Home » Budget Industry » Interview: PEO Littoral Combat Ship to Seek Industry Interest on Navy Frigate Program by End of June


Interview: PEO Littoral Combat Ship to Seek Industry Interest on Navy Frigate Program by End of June

Sioux City (LCS-11) during the ship’s moveout at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine yard in Wisconsin. Lockheed Martin photo.

WASHINGTON NAVY YARD – The Navy will begin exploring interest in its revamped frigate program soon, with the Program Executive Office for Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS) set to release a request for information (RFI) to industry by the end of the month.

Rear Adm. John Neagley, who heads PEO LCS, told USNI News in a June 2 interview that changing strategies for the upcoming class of frigates – originally slated to be an improved version of one of the current LCS variants, but now will be selected through a full and open competition with newly written requirements – has created a “good competitive space” for designing and buying the new class of warship.

In his first formal interview since assuming command last summer, Neagley told USNI News that “we’re going to put out an RFI here that will solicit to see who else might be interested in this, so we can get a feel for what the competitive space might look like. We’re working through what the details of that RFI would say, but I think given the size of the ship and the number of folks who build those types of ships, I expect we’ll get pretty good competition out of it.”

Rear Adm. John Neagley. US Navy photo.

From 2014 until earlier this year, the plan was to select either Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s Freedom-variant LCS or Austal USA’s Independence-variant LCS and create an up-gunned and up-armored version to serve as the frigate. The Navy earlier this year decided to take a fresh look at the frigate requirements, and in April the service announced it would hold a full and open competition for any domestic or foreign frigate design, as long as an American shipyard built the ships and the Navy could buy the technical data rights.

Neagley said he strongly supported that decision.

“We value competition. I think any time we can leverage the power of competition in acquisition it’s important for us to drive cost and affordability. So that’s the main driver” of the decision to allow additional bidders, he said.
“The requirement sets are different enough (from the LCS) that we could probably have more competitive space if we open it up, and that will give us opportunities to compete – and from our perspective competition is good, we get the best price and the capability we want, so I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley suggested last month that Lockheed Martin and Austal may have a bit of a leg up in the competition, with hot production lines and mature designs, and therefore the lower cost associated with those. He made clear that they would have to meet all the new operational requirements, which will include increased survivability, a greater air defense capability, and electromagnetic maneuver warfare capabilities for the more sophisticated operating environment the Navy expects its frigates to face.

“Coming in new, you may have some of that stuff already baked into your design, but you don’t have a hot production line,” Neagley said when asked about who may be advantaged in the upcoming competition.
“On the other hand, you have two [shipyard] who have been building ships and may be able to accommodate some of those things. So I think it’s a good competitive space for us, and we’ll continue to work through those requirement sets with N96 (the Navy’s surface warfare directorate) to make sure we got that right as we move forward.”

Both PEO LCS, led by Neagley, and N96, led by Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, have worked in tandem on the new frigate requirements, leveraging as much previous work as they could but also ensuring the requirements will lead to a ship that can operate in tough environments and be a relevant warfighting asset to the Navy for decades to come.

“We’ve been very very closely linked to the requirements team on this,” Neagley said.
“We have this requirements evaluation team that was stood up to look at the frigate requirements based on the new analysis we have that, hey, these ships are going to operate in a more contested environment, you’ve got to go look at what capability set is appropriate for that environment. We wanted to leverage the work we had already done in the existing frigate, we wanted to leverage the work that was done in the [Small Surface Combatant Task Force] a few years ago, and then take a set-based design approach now. … That group who did that had guys on the acquisition side and on the requirements side, so Ron Boxall and I both had folks on that team working it. So the requirements were both informed by trades, cost trades and capability trades – all that was looked at at once. I would say that was a good approach, and it’s going to help us moving forward with frigate. We’ll work this very closely together as we nail down the requirement to understand cost and schedule associated with that requirement.”

