Monday, November 23, 2020

Commercially Available Parts

One of the common themes in naval blog discussions is the suggestion to use more commercially available parts.  However, Navy attempts to do so have revealed problems that make this approach less feasible and desirable than anticipated.

 

Another initiative that began in the early 2000s involved the Navy using more shipbuilder-provided commercially-bought systems on ships rather than systems the Navy developed and provided to the ship. However, maintaining commercial systems has been more expensive than anticipated for a variety of reasons, such as systems becoming obsolete and challenges acquiring manufacturer support. For example, the SSN 774 shipbuilding program made an effort to use commercial equipment that it assumed would never need repair or replacement—meaning that these parts would last the life of the submarine—without evaluating whether these parts actually had no repair needs. Further, SSN 774 program officials told us that the program office did not plan for the Navy to support many of the submarine’s commercial components because they initially planned to contract for logistics support. In all, the SSN 774 program asserted that over 4,000 parts on the submarine class would not need maintenance for the duration of the submarine’s life. However, since the submarines have been operating, many of these parts are failing, which has created unanticipated expenses. For example, Navy maintenance officials stated that they are planning to pay $360 million over the next 12 years to maintain a part of the propulsion system that it wrongly assumed would not need any maintenance at the time O&S costs were established. (1)

 

 

As we all know, the commercial market is a fast moving, ever evolving entity.  We’ve all experienced the reality of a product being replaced and unavailable in just a few years when we try to replace or repair it.  Why would this be any different for the Navy if they choose to use commercial products?  To believe that replacement parts will be available for the 30 or 40 year life of a ship is just delusional and to believe that there’s such a thing as a product that never needs maintenance or replacement is to engage in a level of fantasy that is stunning in its refusal to acknowledge reality.

 

Unfortunately, these kinds of idiotic, unrealistic, and unproven assumptions all too often form the basis for Navy cost estimating and, invariably, prove wrong in reality.

 

There is certainly a place for commercial products but only in cases where the need is short term and/or the Navy ensures that longer term support (spares, service, and maintenance) will be available over the anticipated life of the ship or component.  Of course, I’m not sure how one would possibly ensure such support remains available but that’s a separate issue.

 

The Navy needs to stop chasing after magic solutions (minimal manning, commercial products, etc.) and, instead, accept the need to do the hard work, like learning to repair the equipment you have, performing regular maintenance, providing on-board fabrication and repair shops for ships, buying sufficient spare parts, and training technicians to repair and maintain equipment.

 

 

 

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(1)Government Accountability Office, “NAVY SHIPBUILDING Increasing Focus on Sustainment Early in the Acquisition Process Could Save Billions”, GAO 20-2, Mar 2020, p.43


67 comments:

  1. Presumably decision at time partly driven by so many of the specialist suppliers gone due to lack of business, the last two 688 laid down in '92, the first 774 laid down 7 years later in '99 and the second '02 and third in '04 and so on.

    Navy faced with situation took the easy way out and bought off the shelf commercial equipment and "assumed would never need repair or replacement—meaning that these parts would last the life of the submarine" of thirty plus years, fantasy land, that would be a future generation problem, the Admirals at time would have meet their cost and schedules build targets and would be long gone when problems came.

    It may have been a feasible option to use commercial equipment in some instances if easily replaced, but in subs space is at premium and never likely.

    Its not a black and white situation, ships do use commercial equipment eg DRS supply Navy with shock hardened computers, using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software such as BladeCenter technology that supplies common infrastructure for processing and network fabric. The Danish Navy took it one step further the Iver Huitfeldt design by shock hardening deck islands to mount COTS equipment avoiding expense of shock hardening each individual piece of equipment, passed its full-ship shock trials with no problems not like the LCS FSST where they offloaded equipment, including main 57mm gun before trials :). Will be of interest what Ford will offload before its FSST.
    Would add if ships built for 20 year life before replacement by new build thought most marine commercial equipment more than adequate.

    PS in a similar vein the Army even with specialist equipment for their helicopters saying replacing worn-out or obsolete components with new and better ones adds up tremendously over the years, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen “68 percent of our total cost of ownership is the sustainment of the fleet”. Army mandating use of MOSA, Modular Open Systems Architecture, software so if new equipment added or upgraded even from different manufacturer it can be integrated seamlessly to a/c, not as present where equipment has propriety software and new equipment will cost a small fortune to integrate or even make it unaffordable.

    Breaking Défense MOSA: The Invisible, Digital Backbone Of FVL

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  2. "Of course, I’m not sure how one would possibly ensure such support remains available but that’s a separate issue."

    Just as one might buy a home warranty product to repair the water heater when it breaks down, you arrange for a service contract with the suppliers of those parts. In short, you fund the supplier to be on call when you need them.

    To support and maintain the International Space Station, NASA initially funded their contractors to keep their programs warm. This included knowledge capturing, buying spare parts, preparing service manuals, and keeping a warm body or two available as needed.

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    1. "you arrange for a service contract"

      The problem is the time period - up to 40+ years. It's one thing to replace a water heater well into the future - the heater is non-specific. However, many/most military items are very specific with rare attachments and couplings, uncommon specs, and a very small knowledge base of service. It's a fact that manufacturers go out of business all the time in the military supplier base and many/most of those suppliers have very unique items that can't be replaced. Sure, you may have a warranty paper but if the manufacturer is gone, you've got worthless paper.

      The Navy needs to put a whole lot more detailed thought into the equipment it selects and look at the entire lifetime support issue rather than just the upfront purchase price.

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    2. What you've written is all true, which is why the Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs), like the Boeings and LockMarts, have to find alternate parts and qualify new suppliers when an existing source goes dry. But, the other problem is having too many vendors to manage. But, that's a separate topic.

      And, that's why knowledge capture is important on a big ticket item. By that, I mean having the drawings, specifications, and assembly instructions, build paperwork, etc., available so that a new supplier can take over not running completely blind. Some of that information, like the assembly instructions, are the company's IP, but there are ways to get around that.

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    3. "company's IP, but there are ways to get around that."

