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Industry Pushing Congress for CVN-80 and 81 Block Buy, Research for Shipbuilding Efficiency

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The Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition has asked lawmakers for “design for affordability” research and development dollars to reduce the cost of building carriers and for advance procurement funding for a block buy of CVN-80 and 81 materials.

The organization, and employees of companies from all tiers of the aircraft carrier supply chain, made five requests during a two-day visit to Capitol Hill, which included private meetings with lawmakers and an open-mic breakfast during which a dozen congressmen expressed support for aircraft carriers and the companies that build them.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), whose district border stops just shy of the Newport News Shipbuilding yard, spoke about the importance of aircraft carriers and the need to find a smarter way to buy them.

“Our forward presence depends on that aircraft carrier. As you know, our base presence around the world continues to shrink for a variety of reasons, that’s the future. If we are going to influence world events and do the things we need to do as a nation and make sure that we protect American interests, it is the aircraft carrier that is the centerpiece of that,” he said Thursday at the breakfast.
“We need to look at dual-ship purchases. I’d like to be purchasing aircraft carriers two at a time – if not, at the very least purchasing the equipment … for both of those ships in blocks. I think that’s an important way to do that. It creates economies for purchases, we’ve seen that historically and we ought to be doing more of that. Plus, it creates certainty” for the industrial base.

The dual-ship buy is one of the five ACIBC talking points for this year’s event. Coalition chairman Richard Giannini told USNI News at the breakfast that the organization is asking for $293 million to be pulled forward into the Fiscal Year 2017 budget to support advance procurement for both CVN-80, the future Enterprise, and 81.

Tthat will help us to consolidate the buying efforts,” said Giannini, who is also president and CEO of Milwaukee Valve Company.
“They’re going to start with this first block on the real long lead time stuff, the bigger equipment, and then over the next several years we’ll do the same thing with the suppliers that have shorter lead times. And what that will do is save about $400 to $500 million off the cost of the carrier.”

The group is also asking for $20 million in research in development money for a “design for affordability” initiative, which aims to find more efficient ways to build the ship. A similar effort for the Virginia-class attack submarine program saw a five-to-one return on investment, he said.

The coalition also wants to see advance procurement funding for the next refueling and complex overhaul – not for USS George Washington (CVN-73), set to start this fall, but for USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) after that. Giannini said part of the rationale was that starting the design effort now – and actually naming Stennis in the defense policy and budget bills starting this year – would help keep the design effort moving forward in the event of future continuing resolutions, which creates an inefficient stop-and-go work flow at the beginning of the fiscal year for programs not explicitly funded in the previous year’s budget.

And finally, the coalition is pushing members to continue supporting the carrier-related funds in the Navy’s FY 2017 request and supporting an 11-carrier requirement for the fleet.

The bulk of the new funds requested are actually “money coming probably out of (FY) 18 or 19 into 17,” Giannini said.
“What we’re really looking for is a stable, consistent funding so that suppliers can add things together and get more business at once, which will lower cost, and keep the shipyard from having a lull in between where materials don’t get there on time, which just adds cost.”

The congressmen who attended the event said they were concerned about gaps in carrier presence overseas, which began occurring again last year after a period of time during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars when four carriers might be out operating at any given time.

“We’re seeing for the first time in years that our combatant commanders in the Pacific and in the Middle East are going months without carriers,” House Armed Services seapower and projection forces ranking member Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) said at the event.
“We had a briefing the other day with Gen. (Lloyd) Austin from Central Command and the question he was asked was, so how’s that (carrier gap) going? And it’s extremely challenging, trying to juggle the mission of our country in those critical areas of the world without carriers for a couple months.”

That carrier gap “sends a message to potential adversaries and allies about our readiness and ability to continuously project strength,” House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) said.
“This is why we must prioritize three things: funding for our shipyards, enabling the Navy to follow the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (training and deployment cycle), and provide for advance procurement of our ships.”

  • Curtis Conway

    “Our forward presence depends on that aircraft carrier. As you know, our base presence around the world continues to shrink for a variety of reasons, that’s the future. If we are going to influence world events and do the things we need to do as a nation and make sure that we protect American interests, it is the aircraft carrier that is the centerpiece of that,”…

    Like it. Very true. However, at this particular point in time a few F-35B platforms could be introduced faster, and at less cost. Stretch out the CVN-80/81 procurement, granting the MYP, and don’t get ahead of yourself until the Ford is out and DONE. Large Deck Amphibious Aviation Ships of the LHA-6 Class can provide more diversity faster with that unique F-35B Combat System on board. It’s a shame a real Guided Missile Frigate with deep magazines is not out in numbers to donate missiles in this NIFC-CA environment.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Would a block buy allow the building program to return to a 4 year cycle vs the 5 year cycle between CVN-79 & 80?

    • Greg Lof

      Better yet would be a two every seven year plan, as we could reduce the cost of various costly components by reducing they design life.

      • James B.

        We don’t actually want to buy ships faster than once every five years, because a shorter interval would cause us to reach a point where we had all the carriers we needed, the stream of work would be interrupted, and the yard would close.

