Home » Budget Industry » Navy Leaders See Possible Path to 355 Ships by the 2030s


Navy Leaders See Possible Path to 355 Ships by the 2030s

Streamers mix with falling snow during the christening of guided-missile destroyer Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) at the Bath Iron Works shipyard on April 1, 2017 in Bath, Maine. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If Congress is willing to pay for it, Navy leaders think they could get to a 355-ship Navy by the 2030s.

Navy Under Secretary Thomas Modly said the service’s long-range shipbuilding plan hits 355 hulls in the 2050s and that changing that rate is up to Congress.

“An acceleration of this plan to achieve 355 ships is certainly possible, but it will require a much more aggressive funding approach and one that must recognize that shipbuilding is just the first step. In addition to building and commissioning these new ships, there will also be significant costs related to the acceleration of manning and maintaining them,” he said during an address at the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Programs conference on Tuesday.

The Navy’s so-called 30-year shipbuilding plan, released with the budget request last month, never reaches the goal of 355 ships during the life of the plan but tops out at 342 in 2039 and 2041.

The plan as written has drawn the ire of both Republicans and Democrats. Ahead of Modly at the conference, senior members of the House and Senate defense committees were critical of the Navy’s current plan.

Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. US Navy Photo

Senate Armed Services seapower committee chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said the Navy was moving too slow building ships, and House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called the Navy’s funding plan “a fantasy.

In response to audience questions following his speech, Modly said the Navy has evaluated other plans to speed shipbuilding.

“There are multiple scenarios that will allow us to accelerate that, but it will require additional funding from Congress and prioritization from them to do that. The shipyards are going to make sure that the yards can handle that additional capacity. There are ways that we can draw it into the 2030s, but these are large complex capital projects and it takes them a long time to get them in the water.”

While Modly didn’t go into specifics, there have been several looks how the Navy may get to 355 from other agencies.

Last summer Congressional Budget Office analysts said with a massive $3.1 trillion increase the Navy could accelerate the ship count by the early 2030s. Last year, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Thomas Moore said the service could hit 355 hulls in the 2030s by extending the life of existing ships and delaying the retirement of older classes of ships like the Avenger mine countermeasure ships and Cyclone-class patrol crafts, in addition to new ship buys.

In that vein, the Navy is moving to extend a life extension program for six Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers and a trial life extension plan for a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine to keep ships in the fleet longer.

However, life extensions are still not enough, House Armed Services seapower and projection forces chairman Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) said later in the conference.

“That is still of limited utility,” he said.
“You still have to build new ships.”

As an example, Wittman was critical of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2019 $22-billion,10-ship budget submission.

“The floor is $26.2 billion and 13 ships,” Wittman said.
“Anything else is unacceptable.”

  • Chesapeakeguy

    “Last year, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Thomas Moore
    said the service could hit 355 hulls in the 2030s by extending the life
    of existing ships and delaying the retirement of older classes of ships
    like the Avenger mine countermeasure ships and Cyclone-class patrol
    crafts, in addition to new ship buys.”

    That makes eminent sense. It’s a common sense approach. I’ll bet there are lots of folks in the Navy lamenting the premature retirements of the Perry and especially the Spruance classes. The same no doubt applies to some submarines. So far, the ‘times’ have been kind (overall) to the Navy. The USSR failed in the early 90s. That anticipated ‘peace dividend’ did allow the Navy to cancel the A-12, and permitted a ‘morphing’ of the carrier air wing from one that had several types of fighter and attack aircraft to just one (the F-18). As the Navy entered the 21st Century, their desire for designing and building their future combatants escalated the retirement of the Perry and Spruance classes, mainly so money could be freed to apply to the LCS and Zumwalts. And all that is OK if there is no near peer adversary to deal with. But lo and behold, that ain’t the case any more.

    There have been some successes. The Virginia class subs are one such success. The Arleigh Burkes are another. Perhaps the Navy will learn the lessons from diving head long into ‘transformational’ designs that eat up so much of their budget, and attain a status of being “too big to fail” because of the money pumped into them. Those LCS and Zumwalts are the prime examples of that mind set. Perhaps a more ‘measured’ approach can be employed going forward.

    • John

      Or even the first 5 Tico’s. 2 already scrapped and one sunk…

      • Lazarus

        Those first 5 are were very dated when they were retired. Thomas S. Gates had a bent bow (resulting from poor construction) that made her of marginal use at best. The remaining 3 have been heavily cannibalized to support active CG 47’s, so its not like they were totally wasted when retired.

