Home » News & Analysis » Forward Navy Maintainers Cutting Down on Repair Time on Littoral Combat Ships

Forward Navy Maintainers Cutting Down on Repair Time on Littoral Combat Ships

USS Coronado (LCS-4) moors pierside in Langkawi, Malaysia during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2017 on March 25, 2017. US Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The U.S Navy’s Commander Logistics Group Western Pacific/Task Force 73 has reorganized the process for dealing with maintenance incidents for Littoral Combat Ships deployed to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, reducing turn-around time for such incidents from 15 days to four days, Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson told USNI News.

He said one of the purposes of the current rotational deployment of USS Coronado (LCS-4) was to prepare for multiple Littoral Combat Ships deployed through Singapore and in other locations and there was a growing need to ensure an effective and efficient maintenance program in the forward operating environment. Gabrielson said when Coronado arrived in Singapore, a comprehensive examination of the process and procedures for handling unexpected engineering casualties was undertaken. The examination revealed that based on past deployments, it took an average of 15 days to correct maintenance casualties.

He added, “our team got together and first of all looked at the operational requirements. We then asked ourselves how good do we need to be in order to maximize our ability to meet those requirements. We needed to have confidence that we could correct most propulsion casualty incidents within four days to ensure we can meet LCS operational schedules down the line”.

Gabrielson said the examination required a collaborative effort by the entire LCS enterprise, from the maintenance and support process comprised of a mix of navy, civilian and government contracted personnel along with original equipment manufacturers, to reduce the 15 day turnaround time for correcting maintenance casualties to an average of four days. Gabrielson said these efficiencies are applicable to wherever Coronado and future Littoral Combat Ships are deployed in the region and not just in Singapore. He also added that some of the conclusions that were reached included the relocation of personnel, support assets and spare part stocks to better support the operation of rotationally deployed Littoral Combat Ships in the region.

Coronado will be one of the U.S ships participating in an exercise code-named Pacific Griffin with the Republic of Singapore Navy, which will take place in Guam in August. “We’re still finalizing the details on that, but it will be a high-end exercise which will involve live-firing,” Gabrielson said.

The Navy is also examining increased aviation capability for rotationally deployed Littoral Combat Ships, an over the horizon missile capability and additional systems to increase the Littoral Combat Ship lethality for sea control missions to maximize the potential of the platform.

In regard to the future presence of multiple Littoral Combat Ships to the region, Gabrielson said his team was ready and prepared to support these deployments.

“We’re in a good place with the work that has been done, the lessons learned and the avocation of those lessons, such as the 15 to four turnaround for casualty repair, and we’ll continue to do more to conduct preventive maintenance on these ships and seek ways to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in how we support them. We’re ready and excited to welcome multiple LCS to the region and put them to work, and there’s no shortage of meaningful work for these ships.”

  • Desplanes

    Just as important, how often do these things need to be repaired?

    Hopefully, they’ll complete all planned live fire exercises intact without shaking themselves apart. I feel sorry for their crews.

    • Fred Gould

      Ships and aircraft are complex. When I joined the USN, back in the late 60’s there was a repair availability every quarter for each ship. Tenders were in every CONUS port and forward deployed to the Med and western Pacific.

    • Duane

      As Fred says, all ships are complicated machines. There’s a never ending repair list, even on relatively new vessels.

      • Desplanes

        I’m well aware that ships are complicated. However, brand new ships shouldn’t need to be towed, or limp along on half power.

        • Duane

          That was a training issue, the Navy determined. It’s been addressed – the Navy completely revamped the training system by going to the use of commissioned ships as trainers. More or less what the nukes did 65 years ago when they established complete ship prototype land based trainers to train the engineering crew and officers before they ever saw assignment to the fleet. The Navy should have gone to this early on with the high-tech powerplants on the LCS … but the non-nuke skimmers are apparently slow learners, taking 65 years to learn what Adm. Rickover knew back in the early 50s.

