Monday, January 4, 2021

Constellation Class Frigate - Success or Just Not Failure?

ComNavOps has often noted that the Navy, as an institution, seems utterly incapable of learning lessons regardless of how painful and obvious those lessons are.  For example, concurrency has been proven to be an unmitigated failure time after time and yet it continues to be a cornerstone of Navy acquisition programs ... which continue to fail.

 

Well, the Navy has managed to semi-learn one semi-lesson and that is to avoid bad press.  It would be much, much better if they learned one of the lessons related to warship design, firepower, project management, cost control, requirements creep, or any of a hundred other valuable lessons but they didn’t.  The only lesson they’ve learned is to avoid bad press. 

 

How do you avoid bad press, you ask?  Well, if you’re the Navy, you make sure that the next ship you build has already been built by someone else, in the past.  This both minimizes risk and allows you to blame some other builder/country if things go badly.

 

Let’s be honest and acknowledge that this approach does reduce the degree of programmatic risk and, therefore, increases the chances for apparent success.  Why do I use the qualifier ‘apparent’?  Well, it’s because the program won’t be an actual success, even if everything works perfectly - and it won’t!  It will be a success only in the sense that it may not generate bad press and be an out and out embarrassment.  Well, wait a minute, now.  The Fincantieri FREMM frigate that the Navy frigate will be based on is a proven success, isn’t it?  So, why wouldn’t the US Navy version also be a success?

 

Well, consider this … the FREMM design dates back to the early 2000’s, making the design nearly two decades old by now and it will be three decades old, or older, by the time the first few US Navy frigates will enter actual service (scheduled delivery 2026, IOC around 2030 – and schedules always slip).  Can a 30+ year old ship design really be called a success?

 

Consider the issue of stealth.  When the FREMM was first designed, it may have been considered stealthy but by today’s standards, its appearance would suggest that it is only marginally stealthy, like the Burke.  Is a brand new ship that will become our front line surface combat ship as the Burkes are replaced by unmanned vessels, really a success if it’s only marginally stealthy?

 

Consider the Navy’s actual needs.  This one may be somewhat debatable but ComNavOps has laid out the very clear case that the Navy needs a small, dedicated ASW corvette (or minesweeper or any of a dozen other ship types) far more than a mini-Burke.  Is a brand new ship that is, at best, far down the needs list really a success?

 

Consider cost and performance.  We all (except the Navy) know that the frigate is going to cost $1B+ which pushes it into the conceptual ‘half the performance for two thirds the cost’ region.  Is that really a success?

 

Okay, all the above are legitimate reasons why the frigate program can’t be a success no matter how well it manages to avoid bad press but those are not the real reasons why it can’t be a success.  The real reason is because the design is already obsolete and fails to deliver the new capabilities that are needed to fight future wars. 

 

We’ve seen that technology – and, hence, future war – has changed radically just in the last few years and has changed even more so over the last three decades that will have elapsed by the time the first frigates enter service.  Consider the developments and advances in combat technology since 2000 with the advent of drones, swarms, artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced stealth, advanced stealth detection, advanced multi-sensor guidance systems for missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, hypersonic projectiles and missiles, lasers, rail guns, advanced SSK submarines, and many dozens of other technologies.  In order to fight a future war with those technologies, either for us or against us or both, we need new ships designed from the start to use, or defend against, those technologies.  The FREMM design has none of those capabilities.  Why would it?  It was designed almost 20 some years ago when those technologies didn’t exist.

 

Here’s a list of the capabilities that a new ship - any type of new warship - ought to have to fight a future war, based on the threats we can reasonably anticipate:

 

  • UAV - Extensive UAV capability is needed to provide organic surveillance.  I’m talking about many dozens of UAVs and the ability to operate at least a couple dozen simultaneously – far beyond the capabilities of any ship today.
  • Stealth - Extreme Visby-level stealth to include radar, acoustic, IR, and visible signature reductions.  With the proliferation of EO guided imaging missiles, visible signature reduction will be just as important as radar and IR signature reduction.
  • Emissions Control – Future ships will need total EMCON capability.  Any signal, no matter where in the electromagnetic spectrum, will be a vulnerability and allow the enemy a chance to detect and target the ship.  This is not only a communications and radar issue but also a stray radiation issue such as the giant, unshielded motors of EMALs.  The ships the Navy is building today are entirely incapable of achieving EMCON and this must change.
  • Armor – Long neglected, it has to be recognized that ships will be detected, take hits, and have to keep fighting, unlike the Navy’s recent ship designs that are intended to be abandoned at the first hit (LCS, Light Amphibious Warfare ship, and likely the Zumwalt due to inadequate manning).  Advanced armors including, possibly, spaced armor, composite armor, ‘bubble’ armor, reactive armor, flexible armor, and the good old fashioned plate armor must be incorporated.  Ships cost far too much and take far too long to build to allow them to be one-hit kills.
  • Acoustics – As submarines proliferate, ships need modified hull shaping to lower acoustic signatures.
  • Explosive Resilience – Ships need modified hull shaping to enhance underwater explosion survivability (V-shaping to deflect pressure waves;  yes, this one needs to be proven and might not work as I anticipate).
  • Cyber – Future ships must be as protected from cyber attack as from missile attack.  Ships need the ability to totally isolate and defend the cyber realm.
  • Propulsion – Industry has made significant advances in propulsion technology.  Future ships need podded electric propulsion for enhanced reliability, repairability, efficiency, flexibility, and silence.

 

 

Unfortunately, due to the obsolete FREMM design and the imposed requirement to use an existing ship design, few, if any, of these attributes can be included in the US Navy design.  Rather than building a ship purposely designed and optimized for the anticipated type of future combat, we’re building a nearly obsolete ship out of fear of bad press.

 

The Navy is using the exact same reasoning to continue building Burkes despite them being nearly obsolete and lacking the room, power, and utilities to even mount the required radar arrays, as well as lacking stealth, armor, etc.  We’re intentionally building sub-par Burkes as our future surface combatants not because they represent a good ship design any longer but because they’re a safe public relations build.

 

So, we see that a truly successful new warship needs to be built to the requirements of future combat, not combat from 20+ years ago but, instead, we’re building to avoid a failure.

 

We’re not building for success, we’re building for ‘not failure’.

 

The new frigate will not and, indeed, cannot, be a success.  At best, it can be a ‘not failure’.

 

99 comments:

  1. "Consider the Navy’s actual needs."

    This is key. If you want a naval ship carry lots of fire power plus advanced radar, look at Israel's Saar 6-class corvette(made by German). Just Google yourself thus I will not write details here. Pack lots of weapons on a 1,900 ton ship make this ship's self sustainability low (range only ~2,500 miles). A ship's displacement is there, you can pack with fire power at expense of fuel, water, food, ... etc. Israel has no need to send a naval ship far away from its coast thus this design is good for it.

    Navy's mission for Constellation Class Frigate is different. It needs to be part of an aircraft carrier group than act alone. Therefore, there is no need for it to be able to do every thing but it does need to be able to sail with a carrier group far away from home.

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    1. The Navy seems to want to design all their warships for independent duty. By default independent duty ships are going to be jack of all trades and master of none. This applies to the equipment but more importantly to the training. There is only so much training time.

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    2. Navy realized Zumwalt class destroyer (DDG1000) is a strategic blunder thus cut its production to only 3. It was designed to invade enemy's water without backing of a large fleet. It doesn't work today and onward as Navy now put Chinese navy as its no. 1 potential adversary.

