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Surface Forces: SmartShip Hits The High Seas
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December 17, 2008: The US Navy's first "Littoral Combat Ship" (LCS), the USS Freedom (LCS 1), has completed its sea trials, and made its way from Lake Michigan, via a network of narrow locks, to the Atlantic ocean. The ship is now headed for its home port, San Diego. Along the way, it will make a few stops, including one at the Naval Academy in Maryland, to give midshipmen (cadets) a glimpse of where many of them will be working in the next 5-10 years.

Because the trip through the narrow locks was so labor intensive, an additional ten sailors were added to the normal crew of forty. These ten sailors are actually members of the other crew for the Freedom. Getting through the locks resulted in a few thousand dollars in damage from scrapes and bumps. Each LCS has two crews, who replace each other at six month intervals, especially when the ship is overseas.

A crew of forty is pretty small for a ship this size (which, in the past, would have about four times as many sailors). But the LCS is highly automated. Still, the captain of the Freedom decided that officers, including himself, would pitch in with maintenance and housekeeping chores. More so than in larger ships, sailors learn to do other jobs, and work is lot more interesting and less boring. But it can get intense at times, and there are still questions about whether the smaller crew, and all the "smartship" tech can really handle the kind of damage control emergencies that crop up on military ships The trip, via the Panama Canal, to San Diego, is giving the Freedom an opportunity to see how well an LCS operates on a long voyage.

Normally, an LCS would have another 35 crew manning its "mission package". The LCS is designed for a variety of interchangeable modules (e.g., air defense, underwater warfare, special operations, surface attack, etc.), 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. Thus about 40 percent of the ship is empty, with a large cargo hold into which the mission package gear is inserted (and then removed, along with the package crew, when it is no longer assigned to that ship.) Thus the LCS has two crews when underway, the "ship" crew and the mission package crew. The captain of the ship crew is in charge, and the officer commanding the mission package is simply the officer in charge of the largest equipment system on board.

Three years ago, when construction began on LCS 1, it was to displace 2,500 tons, with a full load draft of under ten feet (permitting access to very shallow "green" and even "brown" coastal and riverine waters, where most naval operations have taken place in the past generation. Top speed is expected was to be over 80 kilometers with a range of 6,300 kilometers. The 378 foot long ship still has the range and top speed it was designed for. Basic endurance is 21 days. Thus the Freedom will have to refuel and resupply several times on its way to San Diego.

Built using "smartship" technologies, which greatly reduce personnel requirements, the basic LCS was expected to require a crew of 40 in basic configuration, but will have billeting for about 75 personnel. The sea trials gave the smartship features a workout, which, so far appears to be successful. These sea trials are very important, because the LCS is over budget, behind schedule and, worst of all, an untried new concept.

There are actually two different LCS designs, a semi-planning monohull from        Lockheed-Martin and a trimaran from General Dynamics. LCS 1 was laid down by Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wisconsin, in June of 2005 and was expected to be commissioned in 2007, after months of sea tests in late 2006.

LCS 2 was laid down by General Dynamics in late 2005. These, and LCS 3 and LCS 4, were to be built by Lockheed and General Dynamics, respectively. These were essentially prototypes, and serial procurement was expected to begin this year, after initial design flaws had been worked out. Ultimately, the Navy hoped to have between 50 and 60 LCSs by 2014-18, at a cost of $90 million each.

As it turned out, there were a lot of problems. The USS Freedom ended up costing $500 million, about twice what the first ship in the class was supposed to have cost. Only one of each type of LCS will be built now, and the one that performs the best will become the model for the entire class. LCS 1 ended up displacing 2,900 tons, and most observers in 2005 believed that it would end up closer to 3,000 tons, than 2,500.

 

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HERALD1357    Significant hull bumps and scrapes and the ship had to be overmanned to maike a rather simple canal lock evolution?   12/17/2008 10:15:06 AM
The clue phone is ringing. Somebody pick up and answer the call!
 
Herald

 
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JFKY    Herald...   12/17/2008 10:25:38 AM
Galrahn at "Information Dissemination" was onboard at the time of the incident...I think he shares your concerns for the LCS Program, that for a number of tasks it is under-manned, but that in this incident he simply says, it was a case of a learning curve and an accident, not a manning problem.
 
Bottom-Line: this isn't the clue phone ringing, but anyone who thinks that 40-60 sailors can fight pirates, needs the Clue BAT upside the head.
 
