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Surface Forces: Speed Kills
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May 1, 2008:   The rapid cost escalation of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program largely stems from insistence that the ship have high speed (90 kilometers an hour, which is 50 percent faster than similar size destroyers). This required a huge power plant, and then the navy kept adding and removing other features, while the two shipbuilders were building their prototypes. The LCS was supposed to cost about $200 million per ship. But this rapidly escalated to more than twice that. There were numerous problems, not the least of which trying to keep the LCS (which was originally supposed to be a 1,000 ton ship) small.

 

There are actually two different LCS designs. One is a semi-planning monohull from Lockheed-Martin. The other is a trimaran from General Dynamics. LCS 2 was laid down in late 2005. These are essentially prototypes, and serial procurement was not expected to begin before 2008, when initial design flaws should have been worked out. Ultimately, the Navy hoped to have between 50 and 60 LCSs by the middle of the next decade.

 

The LCS is sort of replacing the 1970s era Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (4,100 ton ships that would cost about $100 million to build today). The big difference between the frigates and LCS is the greater use of automation in the LCS (reducing crew size to 75, versus 176 in the frigates) and larger engines (giving the LCS a speed of about 90 kilometers an hour, versus 50 for the frigates.) The LCS also has a large "cargo hold" designed to hold different "mission packages" of equipment and weapons.

 

The Littoral Combat Ship is, simultaneously, revolutionary, and a throwback. The final LCS design will displace at least 3,000 tons, with a full load draft of under ten feet, permitting access to very shallow coastal waters, as well as rivers. This is where most naval operations have taken place in the past generation. Max range is 2,700 kilometers. Built using commercial "smartship" technologies, which greatly reduce personnel requirements, the LCS is expected to require a crew of about 50 in basic configuration, but will have accommodations for about 75 personnel. The ship is designed for a variety of interchangeable modules, which will allow the ships to be quickly reconfigured for various specialized missions. Crews will also be modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to operate specific modules.

 

The navy is not happy with the performance of American ship builders. Costs are rising sharply, quality is down and the admirals can't get satisfactory answers from the manufacturers. For example, the new class of destroyers, the DDG-1000 class destroyers have also faced ballooning costs, up to as much as $3 billion per ship, as opposed to planned costs of $800 million. The current Arleigh Burke-class destroyers only cost $1 billion each. Part of the problem is mismanagement by the shipbuilders, but a lot of the blame belongs to the navy, and the non-military officials in the Department of Defense, politicians in Congress, who get involved. No one is in charge, no one is responsible, and everyone is surprised that the system doesn't work.

 

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Chuck2007    Solution    5/1/2008 2:17:05 PM
Is there any surprise at this, the LCS was suppose to be smaller and more capabile in steps the navy desire to all things on the ship, the shipmaker doesn't have managers or worker who know what they are doing,  A solution look elsewhere, how about the European nations that are building smaller and dependable ships that can meet the needs of the navy, but wait congress can't allow that? why shouldn't we look for the best price and solution for the problem rather than make the problem bigger and worst. But congress doesn't care $1,0 billion here $2.0 Billion here its only play money. Lets get real, solution is the only thing that matters.
 
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B.Smitty       5/1/2008 2:41:15 PM
Do we want to be beholden to a foreign country for our warfighting capability?  What if Spain or France or whomever we buy from decides they don't like our policies? 

I think strategically, we need to build the systems here, even if it costs more. 

 
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Photon       5/1/2008 3:19:34 PM
Probably better to jolt the Navy and American shipbuilders now:  Offer shipbuilding contracts to foreigners at the expense of Americans.  Basically tell these bastards ... 'Look, pals!  Straightened out your asses, or both of you'll get a smaller slice of the pie.  Do you understand?'  In addition, shake up the Navy and sack bureaucrats who wank too much money and time tinkering around designs and ballooning up ship costs.  Perhaps sentence some of them to life imprisonment and have them rot in a dismal prison somewhere and never to be heard from again.
 
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sjdoc    Break the cycle   5/1/2008 9:36:47 PM
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The American shipbuilding firms with which the Navy is justifiably unsatisfied are longstanding defense contractors (most of which have consolidated, bringing together their longstanding "relationships" with both DoD bureaucrats and Capitol Hill influence types).
 
They are "invested" (and that's the precise term to use) in government circles so heavily that they can command Department of the Navy budgeting to the detriment of Navy planning and operations.
 
One solution seems to be the allocation of such work to manufacturers outside the sort of "special relationship" in which companies like Lockheed-Martin and General Dynamics are entrenched so cancerously.
 
Capital investment, engineering expertise, and qualified labor are available on the American market, especially in light of the current and anticipated continuing recession. There are shipyards, manufacturing plants, machine tools, and men sitting idle who could be brought into operation in a few years to get these and other ships to completion and into commission if the political obstructionism of the major DoD trough-suckers can be sidestepped.
 
Who has the guts to get this done?
 
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Photon       5/2/2008 3:19:57 AM


Who has the guts to get this done?


I think you hit the money on this thread!

The problem is that, in general, the last thing any deeply-consolidated organization wants is to face changes in a meaningful sense.  (Although they are quite capable of making 'motions' of changes.)  I may sound rather cynical, but, for the most part, this has been one of the 'constants' throughout the known human history.  After all, once you have been deeply-consolidated, would it not be better, insofar as your immediate self-interest is concerned, to keep 'business as usual' and not churn out winds?
 