          • Niki Ptt

            2 officers (LTs) and 8 crews for the whole engineering department, with a 70MW power plant to operate (plus 4 troublesome generators), that’s kind of “light”…

          • Desplanes

            So you try to make your point by insulting the surface fleet ?

            You should be proud.

          • Duane

            Proud to have been part of a higher performing element of the fleet, for obvious reasons. Achieving high performance must always be rewarded, and achieving low performance – particularly when set into being by the commanders with how they staff and train the fleet – always needs to be corrected.

            If you feel insulted, then you must be in favor of low performance.

          • Desplanes

            Duane, you really got me there. Oh what will I do ?!?

    • PolicyWonk

      W/r/t repairs, the Independence class has a simpler propulsion system, and is a considerably more innovative design than the Freedom variants. OTOH, the Independence class is all aluminum, and the history of aluminum in battle is far from happy (the Freedom variants have a lot more steel, but are a lot more complex).

      The navy created a real problem for itself by opting for two LCS classes that use very few of the same components, which complicates training and logistics. The maintenance requirements are also considerable, which is why the sizes of the LCS crews are now double their original (designed) compliments.

      The logistics group is to be commended for more thoroughly analyzing the maintenance problems, and devising a superior plan/process for improving the service levels.

      Regarding the live-fire exercises, the weaponry the LCS carries (even with its SUW package), would make it a challenge to sink itself, let alone a real naval opponent of the same tonnage (excluding the addition of the NSM, or Harpoons, etc.).

  • airider

    4 days is a reasonable number, but it is entirely predicated on having the correct information from the ship about what exactly is wrong, and then ensuring the correct parts are available in theater. MLDT was usually the longest pole in the tent regardless of the ship class. We’ll see if they can hold to this 4 day objective…

  • Western

    This sounds encouraging. Hopefully somewhere in that plan some of the crew is rotated to the OEM for some training with the designers, engineers and fabricators that made the equipment.

  • Duane

    I’m curious about one thing … given the large differences in design and materiel of the two LCS classes, is the Navy planning to forward deploy/base the two classes separately … i.e, put the Independence class vessels in Singapore, and the Freedom class vessels in the Middle East? That would make sense, because it does get complicated if the maintainers are trying to get up to speed, and maintain spares inventories, on two very different vessels.

    This should not be a problem for big domestic bases like San Diego or Mayport.

  • Ed L

    Are they keeping them pier-side longer?

    • Jon

      Pretty much. To date, Coronado has spent 5 months (out out of 6) of her deployment tied up to various piers.

      • Desplanes

        Waiting for one of the LCS apologists to justify that schedule, this forum is full of them.

        • Oskar

          Yup. Duane’s here…

      • Duane

        And you know that how? I don’t believe that any naval ship publishes its sailing calendar on the web. I doubt very much what you say, because that’s not how LCS or other ships spend most of their time when fully operational (between maintenance availabilities or overhauls).

        What we do know is that the Coronado’s deployment to Singapore has been reported by the Navy to be quite successful, no “casualties” or inability to meet its mission.

  • NavySubNuke

    Yikes, straight to ad hominems. Not really becoming – especially since he hits on one of the points you made above about the Navy’s trouble with maintaining two different classes of ships with little to no similarities.

    I’m curious, which of the fully demonstrated – and by that I assume you mean actually tested and deployed not just demonstrated in a one off test shot – weapons systems do you think makes LCS highly lethal and who (as in which specific classes of ships operated by our peer or near peer competitors) do you consider them highly lethal against in an alerted engagement?

  • NavySubNuke

    I notice you skipped over the part about what it would be lethal against in an alerted engagement – I assume you are doing that because, like everyone else who has looked at it, you realize the LCS has no hope of surviving an engagement with anything our potential peer or near peer competitors are fielding and is useful at best in only benign environments against lightly armed non-state actors/pirates or suicide flotillas like those used by Iran.

    • Duane

      No – the LCS is as capable as any US Navy warship in defending itself against ASCMs – both purely defensively with its SEARAM CIWS, same as used on the Ford class and the newer Arleigh Burkes – and offensively by adopting OTH missiles (Harpoon and NSM have already been qualified on angled deck launchers on both LCS classes).