  • johnbull

    I’m pretty sure that I remember reading that we did a block buy for two CVNs in the mid 80s, so there is precedent, and economically it makes sense. If they can economize the process like they did with building the Virginia SSNs, in addition to a block buy then the cost per ship might actually go down enough to matter.

    • John King

      I was with the Navy comptroller then and we saved $750 million from buying two together. A lot of that very large savings comes from the very nature of building these beasts one at a time. Since the Navy is going to replace at least ten of their carriers, NNS should assume the risk and do its own MYP and save maybe 15%. The we could build 11 for the price of 10.

      In fact, the price of steel is so low today, you could probably save enough on the first 10 to get a second free carrier.

  • SierraSierraQuebec

    Block buy? For two 100kt CVN’s you could have eight or more 50kt CVA/LHA’s (adaptable but biased more as one or the other), built by two or more yards under competition. Of all the types of ships that benefit the least from nuclear propulsion, supercarriers are certainly at the top of the list, and they still need thousands of tons of fuel to keep their aircraft aloft, and billions more to and years out of service to refuel.

    • sferrin

      Wow.

    • Where do I begin? First, LHAs offer no catapults or arresting wires, therefore no Hawkeye airborne early warning/radar capability, and no aerial refueling, and no air superiority capability. It’s just Marine F-35Bs specializing in close air support.
      .
      Of all the ships needing nuclear propulsion, CVNs are second only to subs. The prior generation classes (CVA 59 to 67) required petro refueling every 3 days!!! That meant twice as many fleet oilers were needed, and if the enemy could target the oilers then carriers could be crippled. Also, nuclear propulsion allows for more aviation fuel storage than on conventional carriers.
      .
      Lastly, the nuclear refueling of a CVN is not a burden; it’s savings. Most navy vessels are scrapped after 25 years, while the 25-year refueling of a CVN gives it a 50-year lifespan.

      • Curtis Conway

        Where do I begin? First, we don’t need CATs and TRAPs. The United Kingdom does not have them, and will have AEW capability. Piggy back on that, or just install Lockheed Martin’s Vigilance radar pods on our own helo. The Marines now have a strap down refueling package that goes in the MV-22 Osprey. Who ever said the F-35B cannot perform Air Superiority or CAP missions is out to lunch. What gets our service people killed is ‘Rules of Engagement’, not the capability of the platforms.

        Point well taken on nuclear vs conventional propulsion, although the propulsion system on the USS America (LHA-6) is more efficient than any other large deck aviation platform with similar conventional propulsion. They are not always going somewhere at the ‘speed of heat’, particularly in the areas where such forces are anticipated to be used (South China Sea, Med, others).

        Another comment talks about yards shutting down. The country needs frigates as well as carriers, and other things. There is enough work for everybody. Budgeting is the problem. The frigates can be a reprogramming of DDG-51 Flt III into frigates (short Burke or otherwise) on an every other unit, rotating between yards. Gets the ship count up quick with real capability. With it taking a decade+ to build a CVN these days, and the utility of the F-35B being what it is given the previous, there are some real possibilities here. To think otherwise shows a definite and distinct bias on the part of those who think not. The advent of FORCEnet, NIFC-CA, and the F-35B Combat System capabilities has opened all kinds of possibilities.

        • pts

          CAT and TRAPs are still important. While I agree that we should be looking at Midway sized carrier, the ability to carry E2D is vital. The British carrier using AEW helos is not as capable due to problems with range and alt avail. Also relying on the F35B is currently very suspect. Ranging from a lack of range for the VSTOL, overheating issues, ALIS, rebooting the radar, serviceability (FMC/PMC rates) and numerous other problems. The LHA-6 class is a crappy light carrier due to its development from an assault ship. She is slower by almost half the speed (important for putting wind over the deck for launches) than a CVN. She expends vital space for Marines and has an over large hospital. Her island eats up deck space due to the assault ship requirements and her squadron spaces would need vast improvements.
          Granted I like CVNs (having landing on 4 of them), and the offer tremendous tactical advantages that have been previously mentioned. However, there are a few issues with CVNs that no one really mentions. 1. You cant keep them in reserve status due to the requirements imposed by the reactor. 2. Secondary costs of dismantling and maintaining the crew and resources necessary for a reactor. 3. The extensive amounts of maintenance needed that go above and beyond a conventional.
          As I stated before 3-4 Midway sized conventional ships would be a great augment to our CVN fleet. The would be easier to sell to allied powers (the French are looking for a second carrier). 2-3 CATs and the ability to launch and recover E2C is a must and the ability to have about 50 planes is key

          • Curtis Conway

            From your comments you are obviously a Bird Farm person. The LHA-6 proposal is a GWOT platform that is heavy on F-35B. Most of the problems you mentioned are in work and will be fixed, its just taking a while. As for the short legs of the F-35B, once it leaves its organic MV-22 tanker it will have a full bag of fuel and only has to worry about coming back, where, just like in the pattern, if you need some more you go hit the tanker again and get a couple of thousand pounds. These procedures (though thought out and developed) have yet to be practiced in the real world. In GWOT, the Marines, and who else happens to be present, have use for those spaces. This is not JUST a Light Carrier. That is why we have begun to use the term Large Deck Amphibious Aviation Platform. As for AEW, there are several proposals that can fill the gap, but will not equal the AN/APY-9 Radar on the E-2D. The Vigilance Pods on helos has operational characteristics similar to the Searchwater 2000, but not exactly. it will be almost seamless when working with F-35s in FORCEnet, but this has not been fleshed out either, and it has range limitations.

