Home » Aviation » SECNAV Spencer: LCS Build Rate ‘Not Optimal’ But ‘Good‘ for Sustaining Yards Ahead of FFG(X)


SECNAV Spencer: LCS Build Rate ‘Not Optimal’ But ‘Good‘ for Sustaining Yards Ahead of FFG(X)

USS Billings (LCS-15) launches sideways into the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin in 2017. Lockheed Martin Photo

CAPITOL HILL — Navy leaders are committed to buying a single Littoral Combat Ship in Fiscal Year 2019 despite increasing concern the rate would put shipbuilders at a disadvantage in the upcoming frigate competition.

Wednesday, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense the service determined the best course of action ahead of the frigate was the single LCS buy in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

“We believe that between [FY] ‘18 and ‘19 that four LCSs in the line for the yards will provide them, granted not optimal, … a good sustaining rate for both yards as we move into what will be a very robust competition for the frigate,” Spencer said.
“As you read in the 30-year shipbuilding plan, one of the key attributes that we want to make everyone aware of is: Yes, we want to increase our capacity but we also need to understand what the industrial base can absorb and how we can work as partners with the industrial base while purchasing our assets at the most effective and efficient rate. “

Spencer’s comments come days after a USNI News report in which LCS builders Austal USA and Lockheed Martin expressed concern that the Navy’s build plan would leave the yards at a disadvantage in the coming frigate competition.

Both yards argue that while they’ll have work for some of their shipbuilders, workers in the early part of the process will be underutilized and could risk being let go.

Austal and Lockheed both said losing those employees early in the process would make them less competitive for the FFG(X) since they wouldn’t have so-called hot production lines for the work.

The Navy’s current stance on LCS construction is a break from its previous stance that three LCS a year was the minimum build rate to fully sustain both yards.

USS Tulsa (LCS-16) launched on March 15, 2017. Austal USA photo.

“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,” Program Executive Officer Littoral Combat Ships Rear Adm. John Neagley told USNI News last year.
“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.”

Austal and Lockheed are two of five bidders for the Navy’s planned program of 20 next-generation guided missile frigates at an estimated cost of about $850 to 950 million a hull.

The two LCS builders, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Fincantieri Marine and Huntington Ingalls Industries were each awarded $15 million contracts for the work in mid-February.

The Navy will spend the next 16 months evaluating the proposals and award the final design contract in FY 2020.

  • Jonesy

    Won’t Lockmart be surprised when they don’t win the FFG(X) competition, I can’t wait to see their faces.

    • PolicyWonk

      The USN, while it admits that the LCS program “broke navy acquisition”, is still loath to admit the utter failure that is LCS. We’re stuck with these nearly useless, monstrously expensive utility boats that they continue to misrepresent as warships (despite former CNO Greenert’s declaration that LCS “was never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat”).

      But to be realistic, LockMart managed to win a deal on a Freedom class derivation from the Saudies, who are getting a much better boat for money than the USN did. This new ship is all but unrecognizable from its original class as its longer, heavier, better protected and considerably better armed – so like it or not it has a better than even chance of prevailing. Then you have a far more innovative design (as is also the case with LCS) from Austal, albeit its constructed entirely out of aluminum.

      If the USN’s LCS program has demonstrated anything: delivering decent ROI for defense/taxpayer dollar spent is not in any way a consideration; and, the navy is not above doubling down on the tragic mistakes they’ve already made.

      We also have to keep in mind, that it was the USN that approved the designs of both pier-queen classes: so its not entirely the fault of either of the contractors (they were however, culpable/willing recipients of this most blatant of corporate welfare programs).

      The rest (FREEM, HII, etc.), while in most cases probably superior to anything delivered by LockMart or Austal, are dark horses. I’d consider it a miracle if any of the superior alternatives get the deal.

      • Retired weps

        Maybe POTUS needs to step in and start deep-sixing a bunch of Admiral’s careers, maybe that’ll wake them up. He just got a better deal for home-grown steel workers, now that time to get a better deal for sailor and taxpayers.

        • PolicyWonk

          Well, it remains to be seen if our home-grown steel workers got a better deal, or if in them getting better deal causes more damage to the rest of the economy than its worth.

          It is also notable that while Mr. Trump seeks to make political hay via steel tariffs, he went out of his way to use cheap Chinese steel to construct his buildings, and still uses cheap Chinese labor (and other out-sourced manufacturers) for the goods that carry his brand.