      Facing such a high tech navy which concentrates not far its coast, single ship can almost do nothing other than some sort of freedom of passage knowingly won't be attacked. US Navy has no problem to face Chinese navy in mid Pacific but the problem is China doesn't go there but only stay around first island chain. To US which pursue international dominance in every water, it is a headache. Weakness in any region could spark others to rebel against orders imposed by US.

      I think that Constellation class frigate is designed to be part of an aircraft carrier group than to be a high fire power stealthy ship.

      Again, if look for a mid-to-small sized high fire power ship with AESA radar, Israel's Saar 6 is what you look but it doesn't fit in US Navy.

      Delete
  2. First, “not a failure” is actually a significant improvement over anything else that has come down the pike in a long time—Fords, Zumwalts, LCSs. As far as the ComNavOps list of criteria, I agree with them, just not sure how many UAVs you can get on a frigate-sized ship. But again, do you trust the Navy to start with a clean slate and try to put all of them into a frigate?

    Second, it still looks to me like we sacrificed a bunch of capability elsewhere to get AEGIS on these ships. And we’re building 20 of them while we continue to build Burkes. Hmm, I wonder if the plan is to slot these in as cheaper, much less capable replacements for the Ticos. Maybe instead of mini-Burkes they are micro-Ticos.

    I actually think the GP FREMMs fit the Navy’s needs better than this adaptation. Yes, they had only 16 VLS cells, but that was more of a, “for but not with,” situation, as there is a design with a 127mm gun and 32 VLS cells.

    As an aside, anybody else wonder why we are changing naming conventions with this class, and for that matter with a lot of other recent ships?

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    1. Constellation is the new Burke, Burke III is the new Tico?

      -LP

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  3. The italian FREMMS both ASW and GP variant are already at the design threshold regarding weight if not already overweight, there is not really any margin for weight gains left...so i wish the USN good look with them.

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    1. I was not aware of the weight issue but it is not surprising. I would save weight by reducing the superstructure, which should also be advantageous for stealth.

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    2. " I would save weight by reducing the superstructure"

      Presumably, the superstructure is not empty. So, if you reduce the superstructure, you have to eliminate whatever functions were housed in the lost space. I know that without a detailed blueprint, we don't know exactly what's in what space but, conceptually, what functions would you be willing to give up to reduce superstructure?

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  4. "it will be three decades old, or older, by the time the first few US Navy frigates will enter actual service (scheduled delivery 2026, IOC around 2030 – and schedules always slip)."

    This is a monumentally stupid way of doing things.
    One of the reasons to buy a ship that already exists is that you can have it now, not in ten years.

    (Of course, the Navy insisted in slapping AEGIS on a frigate which I guess delayed things and makes no sense anyway, but still, a decade?
    There's been battleships built in less than five years!)

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    1. I'm pretty much in line with Lonfo. If USN was getting a ASW FREMM "as is" and NOW, not 10 years from now, I think it would be a good buy. Instead we going to modify the crap out of it and install AEGIS because we only have a 100 Burke AEGIS Burkes already! and we need more!!!

      The only way this makes any sense in the convoluted minds of USN leaders is this is what many of us have been saying and afraid this is what happening: USN has no clue how to replace the DDG Burkes, doesn't want them replaced by a real new combat DDG and instead is going to replace them with an FFG and some utopian AI driven unmanned combat vessel.

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    2. I agree but for one thing. The more I think about it, the more I think the FFGXs are going to be the cheaper and less capable replacements for the Ticos, which the Navy doesn't really like. There are going to be 20 of them versus 22 Ticos, and the Navy is still building Burkes. So maybe instead of mini-Burkes they are micro-tacos.

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    3. "micro-tacos"

      They're pretty good but you have to eat dozens of them to feel full!

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    4. "The more I think about it, the more I think the FFGXs are going to be the cheaper and less capable replacements for the Ticos, which the Navy doesn't really like."

      This would be a serious downgrade and just plain dumb, so it's definitely possible.

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    5. ""micro-tacos"
      They're pretty good but you have to eat dozens of them to feel full!"

      That was actually supposed to be micro-Ticos, which rhymes, but I didn't catch the autocorrect.

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    6. "(Of course, the Navy insisted in slapping AEGIS on a frigate which I guess delayed things and makes no sense anyway, but still, a decade?"

      @Lonfo: With the recent Chinese ASBM test of hitting a moving target at sea, having a radar with Aegis performance can be argued for, if you're expecting to be dealing with multi-axis attacks from not just sea-skimming cruise missiles, but from ballistic missiles as well.

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    7. "With the recent Chinese ASBM test of hitting a moving target at sea"

      I'm sure that was a pure publicity stunt, as are most US Navy tests. China has no more solved the multi-thousand mile targeting problem then we have. ASBM remains an utterly impractical capability.

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    8. Agree with ComNavOps on that one.

      Plus, it's not like the Navy lacks Aegis ships!

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    9. "I'm sure that was a pure publicity stunt, as are most US Navy tests. China has no more solved the multi-thousand mile targeting problem then we have. ASBM remains an utterly impractical capability."

      @ComNavOps: That's assuming that the Chinese are firing their ASBMs from the coastline to gain the maximum range, outside of their sensor coverage. What I noticed from that test was how the firing TELs were staged inland.

      True, China hasn't solved the problem of targeting multi-thousand miles from shore. But for the same of illustrating what I mean: let's say that they can reliably target up to 400 miles offshore. This means that the missiles can be staged six hundred miles inland, immune to retaliatory attack from the carrier group.

      I suppose I'm a little surprised you're downplaying the potential here, given your previous opinion that China has full sensor coverage of the South China Sea and first island chain, that America will not be able to make any moves in that region without being detected.



      "Plus, it's not like the Navy lacks Aegis ships!"

      @Lonfo: I'm of the opinion that it's one of those cost of doing business sort of things. As the threat rises, the defenses, weapons and sensors must also uptier to meet it. China's vast array of corvettes and missile boats and bombers and fighters mean that it's a lot easier for them to generate saturation missile attacks compared to other players.

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    10. "I suppose I'm a little surprised you're downplaying the potential here, given your previous opinion that China has full sensor coverage of the South China Sea and first island chain, that America will not be able to make any moves in that region without being detected."

      If we were stupid enough to try to move into the E/S China Seas on day one of a war then, yes, those missiles would be a threat. However, the moderately smart naval commander would remain hundreds of miles out from the first island chain, initially, safely out of range of any sensors, and begin rolling back the A2/AD zone assets.

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    11. I suppose it'll be a race between how fast China can surge sensor assets into the AO vs how fast said sensor assets can be destroyed then. It'll probably be easier to do that in the SCS and Spratlys, given the greater distance from China, as opposed to the East China Sea.

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  5. I see this as an attempt to do what others seem to have done with a mega frigate. Result is it is the most expensive platform to get 32 VLS cells and no 5" gun. People will really flip when we find out those Mk 41s are tactical length not strike. Also confusing is whether we will really get the VDS with MFTA or just the MFTA. We should have been trying to innovate and get the cheapest way to get 32 strike length VLS cells. I know LUSV seeks this solution, but I still think we need common seaframes where we have a manned version, then or concurrently an unmanned version. The MUSV design screams for a manned patrol version.

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    1. "We should have been trying to innovate and get the cheapest way to get 32 strike length VLS cells."

