Home » Budget Industry » CNO Richardson Expects that New Acquisition Models Will Field Ships, Advanced Weapons ‘ASAP’


CNO Richardson Expects that New Acquisition Models Will Field Ships, Advanced Weapons ‘ASAP’

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson talks with sailors stationed at Navy Support Facility Panama City during an all-hands call Dec. 12, 2018. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON – The timeline for fielding several major ship and weapons programs has been bumped up to “as soon as possible,” the chief of naval operations said, to counter Russian and Chinese military modernization.

Adm. John Richardson released an updated Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority 2.0 strategy document on Monday, which features admittedly aggressive acquisition timelines, he told USNI News in an interview today.

Whereas the original document he released in January 2016 called for “high velocity learning” – which encouraged the Navy acquisition community to try some new processes for designing, contracting and fielding programs like the MQ-25A Stingray on a tighter timeline – Richardson said the updated Design 2.0 now expects that that learning will lead to faster and cheaper acquisition going forward.

“Embedded behind all these pretty aggressive acquisition goals is the fact that we learned how to do acquisition different” since the 2016 document was released, Richardson said.
“And the elements of that are, let’s get our requirements team talking to industry earlier so that we understand, where’s the technological maturity, what can we achieve with confidence now?”

Richardson’s intentions pair a drive to move faster – ditching arbitrary initial operating capability (IOC) dates for an “ASAP” mentality – with a recognition that moving faster may require an iterative process that fields a good solution now and upgrades to a better one as technology matures.

“Things like the frigate, the large surface combatant – parts of that ship are going to last for the entire life of the ship: the hull of the ship, the power plant, the propulsion plant. But the rest of it is going to change very fast: the sensors and computing power and weapons even. It’s got to be designed into the ship to be able to swap that capability out quickly. And so that also gives us the confidence that we can converge on a pretty good hull form, build as much power into the ship as we can afford – it’s almost like memory for your computer, you’re going to use it all and want more – and then the rest of it’s designed to be rapidly upgraded through the life of the ship,” Richardson said.

A target missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kauai, Hawaii during Flight Test Standard Missile-45. USS John Finn (DDG-113) detected and tracked the target missile with its onboard AN/SPY-1 radar using the Aegis Baseline 9.C2 weapon system. US Navy Photo

The Navy will buy the first version of its next large surface combatant – a centerpiece of the Future Surface Combatant family of systems that also includes a small combatant and two sizes of an unmanned or optionally unmanned combatant – in 2023. That five-year contract, akin to the five-year contracts the Navy uses today for its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, will be followed by another contract in 2028.

Though the Navy will have to move out on this large surface combatant in just four years, much is still unknown or undecided about this new ship. In August, Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Ron Boxall (OPNAV N96) told USNI News that the Navy would not conduct an analysis of alternatives for the ship, but would rather start with the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer capability development document, have discussions with the fleet and with industry about how the next large surface combatant would need to be modified from that DDG-51 starting point, and then make decisions from there. The six-month window Boxall said he needed to make early decisions should be wrapping up next month.

Richardson said he’s not necessarily expecting that the 2023 design will be the “final” large surface combatant design, but instead would adhere to the idea of using an 80-percent solution today and iterating as technology advances.

“For the 2023 we’re going to have to converge on something that’s pretty well known right now. We’re not going to be able to meet that timeline and design some kind of brand new hull form. And I’ll tell you what, naval architecture’s been around for a while, so we sort of know how that works, so I’ve got a lot of confidence that we’ll get to something that will be perfectly adequate in 2023. Beyond that, who knows,” he said.
“So we’ll have the naval architects working in parallel, and so as these two streams move together, boy, when something’s mature enough – they say, holy cow, this is really going to be a lot more capable and also we can do this with confidence in cost and schedule – then we’ll just incorporate that it. So whether that’s at the next five-year mark or whatever it turns out to be, hard to say, but we’ll keep these things going.”