          History has demonstrated that contrary to what Mr. Trump claims, trade wars have yet to be proven good for anyone. If he’s truly attempting to revive American manufacturing, he has a wide array of economic options available to him that are far less risky.

          I was hopeful that he would address the appalling reaming the taxpayers get under the DoD acquisition system, who easily get the worst deal for defense dollar spent in the western world (and arguably, the other half as well). Sadly, that hasn’t come to pass.

        • Duane

          You mean replicate Trump’s idiocy in purposefully igniting a trade war with our ALLIES, for the first time since the Great Depression, while leaving our adversaries in China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran unscathed?

          Trump seems to be doing his best impression of a bought and paid for tool of the Russians and Chinese. The Manchurian Candidate indeed. No wonder Trump is scared you-know-whatless of the Mueller investigation. He has much to hide.

        • airider

          POTUS is the king of posturing to get the real deal he wants. He’s a business man from New York remember.

          Don’t go overboard on the Tarifs … they’ll adjust accordingly during negotiations with the trade partners…just like everything else in politics.

          Getting core industrial capabilities back inside the U.S. should be a national priority though … especially if our trade “partners” are undercutting our ability to compete and keep some capability “in house” with higher tariffs…..I mean c’mon man!!!

          • leesea

            TRump blathers a lot but knows little about warship prodcution

      • Bubblehead

        FYI the Saudis are spending $1.3 billion per ship for their improved LCS. With only a 8 cell mk41 to show for it. That is damn close to the price of a AB II.
        Don’t rule FREMM out. They have told USN if they win they will buy another US shipyard. The US needs new technology in their outdated shipyards and they are one of the biggest most successful shipyards in the world.
        The LM is such a different ship than the LCS IT is basically a new design. Alot of problems with this could delay FFGX. One of the USN tip priority for FFGX is a ship with little to no risk. After LCS fiasco and a new hull, the LM design does not fit the bill.

        • PolicyWonk

          While I generally agree with all your saying, the Saudi’s are paying for all (or a large majority) of the development costs, and the production line would therefore be a hot one (this is admittedly compelling). I fully agree with your comments w/r/t the LCS fiasco, but the USN has yet to fess up to a program that cannot be described without overuse of the term “cluster”.

          While I agree FREMM is a viable option, and that a new/modern shipyard would be a good thing for the industrial base, I’ll still be stunned if one of the current LCS-producing yards isn’t chosen (happily stunned, but still stunned).

          Cheers.

          • DaSaint

            Marinette can’t do it alone, if the FREMM is selected. After all, the Saudis want 4 Freedom variants, and have options for 4 more, if the Fincantieri CEO is to be believed, and he should know. He’s stated that they would buy another yard, and most likely not in the Great Lakes area. Maybe Austal USA???

            That would solve the problem of the industrial base issue.

          • Curtis Conway

            I’m wondering if those yards could rebuild the Mk26 CG-47s pulled from service.

          • DaSaint

            Interesting. There were 5 of them, but they’ve been out of service for 13 or 14 years now. And those Mk26s are personnel intensive.

          • Curtis Conway

            One Mk26 CG is an artificial reef (bent bow). The rest should be completely gutted, and rebuilt with the new 4160 VDC Bus and DDG-51 Flt III propulsion system (with HED), Directed Energy Weapons (4) defense systems installed around the superstructures, and upgrade the radar to AMDR SPY-6(v). I do not know how many Radar Module Assemblies it can handle, but it would probably be equal to the DDG-51 Flt III’s 37-RMA configuration at least. The hulls had a bad habit of twisting when in heavy seas so I would add the additional hull stiffening using whatever method, or just install strakes down the side below the water line. Stern flap, upgrade the sonar and off we go. These vessels are the best AAW Commander platform ever devised to date. Lots of space, two boats (Capt Gig & Adm Barge/Utility Boat). Hangar for two, and organic ASW capability second to none, including a tail if installed. Great platforms, and additionally they were made with US Steel, and that makes a difference. Made well and last long time. They ARE an investment in the future.

          • DaSaint

            I’m with you, but after all that, you may get a 10-15 year service life. I’d rather build a modified Flight III Burke. Also, can’t see yards other than BIW and Ingalls attempting this comprehensive a modernization. And what about all the lead time for systems? No, sorry, but this ship has sailed. Build new hulls, modify the Burke design, and increase production instead to compensate.

