Home » Budget Industry » LCS Program Seeking Commonality In Frigate Transition, Review Of Manning Construct

LCS Program Seeking Commonality In Frigate Transition, Review Of Manning Construct

Littoral Combat Ships USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Coronado (LCS-4) sit at the pier at Naval Station San Diego on Feb. 17, 2016. USNI News photo.

Littoral Combat Ships USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Coronado (LCS-4) sit at the pier at Naval Station San Diego on Feb. 17, 2016. USNI News photo.

As the Navy prepares to field its Littoral Combat Ship in numbers as well as transition the acquisition system from block buys of LCSs into the new frigate program, both the fleet and two shipbuilders are working to plot a path forward.

The Fleet

The Navy has so far only deployed one LCS at a time – USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) have both operated out of Singapore – but the first ships from the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2010 block buy are now delivering at regular intervals and will soon begin operating in the fleet.

As the Navy nears a turning point in LCS operations, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson created a LCS Review Team to look at lessons learned in manning, maintenance and operations so far. Richardson said March 3 that it was the perfect time to see what we’ve learned now and not being committed to the original model – if we cement that in place, we basically embargo all of the lessons that we learned and we don’t incorporate them.”

He added that he wanted to find ways to make the LCS program more effective in terms of manning, ship maintenance – which is primarily performed by contractors ashore – and the use of distinct mission modules.

Cmdr. Michael Brasseur, commanding officer of LCS Crew 111, told USNI News last month aboard Freedom that having a core crew of 53 “is a definite challenge” in terms of each crew member having to be cross-trained and qualified for multiple jobs, but ‘there’s some huge advantages to having a small crew, it’s more like a family.”

With the limited manning, sailors pitch in with cooking – which Brasseur said has allowed the crew to share family recipes and traditional meals from their hometowns and home countries. The sailors also share in chores like washing dishes, a departure from larger ships. He said the LCS crews have promoted a strong culture of health and fitness – physically and mentally – to deal with the stresses of juggling multiple roles on the ship.

Each of the 53 billets on the ship has a primary role designated, along with recommended secondary and tertiary roles. LCS Crew 111 Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Michael Welgan told USNI News that about 10 people stand watch while underway, with three shifts a day, which takes up 30 crew members. The rest are engineers, flight deck officers or other primary roles – but everyone has three or four jobs they’re trained to to support flight operations, small boat operations and emergency situations.

Though the mission package and aviation detachment crews can help in some cases, “we don’t train to that, we always train to the worst-case scenario,” Welgan said. “So right now we’re going through our training cycle, and we can’t use those people because there’s no guarantee they’ll be available every single time. So we’ve got to learn how to self-sustain.”

“I have never seen 53 do so much as I have on this ship. It’s the most rewarding experience I’ve had in 19 years in the Navy,” Brasseur said.

That manning and training construct may change for future LCS operations based on lessons learned, and it is certain to change when the frigate joins the fleet, since the surface warfare and anti-submarine mission packages will be permanently affixed to the multimission frigate.

Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin, which builds the odd-numbered Freedom-variant hulls, said recently that its vendor base is working efficiently thanks to a predictable multi-year block buy. Though the acquisition strategy for the frigate is still being developed, Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing that the Navy would likely buy all the frigates in a block buy contract to ensure competitive pricing for the remainder of the program, if Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s plan to curtail the program to 40 ships instead of 52 and downselect to a single builder comes to fruition.

For Lockheed Martin, having a block buy has allowed the company to lower the cost per ship to an average of $360 million, Neil King, director of business development for the company’s Littoral Ship Systems, said March 15 at a company media day.

“This is the type of acquisition approach that we would like to see as far as future procurements – it will allow us to be able to maintain our workforce, it will allow us to be able to maximize our vendor base buying power and to be able to ensure the affordability of this program as it goes forward,” he said.

King said affordability is the key to the frigate program and that Lockheed Martin is stressing commonality with the LCS and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers (DDG-51) as a means of achieving an affordable design. Nearly all the major systems added to the LCS hull to create the frigate either come from the LCS mission packages or from the destroyers. The Navy already decided the frigate will use the Freedom-variant’s COMBATSS-21 combat system, and the surface warfare mission package’s Longbow Hellfire missile and 30mm gun will become permanent features on the frigate hull, according to Lockheed Martin’s current designs. The Lockheed Martin frigate would also have the TRS-4D radar, which is an upgrade from the current TRS-3D radar and will be inserted into the LCS ship class beginning with LCS-17. Lockheed Martin would also include a Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) “light” package and Nulka decoys, both of which come from the DDG-51 program.

“We’ve demonstrated SEWIP on LCS-1, it’ll be cut into the program,” business development manager Tim Fouts said at the event.
“Nulka’s probably the only one that won’t have been demonstrated in the next year or so; all the rest of that is part of the current program of record. We’re not reinventing the wheel, the only thing we’re doing in our 118-meter hull is rearranging some of the deck chairs for the additional crew to support multimission capability.”

Dale Bennett, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, told USNI News at the media day that Lockheed Martin is comfortable with its plan to take the LCS and add lethality and survivability while maintaining affordability.

“Right now we’re focused on the capability for the fast frigate and focused on delivering the capability,” he said. “The 40 versus 52? We’ll let the Navy and [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] work through that. I think the requirement to get to the force structure of getting 308 ships, I think LCS plays an important part in the mix.”

Austal USA

Austal USA, who builds the even-numbered Independence-variant LCSs, will be conducting studies to reduce acquisition and lifecycle costs of its ships. The company was awarded a $14-million contract modification last week to “provide engineering and design services to reduce acquisition and lifecycle costs for the Independence-variant LCS.”

Austal USA told USNI News that a similar contract modification for $6.5 million was awarded about a year ago and that this work will build off of what was started last year.