This frigate selection was previously scheduled to take place in Fiscal Year 2019, meaning the Navy would buy one LCS in 2018 and then pick either Lockheed Martin or Austal to build frigates in 2019 and beyond. Instead, the frigate detail design and construction contract will be awarded in 2020, meaning PEO LCS has to find a way to sustain its two open production lines until a decision can be made.

Aerial view of the future littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) during its launch sequence at the Austal USA shipyard on Feb. 24, 2015. US Navy Photo

Neagley and Boxall testified together on May 3, about three weeks before the Defense Department submitted its FY 2018 budget request to lawmakers. The Pentagon’s budget submission only called for one LCS in 2018 and did not project out into future years, leaving the PEO and the two LCS variants’ supply chains in a precarious position, after Neagley made clear at the May 3 hearing that the Navy needed to buy at least three ships a year to keep the industrial base healthy.

The Trump Administration, through the Office of Management and Budget, told the Navy the day after the budget request was released that it was “supportive” of buying a second ship but still has not given any indication how that ship would be paid for – through a topline increase or in lieu of other spending items.

Asked about the impact to the industrial base, Stackley said in a May 24 hearing that buying fewer than three ships a year could be mitigated by managing the backlog at the shipyards in Wisconsin and Alabama.

Neagley, when asked how that might work and how well it would actually protect the shipyards and supply chains, simply said the Navy needed to buy at least three a year.

“About one and a half ships a year to each shipyard is really what is an efficient build cycle for us. So when you look at the manning levels in the shipyard, it’s a throughput, it’s like building a house. You have guys who do the foundation, and you have guys that’ll hang the drywall. So if you don’t have ships coming in for the guys who do the foundation, then those guys have to go find other work. So it’s not only the timing and the number of the ships but it’s the sequencing of work that provides the efficiency. The shipyards invested to do two ships a year on six-month centers, and so about one-and-a-half is an efficient build for me. Below that, we can certainly build ships, but I would expect to see impact to schedule and cost,” Neagley said.

Asked again how to help the shipyards stay open and viable for the frigate competition if fewer ships were bought in 2018, he said, “we certainly will continue to work with the shipbuilders on the sequence of ships. But again, if we go below that 1.5 (per yard per year) then we have to look at where they are in the current production cycle. There would be some impact to the efficiency of that yard. It’s both the sequence of work and the volume of work. The sequence of work, where you have particular trades that need ships coming in in the front end, you’d have to manage that workforce if that work doesn’t come in as per the schedule. So that’s what we’d have to manage with the shipbuilders.”

USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Independence (LCS-2) US Navy Photo

The Navy has bids in hand from Austal and Lockheed Martin for the three LCSs to be bought in the current year, FY 2017, and Neagley said those bids are being reviewed now. FY 2018 and 2019 ships will be handled in a different contract, which the admiral said would be competitive but the details of which are still largely undetermined, since it is unclear how many ships the service will buy in either of those two years.

“In a perfect world it would be great to know exactly how many ships, but given our history we’ve seen ships added, so it’s not new for us to have options in contracts as a way of handling additional ships if they were to come,” Neagley said.

  • Ed L

    how can two companies who have built American Navy Ships and Submarines for decades create such turkeys. Is it time to stand a side and let Huntington Ingalls build the next Frigate. And why build only 1.5 ships a year. why not 2 a year. Huntington for the $684 million average cost of the eight NSCs that Huntington Ingalls is building appear to line up quite nicely with the Navy’s desire to build its new SSCs for $700 million to $800 million apiece. It suggests that a more militarized version of the Cutter could slot right in with the Navy’s requirements for SSC — and give Huntington Ingalls the win on this multibillion-dollar contract. Let’s order 40 Frigates and each year build 8 a year OR 4 a year divided equally between Huntington, GD, Lockheed and Raytheon who also appears to want in on the action.

