Home » Budget Industry » Navy, Industry Discussing Feasibility of Common Hull for Support Ships


Navy, Industry Discussing Feasibility of Common Hull for Support Ships

USS Spruance (DDG 111), the Military Sealift Command (MSC) ammunition and cargo ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11), the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73), the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the Military Sealift Command (MSC) fleet oiler USNS Walter S. Diehl (T-AO 193) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42) steam in formation in the South China Sea Sea, Oct. 13, 2016. U.S. Navy Photo

CAPITOL HILL – Navy officials like the potential costs savings of using one hull design for the service’s family of support ships and are talking with industry leaders early and often to make this plan feasible.

The support fleet is aging, with many Military Sealift Command ships such as submarine tenders and command ships nearing the end of their expected lifespans. The Navy is considering the benefits of using a Common Hull Platform (CHAMP) design for future ships, Vice Adm. Bill Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems (OPNAV N9), said following a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee.

“The common hull is the objective. There’s a lot of operational reasons and cost reasons why we want to do that,” Merz said. “We don’t know if it’s achievable or not.”

The Navy likes the idea of using a one hull design for its support ships, but the service doesn’t want to go down that road without some assurance it will prove to be a good idea. Merz said that, to help draft the requirements for a CHAMP design, the Navy is drawing on its recent experience creating the future frigate (FFG(X)) requirements. Instead of the usual practice of setting requirements and then sharing these with industry, the Navy’s Frigate Requirements Evaluation Team started early discussions with Navy engineers, acquisition officers, resource sponsors and industry about cost and capabilities. Merz said the early discussions with industry about the frigate design helped the Navy avoid many of the pitfalls that became drags on previous ship programs. He said the Navy is applying the lessons learned from the frigate planning process to the common hull discussions.

The Navy is paying a lot of attention to plans based on a parent design, especially for components inside ships, such as auxiliary power and lift capacity, Navy acquisition chief James Geurts said after the same hearing.

“I will say that’s what we’re going to look at more precisely as we award some of the design contracts with potential suppliers and do like we did with the frigate and have iterative discussions about the cost to meet requirements,” Geurts said.

On the FFG(X) competition, Geurts said he and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson just locked down the frigate requirements. He expects a draft request for proposal to industry in the spring.

By issuing the draft RFP in the spring, with a final RFP set to be released by the end of Fiscal Year 2019, Geurts said the Navy would have a full year to discuss design options with bidders before making a final selection around the end of FY 2020.

When a final request for proposal is released, Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls Industries, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine are expected to submit bids.

“We set a tremendously healthy precedence with the frigate with this dialogue up front,” with industry, Merz said. “So we’ll learn early the feasibility of the common hull and, frankly, include their opinion with what really is the best way to do this.”

Sen. Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.), the subcommittee chair, noted how the frigate process stands in stark contrast to how the Navy handled its Littoral Combat Ship acquisition process. Wicker asked Merz how the Navy will avoid some of the mistakes made during the early days of the LCS program.

The FFG(X) and other future surface combatant programs are benefiting from the lessons learned from the LCS process, Merz said. Early and frequent discussions with industry are critical, he said.

“We really discovered the art of possible before we set the requirements,” Merz said about the FFG(X) process. “In the end, industry is happy, and we are getting a much more lethal ship for the price point.”

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    I am confused- they “just locked down the requirements” and are expecting to “submit a request for proposals in the spring” —

    I thought all that was done already and they were waiting for the final design submissions from the companies (which I had assumed had been working on them busily for the last 6-12 mo.) and would then get down to business of breaking down the options and selecting one.

    This seems like back in whatever it was, 2015? , they realized they needed an FFG and they needed it yesterday and they needed 20 of them, and they said they’re going to make a program to get it done and done correctly and done quickly ASAP *a s a p* — now we’ve been standing by to stand by for the last handful of years and are being told now they’re formally preparing to stand by for standing by the next few years and maybe probably possibly definitely they might get something done in those few years, maybe.

    I mean really now.