          • Curtis Conway

            The systems are all DDG-51 Flt III except for Directed Energy Weapons. The main cableways go down both main passageways on the port and stbd side. It really is not that hard. The hull is done, and rest is just pull it out and put the new back in. Numero uno is the hardest then just do it three more times. All the parts would come from Burke suppliers so just add a few (X4). They would be B/L-9 ships so the upgrades are easier. This could be a precursor for buying back the Iatola Class, or old Kidd Class (Taiwan’s Destroyers) and we could do it four more times. The Spruance Hull really is something. We could probably ‘Laser Ping’ the hull and get a few more years out of it.

            We would have to dumb them down a lot, but the DDG-51 Flt I’s would be great for Taiwan. Man . . . would that piss China off. I’id do it for no other reason.

          • PolicyWonk

            Lets not forget getting Taiwan some new SSK/AIP submarines…

          • Curtis Conway

            Let us really piss off China and Co-Develop a Collins Class style boat, and build them together.

          • Gerard Babin

            the Fincantieri MMC CEO is a woman, and currently no employee worth their salt has received a pay raise in years. it just lost a begging contest with the community for a 50 Mil investment on improvements for a program it hasn’t received yet.
            The Wisconsin yard after the builds it has completed has not shown any profit (So it tells it’s Employees) – Fincantieri claims it is funding the entire operation from it’s Italian Holdings. The Great Lakes needs a new ship yard to boost FMM’s complacent behaviors.

        • Duane

          No … the Saudi frigate contract cost includes construction of new port facilities, plus all the missiles and other munitions, not just the cost of the ship. The Mk 41 VLS has been variously reported at 16 cells and 32 cells … the actual design spec has not been made public, but it will not be less than 16 cell VLS.

      • leesea

        PW the L-M MMSC variant is better because the Saudis were more flexible with their rqmts, and because they had more money to spend~
        NIH may well rule supreme?

        • PolicyWonk

          Well, that depends on how you define “more flexible”. They were among the nations that were initially very interested in LCS, but after reviewing what the PEO did to the original ONR “street fighter” concept, turned LCS down flat saying it was ridiculously expensive given the all-but-nonexistent ROI.

          L-M is in business to make money, so they did what the Saudi’s asked them to do.

          But when it comes to having money to spend, given the lack of success of these “littoral combat ship” variants, the USN (and taxpayers) is now stuck with a fleet of overly glorified utility boats (liabilities) instead of assets. In short, the USN somehow only managed to go cheap in the areas that don’t count for much if/when the shooting starts. LCS remains stunningly expensive given the ROI.

          • leesea

            Flexible as in we pay you, you built for us and slip bucks under the table too.

    • Duane

      The surprise is likely to be on your face.

  • robert richard

    The US should think about a international FFX program, among ships still under construction, the Blohm+Voss/ThyssenKrupp Marine-built Mehzweck-Kombination (MEKO) 200-series frigates sail in eight navies, with more nations purchasing other type MEKO ships of differing size and tonnage. Additionally, the Navy should be directed to develop a common hull ice breaker frigate as we’ll be fighting in the Arctic then the Antarctic soon enough.

    • SvD

      Don’t confuse the old Meko 200 with the newer A-200 which was offered to the USN. The latter is used by South Africa and Algeria.
      And there is something odd going on with TKMS, they were kicked from the next frigate program (MKS180) in Germany, which was basically an F125 frigate derivate.
      It didn’t go that well, the competition was opened to European bidders and a week ago, TKMS was kicked out. It is said, that there is a 50 page long document about all the defects in the program.

      F125 is going that well either…

      A month or 2 ago TKMS said they would close an office and lay off hundreds of engineers, which seems as a warning shot to the MOD.

      There is a possibility that the other shipyards fail to meet a specific goal, “intensive use” which should allow the F125 and follow-on ships on the same basic design to stay out of dock for 2 years.

      In this case, the process could be reset and TKMS would be back in, if they solve problems…

    • Duane

      Sorry, the FFG(X) train has already left the station.

      “Ice breaker destroyers” in the arctic? Hmm, it just makes a lot more sense to just destroy all of Putin’s icebreakers with standoff land and air based missiles than to attempt to play in his sandbox.