    • DaSaint

      GD ceded prime status to Austal USA on the LCS. Lockheed is prime on the Freedom class, but they are not the shipbuilder. Raytheon isn’t part of the shipbuilding mix.

      • tpharwell

        I read him as mentioning LM and Raytheon for the sake of their combat systems.

        Based on public information available, I must say that the relationship between LM and Fincantieri is quite muddy. Fincantieri is a shipbuilder; a big one. They bought the corporation that owns the yard in Marinette, making it a wholely owned subsidiary, in order to get the job. Which came first is a chicken and egg question I lack the answer to. But to get the job, they teamed up with LM, and LM bought a substantial minority stake in the subsidiary. (Finacantieri, by the way, one way or another is ultimately owned by….Italy.)

        LM then turns around and takes over everything. Yes, Fincantieri technically runs the yard and therefore is the “shipbuilder”. But it is LM which is contracting with the Navy for the ships. It is LM that is negotiating. It is LM that is advertising them as its products. It is LM that is engaging the outside engineering consultants. It is LM that is keeping on the records. It is LM that is hiring. It is LM that is conducting the builder’s trials. It is LM everything. But then someone who seems to know what they are talking about says that it is Fincantieri, and that LM is merely a sub.

        As I see it, LM is the shipbuilder who has contracted to deliver the LCS to the Navy, and it has merely subbed out the work to the shipyard owner in which it holds a minority interest, but over which it has effectively, total control. Granted, the hull is based on a Fincantieri commercial design.

        P.S. And then, as informed sources have observed, most of its systems are provided by European subcontractors, making it essentially, a “Euro”-something. I am not quite sure what. I think they have quite successfully blurred the picture.

        • Secundius

          Fincantieri of Italy was founded in 1959. Fincantieri of the USA was founded in 1942. Two different companies sharing the same name…

          • tpharwell

            In a word: no.

            Marinette Marine Corporation was founded in 1942 by Americans. Fincantieri was founded in 1959 as part of an Italian state owned conglomerate and in 1984 spun off as a wholely owned subsidiary of “Fintecna”, a state-owned finance company that buys and sells private assets and businesses. There is only one Fincantieri, and it had nothing to do with the formation of Marinette Marine.

            Marinette Marine was sold to the “Manitowoc” company, which owns other yards, in 2000. (For $48M, per Wikipedia.) In 2009, Manitowoc sold Marinette to “Fincantieri Marine Groups Holdings”, a subsidiary corporation of Fincantieri specially formed for the purpose of owning Marinette, with Lockheed Martin taking a 21% interest in it.

            Fincantieri is big. It is reportedly the largest shipbuilder in Europe, and the fourth largest in the world. The list of ships it has built over the years is long. It includes many warships, built mostly for the Italian Navy, but the vast majority have been commercial. It has built far more cruise ships than cruisers.

            Notable among its commercial vessels are the Taurus and the Aries. Sister ships, these are mono-hull high-speed ferries. Built some time ago in the Riva Trigoso Genoa yard, these ferries make the run from Rome (Civitavechia) to Sardinia. The LM Freedom class LCS was based on the designs for these ships. As we all know, it has essentially, an oversized speedboat hull.

            And as we also know, LM is in the lead with respect to this program. But many of the systems are European. So the picture remains….quite muddy.

          • Secundius

            In a word YES!/? Fincantieri Marinette Marine (1942) was founded by Collaboration Partnership of Palmer Johnson Motor Yachts (1918) and American-Italian Naval Architect Carlo Nuvolari and Architect Dan Lenard. Fincantieri marine Group bought Mantowoc Marine just down the Road from Fincantieri Marinette Marine…

          • tpharwell

            Interesting, and more convoluted all the time. But check your dates. My research discloses no mention of a “Fincantieri Marinette Marine in 1942. But I will dig a little deeper.

