Friday, April 29, 2022

Program Success Trend

It seems like recent naval acquisition programs have been failures and that older programs were more successful.  Is that true or just a vague, incorrect impression?  Just for fun, let’s take a look at the success/failure of various naval weapon system programs over the last several decades and see if there’s a trend.


Below is a table of major programs, their approximate initial dates, and their success rating on a +/- scale.  The table entries are in approximate chronological order from oldest at the top to newest at the bottom.  The success rating is mine, based on the criteria (such as capability, cost, numbers, etc.) discussed throughout this blog.

















The epitome of carrier evolution

A-6 Intruder







Best strike aircraft ever








Best fleet interceptor ever

S-3 Viking







Outstanding in multiple roles








Best ASW ship ever








A step back due to escalating costs and size








… master of none

Los Angeles















Badly compromised design basis

SH-60 Helo







Good but un-optimized for anything

Avenger MCM







Effectiveness limited by lack of numbers








A reasonable success that should have ended decades ago








Solid design that could have been much more








Decent design that’s far too costly








The definition of failure








Unsuited for any relevant requirement; $$$$








Only saving grace is 80 VLS








Unnecessary disaster



The program success trend is painfully clear.  The Navy has not produced a truly successful program since the 1970’s.  That’s a scathing indictment of Navy leadership.


One of the entries that is sure to generate a reaction is the Burke rating.  So many people believe the Burke class is an example of an outstanding ship design and a well run program.  Unfortunately, this is not true.  The initial version of Burkes lacked helo facilities which, for a destroyer tasked with ASW, is unforgivable.  Later, Flt IIa versions were solid, bordering on good, but were woefully lacking in close in weapon defense which, for an AAW ship, is unforgivable.  As the program went on, the Burkes became less and less effective (less effective stealth, insufficient weight/growth margins, limited power, etc.) and are now obsolete and poor value for the money.  The overall program simply cannot be rated as any more than average.  We think it’s good only because our base of comparison is other ship programs that are horrendous.  This also points out the need to assess programs objectively rather than emotionally.


The trend is clear and desperately needs to be changed!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Navy 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan

After ignoring the law for the last few years and not providing Congress with an annual, 30 year shipbuilding plan as mandated in Section 231 of Title 10, United States Code, the Navy has finally delivered a plan to Congress.  The Navy’s blatant and illegal disregard for the law is both appalling and criminal although, disappointingly, no criminal penalties are specified in the legislation.  But, I digress …


Let’s take a look at the plan.


The first thing that jumps out is that the Navy couldn’t even come up with a plan.  Instead, they’ve submitted a group of three alternative shipbuilding paths.  Two are predicated on constant shipbuilding budgets in terms of real growth and one is predicated on substantial real growth.  Apparently, despite taking multiple years to produce this plan, the Navy couldn’t even settle on a single plan.  So, instead of a plan we have nebulous optional paths.  That’s pathetic that our professional warriors couldn’t even map out a shipbuilding plan.  Instead, they’ve opted for options, presumably, so as to avoid having to commit to an actual plan.  There’s no responsibility if there’s no actual plan, is there?  Way to avoid responsibility, Navy.


All three plans share a common first five years (2023-27, the so called Five Year Defense Plan or FYDP period).  Since the out years (beyond the five year FYDP period) are just pure fiction, let’s take a look at the five year FYDP period.





New Construction


Per Table A1-2 in the plan, the FYDP period calls for the construction of 50 new ships (32 combat vessels plus 3 SSBN plus 15 logistics and support vessels).  That’s an average of 10 new vessels per year.  The new construction type breakdown is:


Decommissionings by year:


2023  24

2024  13

2025  13

2026  14

2027  13


Total  77


That's an average of over 15 per year versus the construction rate of 10 per year.

Of the decommissionings, 31 of the 77 will be early retirements.


The retirements include, among others, 2 carriers (Nimitz, Eisenhower), 17 Ticonderoga class Aegis cruisers, 11 LCS (9 Freedom and 2 Independence), the entire remaining Avenger class MCM vessels, 10 of the remaining 11 Whidbey Island and Harper’s Ferry class LSDs which carry the bulk of our LCAC landing craft and well deck capacity, 3 of the 4 SSGNs which are the most potent offensive assets in the Navy, 7 Henry J. Kaiser class T-AO oilers, and assorted other logistic and support ships.


So, over the next five years we’re decommissioning 77 ships and building 50 new ones for a net decrease of 27 ships.  Anyone see a problem, here?




Here’s the Navy vision for unmanned vessels:


… unmanned platforms will achieve 89-149 platforms in FY2045 … [1, p.8]


As you can see, with no proof of concept, the Navy has already committed to a significant portion of the fleet being small, unmanned vessels.



