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,https://www.defensenews.com/naval/the-drift/2019/01/25/surface-navy-deleted-scenes-the-neverending-mission-the-drift-xv/