        • Curtis Conway

          Those removed systems makes it easier to replace too. Don’t have to build the hull. Most of the systems require upgrade anyway. Sounds like a great job for a small shipyard that lacks the large construction capability. Austal USA or Marinette Marine shipyards perhaps?

  • Curtis Conway

    As the DDG-51’s begin to age out, they should be replaced by FFG(X). That is why the specification should be very carefully written.

    • Jonesy

      Exactly, a Frigate is basically 75% of a destroyer, but with obviously much less costs and smaller crew. Some people are mistakenly thinking a Frigate is somehow a up-gunned LCS (which is right now sits at the ‘patrol’ ship level of capability)

      • Curtis Conway

        Short of being a floating death trap in combat, they cannot go to many places. Can you imagine a battle space with volumous/tumultuous quantities of floating debris and these jet boats zipping around. They cannot operate in an ice environment, and one would NEVER want to ride one in Blue Water Heavy Weather. Not an equation for success in multiple environments of which you are not in control.

        • D. Jones

          A 355-LCS Navy would require enemy actors to recalibrate their doctrines.

          A 435-LCS Navy could name one for each Representative.

          • Fred Gould

            Careful, I can see Congress getting behind it.

          • old guy

            They are behind, functionally, in anything you can name

          • old guy

            ….and be equally effective.

      • Lazarus

        An FFGX is actually less than 1/2 of a DDG 51. The high-end entries for the proposed FFGX come close to costly 75% of a DDG, but still provide less than 1/2 its capability. That is a poor investment in any system of assessment.

      • old guy

        NOTICE, the Coast Guard has zero interest in them.

        • Curtis Conway

          Too expensive to operate, not enough capability, nor long enough leggs.

    • Duane

      No. FFG(X) must be affordable or they will never be funded. The Navy’s target cost is under $800M a hull … about 40% of the cost today for a AB Flight III. If the Navy were to enlarge and lard up the FFG(X) to even begin to replace the AB, the cost would be unaffordable. As it is the current Navy shipbuilding plan will never be funded by Congress. The taxpayer dollars aren’t available, especially after the GOP Congress just handed out a multi-trillion dollar tax cut.

      Fiscal reality intrudes on the dreams of the 355ers.

      • Curtis Conway

        Whatever. Plugging in more LCS derived solutions will get more sailors killed. This shows you where the emphasis is in future planning. We have to live within a budget for sure, but to DELIBERATELY build disposable ships is just beyond the pale. If the Operational Test and Evaluation community ever signs off on the LCS, it will relieve some of the tension here, otherwise sailors souls are just being thrown into the meat grinder. So . . . sing on brother . . .

        • Duane

          Forget “LCS derived” it’s a meaningless non-argument. The Navy will select the FFG(X) design and builder that meets the requirements at the lowest cost. That will almost certainly end up being the Freedom class derivative, but whether it is that or another, the cost has to be kept down to $800M a hull or less, or we won’t build 20 of them.

          “AEGIS-lite” cannot be built for less than $1.5B a hull, if that. And that won’t get built.

          The Navy has to look to other solutions and technology to follow the inevitable retirement of the Flight I ABs. The Navy is already working on the requirements for a mid-21st century large surface combatant to follow the Flight III ABs. And the Navy is now researching the potential of unmanned or very lightly manned surface vessels.

          Navy planners cannot relive the late 20th century, but must focus now on a mid 21st century fleet that old timers cannot even imagine.

          • Curtis Conway

            Not living in the past, and new technology offers a lot. Aegis is a CONCEPT, not an equipment set. That is why I do not accept your comment “AEGIS-lite” cannot be built for less than $1.5B a hull” . . . COMBATSS-21 is the foundation for B/L-9 configurations. The EASR radar is a new technology SPY-1 ‘like’ radar with the same coverage, much more capable ECCM, and other capabilities using only 9-Radar Module Assemblies. The ESSM in Mk41 VLS provides a lot of firepower that can be tailored for the mission. If longer range is desired, ASW is the mission focus, or the Carrier Shield is the mission, determines loadout. Remember, this thing has to go to the Arctic (no hull mounted sonar) because nothing else CAN, including our Aegis platforms. We must think clearly here, and plan for the future contingencies for which we have NO SOLUTIONS today. These considerations alone should ELIMINATE LCS in any form, because they don’t have screws. It’s hard enough to suck in water in the arctic with all that ice just to cool gas turbines, forget FEED water jets. Plan for the worse, hope for the best.

