Home » News & Analysis » Navy’s Future Frigate Will Be Optimized For Lethality, Survivability; Will Not Retain LCS’s Speed

Navy’s Future Frigate Will Be Optimized For Lethality, Survivability; Will Not Retain LCS’s Speed

Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package Detachment 2 prepare to be hoisted out of the water by the littoral combat ship USS Coronado's (LCS 4) twin-boom-extensible crane following a visit, board, search and seizure training exercise. As the LCS transitions to the frigate, certain design features, like the crane and the back mission bay doors, will be eliminated to save weight for other add-ons like armor and missiles. US Navy photo.

Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package Detachment 2 prepare to be hoisted out of the water by the littoral combat ship USS Coronado’s (LCS 4) twin-boom-extensible crane following a visit, board, search and seizure training exercise. As the LCS transitions to the frigate, certain design features, like the crane and the back mission bay doors, will be eliminated to save weight for other add-ons like armor and missiles. US Navy photo.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Whereas a high sprint speed was a driving factor in designing the Littoral Combat Ship, the follow-on frigate will instead be optimized for lethality and survivability, the Navy’s frigate program manager said Thursday.

As the LCS program transitions to a multimission frigate, the 40-knot sprint speed requirement will go away to allow for more armor, more weapons, an over-the-horizon missile and full-time anti-torpedo protection, Capt. Dan Brintzinghoffer said at an American Society for Naval Engineers event.

This change, he said, is a recognition of simple physics.

“If we don’t change anything [in the hull design] and add a lot of weight, they’re not going to go as fast as they do today,” he said, noting that a total redesign to maintain the high speed is out of the question.
“It’s acknowledging the reality of physics: it’s heavier, it’s not going to go as fast, and it’s no longer a requirement they have to design to.”

Instead, he said the frigate will be more lethal, more survivable, and will be able to conduct surface warfare and ant-submarine warfare simultaneously, whereas the LCS had to choose only one mission package to work with at any given time.

The frigate will take the basic LCS designs – likely keeping both hull variants – and add extra armor. It will have a torpedo decoy, variable depth sonar and multi-function towed array permanently onboard, rather than included in a part-time mission package for LCS; will deploy two 7-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats rather than the 11-meter RHIBs on the LCS surface warfare package; and will retain the Mk 50 30mm guns rather converting to the more common 25mm gun. The ship will be upgunned with a SeaRAM anti-ship missile system, a ship-launched Hellfire missile system and an over-the-horizon surface-to-surface missile system that will be competitively contracted. A common combat system, the Lockheed Martin Combat Management System Component Based Total Ship System – 21st Century (COMBATSS-21), will manage those weapons.

Among the challenges of turning the LCS – which performs either surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare at a time through single-mission packages of equipment – into a multimission ship is command and control. Brintzinghoffer said the combat information center will need more and possibly different consoles to accommodate hunting a submarine and firing a missile at a surface target at the same time, for example.

Brintzinghoffer said he was also given the challenge of reducing lifecycle costs, in addition to creating a multimission ships with greater survivability and lethality.

“One of the ways you do that is by inserting commonality, so where we can … we’re going to make [the two frigate variants] the same, and we’re in the process of going through trade studies to figure out what exactly that means system by system, box by box.”

As a result, Brintzinghoffer said he expects much more government-furnished equipment on the frigates compared to the LCS, where prime contractors Lockheed Martin and Austal USA were given leeway to outfit the ship as they saw fit so long as the final ship design met certain mission-based requirements.

The captain noted, though, that commonality could come in many forms. The two frigate designs may be common with each other to reduce costs for the program, but there are also lifecycle savings opportunities by creating commonality between the LCS and the frigate, or the frigate and other classes of surface combatants.

“The key for us is to strike the balance between the performance of the system, the cost of the system – in some cases we’re going to change to something that’s more expensive, or make a change that costs money in order to save in the long-run – and this is our opportunity to do that.”

