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Report to Congress on Next Generation LX(R) Amphibious Warship

The following is the November 30, 2017 Congressional Research Service report, Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the Report

The LX(R) program is a program to build a new class of amphibious ships for the Navy. LX(R)s are to replace 12 aging Whidbey Island/Harpers Ferry (LSD-41/49) class amphibious ships, the first of which will reach age 40 in 2025.

Under the Navy’s previous force-level goal to achieve and maintain a fleet of 308 ships, including 34 amphibious ships, the Navy had planned to procure a total of 11 LX(R)s. In December 2016, the Navy released a new force-level goal to achieve and maintain a fleet of 355 ships, including 38 amphibious ships. Under this new force level goal, the total planned number of LX(R)s may be increased to 13.

The procurement of the first LX(R) is scheduled in the Navy’s five-year (FY2018-FY2022) shipbuilding plan for FY2020. To accelerate the procurement of the first LX(R) from FY2020 to FY2019, Congress provided $236 million in advance procurement (AP) funding for the LX(R) program in FY2016. As part of its action on the Navy’s FY2017 budget, however, Congress realigned this funding to instead help fund the procurement in FY2017 of a 13th San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious ship. As a result of this funding realignment, the procurement date of the lead LX(R) reverted to FY2020. Navy officials state that the procurement of the first LX(R) can once again be accelerated from FY2020 to FY2019 by providing $98.7 million in advance procurement (AP) funding for the program in FY2018 or FY2019.

The design of the LX(R) is to be derived from the design of the Navy’s LPD-17 class amphibious ships. The LX(R) design is a less expensive and (in some ways) less capable derivative of the LPD-17 design. The LX(R) design was developed to stay within a unit procurement cost target that the Navy had established for the LX(R) program.

The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requests no procurement or advance procurement (AP) funding for procuring LPD-17 class ships or LX(R)s; it requests $9.6 million in research and development funds for the LX(R) program.

Issues for Congress for FY2018 regarding the LX(R) program and LPD-17 class ships include the following:

  • whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2018 funding requests for the LX(R) program, including whether to provide funding intended to accelerate the procurement of the first LX(R) to FY2019;
  • whether to provide funding for the procurement in FY2018 of a 14th LPD-17 class ship, so as to accelerate the attainment of the Navy’s desired 38-ship amphibious force and further close the gap between the end of LPD-17 procurement and the start of LX(R) procurement; and
  • whether LX(R)s should be built to the Navy’s currently planned LX(R) design, or to a more expensive and (in some ways) more capable design that is closer to that of the LPD-17 design.


via fas.org

  • Curtis Conway

    Just remember, the same bunch that sold us the logic for LCS, took the welldeck space out of LX(R), and do not intend to build Aviation-centric USS America (LHA-6) Class vessels that can bring more F-35Bs to the fight. I’m still trying to grasp the wisdom, and am afraid there is none.

    Those same groups that thought you could build a 2D combat assets taking advantage of 3D combat asset qualities, are still there, demonstrating a fundamental lack of understanding of the rules of physics/combat. I DO NOT Trust this group, and they have shown no willingness to change direction . . . other than the olive branch of a Real Frigate build, just not in quantity. That FFG(X) Frigate could very well be a DDG-51 Flt I, II, [maybe] IIA replacement, as they come out of service soon, but not if they are not capable enough. They will cost dearly (about $1Billion+ eventually), but consume half the OPTAR when deployed, which will happen many times over, compared to construction. The wisdom is in the long term construct of a very capable asset, with a low operational cost, and add Aviation (F-35Bs and VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C/ECCM aircraft that can operate off of any US Navy flight deck feeding the FORCEnet-21/bringing solutions to the problem).

    • Duane

      “Took the welldeckspace out of LX(R)?

      The LX(R) carries the same 2 LCACs as the San Antonio class. As I understand it the hangar space was reduced.

      The other design decisions you refer to were joint Navy/Marine decisions. Having some of the Americas with well decks and some without makes a great deal of sense .. it’s not that there will be no more aviaiton-centric Americas .. each ship will be done to either spec as needed, as determined by the Marines.

      • Curtis Conway

        If the welldeck and the vehicle parking area is identical to LPD-17, or even expanded a bit, I am happy, but that was not a recent comment posted which insinuated that the welldeck was much decreased. I hope this is not correct because the MEU Det M1A1 tanks need a home in the ARG in the new construct. The lack of Amphibious Lift has been the argument against USS America (LHA-6) lack of a welldeck. My argument has been that the tanks can be provided for in vehicle parking area in the LX(R), or use Mobile Basing if this is an Amphibious Operation. This is my understanding. Where is it wrong? Edjumacate me Duane.