A key lesson the Navy learned over the past few years about cutting cost and time from acquisition programs is paring down requirements to the bare minimum. Richardson touted the MQ-25A program, which had just two key requirements: being able to operate from an aircraft carrier, and being able to refuel other aircraft. Richardson said this model can be applied to everything from the next fighter jet to the next large surface combatant, and he believes it is key to allowing industry to move faster and avoid unnecessary costs.

Boeing’s MQ-25 unmanned aircraft system. Boeing photo

“The philosophical approach that we want to minimize the number of hard requirements allows a tremendous amount of creativity in terms of going to meet those requirements. So what happens when we come up with reams and reams of very, very specific requirements is that … certainly has implications for the design and may box out a really creative solution if we over-specify any particular aspect of the ship, the design. And it’s for ships, aircraft, submarines, what have you. And so we want to really minimize the number of hard requirements, bring industry into the conversation and give them as much trade space and freedom to innovate to meet those requirements,” he said.

Richardson’s document outlines many new acquisition programs in a short period of time – four surface ship classes by 2023, unmanned underwater vehicles as well as laser and hypersonic weapons by 2025 – but he said that the timelines are aggressive but well thought-out and analyzed.

“These aren’t just sort of random dates thought up on a late night. It was pretty carefully coordinated; each of these has been assessed and said, okay, well that’s aggressive but we can get there,” Richardson said.

On the laser weapon system, the design calls for one to be fielded by 2019, with a family of weapons developed and fielded no later than 2025. A Laser Weapon System was used on afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) as a demonstration, but the Navy has not fielded an operational laser weapon yet. Similarly, industry has done some work on hypersonic weapons, but the Navy has not coalesced around a solution to be fielded by 2025, and Richardson declined to name which program was the main effort.

A 2012 image of a Navy laser weapons system. US Navy Image

“We’re on track to put a high-energy laser on a ship next year. And then there’s the integration and all of that that we’ll learn very fast, and then it’ll just start proliferating around the fleet after that,” he said.
“And same with hypersonics, we’re moving very quickly in that area.”

Even on the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program, which has had a long-established requirement to complete the first-in-class boat by 2028 and have the future Columbia go on its first patrol in 2031, Richardson said he wants to see some acceleration and believes it is feasible with his ASAP mindset.

“One of the things that’s been a persistent goal in the Columbia program is to try and continue to buy [schedule] margin,” he said, to add a little cushion to the already-tight timeline for the program.
“If we buy enough margin that we can deliver the thing earlier, let’s do it.”

Richardson said that, though he included quick turnaround dates in his Design 2.0 document, he hopes the acquisition community and industry will be off to the races to field these new capabilities “ASAP.” He said there are often talks about making changes or otherwise slowing down a program, which is deemed acceptable as long as the program still meets its required IOC date.

By taking away IOC as a measure of success, “I hope that it puts all of us in a much more competitive mindset. What has emerged is a system that for whatever reason is really kind of internally focused, and is not really focused on winning in a competitive environment. And so just imagine the automobile industry, the smartphone industry: the second car that has a particular capability, the second smartphone that has a particular capability, that’s a significant disadvantage over the first to market. And it’s the same in military capability. So we want to make sure that we’re delivering this capability at a competitive speed. We are first on the water with the high capability and not the second,” Richardson said.
“So by saying, hey, look, let’s not build in an artificial date – that may give us comfort and slow down our pace. Let’s get competitive and race this thing, because that’s what great power competition means.”

  • El_Sid

    OT but related, search for “Mobilising, Modernising & Transforming Defence” for today’s update from the MoD which touches on some of these issues from a British perspective.

    • Marauder 2048

      The MoD managed to say less in more pages than the USN said in one set of bullet points.

  • DaSaint

    I’m on board in principle, but caution that it could initially lead to lots of small classes, until the optimum design is selected. Reminds me of the transition from the Bronstein class (2) to Garcia class (11) to Brooke (6) to Knox class (46) frigates.