    General Milley (whom I was not a big fan of initially, but he grew on me) said famously about the ridiculous amount of time AND MONEY being spent on the MHS program (for new handguns for the troops)- “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

    I could have the FFG(X) program done by the weekend. Get me in a room with a few Navy officers of various levels of rank/experience, a few of Fincatieri engineers, a few Raytheon engineers, and maybe a US governmental business/finance types, and we’ll be celebrating the new FREMM FFG-62 class at a local (hi-end, up-scale, classy classy) bar/restaurant tomorrow evening.

    • Curtis Conway

      I think the ‘Powers that be’ finally figured out that they cannot save the LCS Program and those two yards with their jobs (votes). The DoD budget crunch that is sure to come will truncate how many DDG-51 Flt IIIs we can buy, and we must have a less expensive more capable Small Surface Combatant go-to platform to get the numbers up in the Modern Battlespace, and more Presence/Service out.

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        So that’s probably true– and this is not my area of particular expertise — but I thought that they specifically stated when they announced an FFG(X) program, that they (shall I say, US, the government/Navy/ourselves as taxpaying citizens) would be buying the design or the rights to it or something like that– so whenever we make the decision, we could have them made at any shipyard , and theoretically concurrently at different ones like the DDG-51s etc. So it’s not exactly a big loss to the LCS guys. Sorry, you don’t get extra profits by selling us Freedom/Independence-class ships, but you get to still build ships for us that we order, just perhaps not YOUR ship, which you’d make more profit on. Sorry not that sorry, you still make money and your workers still have the exact same workload, just a different class of ship etc. — That’s just my understanding btw brother, not saying i’m 100% sure I’m correct etc.

        • Curtis Conway

          The Austal boys on the Mississippi River are aluminum welders so JHSVs and the like in in their future, not Surface Combatants. As for Lockheed on the Lakes at Marinette, Wisconsin, it does not have dry-dock facilities which would probably be required for this new FFG(X) construct, though that is not an absolute. Also the draft of the craft will determine if it can be built there at all. Access to the ocean is an issue, so as long as it does not draft too much, and is not too wide, then there should not be a problem. Major cargo shipping use the Great Lakes and its locks to great extent. There are times when they can get frozen in. My estimation of either LCS platform winning the competition with their short legs (though the Navy included 3,000 miles into that spec [shameful]), lack of watertight integrity and compartmentalization has limited its probability of success imho. But, yes the design was to become GFE, and could be competed between two yards. At some point the Budget Hawks are going to realize we need 50+ of these things and that ‘two competing yard’ solution is the way to keep costs down and quality high. They will probably be ordering parts together the way HII and Bath do. An MYP contract would be the way to go in 10 ship increments, and give the competition winner the extra construction just like the DDG-51 Program has.

          • Horn

            Austal USA is based on Blakeley Island along the Mobile River in Mobile, AL. Military vessels haven’t really been built along the Mississippi River since Avondale Shipyard shut down in 2014, excluding the Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class cutters built in Lockport (which are built in the bayou south of the river and floated up through a canal to the river).

          • Curtis Conway

            My bad. You are absolutely right, now that I look it up. There they are . . . four LCS-2 Class and it looks like two floating dry docks near by. Thanks for keeping me strait.

      • Duane

        The LCS needs no “saving” as it is a roaring success. The most capable, lethal littoral warship in the history of the planet. The Navy loves it, the theater commanders are begging for it, and now this fiscal year will see the first four-ship forward deployment of LCS, with increasing numbers in each year thereafter until the full 34-ship fleet (second largest surface warship fleet in the Navy) is operational in a few years time.

        • Desplanes

          Oh Duane, how I’ve missed you.

          #ComedyGold

        • Desplanes

          By “roaring success”, do you mean: “The PLAN admirals roared with laughter as the U.S. dumped $40 billion into corvettes that cost as much as frigates but with the firepower and range of PCs.”

