Home » Budget Industry » Navy: LX(R) Will Be Cheaper, More Capable Thanks To Using San Antonio LPD Design As Starting Point

Navy: LX(R) Will Be Cheaper, More Capable Thanks To Using San Antonio LPD Design As Starting Point

USS Arlington (LPD-24) under construction at Ingalls Shipbuilding. Huntington Ingalls Industries Photo

USS Arlington (LPD-24) under construction at Ingalls Shipbuilding. Huntington Ingalls Industries Photo

The Navy and Marine Corps were able to design an LX(R) dock landing ship replacement with greater capability for less money by starting with the higher-end San Antonio-class LPD-17 design, stripping away unneeded features and adding back in desired ones, service officials said last week.

The Navy is still working through the process, having approved the capability design document – which includes key performance parameters and key system attributes – three weeks ago and forwarded it to the Joint Staff for approval, Marianne Lyons, deputy program manager for LPD and LX(R), said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Portsmouth, Va., last week.

The program is in the preliminary design phase now, she said, and will move to contract design in the spring and then detail design and construction in Fiscal Year 2020.

“We are working on sort of the rough arrangement of equipment,” she said, noting the Navy is working with both LPD contractor Ingalls Industries as well as General Dynamics NASSCO during the design process.
“We’re redesigning the topside – as I mentioned, we’re going from an [Advanced Enclosed Mast/Sensors] mast to a conventional stick mast. We are also incorporating all the affordability initiatives that we are receiving from industry. So when we transition out of preliminary design, which we’re looking to do sometime in the spring, transition into contract design. So contract design is where we focus on development of ship specifications … when you take the rough design information and actually start to move from system schematics to a more detailed running of piping systems, for instance. What we are trying to do is take it down to the next level to validate that we can meet the cost and inform the ship specification that will eventually go into the request for proposal to support a bid for detail design and construction.”

Capt. Bryon Johnson, head of the amphibious warfare branch in the expeditionary warfare directorate (OPNAV N953), said at the same conference that his office is still working through descoping the LPD design and deciding how much capability to add back in, but he praised the process the Navy had chosen.

When the Navy first started thinking about an LSD replacement, “there was a lot of effort to try to gold-plate the ship. We wanted it to do everything,” Johnson said.
“We wanted it to be able to carry six connectors, surface connectors, we wanted it to be able to carry a greater number of Marine Corps aircraft to support vertical takeoff capability. And once we started adding all of that up, we realized very rapidly that there was no way that we’d be able to afford essentially what was going to be a new start ship design to replace our LSD 41/49 class.”

By starting with an existing ship design and avoiding the extensive engineering cost of beginning with a clean sheet, the Navy saved “enough cost that we were actually able to take that money … and reinvest it into the platform” in the form of additional capabilities today’s LSDs don’t have, such as command and control to support split and disaggregated operations.

Johnson said the program had to stay within a cost cap but said he was confident the first ship would stay within the cost cap and deliver on time.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, who served as director of expeditionary warfare (OPNAV N95) until July, said at a Marine Corps Association event last month that, in fact, the Navy and Marine Corps had far surpassed cost-reduction goals while descoping the LPD design.

“We drove that to a cost cap that was given to us by [the chief of naval operations], and we, with our industry partners, with [Naval Sea Systems Command], drove in the right requirements. And we got the most we could possibly get out of that ship, and it almost looks like an LPD-17, and we got it well under the cost cap,” he said.

Current N95 Maj. Gen. Chris Owens said the approach is “attractive to [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] and it’s attractive on Capitol Hill” due to its efficiency. Ultimately, he said, it will “give us a bigger ship, greater capability, not only in size and capacity but also in things like aviation capability, the medical capability and perhaps most importantly in this day and age of split and disaggregated operations the command and control capability that the LSDs lack. And we can only do that because the LPD-17 program is a proven one.”

Among the capabilities stripped out of the LPD design is the four-connector well deck, which is reduced to size to two connectors, and the radar cross section-reducing Advanced Enclosed Mast Lyons mentioned. The change from the enclosed mast to a traditional stick mast, however, is due to changes in the industrial base. Huntington Ingalls Industries owned a Gulfport Composite Center of Excellence in Mississippi that produced composite materials for shipbuilding, but the company announced it would close the center in 2013 due to a reduction in the DDG-1000 destroyer program. The last LPD in the class, LPD-28, will move to a stick mast, which will carry into the LX(R) program.

Lyons said the Navy is also working with industry and with the LHA amphibious assault ship program to find ways to create commonality between the big decks and the LPD-28 and LX(R) programs, as well as move to less expensive commercial technologies where possible.

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  • BudgetGeek

    The three worst performing ship classes, in terms of cost growth, in the last half century have been the LCS, DDG-1000, and LPD-17. (See the recently published CBO analysis of the 30-year shipbuilding plan). Saying a ship will be “cheaper” because it is based on a prior failure is not saying a whole lot. I would like to believe the Navy has learned from prior mistakes, but the pattern of wildly optimistic assumptions is undeniable. Please prove me wrong.

    • vetww2

      Absolutely brilliant, concise and coherent analysis of the situation. The ships identified epitomize the Navy’s descent into a politician-driven shipyard welfare program. The 3 classes identified are over-priced, over-turnig and over-bloated, respectively. Addressing, the last monstrosity. It is incapable of handling continuous flow loading of LCACs and future hovercraft. These will make up the major vehicles for logistic and troop landings, The DD1000, capsized during turning tests at NSRDC. The LCS (both versions) are NOT combat ships. Fortunately they have a high speed capability to run away from a fight.

