Friday, August 16, 2019

Not A Clue

USNI News website has an article citing comments from RAdm. Bill Galinas (1), program executive officer for ships, who was speaking at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium.  His comments are an attempt to show how the Navy ‘gets it’ when it comes to new ships but, instead, it reveals just how clueless the Navy really is.  Let’s look at some of his comments.

The Navy is striving to field “revolutionary combat capability” in new ships and through mid-life modernizations, but it can do so while keeping risk low by focusing on new weapons and systems rather than radical new hull designs, the program executive officer for ships said.

Noting previous challenges with revolutionary ship designs such as the Zumwalt-class destroyer and the Littoral Combat Ship, Rear Adm. Bill Galinis spoke in praise of the “evolutionary” approach that adds new capabilities while still leveraging mature and therefore less risky ship hull designs. (2)

Hmm …   Well, there’s the basis for a rational approach to shipbuilding there but, already, he’s failing to recognize lessons.  ‘Evolutionary’ development is what should occur in shipbuilding.  ‘Revolutionary’ should stay in the R&D lab until it’s ready.  Consider the “revolutionary combat capability” that the Zumwalt’s Advanced Gun System (AGS) was supposed to offer.  Unfortunately, we designed and built an entire ship around the gun only to find out that the AGS failed to deliver the desired performance and suffered out of control costs that were headed for $1M per round.  Thus, Galinas’ belief that we can keep “risk low by focusing on new weapons and systems rather than radical new hull designs” was completely false.  Zumwalt’s AGS was a colossal failure and we now have three $8B white elephants.  How is that “keeping risk low”?  The Admiral utterly fails to grasp the lesson and yet he sees it.

On Zumwalt, for example, “we had a new hull form, we had a new propulsion plant, a new combat system, a new ship control system, new signature shaping on the hull form, arrays. A tremendous amount of new technology that went in there. And frankly, that probably didn’t work out quite the way we intended when we started it.” (2)

So, he acknowledges that the revolutionary approach didn’t work but wants to keep adding “revolutionary combat capability”.  That’s excellent, Admiral.  Keep repeating the mistakes and hope they produce a better outcome.  That’s also the definition of insanity.

Galinas goes on to cite examples of evolutionary improvements in combat capability for ships:

… he cited the Navy’s Expeditionary Sea Base ships, which began as a commercial tanker built here in San Diego by NASSCO, and was then adapted to serve as an Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD) to support the movement of goods from large resupply ships to shore, and then was again adapted to support special operations and mine countermeasures operations as the ESB. (2)

Flying [unmanned aerial vehicles] off of those ships. (2)

… 3D air search radar on USNS Woody Williams (T-ESB-4) right now, which is a capability the fleet has long asked for to get that on there to support the flying of UAVs on there. (2)

… upgrades to the berthing compartments … (2)

… additional crew berthing and messing and habitation facilities … (2)

Tripoli and Wasp … the propulsor has evolved from steam to a gas turbine, … electrical system moved to a zonal system … command and control system on the new LHA will be the first to include full F-35B compatibility upon ship delivery … (2)

Even on the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, … Galinis said the hull is the same but the underlying information technology infrastructure will be greatly improved. Compared to the Ship Wide Area Network (SWAN) on USS San Antonio (LPD-17) that delivered to the Navy in 2005, “the CANES network that’s going on today brings orders of magnitude more capability … (2)

So, the good Admiral’s idea of evolutionary combat improvements are flying UAVs, more and better berthing and messing, electrical changes, shipboard networks, and the ability to talk to F-35s?  Are those really improvements to combat capability?  Do you note what’s utterly missing?  That’s right, there’s nothing about ‘boom’!  There’s nothing about firepower and things that will actually destroy enemy ships and planes.  Where’s the bigger and better guns?  Where’s the more powerful missiles?  Where’s the improved armor?  Where’s the better stealth?  Where’s the combat capability?

Galinas wants to keep hulls the same because they’re proven and low risk.  That’s fine, but only if the hulls are good to begin with!

He cites the Burke as an example of keeping the hull and just adding capabilities.  However, consider that the Burke hull is not stealthy, it is structurally very weak (the Navy had to add strengthening strakes just to deal with the stresses of normal sailing), it has very poor range, it’s at or past its weight allowances and growth margins, has little deck space for defensive weapons (only one CIWS!) and is suffering from stability issues with the new AMDR installations.  That’s not a hull you want to keep using!