            Perhaps I should refer to Dunn&Bradstreet instead of Wikipedia. I can demurrer to your facts about one Palmer Johnson Motor Yachts Co. and a certain architect of Italian heritage. They do not prove your assertion. Italians are very handy, I will concede and have a genius for design. But the United States was at war with Italy in 1942. And my guess is that Marinette Marine made warships for the United States Navy in 1942, as did Trumpy yachts on the Chesapeake. Manitowoc, I think, made subs, after the fashion of PNSY.

            My sources have Manitowoc buying Marinette Marine Corporation, sans Fincantieri, in 2000. That is quite a bit down the road from its founding. And as I said, accounts have Fincantieri buying Marinette from Manitowoc (or buying Manitowoc) in 2008, with LM.

            You seem to be knowledgeable about these matters, but I have a hard time accepting this account of corporate history. The facts seem to get murkier all the time !

            P.S. According to their own website, Nuvolari-Lenard was founded in 1990, in Venice, and designs, if not builds, expensive yachts. I am particularly interested in their motor sailer, “Oceano”, or some such. Some pretty sleek, and I would expect, fast craft there. No mention of Fincantieri, or any defense contracts.

  • DaSaint

    I guarantee the ‘winner’ will be one of the current variants or a variant of the NSC. I can’t see a UK, Franco/Italian, Dutch, or clean-sheet design being selected.

  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    It is good to see the Navy (reluctantly) admitting that the LCS may not be the best basis for a Frigate. Too bad it took so long.

    • Ctrot

      True, wasted time can never be recouped.

  • tpharwell

    We don’t really know, do we ? I will venture someone does. But we don’t. It is sort of like guessing what the next pitch will be before it is delivered.

    It seems to me that this “RFI” is a casual sort of “RFP”. Let’s call it a “Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes” RFP. I expect that its contents will “foreshadow” the result, to put it lightly; or that is to say, engineer it. If it is pitched to one of the LCS yards, then one of the LCS yards will get it. If not, not.

    Actually, Austal is out of the running, because their vessel is too good. It just happens to be what the Navy asked for almost two decades ago, and is not right for the present application. So let’s tentatively rule them out. That leaves us with the LM Freedom class – which is manifestly an unsuitable base upon which to design a frigate: but therefore bad enough to merit consideration.

    If the RFI is pitched to this entrant, then it will win, making the whole process essentially a farce. But if the RFI signals the Navy’s intent to issue an RFP for a ship with the performance requirements of a frigate, then neither LCS entrant will win. They probably won’t even respond in that case. They will know the cause is lost.

    That will not leave us with many options besides the HI patrol frigate, will it ? That is OK with me. But let me throw out this proposal. Why doesn’t NAVSEA make its own in-house proposal, to build its own bloody frigate prototype in one of its own bloody yards. [?]. Like say, Portsmouth, where there is a nice drydock, just down the cost from Bath.[?]

    • @USS_Fallujah

      It is still entirely possible for the Navy to change it’s mind, yet again, and refuse a full down-select. In this scenario they’d continue to purchase the Independence Class LCS, (slightly modified?), as an ASW optimized SSC and then purchase a Freedom Class FFE configured design optimized for AAW/SuWa with 16 VLS cells and an upgraded radar/control suite (and corresponding increase in power/cooling requirements).

  • @USS_Fallujah

    It will be interesting to see of the Freedom design’s pending sale of an FFE version to the Saudis, gives it the upper hand, but what’s disturbing is the SSC requirements still seem dangerously vague and lacking a foundation in an operational concept. What role does the Navy want the SSC to fulfil, what capabilities do they require and what priorities should designers place on those capabilities. What is the range requirement, speed, superstructure weight requirements can only be guessed at if the USN doesn’t specify what radar suite they want, which also drives the cooling/power requirements and magazine space.
    An open competition can only be leveraged if everyone is actually competing to provide the same service, instead we’ll get a mishmash of capabilities with no single builder really knowing what the ultimate selection is going to be based on.

