Home » Budget Industry » Navy: Most Offensive, Defensive Upgrades Surface Force Will Be Fielded by 2023


Navy: Most Offensive, Defensive Upgrades Surface Force Will Be Fielded by 2023

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) steams in formation with USS Independence (LCS-2) on Dec. 8, 2016. US Navy Photo

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) steams in formation with USS Independence (LCS-2) on Dec. 8, 2016. US Navy Photo

The next six years will bring numerous offensive and defensive capabilities to the surface fleet, culminating in Fiscal Year 2023 when the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG-51) reaches initial operational capability and the first frigate delivers to the fleet, the director of surface warfare (OPNAV N96) said last week.

Surface warfare advances in both the small and large surface combatant, that operate in the air, surface and undersea domains, will help move the Navy towards realizing its vision of distributed lethality, where every ship the Navy sails could pose a serious enough threat that an adversary couldn’t ignore any of them.

Upgunning the guided-missile cruisers and destroyers with new surface-to-surface weapons has been the most talked-about effort, Rear Adm. Ron Boxall told USNI News last week, but additional defensive capabilities are an important part of distributed lethality, he added. The Navy is busy looking at assured communications, unmanned systems and the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) to bolster the destroyers’ ability to protect themselves. The new SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) at the heart of the Flight III design, with 30-times the sensitivity as the legacy SPY-1D(V) radar, is, in a word, “incredible,” Boxall said.

Still, despite the early focus on destroyers, the Littoral Combat Ship and its eventual upgrade to the frigate design will play a huge role in distributed lethality. By 2030, more than half the at-sea surface force will be the LCS and frigate, Boxall said during a presentation at last week’s Surface Navy Association annual conference, and “you’ve got to make those as survivable and capable as possible. And integral to that is the over-the-horizon missile. If you don’t have an over-the-horizon missile on that ship, no one’s worrying about those ships. If you put a good missile on that ship, people are going to have to pay attention to it. There, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of distributed lethality in surface warfare.”

USS Coronado (LCS-4) is currently deployed with the Harpoon over-the-horizon anti-ship missile in a bolt-on AN/SWG-1A missile launch control system, a configuration that was tested once over the summer at the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise but has not been used operationally during the ship’s deployment, Boxall said. He noted that the Harpoon has been around for a long time and the fleet has a good understanding of how it works – the missile is “a great capability, but we want more. We want longer ranges, we want more capability.”

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71) and Andrea Doria-class Italian destroyer DDGHM Andrea Doria transit with guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) during At Sea Demonstration 2015 (ASD 15) Oct. 22, 2015. US Navy photo.

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG-71) and Andrea Doria-class Italian destroyer DDGHM Andrea Doria transit with guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) during At Sea Demonstration 2015 (ASD 15) Oct. 22, 2015. US Navy photo.

The Navy missed a window of opportunity to test another over-the-horizon missile, the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile, on USS Freedom (LCS-1) over the summer, before the ship had to go to the yard for a maintenance availability. Rather than wait for additional testing, though, Boxall said the Navy wanted to move ahead with the frigate request for proposals, which he said would be coming out “very soon” and would include capability upgrades including the OTH missile.

“If we have this missile out there and we can afford to do so, we will try to put it as many places as we can. Again, distributed lethality, the more shooters we have out there,” he said, adding that “anything we put on the frigate we will backfit to the LCS” and that ideally all 28 LCSs would get the OTH missile. He also noted the potential to bolt the SWG-1A launcher on cruisers and destroyers and add an additional missile capability to large surface combatants.

“I was a strike group commander and would have loved to have had, even the LCS with a Harpoon we have out there would be a huge improvement over what we have,” he added.
“Anything we continue to do to improve on that against the threats that are out there around the world right now is a step in the right direction.”

Adding more firepower onto the frigates will be supported by an enhanced air search radar, Lockheed Martin Vice President of Littoral Ships and Systems Joe North told USNI News last week at the SNA conference. Lockheed Martin’s frigate design includes the Airbus Defense and Space TRS-4D multi-mode naval radar, but North said the Navy will ultimately select the radar that will be included in the frigate, with the intention of delivering better sensitivity and range compared to the LCS radar.

Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, then-commander of the John C. Stennis Strike Group, speaks during an all hands call in the hangar bay of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in December 2014. US Navy photo.

Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, then-commander of the John C. Stennis Strike Group, speaks during an all hands call in the hangar bay of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in December 2014. US Navy photo.

North said the AN/SPQ-9 radar was the smallest available during LCS design and was still twice the cost of anything the Navy and its LCS builders wanted to use. Since that time, many international companies have been building small but capable radars, he said, noting that they have “followed what the Navy’s been doing and they’ve been putting a lot of upgrades into their systems.” With the upgraded radar, North said a frigate could provide protection for a five-LCS surface action group, for example, and coordinate with other ships in the area for regional protection.

Additionally, the introduction of the frigate – and the eventual introduction of the LCS anti-submarine warfare mission package – will bring great advances in the undersea domain. The SQQ-89A(V)15 and its multi-function towed array (MFTA) are installed on 35 percent of surface combatants today, including one ship in the Carrier Strike Group Boxall commanded, he said in his conference presentation, and it allows for communication between surface ships and submarines. The LCS anti-submarine warfare package and Lockheed Martin’s proposed frigate design also include a variable-depth sonar, which Boxall said is “what we’re using to put a sensor down below the layer where the submarines hang out. Imagine it in concert with another one above the layer from a MFTA ship … and be able to be communicated to other ships that can receive it out there: submarines, maybe aviation components, maybe sonobouys. So this is amazing stuff; when you look at those numbers and all the ships we’re going to have, LCS becomes critical to this.”

  • WColton

    Calling an LCS with 4 bolted-on Harpoon missiles “a huge improvement over what we have” doesn’t speak well of today’s Navy. Hopefully, things will improve.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      If a LCS (with same AAW capability of a LPD) finds itself needing to fire those Harpoons, it’s in a world of hurt. Anything worth firing a Harpoon at is going to be able to protect itself, at hit back a lot harder, that the LCS can deal with.
      Then again, given the DDGs of the Africa coast have been firing of ESSMs & SM-2s like they’re going out of style on targets they can’t even confirm, maybe using a Harpoon to sink a Zodiac is now doctrine.

  • Curtis Conway

    An LCS or up-gunned frigate cannot defend itself from a determined ASCM attack, which makes it an inappropriate vessel for a presence mission in a potentially hostile environment, and . . . “By 2030, more than half the at-sea surface force will be the LCS and frigate…” . . . and every one of them is susceptible to air attack.

    “If you don’t have an over-the-horizon missile on that ship, no one’s worrying about those ships.” . . . and that capability makes it an even fatter target and higher priority for elimination by the enemy.

    The “…bolt-on AN/SWG-1A missile launch control system…is “a great capability, but we want more. We want longer ranges, we want more capability.” However, it makes the vessel no more survivable from that certain to come air attack. How about wanting at least four to eight Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and move that engagement out to 20 nm?

    “He [Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall] also noted the potential to bolt the SWG-1A launcher on cruisers and destroyers and add an additional missile capability to large surface combatants.” The US Navy took them off the cruisers and destroyers, and they should put them back on. It was a mistake to take them off in the first place.

    ”With the upgraded radar [Airbus Defense and Space TRS-4D multi-mode naval radar], North [Lockheed Martin Vice President of Littoral Ships and Systems Joe North] said a frigate could provide protection for a five-LCS surface action group…” HUHH?! There is no AAW capability save a 5-mile range last-ditch SeaRAM point defense engagement. Who dreamed up this pipe dream? There is some serious denial going on here!

    Like the ASW capability, and it appears to be the only thing that is working well on the LCS Class of platforms. It is a shame the LCS is not a Blue Water capable hull with Arctic capability.

    • Lazarus

      No small surface combatant; even one with 32 VLS cells is going to defend itself well against multiple missile salvos. An uber-frigate is too expensive for the limited capability it provides. Better to divide capability among 3 LCS and lose one, then put it all on a single heavy frigate where it can all be lost in one attack.

      Who says that LCS cannot operate in the Arctic like any other vessel. The Navy does not have a “Actic-capable” category and warships are not built as icebreakers.