Admiral Galinas utterly fails to grasp the lessons from the Navy’s recent string of ship design and construction failures.  Well, Admiral, I’ll lay it out for you since you seem incapable of learning these lessons on your own.

  • Design ships for a 15-20 year service life and then you don’t have to future-proof the design.  You can add in new technology at regular intervals since you’ll be building new ships on a regular basis.
  • Leave ‘revolutionary’ in the lab
  • Don’t continue building flawed hulls.
  • Focus on firepower, not amenities.
  • There’s no such thing as ‘revolutionary’.  ‘Revolutionary’ inevitably fails and degenerates into evolutionary development, anyway.
  • Unless you try building unstable hulls like the Zumwalt, conventional hulls are the least risky part of a new ship design.  It’s the weapons, sensors, and equipment that are the high risk items – just the opposite of what you’re claiming!

In short, Admiral, whatever you think is good practice, do the opposite and you’ll be okay.


(1)Currently, Galinis is serving as program executive officer, ships, where he is responsible for Navy shipbuilding for surface combatants, amphibious ships, logistics support ships, support craft and related foreign military sales.

(2)USNI News website, “Navy Prefers Fielding ‘Revolutionary’ Combat Capability Through New Weapons Rather than New Hull Designs”, Megan Eckstein, 13-Aug-2019,


  1. But how will the ship builders justify their cost over runs. A CEO,s got to eat somehow.
    More seriously, without actually getting in house expertise all that is impossible. They are at the mercy of the salesman (my bad salesperson) with the slickest powerpoint.

    1. Whatever specific point you're trying to make, I'm completely missing it. Try again?

    2. CNOps, I think Trondude is saying that your solution requires the Navy to design a ship - or at least contribute significantly to the design process. It doesn't do that these days, it just submits requests for proposals and buys whatever Powerpoint Warship looks the "most advanced" and has the worst cost under-estimate. The USN could submit a request for proposals for a ship class with no new technology and an evolutionary hull design based off of the Burke, but defense contractors make better margins on "revolutionary" technologies and designs, so there's a serious risk that such an acquisitions process would result in a small number of low effort bids.

      That's not to say the Navy shouldn't put out such a request, but they need to go the extra mile, hire a decent warship design/evaluation team (and retain them at the end), and babysit the defense contractors through the design process.

    3. The Navy needs to reinstitute BuShips, pure and simple. They provided in-house design expertise and then just accepted bids for the construction. Solves all the problems.

    4. What Darth A and you said were pretty much it. I was just trying (unsuccessfully) to add was a little gallows humor. My Bad

  2. If the navy is anything like the army, the people that get promoted in peacetime to become generals (or admirals) are not the types that rock the boat.

    They are not innovators, they are inside the box thinkers.

    They are talented people, but typically are not the types to swim upstream to solve a readiness problem (or to even realize that swimming against the current is what is needed).

    1. Without a doubt!

      Understand, though, what I try to do on this blog is document problems and present solutions in the hope that the few 'upstream' swimmers will gain some inspiration, knowledge, and 'ammunition' to conduct their contrary campaigns. Based on the feedback I get via e-mail and other methods, this blog has a significant following in the Navy (though not, apparently, at upper levels!). It is my hope that, through this blog, I can exert some small positive influence on the development of the Navy. Thus, while I recognize the obstacles and the uninspiring people being promoted into Navy leadership, I still attempt to provide superior thinking for those few who are capable of recognizing and using it. That is why I beat my head against the rock, post after post!

  3. > built an entire ship around the gun only to find out that the AGS failed

    Actually, according to former SSG Director, Adm. James Hogg, Zumwalt was intended to be a platform for future electric weapons such as railguns:

    “Zumwalt was built for railgun,” said Hogg. “The SSG’s efforts at railgun conceptual development were completed in 2001 – their mission accomplished.”

    Because the railgun was not ready yet, it was replaced by the AGS - and this created a problem because of the need to make special shells for it. Hopefully, it will be replaced once the railgun gets finished.

    1. And what happens if the railgun takes another decade or so to be ready? What if it's never ready?

      Build with what you have, not with what you might have...

    2. “Zumwalt was built for railgun,” said Hogg."

      You misinterpret his statement. He was saying that the electrical system of the Zumwalt would have been ideal for the railgun. Just wishful thinking on his part.

      The Zumwalt was actually conceptually designed as part of the DD-21 program and the Vertical Gun for Advanced Ships (VGAS). As the program was cut, this became Zumwalt and AGS but the basic design was already there - long before there was any hope of a viable rail gun. The Zumwalt design and AGS trace back to the mid to late 1980's. Read the Wiki writeup of the DD-21 (SC-21).