    • John

      Is that a bad thing though? Getting hulls and capabilities to the fleet is the key thing, right?

      • DaSaint

        Yes, it is, though it could create some logistical issues. But getting capable hulls in the water is more important.

        Commonality of systems as much as possible could mitigate against the differences in physical characteristics.

        • John

          Yea, I guess we are not back in the 70s-80s when we had so many support ships that could help offset those differences. Plus, the complexities of today’s systems. Thanks.

    • Duane

      That’s exactly how the Navy did submarine designs, going all the way back to the inter-war years of the 1920s and 1930s .. and again with the advent of nuclear powered subs in the 1950s and 1960s.

      The ubiquitous US Navy “fleet submarines” that came into being in WW Two were the product of many small classes of boats that began when the Navy determined that it needed a bigger sub with longer legs for war in the Pacific. But it wasn’t until the Gato class that the Navy had the formula down just right, and the Gato class became a large class that was very successful during the war. The subsequent and even more numerous Balao class made relatively minor changes, with increased test depth and updated equipment.

      In the 1950s, the Navy went through quite a few SSN designs in small numbers, starting with Nautilus and finally settling on the first large class, the 637 or Sturgeon class, by the mid-1960s.

  • NavySubNuke

    Buying back schedule margin for Columbia would be huge. When the Obama administration made the short sighted decision to delay program by two years they left the nation with absolutely zero margin in the schedule. Closing the gap year between hulls 2 and 3 will fix some of this damage. Not sure how much EB can actually speed up construction beyond starting construction earlier though.
    Hopefully the new ships the CNO sees us buying — especially FFG(x) and LSC — are well designed rather than quickly designed. The debacle that is LCS, not to mention aborted programs like DDG-1000 and CG(X), have left the fleet badly in need of additional combatants to supplement our DDG-51’s.

    • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

      Adding planned overtime at the yard and critical path subcontractors has always worked for me. Need more? Add partial second shifts.

      P.S. OT is relatively cheap, but can only be used in short bursts. Craft fatigue soon reduce production gains to negative value. Second or weekend only shifts require excellent supervision and coordination.

    • Mk-Ultra

      Obama Derangement Syndrome still affecting righties I see. Obsessing 2 years after the presidency. The syndrome is permanent

      • NavySubNuke

        LOL. It really is entertaining to see the way your dull and uncomprehending mind chose to interpret my statement of fact.
        No worries though, I realize how hard it is to think for yourself instead of just believing what your betters tell you.

        • Mk-Ultra

          Lmfao that comment obviously upset you, it really is entertaining to see your emotional tantrum.

          Of course your dull and uncomprending mind decided to throw an overly dramatic rant over your false statement that no one even said anything about. Your uncontrollable emotions made you lose your mind and blinded you with your tears

          No worries though, I realize how hard it is to think for yourself instead of just believing what your betters tell you.

          • sferrin

            Wow. You’re a real piece of work. Your momma must be proud.

          • NavySubNuke

            Awww does it help your fragile ego to imagine I am upset rather than realizing that yet another person is laughing at you?
            Lie to yourself all you like — but make sure you do it while looking up the history of OHIO Replacement/Columbia. The Navy had a plan in place to retire the two oldest SSBNs and then replace the next 12 on a one for one basis. The Obama admin delayed it by two years to push the money out of the FYDP and left us with a best case SSBN force of 10.
            Sorry to break the news to you but the truth and facts don’t actually care about your feelings or fragile ego.

        • thebard3

          AKA ‘Cognitive Dissonance’

  • Marc Apter

    Here we go again, new systems/ships with no Logistic support once it joins the fleet. No training pipeline to train enough of those who follow-on. I’m sure many of us can list/describe many examples of this happening in the past. Oh, and of course there will continue to be Project Managers being rotated out every few years, so no one can be blamed later for problems.