          • Duane

            Funny you defend COMBATSS-21 as the basis of AEGIS, yet claim LCS – which IS equipped with COMBATSS-21 on all the newer hulls – and its derivative FFG(X) designs, as somehow incapable

            Anyone who advocates a cut down AB as the mid-21st century SSC is clearly living in the past.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            The problem with the LCS as an AAW is not the combat system, but with the addition of the EASR radar and VLS is would very much fit into my definition of an Aegis Lite platform, which again is exactly what the USN is asking for in the FFG(X) RFP. What you seem to be calling an Aegis lite sound more like a Flight I Burke Class DDG.

          • Curtis Conway

            USS_Fallujah, just to survive in the Modern Battlespace, particularly in the Littorals near a beach, the EASR radar and VLS with ESSM is required, minimum.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            No argument there, which of course leads to the primary criticism of the LCS, it’s can’t operate in a highly contested area without escort, the FFG(X) RFP clearly intends to remedy that, but the question becomes are we just creating a air defense frigate at half the cost of a DDG, but with 1/3 the AAW load out, or are we getting an ASW platform that can also provide area air defense to protect itself and transports, ‘phibs, axillaries etc it’s escorting?
            We don’t need the former so it’s a waste of money, and I’m not confident we can actually get the later at a price that makes sense.
            Oddly enough this might be an argument in favor of the LCS, or at least the idea that the threat level is so high now that the SSC is no longer viable and better filled by non-combatants like ESB, EFP & MCM sweepers as a LCS/FFG is no more survivable outside the protection of an Aegis equipped LSC.

          • Curtis Conway

            …ASW platform that can also provide area air defense… Great thought. The EASR combined with the ESSMs will be quite a combo. The LCS should have started there in the first place. The Amphibs will most likely all become “Shooters” too. After that transpires, it is very possible that the On Scene Commander many not change when everyone else shows up. Can you imagine an FFG(X) AAW Commander? We used to pass it to the FFG-7s just to see if they could carry the load. They could pull Force Track Coordinator on a regular basis, for when they escorted the Amphibs, they many times were FTC.

          • Curtis Conway

            AND the USS Little Rock (LCS-9) is WHERE and Why? The presence of the computer cards, backplanes and cabling and consoles provide for combat system capability, upgrades, and performance . . . NOT propulsion through the water (waterjets with huge volumes of water through an intake, not propelled by screws). To ACTUALLY locomote to another location, perhaps under fire, and come back, is something else entirely. Then, Survivability via watertight integrity and compartmentalization is another area, of which that system must be near fool proof / Fail Safe (a term current generations seem to have NO appreciation for) if one is to steam in Blue Water, particularly in the Arctic, and survive. If the system was designed to be ‘throw away’ from the start . . . like the LCS, then it doesn’t matter. This seems to be the prevalent attitude you, and Lazarus portray on a regular basis. How will you get sailors to join up and sail on her? NOT a Navy I would serve in!

          • Duane

            Screws are much less survivable and prone to damage than waterjets. Which is why they are not on the shallow draft LCS.

          • Curtis Conway

            Screws do bend much when coming in contact with the bottom in shallow water . . . (e.g., waterjets). Not a problem in the Arctic, but ice ingestion is (e.g., USS Little Rock (LCS-9) welded to the pier to avoid damage). IF your supposition was correct (about water jets eating ice with no problem) then that ship would be underway with an Icebreaker leading the way. NOT going to see that picture any time soon (days), maybe weeks.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            Aegis lite is exactly what the FFG(X) design contract calls for COMBATSS-21 is an Aegis derivative, the EASR is a small version of the AMDR doing on the Burke Flight IIIs. The biggest step down from the Aegis DDGs is going from 96 VLS cells to 16 or so (and of course decrease in speed, power generation etc, befitting the reduced requirement for the AESR vs AMDR and COMBATSS-21 from Aegis Combat System)

          • Duane

            No … the volume of air defense of the FFG(X) is nowhere near the capacity to defend a CVN or land bases, which is the role of an AEGIS destroyer. The limited area air defense capability of the FFG(X) is only sufficient to protect low value convoys, like auxiliaries or merchant ships. The capability of COMBATSS-21 is substantial and is basically a scaled down AEGIS, but it’s already on the newer LCS.