      Not always! GAO reports that the LCS radar manufacturers refused to provide the proprietary data and this has prevented the Navy from modeling the radar performance as part of the DOT&E testing and various trials. This left the Navy unable to model radar effectiveness and, apparently, unable or unwilling to determine it via real world testing.

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  3. I have argued to use commercially available parts, although in hardened, military grade form, as NCO has clearly described this need. This would reduce cost, increase availability and decrease the ongoing cost for contract maintenance.

    What gives me pause now is that by increasing the number of businesses supplying such equipment and systems, we would have to know exactly who these companies are. For example, as 5G systems are integrated into military platforms, the least expensive equipment would come from Huawei...

    Thus, my feelings on this have greatly changed. What I think would be required is for the AMERICAN companies themselves to be "hardened" and "military grade" or else our enemies would know all about the systems that we are using and how to counter them, as well as any new developments immediately being lost to those enemies.

    Saving money is not a good argument for downgrading our systems.

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  4. I agree its bizarre thinking.

    Do these people not own cars or computers? My son fell in love with a surprisingly in good shape (because in Idaho they don't use a lot of salt and its arid) Eldorado for his first car. Its a 2001 but if you don't find a re manufactured/good junk yard part their pretty much no parts for it (outside of generic things like filters or tires). Even for a Ford Escape that was under warranty I had to get rebuilt engine because the model year shifted and Ford was not wasting time making a new engines for a model thay were not selling new.

    Anyone who supports computers can tell how fast finding spare parts becomes an ebay hunt in you can't just toss the hardware and start with new.

    "performing regular maintenance, providing on-board fabrication and repair shops for ships, buying sufficient spare parts, and training technicians to repair and maintain equipment."

    All good but you will have to admit fabrication is likely not possible for all too many computer, electronic and exotic material things. The obvious solution is simply having a plan to buy a lot of spare parts while those parts are being made before lines and production get shut down.

    But the navy is apparently genetically opposed to sufficient crew, spare parts, maintenance and stockpiles.

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    1. " The obvious solution is simply having a plan to buy a lot of spare parts while those parts are being made"

      That's only a partial solution and a poor one, at that. For one thing, even identifying which parts are going to be trouble-prone and need frequent replacement only comes with several years of actual operation. Look at the examples in the cited reference. The Navy believed they were buying lifetime equipment. There is not such thing but certain items will fail more often then others and it's often not clear ahead of time which is which. So, stocking up on mammoth amounts of parts is just going to result in huge expenditures and bulging warehouses, most of whose parts won't be used. Of course, stocking up on parts that CAN anticipate replacing regularly is fine.

      The other aspect of this is a common theme of mine - we're buying equipment that is too complex. We should be buying slightly 'dumber' equipment that can be maintained on board the ship. Instead of a complex LCS combining gear that has failed and sidelined several of the ships, all in the name of some marginal fuel savings, we should have bought a single drive system and accepted the fuel inefficiency or two separate drive systems and accepted the initial cost increase. Dumber systems = more reliable.

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    2. "Anyone who supports computers can tell how fast finding spare parts becomes an ebay hunt in you can't just toss the hardware and start with new."

      In our lab, we consider computers to have about a three year lifespan because of this. Tech is expanding so rapidly that long-term investments into high dollar mainframes isn't really an option. We simply network new off-the-shelf computers, sync the strings and send the old ones out for recycling.

      This, of course, is not an option for military platforms for many reasons.

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    3. At Citrix, I brought the same methodology we used at Bell Canada. Be an early adopter of a new series of computer, then standardize the heck out of the entire inventory until it was out of production and it was time to buy another new series of computer that you were confident in. Then replace everything. Hardware is cheap. Downtime is not cheap.

      It worked great. We had almost no maintenance issues and the quite large (for the time) compute infrastructure was quite elegant.

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  5. "commercial equipment that it assumed would never need repair or replacement — meaning that these parts would last the life of the submarine"

    This is just bizarre.

    What kind of "commercial equipment" can you even expect to last for 40 or even just 30 years without needing repairs?

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    1. "What kind of "commercial equipment" can you even expect to last for 40 or even just 30 years without needing repairs?"

      At least in terms of computer tech, for many years "Open Architecture" has been a goal for both hardware and software. This means that new servers and etc. should be able to fit within older racks and use classic ports and cables if possible. That individual items or software be able to be replaced, added or updated and merge easily into the existing network.

      For example, running Distributed Data Management Architecture (a stable system developed in the 80's and early 90's) on a Linux based network would allow new hardware and software to be easily blended in. Even though this is older tech, it is so stable and usable that SpaceX uses it to run their spacecraft and almost all of the world's most powerful supercomputers use it as well. Thousands of American programmers can use it since it runs on C++ code.

      Also because it is older and widely used, safeguards against hackers and etc. have been developed for decades and will be in the future.

      The opposite to Open Architecture is using closed, proprietary systems, which is when new parts and ongoing support becomes an issue.

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    2. "Open Architecture"

      This is good, TO A POINT. However, there comes a point where it no longer has the interfaces or capabilities to absorb new technology. For example, the mechanical interfaces of WWII simply could not absorb the devices of the digital age.

      Consider the incompatible changes we've witnessed in the last 40 years: the evolution from punch cards to floppy disks to thumb drives and more. Not amount of standardization (open architecture) established 40 years ago would have been able to absorb the advances we've seen. There was no standard interface of wire cables that could have seamlessly absorbed fiber optics. And so on.

      Open architecture may, in some cases, help prolong the usefulness of some systems over a limited period of time but ALL systems eventually become outdated and have to replace with new technology.

      Open architecture also has drawbacks. In the world of cyber warfare, the enemy knows your interfaces and standards which provides pathways to system penetration. The enemy also has C++ programmers who know all the same open architecture standards we do. Open architecture is a potential vulnerability. Almost by definition, a proprietary system is harder to penetrate. So, there's a trade off between maintainability and security.

      When China hacks and steals yet another of our systems, I'd rather they weren't able to already know all of our interfaces and programming standards so that they could easily adapt what they've stolen to their own uses or easily counter our systems. I'd rather they had to struggle (hopefully unsuccessfully) to decipher a proprietary system. Again, trade offs.

