, so questionable, though in commercial world the pressure is continuously on to reduce manning with better designed/engineered equipment, so again might be believable Fincantieri claim to be at forefront of marine tech which is advancing at an every increasing pace, first Italian FREMM laid down back in 2008 that's a generation old in tech (with the Italian follow-on frigate to the FREMM the PPA the Italian Navy set Fincantieri a target to reduce operating costs by one third, first PPA due to launch May/June). How good are Navy in writing watertight contracts so big penalties if there was failure to meet manning clains, don't hold out much hope.

      Premise Fincantieri can apply their commercial expertize to warships, open to question but think possible.

      Point out Burkes are an old design, and though updated always constrained by trying to fit a quart into a pint pot.

      I'm sure your thoughts are more sceptical with better understanding of overall picture/experience.

    3. "Condition Based Maintenance"

      The LCS was designed with exactly this model of maintenance. The LCS has EXTENSIVE sensors that collect data and automatically transmit it to shoreside depots so that when the ship pulls into port, parts and maintenance personnel are waiting to leap aboard. Nothing will ever break because EVERYTHING is monitored and maintained as needed. How has that worked out? Almost every LCS that has put to sea has broken down in a major way. Predictive maintenance can't prevent operator error or mechanical breakage. When something does break, there are no repair facilities on board - they're all pierside.

      "Crew numbers"

      We can already produce a ship that requires NO crew. The problem is it has zero damage control capability. Crew is needed for more than just watchstanding. Crew is needed to replace casualties in battle and conduct damage control. I completely believe any and all claims for reduced manning. I just know that reduced manning is a prescription for lost ships due to insufficient combat stations and damage control.

      "Fincantieri can apply their commercial expertize to warships,"

      Austal had extensive commercial experience building high speed ferries and, yet, when they built the LCS it was a seriously flawed design. The requirements between commercial and combat are radically different. Expertise in the one doesn't grant expertise in the other.

      Overall, it sounds like Finc. is pitching a peacetime ship with commercial underpinnings to the Navy - exactly what the Navy is looking for! Unfortunately, this makes for a very poor WARship.

    4. Predictive maintenance= "Stop the war boys, the 'CHANGE OIL' light just came on."

  11. Honestly, depending upon how the next couple decades work out, it wouldn't surprise me if conspiracy theorists would conclude the reason the US Navy was defeated was because of treason and Chinese money. Much like the "History" Channel would conclude it was aliens. However, never ascribe to malice what mere stupidity can explain. It's hard not to despair at times.

    1. " never ascribe to malice what mere stupidity can explain."

      While it's hard to believe that conspiracy can't be involved in the Navy's endless, horrendous decisions, I'm sure that it's actually just a simple case of stupidity - stupidity on a stunning scale, perhaps, but mere stupidity, nonetheless.

  12. Manpower is shockingly expensive

    An E3 with less than two years experience receiving the lowest allowance costs a little over $3,000 per month in just pay and allowances.
    $36,000 per year, or $720,000 over 20 years.

    An experienced O3 on the top allowance costs $11,000 per month, or $2.5mn over 20 years.

    Manpower is of course essential, but a lot of routine jobs can be done away with, or at least optimised.
    100 years ago, a man had to walk the ship and manually check oil temperatures, he might even had had to take a thermometer around with him.
    Today, tens of thousands of remote sensors can do that job far far better, not only without wasting the time, but creating far more detailed and accessible records.

    Tesla can swap the battery pack on a Model S in 2 minutes.
    I'm sure I remember reading it takes 16 man hours to change the engine on a Jaguar in the Indian Airforce.

    Engine Maintenance on ships is an absolute nightmare, cramped conditions and tight spaces, but, there is little stopping a ship being built with, either more space in the engine bays, or quite possibly even easily swapable engines.


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