            An “AEGIS Lite” would have to be equipped with AEGIS Air and Missile Defense System, along with the latest radar sensor, and would need far more than the 16-32 VLS cells .. probably at least 64 cells. That ain’t FFG(X), and if it were, the ship would have to displace in excess of 6,500 tons and cost about double what the Navy wants to spend (under $800M).

          • @USS_Fallujah

            I think we just disagree on what qualifies as “Aegis Lite” what I think you are describing is just a smaller Aegis platform, similar to the F100 program’s AAW variant. That would indeed (as exists now) cost upward of $1.2b and perhaps around the $1.5b number you suggest.
            An Aegis Lite platform (as I’m defining it) would be able to operate with the Aegis cueing system to participate in a fleet wide AAW defense with it’s larger cousins (launching ESSMs & SM-2/6s form VLA), but would have a significantly greater overall AAW capability to defend itself (and neighbors) than their smaller cousins equipped only with the SeaRam & gun various systems. As to if they can build this “Aegis Lite” (again by my definition) warship for the $850-950m they’ve targeted for it…we shall see.

          • Duane

            We can agree to disagree on defining an unofficial term like “AEGIS Lite”.

            But using AEGIS as a descriptor of FFG(X) is misleading. Any AEGIS ship has as its primary fleet role area air defense. FFG(X) does NOT have area air defense as its primary role. It is a multi role surface combatant designed to provide surface escort and to operate independently. Our AEGIS ships, especially all those post Flight I ABs have relatively little capability in SuW (not even equipped with capable ASCMs, although LRASM will soon fix that; forget the SM6 as ASCM … it has nowhere near the firepower or range of LRASM, and costs more than three times as much … it is a temporary make-do SuW weapon), and minimal ASW. They really are single mission area air defense ships that can sort of do some other stuff in a pinch.

            THAT is precisely why the Navy needs multi-role FFG(X) and single role ASW and SuW equipped LCS. The Navy finally realized that ASW escorts really are vital, and that’s not the role of the ABs, especially the newer Flights. And also, that SSCs have an important role to fill in SuW under “distributed lethality” in their ability to operate independently.

            These may seem like subtle distinctions, but they are why the Navy is sticking to two very distinct surface combatant ship types .. small and large … with very different rolls to play in the 21st century fleet.

    • Lazarus

      The DDG 51 is a large surface combatant while the FFGX is a small surface combatant. Even the most heavily armed FFGX has less than half of the combat power of the DDG 51. There is a proposed, future large surface combatant currently in design to eventually replace the flight III DDG.

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        The Navy is batting 0/3 in it’s recent new-start large surface combatant programs.

        CG(X). Cancelled.
        DDG(X). Cut to two hulls. Basically a test ship. No main gun ammo.
        LCS. Seen by many as a failure. Cut from 52 to 26 hulls.

        The Large Surface Combatant isn’t in “design” phase. It’s pre-Milestone A. I don’t think they have even finished the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) yet.

        Kudos to the Navy for actually doing the AoA this time. However, I suspect whatever they come up with… will be bungled in execution by N96 and NAVSEA.

    • old guy

      The 51s could be, economically SLEPed and upgraded at a fraction of the cast of replacement.

      • Curtis Conway

        Excellent idea for Flt IIAs, particularly bringing them up to a near Flt III standard (minus radar). The combat system wouldn’t be that hard, but the radar upgrade [TWT swap-out] should be easy enough if it hasn’t already taken place. If you remember that coded chart [Google Search – PB16 DDGM Fielding Profile] that came out some years ago, there are some changes that can now take place, that could not at that time due to budget constraintsw. A B/L-9 SLEP would really be good, but I don’t know how intrusive that would be.

      • I seriously doubt that. The Burkes are a cramped design that are already slated to last longer than their designed service life. Trying to keep them operation 40+ years would quickly turn into a massive money sink.

    • That’s what FFG(X) should be. Not a cheap frigate but a Burke replacement. EASR is supposed to be as effective as SPY-1 and ESSM has almost the effectiveness of SM-2MR. Use these modern technologies to build a 7-8k ton, $1-1.2b “frigate” that can do the job of the older Burkes for far less money and have the much more capable Flight III Burkes replace the Ticos.