      No enemy vessel can get close enough to an LCS to “out gun it” using conventional guns (which are pretty much as useless as teats on the proverbial boar hog in modern naval warfare) without being subject to medium to long range ASCM fires from the LCS, or from supporting aircraft. LCS aren’t going to be all alone – they will be supported by other air and surface and subsurface based naval assets. Naval wars aren’t fought at two ship duels, especially now with US control of airspace and worldwide coverage of air and naval assets all networked together using NIFCCA.

      • NavySubNuke

        “the LCS is as capable as any US Navy warship in defending itself against ASCMs ”
        – This is at best a half truth since you completely ignore the anti-missile capabilities of an Aegis equipped ship armed with SM-2s to SM-6s to take out ASCMs —- as shown by the Navy’s recent anti-ship missile engagements off the coast of Yemen.
        “Harpoon and NSM have already been qualified on angled deck launchers on both LCS classes”
        -Are you sure about that? Last I saw only the LCS-4 had fired a harpoon (during RIMPAC 16) after the Navy bolted a launcher to the front. I am unaware of an “odd” boat firing a Harpoon.
        -Agree on the guns statement. That is why LCS will probably be useful against pirates and suicide flotillas —- not much hope against an alerted adversary though.
        “without being subject to medium to long range ASCM fires from the LCS”
        – Again please provide me with a specific ship in service with the Chinese or Russian Navy that the LCS has superiority over. At this point every ship they deploy that is even close in size to the LCS has not only more missiles but missiles that are longer ranged, faster, and more capable than a harpoon or an NSM so I’m not sure why you are so confidant an LCS will even survive long enough to return fire.

        • Duane

          No – I’m not ignoring AEGIS. AEGIS is an AREA air defense system, not a point air defense system as is a CIWS. AEGIS ships are equipped with AEGIS in order to defend defined areas (such as our national soil) and other vessels (such as CVNs in a carrier attack group).

          LCS are every bit as capable of performing CIWS, actually probably more so, than virtually every other ship in the US fleet. It is certainly far better defended against swarming fast boat attacks, and UAV attacks, with its lethal multi-layered system of weapons for that purpose, including the high speed precision guided Mk 110 57mm gun, its twin Mk 46 30mm guns, its four 50 cal, its 24-cell Hellfire vertical launcher, and its SEARAM anti-ASCM system (the same anti-ASCM mounted on the Ford class CVNs and the Flight II Arleigh Burke DDGs).

          The LCS is not tasked with area air defense, never was, never will be. To say it’s less capable for a mission it’s not tasked with is like criticising aircraft carriers for their inability to submerge, or to attack DDGs for their inability to launch and retrieve fixed wing manned fighters.

          • NavySubNuke

            You certainly do a good job of fixating on minutia in order to ignore the actual point of the discussion.
            But at the end of the day the LCS are going to be nothing but death traps to their crew if they tangle with anything even close to their size and no amount of hair splitting or carefully avoiding the discussion is going to change that.
            Your viewpoint is so obviously biased I have to ask – did you/do you work on the LCS program? It is hard to imagine you being so blatantly in favor of such a program without some level of skin in the game.

          • Duane

            It is the opposite of what you call “minutia” to fail to understand and acknowledge, as you so clearly do, the entirely different missions of two entirely different ship types. You are disingenuously trying to conflate two extremely different naval concepts – area air defense, and own ship point defense – and pretend that they are the same. They are no more the same than a submarine having the same mission set and capabilities as a big deck aircraft carrier.

            You are merely playing word games in an obvious but unsuccessful attempt to confuse.