    • Stephen

      This is such a mess; pitting 2 shipbuilders in a competition with the hope of producing the best possible product has been an abject failure. Re-designate as Patrol Frigates (up-gunned or VLS), or paint them white & sell them to the world as coast guard vessels. Clean-sheet the design of a new class of Frigates & address the need to replace the Cyclones. LCS, if ever a class of ships needed to be named after political hacks…

      • Secundius

        Actually there is a Replacement in “Foreign Buy” Service that could be used as a Suitable Replacement for the “Cyclone” class. The “Ambassador III” class Patrol Missile Boat, of ~600-tons with a Respectful Range of ~2,000nmi & 15kts. and a Maximum Speed of 41kts. And packs an 3-inch/62-caliber Oto Melara 76.2×635.5mm Mk.75 Mod.0 Autocannon. Unfortunately it’s a Foreign Sale Only Acquisition, NOT MEANT for US Navy Service…

        • Stephen

          We hamstring ourselves. The best examples of the Spruance Class were ear-marked for Iran. They finished the run with the greatest capability. Of course, our current crop of CGs are still using the same hull design.

          • Secundius

            And now the “Dead Admiral’s” are serving in the Taiwanese Navy…

  • Curtis Conway

    If our modern surface combatants cannot stand up to the punishment (defend itself and/or remain afloat), and be able to dish it out, across all threat arenas at some level at sea, then what are we building (?) . . disposable ships? They will not be survivable combatants by definition because they will not be able to perform their missions in the modern battle-space, due to the lack of not having that quality designed in as an inherent capability.

    “…but also ensuring the requirements will lead to a ship that can operate in tough environments…” Like the Arctic/Antarctic? How about extended Blue Water operations with the CSG/ARG in heavy weather under arduous conditions? The LCS program designed something with single point air defense capabilities that will sail, by definition, into a more dangerous environment (the littorals) where every truck with a ASCM system can attack. Good idea? Special ship for a specific special environment. Boutique Combatants? There are some places where such design criteria is appropriate, but NOT in surface combatants.

    “…we wanted to leverage the work that was done in the [Small Surface Combatant Task Force] a few years ago…” which has been shown to not stand up to scrutiny w/r/t survivability, and combat capability in the modern battle-space, possessing an ever increasing number of Ballistic Missiles and ASCMs (sub/super sonic). That group designed to budget, not combat capability based upon the most likely threat in the worst area this platform will be expected to perform its mission. We cannot afford to build something that ‘will only be effective in a low threat environment’, or must have a overwatch of greater combat capability as an escort! The next Small Surface Combatant must be able to take on a ‘Presence’ mission in ANY COCOM AOR, and be expected, with a high level of probability, to survive.

    Concerning ‘preserving the industrial base’ question, the DDG-51 Program has coordinated the use of certified, qualified, and cleared talent pools across the board between BIW (Bath, ME) and HII (Pascagoula, MS). Competition between two yards, using MYP as a procurement mechanism, with specific advantage given to the winner of annual contractual quality competition, is a good idea.

  • Curtis Conway

    More bullets for the description of the design criteria for our new frigate like not just an ice-hardened hull, but swift, and persistence (time-on-station). This had better be one tough little platform with substantial capability and persistence/range, and able to handle anything it comes up against. Ability to hide will be centered on the combat systems capabilities, and I hope they are there. If we plan for it, they will be.

    The most advantageous platform to use for the US Navy’s new Frigate is the US Coast Guard National Security Cutter (NSC) hull. Five are underway and have an outstanding operational underway records to date. The NSC possesses an all-ocean hull, which could be ice-hardened to enable operations in thin ice (< 1 meter thick) and extend patrol periods in the Northern Latitudes. If I were to make any improvements it would to replace the diesel engines with gas turbines, and replace the current LM2500 Prime Mover with the DDG-51 Flt IIA DRS Permanent Magnet Motor (PMM) in the destroyer’s HED propulsion system, and install gas turbine generators as required.