Sealift Capacity


The report cites a current requirement for 85 sealift ships versus a current inventory of 71 ships for a net deficit of 14 ships.  The Navy plans to address the deficit by acquiring 22 used ships for conversion to sealift at a total cost of $1.011B (average $46M per ship).





The plan random paths offered by the Navy paint a clear picture of a Navy that is floundering, unable to even offer a coherent, single plan.  We are retiring, and will continue to retire, ships at twice the rate we’re building new ones.  Worse, the ships we’re shedding are large and powerful and are being numerically replaced by small, nearly defenseless, unmanned vessels.  As we’ve demonstrated in previous posts, the Navy VLS inventory is going to shrink drastically along with a shortfall of submarines.


This so-called 30 year plan is both a joke and a horrifying nightmare demonstration of incompetence on a scale that leads to the inexorable conclusion that our nation’s maritime security is in great danger.






[1]Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2023”, Apr-2022


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

New Comment Mechanism

 The Google Blogger host for this site appears to have changed the comment mechanism and it isn't working, at least not for me.  I'm unable to sign in via my Google account.  Hopefully, they'll correct the problem fairly soon.

If you're having this problem, it is still possible to comment anonymously (sign your name at the bottom of your comment) or use the 'Name/URL' option.  You can enter your name, skip the URL, and hit 'Continue' and it will print your comment with whatever name you enter.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Constellation Class Frigate Cost

The Navy’s Constellation class frigate cost estimates were fraudulent optimistic in the extreme and everyone except the Navy knew that (and the Navy undoubtedly knew it also which is what makes it fraud).  The Navy’s estimate for the entire initial 10 ship contract was $8.7B (2020$ [3]) or $870M per ship.  Unsurprisingly, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate was $12.3B which is 41% higher than the Navy’s.[1]  The CBO report lists the various absurd assumptions that went into the Navy’s lowball estimate and you can read the report if you’re interested in digging into it.  In the meantime, let’s take a quick check and see how the actual costs are shaking out, so far.



From the FY22 Navy budget document [2, Volume 1-217], we get the following Constellation costs:





Total Obligation Authority














Note: FY23 cost is from the FY23 Navy Budget Highlights document



Remember the Navy’s claims that the Constellation cost would drop significantly after the first one?  That’s not happening!  If the Navy’s estimate is to hold, the remaining 6 frigates will have to cost an average of $683M.  Does anyone believe that will happen?  At the moment, it appears that the CBO cost estimate is going to be just about spot on.


Note:  The costs cited above do not include things like post-delivery outfitting, Government Furnished Equipment (GFE), warranty repair costs absorbed by the Navy, phased delivery costs, etc.  The itemized breakdown of what is and isn’t included in the budget is unknown.  The real ship construction cost is much higher but we’ll stick with the ‘official’ costs for now.



Below is the Constellation construction budget breakdown, by the way (numbers rounded to nearest million).[2, Volume 1-219]  For those of you who still believe that ‘steel is cheap and air is free’ and that electronics constitute the major cost of a modern ship, you’ll note the basic hull structure is far and away the major portion of the cost, more than doubling the electronics cost which makes up only 21% of the total.



Constellation Budget Breakdown

Plan Costs



Basic Construction/Conversion



Change Orders






Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical (HM&E)






Other Cost





Just to give you a frame of reference, here’s a list of the type of items that are included in each category as they often do not make sense.  Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical, for example, does not include the hull or most electronics!



Basic hull and superstructure construction



Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar

Aegis Weapon System





Inertial Navigation System


SLQ-25 Nixie

Exterior Communication Systems

Internal Networks


Hull, Mechanical, Electrical

Aircraft Ship Integrated Securing and Traversing System (ASIST)

Internal Communication (IC) Voice

Advanced Flight Deck Lighting System (AFDLS)

Unclassified Video System (UVS)

Interior Wireless Communication System (IWCS)



Mk 41 VLS, 32-cell

Mk 48 Gun Weapon System






So, there you have it.  In a 100% predictable result, the Navy is, once again, ridiculously low on its cost estimate.


When a cost estimate is ridiculously off once, it’s a mistake.

When cost estimates are ridiculously off, every time, for every program, it’s systematic and, possibly, criminal fraud.





[1]Defense News website, “US Navy’s cost estimate for new frigate won’t hold water, predicts government analyst”, David B. Larter, 14-Oct-2020,


[2]Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Estimates, May 2021

[3]CBO, "The Cost of the Navy's New Frigate", Oct 2020