        • Duane

          I don’t know that the well deck space is identical dimensionally, but the LX(R) transport craft payload is just the same as the San Antonios.

          The argument over well decks vs. more aviation space seems to be not real productive. We are going to build quite a few more America class, and doing a roughly 50/50 split of both variants seems to make a lot of sense. There are times when more sealift is better, and there are other times when more airlift, and air attack, are a better fit to the mission. Maybe one of each variant in each ARG would be the “sweet spot”, but that is really more up to the USMC than the Navy.

          • Curtis Conway

            I’m with you on the “50/50 split”. Thanks.

            Putting two LHAs in an ARG would really escalate the cost of deployments.

          • Rocco

            Agreed as well!

          • lugnutmstr

            Too bad people didn’t realize that once the Marines went ashore they could’ve changed the welldeck into maintenance space for the aircraft by adding an elevator to the welldeck.

    • El_Sid

      That FFG(X) Frigate could very well be a DDG-51 Flt I, II, IIA
      replacement, as they come out of service soon, but not if they are not
      capable enough.

      And I hope they’re not capable enough to replace the IIA’s, it would be a terrible mistake if they were. That would mean they’re in the $2bn+ range, which means the US would only be able to afford a handful, and numbers have a capability of their own. There’s already a FSC project to replace the Burkes, let’s not conflate the two.

      OT, QNLZ finally commissioned today – the RN may be making cutbacks all over the place, but it’s good to see we’ve not sacrificed a world-class capability in patisserie…

      twitter com/RoyalFamily/status/938761794293846016

      • Curtis Conway

        I’m hoping some Flt I’s & II’s make it to appropriate Allies.

        If the FFG(X) has 4160v electrical power generation, distribution, control and storage equipment/systems, then Directed Energy Weapons and Railgun are facilitated in the future, which is a game-changing qualitative increase in capability, and should have been where we were planning to go all along.

        If the HII NSC based FFG(X) is chosen, then a Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) propulsion system upgrade for the Legend Class High Endurance Cutters, sponsored by the Navy, based upon the successes in DDG-51 HED installations, and inspired by LHD-8 propulsion system, would squeeze more efficiency out of that platform giving it greater range, particularly when on Patrol Stations, and support versatility (quantity) of electrical power generation. Then HII’s mods on the front Mack must think to the future, for DEWs and using that bottomless magazine (fuel), particularly if dual engagement capability is provided by placing the mounts in locations and quantities that can support that eventuality. This is the future. It may not be here yet, but it will be shortly.

        • Secundius

          I doubt Rail Guns! Because their of the Verge of being Cancelled in the Near Future…

          • Curtis Conway

            There is a logic to that. If HVP is moving as fast as it is, and we already have an infrastructure in place that needs only improvement, which will yield a tremendous return on the investment, then it should be the course of action. Railgun can continue in R&D until it is trully ready for Prime Time. In the mean time, every 5″ gun turns into something else over the next decades. It is a shame that (unlike Pacific and some Atlantic Allies) we do not have an afinity for the 5″ gun and put it on everything down to the Frigate.

          • Secundius

            Until THEY (the Powers To Be) can Find a Suitable “Alloy” that Won’t Fail after a Few Rounds Fired. The Rail Gun is a Non-Starter. I suspect A Second Look at the LRLAP is Forthcoming Regardless of the Per Unit Cost…

          • Duane

            The Dahlgren folks reported way back in July that they’re already up to 400+ shots, which is more than the BB 16in guns could do (about 300 shots) .. and they expect to be up to over 1,000 shots per barrel within a year (July 2018).

            That’s why the media chatter of canceling the program is without foundation and is just plain dumb. Google “Navy to cancel LCS” or “US to cancel F-35” and you’ll get millions of hits. Chatter does not equal reality.

          • Secundius

            Unfortunately the Requirement Goal for the Rail Gun is ~3,000-rounds MINIMUM, NOT 1,000-rounds.

            Unless the US Congress can Muster enough Vote of 314 or More. The US Congress ISN’T going to Cancel the LCS Program. And the Appropriation Bill for the JSF was Passed by the US.Hse.of Rep. in 26 September 2006 with a 394 to 22 Vote and by the US. Senate in 29 September 2006 with a 100 to 0 Vote. BOTH Supermajority Votes…

          • Duane

            No naval gun anywhere, at 155mm or above, gets 3,000 rounds per barrel. I posted the actual numbers elsewhere, but for instance, 155mm guns typically go only about 1,500 rounds before they lose accuracy and have to be replaced. Larger guns even far fewer, such as 10 in naval guns being good for only 750 rounds, and naval 16-inch guns good only for about 300 rounds.