  4. ComNavOps,

    I absolutely agree that Admiral Galinas--and frankly, the rest of the Navy leadership--utterly fails to grasp the lessons from the recent string of ship design and construction failures. I would slightly modify your lessons/recommendations:
    - Design ships for a 40 year service life with the expectation of a major mid-life overhaul at the 20-year point, when you can add in new technology. You can add new technology incrementally as you go along, plus a big batch at the mid-life point. If you shoot for a 15-20 year life you're going to be building twice as many ships to maintain the force level, which means that you're going to run out of shipyard capacity and even with less expensive ships (which I think you and I both support) your new ship cost is going way up.
    - Leave ‘revolutionary’ in the lab. Absolutely.
    - Don’t continue building flawed hulls. Absolutely.
    - Focus on firepower, sensors, and survivability, not amenities.
    - There’s no such thing as ‘revolutionary’. ‘Revolutionary’ inevitably fails and degenerates into evolutionary development, anyway. Absolutely.
    - Unless you try building unstable hulls like the Zumwalt, conventional hulls are the least risky part of a new ship design. It’s the weapons, sensors, and equipment that are the high risk items – just the opposite of what you’re claiming! Absolutely.

    And I would add.
    - In wartime count on all that fancy gadgetry not working, so make sure you have enough redundancy and backups--and your people are adequately trained in using them--to get you through the inevitable SNAFU moments with new technology.

    1. "Design ships for a 40 year service life with the expectation of a major mid-life overhaul"

      This has almost no chance of happening for a variety of reasons. Historically, the Navy doesn't keep ships for their full life - they retire them early. Technology insertions almost never happen. In the past, whenever the Navy has faced the possibility of upgrading a ship class, they ALWAYS state that the ship is old and that the money would be better spent on new ships. Further, this costs more since you have to build in a lot of future-proofing, most of which will turn out to be unused, incorrect, or obsolete by the time the upgrade comes.

      On the other hand, a 15-20 year life span allows for (indeed, mandates) timely technology insertions. Historically, ship lives were only 15 years or so. It's only relatively recently, with the runaway cost of new construction, that ship lives have been extended.

      "going to run out of shipyard capacity"

      Actually, if anything, it would be the opposite. With more ships being built, we'd expand our shipbuilding capacity which everyone thinks is a good thing. A larger industrial shipbuilding base provides more resilience in the event of war and maintains our industrial expertise. The benefits are overwhelming!

    2. "If you shoot for a 15-20 year life you're going to be building twice as many ships to maintain the force level... [using twice as much shipyard capacity, and even with cheap hulls] your new ship cost is going way up."

      This was my main sticking point here. I like CDR Chip's
      recommendation as well. Technology - or at least mature technology - will likely change significantly in 15-20 years, but generally that doesn't itself warrant a new ship design. Ships that are designed well initially and *maintained* appropriately can maintain relevance well into the 40 year range with the types of upgrades that have occurred to Burke over the last 30 years. Yeah, there's issues with the basic design of the Burke hull, but USN DD acquisition was still served well by applying this strategy to that flawed hull design; I can only imagine it would work better with a more timeless, better designed hull.

      Appropriately maintaining the ships we have already requires massive investments in our shipyard capacity, and we certainly should make such investments, but we can't (rationally) plan around doubling our new hull production before we've even dealt with our maintenance backlog.

    3. "and even with cheap hulls] your new ship cost is going way up."

      Just the opposite! The more hulls you build, the cheaper they are. That's why the Navy tries to do multi-ship buys. As demand for shipbuilding capacity increases, we'll naturally build new shipyards - a good thing all around! More shipyard capacity also equates to lower cost and more relaxed schedules - no need to pay premiums for overtime and rushed delivery. More shipyards also equates to more maintenance capacity - wins all around! More ships built means more industrial expertise, more workers (yes, it will take time to find and train them - this won't all happen overnight), more naval engineers and designers - wins and more wins!

    4. The only systematic rebuilds were the battleships and the Essex SCB-XX variants. Anything smaller gets sinkexed. So go for 40 year carriers, figure we'll up grade the Fords to VL-EMALS a/c launch in 20 years.

    5. For what it's worth, based on data from Navsource, the last 10 Perry-class frigates (FFG-52 to FFG-61) averaged 28 years of service.