      • Retired weps

        Wake and smell the coffee Admiral. When war comes one cannot choose the time and place, and it certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near a constant floating drydock for your precious and often broken down LCS. Real Warships can operate in all types of environments (ever heard of the Aleutian Island, there was a wars fought up there a few years back), well your precious LCS wouldn’t survive up there in such a harsh climate.

        • leesea

          Warships are designed to meet the POE, all areas and all sea states are not usually required.

        • Duane

          LCS are operating without breakdowns. The breakdowns experienced a couple years ago were pinned on poor crew training and management, the same factors that caused the Arleigh Burkes and Ticos to collide with merchant ships and run aground.

          You ship haters are just incomprehensible. Ships are crewed by people and 90% of the success or failure of any ship has always resided in the crew and its leadership, not inanimate hulls.

      • leesea

        IMHO the USN needs a replacement for the Cyclone PCs, and the LCS is NOT that ship. So yes a true corvette nee patrol ship is needed. Guess what does NOT exist? Any rqmt for such a ship.

        • Duane

          The LCS never was a replacement for the PCs, any more than the Ford class CVNs are a replacement for OHP frigates. You’re furiously mixing apples and oranges.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            According to Bob Work – who as UNDERSECNAV wrote what some consider the definitive mea culpa for the LCS debacle – the LCS was intended to replace FFs, MCMs, MHCs and PCs.

            “Plans for the DD(X) [Surface Combatant Family of Systems (SCFOS)] therefore envisioned the Navy building twenty-nine more Burke-class ships before replacing the “Spru-cans” with twenty-four new DD(X) land attack destroyers (later DDG 1000s), resulting in a steady state force of 112 large battle network combatants. At this point, production would then shift over to CG(X), which would replace the twenty-seven “Ticos” in the theater air and missile defense role. Once done, the Navy would then begin replacing the sixty-one Burkes with a new multimission warship. While all this was happening, the baseline small combatant force of thirty long-hulled Oliver Hazard Perry-class FFGs, fourteen Avenger-class MCMs, twelve Osprey-class MHCs, and thirteen Cyclone-Class PCs would gradually be replaced by fifty-six LCSs.”

            Ref: “The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why”, Robert O. Work. No date. Page 32

  • Curtis Conway

    Why the ‘Corporate Welfare’ title for the article? I thought this was about our Nation’s Defense!

  • Ed L

    Well the saddest thing is that the Frigate and Patrol Vessels Force of the Mexican Navy can out gun and out perform all the LCS built.

    • Duane

      No … the saddest thing is internet commenters peddling obviously untrue snark instead of acknowledging reality.

      • Real sailor

        and that reality, that you refuse to accept, is that the LCS is the worst program in the history of the US Navy. The LCS is not a warship by any stretch of the imagination. It had to get a ‘waiver’ in order to be commissioned. It cannot fight. It cannot sustain any damage since it’s not built to Navy warship standards. It cannot sail any distance without breaking. It’s a liability to the battle group. It needs to be ‘protected’ by a destroyer at all times. It’s has zero capabilities. It’s has numerous flaws all conducted and documented by professionals (unlike yourself) in a series of Navy standard tests and evals. It’s hideously expensive. It bucks like a bronco in sea state 1. Heck, even the Saudi’s realized it’s crap and demanded a completely new design/ship. It’s 14 years in the making and it still can do ANYTHING except provide a nice aluminum coffin for our sailors who deserve something much better. Now you cry yourself a river because the truth does hurt (only you).

        • Duane

          The US Navy strongly disagrees with you on all counts. Argue with the Navy.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            Ray Mabus may have strongly disagreed. LCS was his “baby” – along with a host of other failed programs. Thankfully he has retired.

            No idea if SECNAV Spencer is a huge proponent. But I would have loved to have been in the room when SECDEF Mattis was briefed on the LCS boondoggle.

          • Jonesy

            …and that’s why they’re not building any more little crappy ships after 2019-nice try there fleet admiral (fyi, you’ve been demoted to rear admiral)

        • MarlineSpikeMate

          Little exaggeration there on the facts “real sailor”.