      Why? We already have more VLS cells in the fleet than we have missiles in inventory. What does 16 more VLS cells in the frigates gain us?

      This is not a criticism and maybe not even a disagreement - just curious what you see the benefit being because there is an added cost for an already extremely expensive ship so the benefit would have to be well worth it.

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    2. "Why? We already have more VLS cells in the fleet than we have missiles in inventory. What does 16 more VLS cells in the frigates gain us?"

      That could be an argument either not to add the extra 16 VLS cells or to buy more missiles. If we built Nimitzes instead of Fords, how many missiles could we buy with the difference?

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    3. "That could be an argument either not to add the extra 16 VLS cells or to buy more missiles."

      It could be … but it still doesn't answer the question of what the extra VLS cells gain us, even if we had missiles for them. We've already established that we'll be lucky to get 4 shots per engagement. That means that even 16 cells quad-packed with ESSM gives us 64 shots which is substantially more than any single battle will likely require especially bearing in mind that the frigate is not intended to be the main AAW asset.

      We could put a few VL-ASROC in some cells but VL-ASROC is NOT a planned capability for the frigate - it's a future capability according to the master capabilities graphic and we know that future capabilities are almost never added.

      So, I'm somewhat at a loss as to what the extra 16 VLS cells gain us. In contrast, I'm exactly sure what the extra 16 VLS cells will cost us: bigger ship or less internal volume, more money, more weight, less speed.

      Feel free to point out the benefit as it relates to the frigate's mission because I'm not instantly seeing it.

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    4. I would be not be concerned with any SM-2 capability or higher level AAW. I'd want enough ESSM with the rest for ASW and strike. Yes we buy too few and too expensive missiles. We are also light on a future ASROC solution. Hopefully they high tail it to get CVLWT out there and can whip up a quad packed ASROC to deliver it. I'm always going to use my small ships to disperse missile load and play fast shuttle for reloads whether LUSV or manned.

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    5. "We could put a few VL-ASROC in some cells but VL-ASROC is NOT a planned capability for the frigate - it's a future capability according to the master capabilities graphic and we know that future capabilities are almost never added."

      That only seems require a software integration so it might actually happen.
      Might.

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    6. "We've already established that we'll be lucky to get 4 shots per engagement."

      Viewed in that light, does that mean that you think the loadout of 8 NSMs is a realistic load?

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    7. "Viewed in that light, does that mean that you think the loadout of 8 NSMs is a realistic load?"

      You've lost me a little. The 4 shots per engagement is for defensive fire. Eight NSMs, assuming you're referring to Naval Strike Missiles, are offensive, anti-ship missiles.

      I'm not sure what you're asking. Try again?

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    8. "I'm not sure what you're asking. Try again?"

      Just to clarify further, when you say "4 shots per engagement", how are you defining engagement? Is it defensively engaging an incoming missile, or is it the entire battle? I just want to be sure we're on the same page before I proceed further.

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    9. "Just to clarify"

      Four shots per engagement refers mainly to a single incoming missile engagement window.

      In the broader sense, it is also a reference/reminder that multiple simultaneous incoming missiles still only get 'four shots' per missile and that isn't really true depending on the fire control channels, if needed. The point is that a ship with, to be ridiculous and illustrate the point, a thousand VLS cells is no more useful than a ship with, say 16 VLS because of the short engagement window.

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    10. "Four shots per engagement refers mainly to a single incoming missile engagement window."

      Ah, I see what you mean now. For some reason I thought you were talking about retaliatory missile shots. Nevermind then, we're in agreement.

      Missile mix and magazine depth is one of those things that's a constant balancing act. To few missiles and you don't have enough to do the job and survive the battle. Too many missiles are wasted when you're sunk and on the seabed.


      "isn't really true depending on the fire control channels"

      I suppose that's why ESSM Block 2 and XRIM-4 are being developed with active radar seekers; in the worst case, the ship spams interceptor missiles at the incoming AShMs and trusts that the short distance will let the onboard seekers take care of the missiles, instead of terminal illumination.

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    11. "I suppose that's why ESSM Block 2 and XRIM-4 are being developed with active radar seekers;"

      The challenge is for the seeker (or ship's radar/guidance) to distinguish actual targets from the sky full of clutter from exploded ordnance from previous shots. The small seeker on a missile has no hope of doing so. The ship has little hope. That's why I've called for development of an optimized short range radar for such engagements.

      Oddly, it might be that the best scenario for the defender is a simultaneous attack because then every defensive missile has a clear sky until the first launches begin exploding. In a sequential engagement, the first incoming and defensive missiles will actually act as 'decoys' for subsequent defensive missiles due to the aerial clutter.

      This is a challenging tactical and technological problem and calls for highly realistic testing - something the Navy historically is loathe to do.

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  6. The Ticos remaining in service are approaching their sell by date, the youngest 24 years and oldest 34 years old, were due to be replaced by variant of the disaster that was Zumwalt, the Navy replacement LSC program is slipping further and further to the right.

    Seen it said that surface combatant ships in their last decade of service the operation and support cost is 30% higher, which sounds believable, should simplify ships to single main mission to bring costs down, build at higher rates and retire earlier before expensive rebuilds required.

    Re the Constellation
    More hopeful than you the cost will be less than a $billion, why its not BIW or Ingalls, but Fincantieri who have a long history for delivering ships on time and cost, excluding the LCS :(, Freedom prime was Lockheed and the naval architects Gibbs & Cox, the difference this time Fincantieri are the prime contractor and naval architects for Constellation.

    ASW, with its HED propulsion system, raft and silenced diesels, shaft mounted electric motors, FFP and no gearbox, it will be the quietest ship in the Navy.

    Stealth is difficult, seen it said the standard free space ship RCS in m^2 is σ = 52 * f ^(1/2) * D ^(3/2) with D full-load displacement of the ship in kilotons and f is the radar frequency in MHz, if true it will difficult in reducing RCS of a 7,000t+ ship.

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    1. If we are designing a ship as a break glass in case of war equipment, I question the need for rf stealth. In a high end war outside of the grey zone, any radar or comm signals will be targeted. Any use of radar will be sporadic and provide the enemy with targeting info as well. Outside of stupidity the only continuous use of radar will be if you have overwhelming defenses. That might not be possible with current tech.

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    2. "I question the need for rf stealth"

      Bear in mind that stealth serves two purposes:

      1. Reducing the likelihood of detection by the enemy.
      2. Reducing the strength of an incoming missile lock which allows countermeasures a better chance of succeeding.

      It is the second purpose that may be more important. Ships will be found, eventually, and what matters is what happens after that. Can they survive the inevitable attack? That's where the second purpose comes into play.

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    3. "I question the need for rf stealth"

      See, "Stealth"

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  7. "A Not Failure" would be so refreshing. That is a lot to ask.....

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  8. Perhaps the Navy will trip into success?

    No hull sonar, no strike length cells, no ASROC, small gun.

    The Navy is accidently building an AAW focused ship. Not some multi-mission monstrosity.

    Sure we need an ASW focused ship. But if they get away from the dock without regularly eating their powerplants and can perform AAW let's take the win.

    -LP

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    1. An accidental Tico successor?

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    2. The 32 VLS cells are strike length, VDS sonar which arguably better than hull mounted sonar, tiny 2.2 inch main gun

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    3. I know what the RFI and industry day said. The budget and USNI article don't match up and are not specific.

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  9. Unqualified success.