Brintzinghoffer told USNI News after his presentation that for each change his office looks to make – whether it is intended to increase capability, create commonality or save money through efficiencies – the program conducts “a cost-based analysis that will tell you if you implement a change and it costs $5, how quickly will you get a return on your investment. And that’s what we’re balancing against, added capability versus when will you get a return on your investment.”

One idea is to use LED lighting instead of fluorescent light bulbs, which Brintzinghoffer said will cost a little more upfront but begin to save money quickly – the Navy won’t have to buy replacement bulbs or store them on ships, and there won’t be any manpower costs associated with changing burnt-out bulbs.

For ideas that change the overall capability of the ship, Brintzinghoffer said he has to get approval from the resource sponsor, the surface warfare directorate on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N96). For changes that do not affect warfighting capability, such as the LED lighting, Brintzinghoffer gets the final say in the cost-benefit analysis.

After the program office completes these studies and finalizes its preliminary design, Brintzinghoffer said during his presentation that he expects to release a request for proposals for ship construction in late calendar year 2017, and the contracts will be awarded in fiscal year 2019. Contracts for the over-the-horizon missile and other pieces of GFE will be handled separately, and he said the Navy does not yet have a timeline for those acquisition projects.

  • John King

    Who’s taking bets that the ship design doesn’t change before its all through? Bet there’ll be a “jumbo-ized” version to lengthen the LCS so it can carry all that stuff. That’s basically what the Navy did with the E/F-18. Looked like the same, but at twice the size, it was substantially upgraded. Nice ploy to get around Congress though.

  • Horn

    If they can make it work, I’d have 10-12 of the current LCS design with the MCM package already loaded (once they figure THAT out). Our lack of modern minesweepers is shocking. Just like our lack of modern hospital ships. With all the humanitarian missions we do, we need modern hospital ships.

    • Curtis Conway

      LPD-17 optimized for that mission?

    • Jim DiGiacomo

      Don’t forget new icebreakers.

      • Curtis Conway

        ICE hardened NSCs built as a frigate.

  • Charles Dragonette

    Increase lethality? Just about anything would. Continue to support two different hulls from two politically powerful contractors – what a surprise!

  • Curtis Conway

    We are looking for details about LETHALITY and he is talking about LED light bulbs.

    • Refguy

      No spares? In addition to “never” burning out, LEDs never break, are not susceptible to shock damage (this is a war ship) and can’t be damaged by voltage spikes?

      • James B.

        LEDs do still have a lifespan, but measured in tens of thousands of hours rather than just a few thousand, and they are much hardier, being solid-state components, than bulbs. That it was even a big deal to switch over says something about the weakness of innovation culture in today’s Navy.

        • Refguy

          And they don’t contain mercury. All of the ones in my house have their own power supplies to convert 110 Volt AC; I don’t know how they respond to voltage spikes. As you say, they’ve been in TVs and high-end cars for so long that using them is hardly innovative.

      • Curtis Conway

        We were touting LEDs for lighting back in the Tico PRECOM days (’80s) . . . and it took HOW LONG for the US Navy to catch on? Touted LEDs in aviation for a long time to reduce power requirements and increase readiness by getting heat generating, and relatively short lived incandescent bulbs, out of the configuration, and it too the USAF HOW LONG to decide LEDs were a good idea? Man . . . your preaching to the choir on LEDS, and we have been saying this for FORTY YEARS . . . and this IS AN EASY ARGUMENT ! !, makes since, saves money, and increases equipment readiness/availability. Most of industry, and the services, don’t want to hear it, until it is FORCED upon them.

        Non-rotating radar, with fewer moving parts, lighter weight, greater MTBF on its parts, and greater sensor capability, particularly on the receive side (ESM?) is still a hard argument to make with surface combatant, and aviation manufacturers. It has become clear what is best for our troops, the budget (e.g., national defense) is NOT THERE CONCERN . . . it’s how much money they can make getting to the goal, and I for one am getting VERY TIRED of it.