          “It cannot fight”
          57mm, longbows, RAM, 2) 30mm, harpoons (soon NSMs), what more would you want for SUW on a corvette. Coupled with 40+kts, it seems very adequate for going after other vessels and operating in and out of the engagement zone.
          Other warfare areas of MIO is great with 2 11m RIHBs. ASW will be top notch with the VDS, and MW will be decent. Again, very adequate for a corvette, especially considering the addition of MH-60R and 2 UAVs.

          “It cannot sustain any damage since it’s not built to Navy warship standards”
          It is built to level 1+ USN standards and ABS standards. That is greater than PCs, MCMs and almost the same level as OHPs. In addition is has modern DC equipment that most other ships do not..

          “It cannot sail any distance without breaking”
          Every case study has proven without a doubt that the breakdowns were due to the crew, not the ship… you can read them yourself.

          “It’s a liability to the battle group”
          How so? They have proven themselves in RIMPAC and operating in the battle group on many occasions. It’s legs are relatively short, I’ll give you that.

          “It’s has zero capabilities.”
          See above

          “it’s has numerous flaws all conducted and documented by professionals (unlike yourself) in a series of Navy standard tests and evals.”
          Every new procurement has serious flaws across the fleet. Look at the new LPDs..

          “nice aluminum coffin”
          Freedom variant has a steel hull and aluminum superstructure like a CG, but with better DC equipment..

          “Now you cry yourself a river because the truth does hurt (only you).”
          Why so angry and insulting of others. Just stick with the facts.

          I’m not in love with LCS and it has many problems, but for goodness sake what is the deal here? This is a ridiculous amount of emotion going towards hating a ship.

          • Retired weps

            wow, so now you’re backtracking? What happened to your mighty “Frigate?” Now it’s suddenly a “Corvette” because you have to justify it’s massive shortcomings? Nice play but it doesn’t fly here.

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            What are you talking about? It’s not a good corvette?

          • Dan O’Brian

            O M G, my yacht is built to ABS standards, does that mean it’s now a warship?

          • MarlineSpikeMate

            Gasp! 1+ Navy standards? O my.

    • MarlineSpikeMate

      57mm, 2) 30mm, RAM, Longbows, and Harpoons (currently) or NSMs? How so? ASW with the outstanding VDS kit soon to deploy, outstanding MIO with 2 11m ribs, and decent MW with the revamped deployables. It seems to me to be an adequate Corvette to me.

      • Ed L

        If the LCS were part of the coast guard it could be considered adequate but not as patrol corvette. And comparing there at sea periods to WW2 corvettes The LCS is a poor performer

        • MarlineSpikeMate

          How is it poor compared to others? Throw something tangible up that I can get behind.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Gosh, I say again that ALL that seems to matter as far as constructing these ships, be they LCS’s or the magical, mythical FF(G) appears to be all about keeping certain shipyards functioning. I mean, the HECK with the fleet and the needs of the Navy and the country, right?

    Is it me, or does anyone else sense that the headaches for the Navy went WAY up when all these major shipbuilders merged?

    • NavySubNuke

      Between that and the Navy brac’ing so much of the Navy yard space there is a real crunch. Look at how long the USS Boise has been sidelined due to a lack of Navy yard capacity.

    • Secundius

      You’ll be “Happy To Hear”, that according to “Marine Log” dated 26 April 2018 through the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) of 2019. Two more LCS will have their “Keel Laid” in 2018 for Launching in 2019. Bringing to total to Three…

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Oh yeah, I’ll be having a party. LOL..

        • Secundius

          A “Raising Demons Party”…

    • Gerard Babin

      The “Headaches” (at least in one yard) are not being caused by LMCO, I worked closely with their Sr. team leaders getting LCS 9 ready for launch and during the crunch to prepare for dock trials. There are a hand full of politically minded “individuals” mixed in with a Contractors Sr. Management team- and I’ll leave it at that for now. But rest assured that the Austal teams and Lockheed teams are breaking their backs to deliver what they promised the taxpayers. LMCO & Austal are influencer’s in the future of ship building. Though the designs may have little imperfections they are being addressed & managed effectively. The headaches arise when a good plan is rewritten by partner / subcontract managers (those contracted to execute a mission specific plan) to suit their own end desired needs.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        All that is well and good, but the gist of this article itself indicates that keeping the shipyards open is THE prime consideration, nothing else.

  • Duane

    I imagine that Congress will probably ignore the Navy’s 1-LCS request in 2019 and add at least one, and quite possibly two more LCS to the actual NDAA and appropriations bills. Just as Congress upped the Navy’s LCS and shipbuilding request in FY2018 (from 2 LCS to 3, and added several other ships). Don’t bet against that being the final result.