          • NavySubNuke

            Duane – I have now asked you twice what ships our adversaries are putting to sea right now the LCS is highly lethal against in an alerted engagement.
            You have dodged the question both times and instead are persisting in this complete irrelevant discussion that has nothing to do with the actual ability of the LCS to contribute to a fight against anyone but a suicide flotilla or pirates.
            You are the one playing word games – you are the one avoiding the question.
            So I will ask again with a direct cut and paste this time: “Again please provide me with a specific ship in service with the Chinese or Russian Navy that the LCS has superiority over. At this point every ship they deploy that is even close in size to the LCS has not only more missiles but missiles that are longer ranged, faster, and more capable than a harpoon or an NSM so I’m not sure why you are so confidant an LCS will even survive long enough to return fire”

          • Duane

            Any ship that floats. There is no ship on earth that cannot be disabled by a Harpoon or NSM, with which the LCS are fully proven out and the Navy is now purchasing (the RFP was issued just last month). Same anti-ship missiles that all our other warshps use.

          • NavySubNuke

            I guess it is easy to be so confidant when you are completely ignorant of what our adversaries can do. Either that or you are just biased because you were part of the problem – er I mean the program.
            So which is it Duane – are you just that ignorant of how incapable our
            anti-ship missiles are compared to those our potential adversaries or are you just biased because you wasted a portion of your life on the LCS?

          • Duane

            So tell us, O Wise One – tell us why our adversaries are so far more capable than the US Navy – the navy that happens to be larger and more capable than the next 9 smaller navies of the world combined. Please, I can’t wait to hear how our military leadership is so effed up that they managed to make a navy that pales beside the unsinkable, undefeatable, and totally awesome navies of Vlad Putin, Inc. (the world’s largest kleptocracy) or the coastal defense navy of China.

            I’m waiting.

          • NavySubNuke

            Incorrect question Duane – I never claimed anyone had a better Navy than us. I said the LCS was useless against anything even close to its size in an kind of alerted engagement and that it was only useful against suicide flotillas and pirates.
            Now which is it Duane – are you just that ignorant of how incapable our
            anti-ship missiles are compared to those our potential adversaries or are you just biased because you wasted a portion of your life on the LCS?

          • Duane

            Which is of course not correct.

            Tell us why a Harpoon or NSM fired from an LCS is less capable than a Harpoon or NSM fired from a DDG?

          • NavySubNuke

            Now which is it Duane – are you just that ignorant of how incapable our
            anti-ship missiles are compared to those our potential adversaries or are you just biased because you wasted a portion of your life on the LCS?

          • Duane

            Tell us how our anti-ship missiles are inferior .. please. Particularly the NSM, which is our newest ASM in the fleet and quite likely the most capable and sophisticated ASM on earth. Even the lowly Harpoon, as old as it is, is still quite capable of knocking out most naval warships.

            Or perhaps you can also explain how the LRASM, still in development but very close to being deployed by the US Navy throughout the fleet and naval air forces, is also so inferior to the Russians’ ASMs.

            Really – I’m waiting … and apparently will be permanently.

          • NavySubNuke

            Despite your refusal to answer my question I’ll answer yours because it is child’s play to anyone who has actually looked at this issues.
            In fact, I already told you the answer earlier in this conversation – though since you aren’t smart enough realize the role Aegis plays in missile defense and how that makes a DDG superior to an LCS in an anti-ship missile engagement with an alerted adversary I can see why you missed it.
            The specific ways our missiles our inferior is in their speed (and by that I mean their lack of), range (and by that I mean their lack of), and warhead size (and by that I mean the their lack of).
            And lets not forget the limited magazine space of a ship like LCS vs. similarly sized ships operated by our adversary.
            Oh and just to be clear, I’m only talking about anti-ship cruise missiles here. I don’t think anyone would actually waste an anti-ship ballistic missile on an LCS so I don’t think they really fit into the discussion plus to my knowledge they are only land based at this point so it isn’t a fair comparison.
            Also, NSM is not actually in the fleet yet — though they “hope” to have it on Freedom by the next deployment. Which given the time delay caused by all the LCS crew mistakes on the propulsion plant – who knows when that will be.
            Finally LRASM is still in deployment but unless your definition of “very close” is 3+ years than LRASM is no where near deployment “throughout the US fleet”. It isn’t even supposed to be integrated onto F/A-18s until 2019 (good luck on that arriving on time given the current budget disaster). They just did the first release a month ago of an LRASM — not even a test fire. And God only knows how much longer it will take them to fully integrate it onto a ship considering they have only done 3 launches so far from a Mk-41 launcher. We’re also looking at the mid-2020s before a deck mounted version is ready – and that is according to Lockheed so you know it will be later than that.
            Now that I’ve answered your question and pointed out two of the inaccuracies of your post I’d like you to answer mine:
            Are you just that ignorant of how incapable our anti-ship missiles are compared to those our potential adversaries or are you just biased because you wasted a portion of your life on the LCS?