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    3. “Not amount of standardization (open architecture) established 40 years ago would have been able to absorb the advances we've seen.”

      This is not the case for Linux/DDMA. It has been around from floppy’s to solid state and will remain in the future, regardless of storage media. SpaceX uses this for their spacecraft. Most if not all of the world’s major supercomputers run on this.

      “There was no standard interface of wire cables that could have seamlessly absorbed fiber optics.”

      When our lab switched from standard T-1 to fiber optic lines, very little that needed to be changed. Even so, if cabling does need to be switched out, this is not a major infrastructure change. Other such updates are likewise not that big of a deal.

      “…ALL systems eventually become outdated and have to replace with new technology.”

      This is always the case. With Open Architecture, such updates are ongoing rather than one major event.

      “The enemy also has C++ programmers who know all the same open architecture standards we do.”

      The enemy also has those that speak English and understand our letters and numbers and yet we continue using English in military matters. C++ is simply a language.

      “Almost by definition, a proprietary system is harder to penetrate.”

      I’m sure military contractors would argue this. However, I’d bet that this is one of those assumptions that would be proven wrong if studied. I think the argument is moot, since such systems are already used on our ships. For example, the Curtiss Wright 901-D is based upon IBM systems (and use C++).

      “So, there's a trade off between maintainability and security.”

      Linux/DDMA have been used for decades and security has been, and will continue to be, developed. I agree with you and think security should be studied and improved continuously.

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    4. Sorry about over-using the SpaceX/supercomputer example. Just noticed that I did this.

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    5. "Even so, if cabling does need to be switched out, this is not a major infrastructure change."

      You're thinking civilian building changes not ship changes. A ship has thousands of miles of cabling and none of it is readily accessible and most must be run through watertight fittings. It's a huge deal to change cabling in a ship. The same applies to almost any physical change in a ship.

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    6. "yet we continue using English in military matters."

      No, actually, we don't use English. We use codes and encryption precisely because the enemy can understand English.

      You may also recall the that in WWII we used Navaho code talkers because the enemy couldn't understand it. I'm sure you've seen the story.

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    7. "You're thinking civilian building changes not ship changes."

      I'm sure it is very different. Still, we have used the same type of cables for 20+ years, so such a large project should not be common, even in ships.

      Using the 901-D actually used on our Navy ships as an example, I recognize the cables used.

      http://901d.com/electronics-integration.html


      "We use codes and encryption..."

      We also use encryption for any outgoing communications for the same reasons. I'll bet our lab is at least as secretive as any Navy ship! I think the analogy would be the sailors walking around the ship speaking to each other. They would use English and not Navaho code. Likewise, C++ is the language used for software mechanics within a computer's operating system.

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    8. Just as a spy would have an easier time penetrating an organization if he knew the language, practices, and procedures, so too, a hacker would have an easier time penetrating a computer system if he knew the open architecture and programming conventions.

      Cable changes would not be very frequent at all. However, we're talking about ships lasting 40 years and to expect any standard to last 40 years is wishful thinking. Copper cable gave way to coaxial cable and twisted pair which gave way to Ethernet Cat x which gave way to fiber optic - and so it goes, all in a remarkably short time frame.

      Most 'standards' don't survive long.

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    9. Really good quality fiber is a pretty good bet to still be useful 40 years later.

      You will probably be driving it with something a lot different, but the physical media has a lot of life in it.

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    10. "Really good quality fiber is a pretty good bet to still be useful 40 years later."

      Someone probably said that about copper wire (or whatever was the state of the art back then) 40 years ago.

      Fiber will be gone in 40 years. We just don't know what will replace it, yet.

      Consider that 39 years ago, IBM produced the first PC. Look where we are today. No one could have imagined or predicted that. A ship built in 1981 would have had to undergo so many major computer upgrades between then and now!

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    11. That's fine, and you are of course entitled to your opinion, but I have been where fibre was an option to span 10Mbit over longer distances, to where we are now running 40GB per freaking color half way around the world.

      Really high quality glass has a HUGE amount of headroom to grow into the future. We may have no idea today how we are going to drive that fairly empty resource, but I don't expect we are going to be ripping up all those undersea cables any time soon.

      Re-plumb the warships with enough strands of fiber and the whole wiring thing simply goes away.

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  6. Maybe even shorter lifespans for the ships is the way to go. The automobile manufacturers are required to offer spare parts for a vehicle for 10 years after manufacture and no longer. In reality it is usually close to 15 to 20 years that parts are available since the "platform" the cars are built upon is usually used for 5 to 10 years before it is replaced.
    I'm guessing that 10 years is a long time for the computers and other electronic components on a ship. The first Flight III Burke and the last Flight III Burke will likely not be using the same computers.
    Storing replacement equipment has some utility but it would be better to store complete vessels similar to the way the Airforce stores aircraft in Arizona for parts or regeneration. Don't sink them store them.
    Retiring ships at 10 years would keep the weapons systems reasonably up to date and not require refitting while on active duty. The fact that it can take almost that long to produce the ship is another matter.
    The Navy also needs to finalize a design and not make a bunch of change orders that increase the cost and complicate the inventory of parts needed. All three DDG 1000 ships are of a different design. Something was changed on each ship that makes it different than the others.
    The final designs need to have physical mockups to work through design flaws before installed on a ship. (EMALS, AAG, etc.) Simple designs that don't have as many failure points would be helpful.
    John Deere needs to get into shipbuilding. You can order any part for any John Deere tractor and they will make it for you if it is not in stock. It can take awhile but they stand behind their products.
    The advent of digital manufacturing (3D printing/machining) would seem to offer an opportunity for the Navy to require digital designs for all equipment installed on the ships. The designs of all equipment should start as a 3D printed product and only be produced by a different method if it is cheaper or the resulting part is more durable. A 3d printer on the ship and a complete library of part designs would allow for repair of many of the systems on the ship until a more durable replacement part could be installed.

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    1. "You can order any part for any John Deere tractor and they will make it for you if it is not in stock. It can take awhile but they stand behind their products."