    The Battle Group's Primary Defensive Weapon System (Aegis) should be on the new frigate in an abbreviated form that possesses all the Aegis elements. The COMBATTS-21 Combat System (or SSDS) can fill the Command & Decision element with some improvements (addition consoles & Cooperative Engagement Capability). The primary element to this 'Aegis Light' system is a non-rotating 3D AESA radar. Enclose the mast and install a 9-RMA AN/SPY-6(V) AMDR, then we have something that's worth having for 40+ years. The radar can be maintained while in use underway. Tracking capabilities are now available to the combat system to support everything from detection & tracking, fire control, ESM/ECM, communications and other items. If the 9-RMA SPY-6 is employed it will have the most advanced capability available on any surface combatant, and maintenance and upgrade activity will track along with the DDG-51 Flt IIIs, new Enterprise Radar for the FORD CVN platform, and new Cruisers when they come out. Now this is a capability that can conduct Independent Steaming Exercises (ISE) anywhere with confidence while ‘Showing the Flag’, and maintaining Proactive Presence for the Unified Combatant Commanders in every region including the Arctic.

    Upgrade this hull with the 4160v integrated power generation and distribution system. Need a GTG (or two) in there somewhere. Actually, if you upgraded the propulsion system with a PMMs from DDG-51 in place of the NSC's LM2500 Prime Mover location, and put two gas turbines in the place of the diesels on the Main Reduction Gear, additional electrical power during GQ is handled. The 4160v mod will make the vessel Directed Energy Weapon (DEW)-Ready for when the new higher power bolt-on units come out.

    Nothing communicates capability to an adversary like a capable gun. The new Hyper-Velocity [guided] Projectiles (HVP) coming out of 5" guns will make them more capable (e.g., deadly), a greater asset against a wider scope of threats, and preserves Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS) capability for supporting Marines ashore.

    An ample Mk 41 32-cell missile field provides sufficient numbers of capable weapons across the spectrum for AAW (Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles) and ASW (ASROC) engagements. The primary ASuW weapon system would be external bolt-on. The Mk15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS) is the BEST last ditch defense against leakers. I would have landings below the radar array faces for installation of the DEWs providing four (4) unit locations, and the CIWS located between them on both sides (port/starboard). This combat system should be Passive-centric to the extent possible with four (4) EO/IR sensors hanging, and two (2) standing EO/IR sensors that will provide tracking of, and multi-spectral information on, the six closest tracks to the ship. The DEWs are OUTSTANDING EO/IR sensors in and of themselves so they can be trained upon the 4 highest threats to the ship at any one time providing coverage of the 10 closest tracks (total), and if warranted the switches are armed on the DEWs and the trigger pulled.

    A new EO/IR 360⁰ tracking system (Improvement of SIMONE), located as high on the forward Mack as possible, should be a wide field of view device tracking everything from just below the horizon to zenith. This system will require some work. Nothing of this capability exist as best as I am aware except SIMONE (ship infrared monitoring observation and navigation equipment). It should look like an AN/UPX-29 IFF antenna with multiple (64) array faces, and a track stores of 5,000 tracks or better. The SPY radar tracking algorithms for managing RF tracks could be used to manage these EO/IR tracks reducing development time. When the radar is functioning, the correlated data is provided on every track in the combat system. However, this combat system should operate in the Passive-centric mode under most circumstances necessitating greater numbers of displays in multiple spaces. A combat system engineering and development land based test site should be established, and system activities synonymous with those of CSEDS Moorestown, NJ support development & test.

    This US Navy new Frigate will not have the fire power of the average Aegis platform, but it will be VERY difficult to sink when the DEWs are installed, for they never run out of ammunition as long as you have power. This will be ‘The Preferred Escort’ for anyone underway . . . going in harm’s way.