        Every system, and element there-in, has capabilities & limitations. Most MIL-STD items take this into its design criteria, and many COTS items are now built to this capability/standard. We just have to verify the capability via testing before qualifying the parts for combat systems (e.g., FOT&E).

        Now if we have some folks out there conducting electrical engineering as a black art like some of the turbine engine manufacturers who forgot ingested sand introduced into an oven (hot section of the turbine) will turn into glass, then we have bigger problems than I thought. All those engineering societies out there will need to disband or go back to school. This is our NATIONAL DEFENSE we are talking about here, not High School Science, Physics, and Chemistry class.

      • vetww2

        SAY, would you like to buy some “infant mortality” LED bulbs, CHEAP? I have 3 dead (after about 100 hours) and 2 that work perfectly, but in a flicker mode.

  • Curtis Conway

    Well . . . at least someone is listening. Not exactly sure what they are hearing. Didn’t see VLS mentioned anywhere. Nothing about a non-rotating 3D sensor. I do hope we see a 127 mm (5″) gun and guided projectiles start going out tubes with rocket assist guidance packages in the next decade across the fleet. Cheaper than missiles, but you still have to have some. Didn’t see mention of Directed Energy, power generation, distribution and storage. I would like to see one platform more ASW centric and the other more AAW centric with both shooting bullets, having that same non-rotating 3D radar, consoles perhaps, GTGs, and the AAW centric loose a helo hanger for more ESSMs (and more). It’s a step in the right direction.

    • Secundius

      @ Curtis Conway.

      The Navy has Ruled-Out Mk. 41 VLS for being Unsafe, which leaves only the Mk. 57 VLS’s…

      • Curtis Conway

        As long as it will hold SM-2, ESSM, ASROC, and SM-6 minus the Mk 72 booster . . . I don’t care. Just get them on the ship, and install the 9-module AN/SPY-6(v) . . . then the ship is survivable, can defend itself and Escort things, and I can live with the US Navy’s new definition of ‘survivability’.

  • Kevin Giltrud


    “A slow ship is a vulnerable ship!”

    • Curtis Conway

      How survivable is a ship with few, or inadequate defenses, against a nation that has modern national assets available for real time targeting regardless of speed? The Chinese have successfully flown hyper-sonic packages. How’s them apples?

  • Hugh

    Fit them with CEA radar (lighter than Aegis).

    Fatigue cracking of the aluminium could be a concern long-term.

    • Curtis Conway

      9-module AMDR is much smaller that the 39-module unit for the destroyers, or a 69-module unit for a BMD ship, yet maintains commonality for training and logistical support.

  • Lazarus

    Additional armor will not make the LCS frigate variant any more survivable. That weight would have been better spent in allowing additional growth, or in more sensors/weapons. What little additional armor might be added will not make the ship any more recoverable if it is hit by a large cruise missile or torpedo. A ship of less than 400 feet in length and less than 3500 tons displacement is only just so survivable.

    The frigate variant will now be most costly. I would expect a unit cost approaching $700 million or more; defeating the whole idea of providing the fleet with a low cost, more numerous low end platform.

  • Mr. Speaker

    Carriers and LCS……………two ships in the Navy that require escorts.

    • Curtis Conway

      HEAR HEAR ! ! !

  • @USS_Fallujah

    If you drop the 40kt speed requirement, but don’t change the engines then what’s the point? So the ship is now heavier so you can’t sprint to 40kts, but if you don’t optimize the engines then all you’re doing is decreasing endurance.

    • James B.

      The LCS has two sets of engines, diesel cruisers and gas turbine sprinters. Hopefully they just plan to remove the turbines.

      • Curtis Conway

        No . . . HED the configuration (replace a diesel with electric motor), make sure the electrical distribution can handle the current, and install Directed Energy . . . on the NSC hull. I can’t help LCS.

    • Secundius

      @ NotRizzo.