    Although only rated at 38-guns, the Baltimore-built frigate was strong as well as fast.

    During the Quasi-War it chased down the 36-gun L'Insurgente, the fastest ship in the French navy, and forced her to strike her colors after the Constellation delivered several bruising broadsides.

    A year later it caught the 48-gun French frigate La Vengeance and fought a bruising 5-hour, Rocky Balboa vs Apollo Creed style slugfest after which the La Vengeance managed to beach itself off Curacoa to avoid sinking while the Constellation limped home with a jury-rig.

    The victory over L'Insurgente was the first major victory by an American designed and built warship.

    Lutefisk

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  10. In my navy the frigates would be dedicated blue-water ASW escorts.
    They would be the 'professionals' when it came to ASW.

    For that job the Constellation design is, IMO, already too big (expensive) at 7500 tons.

    But since that is the ship that is assigned I would set it up as follows:

    Since it's job would be ASW it would be built with every quieting technology available and the most updated ECM and ECCM for both above and below the surface.

    Not knowing anything better I would go with the AN/SQQ-89F ASW warfare system, the AN/SQS-62 hull sonar, and the AN/SLQ-61 towed array sonar that are already assigned.

    It would still have the two MH-60R Seahawk ASW helicopters.

    I would add Mk 54 anti-sub torpedoes from both Mark 32 tubes and RUM-139/RUR-5 rockets.

    This vessel would only be expected to defend itself so I would arm it with the following:

    - An OTO Melara 76mm 62 caliber naval gun
    - A twin-arm ESSM launcher
    - Two Phalanx CIWS
    - One SeaRAM CIWS
    - 8-cell VLS that can be filled with a combination of longer ranged AAW missiles and anti-ship missiles

    These would be the primary ASW escorts for carrier and surface battle groups.

    Lutefisk

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    1. I'd suggest using CVLWT with towed decoy. Didn't work on big ships. I'd be interested to see if it won't work on a smaller hull. I'd also bum whatever 120mm mortar turret the Army ends up using and use it for a 120mm mortar round. Allows 2 close in options.

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  11. Should they have gone with the Brits type 26, or at least hold open that possibility? Will be used by 3 allies of ours, much more modern ship, more growth room. Just seems like the easier transition once the ship proves itself over the next handful of years and the Navy could full well use more shipyards to build another class (which seemed to be getting attention as a strong possibility).

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    1. Not sure what type 26 buys you other than the 5 inch gun for only double the cost or more of Fremm and the lifetime longer it has taken it to not yet be in the water.

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  12. I kinda take a different approach we could have had 20 more LCS so 20 or so Fremm is a definite improvement but then again so is everything else from a warfighter bit if ya want a ad peeddemon that breaks down more than it runs the LCS is your baby

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  13. I would propose four different types of ships in escort squadrons (CortRons):

    1) Cruiser - Tico replacement, larger true cruiser on a Des Moines hull, 2x3 8 inch guns in A/Z positions, 128 VLS (64 each in B/Y positions, possibly 32 quad-packed ESSM, 40 Standard, 40 VL-ASROC, 40 NSM), and a large deck in between for launching and recovering helos and small UAVs, with a hangar underneath from which small USVs and UUVs could be launched over the side. AEGIS/AMDR and hull sonar. UAVs, USVs, and UUVs would be used primarily in the intel/scouting/recon/targeting (ISRT) roles, with some weapons delivery capability. Visually something like the WWII proposed flight deck cruiser at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_deck_cruiser.

    2) AAW destroyers - Burkes with AEGIS/AMDR, and we have lots of them for a while.

    3) GP escorts – in this role the original FREMM fits better than the FFGX, 1x 127mm gun, 32 VLS cells, 2 helos, 1-2 SeaRAM and 2-4 Phalanx. If NSM is going to be the SSM, and if it fits in a Mk41, then replace the canister launchers with 16 more VLS to each side, for a total of 64 VLS. 16 quad-packed ESSM, 16 VL-ASROC, 16 NSM, and 16 SM-2. For radar, EMPAR (like the FREMMs), and if weight allows SMART-L (like the Horizons). I like having a different radar for backup, particularly given AEGIS reliability issues. I would reduce superstructure (I think all our designs have too much) to save weight and to enhance stealth.

    4) ASW frigates - basically ComNavOps's ASW escorts with 1x 76 mm gun, 2x RBU-ish ASW rocket depth charges, VDS, bow mounted multi-frequency sonar, SQR-20 Multi-function towed array, and wide aperture lightweight fiber optic sonar array (Virginia class side arrays), IEP or CODLAG, but I would replace his ASROC pillbox with a 32-cell VLS for 32 quad packed ESSM, 12 ASROC, and 12 NSM, and I would have fixed and easily reloadable torpedo tubes (like submarines) in both 324mm and 533mm sizes.

    I would propose 20 CortRons, one for each of 12 CVBGs (1 Nimitz CVN and one CV, Kitty Hawk eventually, Lightning Carrier interim) and 8 surface action/hunter-killer (SAG/HUK) groups (1 BB and 1 ASW helo carrier). CortRons would consist of 1 cruiser, 2 AAW destroyers, 3 GP escorts, and 4 ASW frigates, for a total of 200 ships—20 cruisers, 40 AAW destroyers, 60 GP escorts, and 80 ASW destroyers. Other than small UAVs/USVs/UUVs carried on cruisers and other ships primarily for ISRT, there are no drones in this fleet.

    CortRons could also be given squadron missions operating independently, with the cruiser as flagship in ComNavOps’s independent cruiser role.

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    1. Minor question about the CG guns. Why 2x3 8" turrets? If the primary role of the guns is fire support, is there a significant advantage be able to broadside 6 rounds at a time for fire support?

      Delete
    2. "Why 2x3 8" turrets? If the primary role of the guns is fire support, is there a significant advantage be able to broadside 6 rounds at a time for fire support?"

      Just to clarify, what are you proposing as the alternative? More guns, fewer guns, alternative guns?

      The BBs that I mentioned briefly would be the primary NGFS platform with 16-inch guns, and the cruisers secondary. Both would be able to stand fairly far offshore and hit targets ashore. The proposed PhibRon includes a NGFS/land attack frigate with 155mm guns and also rockets (kind of a bigger Vietnam-era LSMR), which could operate closer inshore, to save having to bring the Burkes in to perform NGFS.

      Delete
    3. CDR Chip, I would do something different with the cruisers.

      I think your design is trying to do too many things.
      I'd split those roles between two different types of ship.

      The first would be a heavy cruiser based on the Des Moines class.

      It's roles would be command of the sea, engaging enemy surface vessels, NGFS, sinking enemy merchant shipping, and smashing enemy coastal installations.

      In war and peace, battlegroups built around these ships would alleviate responsibilities from aircraft carrier battlegroups. I suspect that a task force built around 2 or 3 of these cruisers sailing around the Persian Gulf right now would be pretty intimidating to Iran.

      Build 8 of these:
      - 20,000 tons
      - heavy armor
      - 9 fast-firing 8" guns in 3 turrets
      - 100 VLS cells
      - Two twin 5"/62 turrets
      - Two twin-arm launchers for ESSM
      - Two Goalkeeper 30mm CIWS; one on the bow, one on the stern
      - Three Phalanx CIWS per side
      - Two SeaRAM CIWS per side
      - Two TRS 3/4d radars, one 4 panel and one rotating, both with armored enclosures
      - 'Cheap' drone launching area on fantail
      - No sonar

      The second cruiser would be an AAW type. It would be based on the Cleveland/Fargo class.