          • Duane

            Your points are invalid. Period.

            The Harpoon has more than enough warhead to seriously disable any surface warship if it hits a vulnerable point on the ship – nearly 500 pounds. It travels at high subsonic speed, and is a sea-skimmer so it is virtually impossible to detect with a surface ship radar until within very close range. It has been our standard ASM for four decades. It is not the “latest and greatest” because is lacks some of the other characteristics of our more advanced missiles such as the NSM and the LRASM.

            The NSM is IOC, immediately available, has been certified for use on the LCS, and it is literally the “latest and greatest”. It is a very smart, semi-autonomous ASM, able to identify and distinguish between multiple ship targets, such as between high value targets and lower value targets. it has its own multi-mode seeker, and it has the ability to sense incoming counter-fire and maneuver radically to avoid such fire. It is the most advanced ASM in the world now in service, better than the Russian Kaliber that you seem to be so fond of. It’s warhead is smaller than the Harpoon’s warhead, but it is much more precise in its seeker – the size of the warhead matters less and less as the precision of the weapon gets better and better. Everybody knows that apparently except you.

            The LRASM is more powerful than the NSM, having a larger warhead and a longer range (350 nm), and similar semi-autonomous target seeking capability. It is not yet IOC but it is very close – within a year or so having already been well demonstrated as an aircraft launched ASM. The ship-launched version using the angled deck launchers of the LCS will take a little longer, perhaps another 2 years or so, to develop and test out the launcher. It is already capable of being fired out of a VLS as found on our DDGs and CGs.

            Additionally, the Navy also recently adapted the SM-6 for use as a ASM, with demos performed in the last two years, and the Navy is also working on developing a new moving-target seeker for the Tomahawk to allow its use as an ASM.

            These missiles are in continuous development, so we will see more capabilities all the time.

            You are the one who is wasting away your life becoming a professional LCS troll. I simply support our Navy, support its continued development and strengthening and adaptation to mulitiple threats and multiple environments and theaters of operation. You, on the other hand, prefer to pretend that naval warfare needs to go back to the 20th century.

          • NavySubNuke

            My points are hardly invalid – as anyone who actually knows what they are talking about would understand.
            Sure – if the harpoon actually hits it can disable a ship —- but the “if” part is a pretty big “if” at this point which is something just about everyone who has looked at this understands.
            NSM is the latest and greatest US/NATO missile but it is hardly the latest and greatest ASCM except to people who spend their lives believing nothing but marketing materials.
            LRASM is great and once we actually get it to IOC, which even Lockheed admits won’t be until 2019 now – again something people with actual knowledge know so I’m not surprised you don’t. And it won’t be ready for the LCS until the mid-2020s at least, again according to LM, so it isn’t really part of this conversation at all.
            Same goes for TLAM and SM-6 which can’t be fired by LCS.
            It is rather telling that to talk about how great LCS is you have to talk about all the systems it might have some day or worse systems it won’t ever have.
            You can call me a troll all you like but that doesn’t change facts. I don’t want our navy held back to the 20th century and I don’t want our navy held back by bad decisions — those are things people like you want.
            LCS as a concept was great – but LCS as executed and delivered is a disaster and the sooner people move on from that bad decision the better. The Navy has a chance to build a real frigate with actual combat capability – hopefully they make the right call.
            Mindless drones like you will always push for the easy call to be made but that is because that is all your small thinking is capable of. Hopefully the Navy does the right thing and overcomes the resistance of you and your fellow myopic bureaucrats.