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House Panel to Hold Hearings on Navy Cruiser and Destroyer Modernization

A Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) Block 1B interceptor is launched from the USS LAKE ERIE (CG-70) in 2013. Missile Defense Agency Photo

A Standard Missile – 3 (SM-3) Block 1B interceptor is launched from the USS LAKE ERIE (CG-70) in 2013. Missile Defense Agency Photo

Legislators are planning to hold hearings based on concerns over the Navy’s scheme to modernize its cruiser and destroyer fleet, according to a statement from the chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee provided to USNI News. 

The planned hearings follow some legislator objections to the Navy’s plan to lay up half of the 22 Ticonderoga-class cruisers and a separate plan that scales down upgrades to more than a quarter of Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers (DDG-51) due to budget pressure.

“I am concerned by the Navy’s plan for the modernization of large surface combatants, including both cruisers and destroyers,” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said in the statement to USNI News.
“At a time of rising threats around the world and increasing demands on our Navy, it is essential that such vital platforms receive the necessary modernization to support U.S. national security in the decades to come.”

How the Navy modernizes its surface forces has become a hot button issue between the service and some members of Congress. The Navy has said it needs flexibility in how it upgrades its ships to provide the maximum level of effective firepower. Legislators say that not taking care of older ships first leave them targets of early decommissioning.

The House Appropriations Committee (HAC) said as much in its report on its version of the defense appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015 regarding the Ticonderoga decommissioning.

“The Committee is concerned that this long term lay up will lead to decommissioning of some or all of these cruisers in the near future,” read the report.

On the destroyer front, Navy wants to move up the schedule for the mid-life upgrades of its newer Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers and modify a restriction in the Fiscal Year 2014 defense bill that requires the service to upgrade its ships in order, Navy officials told USNI News.

The service’s 62 ships in the class were planned to receive an upgrade that would have modernized each ship’s Aegis weapon system’s ability to track and defeat ballistic missiles and fight planes and cruise missiles as part of the Navy’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) plan.

However, the Navy decided to reduce the scope of the upgrades to 21 Flight I and II ships and now wants to upgrade the later Flight IIA ships than the law allows.

“Jumping to the IIAs solves all of those problems in a stroke,” a Navy official told USNI News earlier this month.
“By getting to those IIAs earlier you increase the BMD capacity profoundly and you also get at the modernization closer to the midlife of those ships while still recognizing that we need to do the full HM&E modernization to all the ships to get them to their expected service life.”

The hearings are tentatively scheduled for mid-July, according to Forbes’ office.

  • Secundius

    Are you crazy or what? The TICONDEROGA class Aegis, Guided-Missile Cruiser hull design is 40+ years old. Replace it, don’t rebuild it. Crews in the CIC get sea-sick, everytime the ship has make Emergency Maneuver Turns. It would have been better to keep the old CALIFORNIA class Nuclear-Powered, Guided-Missile Cruiser and equipped it with the Aegis System. And anybody just looking at it, would probably agree. It looks like a Worn-Out Hull Cruiser. For God-Sakes REPLACE-IT. Stretch the hulls and broaden the beam of the AREIGH BURKE class Destroyer or the ZUMWALT class Destroyer, and make cruiser’s out of them if you have too. You would literally have to gut the ship, and rebuild it from the keel up, just to keep modern. It’s not worth the Time and Expenditure. It would be cheaper just to replace-it.

    • Rob C.

      I agree, the Cobgress should have approved the CGX program. They were going fix the Hull form that many caused problems. Its just plain stupid by looking so closely at the budge, nothing get design. Only ways to convince the US Congress to approve anything is because its a existing design, even if being remodel. The Navy barely has enough money to some of the upgrades for the Ballistic Defense. I wish they open their eyes, we need new platforms and less arguing. Zumwalt would been less costly once it got into production. Sticker shock is always going to happen.

      • Art Bralick

        Much of the modernization costs could be mitigated by utilizing the same computer 3-d design program developed for the Virginia Class subs. It would take the guess work out of the design and eliminate snafus that always seem to be found in a new ship.

  • Modurnicus

    Note: Please disregard previous post as it was an accidentally submitted draft

    These hearings are very important. We cannot afford to let the defense establishment have its way by continuing its cynical policy of grossly under maintaining warships and then throwing up their collective hands and saying “oh gosh” these ships are so poorly maintained it just makes more sense to retire them
    and then destroy them in meaningless SINKEX exercises, (that’s how they made
    sure the Spru-Cans would never ever be a candidate for reactivation). BTW: What happened to our reserve fleet?

    The fact is that with proper maintenance and normal life cycle upgrades the older Burkes and Ticos are more than capable of performing their duties and are a far more cost effective alternative than replacing them with Flight IIa Burkes at over $2 billion each.