      This is an appealing notion that is not feasible. John Deere can do this because they make enough profit throughout the rest of their product line to absorb the loss associated with making one-off replacement parts. Also, even the most complicated part is peanuts next to military specs, generally.

      A military supplier, generally, is a much smaller business entity with little profit margin and no capacity to absorb losses associated with custom manufacturing one-off parts.

      "digital manufacturing"

      This offers SOME possibility of supplying out-of-manufacture parts. However, barring inconceivable advances in digital manufacturing, many military parts simply can't be manufactured this way. Some parts require exotic materials that cannot be incorporated into digital manufacturing or they require production methods (heat treatments, tempering, coatings, or whatever) that cannot be part of a digital printing process. Many parts of modern systems are circuit boards and electronics which cannot be digitally printed. Even the individual electronic components (resistors, capacitors, etc.) generally require multiple materials and methods.

      Digital manufacturing is useful for homogeneous parts that are simple stand alone and that, alone, has the potential to be useful but to imagine that we can digitally manufacture any part at any time is, at our present level of technology, pure fantasy. A hundred years from now, perhaps we'll have matter converters that can instantaneously produce complex items ala Star Trek but we are ages away from that today.

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    2. "Maybe even shorter lifespans for the ships is the way to go."

      This used to be our standard for warships. Extended lifespans are a relatively recent development brought about by skyrocketing construction costs. WWII ship classes were designed for around a 15 year life or so and many were intended to serve only for the duration of the war.

      I would note that WWII ships received relatively little maintenance during the war. Yes, they received repairs and upgrades but not much maintenance. For the duration of the war they were, essentially, maintenance free because the priority was to keep the ships fighting rather than sitting pierside waiting for routine maintenance. This produced a longevity penalty but since they were only designed for a short life span, this was not a problem.

      Perhaps we need to build 15 year ships with items designed to be maintenance free for that limited period. I'm talking about major pieces of equipment like storage tanks - design and construct tanks that can last 15 years without maintenance and produce only an acceptable amount of corrosion over that period.

      Something to think about.

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    3. One problem with ship lives is that the shorter the life, the more ships you have to build to maintain a certain fleet size. Say your target is a 300-ship fleet (to keep the math simple). If ship life is 20 years, you have to build 15 a year to maintain, if 30 years then 10 a year, if 40 years then 7.5 a year. Our problem is that we are struggling to maintain the 7.5 (figure $2.8B average cost per ship and an annual shipbuilding budget in the $21B range, you do the math) but we are not adequately maintaining the ships to last that long. Plus, ships are not being designed to add new systems and thus become outmoded before their time.

      What I am proposing is designing and build ships to accommodate updates, put a much greater effort into maintaining and updating them so that they remain useful for the duration, reduce the average cost per ship, and that combination will enable growing the fleet. Build some expensive multi-purpose ships, but fill out the numbers with cheaper single-purpose ships (the Zumwalt high/low approach). Say you cut average ship cost to $1.5B by building a blend of expensive and cheaper designs. Now you can build 14 a year for your $21B (2019 costs). If you can stretch average life to 30 years, you have 420 ships; 35 years, 490; 40 years, 560.

      Now, to stretch those lives, you have to do both maintenance and upgrades. Put enough sailors on those ships to maintain them properly on a day-to-day basis. Build lengthy regular maintenance periods into their lives at least every 10 years. And design them to accept readily new or upgraded systems.

      ComNavOps and I have tangled over this, and he has cited the Perrys and the Zumwalts as examples why this approach does not work. But neither the Perrys nor the Zumwalts followed the approach I have suggested. I don't think either one of us wants to rehash it again, but I still think it merits consideration.

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  7. This is a good point, and its certainly good support for the 20-25 year ship lifespan idea previously discussed in earlier posts!!
    This is also a great reason for standardization Navy-wide. Obviously AAW ships and SSBNs wont share much, but at least across ship types and classes. It also is a reason against concurrency and constant changes inside a class. There will always be small changes and upgrades, but when we decide to purchase X number of ship Y, they should all be 90%(+??) identical. That way, any maintenance program is manageable, and as older ships retire, cannabalization is a real potential option (since maintaining any credible mothball fleet is unlikely anyway)...

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  8. In addition, although my knowledge is admittedly limited here, I think there needs to be a standardization of electronic systems so they all have a basic, common architecture and are "linkable". The hardware and software needs a high degree of commonality, to enable shipboard personnel to train and achieve not just proficiency, but excellence in their knowledge and ability to use/ maintain/ troubleshoot it. Right now it seems we have the equivalent of ships using Blu-Ray, DVD, VHS, and Beta all at the same time. The maintenance and repair, and the logistics thereof, are unnecessarily difficult. There needs to be one standard chosen and stuck with for X amount of years, until its capabilities are completely exhausted. At that point it is replaced in new construction, but maintained until purged from the fleet by age. There's a large commitment required to do this, but it would pay dividends diwn the line...

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    1. "The hardware and software needs a high degree of commonality,"

      This is a laudable goal that sounds good on paper but I suspect is nearly impossible and impractical. For example, a radar and a SEWIP electronic warfare system are both electronic systems but what would you see them having in common? The main components are completely different. Sure, once you get down the minute components like circuit boards, there's a semblance of commonality in that they're all composed of printed circuits, resistors, capacitors, etc. but the actual design of the circuit boards cannot be the same since they perform different functions.

      Similarly, the software has little or nothing in common and even the user interfaces, while they might be able to achieve a small degree of commonality in minor things, like placement of function buttons, they perform radically different functions so every screen would be unique to its own system.

      I'm missing what it is you think could be standardized? Feel free to enlighten me.

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    2. Radars, sonars, EW, etc can all be broken down into transmitters, receivers, and the control/interpretation sections. Envision a remote controlled car, and a remote controlled airplane. By plugging in to a different interface, you could operate either one with your laptop, using, say, Windows10. This is overly simplified of course, but your control hardware and software is common, only your input/output hardware being different. All your control and interpretation is done with common hardware, and in the same "language". In some ways the Navy has already been pursuing this for quite a while with their networking, where all ships systems data can be shared with other ships. Its just a matter of "language" commonality between systems. At what level thats been achieved already I cant really say...