      • Curtis Conway

        So . . . there is no such thing as an Ice-hardened hull, and of course you have steamed above the Arctic Circle? Reality is that the Arctic has not been a hotbed of activity until very recent HiStory, and our Allies do have some capability up there. The United States, except for the US Coast Guard, has not had to operate up there much except for submarines. The US Coast Guard plans are to relieve the two Hamilton Class High Endurance Cutters with one Legend Class Cutter in the face of this growing potential opposition. However, we have seas, fisheries, resources, and a coastline to defend against a potential threat that has grown in recent estimates by about four times.

        As for 32 VLS cells . . . one Mk41 VLS cell represents the potential presence of four (4) Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, and that is nothing to sneeze at. The ESSM is a very capable weapon, carries a warhead that is 86 lbs of Blast Fragmentation capability, and an engagement envelop out to 20+ miles and that AMRAAM seeker doesn’t miss much. Defense is depth is the way to go, otherwise you dishonor our sailors by placing them in harm’s way with little recourse.

        An Uber Frigate is EXACTLY what the Unified Combatant Commanders are looking for to provide presence, and have confidence they can do the job Independent Steaming, and come home safely. you evidently INTEND to burn up sailors right up front as a part of the equation. Sounds like industrialist and robber barons before OSHA was created.

        • NEC338x

          The LCS will not cede littorals to any potential enemy! Fortunately “transformational geography” tells us that there ARE no littorals in arctic regions of the world. Therefore – no need for hulls resistant to steaming through drift ice.

          • Curtis Conway

            You are ignoring the standing task in the Arctic the LCS should never take on, and ignoring the growing threat from a truck (or worse) on the beach and ASCMs that are more widely spread and available to even Third World countries, many of whom have Littoral Coast lines.

  • Ed L

    Okay. Do the LCS really need help hangers? Leave room for drone and help refueling. Convert the remaining hanger space to handle VLS for the SM-6

    • John Locke

      That wouldn’t really “fly” as LCS doesn’t have the capacity for the supporting SM-6 FCS.

      • @USS_Fallujah

        I’m not in favor of cutting hangar space for it, but a 16 cell VLS to house ASROC, LRASM & ESSM 4 packs would go a long way toward moving this from a SinkEx experiment to an actual warship.

        • ElmCityAle

          Exactly what the plans show for the Saudi version (16 cells of VLS).

      • Lazarus

        LCS has between 180-210 tons of extra weight that can support a number of systems, including those that would utilize SM-6 in surface mode. Its COMBATSYS system can designate weapons to targets.

        • John Locke

          Yeah you’re not going to stick a 21 ft missile in a LCS hull and just because COMBATS CAN designate to a track doesn’t mean it’s compatible with SM-6. Would still need a lot of integration work. Regardless, the SM-6 fantasy on a LCS is just that, fantasy

          • Secundius

            Why Not? A Patriot Missile System is just a Land Based AEGIS System. Search Radar could mounted as a Pop-Up on the Superstructure. And Mk.141 Lightweight Launchers used to Store SM-6 Missiles. The SAME Launchers used in the Land-Based “Patriot” System…

        • ElmCityAle

          8-16 VLS cells with ESSM and VL-ASROC and one or a pair of illuminators would be a huge step up in capability. No point in SM-6 unless you can detect/track out to that range (unless you are thinking of extended networked coverage from helo/drones).

  • delta9991

    Glad to see all the investments the Navy has been making are coming to fruition. SEWIP, AMDR, LRASM, and NSM (can’t imagine the Navy choosing an upgraded Harpoon) will definitely be huge upgrades for the fleets power across the spectrum. I’d love to see the FF get a 9-cell rotating AMDR with a 4 pack of the Single Cell Launchers would really allow for a local air defense that LCS currently lacks. Couple that with a likely 8 pack of NSMs it definitely becomes a deadly little ship that can’t be ignored even by a determined opponent. Still useful without, but it would definitely expand where and when it can be employed.

  • RobM1981

    I guess it’s better than what the other guys have, but that’s not the same as “the best we could do.”

    Aside from quality issues, the LCS is just too small for a frigate. This is particularly true in an era where hulls have gotten larger for destroyers. I have nothing against a corvette, but don’t call it a frigate.

    The ocean is still the ocean, and in a heavy sea a larger hull matters. A larger hull carries more ordnance and sensors, too. Larger flight deck. I realize we can’t have 100% DDG’s, but the LCS isn’t large enough to fairly call it a frigate.