    And don’t bet against the LM Freedom class FFG(X) derivative design being the winner .. unless you prefer wishful thinking and losing over winning the bet.

    • leesea

      The USN should buy one each LCS with FY18 funds.
      Then take the FY19 funds to pay for ALL outstanding work on all LCS.
      such as unfunded deficiency correction, outstanding SHIPALTs, needed change orders. Pay for a much work as the SCN funding will allow and get more finished ships sooner.
      That could go to the build yards as well as the repair yards

    • DaSaint

      Defense News has a great interview with the CEO of Fincantieri. They intend to purchase another US yard if they win FREMM, as Marinette can’t do it alone.

    • leesea

      LCS-1 is too small for all the things the Navy wants in an FFG(X)

  • Duane

    Not sustaining our yards serves what purpose, exactly?

    I mean, other than serving the purposes of Putin and Xi.

    • airider

      Creating surface combatant yards out of thin air served what purpose exactly??? While both Austal and Marinette Marine existed before, neither had built surface combatants.

      LCS was never about “sustaining yards” that can build surface combatants, it was about trying to create more. The results have been proven to be messy since neither yard had experience in anything in this realm.

      The yards are, at best, a “toe hold” for their overseas parent companies to allow them to compete for U.S. only contracts.

      If they went away tomorrow, nobody would notice in the shipbuilding industry.

      Why else would Fincateri submit a completely independent build, based on their FREMM, for FFG(X) if they didn’t feel their LCS design was viable. Basically they’re hedging their bets that LCS designs won’t survive. If the Navy selects the FREMM design, the work force at the yard would need to be retrained and/or turn over anyway….with lots of help from the FREMM side of the house.

      Want an example of how this happens….take a look at how Toyota introduced car manufacturing in the U.S.

      • Duane

        Hey, news flash!! It isn’t 2004. In 2004 when LCS was initially authorized, there was no concern about preserving domestic naval ship production, because GWB was all in on putting down the growing insurgency in Iraq, and neither the Russians or Chinese had begun their present military buildup nor their recent bad behavior in SE Europe and the South China Sea.

        Wake up, Mr. Van Winkle. It is 2018 and everything has changed.

        • airider

          Very little has changed…Russia was already making new moves with Putin as President and China has gotten to the place it is now because once the Brits left Hong Kong back in 1997 it was full throttle on defense … also domestic naval ship production concerns have been in place since the early 90’s when the Clinton Admin “suggested” that defense industries consolidate. Anybody involved in the industry at the time knew this …. the Navy and shipbuilders certainly were.

          • Duane

            Wrong … everybody knows everything has changed in the last 14 years. It is foolish to pretend otherwise

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            It’s not that everything has changed. It’s simply that the SWO cabal who imagineered LCS in the early 2000s were completely disconnected from reality.

            At the strategic level: you’d have to be blind not see what was coming. The rise of China as a maritime power was predictable, and had been predicted since the 1990s. The history of Russia is all about bouncing back. They are the Chumbawumba of nations: they get knocked down and they get up again.

            At the tactical level: anyone could see that the proliferation of ISR and precision guided munitions made vessels operating in the littorals extremely vulnerable. And that designing a 3,000 ton corvette to go into the littorals to chase speedboats and hunt mines was downright stupid.

  • old guy

    FACE IT!!! A shipyard welfare program.

  • Refguy

    We are going to keep buying ships we don’t want and can’t use to keep the yards busy in hopes that one of them will eventually build a ship we want, need and can afford without fouling it up with manufacturing defects?!

  • Curtis Conway

    The title to the article only makes sense if there was real combat value to the LCS platform in the first place other than being a placeholder and keeping the Surface Combatant count up. Recognizing the necessity of the FFG(X) in this way also alludes to the necessity of its existence. The LCS versions of FFG(X) are where the LCS platform capabilities should have been in the first place. To state otherwise ADMITS the lack of capability, and the necessity to build a worthless platform that is fast, shiny and looks good, as a placeholder only because it is what could be fit in the budget. Additionally, even an LCS FFG(X) would be only marginally effective in the Arctic, if it could operate there at all. If we are to grow the fleet on a budget, and maintain combat capability, then factoring in retirement of DDG-51 Flt I’s, and subsequent movement to Allied Navies where they are needed, and bringing on a capable FFG(X) in its place, being an upgraded platform coming out of a yard period after a couple of tours, makes sense. The 3-RMA EASR can be upgraded to the 9-RMA SPY-6(v) giving the frigate a CG-47 tracking envelope. Give up one to an Allied Navy and gain two budget wise. Fleet grows, and the world gets safer faster.

