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Navy Establishes LCS Review Team To Look At Manning, Operations As Fleet Grows

The future Sioux City (LCS-11) at its christening and launch ceremony on Jan. 30, 2016. Lockheed Martin photo.

The future Sioux City (LCS-11) at its christening and launch ceremony on Jan. 30, 2016. Lockheed Martin photo.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and acquisition chief Sean Stackley created a Littoral Combat Ship Review Team to help guide the program as the LCS fleet grows rapidly and deploys in numbers, according to a Feb. 29 memo obtained by USNI News.

“With six Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) in service and two extended LCS deployments overseas to learn from, the Navy has gained significant experience with this new fleet asset,” the memo reads.
“Looking forward, the Navy will receive delivery of multiple ships per year resulting in a stead expansion of deployed hulls and growing homeports. We must leverage all that we have learned operating and maintaining these ships as we prepare for significant numbers of LCSs in the fleet.”

Richardson and Stackley tasked three officials – Deputy Chief of Naval Operations For Warfare Systems (OPNAV N9) Brian Persons, Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, and Stackley’s Principle Military Deputy Vice Adm. David Johnson – with leading the review of the LCS’s crewing, operations, training and maintenance.

A Navy official told USNI News the review team follows in a line of organizations set up to help get the LCS fleet off to a successful start. The Program Executive Office for LCS was established in 2011 to oversee shipbuilding and mission package design. The LCS Council was created in 2013 to help get the first LCS, USS Freedom (LCS-1), out for its first deployment out of Singapore. And now the LCS Review Team will look at the challenges and opportunities ahead as the fleet grows rapidly – the Navy should eventually begin accepting four a year – and deployments shift from being designed to learn about the ship and its capabilities to being tailored to evolving global threats.

Among the topics the review team will address is the manning requirements and the crewing construct – currently three crews manning two ships, one of which is forward-deployed; assessing how to balance simulated and on-hull training; evaluating whether the current contractor-based maintenance model will fully support the ships while forward deployed; looking at the operational and warfighting capability in the mission packages and how to best deploy them based on theater requirements; and how many mission modules the Navy would need to buy based on any changes recommended to the LCS warfighting concept.

Current plans say each LCS will be capable of operating either a surface warfare or a mine countermeasures mission package – or eventually an anti-submarine warfare package – regardless of the ship variant. However, the Freedom-variant ships have only deployed with the surface warfare package and the Independence-variant ships have primarily worked with the MCM package, which is underdoing changes of its own. Many have wondered if the two variants would share the missions equally or would end up specializing in one or the other – or if the clearly-defined mission packages might one day blend together to become more of a mix-and-match capability. Much like the future frigate will permanently have onboard both surface and anti-sub warfare capabilities, the LCS program could blur the lines between the packages to meet the operational needs of the combatant commander that owns the ship.

The Navy official said nothing has been predecided and the review team has the freedom to make any recommendations they wish based on the aggregate experience of the fleet thus far.

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    An inherent and unchangeable fact is the Navy operates a huge bureaucracy that makes operating, training and maintaining ships unnecessarily burdensome and inefficient. Coupling this with small crews make it very hard for LCS to play traditional Navy. The squadron was suppose to take many of the burdens, but has not played out so well. Kind of a far out statement, but take a look at MSC, their operating costs, how well their vessels are maintained, and their equivalent crew sizes. Give these vessels to MSC, they can operate and maintain them with much less contractor support (heck many of the contractors DMAK support are CIVMARS), Have a small Naval detachment onboard to run MCC and the mission package, and the job can be done with 3/4 the total crew on board (probably less) and with a huge cost reduction. This is not too crazy, just look at the USS PONCE hybrid crew.

  • LewCypher

    “A Navy official told USNI News the review team follows in a line of organizations set up to help get the LCS fleet off to a successful start.”

    The problem is this is all done internally with people near the end of their careers who are being tapped for post-military positions with the vendors supplying the product they are reviewing.

  • USNVO

    How does the rest of the surface navy do this? The real question is why doesn’t the Navy have a standing organization that provides a similar function for all the ship classes. Or if they do, why doesn’t it do the same job for LCS?