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    3. "By plugging in to a different interface, you could operate either one with your laptop, using, say, Windows10. This is overly simplified of course, but your control hardware and software is common, only your input/output hardware being different."

      I think this is oversimplification to the extreme and almost impossible to implement. Let just take your example and go with it, you do note that systems were built with Windows 10 because the company relied on the profits from the standardization and having a monopoly in the OS world?

      For the defense world, that would equal to our self-imposed limitation to a single defense company! They are not willing to share their golden goose and economics wise, they have no incentives to. This is because like Microsoft, they knows that as customers are locked into their ecosystem, they would have to relied on the updates and the troubleshooting of the company.

      This may seems fine to the commercial world, but it's killing competition in the defense world. Something that we need less of?

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    4. I see your point, but most defense industry is monopolized to an extent already. Its just the way it is and.probably wont change. But we can always bid the job and task multiple suppliers of the systems if its an issue of great importance. As long as the men and women in uniform get what they truly need, at a fair price and in the numbers needed...

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  9. CNO... This topic triggers so many thoughts and ideas!!! It certainly screams for changes like:
    1. Rebuilding of the "tender" fleet. Onboard mobile, deployable workshops and skilled repair workers is an invaluable asset we lack.
    2. Shorter lifespans. We've built nearly 70 Burkes over nearly 30 years. But we cranked out 30+ Spruances in 5. The opportunity for a mild upgrade, then a complete new design, incrementally better, with production lines constantly hot, producing consistently current ships, while having more time to finalize (and thouroughly test) next gen systems/ships is a better idea.
    3. "Mil-Spec" items, whether individual components (circuit card) or assemblies (engines etc) are more expensive due to the requirements placed on manufacturers. There needs to be some common sense reform, and a balance found between COTS and Mil-Spec equipment choices. Negotiations with manufacturers need to be held. In return for guaranteed procurement levels/numbers, many manufacturers could turn their lines to create all Mil-Spec quality components, even though, they may be sold publically as well. That solidifies the initial and replacement parts base into an acceptable future timeline with less risk of parts unavailability.
    4. Change in military parts depot organization. A high cost is incurred by mandated civilian manning of military bases. Ive personally seen millions of dollars wasted by throwing away useful items because it was too expensive to "restock" in a warehouse due to civilian pay rates.
    There are so many more....

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    1. "Shorter lifespans"

      I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I don't understand exactly how a lifespan of the actual ship (hull and etc.) is determined. All things age and become used up, I know, but for ships, do they just get too rusty at some point? Do the joints start coming apart and cause leaks? I know this sounds elementary but I have never seen specific info on this.

      I had my old Camaro redone (costed about a quarter of a new car) and it is probably better in every way than when it was new. Couldn't a ship be done the same way? If not, why?

      Electronics in general are getting better and smaller at the same time, so using a Burke as an example, in twenty years, they should (in my mind) be easily able to hold the similar-purpose electronics that will replace those of today.

      Why not build 2" armored, stealthy shaped, perfect ratio ships and keep them for 50 years? Update them as needed and replace broken parts? Have the same people that build ships rebuild them too.

      I know this is not a good idea, but someone please explain why.

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    2. I am gonna admit that I am not an expert on ships and probably someone else may answer it better than I do.

      "I had my old Camaro redone (costed about a quarter of a new car) and it is probably better in every way than when it was new. Couldn't a ship be done the same way? If not, why?"

      The idea is the end goal and requirement is significantly change from when you bought. For instance, what do you want to do with your Camaro? You want to drive? Maybe a Prius would be better? You want to be more eco-friendly? Maybe a Tesla would be better? And so on. The idea of something is better and upgraded doesn't mean that we can adequately fill our needs.

      Case in point, most people will valiantly defend the F-35 because, from their experience, it does a better job as a strike aircraft than an F-16 and the F-15E. This is, in fact, very true if you consider leisurely loitering around third world countries and has all the cool techs of the time as its mission(I am ignoring the cost aspect for a little bit here). The problem with the JSF, as pointed out, is incapable of achieving Navy needs so it went out of the picture.

      "Why not build 2" armored, stealthy shaped, perfect ratio ships and keep them for 50 years? Update them as needed and replace broken parts? Have the same people that build ships rebuild them too."

      You simply just can't guess that far ahead! Let's take your ship example for a second, "stealthy shaped" ship was considered impractical just 50 (or 40, or 30 and so on) years ago. The OHP class was considered top of the line and it is hopelessly outdated just 30 years later by the Navy.

      Now as a note, that doesn't mean your idea couldn't be implemented. There are periods of time where no real practical developments that requires a new ship design. Our Burkes have closely follow your logic in the absence of any realistic combat requirement or missions. I have somewhat explained more on this in a previous post and I will post it below.

      Delete
    3. "...I am not arguing for a case of using a 40 years life span but instead, two 20 years ship batches. The second batch of ships would be upgraded with a modernized/modified design.

      Now I have talked about the example of the the Type 22 with different batches before that should be its own classes. I think the FFGX was another similar concept. The Italian ship design was adapted to US needs, presumably because the ship was designed with scalability in mind.

      (Referring to the Type 22) Now I also disagree with the UK ship designers about the extras built in the first batch. The first batch should be optimized for that specific time period and nothing more. 20 years down the line, keeping mind the scalability that we had, we now are looking at a ship design that is ready to be modify and modernize.
      After making the necessary adjustments, this design would compete with other contemporary designs and cost savings then could be compared. Now I recognized that savings won't be comparable to having a "free hull" design as CDR Chip proposed but it certainly shaves off the first in class costs, training costs, other costs thanks to degree of commonality and with expected flaws rectified.

      As a fair competition goes, I think it WILL NOT work out sometimes but it certainly acceptable to design with this focus in mind. The minimal research upfront costs should be worth the gamble for a cheaper ships class in the future."

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    4. Thank you for your response Ipnam9114! I appreciate your second response as well. I’ll try to give brief responses to each of your points.