            The LHA-6 solution brings much to the table in a GWOT/near littoral environment which we will see a lot more of in the future. Most of those areas are near friendly territory that could provide options (AEW/electronic warfare/ASW, etc.). If used as a supplement/ complement in a Blue Water environment those facilities come off the Bird Farm. The Large Deck Amphibious Aviation Platform will never replace the CVN, but having a half dozen would not be a bad thing.

          • Curtis Conway

            Cats & Traps will remain on CVNs, but are not needed on the LHA/LHD. That is what a VSTOL/STOVL platform is all about.

    • Secundius

      Actually, The “SCS-75” Design or Principe de Asturia class Light Aircraft Carrier would be Better. And Cost a Much as a Single Arleigh Burke class Destroyer, Air Wing Complement of ~29 Planes as opposed to a Light Carrier America class Gator-Freighter’s 22 Planes. And calling a 45,000-ton a Light Aircraft Carrier, is a “TAD BIT” Heavy…

  • Secundius

    Until they get ALL the “WIGET’s” to Work Properly, it’s STILL a 100,000-tonne “Paperweight”…

  • bubba_shawn

    GO NAVY!!!!!!!

    Great ideas from the Navy shipbuilding guys. Getting more bang for the buck will keep America’s sons and daughters safer while they serve the country.

  • Tim Dolan

    At some point in the future CVNs will no longer be the best method of delivering conventional air support through out the world, but at this time and for the foreseeable future they still are. So I am good with lowering the cost to the taxpayers for the next two CVNs, maybe even a third, but no more than that at this time. Even after the much anticipated new thingy has been brought into service, it will take at least a couple decades to replace the CVNs, so we will still get our money’s worth out of them.

    As much as I like RPVs, submarines, and LHA/D/Xs (AKA Light Carriers) they just can’t do fully what a fleet carrier can, but then a CVN can’t do all they can either.

    Please note I may be slightly bias as I live near the Newport News, Shipyard and like having businesses within driving distance so would not like anything that will shut down the shipyard to happen, although it would not directly affect me and the reduction in noise would be kind of nice.

    • Tim Dolan

      Oh and if someone reading this happens to be working/stationed there, please tell the young adults (especially I notice most of them wearing Navy uniforms) to stop speeding down the residential street between Huntington and Warwick at 40MPH, a few of the neighbors have kids and that is way too fast for those streets.

  • Murray

    It is possible to provide AEW capability from an LHA with a fixed wing aircraft. Have a look at the Pacific Aerospace P-750 XSTOL. It can take off (gross weight 7,500 lb) and land within 600 feet. No cats and traps required. The Chinese are building them under licence so expect to see a maritime version aboard the PLAN Carrier Liaoning soon.

    • Secundius

      A Palletized AESA system can be Installed into a MV-22C Osprey. When the Rear Cargo Door is Lowered, it Exposes th AESA Radar Antenna. Rage is about 185 to 200nmi…

  • Jim N Kim London

    Sarcastically—–This is probably a good idea for a single simple reason. We have never lost a modern day carrier since WWII. Having just watched the Russian version of our cruise weapons make several great hits from being launched hundreds of miles away in the Syria area I can only surmise the damage a single or pair could do to a modern day CVN class or entire carrier group of ships. I have spent some time on a few carrier decks while in the Marines for carrier quals during my 9 yrs of active service. Knowing these are truly a small city I always wondered what could sink one or do catastrophic damage to one so as to make it a slowed or stopped target. Stopping launch capabilities makes it a useless weapons system but prime target in the open oceans. With todays modern weapons which appears to be in more than just one countries bag of tricks I can only surmise that once a carrier is down or out,,, all the world would soon shake afterwards. Seeing how GW Bush took after a non existent WMD in Iraq I can only believe our senior war makers and shakers would follow suit and begin launching at any and all possible Cruise missile operators on the globe to get retaliation.
    Lets makes several for the futures target practice..not !….Sorry, I am completely against more new carriers. As the ones we have reach their end life dispose of them for new reef rebuilds. As for the future it is all going towards complete electronics, armed drones of sizes needed and fly by joystick from anyplace on the planet…If we must build for the future lets build a nice comfy set of gamers chairs and have all the extras gamers need to make those accurate hits on targets anyplace in the planet at a moments notice. Drones that can stay up for days at a time will one day be formation flying and carrying more destruction power than a full on war ready carrier. Think about it for a moment. Basically a fleet of drones airborne at all hours of the day just waiting for direction and target. No more lost pilots, no more sunken carriers and or group ships and lastly a much, much cheaper option than building multiple carrier groups for future work in the open oceans of the world. But best of all no loss of a small city of men and women 5 to 7000 plus when an attack takes place in future ugly moments of surprise engagement.