      • Curtis Conway

        I expect that this very idea has already occurred to more than one policy maker. The DDG-51 Flt III with a little more space will make an acceptable AAW Commander platform, particularly with the AN/SPY-6(v). The DDG-51 works well in the Northern latitudes with the wide beam and low Metacenter, just not in the presence of ice with the SQS-53 on the front. That is an issue for the FFG(X) (no hull mounted sonar) will fix. Two screws and two rudders with gas turbines will move quickly. Hybrid Electric Drive will enable the commander to stretch fuel for longer periods of time, or remain on station on less fuel. A waterjet propulsion system would be the kiss of death in the presence of ice in the water. Arctic presence, or combat capability there of in the presence of thin ice, is the issue. Plan for the worse, and hope for the best. To do otherwise invites disaster in water where the safe stay time is a couple of minutes, and you only get to make that mistake once . . . permanently.

      • Curtis Conway

        For anyone with a brain, and wants to grow the fleet in the future, that’s the ticket. I can see a frigate strong Expeditionary Strike Group with an LHA-6 playing ‘Light Carrier’. We just need that AEW V/STOL platform. Maybe buy some Merlins with Searchwater since no US company will develop and field the capability.

  • Retired weps

    Congress is starting to wake up to the lack of Navy leadership these past 20 years-let’s hope it’s not too little too late.

    • Duane

      Wrong … there has been no funding for 355 ships, period. There will be no such funding in the future. Congress just handed out trillions in tax cuts to businesses and the rich, thus making significant increases in fleet size and sustainment fiscally impossible.

      All the Navy can do is salute and spend what Congress gives them.

    • Duane

      Wrong … there has been no funding for 355 ships, period. There will be no such funding in the future. Congress just handed out trillions in tax cuts to businesses and the rich, thus making significant increases in fleet size and sustainment fiscally impossible.

      All the Navy can do is salute and spend what Congress gives them.

      • Patrick Bechet

        What is your monthly salary? I want to know how much I “handed out” to you by not stealing it!

        • Jonesy

          With the Fleet Admiral (duene) the brow beatings will continue until you agree with him

  • Curtis Conway

    Even Legacy DDG-51 Flt I’s without the helo hangar?

  • Curtis Conway

    No problem. We are on the same team. Some of those other guys though ? . . .

    I actually think that the DDG-51 Flt I’s are a good way to help out Canada.

  • @USS_Fallujah

    Getting to 355 isn’t that much of a reach, and it doesn’t take more money, just do what Washington always does and change the manner of counting – hurray I just added 9 ships to the USN battle fleet by making Cyclone Class Patrol Craft part of the battle fleet, now I’ll commission the 5 ESDs (Expeditionary Transfer Dock) and 9 more by commissioning the Spearhead class EPFs (Expeditionary Fast Transport). I just added 23 ships to the USN and all it cost was $0.000001 in ink and paper.

    • Grimwald

      Don’t forget the Coast Guard.

    • Duane

      You just revealed the logical fallacy of using total numbers of ships to define and objectify an arbitrary “fleet plan” of 355 ships. It’s the silly old capacity vs. capability argument that was just as dumb as Reagan’s 600-ship Navy was back in the 80s that led to the costly (and deadly – to their own crew) reactivation of the old Iowa class BBs … ships that were already obsolete before they were even commissioned in WW2.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        BS. Period!

  • Pacemaker4

    Those evil stealth cargo ships wont stand a chance.

  • Pacemaker4

    meanwhile the accounting dept of the pentagon cant account for $6.5 trillion.
    Forget the Navy…hire some private sector accountants with their reputation on the line.
    if they stop 20% of the waste or corruption then its 1 trillion + for acquisition.
    Wonder what the Commander in Chief would think about that?

  • old guy

    It ain’t only the size, it’s how you use it, that counts.

    • Curtis Conway

      Amen and Amen. Did you notice how the LCS Apologist always go to the “we will only lose so many people” when we lose the platform? If someone spoke such words out loud in front of others, they would no longer be in PMS-400, and probably be assigned to something with a flat bottom.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Continuing with ‘mature designs’ is something the Navy, and the military as a whole, always does, and usually does well. The Burkes are going to outlive most if not all of us. They might be a candidate to replace the Ticos when they finish their service lives. Incorporating what the South Koreans have done with their Burkes is worth consideration. If future ‘flights’ of Burkes can successfully incorporate things like reduced crews, their viability will be further enhanced.