    Two versions should be built competed between two yards using the identical Hull, Machinery, and Equipment, taking full advantage of MYP contracts as in the DDG-51 program. However, one version should be ASW-centric with a towed-array and variable depth sonars on the fantail, and the AAW-centric should have boats on the fantail. Both will have the flight deck and two helo hangars for the MH-60R and two MQ-8 Fire Scouts, or the AAW version could sacrifice a helo hangar and employ more VLS cells port & starboard in the space/displacement made available.

    • Secundius

      Depends on which Frigate Design is used?/! The Patrol Frigate 4501 Design doesn’t have one, relying on other Units for Combat Information. While the Patrol Frigate 4921 Design is centered around the AN/SPY-1F Phased Air-Defense Radar. Also the 12,000nmi range is being reduced to 8,000nmi, probably because MAN-diesels replacing MTU-diesels…

      • Curtis Conway

        The AN/SPY-6(V) is just the gadget to provide that data for CIC and FORCENET-21. It provides the capability of the SPY-1 radar on the current cruisers and destroyers at a fraction of the space, power and cooling. This new 9-RMA/array face radar with four array faces in a single deckhouse (for efficiency) will change naval warfare in all theaters including Amphibious Warfare, just like that same equation for AAW changed with the SPY-1A/B on the Aegis Cruisers, and SPY-1D radar on the DDG-51 Aegis Destroyers. Guiding counter battery fire, periscope detection, along with detection, tracking, and fire control functions will all have to be part of the package. That package will already be developed for DDG-51 Flt III so the frigate piggy-backs on the development and receives the benefit of a smarter and more capable signal processor for the radar, multi-function processor messaging the data for display to the combat system, and sharing with the force. The US Navy would be nuts NOT to follow this development path. Maximize return on our investment and put the 9-RMA AN/SPY-6(V) on the new frigates. We end up with the superior force with the most capability.

        • Secundius

          And currently what form of “SANITY” is Running through the Collective Minds of the US Navy and/or US Congress?/!

          • Curtis Conway

            Touche!

  • MaskOfZero

    The Navy planners had a great idea on paper–but once the finished product was released, they backed away from the designs of both types of LCS ships.

    Some genius had the notion that the same ship could be multi-purpose, so ‘mission’ packages and crews would be interchangeable–like nautical Lego! None of the mission packages have worked out, each for various reasons, but usually because the tech did not work as advertised.

    Crewing has been an issue, with crews swapping in and out, with some saying the LCS is undermanned and the crew are undertrained.

    Not having a VLS on a frigate was a very bad decision. A VLS, even with fewer cells, could give any new frigate the power of larger vessels, with common missiles providing flexibility of missions. The LCS turns out to be under armored and under gunned for the various fleet tasks, and probably with an under powered radar.

    The range and deep sea worthiness of the LCS class is also problematic. The original idea was that in order to operate in littoral waters, craft with a shallower draft would be needed and useful. But now, with current asymmetrical weapons, it is dangerous to operate close to shore except for specific missions. LCS are not considered true blue water ships which can keep up with the fleet, and have range and logistical issues.

    There have been a few major technical glitches serious enough to disable a couple of LCSs.

    So the Navy better know exactly what they want in a frigate.

    Rather than go with an upgraded LCS, why not modify the Legend Class National Security Cutter?

    This tough little ship is a relatively new design, and has the range and sea-worthiness required, and the capability to be modified for the multi-role frigate now demanded of the Navy planners, and using existing tested technology. The addition of upgraded radar, armor and VLS would create a great multi-role blue water frigate in a short time period without having to go back to the drawing board–or purchase foreign frigate tech.