      Because your increasing the overall size of the ship by 25%…

      • Lazarus

        And with it the cost. If we were buying the Perry class frigates today they would cost $720 million a copy. Hopefully a modified LCS as frigate will come in at $600 million or less. Leaving off lots of expensive AAW sensors and missiles will help.

        • Curtis Conway

          Unfortunately Lazarus, leaving off AAW sensors and weapons on any surface combatant in an environment where Tactical Ballistic Missiles are at such a proliferated level, and getting worse statistically every day, makes no sense.

          • USNVO

            Look in the mirror. Repeat after me, “I am the problem”.

            The Navy has a hundred or so very expensive AEGIS ships for ABM duties, they don’t need anymore. Thinking every ship had to do everything is how the Navy got into this mess to begin with. If they had stopped making DDGs at 40 or so and bought a non-AEGIS frigate to replace FFGs instead, they would have probably an extra 50 surface ships. Instead, since every ship had to be AEGIS, we end up with the Flt2A DDGs, which although very capable ships, are expensive enough, in people, construction, and upkeep, that they keep numbers low. So we have DDGs doing MIO and chasing pirates instead of DDG jobs.

          • Curtis Conway

            Hey, I have been saying we need Aegis Guided Missile Frigates since I left Active Duty in the 80’s. What does that mean? Does that mean it must have the Lockheed Martin Aegis system on it ? . . . no! It must have sufficient speed to maintain station in the average battle group regardless of mission. It must have a combat system that gives it Situational Awareness, line of sight, and sufficient weapons to deal with that threat, regardless of mission assignment. The FFG-7s did a fine job of holding that job description until they started pulling the Mk13 launchers. Then they sent FFG-7s on missions that they always accomplished in a more permissive environment (at less expense), that if anything, belligerents did not want to rile the US Navy to respond more robustly in their waters. Today, those frigates are finally gone from the US Navy inventory, gone to the breakers, steaming in other navies, or awaiting that opportunity as funding lines up for that purpose.

            The US Navy on the other hand has put all their eggs in one basket (Aegis Cruisers and DDGs) which is the ultimate solution to any surface combat mission including the most recent development represented by Tactical Ballistic Missile proliferation. Any US Navy Combatant anywhere on the planet can now plan on steaming in coastal waters that could be the origin of its demise (TBM attack from truck, train, container ship, etc.).

            Solution? Aegis Guided Missile Frigate. All one needs is a capable non-rotating 3D AESA radar, supported by displays and controls for the combat system (SSDS with additional consoles), and weapons that can do the job at a minimum of three layers deep (outer layer starting at 80 miles [SM-2], medium at 20 miles [ESSM], and minimum at point defense [SeaRAM/DE/MK15 CIWS?]), and WALLA . . . you have your solution. If the platform has a 5″ gun it can employ the guided projectiles of the future at much less cost than a guided missile. If sufficient power generation and distribution is available, then Directed Energy or RailGun may go on board one day. If the hull is Ice Hardened, it can steam in the Arctic for a longer periods that other combatants. At any rate it would look a lot like the National Security Cutter with a Spanish Bazan superstructure, and have a crew of about 140 minus AirDet. This solution has been available for FOR LESS COST than LCS for over a DECADE! AND if we were forward thinking (like on the Ford) generation capacity and facility for the installation of the Directed Energy would already be there. That is my vision. It is a shame NO ONE in positions to make a difference have the same vision.

            We would have replaced the FFG-7s one for one, instead of building a 40+ knot speed boat that cannot seem to accomplish anything except outrun a Chinese ship. One cannot outrun a Chinese Anti-Ship Cruise Missile, and in the LCS’s case has one real shot at defeating that Chinese ASCM with a 25 lb blast fragmentation warhead close aboard. How’s then apples?

      • vetww2

        Is this the same secundius I came to respect, when I was “OLD GUY?”
        Seems to have changed a bit to a navy ‘splainer.