    • PolicyWonk

      Sir,

      I fully agree with your statement that the LCS-based FFG(X) variants approximate what LCS should have been to begin with.

      But these current “littoral combat ships” classes lack the ability to reasonably protect itself and/or reach out and touch someone. The most expensive ships the USN has ever purchased are the ones that can’t do either.

      • Curtis Conway

        Can’t argue with that, and there are how many Surface Combatant place holders out there just providing numbers? That is a lot of sailors.

      • Lazarus

        Except that there was no requirement in 2003 for a FFGX. The LCS seaframe was not designed as a frigate, but its open architecture is accepting many of the frigate’s weapons including an ASCM, Hellfire and a lightweight ASW package.
        Cannot post links here, but the FFG 7’s went through similar issues in the period 1970-1977. Upgrades in equipment to the baseline PF class raised its cost by 47%, increased tonnage by 14%, and broke the ceiling on displacement by several hundred tons, The difference from the 1970’s and now is that all of this arguing and horse-trading of cost and capability went on behind closed doors and was the purview of a few uniformed officers and senior civilians. None of this was within the public domain outside the beltway. That’s really the difference between the processes that led to the FFG 7 and the LCS; 40 years and a lot more folks chiming in on the internet.

        • PolicyWonk

          This is true – there was no requirement for an FFG(X) in 2003. There was (and is) a requirement for a littoral combatant – and now 15 years later we’re no better off: we still have no littoral combatant. The monstrously expensive utility boats we do have, as you might recall, were according to the former CNO (Adm. Jonathan Greenert), “never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat…”.

          While they can go wicked fast (presumably so it can run away at the first sign of danger), they can’t go very far when doing so, or outrun a missile, and didn’t even have a ASCM in the planning until the unrelenting complaints became overwhelming.

          No Frigate ever carried a short-range Hellfire – making it a bolt-on for LCS because the NLOS system was killed. Better than nothing – but not by much – and a clear sign of desperation on the part of the PEO, who did such a bang-up job (for our adversaries?) that the USN has declared the “littoral combat ship” the “program that broke naval acquisition”.

          • leesea

            The above are self-inflicted wounds.

  • leesea

    I would like to know what the Cost Peformance data shows for shipyard builds of LCS? This sounds so much like Mark One eyeball guessing? And you know if the production line has to be slowed to fill the supposed gaps, SO BE IT.

    The Navy is focused on keeping the yards’ “glass” full instead of being focused on pouring a stream of water that the Navy can drink.

  • leesea

    Come on Chief play nice, besides we all know that the Trumpeter is a conman form the gitgo

  • Duane

    I hate nobody, but I call out facts as they are. My comment above stated proven facts. Facts are stubborn things, but the Trumpistas work furiously to ignore the facts.

    • stronger than U

      YEAH DUANE, trade deficits as far as the eye can see are SUPER for America! you idiot. America was built on protectionism/tariffs and who needs partners like the one we have. Look at any industry, we import far more than we export cept 1. If all trade ended tomorrow the USA would be much better off than we are. I know this and Trump knows this! He has done everything he said he would unlike any politician ever. His record on truth is better than any pol.

  • Duane

    Only the haters cry tears, being as they are such emotional snowflakes. I am simply stating reality. The haters hate reality, because it is so inconvenient to their magical thinking. Reality always intrudes.

  • Duane

    I need no sheltering from reality, snowflake. Speak for your own unfulfilled dreams of LCS failure.

    Reality always intrudes.

    • Bryan

      My opinion of LCS program.

      1. make it in almost every state.
      2. make hull form too small to accept modules.
      3. one and two make hull and module development unable to be cancelled.
      4. Change manning requirements in manual.
      5. Change damage control manning in manual.
      6. Change maintenance manning in manual.
      7. Change watch standing manning levels in manual.
      8. Tell everyone it is tech that allows us to do 4-7.