    You can paint it red, too, but that doesn’t make it a fire truck.

    Most of what the Admiral is discussing here is educational to the ignorant.

    Wow, a sonar that will go *below* the layer? Who would have ever thought of such a thing.

    Wow, an SSM that will reach out over the horizon? Amazing.

    If you haven’t heard of these things before then, sure, they are interesting. But they are also ancient. The Perry’s delivered all of them, and more.

    By the way, Admiral, how does this canoe defend itself from Air Attack?

    Distributed lethality goes back to the earliest days of steel fighting ships, and even sailing ships would attempt it to a lesser degree.

    Jellicoe and his “greyhounds of the sea” were “Distributed Lethality” by another name. “We’re coming at you from all sides, you can’t ignore any of us…”

    Yes, yes. Got it.

    Now, about that tiny hull… why did you build a vessel that intrinsically is an inferior blue water hull? Why did you build a vessel that, by definition, will take less damage than a fleet asset should? With all of this talk about beam weapons, where do you “bolt that on,” when the hull is (charitably) 3,000 tons? How does it defend itself against air attack? Remember the Falklands? It’s amazing what a few attack aircraft can do to hulls that can’t defend themselves.

    You didn’t build these things out of aluminum, did you….?

    I don’t care if you arm it with Photon Torpedoes – why did you build a Corvette?

    And, oh yeah – why did you build two totally different hulls to deliver the same (very limited) capability? You do realize that my kids will be paying for this boondoggle for decades, right?

    Sorry if I don’t cheer.

    • John Locke

      “If you haven’t heard of these things before then, sure, they are interesting”

      Right

      Reminds me of CO’s and Group Commanders calls. If you had a healthy background in Intel and/or EW you would do a lot of face-palming.

    • Lazarus

      You should cheer. At $479m a copy, LCS is an affordable solution to the need for a small surface combatant. Too many people want small warships to be a fortress at sea; something not possible on a small displacement for a reasonable price. LCS has a point defense system against air and missile defense, something the RN did not possess at the Falklands. Distributed lethality is really a product of the network age, as networks can coordinate attacks with much greater accuracy and lethality than sailing frigates, or torpedo boats. ADM Jellicoe was a battleship sailor and believed in a system of signalling that in effect networked his battleships’ fire. He invented the idea of a tactical plot. I think that he would appreciate LCS.

      • RobM1981

        I disagree with you on the Falklands. Not all of the RN combatants were lost to Exocet, remember? Some were lost to iron bombs. A frigate armed with Seacat, ostensibly a PDS, lost to iron bombs. Why? A lot of reasons, I’m sure, but one of them has to be: Seacat wasn’t enough. It was an old PDS by 1982. Moreover, a modern frigate should have had more.

        The Perry’s did. For 1982 their AAW suite was impressive: Gun, Phalanx, and Standard. It was all that anyone could reasonably ask for in a hull that size, particularly since she still shipped a credible ASW and ASuW suite.

        The LCS’s do not. By no modern standard are the LCS’s competent in any of these tasks – not at a Fleet level.

        They are corvettes. They’d probably be great corvettes if they were outfitted for one mission, like corvettes normally are. Since we already have the Cyclones, make the LCS into what they were designed for: shallow water ASW. Medium to high frequency sonar, torpedoes, a hangar, maybe a smaller Towed Array, and the assumption that they will be operating under air cover, so AAW and ASuW aren’t that big of a deal.

        That’s “Corvette.”

        A Frigate is the smallest combatant that can meaningfully contribute against all three threats: surface, air, and submarine. In a Task Force they are typically the outer screen, and they offer credible protection and offensive punch.

        In 1982, the Perry’s did. In 2017 the LCS’s do not.

        Distributed lethality has always relied on the network: flags, blinkers, radio, and now data links. Got it. Technology gets better, absolutely.

        However… time and again we see instances were communications fail, for one reason or another. This is all the more reason why an individual combatant has to be credible against all three threats, since there is always a good chance that she won’t have the network to enable “special capabilities.”

        For 1982 the Perry’s did. For 2017, neither LCS hull does.