    Yes, the Ticos are showing their age, and if the Navy had not been wasting countless 10’s of billions of dollars on ships like the Zumwalt and the LCS, replacing them might make sense, but in this time of budget cuts retiring them will ultimately mean a smaller less capable fleet, i.e. we will not get a one-for-one replacement in the near future

    Sure with their wider less fuel efficient hulls the Flight II Arleigh Burkes are more comfortable ships, but they are significantly less fuel efficient and have a significantly smaller operating range and in some areas are not as capable as a fully modernized TICO.

    Even if one factors in expensive modernizations and higher operating costs, one can still operate a Tico for decades and still come out ahead on cost versus buying and equipping a new Burke for over $2B.

    More specifically, the argument that the new Burkes will cost less to operate as a rationale for retiring the older ships is a bogus one. A Flight iia Burke may cost $10 to $15 million or so per year less to operate, but given its $2 billion dollar plus cost it is still far more cost effective to modernize the longer-legged Ticos.

    Just as was the case with Spru-Cans, this is is not about maintaining maximum firepower and capability, because if it was we could have a larger more capable fleet today that includes modernized and highly capable Spruances, instead it is about maximizing the flow of money to defense contractors and their future employees who see maintenance costs and personnel costs as as ongoing drain that could be better spent on new ships with tiny crews too small to do the job for a real warship. (automated damage control – what a joke!)

    The defense industry successfully influenced the Navy to prematurely retire the Spruances and then with unprecedented speed the Navy managed to get the OK from the EPA to destroy the Spruances via SINKEX exercises. The destruction of the Spruances is an egregious violation of public trust for which someone should be held accountable.

    Now the defense industry want to do the same thing with the TICOs.

    This is clearly not about saving money or increasing capabilities. The fastest route to re-buildiing fleet strength is modernizing the older AB’s and Ticos while building the right mix of new ships which should include true low cost littoral attack craft as advocated by Captain Wayne P Hughes and other credible Naval tacticians and strategists..

    Adding a dozen or so highly capable and relatively inexpensive Diesel Electric Subs would also make sense,

  • Secundius

    No matter what we build, it going to cost MONEY. No matter what we update?, it is going to cost MONEY. And as far as Diesel Subs, the Navy doesn’t want them. They want NUKE’s.

    • Phoenix1787

      Regarding Diesel Electric subs Yes they are extremely unpopular for a number of reasons:
      1) As opposed to $2 billion for an Arleigh Burke or $2.7 billion for a Virginia class nuclear sub, lethal extremely quiet Diesel Electric subs can be purchased for $500 million a pop for an Air Independent sub that stay submerged for weeks on end.
      2) Too much accountability and actual competition. Building diesel electric subs would mean they can be directly compared to excellent designs from Sweden, Germany, Russia etc. as opposed to Nuclear subs which are much more proprietary and for which there is no competition.
      3) Too much capability for too little money.
      4) Would actually be a cost effective deterrent to Chinese adventurism.
      5) Ultimately they make just too much sense.

      • Art Bralick

        Military Force upgrades, be it Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines, have always been subject to the top echelon’s pet project syndrome. Someone in the Brass fixates on a design or entire weapons platform and is closeminded to anything else and will not listen to reason. Maybe their buddy would lose money, maybe they would, maybe their nephew’s company wouldn’t get a piece of the contract…that’s all speculation but when there’s no truely independant evaluation of the need and effectiveness versus initial cost and future maintenence costs, well we rarely get the ‘best’ available. Just my 2 cents.

  • Curtis Conway

    Losing the Double Enders at this point in time is a mistake. Replacements will not be with us for decades. Unfortunately that’s Reality. Losing the DDG-51 upgrades to BMD capability will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of our forces in the near term. Proliferation of ballistic missiles is a Current REALITY, regardless if people want to recognize it or not. At least Theater Ballistic Missile Defense capability is needed for all formations at sea just to be safe, forget be combat effective. Losing the Cruisers is a mistake. No comparably capable replacement is even on the drawing board save the stretch DDG-51. The DDG-1000 cannot perform all the CG-47 missions.

    The cost between replacement over upgrade is more that just significant. We can’t afford the upgrades. Replacement is several times more expensive. THAT is reality as well. So . . . folks must get real, and we must stay safe. I don’t gamble. NOT today!

  • Secundius

    I agree. But, at some point in time their going too have to be replaced
    Start drafting up new designs NOW, not LATER! There might not be a LATER at this rate.

  • Secundius

    The GOP congress want’s the Cheap-Fix approach with the US Navy. It’s going to be Expensive no matter what, they Thing, Say or Do.