    • USNVO

      Not just that, if you don’t want to go fast, than why use a semi planing hull instead of a displacement hull? Or water jets instead of screws? Why not electric drive so you can used an integrated electrical plant? There were huge compromises, I have seen estimates as high as 25pct of the cost, to achieve ludicrous speed. If you don’t need it, get something better suited.

      • Curtis Conway

        NSC hull with HED propulsion.

        • USNVO

          Well, I would have used something more like a stretched Bear class and just diesel electric drive. While you lose a little efficiency at the high end, it makes arrangement of engineering plant and shafting much easier as well as giving you the ability to export a lot of electrical power if required. That’s a real plus for modular ships. You could even go with Azipods or Zdrives if you wanted.

          • Curtis Conway

            Not a pod fan. Like HED though.

  • Shamus

    Would someone hand me a clean piece of paper…

    • Curtis Conway

      Unfortunately we are out of time, and we needed the ships yesterday.

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        So true not I would have like to see them 5 years ago

  • Lazarus

    I am pleased that the Navy has decided to retain the LCS sea frame hulls for the FF variants. Changing the speed of the ship (and adding more fuel oil storage?), and adding additional armament and sensors sounds reasonable is is perhaps supported by wargame results.

    The additional of armor, however, is really a poor choice in spending valuable weight on a small combatant. Armor was added to the DDG 51 design in the wake of the Falklands conflict, but that larger combatant could support the addition without weakening its armament and sensor fit. The threat was also different, with much more primitive, mostly subsonic cruise missiles. Today’s supersonic ASCM’s that can target specific areas of a ship in their terminal phase of flight make the additional of armor a worthless endeavor. No ship under 10,000 tons displacement is likely to remain operational after one such missile hits. The weight expended in armor would have been better purposed in adding additional fuel oil storage, or weapons/sensors. It could also have been left unused to support later growth.

  • Secundius

    @ Sailboater.

    The 2019, Frigate Contract Requirements are for a Minimum Caliber Deck Gun of a LEAST 3-inch Diameter Bore. The LED Lights are Spectrum Controlled and can be Adjusted for Brightness. You can’t do that with Fluorescent Light Tubes…

    • Refguy

      There are dimmable fluorescents; they’ve been common in auditoriums and conference rooms for at least 20 years. They require a different dimmer than incandescents.

      • Secundius

        @ Refguy.

        I know, but their Spectrum Specific. Even a Slight Variance in the Light Spectrum can be Disorientating at Night, Perception of Distances can be Altered, and a Myriad of other Associated Problems. LED’s can be Computer Controlled to a Specific Light Spectrum. Example: Green Light ranges from 495nm to 570nm in the Light Spectrum, 510nm is the BEST light for the Human Eye. The Human Eye can perceive Green Light, 8 TIMES better than any other Light Source.

        A perfect example of this is, standing on at Flat Road Surface on a Foggy Day. Look to the Horizon, any Red or Amber Traffic Light Transmission up to 10-meters will be seen. Beyond that distance their going to be Blocked or Deflected by the Fog. But Green Light like those of Traffic Lights will “Stand Out like a Sore Thumb”, stretching out to the Horizon…

        • Refguy

          All true. However, white is still best for task lighting as it gives the best color perception (like recognizing the difference between color-coded wires and pipes) and I assume we will still use red lights on the bridge at night. In any event, calling LED lights innovative would be equivalent to calling my house high-tech because I put CFLs in my lamps ten years ago and I replace the CFLs with LEDS when they burn out.
          The foggy day example you give has less to do with the eye and a great deal to do with the absorption of light by water molecules. That’s why blue-green lasers are used for shallow-water mine hunting instead of red ones. The blue-green wave lengths are attenuated less than the longer ones.

  • vetww2

    Our Navy is rapidly moving to Obama’s LA LA LAND. Even my friend Secundius will have trouble sorting out this bunch of idiocy. The FFG-7 has a very well designed hull. The retired ones have much life left and could EASILY be refitted and upgraded. Just look at the Spanish version, (the F81 class). Same design, built well in Spain and quite capable.