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RockyMTNClimber    Why did that build that thing?   12/17/2008 10:34:29 AM
 
I have never understood why we needed to spend some half billion or so on a ship that couldn't do anything (yeah, I know it was supposed to be a screaming deal at $200 million but hey, our ability to build a ship on budget is another thread isn't it...). It can't do anything until you put it's mission package on it. Which costs how much? Can this thing provide support to landing troops? Can it escort a convoy? Can it make it across the Pacific? Operate in brown water? that makes it a $500 billion anti tank missile target! What could a dozen jihadi's with RPGs do with this thing?
 
It is a weapon system that is looking for a mission, not the other way around IMV.
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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HERALD1357    That makes sense.   12/17/2008 10:50:32 AM

Galrahn at "Information Dissemination" was onboard at the time of the incident...I think he shares your concerns for the LCS Program, that for a number of tasks it is under-manned, but that in this incident he simply says, it was a case of a learning curve and an accident, not a manning problem.

 

Bottom-Line: this isn't the clue phone ringing, but anyone who thinks that 40-60 sailors can fight pirates, needs the Clue BAT upside the head.

 
 
Getting through the locks resulted in a few thousand dollars in damage from scrapes and bumps.
 
Still am worried, though. A hull bump should NOT be significant if it was a minor accident. A few thousand dollars is usually navalese for we busted something that the contractor has to fix.
 
Herald.

 
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JFKY    Rocky...   12/17/2008 11:26:23 AM
First, I am not associated with the LCS Program.  Secondly, I sure am not a naval strategist...but
 
 
It can't do anything until you put it's mission package on it.
Not entirely true as it comes with a 57mm cannon, all the time.
 
 Which costs how much?
Good question....
 
Can this thing provide support to landing troops?
No, but neither can a Virginia Class SSN, and we don't question the need for those, do we?  Neither LCS nor the USS Virginia were designed to support landing troops, so it's not fair to criticize them for that lack.  It's like complaining that your car stinks at pulling water skiers, it's true, but so what?  Arguably with the Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) Module the LCS could support landing troops as it carries the NetFires System in that mode.
 
Can it escort a convoy?
Yes, it can.  It can be equipped with an ASW module, providing a sensor package and a LAMPS bird for ASW.  You can question the value of the sensor package, you can question the lack of an on-board ASW system, no ASW torpedoes, no ASROC, but to answer your question, yes it can.  It CAN escort a convoy.  More importantly it can SWEEP MINES.
 
Can it make it across the Pacific?
Uh, yes, it's doing it now as it transits the Panama Canal, IIRC.  It's not a speed boat, it masses as much as an Oliver Hazard Perry Frigate...it may have many failings, but I don't think a lack of sea-worthiness is one of them.
 
 
Operate in brown water?
Not as much as originally planned that's for certain, but it certainly can operate in Blue/Green/and some Brown Water.
 
 
that makes it a $500 billion anti tank missile target! What could a dozen jihadi's with RPGs do with this thing?
 No, as it can keep up with the Boghammar and evade the Boghammar and use the 57mm cannon on the Boghammar, and that without the ASuW module.  WITH the ASuW module the "Jihadis"  are going to face a speedy, maneuverable, more stable weapons platform than their Boghammar; that can strike tens of kilometres with the NetFires, has 1 57 mm cannon and two 25/30mm cannon on board.  I dread to see the Jihadi Fleet that can mass and swarm that kind of movement and firepower.  In the case of the USS Cole, i.e. a surprise attack they could have 406mm cannon and it wouldn't do them any good.
 It's not the RPG's you ought to be worrying about.  It's the Styx's, the C-801/802's (??) and the attack a/c you ought to be worrying about.  Can an LCS fight and win in the Straits of Malacca or the Persian Gulf against a conventional opponent?  Not a bunch of pirates or Pasdaran in Boghammars.  I believe it can handle the pirates and the Pasdaran, but can it stand up to the Indonesian Navy, or the Philippines Navy, or the Iranian Navy/Air Force without massive outside support?  It has no organic air defense capacity and a limited Anti-Missile capacity in the RAM launcher.  Does the LCS have the fire and staying power to stand up to a conventional sea/air force roughly it's size, you know patrol vessels and corvettes?  I don't know.  I think it should, because if all we're worried about is Boghammars and small boats there are probably more cost-effective solutions than LCS.
 
It's not a Aegis Cruiser or an Arleigh Burke or a CGX, that's for sure, it's not supposed to be.  The question is, is it more or less better than a US Coast Guard cutter or a Icelandic Fisheries Protection vessel, which it SHOULD be?
 
I have never understood why we needed to spend some half billion or so on a ship that couldn't do anything (yeah, I know it was supposed to be a screaming deal at $200 million but hey, our ability to build a ship on budget is another thread isn't it...).
 