      It's job would be to lead and coordinate the AAW defense of a battlegroup.

      Build 30 of these:
      - 12,000 tons
      - medium weight armor
      - Aegis style radar with armored doors that can rapidly cover them
      - 200 VLS cells
      - Two twin 5"/62 turrets, located fore and aft
      - Two twin-arm launchers for ESSM, located fore and aft
      - Two Goalkeeper 30mm CIWS, one on bow other on stern
      - Three Phalanx CIWS per side
      - Two SeaRAM CIWS per side
      - 'Cheap' drone launcher area on fantail
      - No sonar

      Lutefisk

      Delete
  14. I'm not seeing any discussion of what ships the US Navy would use to escort merchant shipping/convoys on time of war. This was a major task for the Perrys. Is this a result of a complete focus on the South China Sea where the US assumes that they can contain any warfare inside the first island chain? Sounds pretty dumb to me!

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    1. In his proposed fleet, ComNavOps has included a number of corvettes whose primary missions would be coastal defense and convoy support. I would include those in addition, and also some of the ASW frigates could be released to support that effort. The presence of the SAG/HUK groups would presumably also limit the number and strength of enemy forces to impede commerce.

      Delete
    2. I think most anything could escort a tanker. I don't think you want to slow down a container ship so it would need a full size frigate/destroyer. I look at Japan as the benchmark here. They are all about keeping the lifeline open and they don't do small.

      Delete
    3. The convoy principle was that you did slow down the faster units in order to aggregate ships into a central collection that you could defend more easily.

      Delete
    4. " they don't do small."

      ???? They have frigates, corvettes, and patrol vessels as well as a variety of MCM vessels and auxiliaries in addition to larger destroyers. In fact, the majority of their surface navy is what the rest of the world would classify as frigate size or smaller.

      I suspect you had something else in mind. Maybe elaborate a bit?

      Delete
    5. Since 2018, many reports from Pentagon and think tanks have pointed out that US cannot win in war with China in the First Island Chain. Before John McCain's death, he asked Pentagon to do an analysis on how much lose US had to suffer to win a war with China in the First Island Chain. The result stunned him that US would lose.

      Thanks to the two stupid wars in Middle East, Pentagon paid too little attention to China. With its huge manufacturing capabilities, since 2014, except the year USS Ford was launched, every year, China launched more tonnage than US Navy. Since 2010, China's total manufacturing output(measured values in US$) surpassed US and the gap keeps widening.

      Delete
    6. I said Japan. I am thinking you thinking China?

      Delete
    7. "I said Japan."

      Yeah, I got that. Take a look on Wiki at the listing of currently active Japanese Navy ships. As I said, Wiki reports that most Japanese ships are frigates, corvettes, and smaller. Check it out. Here's the link: Japanese Navy Ships

      Delete
    8. @AndyM: Don't let the word "destroyer" fool you; outside of the older DDHs and the Kongo/Atago/Maya DDGs, Japanese DDs are what other nations would call frigates. Consider the Akizuki and the Asahi-class ships.

      Although it eems that with 30FFM they're finally moving onto frigate hullcodes.

      An interesting bit of trivia: the Japanese term used is goeikan, lit. "Escort ship". This got translated into English as destroyer because that's what destroyers were.

      Delete
    9. With naming conventions having drifted so much, I look at Akizuki and Asahi as a good baseline for a classic destroyer. Europe grew frigates and blended the line much more. Burke, King Sejongs, Kongo/Atago/Maya and even Ticos are still destroyer leaders. Zumwalt would be a cruiser if it worked as advertised.

      Delete
    10. JMSDF calls almost everything a "destroyer" when using English because of politics and other reasons, regardless of the ship's actual role.
      It's just playing with words.

      Speaking of which, a ComNavOps post on how Japan is doing could be interesting.

      Delete
    11. For convoy escort I would build 40-ish blue-water corvettes based on the Indian Kamorta class.

      - 3300 tons
      - Bow sonar
      - Towed sonar
      - One MH-60 Seahawk ASW helicopter
      - Anti-sub torpedoes and weaponry
      - Self-defense weapons:
      - one 76mm gun
      - one Phalanx CIWS
      - one SeaRAM
      - 8 VLS cells with quad packed ESSM and anti-ship missiles

      I would also have 20-ish of a lower cost corvette for brown water sub-chasing based on the Israeli Sa'ar 6.

      - 1900 tons
      - Bow mounted sonar
      - One MH-60 Seahawk ASW helicopter
      - ASW torpedoes and ASW weaponry
      - For self-defense:
      - One 57mm or 76mm gun
      - One Phalanx CIWS
      - Four VLS cells
      - One SeaRAM CIWS if there's enough deck space

      Lutefisk

      Delete
  15. Israel's Saar 6-class corvette meets many of your wish list. Lots of weapons packed into its 1,900 ton displacement, a SH-60 Seahawk helicopter, AESA radar. Problem is its self sustainability is very low. Its range is only ~2,500 miles. Therefore, it is not suitable to be part of a carrier battle group. Of course, for Israel, it is enough as it has no need to sail far from shore.

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    1. The problem with the Sa'ar 6 is that it's basically a eurofrigate on a corvette hull. It doesn't really bring anything to the table that the Constellation does, except for worse seakeeping and shorter range. The Israelis can get away with that when they don't expect to sail outside the Med.

      Delete
    2. I'd rather have a Mexican Pola than the Sa'ar for an American corvette. If I were to have a conventional steel monohull.

      Delete
    3. Saar 6 corvette has very strong fire power:

      32 vertical launch cells - Barak SAM
      20 C-Dome point defense missiles
      16 Gabriel anti-ship missiles
      Two 324mm torpedo launchers
      One 76mm gun
      Two remote Rafael weapon systems
      One SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter

      AESA radar which is more advanced than Burk II Destroyer's PESA radar.

      Israel puts all these in this 1,900 ton ship thus its range is only ~2,5000 miles (less fuel).

      This is to illustrate that you cannot ask for all things in a mid sized ship.

      For Constellation class frigate, key is to understand its role and mission in a carrier group.

      Delete
    4. "Israel puts all these in this 1,900 ton ship"

      The Sa'ar is a nice vessel for what it's supposed to do but the "all these" is a bit misleading unless one understands exactly what "these" are and are not. For example, the impressive sounding '32 vertical launch cells - Barak SAM' are not actually all that impressive when one considers that a standard 8-cell Mk41 VLS with quad-packed ESSM also houses 32 missiles. So, 32 launch cells sounds impressive until you realize it's equivalent to a single Mk41 8-cell unit.

      Similarly, the '20 C-Dome point defense missiles' sounds impressive until one realizes that a single RAM launcher contains 21 RAM point defense missiles.

      The torpedo launchers are for the lightweight torpedoes. The US Navy uses the standard Mk 32 324 mm triple torpedo launcher.

      The most impressive weapon is the 16 anti-ship missiles.

      I like the 76 mm gun!

      Delete
  16. Not for nothing, but since when has the Navy considered a 7,400 short tons ship to be a small surface combatant? As proposed, the Contellation-class are more like a frigate armed like a corvette, stuffed into the hull of a destroyer.

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    1. Here "small" just means "smaller than a Burke".

      All Japanese destroyers minus the large Aegis ones (Maya, Atago, Kongo classes) are under 7k tons, for comparison.