      9. Ignore past failed experiments with manning and use a 3-2-1 scheme.
      10. Use an experimental hull and propulsion from a racing yacht and say it will be cheap.

      Too many experiments at once. Failure to look at the past failures and learn from them or intentionally ignoring them to make them cancel proof. LCS came back to haunt the Navy.

      • Bryan

        So to be fair, it’s easy to say what is wrong and hard to say how to realistically do it right. IMO it should have been done more like this:

        1. Common shallow draft hull sized to accept current tonnage of MCM equipment and ASW.
        2. Modules use current equipment using current technology.
        3. Add 10-15% size, power, manpower margins.
        4. Cheap ships means common proven hull, propulsion, GSE.
        5. Manpower rates must include all day to day maintenance/damage control parties. Tech can reduce the size of damage control parties but not the number of parties. The make up/engineering of the ship controls that.
        6. Modern damage control is not equal to manpower. Fireproofing and water systems mitigate non-steel hull/structures. Damage to systems still require humans to fight fire and flooding. This is more true on a hull that is less compartmentalized.
        7. Allow ONR to research a new way to hunt mines and subs.
        8. Stop concurrent production. It doesn’t work in life or death occupations.

        So if the Navy followed something like the above what would we have?

        LCS with manning that looked like subs. Crews swap on the same ship, never between ships as that is proven to not work. Multi-crewed ships must return to home port for maintenance and change in deployment schedules can’t be done due to cost of shortening the life of the ship and it’s systems.

        With hindsight we could reasonable guess that the ASW module they are working on would have been cancelled. We can guess that the mine warfare module would have been sent/kept at ONR were it would have been matured for the next class of ships, not LCS.

        We would have dedicated mcm LCS ships. With the ability to expand those ships numbers during the next tanker war in the gulf type problem.

        If we decided we wanted a more frigate type ship we would have the ability to use the margins to grow compartmentalization, small VLS, manning, etc.

        If we had done it right we would be talking about how LCS does it’s job okay but due to unexpected problems is at the end of it’s ability to grow. We’d be talking about generational changes to the functional LCS or a replacement.

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        Step 0. Gundeck the analysis and requirements definition and just start building ships.

        • Lazarus

          No one “gundecked” the analysis behind LCS. You can disagree with what was done, but no one hid or misrepresented what was done.

          • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

            I will admit that gundeck was a poor choice of words.

            The fact remains that several respected organizations (CRS, GAO) have pointed out (on numerous occasions) the flaws / gaps in the LCS analytic process.

  • Duane

    It serves the purposes of Putin and Xi to see American naval shipbuilding capacity hindered. If that fact embarrasses you, then stop dismissing our industrial base as meaningless, as by doing so you only reveal your own thoughtlessness.

    • leesea

      Not having ships built is a SELF-inflicted wound

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    EVERY new ship acquisition in the last two decades has been an utter quagmire of the USN, not just LCS. Look at the Ford, new amphibs, LPDs, etc… I don’t know why they think the new frigate is going to be any different.

  • old guy

    Good for the yards, Worthless for the USN.

  • Lazarus

    Sadly these LCS stories become a magnet for negative comments.

  • leesea

    In point of fact, the LCS building yards are second tier and therefore the LCS program spead construction to improve the industrial base. I have been at Austal USA and it is an impressive yard which could take over the yard next door with BAE is closing

  • Billy

    I really like the style of the independence class. Why are the comments saying they are so useless? I’ve seen videos of them launching hellfires. They have bushmasters and 50 cals and the main deck gun. They have the 3 helicopters. Wouldn’t these ships be excellent for engaging hybrid attacks, such as would happen with Iran in the straits of Hormuz? I’ve seen reports where they have hundreds of small boats ready to swamp larger American vessels. These LCS’s could fire hellfires and all of the bushmasters and maneuver quickly. They can manually fire their CWIS at boats.

  • Billy

    Also what bothers me isn’t ships. It’s the fact that we have terrible offensive anti ship missiles with low range. The Burke’s have mostly defense. They carry 8 old harpoons for anti ship offense. Those will be shot down by a ships CWIS in a second. Why did the Navy let it get to this point? Or am I completely off base? With advances in radar I thought that sea skimming missiles can now be seen? The new LRASM’s are subsonic and not able to be fired from ships yet. They are still being tested from B1’s. So it’s not even a naval weapon yet.