      For my Camaro, my goals and requirements didn’t change; to me, a car is a car. My mechanic friend assured me that fixing it up would be cheaper than buying a new one and it was, even with a new engine, transmission and numerous other replacements. As for the F-35, the Air Force needs to keep their numbers of aircraft up and so, still uses the F-16/F-15E (I think the F-15E is better than the F-35 but don’t tell anybody). As for not guessing ahead in ships, the Arleigh Burke Class will be 30 years old next year and newer versions are still being built, so it looks like we can guess ahead at least that long. I seem to have heard recently that the still-to-be-built FFG(X) is “a bit of a step backwards in terms of firepower and combat effectiveness compared to the Perry class frigates” and certainly better than the LCS.

      The Air Force has been using the B-52 for 68 years and counting. The Army used the deuce and a half for over 50 years, beginning in 1940. If this Wiki quote can be believed, “Half a century after World War II, the remanufactured 2 1⁄2-ton M35 trucks still met 95 percent of the performance requirements at 60 percent of the cost of a new FMTV vehicle.” I’m guessing that bouncing along and sloshing through mud for 50 years is easier on a truck than sailing through water for a fraction of its lifetime is for a ship?
      2½-ton 6×6 truhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2%C2%BD-ton_6%C3%976_truckck - Wikipedia

      My question isn’t actually about not creating new ship designs. New is often better, so design away and go with it. What I want to know is for existing ships, how a ship’s life span is determined. Do they corrode away in salt water and have to be replaced? Why must the Ohio Class be retired before being replaced? Something that cannot be fixed?

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    5. "Why not build 2" armored, stealthy shaped, perfect ratio ships and keep them for 50 years?"

      The Navy doesn't want this, they prefer not doing maintenance so the ships last much less and they can ask Congress to fund New Ship Construction (their god).

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    6. "Do they corrode away in salt water and have to be replaced? Why must the Ohio Class be retired before being replaced? Something that cannot be fixed?"

      I got the wrong impression from your question,I thought you were referring explicitly the main reason why your proposition would not work. Someone else may have to answer this because I don't really know.

      "As for not guessing ahead in ships, the Arleigh Burke Class will be 30 years old next year and newer versions are still being built, so it looks like we can guess ahead at least that long. "

      I have noted that this with the last sentence: "...There are periods of time where no real practical developments that requires a new ship design...". This is probably the only reason why we pick an older design apart from a newer design. The mission dictates the design.

      Now I don't know much about the B-52 filling the Air Force needs but they must have a way to justify it. Just a guess, I think it fill a part of the Nuclear Triad and that's why they have been keeping it. Our nuclear delivering development hasn't been the best so I think the Air Force may not find funding for a new bomber. That just my guess so don't quote me on it.

      That being said, the Deuce and a Half doesn't qualify because it is logistics. Requirements hardly change in logistics, you just need a truck! There maybe a better truck, the benefits just don't qualify for a total replacement.

      The military has a love and and hate relationship with non-frontline things and it is kinda common knowledge that they tend to let the capability to rot until a replacement can't be identified. It might very well contribute to the length of these vehicles.

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    7. "The Navy doesn't want this, they prefer not doing maintenance so the ships last much less and they can ask Congress to fund New Ship Construction (their god)."

      So the "shortages" have been made by the Navy. Probably everyone here knew this but I'm shocked and very disappointed. The Navy is like the spoiled kid who never checks the oil because he knows daddy will buy him another car when it burns out.

      The really sad part is that ships needed to protect our precious young warriors were sold for scrap, sunk or left to rot.

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    8. @Ipnam9114:

      "Now I don't know much about the B-52 filling the Air Force needs but they must have a way to justify it. Just a guess, I think it fill a part of the Nuclear Triad and that's why they have been keeping it. Our nuclear delivering development hasn't been the best so I think the Air Force may not find funding for a new bomber. That just my guess so don't quote me on it."

      Fun Fact: The Youngest B-52 is 58 years old. As a type, the B-52 has been in service for just under 70 years...

      So part of why the B-52 has lasted so long is because a bomber isn't pulling Gs and aggressively maneuvering like a fighter, and tbe B-52 was built in the slide rule era with generous margins. While it's no longer a viable component of the nuclear triad, the B-52 fleet is paid off, there's plenty of them, the airframes are still in usable condition, so it makes sense to use them as bomb trucks, dropping JDAMs on the Taliban and ISIS. (Also, with Quickstrike-ER mines, the BUFF force becomes a fast way to quickly seed minefields...)

      That said, these aircraft aren't going to last forever, which is why the Air Force has already allocated funding for the B-21, the Next Generation Bomber, and plans to buy at least 100 airframes.

      @Prometheus:

      "As for the F-35, the Air Force needs to keep their numbers of aircraft up and so, still uses the F-16/F-15E (I think the F-15E is better than the F-35 but don’t tell anybody."

      The Air Force is pretty serious about replacing the F-16 and A-10 fleet with the F-35, purely from the airframe life point of view. The youngest F-16 in USAF service is 25 years old, the youngest A-10 is 36 years old... we literally had 35-year old F-15s have their wings fall off mid-flight, so purely on the issue of aircraft age, that explains the USAF being the single biggest customer for the F-35.

      My understanding of USAF plans is that the priority for replacement is the F-16 and A-10 force, as those are the oldest aircraft. The F-15EX is being developed for procurement as an interim fighter to replace the oldest F-15Cs, pending fleetwide replacaement with Penetratinng Counter Air, the 6th Generation F-22 replacement, but it's questionable whether that will happen in a timely manner (we might well see F-15C and F-15E squadrons being equipped with the F-15EX in the next decade or so).

      As for the Camaro... the Camaro resides on dry land, while the ship resides on salt water. Salt water's pretty bad with corrosion - a ship that's in salt water is fighting a constant battle against corrosion; only the big CVNs, by virtue of how big they are, could really last 50 years in the water.

      There is much merit in the JMSDF's shipbuilding; they build ships for a 30 year expected lifespan, and plan out their building so that by the time a 30 year old ship decommissions, its replacement has finished shakedown and is commissioning.

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    9. "Couldn't a ship be done the same way? If not, why?"