      Delete
    2. CBO use the cost per cost per ton X the lightweight displacement in long tons based on actuals on current surface combatant build costs to estimate cost of new class builds, would therefore assume CBO using Burkes actual costs per ton times the lightweight displacement of Constellation to estimate costs. As said previously hoping that Fincantieri can with their proved 21st century shipyard tech knowhow of building ships on time and cost can bring Constellation in on budget and not 40% higher as CBO estimates based on Burkes forty year old design dating back to the '80's, very dense ships as more and more equipment crammed in and built at BIW and Ingalls.

      CBO when challenged by Fincantieri on the 40% cost increase said the addition of 300 tons of steel from FREMM to Constellation would increase costs due to the extra complication in build.

      CBO displacement figures in long tons, Constellation full load 7,291 (7,408 metric tons) / lightweight 6,014, for ref OHP 4,100 / 3,210, Burke Flight IIA 9,140 / 7,033 .

      Should be noted Constellation has designed in sea life allowance for future growth of 400 metric tons, assuming OHP figure of 4,100 is EOL would compare to Constellation ~ 7,700 EOL, so approx twice the displacement of the Perry, so to classify Constellation as a small surface combatant is stretching it, its only 1,000 lighter in light displacement than a Burke IIA

      There are modern frigates in the 4,000 ton range eg Finnish Pohjanmaa class / French FDI class / Korean Daegu class.

      Delete
  17. Hi CNO,

    Ideally, congruence would never have happened, and the USN would be constantly designing and building modern current ships. Unfortunately, the USN wasted 2 decades. Thus the FFG(X) is an attempt to band aid the ruined new design/build/upgrade/new design cycle.

    So the FFG(X) is purely an attempt at a stopgap....we hope.

    Hopefully, the USN would be quietly designing new:

    - minesweepers
    - ASW ships
    - LSC's
    - SSC's
    - Logistic ships
    - other Command/miscellaneous ships

    If so, then nothing wrong with the FFG(X).

    But if the FFG(X) is meant to be THE new warship of the USN, then .... well....

    The USN does have the money.
    Just don't waste it!

    Andrew

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    1. "Hopefully, the USN would be quietly designing new"

      Well, they're not designing new minesweepers or ASW ships, and as for LSC's/SSC's (not sure how to characterize) the FFG(X) seems to be about it.

      So Andrew, looks like your worst fears may be being realized.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, everything is upside down. I'd almost rather design American and build foreign than where we are at. Obviously I prefer we do both. Their is no Jones Act for ideas.

      Delete
    3. CDR Chip-

      I wonder if the USN has an agreement with the other 5 eyes countries to ask for the use some of the 32 Type 26 ASW ships when requested. In that way, the US allies could pull their weight, while saving the US from diverting resources from necessary assets to bloated less necessary ones like the Ford- $18bn and counting.

      AndyM-

      If the USN wasn't so...whatever, they could obtain licences from SK/Japan and West European countries to get designs for many of their deficiencies.

      I mean, the UK bought 2 tide class tankers, which have great specs, from SK. That's one area that could be modernised quickly.

      And the use of deck mounted Oto Melara 40 and 76mm guns could upgun the LCS and Zumwalt into decent patrol ships (pathetic use of them, but , well, you understand)

      Andrew

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    4. "I'd almost rather design American and build foreign than where we are at."

      Given where we are, I'd almost rather design foreign and build anywhere. I mean the QE is a decided step down from a Nimitz or even a Kitty Hawk, but right now it's of more use in combat than a Ford. At least it can launch and recover aircraft.

      "If the USN wasn't so...whatever, they could obtain licences from SK/Japan and West European countries to get designs for many of their deficiencies"

      Yes, but... the Navy can screw even that up.

      Delete
  18. Might consider matching performance characteristics of all our historical frigates since the mid 60s:

    endurance speed 20 knots (FREMM only 16) note that all our amphibs and combat logistics have endurance speed of 20 knots. This ship should escort without slowing them down.

    maximum speed 28+ knots (FREMM only 26+) at 28+ marginally able to participate in carrier ops; at 26+ much more problematic.

    SQS 53 for open ocean ASW (FREMM maybe SQS 56 equivalent) Every us frigate and destroyer ever built has had our top of the line hull sonar (except FFG 7, purposely very austere).

    Forget eliminating risk or saving engineering dollars. By the time all Italian combat systems are removed and replaced with (mostly significantly heavier us systems) ship will require complete redesign.

    OPNAV is supposed to conceive ship requirements. NAVSEA is supposed to design ships. Is it too much to ask these organizations to do their jobs?

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    1. "NAVSEA is supposed to design ships."

      Actually, Navsea doesn't design ships. We've farmed that responsibility out to industry.

      In olden times, we used the General Board to set requirements and general characteristics and then BuShips would design the ship. In our infinite wisdom, we eliminated both those groups and now we have no in-house ship design capability. This is one of our major problems.

      Delete
    2. Exactly what does NAVSEA do and why do we have them?

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    3. "Exactly what does NAVSEA do and why do we have them?"

      They approve acceptance of incomplete, damaged ships.

      Delete
    4. We really do need a new BuShips or something similar.

      My thought would be to borrow a concept from the Royal Navy. They split what we call line officers into two groups--deck/warfare officers and engineering officers. As I understand it, engineering officers run the ship and deck/warfare officers navigate and fight the ship.

      Deck/warfare officers would be eligible for command at sea. They receive intensive training in navigation, rules of the road, strategy, and tactics. They would have the equivalent of a merchant master's knowledge of seamanship. This would almost certainly make incidents like the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions and the Port Royal grounding less frequent.

      Senior engineering officers command shore establishments--naval bases, shipyards, repair facilities. Education during their careers could include advanced degrees in naval architecture and engineering. Senior engineering officers would form a cadre for a new BuShips. We could restart a BuShips, and those senior engineering officers would have the expertise to turn it into a truly professional design bureau.

      Delete
    5. Chiming onto that, I would even go as far as recruiting defense engineers outside the military who could be fast-tracked into the Navy, similar to the Cyber Direct Commission program. It should provide a necessary band-aid at least for now.

      Delete
    6. "those senior engineering officers would have the expertise to turn it into a truly professional design bureau."

      That's not even remotely realistic. You don't become an accomplished, professional ship designer by picking up a few courses while you're pursuing your real career of being an at-sea ship's engineer. You become a ship designer by going to college and getting an advanced degree (so, there's the first 6+ years of your career), working for several years learning the real world ship design business (there's the next several years of your career), and then taking the lead on ship designs (there's the next several years of your career). At that point, you're an accomplished ship designer. It's not something you fit into an engineering career. There simply isn't time.

      Actually, the reverse would have a better chance of working. Hire actual degree'd ship designers and give them an occasional few months of shipboard exposure to broaden their experience.

      Delete
    7. "You don't become an accomplished, professional ship designer by picking up a few courses while you're pursuing your real career of being an at-sea ship's engineer. You become a ship designer by going to college and getting an advanced degree (so, there's the first 6+ years of your career), working for several years learning the real world ship design business (there's the next several years of your career), and then taking the lead on ship designs (there's the next several years of your career). At that point, you're an accomplished ship designer. It's not something you fit into an engineering career. There simply isn't time.
      Actually, the reverse would have a better chance of working. Hire actual degree'd ship designers and give them an occasional few months of shipboard exposure to broaden their experience."