    6. “15-20 year lifespan”
      Ironically, that was part of the Intent of the LCS. It was supposed to be a short, inexpensive lifespan with the modules being upgraded or replaced regularly.

      Right concept, insanely bad application.
      Instead of a solid, unsophisticated ship, we went for complicated systems, didn’t wait for functioning modules, oversized and under manned etc.

      Even if a new CNO, new Marine commandant, et al at the very top actually does “get it” , the challenge is how will those below them implement it?

  5. The Navy is also failing to engineer evolutionary fall-backs into it's revolutionary leap-forward attempts.

    Imagine if AGS had a dumb HE round option built in from the get-go. The Zumies would at least have a functional round for their guns.

    Imagine if LCS had a slower sloop/Corvette/cutter option to cut costs.

    The new CVNs should have been engineered with the ability to downgrade back to steam if the Mag-cats didn't work. They (ships) weren't. They (cats) don't. And now they (the Navy) I'd Fubared.

    When planning to succeed, one should also plan for failure.

    1. AGS was basically a larger overpriced Shillelagh missile launcher. People should be hung for the amount of money they stole from the tax-payers or got kickbacks from the thieves. Zumwalts now are useless , it would cost near a billion to rip out the system (gut the hull) and replace with something useful.

      Can't wait to see what "railgun" fantasies they might say they can fit in one in the future. Might be more than a billion per ship theft there.

      Between the the Zumwalts , the LCS, and the Ford class , AFAIAC , the USN needs not to be told to GTH, they already bought a well deserved ticket. I have no hope for the USN except to see how much welfare such useless "tr"uckers will draw in government welfare in the future. Nobody needs to joining the Navy right now, that service don't have clue.

      They aren't "planning " on failure , but they are currently doing so badly and will continue to do so , till I am long dead for sure.

    2. "AGS was basically a larger overpriced Shillelagh missile launcher."

      Um … Very loosely. Shillelagh was a very short range, optically guided, missile as opposed to the AGS/LRLAP which was a very long range, GPS guided, rocket.

      Entirely justified rant aside, do you have any solutions or recommendations to make?

    3. If I may dip my oar in the water, Skip? Look, allowing our defense contractors onto the Dow, NASDAQ and NYSE, then also allowing them to distill the entire industry down to a couple of contractors with buyouts brought us to all this. How else to explain USS Ford and the F-35 to name just TWO examples. To go 'revolutionary', as you put it, they turned the 5 billion dollar tried-and-true Nimitz Class into the 15 Billion Dollar Ford Class, a class with electromagnetic catapults that can't catapult and the same sort of tech on the arresting gear that also is a problem. At three times the expense we got 'revolutionary' tech. Best part is, they've laid the keels for two MORE of them, playing 'fake it til you make it". On the Air side, they traded the Tomcats and Intruders for the F/A-18 and now an even worse 'solution' in the works for twenty years now, the F-35, also still Not Mission Capable for the same failed 'revolutionary" tech even for the basics like oxygen for the crew, more revolution, they traded LOX converters for generators and can't breathe it above 40,000 feet. We have a slew of contracting officers who should be jailed for these failures and I believe corruptions. The round robin of retirement from the Pentagon to the defense companies and consultants and back to the Pentagon through political appointments via the White House sets these corruptions in stone and brings us to the point of being conned into expensive procurement. And these folks KNEW it was all bad procurement. As for the appearance of impropriety, they clearly could not care less about the awful state of affairs this lousy procurement has brought the Navy to. But by God, business is sure good, it sure is. $tars and $tripes forever for these guys and no one is calling them on it. I know criticizing these miscreants and crooks makes me a bad guy in some quarters, but Honey Babe, the Emperor is wearing no clothes. They're going to get a lot of boys and girls killed with this stuff some fine day, maybe they'll be held accountable then. Near as I can tell, this is one of very few sites calling these folks out, too bad Conress isn't paying attention, but they're bought too. Carlton Meyers of G2Mil is another, he pointed me here. And aren't you all happy about THAT!

    4. "allowing them to distill the entire industry down to a couple of contractors"

      Well, let's be objective, here. Industry didn't arbitrarily condense down. The military stopped buying as many 'things'. With fewer purchases, companies had to either consolidate or go out of business (kind of the same, in the end).

      The military also stopped making small quantity purchases and started doing massive, winner take all type competitions. That further forced industry to consolidate.

      So, let's be fair to industry. They simply responded to the decreasing market as the military opted for fewer and more expensive aircraft and ships.