            We’re not talking peashooters here. Any large naval guns wears a great deal with each and every shot made.

          • Secundius

            And how does an Army and/or Marine Corps Howitzer apply to US Naval Standards for Ship Usage…

          • Duane

            I quoted two classic naval guns too, if you read my comment (US Navy 10 in and 16 in guns), with far less barrel life than 1,000+ rounds. The longer the range (i.e., higher muzzle velocity), the longer the barrel, and the more barrel wear encountered.

          • Secundius

            WWII “Long Tom’s” Didn’t have Chrome-Lined Barrels and Neither the US Navy in WWII. Imperial Japan was the ONLY Combatant in WWII that Chrome-Lined their Barrels, regardless of Caliber…

          • Secundius

            Follow-Up: Barrel Life for the Mk.51 6.1-inch Gun is rated at ~2,650-rounds. The 5-inch gun ~3,070-rounds

          • Duane

            Do those involve liner changes in the interim? The numbers I quoted are real numbers .. the naval 16 in gun only goes about 300 rounds before a new liner is required.

          • Secundius

            Actually it was ~390 for the 16-inch Gun. The New AGS design Barrel Life Depending on whether a Five Bag Propellant Charge or Six Bag Propellant Charge is used. Varies from ~5,000-Rounds for a Five Bag Propellant Charge to ~2,500-Rounds for a Six Bag Propellant Charge usage. Don’t know about Barrel Life if a Rocket Guided Projectile is used…

          • Duane

            The 5 in/62 cal Mk 45 has a barrel life of 1,500 rounds with the extended range ERGM (60 mile range) shells, still far less than railgun range. That product was cancelled a decade ago.

          • Secundius

            Try looking under the “NavWeaps” Website on Either the Mk.42 or the Mk.45, Both used the Same Barrel Design…

          • According to the latest GAO report the railgun prototypes have a barrel life of several hundred rounds – about as much as an Iowa’s 16″ guns.

          • Secundius

            The Mk.7 16-inch gun had a Barrel Life of ~390-rounds Fired. And Each Barrel cost ~$1.5-Million USD in 1938 Prices…

          • Secundius

            The US Army has been experimenting with a New Toy developed as a Joint Cooperation between Rheinmetall of Germany and Denel of South Africa. Called the RDM (Rheinmetall/Denel Munitions) M2005-A1 15,5cm VLAP or V-LAP (Very Long-range Artillery Projectile). That has a Claimed Range of ~70-kilometers in “Dumb” Configuration and probably ~75-kilometers using the M1156 Precision Guidance Kit. It appears that the US Navy is also Interested…

          • Curtis Conway

            Great source. Thanks for the tip. Really like the writeup by Reutech Defense Web. Another savings on ammo between services. Now we just can’t get too carried away with this commonality thing because diversity in systems and how they work is the best defense against countermeasures.

          • Secundius

            I forgot to Mention it, But “Great Experiment” by US Army started in 2004. US Navy started to getting Interested in 2015 or 2016…

          • Duane

            Not so … they’re very near to reaching operability. The recent media articles are about worst case funding decisions .. cancelling railguns would be hugely stupid at a time when ASMs are proliferating at an astounding rate.

          • Secundius

            If the “Rail Guns” AREN’T going to be Mounted on ANY Ship in Sizable Numbers to do ANY Good. It’s pretty Much a Cancellation of Deployment and Back to R&D…

          • Duane

            Rail guns are going to be mounted on virtually all of our large surface combatants eventually. It is a necessity for survival against ASM barrages, which are surely coming. The economics of shooting down million dollar missiles with 2 million dollar anti-missile missiles, to protect multi billion dollar ships does not work. With the cheap cost of railgun projectiles and unlimited magazines, railgun defense system will render ASMs obsolete.

          • Secundius

            When they “Actually” get Deployed? I’ll believe you…

  • Ed L

    We better do something cause the Russians and red Chinese are sinking billions into new hulls. America needs flexible gator hulls (with VLS) that can steam with SAG’s carting ASW helo’s around and provide AAW support by slaving there VLS to a Burke and Tico. Also don’t forget the escorts need to protect the Carriers by being able to emulate the electronic signature of a carrier to take the hits. More then once during WW2 a Cruiser stood between the threat and a carrier by taking hits intended for a carrier. anyone reading David Poyer last two books

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Is the “Unit Procurement Cost Target” for LX(R) public? The latest budget number for the LPD-17 class was $1.8B in FY16 (fully outfitted & post delivery cost included). Hard to imagine cutting more than a third of that and the tradeoffs might be a net negative, and if you can’t get close to $1B each it’s probably better to just keep building -17s.