    Pursuing variants of the Burke makes eminent sense as well. I will keep saying it until I am blue in the face: with the plethora of Aegis equipped ships in the fleet and being built (as well as others that are authorized), there are plenty of Aegis assets to go around. As concepts and technologies like the Cooperative Engagement Capability becomes more mature, the ‘slaving’ and controlling of platforms will allow non-Aegis ships to contribute to the area wide defense Aegis provides. A non-Aegis Burke would be a heckuva asset at significantly less cost than a regular Burke.

    Same thing with the FFG. Forget Aegis or Aegis-lite. Build it so it can withstand the rigors of blue water ops, be able to keep up with and contribute to the missions of task groups (like CBGs), put 24 to 32 VLS cells on it, give it a 76 MM gun, put a Ram launcher on as well as a CIWS, some ASMs, and a hangar and flight deck that can handle 2 Seahawks and/or some number of drones. A 4,000 to 5,000 mile range and a top speed in the 30 knot realm should round it out. Do what it takes so it can accomplish all that. Speaking of variants, if a well deck is desired in some of them, then build some of them with that in them.

    The desire to ‘gold plate’ the designs of some naval ships and systems is precisely why we are now questioning their abilities. The LCS started off as a concept that involved squadrons of them, each ship within it having a warfare ‘specialty’ like ASW, AAW, etc. to operate in company with each other so that protection from all threats could be addressed. But EXPENDABILITY was introduced as part of that concept, in that if one or 2 of those ships became casualties, the mission(s) could still be prosecuted. How has that worked out? I think fixing the Navy is an easy task. BUT, I am a realist. With everyone from the Congress to the Pentagon to the builders and contractors and whoever else getting their ‘digs’ in, what should be easy and straight forward becomes these tortuous exercises in futility.

    • Curtis Conway

      A longer, Double-ender Burke, with ‘Flag Spaces’ would be the Cat’s Meow. If CANES network can handle the video traffic additional Large Screen Displays should be provided in multiple spaces to provide situational awareness & Status for various things in multiple spaces (Flag, Wardroom/Flag Mess, Mess Decks, etc.). If ‘Command’ at whatever level, should give it a glance, and ‘questions arise’, all they have to do is cruise through the space, or get on the growler and give it a call, and answers will be forthcoming much faster. I’m assuming that most ships have a video network similar to Asset Protection at any Department Store. Sometimes those pictures need to go Ship-wide in real time (like a collision). An UNREP at night in IR viewed from the Wardroom would be nice. This is NOT to enable ‘remote standing of watches’ you understand. However, more information, particularly during various evolutions, would be very advantageous.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        I’m with ya’…

  • In weapons procurement, we have to stop swinging for the fences every time we develop a new platform. We will never get the number of platforms we need if we push each new development to the bleeding edge of every technology in the platform. It takes too long to debug new everything. It’s too risky and too expensive. We end up with a small fleet of expensive prototypes. We need a large fleet of cheaper workhorses.

    We should separate the platform development from the weapons and electronics development as much as possible. Platforms have different life cycles than weapons and electronics. When you develop a new platform, you should take as much off the shelf as possible in weapons and electronics. Then all of the risks and debugging are concentrated in the new platform. After initial deployment, plan for upgrades in weapons and electronics.

    The potential number of interactions where failures can occur is combinatoric. The more newly developed parts there are, the more interactions have to be debugged. Testing can be shortened only by having more off the shelf, reliable components in the initial design.

    Once you have the initial design working, you can move from a working design to an upgraded working design. Each upgrade step has fewer interactions to debug. While you are upgrading platforms a few at a time, you have the use of the initial design for all of the other platforms in the class.

    A platform can last 20-40 years. Weapons, electronics and software have much shorter lives. Since we are going to have to upgrade anyway, why not start with off the shelf weapons and electronics for new platforms. If we want to reach 355 ships, we should not try to do new everything all at once. It’s not working for us, and there’s good reasons why it never will.

    • It’s a good idea to separate ship building and combat systems development – if you look back, this is basically what we did with all of our most successful modern weapons (Terrier, Tomahawk, Aegis – none of them were tied to a specific shipbuilding program). However, all too often “off the shelf’ is taken to mean that we don’t have to spend money developing new weapons.

      • My comment wasn’t intended to say we don’t need to develop new weapons; quite the reverse. I intended to say we need to develop new weapons independent from new platforms. Otherwise, if the new weapon development fails, we end up with a platform with no effective armament, like the Zumwalt class with a gun without ammunition because the ammunition program was cancelled. Further, while we always need new weapons, we might not need new platform designs at all. Maybe we can just make modernized versions of existing platforms and save money.