        I don’t care if they cost $10. For Corvettes they are fine – let’s buy a dozen or two. As Frigates?

        No. No matter what bolts are bolted on, this is not a Frigate.

        • Secundius

          But there was a reason for it? Both the British and French built the Exocet Missile system. The British “Overlooked” the Fact that Both the French and British USED the Exact Same Fire Control System, which the French had SOLD to the Argentine Republic. When the “Sheffield’s” Fire Control System Scanned the Missile System. The Fire Control System Registered the “Threat” as “Friendly” and Shutdown Any and All Countermeasures (Fratricide or “Death By Friendly Fire”). After the Sheffield’s Demise ALL Fire Control Systems Had to be Manually Operated until a New Computer Program could be made…

          • RobM1981

            Seriously?

            Wow. I have never read that.

          • Secundius

            It was a Summary of ALL the Things that Went Wrong In the Falklands War. In the “Hast” to get the Royal Navy to the Falklands Islands, Thing were Either “Overlooked” or Completely “Ignored”. Much like the US Communications Problem that President George H.W. Bush experienced during Both the “Grenada Invasion” and the “Manuel Antonio Noriega-Moreno Incident” in Panama.

            That scene in “Heartbreak Ridge” Movie with Clint Eastwood and the Credit Card Phone Call from Grenada to Camp Lejeune actually happened. But NOT the Way it was Portrayed…

          • ElmCityAle

            I also have never seen that specific claim about the fire control system. I have seen the interview with the Argie pilot in which he points out that since they had the same ships, they were able to test approaches that would be less detectable to the radar coverage.

            As for SeaCat compared to RAM/SeaRAM systems: a sling compared to a photon torpedo. LCS needs more, but RAM/SeaRAM is the best short range system available from US firms (which seems to be a requirement – otherwise, there would be more Israeli systems and weapons chosen by any rational designer).

          • Secundius

            RAM and SeaRAM is an “All-Purpose-Missile”. While “Officially” called a SAM, it Can Be Programmed to Engage Surface Target too. I think “Brimstone” (British Hellfire) is a Better Choice as a Stand-Off Weapon with a Range of ~1-1/2 times that of the Hellfire and 5 Times the Range if using the Brimstone II. And if Fitted with as SM-3 Missile, is Also “Multi-Target” capable. Just like the SM-1’s used in Vietnam in “Wild Weasel” operations…

  • John Locke

    These guys are stuck in the Cold War

    • Lazarus

      Agree that opponents of LCS are indeed stuck in a Cold War mindset.

      • John Locke

        Because they built better ships back then

        • Ctrot

          Yes, and we actually WON the Cold War.

      • Rick

        The below quote sounds kinda like the rationale for the FFG 7 class and is such a “Cold War mindset”. But then the FFG ‘s turned into Destroyer’s. Magically. Hey,but why not the Knox class did too. Both classes were integral parts of CVBG’s. LCS never will be able to make any such transition. And is therefor totally useless.:
        “With the upgraded radar, North said a frigate could provide protection for a five-LCS surface action group, for example, and coordinate with other ships in the area for regional protection.”
        At least we, too, know were your head is “stuck”. Give us a break.

  • The Plague

    “LCS… blah blah blah LCS… blah blah blah …LCS…” – They just can’t lose that bucket of sewage of a program, they’re downright spinning about it like it was the central axis of the surface fleet. Sickening.

    • Mark Keller

      Exactly! DDG’s are the future and if you really look at the cost VS performance the LCS just can’t hang.

  • Secundius

    According to “Military & Aerospace Electronics” dated 16 January 2017. DARPA and Raytheon want to Start Fielding “ASAP” Smart Projectile Ammunition for Mk.38 Mod 1, 0.984-inch (25x137mmR/107-caliber) M242 Bushmaster. For “Anti-Swarming” Go-Fasts Operations. The Only thing Holding Up the “Evolution” is determining the Length of the Projectile to be used. A “Scaled-Up” version of the Smart .50-caliber Projectile would exceed 8-inches in length. Not something that can be Easily Chambered with the Current Gun Configuration…

  • Andrew Doolittle

    The purpose of the Destroyer remains fleet security…taking point to defend the big deck aircraft carriers.

    Simply put this is a proven design that is taking far too long to build.