    • Secundius

      @ vetww2.

      Requirements call for at least ONE LM2500 Marine-Gas Turbine and Probably TWO MTU 20V Series 8000 M71L Long-Range Diesel Engines with Electric Motor Propulsion System…

  • Stop building them and go with the USCG Ocean Cutter. Make some changes for Naval version and build, build, build. MMCS(SW)(SS) USN Retired

    • Secundius

      @ Ken Badoian.

      Huntington-Ingalls Entry Design is based on the USCG NSC with a displacement of ~4,700-tons…

  • Are the frigates going to have commonality with the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutters? They are about the same size and they plan to build 25.

    • USNVO

      Sadly, if the powers that be hadn’t put a ridiculous speed requirement on LCS in the first place, it would have been a perfect platform to share with the USCG as well as better met the described mission. Displacement hull, 25kts of speed, long range and endurance for patrol missions, all diesel propulsion, two helicopters. A slightly bigger and faster BEAR class. Most importantly, it would have been way cheaper.

      • Secundius

        @ USNVO.

        The Hull and Superstructure of the Ship AS IS might be “Cheaper”, but ANY Accessories required to Actually Be USED on the Ship WON’T BE…

        • USNVO

          No, but let’s look at what you don’t have. No gas turbines, there’s $50 million or so right there. No water jets, you can use regular screws. All steel construction is cheaper, and the since weight is not as critical, it can be more robust. For the required horsepower, you can use diesel-electric drive (maybe even the same motor as on the LHD-8/LHA-6, it’s about the right size) so much simpler construction as well as the potential of having fewer diesel generators if you go to an integrated electrical plant. Sure, the weapons and electronics and such are just as expensive, but knocking 30pct or so off the price is worth a lot. Plus, you are talking well understood equipment, so you should have fewer problems. 40kts plus is fun, but it doesn’t really buy you that much, especially for a ship that is supposed to be an inexpensive patrol ship (maritime security, MIO, Counter-Drug, etc) that can do MCM or ASW when needed.

          The Navy leadership really lost sight of what the LCS was supposed to be and ended up with a ship that is seriously compromised by the requirement to go fast. If you say you need the utility of a pickup, you don’t go looking at sports cars. Too late now, they are stuck with them, but they could have had something a lot better suited to the mission set. As a benefit, no one would have thought they were supposed to be Frigates and the USCG would have had a good starting point for their off-shore patrol cutter.

          • For me a big advantages of the OPC are the relatively high economical long range transit speeds and better seakeeping.

          • USNVO

            Agreed, that is really what the USN needed for LCS. Good strategic mobility and long range and endurance. Which makes sense, since the mission set for LCS is basically an offshore patrol vessel with enough modularity to be a mcm or asw ship when required. I have yet to see what mission requires a 40kt speed that justifies giving up long endurance and greater payload. If the former CNO was correct on payload versus platforms, then they really limited themselves going for something with such little payload fraction. I had the opportunity to talk with the first 4 COs of LCS and besides whining about having to learn how to do mine warfare, none of them could give a rational for high speed. I also heard the mission package program manager celebrate a redesign of the modules that saved a thousand pounds. When that happens on a 3000LT ship, you have problems.

      • The Offshore Patrol Cutters will be much better than the Bear Class. I expect they will be 3,000 tons and 25 knots. Their endurance will be at least 7,500 miles and possible as much as 9,500. They will be able to operate their boats and helicopter in higher sea states than the LCS. They will also be built to higher standards of survivability than the Bear class. We should see the results of the design competition in less than a year.


    You cannot make a silk purse out of a…………..

  • Michael Nunez

    It’s taken too long for Congress , The Pentagon ,and the U.S.Navy finely figure out the LCS is really suited for Coast guard Mission’s and not direct Combat .

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