        In 2015-2016, the Israelis tried to buy a proposed stealth version of the F-15 Strike Eagle instead of the F-35. The Pentagon killed that option because it was a threat to the F-35 program, especially the size of the overall F-35 buy. I think eliminating lower cost alternatives like this just means we won’t have enough platforms. The F-15 had lower quality stealth, but better range and payload, and was a lot less expensive.

        We have eliminated the Perry class frigates. I realize that the ships themselves are outmoded and worn out, but does the platform design really need to be completely replaced? Couldn’t the design be modified to accept modern weapons and electronics? Couldn’t new Perry Version 2.0 class frigates be built? From all accounts the Perry class ships worked very well as a platform. They are inexpensive to produce. It seems to me that it would be relatively low risk to build Perry 2.0 frigates with modern weapons and electronics. We know the platform works in open water and is maintainable and reliable. Why do we need something fancy or different for the missions they performed? Wouldn’t Perry Version 2.0 frigates be cheaper and better than LCS platforms?

        • Chesapeakeguy

          Some of the main components found in the Perry’s are also built into the LCS. A Perry class vessel with upgraded and up-DATED systems would be far superior to anything being proposed for the Frigate mission(s).

        • El_Sid

          does the platform design really need to be completely replaced?
          Couldn’t the design be modified to accept modern weapons and
          electronics? Couldn’t new Perry Version 2.0 class frigates be built?
          From all accounts the Perry class ships worked very well as a platform.
          They are inexpensive to produce.

          They’re not inexpensive to produce – see above. And while they were great Cold War escorts, they also had some significant flaws. The main one is that they had tight compartmentalisation, just 39t of growth margin and a load of proprietary electronics which meant they were horrible to upgrade, which is why the USN retired some of them after just 14 years, and just took out the Mk13 launcher rather than attempt to replace it with a modern SAM. The Aussies did upgrade their Perrys and it was a nightmare – massively behind schedule and over budget, they refused to accept the first ship upgraded and even after they did they were reluctant to send it in harm’s way.

          And that’s before you get onto modern habitability and computing requirements, which add maybe 400t to the design. Honestly, a clean sheet would be a better option.

    • Duane

      Very good comment!

      Actually, that is precisely what the Navy is doing with the FFG(X) program. Going with off the shelf proven systems, nearly all of which were developed and deployed on LCS over the last decade. Dito with the underlying design concept of modularity, first demonstrated on LCS. Modularity IS what separates the platform from the warfighting systems that go into the platform.

      Contrary to common misperception, the Navy did NOT conclude that modularity failed on LCS. Rather, the Navy somewhat redefined modularity. Modularity is not something you change out on every mission or cruise, because such frequent module swaps harm crew training and continuity. But modules will be changed out and updated as systems and threats evolve. The LCS will not just deploy the initial SuW, ASW, and MCM mission modules. The Navy is already working on the next batch of MMs, including one for SOF support, and another for fleet communications, and another for fleet ECM. Future MMs may deploy next gen UAVs, UUVs, and/or USVs for special ops and/or fleet ops.

      Ths Navy is clearly wed to modularity, for the reasons you stated above.

      • As I said in my comment below, I’m not as thrilled with new platforms as I am with new weapons. I was born in 1950. I’m still working, but I’m past retirement age. I was 12 years old when the B-52s that are still flying missions today were built. They have new electronics (I hope) and new weapons.

        I’m a former USAF Systems Analyst Officer (1972-1976), so I’m not as familiar with the Navy as you are. But I wonder why we need an expensive FFG(X) when we might be able to make a new Perry Class Version 2.0 for a lot less and put new electronics and weapons on the platform. If we need more platforms, it stands to reason we have to buy economy class platforms and spend our money on weapons and electronics which make a bigger difference. High tech hulls and propulsion don’t offer that much bang for the buck, as far as I can tell.

        • Chesapeakeguy

          Here here. A MODERN day Perry! I’ve been advocating for this forever on here. But all I ever get from SOME participants is garbage about building 1970s technology. It always goes right over their heads,

        • El_Sid

          The trouble is there’s no such thing as a Perry v2.0 that costs “a lot less” than the kinds of numbers being punted around – a Perry v1.0 would cost around $800m in FY18 dollars. In practice you need a new design to accommodate modern habitability standards, extra computing power, VLS instead of Mk13 and so on.