      Well, that's essentially what a mid-life carrier RCOH is. Other ships (some of them) also get mid-life comprehensive overhauls. There is, however, a limit to what can be done. For example, the old Spruances could not be turned into the stealthy ships that are needed today unless you demolished the ship down to the keel and then rebuilt it completely which would double the cost (demolition and rebuild).

      Also, while it's pretty easy to access any part on a car and remove/repair/replace it, this isn't the case for a ship. Consider the simple example of a storage tank (fuel, water, oil, whatever) that is corroding. Ships are built around their equipment. The tank is buried deep inside the hull. To remove and replace it requires cutting through the hull, decks, and compartments - a mammoth undertaking, all to replace a single tank. The tank might only cost, say, twenty thousand dollars but the effort to cut into the ship and then rebuild the hull, deck, and compartments would cost twenty million dollars.

      So, yes, a ship can be rebuilt, within limits, but the cost quickly becomes prohibitive the more extensive the rebuild.

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    10. "Salt water's pretty bad with corrosion - a ship that's in salt water is fighting a constant battle against corrosion..."

      This is the info that I'm looking for. Any suggestions on how to get specific info?

      I recently saw a video on the USS Slater (unsure of the spelling), a WWII ship museum. Even after decades sitting in saltwater (the recent decades with zinc sacrificial anodes) the hull is pretty good and expected to last for a very long time.

      This doesn't mean that piping for salt water commodes and etc. will last, I understand. My 50 year thing is just an example. However, without evidence otherwise, I respectfully dispute your "much merit" claim.

      My Camaro went back and forth over a 10 mile, often muddy, dirt road every workday for years ("dry land" is not the best description of the mountains where we live). I put over a quarter million miles on it before it finally started giving up the ghost. The difference is that I took care of it. With the resources we taxpayers give the Navy, I think the ships should last longer with good maintenance.

      Having said this, I look forward to being proven wrong.

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    11. "Well, that's essentially what a mid-life carrier RCOH is."

      So maybe regular maintenance would be better than once every 15 years. I don't suggest that old ships were stealthy or should have been kept. I just don't understand why a ship built today couldn't keep going until replaced at the actual end of it's life.

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    12. " Why must the Ohio Class be retired before being replaced?"

      For submarines, specifically, they have structural limits on the number of dives they can execute. Diving compresses the hull and the structure can only endure a certain number of those before risking structural failure. In addition, the nuclear plants have limited life spans.

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    13. "Do they corrode away in salt water and have to be replaced?"

      Quite literally, yes! They are continually exposed to salt water and rust. As we've seen in recent years, the Navy appears to have abandoned routine corrosion control
      and now only treat during occasional overhauls! Those are ships rotting before our eyes.

      Also, today's ships are built far too lightly. I think every class in the last several decades has had to have structural reinforcements added in the for internal strengthening and external strakes. The cumulative toll of normal sailing (the flexing, pounding, and stress of wave action) on the structure of the ship weakens it over time when it's built too lightly to begin with.

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    14. "The Navy is like the spoiled kid who never checks the oil because he knows daddy will buy him another car when it burns out."

      Sadly, thats a really accurate analogy!!!

      Delete
    15. "Diving compresses the hull and the structure can only endure a certain number of those before risking structural failure."

      Yeah, that is a terrifying thought. I'll leave that one to the experts.

      Delete
    16. "...the Navy appears to have abandoned routine corrosion control..."

      So, a lack of regular maintenance.

      "Also, today's ships are built far too lightly."

      So, what about do you think about my "Why not build 2" armored, stealthy shaped, perfect ratio ships and keep them for 50 years" idea?

      From an article I found while looking for info on this:

      "The service lusts after new platforms, and routinely retires ships early to free up funding for new ones. But the Navy, apparently recognizing the economic folly of such premature mothballing, announced in April that instead of retiring its Burke destroyers after 35 or 40 years, it plans to keep them steaming for 45. Retired Navy captain John Cordle argues that’s not good enough: The massive taxpayer investment in building warships means that the Navy should invest in maintenance and upgrades to keep them steaming for a full half-century. “Older ships cost more to maintain,” he wrote in Proceedings in September, “but still less than building new ones.”

      https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/01/the-u-s-navys-titanium-tin-can/

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    17. "Consider the simple example of a storage tank (fuel, water, oil, whatever) that is corroding."

      Perhaps some new ideas in ship building would help with maintenance. For example, you mentioned tanks. A two-for-one-deal could be conformal tanks outside the main hull. These would be easier to replace and in war, could act as a form of additional armor for torpedoes and missiles. Make the tanks out of, or line them with, something that will not rust or corrode.

      Delete
    18. "This doesn't mean that piping for salt water commodes and etc. will last, I understand. My 50 year thing is just an example. However, without evidence otherwise, I respectfully dispute your "much merit" claim."

      That thirty year lifespan takes into account not just physical condition of the hull, but also systems and weapons. As an example, consider the Flight I Burkes, which due to their computing hardware are limited to the Aegis version that can either do AAW or BMD; the newer Flight II Burkes have the computing hardware to support a later version of Aegis that can conduct both at the same time.

      My point is this: unlike other navies, where it seems that there's a scramble to extend ship life until the replacement ship comes along, the Japanese anticipate a 30 year shiplife, and thus schedule their construction schedules so that as one ship decommissionns, the replacement ship recommissionns, so that you aren't seeing a dip in your fleet numbers. This has nothing really to do with ship life and everything to do scheduling your shipbuildinng so that a retiring ship is replaced by a commissioning ship at the same time.

      Also if you look historically, ships that are being worked generally are gonna last 30 years on average anyhow. The older a ship gets, the more work you have to do on it - it's not just the hull, it's the machinery, the wiring, the generators, ann some of thaat stuff goes out of service. You did an engine swap on your Camaro, but you can lift it up, pop off the hood and hoist the engine out of the engine bay. You can't do an engine swap on a warship because it's enclosed inside the ship - you'd have to cut it open and by the time you cut open a ship, swap out all the parts that need rebuilding, and put that ship back together again, the cost and effort is a strong argument for maybe you should have gone and bought a new ship. It's like demolishing a building to replace generators and then rebuilding the building afterwards.