      Reread my proposal. I'm not proposing that they become truly accomplished professional ship designers, just that they have a better understanding than we have now. And I'm not talking about picking up a few courses. The current line officer career path includes time frames for picking up master's and even doctorate degrees. Engineering officers would simply pick up those degrees in fields related to naval architecture and engineering. As you get past LT or LC DR, the shipboard opportunities would decrease and the emphasis would shift to shore-based positions such as those involved in ship design. Somebody with a graduate degree on naval architecture and actual shipboard operational time should bring a very useful perspective.

      I would also see the value in your alternative approach. I see no reason why we can't have some of both.

      Also,I'm not thinking of this just from a design bureau standpoint, but also from an operational standpoint, where having engineers who understood engineering and OODs who new the Rules of the Road could be beneficial.

      Worst case, I think we'd be a heck of a lot better off than we are today.

      Delete
    8. Perhaps I should clarify my expectations a bit. I'm not expecting these engineering officers to be God's gift to ship design. What I am expecting is that they would have enough formal education plus enough practical experience in the fleet (understanding things like if we put this piece of equipment on a ship, can SN Jones or FN Smith maintain it).

      I am envisioning a 20-year career path that would include something like 3 at-sea tours (3rd Engineer, 2nd Engineer, 1st Engineer) totaling 6-9 years, 4-6 years in postgraduate schools (with a contract to serve X years for each advanced degree), and 5-10 years in shore ship design billets doing that learning ship design that you describe. At the end of that 20 years, you'd have that expertise around for so many more years based on how the contracts for education are structured.

      Delete
    9. "I'm not proposing that they become truly accomplished professional ship designers"

      Are you proposing that they become poor or mediocre ship designers???? I don't know about you but I want only the very best, the most accomplished designers designing my warships and there's only one way to become such a person and I described it. You need continual experience actually designing, not a part time portion of a career.

      If you want the best designers then that has to be their career, totally and completely. Nothing else will produce the best.

      Delete
    10. Would you want to go to a doctor who picked up his degree on a part time basis and only practiced occasionally? I wouldn't! I'd want a doctor whose entire life and career was the practice of medicine.

      Delete
    11. "I don't know about you but I want only the very best, the most accomplished designers designing my warships and there's only one way to become such a person and I described it. You need continual experience actually designing, not a part time portion of a career."

      Probably a poor choice of words on my part, meant it more to suggest that you need a more well-rounded skill set than just pure design.

      I’d turn your doctor example around and ask whether you’d rather have a doctor who aced med school or one who had actually done a few surgeries of the kind you need. Given a choice, I think somebody who has actually sailed a few ships is going to be better than somebody who has just designed a bunch. For optimum results, I think you need both. Expanding the engineering duty officer program seems to me a way to get more officers with both.

      I think being the very best means that you also need some practical deckplate experience. If all you do is live in the theoretical design world, then things like the Fords and the LCSs and the Zumwalts make sense. You need people to ask the questions that you only know how to ask from practical experience.

      I'm talking about a career path something like this:

      2 years at sea (junior engineering division officer)
      2 years shore duty in ship maintenance/repair or construction facility
      2 years at sea (senior engineering division officer)
      2 years getting M.S. in naval architecture (with 10-year commitment in exchange for the degree)
      2 years at sea (chief engineer)
      2 years as staff officer at design bureau
      2 years getting Ph.D. in naval architecture (again with a new 10-year commitment in exchange for the degree)

      At that point you have 14 years in, are committed to stay for 10 more, have a Ph.D. with 2 years design experience and 8 years practical operational experience, 6 at sea and 2 in ship maintenance. You’d then go to senior billets at either design bureaus or maintenance/repair/construction facilities.

      The 10-year commitment is the payback for getting a degree that sets you up for fairly lucrative livelihood paid for by the taxpayers, and is intended to prevent you from getting the degree, giving a cheery, “Aye, aye,” and heading off to work for LockMart or HII. You can flesh this out a bit but that is the conceptual framework.

      I don’t see anything part time about the career experience and expertise you would develop. I think that is a better background to make the decisions that need to be made than just going straight through to the Ph.D. and then doing theoretical design stuff. I think the problem now is that the Navy has punted too much ship design to contractors who are too theoretical.

      If you’re going to put a system on a warship, then it better be something that SN Jones or FN Smith can maintain. And if you’re going to design that system, or spec it for somebody else to design, it is helpful to have worked with a few SN Joneses and FN Smiths to understand what they can and cannot do.

      In theory, theory works well in practice; in practice, it doesn’t.

      Delete
    12. "At that point you have 14 years in, are committed to stay for 10 more, have a Ph.D. with 2 years design experience"

      You just identified the failure with your approach. At 14 years in, you have 2 years design experience. Major warship designs take 2-4 years (or more!) today. So, by your career path and your statement, after 14 years you would have PARTICIPATED in one design and it may well not have been completed yet. Also, as your first design PARTICIPATION you would have been the lowliest, most junior PARTICIPANT - the guy who got coffee for everyone else and tried to help out where possible. You would NOT be a ship designer. As I said, ship design requires CONSTANT practice. You cannot spend most of your first 14 years playing navy officer. It is pure fantasy to be able to be a part time ACCOMPLISHED ship designer.

      After you've PARTICIPATED in four or five major, multi-year design projects then, maybe, you're ready to take the lead on a project but four or five major projects encompasses around 15+ years of CONSTANT design practice, not part time playing around.

      This is symptomatic of our current thinking that there's always a short cut to progress. There isn't! You have to do the hard work. You can't be a combination engineer, pilot, designer, sailor, etc. You have to pick one and live it in order to be good at it.

      "I’d turn your doctor example around and ask whether you’d rather have a doctor who aced med school or one who had actually done a few surgeries of the kind you need."

      Again, you reinforced my point! Of course I want a doctor who's done the surgery. Surgery is the end product of training! I want a ship designer who's actually designed ships, not one who's been standing watch in an engine room. Surgery isn't a side excursion, surgery IS THE JOB!!!!!!

      Delete
    13. I think we are just going to disagree about the importance of hands-on experience versus book learning and theory.

      Yes, at 14 years you are not ready to lead a design team. But at 14 years you are a LCDR, and last I checked, LCDRs don't lead major design teams. You would be ready to be a significant participant in a design team, with considerable practical experience. And no, I don't think your two years in a design bureau would be limited to bringing the coffee, and I am quite certain that your years in the fleet would not all be spent standing engine room watches. Besides, if your junior officer years in a design bureau were spent bringing the coffee, wouldn't you be better off getting operational experience actually doing something?

      You seem to be arguing that taking a LCDR with 6 years in the fleet and putting him in charge of a major design effort would be a mistake. I would agree. But I'm not proposing that.

      It's certainly debatable, with points that can be made either way. What is not debatable is that we don't have either trained designers or experienced engineers today, and adding either would be an improvement.

      Delete
    14. "I think we are just going to disagree about the importance of hands-on experience versus book learning "

      You're confusing design knowledge with operating knowledge. Operating knowledge, while mildly useful in small doses, does not confer design capability. Spending years learning how to stand watch, fill out reports, or even maintain one specific type of equipment does not increase one's design knowledge. An operator can, in a one hour visit, provide the necessary input to a design team. It does not require designers to become operating experts. That's just a waste of time, dilutes the useful career years, and produces substandard designers.

      Aircraft designers are not required to become pilots.