    • thebard3

      It seems that the top priority is to include lots of electrical generation capacity to support weapons systems that do not yet (and may never) exist.

  • sferrin

    ” but would rather start with the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer capability development document, have discussions with the fleet and with industry about how the next large surface combatant would need to be modified from that DDG-51 starting point, and then make decisions from there.”

    Pardon my French but that’s f–king stupid. They should be starting with the Zumwalt, not the Burke. The Burkes are already 10lbs of $hit in a 5lb sack. But then I guess that would take too much spine, and careers are more important than capability so. . .

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    It seems to me that the solution to the Large Surface Combatant program is pretty simple… Either the Zumwalt-class hull or the LPD-17 class hull (and I’m going to pistol-whip the first mf’er who says something about the propulsion plant of the LPD-17 class , I GET IT, it would need a different drive-train, yes, we all know that, the smart guys who design the ships can surely figure out a way to build the ship with a different engine.) — and line the entire perimeter with the MK57 Peripheral VLSs and add “regular” MK41 VLS cells wherever available. I would actually push for nuclear power (which would allow the ships to not only replace the Ticonderoga-class but become absolute escorts for CVNs, and if we made 30+ of these, they could slot right in to CSGs, ESGs, ARGs, etc.) — but I guess that’s just too expensive these days? Anyway- the Zumwalt-class hull would allow “stealthiness” and plenty of room for VLS up front in lieu of the AGSs and maybe those two 57mm guns that Zumwalt was supposed to have, , and the LPD-17 hull would allow for a metric ton of peripheral, fore, & aft VLS plus up to a 5″ gun all the way fore. Give them the best radar we’ve got, a Phalanx and SeaRAM and all that good stuff, and we’re golden.

    • sferrin

      “up front in lieu of the AGSs and maybe those two 57mm guns that Zumwalt was supposed to have”

      Stick a pair of Millennium guns back there until SSLs are ready.

    • thebard3

      Please, no pistol-whipping, but I believe a particular length to beam ratio determines the flank and cruising speed of warship hulls. As much as the power-plant, I believe the LPD-17 class hull beam is much broader than would be needed to operate with 30 kt+ ships. Feel free to correct me without calling me names if I am wrong.

      • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

        FWIW. DDG-51 length to beam ratio is about 7.5:1. LPD-17 ratio about 6.5:1.
        I don’t know if giving LPD the same horsepower to displacement ratio as Burke means anything or not.

        • Centaurus

          Global warming will make it too hot for navy ships to operate.
          All the sailors will become like hard-boiled eggs. Too bad

          • old guy

            Maybe we can counter it by cooling off the hot heads that we have.

          • Centaurus

            That would be mutually agreeable 🙂

        • thebard3

          Here is a good discussion of the calculation used to design the Iowa class and earlier battleships, the effect on speed, and the then-determined to be optional ratio of 7.96:1
          web[dot]mst[dot]edu/~rogersda/american&military_history/World%27s%20Fastest%20Battleships[dot]pdf

        • old guy

          I recomend Dr. Doctor’s books to you too. An ideal L/B ratio for a 32 knot ship design, uses 8 as a starting point..

      • old guy

        You are absolutely CORRECT. If you have access to Dr. Doctor’s (no kidding) excellant books on hydrodynamics, you will find it fully explained. There are other factors, of course, like bow and stern bluntness, but L/B is the salient factor.

    • NavySubNuke

      Sorry can’t pass up this obvious Super Troopers Reference:
      Chief Ser Arthur Dayne: “I’m going to pistol-whip the first mf’er who says something about the propulsion plant of the LPD-17 class.”
      Me: “Hey Farva what’s the name of that restaurant you like with all the goofy *stuff* on the walls and the mozzarella sticks?”
      Farva: “Oh you mean the one where we have to replace the propulsion plant of the LPD-17 class with something better for it to be the LSC?”
      Me: “Ohhhh!!!!” (Hands the Chief my pistol)

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        “Whooaahahhohoah $h!t I got you good you f’ker!” —–> Grand Admiral Farva.