          If you want full helicopter facilities on a platform that can deploy across bluewater, you can’t go much below 100m/330′ and 2500t if you look around at recent Western OPVs (RN River II’s are 90m/2000t and flightdeck but no hangar, Irish Becketts are 90m/2300t and UAV only) whereas Freedoms are 115m and 2700t. Light-ship displacement correlates pretty closely with cost for a certain level of fitting-out, so if you want an effective lilypad then the only real way to squeeze cost out is by reducing survivability/weaponry. Which is kinda what they did with LCS.

          High tech hulls and propulsion don’t offer that much bang for the buck, as far as I can tell.

          No doubt you are advocating that the USAF replace the F-15 with C-130’s?

          Speed always matters for military platforms. In a swarm attack, speed allows you to cut the effective closing speed, which in turn buys you the time to deal with the swarm. If you have more time, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed.

          It’s also useful as a “weapon” that can be deployed without escalating tension – in the kind of incident you’ve seen with Iran and China harassing USN ships. If the USS Pueblo had been as fast as an LCS, she wouldn’t have ended up alongside in North Korea. She only had two options – surrender or open fire and start WWIII, it would have been good to have had the option of outrunning the North Koreans.

          Whether it was worth compromising the LCS hulls as much as they did in the pursuit of speed is going to be one of those questions that only gets answered in hindsight, it’s certainly an open question right now. But those will have been some of the considerations in the minds of those who made the decisions.

          • I am in favor of substituting upgraded F-15s for some F-35s. In the Pacific, F-35s have low payload and range that make them unsuitable for the distances common there. A Silent Eagle F-15 is a better fit for the mission.

            I will defer to you on frigate design. I really am ignorant there.

            I would like your take on oil tanker hulls as jeep carriers. It seems to me that jeep carriers provided spread out naval air power during World War II economically and successfully. I wonder why they wouldn’t work that way again today. A nuclear powered super carrier is too expensive to risk against near peer area denial weapons or possible nuclear attacks. Jeep carriers built on oil tanker hulls could provide a platform for drones, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. They might not be fast enough for conventional fighter jet operations, but they could support STVL jets or turboprop attack aircraft.

            If we had jeep carriers, the requirement for at least some of their escorts to carry helicopters could be dropped. Jeep carriers could offer a way to get to 355 ships by lowering overall task force cost.

          • El_Sid

            I am in favor of substituting upgraded F-15s for some F-35s.

            But would you support substituting AC-130’s for some F-35’s? Because that’s a closer analogy for what you’re proposing for the USN. And that’s not to say in some cases it could be a good idea – but it tends to only work in certain niches, you lose the “throw anything at it” capability.

            You’ve kinda got your tanker platform already, in the form of the AFSB/ESB. But I’d see that as more of an independent platform in its own right, it’s not really a way to take helicopters off surface ships – as the model is increasingly for distributed operations where those ships are off doing their own thing. And if you’re thinking of specifically task group escorts – then they need a certain size in any case for bluewater ops. But I’m not clear – you seem to be creating a capital ship that will need escorts, that were not needed for escort duties before? And while ESB’s work for a fairly static mission, they are too slow really for taskgroups. Someone did the maths, and it worked out that the best way to reduce losses on the WWII Atlantic convoys would have been to sink the slowest 10% or 20% ships before the convoy set off, such was the effect of a few knots on ultimate survival rate.

            It’s not impossible to imagine a super-ESB with some VLS tubes, surrounded by Spearhead derivatives adapted to minesweeping and counter-swarm type roles – but it comes down to can you justify enough of them to justify the costs of unique ship classes. It also brings to mind the original concept of the British Type 23, which was groups of four pretty basic sonar tugs operating with a mother ship that was a combination of supply ship and area defence. But pretty soon the concept turned into much more capable ships operating on their own, and the current T23 is arguably perhaps the best template for what an evolved Perry might look like today – ASW focused, but a decent medium-range SAM, sensors and gun makes it a good all-round escort.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        But being ABLE to ‘swap’ out modules on a whim is precisely what the Navy used to sell the program. ‘Proven’ systems developed within the LCS program? You mean those SAME modules that STILL are not deployed? We hear the same assertions that ‘they will be ready this year, or next;, which what they’ve been saying for the LAST several years about them. And we STILL don’t what everything costs because the Navy in late 2016 silenced any official releases about the program’s costs.