    5. " they turned the 5 billion dollar tried-and-true Nimitz Class into the 15 Billion Dollar Ford Class,"

      Again, let's be fair. Industry didn't produce the Ford, the military did. Industry didn't say, we refuse to build any more Nimitzes. Industry simply responded to the military's request for EMALS, AGS, magic elevators, etc. and produced the Ford that the Navy asked for. Sure, you might fault industry for quality issues or construction timelines but, even there, it was the military that said they wanted EMALS, for example, not industry. Industry didn't care whether they installed EMALS or a steam catapult, that was the military insisting on it. And so on.

  6. Galinis received his appointment from running a maintenance yard in DC from Obama... I believe Obama"s picks were all skewed to screw us.

  7. I have a question. With all of this fancy technology, has anybody asked how well any of it will work in wartime? Would you be willing to go to war tomorrow on a Ford or an LCS or a Zumwalt? I wouldn't. And that's a ton of money wasted.

    1. Good question. That's a lot of money spent on marginal at best weapons systems....

    2. "has anybody asked how well any of it will work in wartime?"

      Yes, to a large extent DOT&E has. They not only test systems to specification but under realistic operating conditions. That's why the Navy so fervently hates them. They point out the flaws which starkly contrast with the Navy's outlandish claims of success.

  8. "Design ships for a 15-20 year service life and then you don’t have to future-proof the design."

    It's almost as if you're advocating for planned obsolescence. Which is fine for the consumer market where technology changes rapidly and this month's gizmo is better and cheaper than last month's gizmo.

    But, I just can't see disposing of a $1.7 billion Burke destroyer after 20 years. Ship building costs have to be driven way down, perhaps in half. Your idea of building mission specific ships is a step in the right direction, but I'm not sure how far that gets you.

    1. "But, I just can't see disposing of a $1.7 billion Burke destroyer after 20 years."

      You're missing several concepts, here.

      I'm also advocating NOT building $1.7B Burkes!!!!!! I've stated that we should be building single function ships for a fraction of the cost of our current multi-function ships. Take the Burke and eliminate the flight deck, hangar, towed array, sonar, 70-100 ft of length (the flight deck and hangar), helo fuel storage, helo maintenance compartments, lots of berthing, reduced galleys, Tomahaws/VL-ASROC (fewer VLS cells), etc. and now we're talking about a ?$800M? AAW-Burke.

      Currently, we try to build in future-proofing capabilities and facilities (usually unsuccessfully) which adds to the cost. With a 15-20 year lifespan there's no need for future-proofing. We'll just build a new ship when it's time to future-ize it.

      One of the factors in the high cost of ships is that we build so few of them. The shipyards have to roll all of their required profits into a very few ships which drives up the unit cost. With many more ships being built, the unit price is reduced because the overhead and profit is spread across many more units.

      I invite you to go through the same exercise I have: design a 'new' Burke as a single function ship. What is that single function? AAW, of course. Now, you size and design an AAW ship that performs that function and that one, only, and see what you get. I think you'll be amazed at how small and cheap the resulting ship is.

      "It's almost as if you're advocating for planned obsolescence."

      Yes! And, here's the dirty little secret: it doesn't matter whether the obsolescence is planned or not, it still happens at about 15-20 years because that's when the Navy stops maintaining the ship, starts deferring maintenance, stops doing upgrades because they're no longer cost effective on an 'old' ship, and starts trying to convince Congress that a new class is needed because the 'old' one is too old to upgrade. So, you can either plan for it, as I suggest, or have it happen unplanned as the Navy does. Either way, same result.

    2. "it doesn't matter whether the obsolescence is planned or not, it still happens at about 15-20 years because that's when the Navy stops maintaining the ship, . . ."

      That's the problem that needs to be fixed. Designing a ship to last 15 to 20 years is just a bandaid solution to a much bigger problem.

    3. "Designing a ship to last 15 to 20 years is just a bandaid solution to a much bigger problem."

      I disagree. For the reasons I've listed, I see it as a comprehensive and preferred approach. I'll summarize again:

      -It provides more ships
      -It provides cheaper ships
      -It leads to more shipyards and a more robust shipbuilding industry
      -It ensures regular technology inserts into production
      -It avoids massive, winner-take-all impacts on industry which lead to consolidation and contraction

      With those advantages, how do you justify longer ship lives? As an interesting comparison, list the advantages to longer ship lives and let's see what we've got!

      I'm not arguing with you (well, kind of). I'm more interested in laying out the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and seeing if we can't see a clear preference.


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