        • 35935747

          You are right. The LCS Program does not need Saving, it needs cancellation!!!. The class in any real combat is a death trap. The only good feature is its speed. Can’t outrun a missile. Can it conduct Mine Warfare at high speed?-even with a drone? Can it conduct ASW at high speed even with a remote vehicle? – ——The Sub guys could track the ship without a sonar.-
          And it is extremely expensive for the real capability it brings the Fleet.
          Ask the individuals who ramrodded the LCS program through if they would want their kids on it in a war

    • old guy

      Well stated. Great analysis.

  • Curtis Conway

    The LPD-17 hull with the LHD-8 propulsion system will buy us a lot. Command Ships, Hospital Ships, Sub/Destroyer Tenders, and new MSC Transports. Other common elements should be minimum aviation support determined (flight deck load, size, hangar height/size/configuration). Every one of them should be a Ready Deck of Opportunity for an F-35B JSF in trouble, and can’t reach a large flight deck. Also the new AEW&C V/STOVL will need a temporary home from time to time, which is one of the greater synergistic effects of that craft and combat system.

    Electrical power generation, distribution, management & control, and storage for new defensive weapons systems, and they will have a CIC. Better put a decent radar on that ship.

    abstract
    The LHD 8 machinery plant represents a significant departure from previous LHD class ships with a propulsion system that combines an LM2500+ and electric motor per shaft. The propulsion system integrates the first US Navy application of this gas turbine engine ultimately with the ship service electric plant. This complex system affords many advantages to the ship designers with respect to reconfigurability, survivability and maneuvering. However the design challenges the ability of the Machinery Control System (MCS) to maximize the effectiveness of this complex machinery plant. The MCS is a software-based distributed system utilizing a high bandwidth network. The system relies on the VME platform for control processing, data acquisition and operator control. The MCS design and architecture is presented. Decisions concerning network capabilities, distribution of control, and processing are considered. The impact of electric plant complexities upon the propulsion system requirements will also be addressed. The MCS architecture solution will describe LM2500+ integration issues with an electric motor. Copyright © 2006 by ASME

    It’s a shame we can’t go nuclear/electric propulsion. That would solve a lot of problems, including national electrification problems with a common small/medium nuclear power plant ashore. We could train the operator/maintainers aboard ship. Then most every base gets a nuclear power plant. Then move the (now successful) program to the greater population.

    • Ed L

      OR the LDP-17 hull with a 80,000+ SHP Burke DDG power plant (double shp of the current diesel propulsion) could probably do 30 knots and be able to steam with any battle group.

      • Curtis Conway

        I like that idea which is better for speed and commonality with the fleet, and if I were to make a Cruiser out of it, for sure, only I would make it a 100,000 SHP configuration. However, for the logistics fleet the speed of the propulsion system at or just under the LHD-8 displacement would suffice for all the missions the various kinds of logistics ships are likely to encounter. We parked the fast replenishment ships and they were gas turbines and could just about keep up with the Carrier Strike Group, but that is not what they do. They rendezvous, UNREP/CONREP, and go fill up again, and don’t run with the Battle Group. For almost all the other logistics and support ship mission sets that LHD-8 propulsion speed would be sufficient.

        Your idea does appeal though because I am not a Diesel fan. ‘All gas turbine’ makes sense, even for the SSGTGs. Diesels have to warm up, and only provide 80% power until they are. The gas turbine is 100% available 90 seconds to two minutes after start-up, and I like that for combat.

        • Ed L

          Actually when the fast combat support ship AOE-1 to 4 were manned as USN and were part of the Carrier Battle Group. Including plane guard duties Our usual place in formation was off the starboard quarter of the Carrier.

          • Curtis Conway

            I’ve only ever seen pictures of that. All our replenishment ships in 2nd and 6th fleet usually hung around until they offload then off they went. PACFLT is a whole different deal. I have read that the fast replenishment ships could keep up with the carriers. It is a good idea.

