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Hagel Will Still Make Final Call on LCS Follow On

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addresses the crew of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS-1) in Singapore on June 2, 2013. US Navy Photo

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addresses the crew of the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS-1) in Singapore on June 2, 2013. US Navy Photo

Despite the announcement of his resignation, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will continue to, “keep his foot on the pedal and moving forward,” in his current role, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

That includes the selection of the way ahead on the follow-on to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) — the Small Surface Combatant (SSC), defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Tuesday.

“The secretary is going to stay at the job and stay at work and continue to do the things that he has been doing the last two years,” Kirby said during the press briefing, according to the Pentagon backed DoD News agency.

“It’s very much for him about, you know, continuing to keep — to keep his foot on the pedal and moving forward.”

Hagel will remain in the position until a successor is confirmed by the Senate — likely not until the new year.

So at least until January, Hagel will continue in his role.

“He’s very much focused on implementing the recommendations and changes that he has accepted from the reforms that we put in place … [and] also working with the groups that he has working on other reform initiatives he has out there,” Kirby said.

For the Navy, the largest acquisition initiative will be the direction on the SSC program.

Since the beginning of the year, the service has been tasked by Hagel to create a 20-ship class to replace the last of the planned 52 Flight 0 LCS.

As of Tuesday, the decision from Hagel was still pending but expected soon, according to defense department sources.

Navy officials told USNI News on Tuesday, Hagel has been briefed but as not made a final decision on the follow-on platform.

In January, the Defense Department issued a memo directing the Navy to examine either an up-gunned variant of either the current Lockheed Martin Freedom or Austal USA Independence LCS hulls (or both), a foreign design or an entirely new ship for the SSC.

Earlier this month Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert said, “the secretary is very close to a decision,” according to an interview in Reuters.
“It was our endeavor to provide an option which would provide a more lethal ship, one that is more survivable, with capabilities that can be back fit, and as much as feasible, not interrupt production.”

Given the brevity of the SSC process and the costs of pursuing a new design — USNI News understands the SSC will be based on one or both of the existing LCS designs. The new version of the ship will likely include a 3D air defense radar, some type of offensive anti-air missile and perhaps an over-the-horizon anti-surface missile — which both Austal and Lockheed have included in offerings for foreign military sales (FMS).

In addition to the LCS decision, Hagel will also continue to work on the so-called U.S. rebalance to the Pacific, Kirby said on Tuesday.

“The secretary has made six trips to the region since he’s been secretary … He has been very, very much a point man on the Asia-Pacific rebalance, securing important agreements with many countries over there for increased U.S. rotational presence,” he said.

  • Nat Kobitz

    ho,ho,ho.

  • Quackers

    Remember the DDE’s? The Navy needs to build ships like them. The DDE’s held up there
    End during the battle of the Atlantic.

  • Jiesheng Li

    Hopefully the future ASuW missile will go to the RN for its Type 26 frigates.

  • CaptainParker

    How about considering a design that IS designed for close-in littoral work, is well-armed and is relatively inexpensive? It is called the Gowind. The French designed it. Yes, the French…and it would save our taxpayers billions while giving the Navy a useful and effective vessel.

  • Secundius

    Why not just build and commission the Ambassador III class Fast Missile/Gun Boats, instead.

  • old guy

    We need an LCS follow on as badly as we need the LCS or any other shipyard welfare program.

    • Curtis Conway

      Amen.

  • Curtis Conway

    “The new version of the ship will likely include a 3D air defense radar, some type of offensive anti-air missile and perhaps an over-the-horizon anti-surface missile”. All the weapons in the world make do difference if the hull is not survivable, and can steam in ANY OCEAN. That is what the LCS cannot do.

    • old guy

      right on

      • Curtis Conway

        Hopefully the 3D radar is a modern non-rotating AESA (9-module AMDR Light or SPY-1F) with all the current capability increases it
        provides over rotating radar, although I would love to see a AN/SPQ-9B as the backup. Probably not going to get a decent 5″ gun.

        Surface to surface is not just Harpoon. We now have the Naval Strike Missile tested July 10 in the Pacific. The hull mounted sonar is significant question.

        Don’t know what that sonar will look like. If it’s on the NSC then probably an SQS-38 style sonar dome paired with a towed variable depth sonar array. Don’t see a bow mounted sonar in our future
        on an NSC hull.

        The Mk41 VLS installation is the biggest question. Will it be able to carry donation SM-6 in strike length cells, or just SM-2/SM-3?
        The ESSM and VLA are a given. If one helo hangar is present then more ESSM cells can go on the waist, leaving the long bow cells for the greater length weapons.

        Which NSC hull will be used? I like the boats aft. This will help in the Littorals and during boarding, search & seizure operations when
        performing escort missions and anti-piracy operations.

        The engineering spaces should look a lot like over US Navy
        combatants. The LM2500 is common. Not sure about the diesels. I’m a gas turbine man, but thing the diesels should be replaced with electric motors with GTGs on board. The GTGs (particularly 501K) provide enough power to power the ship and provide electrical load. Power is also available for Directed Energy Weapons that are just around the corner, and back fit to the platform is not out of the question. By that time larger capacity GTGs will be available in a 501K form factor.

        What ever the new vessel looks like, we will know the ‘tail is wagging the dog’ if either LCS seaframe makes the cut. Money must be spent just to get LSC-1/LCS-2 up to NSC standards (all ocean survivability) and the NSC is less expensive than the cheapest LCS.

  • Curtis Conway

    The End Analysis:

    What we now face in the Small Surface Combatant (SSC) is focusing on the fundamentals instead of the hype. If real capability within the context of an austere budgetary environment is the concern, then we are looking at existing hulls that meet a specific survivabiiity and operational environment (all ocean any weather). Only one of the current hulls in production rise to this standard unmodified, the National Security Cutter (NSC). On LCS small crew size exacerbates the platform’s problems when one must fight the ship. The crew is too small to fight the ship and conduct damage control. This statement presupposes that the ship is survivable in the first place, and evaluation reports at this point state very clearly that is not the case . . . yet. This means it will be a net liability to every formation it ever joins. The LCS’s lack of combat capability and survivability is its Achilles heel.

    According to the Small Surface Combatant Task Force ‘existing designs and component level technologies’ is the name of the game. The National Security Cutter is the only Arctic qualified seaframe at present, and has more room for growth.

    The nail in the coffin for LCS is the fact that an LCS Flt 0 cost more than an NSC straight up before we begin to modify LCS to be more survivable, and putting additional combat power on the hull makes it more expensive, on top of additional hull modifications to contain those modifications. From a dollars and cents point of view, the LCS makes no sense. The NSC is survivable and Arctic capable TODAY. That represents additional survivability costs that must be borne by the LCS program BEFORE they even begin to make these platforms more combat capable.

    Whatever the new vessel looks like, we will know the ‘tail is wagging the dog’ if either LCS seaframe makes the cut. Money must be spent just to get LSC-1/LCS-2 up to NSC standards (all ocean survivability) and the NSC is less expensive than the cheapest LCS, and already has an appropriate crew size, and more room for growth.