That's good point, and the fundamental one.  What do we get for $500 million?  If all we get is vessel marginally more useful than a long-endurance USCG then we probably have been ripped off.  But many of the complaints/questions you raised, are not really relevant...This is the best and final point, that is apart from the more specific questions/concerns you raised.  And I don't know the answer...LCS gives the US Navy one capacity it doesn't have right now, an Active Duty, fast mine sweeping capacity.  Is that worth the $500 million per vessel, plus some other capacities?  I don't know, it's do
 
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JFKY    Herald   12/17/2008 11:30:01 AM
It was very minor, as these things go...it was a few thousand dollars on a $500 million boat..IIRC it was "dings" to a bridge wing  and some bent plating...nothing major.
 
I'm not trying to start an argument, BTW...the LCS got out of line with the tug, IIRC as it moved thru the lock and 3,000 tons of boat decided to brush up against the lock wall...LCS doesn't have bow thrusters...should it? I don't know...
 
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RockyMTNClimber    I'm still questioning the sanity of this ship....   12/17/2008 11:53:37 AM

First, I am not associated with the LCS Program.  Secondly, I sure am not a naval strategist...but


It can't do anything until you put it's mission package on it.

Not entirely true as it comes with a 57mm cannon, all the time.

 Which costs how much?

Good question....

 

Can this thing provide support to landing troops?

No, but neither can a Virginia Class SSN, and we don't question the need for those, do we?  Neither LCS nor the USS Virginia were designed to support landing troops, so it's not fair to criticize them for that lack.  It's like complaining that your car stinks at pulling water skiers, it's true, but so what?  Arguably with the Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) Module the LCS could support landing troops as it carries the NetFires System in that mode.

 

Can it escort a convoy?

Yes, it can.  It can be equipped with an ASW module, providing a sensor package and a LAMPS bird for ASW.  You can question the value of the sensor package, you can question the lack of an on-board ASW system, no ASW torpedoes, no ASROC, but to answer your question, yes it can.  It CAN escort a convoy.  More importantly it can SWEEP MINES.

 

Can it make it across the Pacific?

Uh, yes, it's doing it now as it transits the Panama Canal, IIRC.  It's not a speed boat, it masses as much as an Oliver Hazard Perry Frigate...it may have many failings, but I don't think a lack of sea-worthiness is one of them.

 

 

Operate in brown water?

Not as much as originally planned that's for certain, but it certainly can operate in Blue/Green/and some Brown Water.

 

 

that makes it a $500 billion anti tank missile target! What could a dozen jihadi's with RPGs do with this thing?

 No, as it can keep up with the Boghammar and evade the Boghammar and use the 57mm cannon on the Boghammar, and that without the ASuW module.  WITH the ASuW module the "Jihadis"  are going to face a speedy, maneuverable, more stable weapons platform than their Boghammar; that can strike tens of kilometres with the NetFires, has 1 57 mm cannon and two 25/30mm cannon on board.  I dread to see the Jihadi Fleet that can mass and swarm that kind of movement and firepower.  In the case of the USS Cole, i.e. a surprise attack they could have 406mm cannon and it wouldn't do them any good.

 It's not the RPG's you ought to be worrying about.  It's the Styx's, the C-801/802's (??) and the attack a/c you ought to be worrying about.  Can an LCS fight and win in the Straits of Malacca or the Persian Gulf against a conventional opponent?  Not a bunch of pirates or Pasdaran in Boghammars.  I believe it can handle the pirates and the Pasdaran, but can it stand up to the Indonesian Navy, or the Philippines Navy, or the Iranian Navy/Air Force without massive outside support?  It has no organic air defense capacity and a limited Anti-Missile capacity in the RAM launcher.  Does the LCS have the fire and staying power to stand up to a conventional sea/air force roughly it's size, you know patrol vessels and corvettes?  I don't know.  I think it should, because if all we're worried about is Boghammars and small boats there are probably more cost-effective solutions than LCS.

 

It's not a Aegis Cruiser or an Arleigh Burke or a CGX, that's for sure, it's not supposed to be.  The question is, is it more or less better than a US Coast Guard cutter or a Icelandic Fisheries Protection vessel, which it SHOULD be?

 

I have never understood why we needed to spend some half billion or so on a ship that couldn't do anything (yeah, I know it was supposed to be a screaming deal at $200 million but hey, our ability to build a ship on budget is another thread isn't it...).