  • Angie Nathan

    One thing is for certain about the partnership between the Navy, Lockheed Martin, Fincantieri and others, it creates a perpetual finger pointing structure. The Freedom class ships are A. over budget B. behind schedule C. unable to perform their intended purpose (the list could go on past Z). Yet life happily goes on for those who never intended for those billions of dollars to meet the end product that was promised to congress.
    The new shinny ball is a Frigate, but what I want to know is what happens to yesterday’s shinny ball? The last thing the Navy should be concerned about is which contractor has the “hot production line”. Almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong under current production, and by the time 9,11, and (if ever)13 hit open water whatever unimaginable disaster that has not already taken place certainly will. BUT these entities have the “hot production line”.
    The current builders cannot be awarded new contracts on merit, so we have to continue pouring good money after bad for political reasons like the negative local economic impact of slowing current production or because they have “a hot production line”. In my experience; A. a welder knows how to weld, a steel and pipe fitter can fit steel and pipe, an industrial painter can paint steel, and an electrician will always be in the way. Ships are not built like automobiles where there are specialized machines at every step of production. I watched a time lapse video of a ship being built on Youtube and it looked as one would expect. Cranes lifting sections of the ship and workers ebbing and flowing on and off the ship like an army of ants. In my opinion the hot production line can only refer to the legion of white collar jobs that figure out how to suck up all the capitol so that nothing is left for the blue collar workers, but just enough left to piece together something that can float.

    • Secundius

      Yeah, well get use to it!/? Modular is “IN”, the Flight IV’s of the Arleigh Burke class Destroyers are expected to be “Lego Ships” as well…

      • Angie Nathan

        If you pay the postage for a letter to arrive at its destination in less than 5 days, but it takes more than two weeks there is not much that can be done unless one were to go on some type of personal crusade to change a culture of apathy.
        If an LCS cost over 2 to 3 times what it was originally supposed to, many could find it acceptable provided the ships performance was as good or better than promised/expected.
        What happens when a ship behind schedule and over budget cannot make it from point A to point B? We find another type of ship to build and fix the process for the same entities to bring on the sequel.
        Why would anyone be accountable for a waste of time and treasure?

        • Secundius

          The “Bareboat” (As Is) Price of the LCS is ~$450-Million USD!/? It’s the “Fitting Out” that “Jack’s Up the Price”…

          • Angie Nathan

            I am in agreement with you, I would like to add that I am cynical concerning programs like these. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that a significant portion of the ships in production have “borrowed” resources from ships further down the chain of production. I think that in order to preserve the program there has been quite a bit of manipulations. The systems other than the hull should be where the lion share of the money is spent, but I am convinced that these ships are closer to a billion a pop as opposed to what we are told.
            For example, have any of the shipyards been given grants to upgrade their facilities? There are plenty of ways to account for the dollars in these types of programs, but I am sure that it is in the public interest not to disclose with accuracy to prevent heart attacks.

          • Secundius

            Unfortunately, we don’t have a “Fixed Economy”!/? And “Even” if we did, they’d Freeze Wages too. And Nobody is going to work under those conditions. This ISN’T WWII, and “Kilroy isn’t here”…

  • Angie Nathan

    The Navy decided earlier this year to “take a fresh look” for “full and open competition”. Addicts would call pumping money into the same program as chasing the dragon. I hope whatever happens (besides a serious investigation and multiple prosecutions) Uncle Sam fixes the hole in his arm where all the money goes.

    • Secundius

      Frigate Replacement Competition was “Push-Back” from 2018 to 2020(?). But I suspect a New Design has already been Chosen. To much Congressional and Navy “Banter” being on some Governmental Websites, and the Choice is NOT what Most people want. But STILL Speculation at this point. A firm understanding won’t be Possibly Reached, until sometime after 2019…

  • old guy

    “Upgunned and up armored” and, don’t forget “down speeded, down maneuvered and, most important UP-PRICED. What the heck is wrong with Navy leadership now, No serious concept of need, versatility or the future. ONLY Glub, glub, send munny, moor ships, ugh. Reactivate an up equipped FFG-7 and save $$$$$$$$$
    Save the SWIPE* program and my future job,

    *SWIPE” –“Shipyard Welfare Investment Program, Expensive”