“Our workforce is strong, the production line is hot, and our LCS program has a great deal of momentum right now,” said Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle. “Our partnership with the Navy remains strong as we continue to deliver the LCS and prepare for the advanced high-speed future frigate.”

  • DaSaint

    Wow, a bit of LM bias here? 7 paragraphs waxing poetic about Lockheed Martin’s efforts, and only 3 for Austal USA? Shame.

    No mention that its always the Freedom class breaking down while underway. Has stability problems that necessitated lengthing. Or that has the smaller flight deck, closer to the waterline that gets excessive wash. Shame.

    The Austal version’s main problem are twofold. One, it’s not backed by the largest lobbying firm, and two, it’s all aluminum. The lattwr ia more serious that the former. But it has a huge, dry flight deck, a huge mission bay, is extremely stable, and is loved by the SEALS who have used it for trials thus far.

    But alas, you’re tipping you hand. It’s most likely the LM veraion that gets sected as the future frigate. And we all know it.

    • James B.

      But, but, the Austal version looks weird! The LM design may break, but at least it looks like a real ship while it does!

      • DaSaint

        LOL @James! Agreed. It is wierd. Innovative may be a kinder description.

      • MarlineSpikeMate

        Just need to make sure lube oil is in the combining gear and it shouldn’t break again!

    • LCS FAN

      Not to mention that the LM shipyard is inaccessible 4-5 months out of the year. If we ever needed to churn out extra hulls fast in a wartime situation we’d have to hope it was in the summer. Austal’s yard should be the preferred location for ship construction.

      • Curtis Conway

        Are you serious? Pick the winner based upon the location of the yard over capabilities of the hull and systems? Crammannnny! There is no wonder we are turning into a Banana Republic with logic like that.

    • Curtis Conway

      I believe the center hull is steel from the main deck down, but i’m not sure about that, but I read it in more than one place as I gave everyone a hard time about the aluminium.

  • DaSaint

    Excuse my typos. Typing on a phone has its drawbacks.

  • PolicyWonk

    It is notable that the $360M per sea-frame cost (as reported) doesn’t count any “mission package”, which can more than double the cost (exception: the “surface warfare” mission package, which is relatively cheap, but doesn’t give all that much).

    It is also notable, that the FF/SSC variant of LCS will exceed the cost of our allies high-end frigates (according to DOT&E), without the benefits.

    • Jay

      The Mission Package doesn’t double the cost; the most expensive of them is just under $100m.

      • PolicyWonk

        The CBO report on the topic that recommends cancelling the LCS program says that the *average* cost of an LCS with mission package will be ~$550M – and this depends very much on which package is installed.

        If the LCS currently costs $360M, then the mission packages average cost all but doubles what you’re suggesting.

        Clearly, the SUW is by far the cheapest – while the mine sweeping and anti-sub warfare packages cost far, Far more.

  • Bull Jones

    No one here in Mobile, AL is holding our breath. It has been obvious from the start that the better hull is going to take a stiff kick in the nuts. A shame, too. I’ve enjoyed driving down Pinto Island and seeing LCS and JHSV hulls lined up. Damn if Austal can’t punch them out!

  • Curtis Conway

    “…but ‘there’s some huge advantages to having a small crew, it’s more like a family.”

    How True! On the USS Ticonderoga (CG-47) we had a family of 340 or so, and we knew everybody! More bodies make it easier to cross train as well. More target ratings with like experience for those extra NECs.

    The US Navy has a personnel problem, and this itty-bitty crew business is not how to fix it. One ship . . . one crew! Do a maintenance requirement vs manpower study, and make sure there is time for holidays and leave. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and remember . . . everybody on this ship did not go to the Academy.

    THEN work on survivability with more lethal weapons, particularly CAPABLE defensive weapons against supersonic ASCMs (ESSM in a Mk 29 GMLS w/ a couple of STIR). Remember, these are our best and rightest, so if they have no chance of survival you will stop seeing them in this program, so there had better be a shot at SURVIVAL! Our sailors are a PRECIOUS asset. Treat them as such.

    • PolicyWonk

      “Our sailors are a PRECIOUS asset. Treat them as such…”

      Indeed. Imagine how inspired the crews would be to be told (as was initially announced) that the LCS was being built strong enough for the crew to safely abandon ship before it sinks (presumably, after being hit by something).

      Not the most inspiring recruiting message I’ve ever heard.

      One of my nephews best friends graduated from the Academy, and was offered a position on an LCS, that he turned down in favor of a late model Burke.


    No matter what they do they will never make them a “Silk Purse!”

  • Andy Thompson

    LIPSTICK on a PIG does NOT change the fact that it is STILL a PIG !!!!

  • Andy Thompson

    STOP: Watering down our Fighting Force ! The LCS’s are Nothing but an Arm of the UN Peacekeeping force because that is about all they are good for. BUILD COMBAT SHIPS !

    • MarlineSpikeMate

      Well Andy, they didn’t just stop building Destroyers you know… have you heard of the flight IIA and III DDGs? What about the Zumwalt? The CG upgrades? The hand doesn’t do the foots job.

  • Andy Thompson

    Forget Political Correctness and all the Favors to the companies building these useless ships. Stop wasting money on a FAILED program. GET OVER IT AND BUILD REAL COMBAT SHIPS ! We do NOT need a “peacekeeping” NAVY, we NEED a COMBAT NAVY! Politicians seem to FORGET that because of their KICKBACKS in the form of Political Contributions etc. JUST CANCEL them and let the Shipbuilders build REAL COMBAT ships. Nobody has to lose any jobs! WE NEED MORE COMBAT SHIPS, MISSILES, PLANES !!!!

  • John B. Morgen

    The United States Navy should dropped the program, but should sale it to the Coast Guard..