      A building designer does not need to become a Wall Street broker to design a building for brokers.

      A tank designer doesn't become a tank crewman in order to design tanks. The Army will tell him what the design criteria are.

      A ship designer can't possibly serve long enough in the Navy to become an expert on nuclear propulsion, gas turbines, propellers, weapons, sensors, computers, and the thousand other things that a designer will have to include in a ship design so why would you want to single out one area and disrupt and dilute a design career for an almost insignificant gain in one small area of ship operations? If you have a question about how best to set up a shipboard command center, you bring in an operator and have him explain it. You don't send all your designers out to become ship captains so they'll know the answer.

      Delete
    15. OK, we are just gong to have to agree to disagree on this one. I think having operational experience is useful. As for you comment about designing a command center, wouldn't it be useful to have somebody on the design team who understood the information that you are bringing in the operator to discuss?

      My larger point has kind of gotten ignored which is that if we want to recreate something like BuShips, we need a source of officers (and technicians) to staff it. Right now we don't have those people. Building an engineering specialty career seems one way to build up that cadre, and also to build up repair and maintenance expertise. I'd expect some engineering types to go the repair/maintenance route and some to go the design route, and possibly others. If someone demonstrates a significant aptitude and interest in design early on, there could be a path to get into design early.

      One interesting point is that the career path I laid out basically tracks pretty closely that of CAPT Talbot Manvel, who was the lead on the early design of the Fords. That's not a stirring recommendation, except
      1) he was probably one of very few officers with that background, and if we had more of them perhaps we could have assembled a better design team; looking at that photo of the inside of an EMALS tube, I have to believe that some officer who had served in carriers would look at that and say, no way are SN Jones and FN Smith going to be able to maintain this;
      2) a lot of the major issues were forced down from on high; if you had a whole bureau full of officers saying there's no way things will work, they might have been able to get someone's attention and get some changes made (although from CAPT Manvel's account, that someone appears to have been one Donald Rumsfeld, who was never particularly interested in listening to reason).

      We agree on one thing. We need a design bureau like BuShips so the Navy doesn't just cave to the LockMarts and HIIs of the world. How to get those people is where we differ. I've laid out one path and you disagree. So how are you going to go about getting them?

      Delete
    16. I'm sorry but this isn't really debatable. You simply can't produce top flight ship designers on a part time career path. This isn't a point of disagreement. This is a pretty clear case of a right way and a wrong way to produce fully qualified and experienced ship designers.

      Delete
    17. You hire people out of school, bring them into BuShips, and have them make a career of ship designing. They don't necessarily have to even be Navy. They could remain civilian employees. The choice seems irrelevant.

      Have you considered just how many areas of knowledge your approach would have to cover to be truly effective? Being an engineer covers just one small part - the propulsion system - of an overall ship design. Would you also have them serve several years each in a weapons/fire control posting, radar/sensor posting, amphibious assault Marine posting, nuclear propulsion posting, galley posting, pilot posting (they'll have to design carriers, you know), logistics supply ship posting, and so on? That would require several lifetimes to come up to speed.

      Engines are just one small portion of a ship design. Your approach would hinder true ship design career path excellence while only providing exposure to one aspect of the hundreds of ship design areas of knowledge. I'm sorry but it's just not a viable means of developing truly good ship designers.

      You wouldn't send an architect out for several years to learn how to operate dump trucks and cement mixers, pour foundations, learn wiring, become a pipefitter, etc. would you? Those are someone else's responsibility. Over time, the architect will get feedback about what worked well and what didn't and that will be incorporated into future designs. Similarly, a BuShips will get continual feedback from the fleet about what works and what doesn't and will incorporate it into future designs. This is yet another argument for limited ship production runs and short ship service lives. That way, feedback can be fairly quickly incorporated into new designs.

      I understand that you want to try to capture 'working' knowledge in your ship designs by having the designer go work in the fleet but the way to capture that knowledge is not by impairing the career and effectiveness of each designer but by collecting the feedback in BuShips AS AN INSTITUTION. The captured knowledge, derived from feedback, is held as institutional knowledge and is available to ALL the designers, as needed, and such a mechanism will cover ALL design areas instead of just engineering, as you propose.

      Think this through carefully and you'll see the wisdom of this approach.

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    18. I think you are arguing against a couple of positions that I am not taking, so let me clarify:

      1) I’m not arguing that BuShips (or whatever we call it) should consist exclusively of fleet engineers. What I am saying is that we need a cadre of officers with experience and advanced education in engineering, operation, and maintenance of ships and equipment for several functions, including shore-based repair, maintenance, and construction facilities, and design bureaus. I don’t see engineering officers pushing pencils across a drafting board or running a CAD/CAM terminal. I see them reality checking the ideas against their practical experience. We currently don’t have a career path to produce more than a trickle of such officers, and a bifurcation of line officers into deck/warfare and engineering would be a way to do that. Engineers are not going to be eligible for command at sea, so senior engineers would staff and command sore facilities related to ship construction, maintenance, and repair.
      2) My understanding is that the Royal Navy concept of an engineering officer is broader than ours and is not confined to main propulsion and standing engineering watches, and that is the approach I would have in mind. From Wikipedia:
      Engineer officers are responsible for the material condition of the various aspects of maritime platforms: ships, submarines and naval aircraft and as such lead teams of naval ratings to conduct preventive and corrective maintenance. Engineer officers are responsible to the captain for the operational capability of the platform and as such form part of the command team. Engineers are also widely employed in the Defence Equipment and Support engaged in logistic support, procurement or capability development and in the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, supporting the fleet or other elements of the British Armed Forces. Engineer officers specialise in one of four sub-branches:

      a. Marine Engineer Officers are responsible for the fabric of the ship or submarine, including its propulsion and steering systems, hotel and domestic services and damage control/firefighting equipment. (These are our engineers today.)
      b. Weapon Engineer Officers are responsible for the performance of onboard weapons, sensors, combat systems and communications systems.
      c. Air Engineers are responsible for the performance of fixed and rotary wing aircraft afloat and ashore.
      d. Training Management Officers are responsible for the management of training activities across the Royal Navy.

      With this much broader definition of engineering officers, and with a career path that includes advanced engineering and naval architecture degrees, I would think this would provide a useful cadre. You would have marine engineers and weapons engineers on the design team for any ship, and air engineers for any air-capable ship.

      So I think I may be looking at things on the one hand from a narrower perspective that you are arguing (in that engineering officers would just be part of the BuShips team, along with the other personnel you propose) and on the other and from a broader perspective (in that engineering comprises a much broader spectrum of duties).

      I think we have beaten this horse enough.

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    19. " I see them reality checking the ideas against their practical experience."

      That only requires one or two people per project and, typically, there are only one or two projects active at any given moment. So, that would require a total manning of 2-4 such reality engineers. That's not exactly an active career. If you want to go to that degree of effort to have a couple guys sitting around and offering an occasional thought, that's fine, I guess, but what a waste. Alternatively, and logically, the thing to do would be to bring a few fleet engineers in for a day when you have a design at the appropriate stage for comments and let them comment away for a day. Again, no need to try to create an entire career path that could be accomplished by a one day visit.

      You're creating a complex solution to a very simple, nearly non-existent problem. I'll repeat, the BuShips organization would have all the INSTITUTIONAL knowledge it needs from continuous fleet feedback. There really is no need for a dedicated 'BuShips Helper' career path.

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    20. We're just going to have to agree to disagree.

      Delete

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