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  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    Many of the articles on the San Antonio clas LPD seems to point to the use computer design software. A software System that was faulty from the start. Sad the drafting board and the slide rule were not used as backup. I did time on Austin class LPD’s. Never care for the small boat launching system using the boat and aircraft crane. Wish we had Davits instead. One thing about Davits that in a pinch you could hand crank the boat clear of the skids and use gravity the rest of the way. Watching the 2012 documerty on the USS New York, lots of hi tech gizmos nut the interview with the ships Captain, First Lt and Bosn shows that seamanship continues to a foundation the navy will always need. Maybe that is why sailing is still taught at the Naval Academy and NROTC. When I was a newly promoted BM3. Our Bosn took us out (pretty officers and coxswain) sailing. made us Better boat coxswain a and shipmates

    • John B. Morgen

      I remember those days of the drafting tables, drafting machines or the T-squares; plus, slide rules. Of course, I must not forget about the drafting scales, but now CADD has taken away all that fun away.

    • John B. Morgen

      The Navy needs a couple of [Tall Sailing Ships] for training, just like some European navies still have in their navies. By the way, I am [not] referring to yawls or brigs. I am referring to [wind-jamers] size hulls.

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        Sounds like a good plan, 2 on each coast, 3 in gulf of mexico and with chain guns to assist in interdictions

        • John B. Morgen

          I was thinking more about having sailing ships for training the Navy’s future. However, your [Sailboater] adjunct idea is also good.

      • Secundius

        @ John B. Morgen.

        Technically, they DO. Sort Of? USCGS Eagle and USS Constitution…

        • disqus_zommBwspv9

          Eagle was a WW one war prize and old Ironsides is a museum piece

          • Secundius

            @ Sailboater.

            Regardless, both Ship’s do Sail Training “Midshipman’s” for either the US Coast Guard Academy or the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. Though, the US Navy uses Smaller Sailing Crafts for Sail Training. But on Special Occasions, USS Constitution has been used. Officially, the Annapolis Naval Academy discontinued Sail Training in 1920. Though it’s STILL Practiced…

          • disqus_zommBwspv9

            they use the 44’s but think about it. maritime interdiction against drugs into the States. 4 to 6 Brigs (200 feet) , with RAMs, chain guns, machine guns and 4 ribs, a big diesel to push them along at 25knots when needed, (sails furled) and a crew of a 100 (includling Marines) could stay on station for weeks on end with no refueling. Just tacking back and fort in a Ramdon pattern.

        • John B. Morgen

          The USCGS Eagle is the better example than the USS Constitution, the Navy needs something like the Eagle. The Constitution is not a sailing training ship, but a museum ship; however, the Constitution does go out to sea once a year or two—under tow.

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        4 or 5 masted windjammers 400 ft which during the early 20th century were run with crews no larger than 50 men. Say 4 of them say 2 on each coast with wire sheets on control winches instead of fiber line. And a half dozen 3 masted barks all equipment with chain guns and other armament, fast ribs. Those brigs with a crew of a 100 including assault troops could stay on station doing drug interdiction in the Caribbean for months on end and use very little fuel. Pipe dream of course. The navy would never consisted something as environmental friendly as sailing windjammers and brigs, barks, etc.

        • John B. Morgen

          I agree. A shame though the Navy doesn’t know what it is missing. Sailing ships like wind-jammers are the heart of naval history….

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  • John B. Morgen

    The new LPD design should be mounted with one or two 155 mm guns for fire support; plus, the four-point CIWS system for defense against aircraft and missiles. More CIWS systems the better.
    If the Navy is more concern about building cheaper hulls, then the Navy should start building smaller aircraft carriers like the British or the French; even smaller carriers like the Italians or the Japanese since the USMC has picked the F-35B. Maybe the Navy should start adopting European size frigates [corvettes] if costs are the factor of running the Department of Navy; and same for submarine construction—build no more expensive nuclear powered submarines, instead adopt German engineering designs but build them slightly larger than NATO’s counter-parts. Our Navy can save $billions but it has to stop “gold-plating” everything……

    • Secundius

      @ John B. Morgen.

      Already Thought Of, FUND’S were approved. SEQUESTER, Killed the Project…

      • John B. Morgen

        The [Sequester] is going to reduce the number of newer hulls, as well the existing hulls in the Fleet. The Sequester was a very bad idea. What were they thinking on Hill?

        • Secundius

          @ John B. Morgen.

          In all FAIRNESS the “Sequester”, origin dates back to 1 August 1985. As the BBEDCA Title II of Public Law 99-177 or the Balance Budget & Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1 August 1985 (aka, The “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings” Balance Budget Act), ratified into law by President Ronald Reagan in 12 December 1985. The current Sequester is just an extension of that Act…

          • John B. Morgen

            As I recalled, nothing really came of it during President Reagan’s two terms; especially, during his massive military build-up. The original Sequester did nothing, until now during President Obama’s administration. Things do get overlook on the Hill, if the [Powers That Be] really want something—very badly.

          • Secundius

            @ John B. Morgen.

            The (Sequester), is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. Which Automatically went into effect 1 January 2013. This is JUST a “Cables Length or Long-Line” of Sequester Amendments that dates back to the Original in 1985. It takes 290-Vote’s from the House and 67-Votes from the Senate to ELIMINATE the Sequester. But, I Don’t See It Happening Any Time Soon…

          • John B. Morgen

            Both the President and the Congress need to end the Sequester due to the recent political-military events that will affect our national interests. However, you [Secundius] could be right that nothing will be done.

          • John B. Morgen

            Due to the recent terrorist attack in Paris, France by ISIS, perhaps the White House and Congress needs to review and remove the Sequester from the books. Fighting and defeating ISIS is going require alot more funding because ISIS is a much different animal to defeat than fighting Al Qaeda.

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        Ssequester no more

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