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        I would also like to thank you very much for being the only genius to figure out it was from Super Troopers, and hilariously correlating it to the LPD-17/LSC/etc. Absolutely awesome. That’s why you’re my man, NSN, that’s why you’re my man. Now, if you please, should you come across any liters of cola, please kindly forward them to me.

        • NavySubNuke

          Why’d you say the Cola was for a man — is it so the feminists would spit in it???

    • old guy

      Unless MASJOR design changes are made to the “Old Flopover” tumblehome design, I suggest we get a new hull design. The casualty in the DTNSRDC turning basin was how we cut the buy from 14 to 3. The crazy radar cross section facets (compromised, any way by external additions have made the design deficient ib high soeed maneuver, The speed had to be cut in the thials turns. Someone who hated my old boss, Big Z, gave it his name. He must be spinning in his grave.

  • Duane

    So in other words, the Navy is using the LCS program as a model for how to do stuff correctly going forward, despite all the bitter caterwauling from the old traditionalists that the LCS program was done all wrong.

    Key features:

    1) Get the first ship or ships built quickly, within 5 or 6 years, and in the meantime continue work on refining the design for the subsequent ships a few years later

    2) Build in modularity, so that weapons, sensors, defenses, other gear (like unmanned systems) etc. are not welded to the hull but designed to be continually updated, yet easily integrated.

    3) Don’t run through the old massively lengthy, expensive, and needlessly complex requirements setting that governed all ship types previously developed (and again, the absence thereof with LCS was bitterly complained about by the old LCS trolls) – give the ship designers few requirements and massive leeway and let them come up with whatever they can think of … and expect things to continue to change.

    The LCS was literally the first 21st century warship in the US Navy … and now the Navy is doubling down and saying this is how we want to develop all of our new warships.

    LCS troll heads are exploding all over the internet … well, at least here at USNI.

    • Marc Apter

      So how many of those LCS’s have actually been deployed and were able to do anything? How many LCS ships have been part of UNITAS, for example? Building lots of ships unable to do anything for various reasons isn’t what the Navy needs.

      • Duane

        Three have deployed overseas to date, all are operating and going to sea unless in scheduled maintenance availabilities, just like every other warship type in the US Navy.

        LCS are able to do everything they were planned to do. The only delay is in development not of the ships but of two of the three mission modules, delays that are mostly to do with poor Congressional funding. The last piece of ASW equipment has already been delivered to the Navy, but Congress in its infinite wisdom completely zeroed out funding this fiscal year for final integration, which otherwise would have been completed in just a few months. MCM, same thing. SuW is complete, including the final MSMM piece that just went operational.

        • Marc Apter

          So the official announcement about their first deployment in 2019 was in error? And if they have deployed, what have they actually accomplished, not counting learning how to watch the contractors fix major casualties? How many joint exercises with real combatants did they participate in on deployment, of any country? Both Classes seem to be good helo platforms, so did the ships have helo’s aboard during their whole deployments, or were they just hot decked around?

          • Duane

            The first deployment of LCS was in 2013. Additional deployments were accomplished in 2015 and in 2016-2017 (the last was a 14-month continuous deployment with two crews).

            The deployments set for 2019 are anticipated to involve four LCS – likely two going to Singapore and the South China Sea, and two more to Bahrain and the Persian Gulf area.

            The accomplishments include a wide variety of activities, ranging from presence operations, training and collaboration with allied ships, many dozens of foreign port visits, interdiction operations, testing and integration of new weapons and systems (including both Harpoon test fires and Naval Strike Missile test fires, and mine detection operations), and participation in RIMPAC exercises.

            In other words, the exact same kinds of stuff that any other US Navy surface warship does on deployment.