      You've mentioned your camaro goinng over 10 miles of bad road - to put an analogy, ships in rough sea are goingn through 3 foot potholes constaantly at speed, while the road is actively working to corrode the steel.

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    19. "That thirty year lifespan takes into account not just physical condition of the hull, but also systems and weapons."

      I can understand that and, honestly, 30 years is quite a while and I don't want our people struggling with outdated ships and equipment. So, I agree with you. I do like the idea of decommissioning and commissioning at the same time.

      Along with probably everyone else here, I do think the maintenance is lousy and the ships are usually sub-par. Researching this today (which mostly backs-up what you are saying) I read about the Zumwalt fiasco. That was beyond incompetence. Instead of being promoted, I think many of the Navy staff involved should have been arrested for corruption. So much money that could have gone into actual warships.

      In this, I guess what I'm so against is getting rid of good ships to downgrade to more expensive bad ones. I do see that hanging on to good but not great for too long is also not the answer.

      Thank you for your response!

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    20. "My point is this: unlike other navies, where it seems that there's a scramble to extend ship life until the replacement ship comes along, the Japanese anticipate a 30 year shiplife, and thus schedule their construction schedules so that as one ship decommissionns, the replacement ship recommissionns, so that you aren't seeing a dip in your fleet numbers. This has nothing really to do with ship life and everything to do scheduling your shipbuildinng so that a retiring ship is replaced by a commissioning ship at the same time."

      I think this comparison kinda isn't fair to begin with. Let's note here than Japan is playing the catch up game and therefore know the kinds of future development. Kinda like designing with the benefit of hindsight and so they can pick and choose what they want to implement. For instance, the JMSDF destroyers contains of Kongo Class, the Atago Class and the Maya Class are similarly built and speced out ships, lacking any really divergence and innovations from the US Burkes (aside from being bigger). This does limit the kinds of failures to really impact the launching of a new ship class. Have you consider if one of the ships launching failed? Or maybe some of the ships may not be as good as it is reported? While the grass may looks greener on the other side, it is not.

      Navy's recent spectacular failures were more of the experimental type (to reinvent themselves) and as such, really lend itself to very high risk situations. Of course, the right way we should have approached this would have been thoroughly testing and consideration but that's why JMSDF doesn't qualify in this regards.

      Delete
  10. What about the impact of 3-D printing?

    I know carriers now carry 3-D printers and some aircraft parts are being 3-D printed.

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    Replies
    1. Only very "simple" parts can be 3D printed right now.

      In twenty years, who knows?

      Delete
    2. It's something to watch. I can see the ability to 3D print repair parts, either on tenders or on ships themselves, enabling a reduction in required inventories.

      Delete
  11. It is different - manufacturer warrant and your guess. If a manufacturer makes warrant, then, it is responsible. In the case, it is Pentagon's own guess thus, if their technical expertise is not good enough, that is Pentagon's problem. Same could also happen on non-commercial military parts if Pentagon guess them have no need to be replaced. This also reflects another arrogance because every part of a weapon could be damaged in a battle. How can they assume a navy ship will never be hit?

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  12. IMO the closest you can get to "COTS" in the military is buying proven systems that have already had the kinks worked out - like M4 rifles, Aimpoint red dots, Hellfire missiles, etc - instead of developing new weapons for niche capabilities.

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  13. Just a random thought:

    There was a mention about John Deere and supply of parts. Im no farmer so no clue if true or not, there was an article a few years ago on how farmers are buying up all the older models of tractors and not wanting the newer models, reason given: farmers couldn't fix the newer models. Just like car manufacturers, you can't really fix your new car anymore, Deere got "smart" and did the same thing. Same thing is really going on in weapon systems, I worked on Army helicopters, you could see how going from T53 to T700, lots of "fixing" was removed, you really just swapped out modules on T700. I bet new engine that replaces T700 might not even do that, maybe Army mechanic will just take the "broke" engine and swap it out with a new engine and just ship broke one to depot. Is it better or worse? Depends really who you ask. Who today fixes anything?!? These kids have grown up with plug and play, replacing something broken or old with new and not worrying about it. For them and next upcoming kids, why would they know or even want to fix something? One could argue military has to adapt to that situation....

    Considering what USMC is talking about moving around islands or US Army recent demonstration of moving missiles around in Europe, maybe its time we dont worry about maintenance, maybe just make everything "throw away", it would require a completely new way of designing, producing and buying weapons ....it would match what we see in the civilian world. So maybe the "solution" is not even a 20 year ship but a 10 to 15 year ship,tops. Once it hits that,throw it away.

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    Replies
    1. "maybe just make everything "throw away"

      That might work during peacetime when you can call for a new part and have it delivered. In a war, spare parts are often unavailable and a part that can't be repaired means an entire piece of equipment inoperable. A ship trying to fix battle damage in the middle of the ocean doesn't have the luxury of an endless supply of spare components to throw away and replace.

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    2. How much battle damage can the ship's crew maake with power tools and spares? (either onboard or delivered by MH-60S/V-22) Maybe the navy should consider revivinng repair tenders, like in WW2. Damaged ships withdraw to a forward repair point where the tender performs whaat repairs that can be done, like at Ulithi Atoll in WW2.

      Delete
  14. About your last paragraph: Fifty years ago we did all that. And our ships didn’t look like rust buckets. And we were in the middle of a war. What happened?

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  15. I was on my 3/c Mid cruise on Ranger and was assigned to the fire control division for a period (still had 5"/54s in those days). I was looking at the fire control radar and noticed a CRT with the name SONY clearly written on it. I asked about it and was told that the tube went out, that the supply system was backlogged and couldn't give them a date, and they were headed back to Yankee Station without at least some of their guns. A group of FTs were ashore in Yokosuka and found this tube in an electronics store. It was electronically and physically an exact match to the tube they needed. So they took some welfare and rec funds and paid cash for it.

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  16. Given the limited talents of incoming enlisted crews, this is an utter impossibility. We do not have the human inventory anymore. It's hollowed out.

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  17. Remind me to tell you about RAH-66 and use of COTS for PI-BUS and Pentium II chips lol...

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