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.https://www.navy.mil/navydata/bios/bio.asp?bioID=743
(2)USNI News website, “Navy Prefers Fielding ‘Revolutionary’ Combat Capability Through New Weapons Rather than New Hull Designs”, Megan Eckstein, 13-Aug-2019,https://news.usni.org/2019/08/13/navy-prefers-fielding-revolutionary-combat-capability-through-new-weapons-rather-than-new-hull-designs