          • Graeme Rymill

            When Duane says “SuW is complete, including the final MSMM piece that just went operational” he is clearly referring to the recent testing by the USS Detroit of the Longbow Hellfire. Yet this module is not “operational”. Instead the Detroit conducted “initial operational test and evaluation”. And even that IOT&E is incomplete with the Navy stating that completion is planned for early 2019.

            In his other reply to you Duane correctly talks of the 3 deployments of LCS so far (three deployments in six years mind – not something any Navy would boast about). How did they go? Duane lists the accomplishments. That isn’t the whole story though.They were all bedeviled with engineering problems. Not unusual in a new class of course but engine problems did happen in all three deployments. Cause for concern? Possibly. If the underlying issues have not been addressed then certainly. Either way we will all have a better understanding of the LCS’s strengths and weaknesses when these 2019 deployments eventuate.

          • Duane

            You conveniently neglect to mention that the Navy officially blamed the engineering casualties on LCS on poor crew training … a problem that obviously infected the entire surface navy, with vastly worse consequences on ships other than LCS, including many dead sailors and over half a billion in repair costs and multiple years of lost availability, all on supposedly proven ship designs.

          • Graeme Rymill

            “You conveniently neglect to mention that the Navy officially blamed
            the engineering casualties on LCS on poor crew training”

            The reason I didn’t mention it is because it is only partly true. Some of the
            engine related problems were due to human error and poor training. Others were due to mechanical and electrical problems with the engines and associated systems.

            Let’s look at the most recent of the 3 deployments. The Independence class USS Coronado had an engineering problem in August 2016, two months into its Western Pacific deployment. The ship “experienced a failure of a flexible shaft
            coupling connecting the right-side main propulsion diesel engine reduction gear and the stern tube during a transit from Hawaii to Singapore….. Shaft
            misalignment was found to be a contributing factor, and the Navy made plans to
            replace the coupling in the Coronado and following ships in the class with a
            new design validated by Naval Sea Systems Command.”

            So this particular problem was not a training issue all.

            USS Fort Worth’s major engine problem during its 2014-2016 deployment was
            found to be caused by human error and was therefore a training and leadership issue.

            USS Freedom left for a 10-month deployment to Singapore in March 2013. While in transit the ship briefly lost all power so that it was dead in the water.
            In a 2017 interview with Captain Tom Anderson, USN, Littoral Combat Ship Program Manager, PEO Littoral Combat Ships he stated: “we had reliability issues with the Ship Service Diesel Generators (SSDGs) on USS Freedom, and she went dark a few times on deployment. It was a real problem. We found the failure modes, and went after them systematically in LCS 3.”

            So once again not a training issue. These problems should hopefully all now be fixed and the two classes should be operating reliably.The 2019 deployments should tell the tale.

  • MDK187

    “ditching arbitrary initial operating capability (IOC) dates for an “ASAP” mentality” – Great. Now if you could just focus more on missiles, munitions, and airframes and less on hulls.

  • NavySubNuke

    I didn’t think it was possible but you really do look more pathetic and ignorant with each reply.
    The funniest part is how you keep trying to imagine I am somehow upset — sorry to break the news to you but when people are laughing at the things you say it isn’t because they are laughing with you.

    • Mk-Ultra

      Liar liar pants on fire. No worries though, if you were an honest person with even a basic level of intelligence you wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining.

      • NavySubNuke

        Hey nice job trying to copy my insults again. Imitating your betters is a good tactic for someone of your limitations.

  • NavySubNuke

    LOL. Awww there you go trying to top from the bottom again. You can’t expect him to call you daddy after you showed up at his mom’s house a tight end and left a wide receiver.

    • Mk-Ultra

      Sounds like you speak from experience. How much did you enjoy being a wide receiver? I guarantee you were always one just in denial LOL

      • NavySubNuke

        LOL that was the best you could come up with in a month? What are you in second grade?

  • Rob C.

    No mention of the Rail guns…

  • NavySubNuke

    Liar liar pants on fire. No worries though, if you were an honest person with even a basic level of intelligence you wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining.