Wednesday, June 30, 2021

LCS Crew Size

One of the crowning achievements of the LCS was supposed to have been a very small, bordering on non-existent, crew.  I believe the original crew was to have been three sailors, a parrot, and a dog that was cross-trained as a cat.  That quickly became a core crew of 40 with an add-on of 20-30 for the module specialists and aviation for a total of 60-70.  The concept was roundly mocked as everyone, including the dog/cat, could see that was a ridiculous and unworkable crew size. 


As predicted by everyone but the Navy, the LCS crew size has been inching steadily up.  The latest report puts the crew size at 94.


… LCS deploy with a total of 94 sailors – 70 for the core crew, including the MCM force, and an additional 24 that make up the aviation detachment for the MH-60 aboard … (1)


Remember, that each ship has two crews so the actual crew size for each ship is 188 (I assume the aviation det crew swaps out when the core crew does).  Just out of curiosity, does anyone recall the crew size of the Perry class frigates that the LCS was supposed to replace and reap huge savings by having a smaller crew?  That’s right … the Perrys had a crew of around 176.  The LCS now has a larger crew than the Perrys!

Original LCS Crew


But wait, we’re not done yet!


The LCS still requires an extensive shore-side maintenance support group so that adds an unknown but, according to various DOT&E reports, large shore maintenance group.  When those shore maintenance people are factored in, the average LCS crew size is probably around 200+.


Those Perrys are looking better and better now, aren’t they?





(1)USNI News website, “Six Littoral Combat Ships to Deploy by Year’s End as Navy Continues to Refine Operations”, Sam LaGrone, 28-Jun-2021,

Monday, June 28, 2021


The Navy – and most naval observers/commentators – are obsessed with modernization.  If something isn’t the absolute latest and greatest technology then these people believe it’s automatically obsolete and must be replaced (the Navy’s view) or modernized (everyone else’s view).  In fact, ships are intentionally designed to be modernized part way through their service lives.  More to the point, ships are sold to Congress as ‘good value’ because they can be periodically upgraded and modernized and serve a full service life over three or four decades because modernization will keep the ship up to date and supremely effective.


Of course, the constantly repeated reality is that modernization almost never occurs and the vast majority of ships are retired early.


Let’s take a closer look at the very concept of modernization. 


We all assume we know what modernization is, right?  Sure, it’s the process of replacing older technology with newer, more effective ones.  What could be more simple and what could be more desirable?  I mean, it’s a no-brainer to modernize, right?  Who would not want a better radar?  Who would not want a faster computer?  And, of course those better, faster items mean a more effective ship, right?  Come on, this is obvious to the point of silliness        or is it?


When considering modernization, the point – the main point and the only relevant point – is whether the item under consideration can effectively do its job?  If it can, it doesn’t need to be modernized.  The fact that somewhere in the world there might be a piece of equipment that can do the job slightly better is irrelevant.  Effective is good enough.  Remember that saying, ‘perfect is the enemy of good (enough)’?  That’s essentially what we’re talking about here.  Modernization is the enemy of effective!


For example, the fact that the Ticonderoga’s radar can only identify a target and provide a fire control solution as opposed to the latest radar that can produce a 3D, holographic, full color image of the target is irrelevant.  The task is to find and destroy.  Everything else is just icing on the cake and, almost invariably, more expensive and unnecessary icing at that!  If the Ticonderoga’s radar can see the target and provide a fire control solution, that’s all that’s needed.  Anything more than that is just expensive waste that adds no value.


Modernization is only needed when the item under consideration is no longer effective.


Consider the WWII standard M1 carbine.  It’s been replaced by the current M4 (I don’t follow land combat matters so maybe the M4 has already been replaced?  Doesn’t matter) but is the M4 actually more effective than the M1?  I strongly suspect not.  Since 99% of all rifle rounds sent downrange are just sprayed in the general direction of the target, some slight gain in claimed accuracy at a thousand yards, or whatever, is irrelevant.  The M1 can spray rounds just as well as the M4.  Now, perhaps the M4 has other characteristics that make it more desirable like lower weight (nope, it’s heavier), or cheaper (nope!), or better reliability (doubt it), or easier maintenance (pretty sure not), or whatever, but those are peripheral characteristics and do not make the M4 more effective.  Hey, as I said, I’m not a land combat guy and I’m not going to entertain a rile comparison discussion.  I’m illustrating a point.


To repeat, combat effectiveness is the only reason for modernization.  Note that there’s a huge difference between something that must be modernized because it can no longer do the job effectively and something that someone would like to modernize because there’s a slightly newer and slightly more effective version somewhere in the world.


The US military has an obsession with technology to the overall detriment of our military power and effectiveness.  Consider the example of the Ford/Nimitz.  The Nimitz design is perfectly capable and effective, as is.  The Ford, despite all the upgrades/modernizations, offers zero additional combat effectiveness over the Nimitz and it does so at twice the price tag.  The Ford was modernization for the sake of modernization not for the sake of enhanced combat effectiveness.



Returning to the Ticonderoga example, it offers yet another lesson in the Navy’s version of modernization.  Why is the Ticonderoga modernization effort racking up higher than expected costs?  According to Adm. Galinis (Vice Adm. Bill Galinis, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command),


“Number one is the amount of change that we have pushed into the availability, driven principally by, in some cases, the condition of the [hull, mechanical and electrical] plant, the hull in particular. So a lot more structural work than initially anticipated as we got into tanks in some cases that had not been opened for quite some time. Some additional work on the underwater hull portion, including the running gear – and again, in some cases, these ships had not been docked for an extended period of time … (1) [emphasis added]


Do you see the glaring fallacy in his statement?  He basically just indicted Navy leadership over the last couple of decades!  The problem isn’t modernization, it’s routine maintenance.  He notes that tanks ‘had not been opened  for quite some time’ and ‘ships had not been docked for an extended period of time’.  Hey, admiral, that’s called routine maintenance and it should have been performed … well … routinely!  If the tanks were being maintained routinely as the ship’s service plan specifies, there would be no problems with the tanks and you could move on to actual modernization items, if any.  If you, Adm. Galinis, and the rest of Navy leadership had done your jobs, there wouldn’t be any problems.  Every former CNO should be brought back to active service and court-martialed for dereliction of duty.


As demonstrated by the Ticonderoga example, most Navy modernization isn’t actually modernization, it’s an attempt to catch up on long deferred, routine maintenance.  What actual required modernization is being done to the Ticonderogas?  I’ve heard of almost none.


On a related note regarding the Ticonderogas, specifically, the Navy’s so-called modernization program for the Ticonderogas (1) was never intended to modernize the ships.  It was just a ploy to get around Congress’ refusal to allow the Navy to retire the ships.  Now, CNO Gilday is claiming the Ticonderogas MUST be retired because they’re too expensive to modernize.  Well, they never needed to be modernized, in the first place!  Sure, you could swap out a newer computer, if you want but the basic ‘find and destroy’ function worked as effectively as ever. 


We see, then, that modernization is the huckster salesman’s fraudulent claim that allows the Navy to sell oversized, overpriced ships to Congress.  Modernization almost never happens and most of what is purported to be modernization is actually just routine maintenance, most of which has been deferred far beyond acceptable limits.  Modernization is a myth and, since it almost never happens and ships are almost always retired early, doesn’t this pretty much demand that the intelligent navy design ships for a limited 20 year service life or less?







(1)USNI News website, “Navy ‘Struggling’ to Modernize Aging Cruiser Fleet As Tight Budgets Push Pentagon to Shed Legacy Platforms”, Megan Eckstein, 5-Apr-2021,

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

2022 Decommissionings

Here’s a list of the planned 2022 ship decommissionings.(1)






Service Years

USS San Jacinto (CG-56)




USS Lake Champlain (CG-57)




USS Monterey (CG-61)




USS Hue City (CG-66)




USS Anzio (CG-68)




USS Vella Gulf (CG-72)




USS Port Royal (CG-73)








USS Fort Worth (LCS-3)




USS Coranado (LCS-4)




USS Detroit (LCS-7)




USS Little Rock (LCS-9)








USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41)

Whidbey Island







USS Providence (SSN-719)

Los Angeles



USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723)

Los Angeles







USNS Apache (T-ATF-172)





a launch date



The planned service life of the Ticonderoga class is 35 years.  None of these will make it.

The planned service life of the LCS is 25 years.  None of these will make it.

The planned service life of the Whidbey Island class is 40 years.  It will not make it.

The planned service life of the Los Angeles class is 35 years, I believe.  None of these will make it.

The planned service life of the Apache is unknown.


From the table, we see that only one ship, the USS Providence (and Apache?), will meet its planned service life although some will come close.  The rest are all being retired early and some by many years.




The Navy is crying that they need more ships. 

The Navy is planning to retire 15 ships in 2022, most of them early retirements.

The Navy has requested 4 new warships for 2022. 


What’s wrong with this picture?







Monday, June 21, 2021

Armor Compendium

I’d like to try an experiment.  One of the problems with a blog is that readers come on board at various times and the newer readers have missed the preceding discussions.  This leads to re-addressing concepts in the comments that have been previously covered but are unknown to the newer reader.  Of course, it is the responsibility of the reader to be familiar with the archives but …


So, my thought is to occasionally present a compendium and summary of links to previous posts on a single topic as a sort of historical guide and one-stop ‘catch up’ assembly of knowledge.  I’ll try to present the links in some sort of logical order to guide the reader through a logical progression of the posts.


The first topic will be ship’s armor – always an interesting and [inexplicably] controversial subject.




Let’s start by describing the ‘problem’ which is the Navy’s near total abandonment of armor.  This post does a nice job of describing the current armor ‘problem’ and visually demonstrates the effect of varying steel thicknesses:


“Ship Construction and Naval Armor”


Here’s some additional discussion of the vulnerabilities caused by lack of armor:


“Survival on the Modern Battlefield”


One of the main problems with eliminating armor is that a modern ship’s main weapons and sensors – the ship’s entire reason for existence! – are completely unprotected and subject to damage, destruction, and inoperability due to even simple shrapnel, to say nothing of actual direct explosive hits.  We’ve built ships that can be mission killed by minor shrapnel damage!  Here’s some discussion about the failure to armor a ship’s main weapons and sensors:


“Weapons Armor”


Having a good feel for the scope and ramifications of the problem, we turn to the overall rationale for naval armor.  This post presents the basic rationale for ship’s armor and is the single most important post on the subject:


“Armor for Dummies”


The following post reminds us about the painful lessons learned by the Navy when we abandoned armor and moved to aluminum construction.  Despite these graphic lessons, the Navy has returned to aluminum in the LCS classes:


“Lessons Learned and Forgotten”


There are, unfortunately, a great many naval observers who believe that ships cannot carry armor without either sinking under the weight or, if they don’t outright sink, will be so weighed down as to lose all speed and range.  This post addresses those misconceptions and reminds us of the fallacy of such beliefs by highlighting WWII ships that carried a great deal of armor and still managed to not only stay afloat but to exhibit great speed and range:


“Armored Ship Misconceptions”


Have armor requirements changed from WWII days?  This post presents a conceptual description of how to armor a modern ship in response to modern threats, including anti-ship missiles:


“Conceptual Armor for Modern Ships”


Many observers believe that it is impossible to armor a ship against torpedoes.  Here’s a post that disproves that belief and goes on to discuss some torpedo armor concepts:


“Torpedo Lethality Myth”


For those who might want a bit more in-depth discussion of the application of armor and how it is structurally arranged:


“Transverse Bulkheads”


So, what is the future of naval armor?  Well, it’s not bright:


“Time Stands Still”


Finally, if you’re more interested in land combat, here’s a discussion of the Marines and their love-hate relationship with armored vehicles.


“Marines and Armor”




So, there you have it.  Almost everything you’d want to know about ship’s armor – or at least what I’ve covered so far!


As I said, this is an experiment so let me know in the comments whether this kind of compendium is worthwhile and, if you think it is, what other topics you’d like to see compiled in this manner.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Chinese Type 056 Corvette

The Chinese Type 056 corvette is a numerous series of general purpose, lower end ships – as the name, corvette, implies – that is suited for operations in and around the first island chain where long range and endurance are not a requirement.  Reports put the number built at around 72 during the period 2012-2019; an impressive production run that ended in Dec 2019.  Contrast that to the anemic US LCS production run.

Type 056 Corvette


Type 056 Corvette Specifications

Length, m (ft)

90 (295)

Displacement, tons


Speed, kts


Range, nm

3500 @ 16 kts






AK-176 76 mm gun


4x YJ-83 (C-803) anti-ship cruise missile


8-cell FL3000N anti-air SAM


2x triple 324 mm torpedos


2x 30 mm




Flight deck for 1 medium Z-9 size helicopter




Type 347G fire control radar


Bow sonar




The vessel has a compact, stealth design that, visually, appears fairly uncluttered and should be fairly stealthy.  The ship uses diesel power and the stern has a waterline mounted ‘ducktail’ flap, similar to that installed on US ships, which improves fuel efficiency.


Various electronics include multiple decoy launchers, jammers, and optical sensors.


The armament and sensors of this small vessel puts the LCS, which is twice the size of the 056, to shame and reveals what a waste of money and resources the LCS is.

8-Cell SAM Launcher

 A second version of the 056, the 056A is specialized for anti-submarine (ASW) duty with the addition of towed array and variable depth sonar (VDS) and looks to be fairly close to what ComNavOps has called for in the form of a small, dedicated ASW corvette.  The degree of quieting applied to the ship is unknown.  Wikipedia lists 50 of the total 72 corvettes as being the 056A ASW version.  Such a fleet of vessels, operating in the somewhat restricted waters inside the first island chain will make it challenging for US subs to operate in the area.


YJ-83 Anti-Ship Missile Launcher

Other variants include Coast Guard and export versions.



The 056 corvette is a well designed ship which is especially suited for patrol activities inside the East and South China Seas.  The armament is quite respectable for the ship’s size.  The ASW version is nicely equipped with towed array, VDS, hull mounted sonar, ASW torpedoes, and a helo.  Considering the quantity of ASW versions built, this ship will make it difficult for US submarines to operate inside the first island chain.


While we can’t know, for sure, the Chinese intentions, this appears to be a ship that was designed as a E/S China Sea patrol and ASW vessel and the design appears to be well suited to the purpose.  This is a good example of defining a role (CONOPS) and then designing the ship to fit that role – exactly how ship procurement should happen.  This class can stand as a lesson to US Navy leadership about how to design and build a ship.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

This Is A Carrier Strike Group?

The USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group (CSG) is now operating in the South China Sea, according to Navy reports.(1) 


China considers the South China Sea to be their property and has threatened the US Navy on many occasions and has, in the past, seized US aircraft and unmanned assets.  If there’s a high risk operating area in the world for the US Navy, the South China Sea would be it.  Therefore, if we’re going to operate a CGS within easy range of the entire Chinese military, it’s only prudent to send a massive carrier strike group.  Here’s a list of the many ships of the Reagan CSG:


USS Ronald Reagan (Nimitz class)

USS Shiloh (Ticonderoga class)

USS Halsey (Burke class)


A carrier with two escorts operating in the highest risk area in the world ...  do I need to say anything else?







Monday, June 14, 2021

LCS - How Much Worse Can It Get?

I’ve stated before that the Navy has reached a point where even they quietly acknowledge that the LCS is a complete and total failure.  Consider the evidence: 

  • nothing but an occasional token deployment
  • attempting to early retire 6 ships
  • all but given up on module development and just going through the motions
  • abandoned module swapping
  • given up on minimal manning
  • acknowledged that the maintenance model of using civilian contractors is an abject failure


Now the latest in a string of panels, boards, task forces, reports, investigations, etc. has found more systemic defects.


The Navy has identified almost three dozen upgrades and fixes that are needed for the littoral combat ships to improve their reliability, and has selected a commander to oversee the ship’s improvement efforts. 


“We found…there were about 32 key reliability issues across both variants that were impacting our ability to get underway and meet those fleet commander requirements,” Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, the commander of Naval Surface Forces, told reporters Monday. (1)


What were the problems?


The problems with the Freedom variant are with the combining gear, diesel generator rigid mounts, fuel lines, a water jet upgrade, and boat davit upgrades. The combining gear, which connects the ship’s two engines, had already been determined to be a class-wide defect following propulsion failures with multiple ships. (1)


The Independence-class needs water cylinder replacements, pressure switch replacements, diesel engine replacements, and water jackets on the diesel engines. (1)


Doesn’t this feel like we’re just beating a dead horse?  I mean, how many more ways do we need to describe what a complete and utter failure the LCS program is?  What’s the point? 


With that complete lack of interest in further beating the dead LCS horse, I would like to note what I feel is the most significant aspect of this latest LCS debacle and that is the title of the next guy who’s going to ‘fix’ the LCS:


The study’s data and conclusions guide efforts to improve the ships by Task Force LCS, led by Rear Adm. Robert Nowakowski, the deputy commander of both Navy Recruiting Command and Naval Education and Training Command Force Development. (1)


Deputy commander of Navy Recruiting Command and Naval Education and Training Command Force Development?????  Are you kidding me?  Was the commander of the Navy Footwear Recommendation Board too busy?  Were the Annapolis midshipmen all busy studying for finals?  This is who they had to get?  How much less importance and emphasis can you assign something? 


This tells me, unequivocally, that the Navy has given up on the LCS.  We’re going to see a constant stream of requests to Congress to retire the LCS ships, a few each year until the entire class slowly and quietly disappears.  Although they won’t quite say this publicly, the Navy would like nothing better than to have the LCS fleet fade into the sunset.






(1)Defense One website, “Navy Finds 32 Problems with Littoral Combat Ships”, Caitlin Kenney, 8-Jun-2021,

Wednesday, June 9, 2021


In any opposed amphibious assault scenario, the Marines will be landing light infantry, unsupported by armor, artillery, or naval gunfire.  The enemy will have artillery, rockets, missiles, and mortars.  Unfortunately, and bafflingly, the Marines have no Counter-Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar (C-RAM) capability.  They will be heavily outgunned and with no viable defense.


Even the Commandant’s ridiculous platoon size hidden units would, presumably, require some type of C-RAM defense unless he considers the units to be sacrificial pawns.


Let’s look a bit closer at the C-RAM issue and let’s start by taking a look at some of the available C-RAM systems.


Centurion C-RAM – This is the land, C-RAM version of the Navy’s Phalanx CIWS.  It uses a 20 mm gun firing 4500 rpm and uses M940 ammunition designed to self-destruct beyond 2,000 meters to minimize collateral damage.  The unit requires a 35 ton trailer mount which makes getting a unit ashore during an assault problematic.  Centurion is claimed to have a 70-80% success rate. (1)



Israeli Iron Dome – This is probably the best known and most combat tested C-RAM system although it’s mainly (only?) an anti-rocket defensive system.  I’m unaware of any counter-artillery or counter-mortar capability.  The system uses missiles rather than guns.  Israeli sources claim ridiculously high success rates, up to 90%+.  These claims are highly doubtful and are most likely just public relations claims based on manipulated data.  Nevertheless, the system has had hundreds of successful intercepts. 

Iron Dome


MANTIS – This is a Rheinmetall German Air Force C-RAM system intended for base defense.  The system consists of six 35 mm guns each firing 1000 rpm of AHEAD programmable ammunition and linked to a central control and two sensor units.  As such, the unit is not mobile or portable.



Porcupine - This Oto Melara system typically consists of four firing units, one central control post for target designation and weapon control, and a 3D radar system "track while scan type" for surveillance and target tracking. Each remote firing unit consists of a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling cannon, its ammunition handling system and an infra-red (IR) tracking system.  A single firing unit covers an area of 400x400 meters.



With some understanding, now, of available C-RAM systems, let’s consider some aspects of C-RAMs in an amphibious scenario.  C-RAM systems have many problematic issues in an amphibious assault application, including,


Cost Per Shot – Any system that involves missiles, such as the Iron Dome, is on the losing side of the cost curve.  Mortar and artillery shells are almost free by comparison.  Given that an engagement for a gun-based C-RAM system would involve hundreds of rounds per incoming projectile, the cost for even ‘cheap’ gun rounds quickly adds up.


Short Range – Most systems incorporate guns which are quite limited in range.  The Israeli Iron Dome is notable in its significantly longer range due to the use of missiles instead of guns but that comes with a significant cost and engagement sustainability limit.


Sensors – You can’t shoot down what you can’t see.  All C-RAM systems need to radiate continuously which provides the enemy with the location of the system – well, the sensor portion of the system, at any rate.  C-RAM systems have been developed to deal with terrorist, third world scenarios where the enemy does not have the ability to pinpoint the sensor’s location and destroy it.  A peer opponent would have no trouble locating a continuously radiating sensor and eliminating it.


Saturation – In an opposed landing, it is reasonable to assume a steady and heavy rain of artillery, mortars, and rockets.  This would almost certainly cause oversaturation of any existing C-RAM system.  Imagine the sheer number of shells from just an artillery barrage.  Most C-RAM systems have enough ready ammo to engage only a few targets before requiring reloading.  The susceptibility to saturation is due to the limited magazine depth.  This suggests the need for significant numbers of C-RAM units in order to be effective.


Magazine Depth – All the systems have quite limited ready ammo limitations and reloads look to be difficult and time consuming in the context of an opposed landing where one might reasonably expect a sustained, steady rain of artillery, mortars, and rockets.  This is especially true for missile based systems.  Reloading under active combat conditions is not easy or safe in most systems. 


Mobility/Portability – As indicated in the example systems described above, none of the systems are even remotely portable or mobile within the context of an amphibious assault, meaning that none can be transported ashore during the initial stages of an assault when they would be most needed.  By the time the assault site is secure enough to make transport ashore viable, the need will have passed.





Current C-RAM systems seem to have been designed as static base defense systems intended to deal with occasional, brief attacks rather than sustained combat.  Therefore, none are suitable for use in amphibious assaults or even the Marine’s small, missile shooting units.  Of course, the Marines have publicly stated that they're out of the opposed landing business … and yet they continue to procure ACVs and operate AAVs from amphibious assault ships so ...


The limitations of existing C-RAM systems are blatant and obvious, as discussed above.  Recognition of the limitations leads directly to recognition of the characteristics that an amphibious assault C-RAM system should have. 

  • Mobile (vehicle based)
  • Light weight
  • Long range
  • High volume ready ammo
  • Easy and/or automated reload
  • Extensive magazine capacity
  • Individual sensors as opposed to a central shared sensor so that one destroyed sensor doesn’t incapacitate many ‘shooter’ systems


If we’re going to maintain the fiction of amphibious assault capability then we need an amphibious C-RAM capability to support it.  Of course, with amphibious assault being a fictional capability maybe the C-RAM requirement is moot?