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historynut       5/2/2008 12:48:16 PM
They are two problems.
The smaller one is the shipmakers, they underbid and because they don't have the money do a bad job of building the ships.
The big problem is Congress, Defense Dept. and the Navy. They keep changeing the design. That costs money. It's like building a house. You ask for a one story house, they start building, then you change the design to a two story house. You add things, you take things out soon that $400,000 is a $1,000,000 house.  
I used to work for an aircraft company. The US and another country bought the same plane. Same number of plane delivered at the same time. The US planes cost a lot more. Why? Because the US keep changeing the design. It costs money to change the design, it costs money to redo parts or make all new parts, it takes money to take equipment out and replace it with other equipment.
You want to keep the cost down. Decide on a design then build it.
 
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Charles99       5/3/2008 4:32:54 AM
I myself am wondering at the speed requirement.  Yes, it's in the category of "that'd be nice to have", but we're many years past the day when warships will have to catch up to the mauraduing German Commerce raider and sink her with gunfire and torpedo runs.  If a boat is moving too fast for you to catch, you deploy your own speed boats or more likely a helicopter-- and if it refuses to stop, no speed boat ever built can outrun an SSM.
  So what is the justification for the very high speed?

 
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sjdoc       5/3/2008 8:56:57 AM
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Asks Charles99:
 
"So what is the justification for the very high speed?" ...demanded of the new classes of LCS combatants.
 
First, there's an operational ("in-theatre") force multiplication effect in the ability to make high sustained speed runs with elements like the LCS.  The ability to "scoot" from one end of the Persian Gulf to the other means that a suitably equipped LCS can secure a wider area against the threats for which it's configured.
 
Second, there's a similar strategic (global) force multiplier intrinsic to an LCS that can sustain high-speed movement from one sea area to another.
 
Since this never-to-be-ended "War on Terrorism" puts the U.S. military into a perpetual "We're the cops of the world!" situation (go down to the cemetary and you can hear the whirring noise as Smedley Butler spins in his grave), consider the difference between a police officer on foot patrol and one in a cruiser.
 
The beat cop can't patrol a very wide area, or respond quickly to something happening at the other end of his assigned area.  "Adam-12," on the other hand, can get around quickly, and can arrive with quite a bit of gear in the bargain.
 
The LCS is being acquired to provide the Navy's version of the police prowl car, a surface warfare platform that can get around quickly, undertake operations flexibly, and aid in the coordination of "Big Navy" intervention - in the narrow, shallow waters where deep-water fleet units are at prohibitive liability.
 
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B.Smitty       5/3/2008 11:05:45 AM

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Asks Charles99:

 

"So what is the justification for the very high speed?" ...demanded of the new classes of LCS combatants.

 

The LCS is being acquired to provide the Navy's version of the police prowl car, a surface warfare platform that can get around quickly, undertake operations flexibly, and aid in the coordination of "Big Navy" intervention - in the narrow, shallow waters where deep-water fleet units are at prohibitive liability.





But do we need "prowl cars" or just plain, old, police cruisers in the form of cheaper corvettes, frigates and cutters? 

Even the most aggressive police forces have many police cruisers for each prowl car in their inventory.  Why buy all prowl cars? 

Personally, I think one of the two LCS hulls should've been a more traditional corvette/frigate design - both to reduce program risk, and to add an endurance and payload capacity balance to the LCS fleet.



 
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USN-MID       5/3/2008 5:35:12 PM




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Asks Charles99:



 



"So what is the justification for the very high speed?" ...demanded of the new classes of LCS combatants.



 



The LCS is being acquired to provide the Navy's version of the police prowl car, a surface warfare platform that can get around quickly, undertake operations flexibly, and aid in the coordination of "Big Navy" intervention - in the narrow, shallow waters where deep-water fleet units are at prohibitive liability.









But do we need "prowl cars" or just plain, old, police cruisers in the form of cheaper corvettes, frigates and cutters? 

Even the most aggressive police forces have many police cruisers for each prowl car in their inventory.  Why buy all prowl cars? 

Personally, I think one of the two LCS hulls should've been a more traditional corvette/frigate design - both to reduce program risk, and to add an endurance and payload capacity balance to the LCS fleet.




I don't agree with the article.
 
Speed offers us a lot for a number of the missions the LCS can be expected to perform.
 
First off, it'll be performing littoral operations...that means relatively low sea states, where low draft and high speed vessels perform well. The hull's designed around littoral operations...simple as that.
 
Second, it'll be performing LITTORAL ASW. That means knifefighting with small quiet coastal submarines. Not fun if you're a fat DDG that's worried about going fast...and running aground due to squat at high speeds. When a torpedo gets shot at you, evasive maneuvers require SPEED and MANEUVERABILITY.
 
Third, Mine Warfare. Speed isn't essential or even desirable here...but the LCS is sure as hell more survivable than the MCMs we currently have.
 
Fourth, Surface Warfare. This ship isn't expected to duel enemy cruisers. In fact, it really shouldn't be engaged by enemy aircraft or missiles either. Stealth will help it blend in to typical coastal traffic, something a conventional frig/corvette wouldn't do nearly as well. Combine that with speed to give it the ability to effectively out maneuver enemy craft like Boghammers.
This also extends to MIO work...a fast ship will be better able to respond to suspect vessels, and of course that response time is essential if they're running for territorial waters.
 
More there, but that's the key points.
 
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