          • Ed L

            I did two Med/IO deployments on AOE-3. The only time we left the Carrier Battle was when we were in the IO and slipped into Oman for fresh Stores, and then over to Muscat Island for spare parts, replacements and Mail for the CBG that were flown in by our Comrades in the Airforce once a week. The biggest headache we got was when outchopping we usually did our crossdecking to an AO, AFS an a AE

          • Curtis Conway

            I bow to your superior experience. My PACFLT time was in the Reserves and mostly around the Korean Peninsula, PI, Okinawa, and Japan on LCC-19.

          • Ed L

            While in the IO got to work with the pacflt fellas. Just as professional as us Atlantic Fleet guys

        • Hugh

          Economical diesels for cruising, combined with gas turbines for sprinting.

          Hull costs are relatively small compared to all the kit etc that goes therein, whichever the configurations, particularly considering through-life.

          • USNVO

            Or, since it is for auxiliary ships, economical diesels for cruising and just leave it at that.

    • USNVO

      Yeah, billion dollar tenders that suck at being tenders. Just what we need.

      • Curtis Conway

        Now you are going to have to explain that one. When we had Destroyer Tenders (Gaeta , Italy) which I visited on a steam ship (CG-26) and a gas turbine ship (CG-47), the assist visits were very helpful. Our current sub tenders are long in the tooth, and we don’t have near as many as we once did when we had that larger submarine fleet, although their tasking has not slacked up. How many times have we had subs broke down over seas?

        • USNVO

          Disqus keeps eating my response. Short version, LPD -17 has a lousy hull for a tender. Nothing wrong with tenders, I think they are great and useful. But making them with a LPD-17 hull and a LHD-8 machinery ensures they will be vastly overpriced and seriously compromised as tenders. So Billion dollar (hey, probably way more than that but it has a good ring) tender that is nowhere near as capable as it should be as a tender.

          • Curtis Conway

            We should do it smart rather than hard. Haven’t designed a tender ever, but I do remember tieing up to one, and transitioning back and forth, crane services…everything was like it was designed that way.

          • Curtis Conway

            Please be more specific. What precisely about the hull is wrong for a Tender? It has lots of space for shops, and maintenance activity. Spaces for Sickbay and Dental services. Six line tie-up are easy enough to add, and Quarterdeck access Port & Starboard are easy to add for nesting. The welldeck and flight deck will provide additional ready access, particularly when used in HA/DR operations. The LPD-17 Flt II(s) will have cranes and they can be moved/augmented with more if need be.

          • USNVO

            Well, first of all, look at the current tenders (Current Submarine ones and the more recent, albeit decommissioned, Destroyer ones). Do you note anything about them? Anything at all? Here, I will help you.
            1. They have single screws with engineering spaces all the way aft.
            2. They have very full hulls and massive amounts of parallel midbody.

            Now ask yourself why that is. Again, I will help you.
            1. They are tenders, they do not need to go fast. 20kts is fine. They stay in one place for long periods of time and repair things.
            2. As such, they need lots of accommodations, repair shops, store rooms, etc. All of these things need large amounts of enclosed space.
            3. They also tie a variety of ships alongside. This is enhanced when the sides of the ship are flat. It just makes life easier.

            Now lets look at LPD-17 (roughly the same displacement). What do we see?
            1. Twin screws. This is not bad for a tender, but look at where they are located and where their machinery spaces are. That is bad for a tender..
            2. A much less full hull form with a grand total of zero ft of parallel mid-body.
            3. The ship is designed around having the ability to flood the well deck. Which is great, but something a tender never has to do. And no, it adds zero value at all to the tender mission. Nor does the massive flight deck either.

            So right off the bat, you don’t have enough space. It is far worse if you try to add an LHD-8 machinery space which has huge uptakes and exhaust stacks as well. But no problem, you will just stretch it. But you can’t, because the ship doesn’t have parallel mid-body and the machinery spaces are amidship. It just doesn’t work.

            So what would work? Something like the Alaska class tankers they used for the ESD and ESB. Note, I am not advocating using that hull, just that it would work about, oh I don’t know, about a thousand times better than a LPD-17.
            – Engineering spaces aft
            – Tons of parallel midbody. You can easily reconfigure it to be longer or shorter if required.
            – Massive volume of hull space and bouyancy to fit massive amounts of above deck space.
            – Sufficient speed.
            – Billions of dollars per ship cheaper than a LHD-17 with a LHD-8 type gas turbine/electric hybrid.

            I mean is it so hard to understand that auxiliaries are good enough type ships. They are not warships and every dime you piss away on stuff that isn’t required is a dime you can’t buy warships with.

            So, to clarify,
            1. Engineering spaces aft. Ideally it will be diesel electric because something tenders do, or should be able to, is provide massive amounts of power to ships alongside. Oilers need massive amounts of power to pump fuel. Hospital ships need variable amounts of power as well. It also enhances reliability and redundancy when conducting missions and can be tailored to the electrical requirements.
            2. Full hulls with parallel mid-body so your common hull can be stretched or shrunk easily to meet varying mission requirements for different types of ships like hospital ships, tenders, oilers, etc. So Hospital ships can have multiple helo spots, tenders can have lots of cranes, and oilers can have unrep gear but the really expensive stuff like engines are common. Control stations can be forward or aft because it doesn’t matter. A large, full hull provides plenty of space for large fuel tanks, water tanks, etc for long duration missions.
            3. Common bows. That way you have all the same ground tackle, anchors, speed bulb, etc.
            That is what you need. Unless you live in a fantasy world of unlimited budgets.

  • Rob C.

    Hope their lessons learned works this time. They can’t keep botching up stuff like they have.

  • Beomoose

    The buy decision in 2020 has been pretty consistent since late last year, though now “late 2020” might be a sign of slippage. I’m rather Ok with them taking a reasonable amount of time to ensure they have what they want. I really hope the preliminary RFP includes a public rollout wherein they detail the program before the press so that taxpayers can understand more about the project. But we’ll see I guess.

  • Curtis Conway

    “The Navy loves it, the theater commanders are begging for it.” Got any examples of that?

  • Kypros

    No need to exaggerate.

  • Kypros

    Who wants to bet that they’ll spend years and millions studying a common hull, find it to be a great cost saving idea, and when those ships are built, they will end up costing much more than they would have if they weren’t constrained by a common hull..

    • Curtis Conway

      The secret to success is to make a quick solid decision based upon logic, intuition, and solid facts, then be slow to change, and do so only with overwhelming logical analysis that illustrates the need for change. Success also comes by avoiding vacillation. Dedication And discipline must be exercised while executing the plan to fruition.

  • DaSaint

    I’ve been saying for some time that the prior RFP was for conceptual design work only. The RFP for Design Development is NOT restricted to the prior 5 submissions. It was pretty obvious that this program was going to slip. And all this talk of common hull…for Frigate? Isn’t that what we expected anyway?

    Watch this program. For many of the reasons stated by others here, neither Austal USA nor Marinette/Lockheed are locks to win.

    And NO ONE has still seen Ingalls submission. Watch for the surprise!

    • Duane

      The bottom line date is first ship delivered by 2025. The longer the Navy takes to select a design, the more impossible it becomes for any but an LCS derived design built out of an existing hot LCS production line to be the winner.

      • Beomoose

        Another reply got eaten somewhere alone the way, but: if you look at the recent CRS report and recent Navy messaging (which is more valuable than the preliminary RFI at this moment before the RFP is published) the 2025 delivery date is not among the more emphasized points. CRS in particular discussed emphasis in the Navy on first buy in 2020, build schedule, and the desired cost cap but made little of 2025. Which all makes sense, because short of an actual crisis it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compress or otherwise re-structure a program around an arbitrary delivery date when there’s every reason to do this “right.”

        It’s possible that the desire to get something fast still favors LCS, and that the extra time that may be in the schedule is to give their teams time to make their solutions “as good as they can get.” However, it’s also possible that the amount of time and discussion indicates the Navy really is having good dialogue with the industry about all the solutions. Indeed, if the deck appeared to be so heavily stacked against them I would not expect as much industry interest as we continue to see from non-LCS teams.

        • Curtis Conway

          “…to give their teams time to make their solutions “as good as they can get.”

          With the new 3D design tools and CAD/CAM this is not that hard . . . provided you hired the people with the right experience to oversea and lead the activity.

  • Ed L

    In favor of the CHAMP system for Repair, sub tenders, 4 LCS support tenders and fleet Supply ships. Also the US Navy should buy the license to build Frigate hulls of the FREMM design. The new FFGX should be built by the following ship building companies. GD, Austal USA, Lockheed, Marinette Marine, Ingalls, Bath. with a 127mm and two 57mm (port and stbd) and 32 cell VLS, Searam, torpedo tubes, chain guns, machine guns, depth Bombs etc etc. 6 different yards each building a Frigate a year for 5 years that’s 30 Frigates. If those frigates prove to be a good enough Frigate then extend the build to 15 years for 90 Frigates. Also a Competition between builders. Each year a frigate is commission with the fewest problems and below budget the builder of that particular frigate gets a 10 million dollar bonus. Of Which 80 percent goes to the yard workers.

    • USNVO

      Well, as they say, anyone can think of an impossible plan.

      • Curtis Conway

        Hey, I did!

        • Ed L

          Tweeted this idea to CNO

      • Ed L

        Why is this impossible? It has been done before. Between 1935 and 1945 over 300 destroyers were built by over a dozen shipyards. But in defense of the times Five of those shipyards were US Naval Shipyards. In fact it wasn’t until the Spruance DDG’s was built that only One company (Ingalls) was used in building a destroyer class. The OPH Frigates were built in 2 difficult shipyards by two different companies. Check it out. Oh, I tweeted my suggestion to the CNO.

        • USNVO

          If you have to ask…

          Repair ships? LCS Tenders? Not that they wouldn’t be useful, but they are not in the 30yr shipbuilding plan.
          For the rest, try budget and manning to name just two. As in there is not enough of either nor any likelihood of getting same. But hey, hope the CNO likes your idea, won’t hold my breath though.

  • Desplanes

    “Fevered Imaginings” – You should name goth bands or vampire lit.

    But, you’re right. I bet the ASW or MCM commanders are super glad they can go 40 knots. The range, cost and complexity penalty is completely worth it for those missions.

  • Alfred Murray

    If the USN or MSC has learned anything with the new AKE class, that they should not be in the business of designing Auxiliary ships. They may be good at combatants but they should learn from the British. Go with a list of required goals and let a proven commercial yard build you a commercial ship. The list of bad design items on the T-AKE is a list of what not to do with building ships. Ideas submitted in the design phase by experienced Captains and Chief Engineers were all summarily ignored. Decks lacking rating strength to support cargo, no crane reach for shore power or gangway pier placement, lack of underway fueling capabilities… A common hull would only place more limits on function.

    • Curtis Conway

      You just very apply illustrated the wisdom and knowledge held by those in our old NAVSEA that was listened to less, and finally released from duty, and replaced with a more malleable group closer to the industry. It was all driven by $$$ and that is why / how an LCS Program came about. I lived through that process, and a blind man could see ‘today’ coming. Contrary to the original purpose, that vacillating path has led to the expenditure of so much treasure, and yielding so little real capability. The LCS should take on the MCM mission set, used for ASW in the littorals, and provide support to SOF / Marine Raider Battalions.

      We got our Aegis Cruisers, and Destroyers, but never got the Frigates.

  • old guy

    MY sincerest comment. We have a cracker jack group of VERY savvy mariners here that active duty military personell would do well. to heed. We argue (in the scientific sense) and dispute (sometimes with no sense). but, on the whole we do a teriffic job of analyzing the situations, and postulating excellant solutions. The editors also serve well (at times).

    • Curtis Conway

      The REAL purpose of these comments. Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom. Now for a Strategy for the Future, and a Plan of Execution.