    I had the misfortune to work with the LCS program in the early days to develop mission module crew training. Of course I did not have a budget or manpower to do that job, nor anyway to force cooperation from anyone, but that is another story. Here’s an example of how trying to do it differently means passive resistance from the people who “have always done it this way” can create major problems. The training world (who also did not have either a budget or manpower for that mission) developed all the manpower models because the Manpower guys at NAVPERS that do it for a living “didn’t work on R&D programs”. So as opposed to firing manpower people until they did work on R&D programs (my recommendation), the powers that be dumped it on the Training world. Not sure the manpower guys could have done it better (witness the numerous fiascos they have fostered on the fleet like the initial manning for the DD-963, FFG-7, and other classes, but it was their job.

    • Curtis Conway

      Heard of a Type Commander?

  • Curtis Conway

    With all the RISK that is being stacked one on top of more risk in the LCS Program, I’m ready to start checking to see if the sea demons have returned to destroy sailors in the United States Navy.

    First, the mission and operational environment seems to be something that NO ONE in the entire Chain of Command can define in specific terms for the general public. Perhaps it’s a Secret. Well, if it is, tell us that you can’t tell us, and stop spewing the BS. When the Navy does give specifics, it makes no sense. ASW in the littorals (where submarines do not operate predominantly, and the ship possesses NO organic ASW weapons), then another official tells us it’s not designed to operate in the Littorals . . . or going to steam in Blue Water (vessel too light and shallow with too short a range).

    The LCS is large enough to attract attention, then having attracted that attention, can hardly defend itself against the most likely weapons to be brought to bear against it (supersonic ASCMs). In fact, the ONLY effective weapon against that threat that is on board an LCS was recently (and hurriedly) retrofit on our BMD Destroyers in ROTA, and that’s near the end of the multi-layered engagement chain on the destroyers. Did the same Chain of Command do BOTH of these things?!

    The Survivability Standard defined in US Navy Regulations, and codified in Blood by our forefathers (watertight integrity and compartmentalization), is now measured in lethality that nearly does not exist on the platform. ‘Speed will be the magic element’ we are told, when everyone of us who has been in combat knows that the speed is a two edged sword, and a large and fast fat moving target you become. . . and the LCS nearly not able to defend itself as equipped today. ‘Survivability is no longer measured by compartmentalization and watertight integrity’ we are told, but weapons systems and combat capability . . . that any sailor can see in not there . . . but the US Navy gave it a title of “Surface Combatant”! Do the Chinese quake at the thought of coming up against one? And all of this to . . . SAVE MONEY. I ask the US Navy Chain of Command . . . how much are the lives of your children worth?!

    Common Sense BASIC Tenants forgotten by the US Navy:
    1. Men have relationships with equipment (cars, boats, tools, tanks, aircraft, ships…”YES Ships”). Even submariners (Blue or Gold) who go back TO THE SAME BOAT!

    2. The human physiology has a circadian rhythm, maintenance time, and manning is an issue. (one ship – one crew!). Split that third crew between the two other crews and put them ON THEIR OWN SHIP.

    3. The team has to have some measure of success that is tangible and real, otherwise there is no motivation to fight and win, and the average sailor can look at the LCS situation and tell . . . if they can win.

    4. Aluminum does not hold up well to Bullets! (LCS-2 Outer Hull?)

    5. Logistical commonality with the fleet saves money in the long run in parts, schools, and maintenance. How about some of those unique propulsion systems that are sorta common with another US Navy Od-Ball the DDG-1000, of which only three will ever be built?

    As far as I am concerned the US Navy has broken the faith with the American Sailor in the LCS Program, and why ? . . TO SAVE MONEY! And what is the REAL result? Every member of the Chain of Command who has participated in this fiasco should be Keel Hauled. Neptune will show us if they are Righteous!

    The LCS Program has had so much unique Risk added to the platforms I can scarcely understand how any sailor would serve on one with confidence, for the Navy as an institution has destroyed the sailors very innate abilities to succeed (his/her equipment, and THEIR ship). In Leadership Training we teach ‘ownership’ as a laudable trait (Plane Captain, Gun Captain, etc.), and HERE the Navy has taken it away. This whole situation has gone beyond reason at this point. No wonder the CNO is reviewing the program. Rear Adm. John Neagley looks like a stand up kinda guy. We shall see.

  • Mmm Bee

    I care not, as long as someone Nuke-Fries the zipperheads of North Korea