 

That's good point, and the fundamental one.  What do we get for $500 million?  If all we get is vessel marginally more useful than a long-endurance USCG then we probably have been ripped o
 
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RockyMTNClimber    The Rocky PT boat   12/17/2008 1:45:01 PM
An alternative for littoral operations, the old fashioned PT boat made from composites. Say about 20-30 meters in length, up armored to handle RPG, MG, and up to 20mm cannon hits. Low observable platform with say a 25-30mm chain gun in a remote controlled turret atop the boat to go along with an assortment of 7.62 mini guns & .50 Caliber remote controlled guns. Anti air Sea Ram missiles or a Phalanx should be okay. It should be able to carry a squad of 8-12 Recon Marines/Seals along with it's high tech crew. Modular operating system that can load a pack of Harpoon missiles for one mission and maybe a automated grenade launcher or mortar system for another mission (how about a navalized HellFire?). Integrated to operate with data from DDGs, FFGs, LHDs, and UAVs. Leave ASW to the Frigates and don't drive frigates into guided anti tank missile range. Turbine powered with jet pumps. Perhaps two versions, one equipped as above and the second using the same basic control-drive system mated to an landing craft front end (enclosed until you land the troops) and able to deploy a platoon of troopers.
 
Send the specs to private contractors and use off the shelf technology.
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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JFKY    Rocky II   12/17/2008 1:49:59 PM
I think your example is rather weak...
1)The LCS is not going to operating within the range of the Kornet very often, or in the range of the T-55 either.
2) The damage from a Kornet is going to be pretty small on a 3,000 ton vessel.
3) Most importantly, your argument is flawed, because it is a Straw man.
   a) If the LCS is operating that close to shore, more than likely it's going to be outfitted with the ASuW Module, Netfires, and 2 25/30mm weapons, a Firescout UAV, plus the 57mm and RAM...
   b) The Firescout provides sensor coverage and warning of the T-55 and possibly the Kornet missile team.
   c) With that warning Netfires destroys the T-55 and the 57mm engages the Kornet teams, RAM back-stops the 57mm against the Kornet.
   d) Lastly, ANY vessel you put up against the T-55 is at a gun disadvantage.  A T-55 is designed to kill TANKS, any combat vessel post-WW II hasn't got the armour to stop a tank round.  It would take a light cruiser or more to achieve that.  So to complain that the LCS is vulnerable to a T-55 is simply to say, ANY naval vessel of shallow enough draft to be in range of a T-55 is in trouble.
The scenario you provide is a very limited one, one that LCS is not likely to encounter very often, is it?  In-shore patrol work doesn't mean within 1,200-4,000 metres of the shore.  It can, but it can also mean something much different. And even within the confines of the scenario yo give, the LCS is not as vulnerable as you portray it.  You have an LCS with only the basic fit and that's not likely either...
 
And neither am I convinced that the LCS is a rip-off of the taxpayer.  At $500 million a copy it very well could be, BUT...LCS-1 and -2 ran afoul of the Navy.  The Navy changed the ship as they built it.  That contributed to the cost over-runs.  IF, they Navy is finished with prototyping on the run for LCS-3/4...LCS-n THEN the cost per vessel will stabilize at something less than $500 million per ship.  Also IF the Navy builds in Flights, adding capacities as they are designed, the cost will be stabilized.  The last Oliver Hazard Perry's from BIW used FEWER man hours to construct than the first, due to learning curves.  IT can happen with the LCS.
 
My concern, such as an unlettered person can have concerns about this, is that the Navy will NOT stop fiddling or will not expect the design to stabilize and the price to decline...that this may not be the correct idea in the first place, Galrahn posits that the IDEA of the LCS is wrong, not the LCS-1 and finally that the LCS is a part of a badly broken Naval Procurement system that can not the Fleet at 300-plus ships on its likely given budget.
 
Bottom-Line: LCS-1 v. T-55 a relatively pointless and minor concern...but the fact that the Navy can to produce a cheap ship design, and can not produce any design that is not vastly over-run and that the Navy has NO designs in the pipeline past the DDG-51, having canceled DDX and CG-X, there is serious concern about the Navy of the future!
 
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RockyMTNClimber    JFKY III   12/17/2008 2:15:30 PM
Respectfully JFKY, you didn't answer any of my concerns about this project. Clearly this ship has been a disaster from a cost development perspective, we can get into more detail there if you wish but the history of the project is very, very bad. The idea that it must be designed to operate in 10 feet of water is silly. As I have noted, if it did operate in shallow waters that are threatened by the enemy it will be very vulnerable. That requirement makes the ship unsuitable for operations in deep water and it lacks the range required of a Frigate. The LCS is neither fish nor fowl. It can't operate in the littorals and it can't operate in the deep blue sea.
 
I think it would be better to operate helicopters from other more suitable platforms and design a specific craft for offensive littoral operations.
 
Check Six
 
Rocky
 
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