Home » Budget Industry » Navy Homing in on Requirement for Next Large Combatant; Industry Talks Start This Week

Navy Homing in on Requirement for Next Large Combatant; Industry Talks Start This Week

USS Stockdale (DDG-106) transits the Gulf of Oman on Jan. 5, 2019. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON – The Navy’s next surface force may rely more on highly capable frigates and therefore need fewer large combatants – a notion that is changing how the Navy looks at its requirement for a future large surface combatant, the director of surface warfare told USNI News.

The Navy will begin talks with industry this week on the large combatant within its Future Surface Combatant family of systems, Rear Adm. Ron Boxall (OPNAV N96) told USNI News in a Jan. 10 interview.

After about six months of internal Navy talks between the requirements, acquisition and engineering teams, some things are known, Boxall said: The ship will likely be larger than today’s destroyers, and therefore more expensive. With increased space, weight, power and cooling, it will have the margin available for a larger radar if the Navy were to choose to scale up its AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar in the future. It will have not only Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells but also space for a future long-range missile that would be larger than VLS. And it will have the command and control capability and the space for an air warfare or other domain warfare commander to embark his or her staff on the ship.

But beyond that, the Navy is considering how to share required surface warfare capabilities across large, small and unmanned surface combatants – and the fact that the ongoing guided-missile frigate competition is yielding better results than expected is changing the conversation about the future large surface combatant.

“We shouldn’t look at ship to ship; we should look at the force. And I would argue that I think we can get more bang for the buck out of our force out of these lethal small frigates I’m very excited about,” Boxall said.

The Navy will not select a final design for its frigate until Fiscal Year 2020, but Boxall said the current state of the competition is very promising, which allows more trade space when it comes to the large and the unmanned surface ships that are entering industry talks this week.

What a Large Surface Combatant Is and Isn’t

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) fires two Standard Missile (SM) 2 missile during a live-fire evolution. US Navy Photo

Navy shipbuilding plans show the service will buy its first future large surface combatant in 2023, though Boxall said that could move to 2024. Still, on such a tight timeline, some have speculated the Navy would have to use the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer design and make modest modifications.

Boxall rejected that notion.

First of all, he said, the future surface combatant will not be called a destroyer. The admiral wants to get away from viewing the future ship as a one-for-one replacement for today’s Arleigh Burke class, and the narrative of “large surface combatant” and “small surface combatant” forces the Navy to think about designing and operating the two in tandem.

Second, he said, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has demanded flexibility and adaptability from the future large surface combatant, and the Flight III design cannot deliver.

“If you look at Flight III, fundamentally its inability to be upgraded in short timelines, then I think we’ve got to challenge that,” he said.
“Today, as you know, it takes us about a year and hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade these large surface combatants, the destroyers and cruisers. And that’s all opportunity cost – while that ship’s in there in the yard, it’s not out there [on deployment]. While it’s in there, it’s also costing us a lot of money because they’re re-bending steel to get things in and out. We need to design the ship with the ability” to upgrade systems easily without having to cut into the hull of the ship to bring old equipment out and new equipment in.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) is underway alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). US Navy photo.

Boxall said any design will inherently draw on existing ship designs but will also start from scratch in many ways – even an Arleigh Burke with an extended hull length wouldn’t have the margins for future radars and weapons, but he admitted “the reality is, we know we have to design something, and it’s not far from what we know today.” Still, he said he didn’t want to dwell on what the ship would look like yet. As the Navy engages industry this week at the Surface Navy Association’s (SNA) annual national symposium, Boxall said there are some big-picture topics to tackle first.

“We’re not locking anything down [in terms of design], but we think we have a better idea of what we’re looking for. And what’s exciting now is we’re going to go to industry like we did with frigate and say, okay, this is what we’re thinking; what are you thinking about our next surface combatant, and what are your concerns, what are your innovative thoughts, and let’s start talking about how to do that,” he said.
“These concepts of, what kind of power plants do we have out there? How would you put flexibility into the ship? Those very general concepts – we want industry’s feedback on to say, this is what we’re thinking, how would you do that? We have assumptions that we’ve made in our preliminary requirements teamwork, but we don’t know if it’s right,” Boxall added, referring to the Future Surface Combatant Requirements Evaluation Team (RET).

Asked what the fleet is telling him they want from the future large surface combatant, Boxall said, “we’re always concerned about being able to operate wherever we want to operate. So in the electromagnetic spectrum, we want cyber protection. … What you hear from the fleet is we want to be able to adapt and change. What you’re also hearing from the fleet is we want platforms that can do what we need to do. So I would argue that, because we haven’t had very long-range missiles on ships, the fleet’s been anxious for that for a long time. We have some very good news on that front. We’ve got a lot more missiles out there now than we had in the past for surface ships, and that’s going to be even getting better as we continue.”

The U.S. Navy’s newest warship, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) passes Coronado bridge on its way to Naval Base San Diego. Zumwalt is the lead ship of a class of next-generation multi-mission destroyers, now homeported in San Diego. US Navy photo.

Discussions with the Future Surface Combatant RET included identifying areas such as cyber and long-range weapons that couldn’t be defined and engineered in now, but that the ship would have to be designed to grow into as technology evolves in the future.

Boxall has repeatedly talked about the Frigate RET and the positive results it yielded both on the quality of the requirements and the shortened timeline to draft them. He described the RET process as controlled chaos during the first few months of the program, with the FSC RET mirroring what happened with the frigate program.

By bringing in the OPNAV staff, engineers and contracting specialists from multiple program executive offices, and other stakeholders early on to hash out the basics of a new ship program, “it’s ugly. But it’s painful and productive. And then we kind of said, okay, now we think we kind of have a first look, let’s bring industry into this sweaty pile. And when we bring them in it gets even uglier, because now you’ve got their interests. So it’s kind of a spinning mess – whereas it was kind of a serial process before, this swarming – I think of the Tasmanian Devil running around, that’s kind of what it feels like. It’s a lot of manpower, a lot of executive bandwidth. But I can tell you in my time – I’ve been doing requirements at the Pentagon for 12 years – I have never more understood my own requirements than I have when I get other people telling me why my requirement is wrong. They do it in real time (with the RET process) instead of five years later.”

The Navy has some money in the current FY 2019 budget for industry studies, but not as much as Boxall wanted. He said his office is looking at trying to get more money through reprogramming requests, but if that fails he said they’d do the most work they can with the money they have.

Boxall couldn’t comment directly on the FY 2020 budget, which was expected to be released the first week of February but will likely be delayed due to the ongoing partial government shutdown. But generally, he said, “I expect that we’re going to get more aggressive with what work we need to have done, which is a series of, we’ve got to start looking at pre-conceptual work, we’ve got to start looking at technical maturity, and we also have to look at what industry has out there. So the near-term is industry (engagement), and we’ll continue to evolve in ‘19 and ‘20 and ‘21” until the Navy has a clearer idea of what the art of the possible is and can start making specific decisions on how big the ship will be, which systems it will include as government-furnished equipment and more.

An artist’s conception of a Raytheon’s SPY-6 radar on a Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyer . Raytheon Image

Boxall said CNO Richardson challenged him with a 2023 timeline to award the first large surface combatant contract, but “the CNO has also challenged us to do it the right way. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to do it as quickly as we can. We’re shooting for ‘23 as a goal. ‘23, ‘24, who knows,” he said.
“The imperative here is that we need to – we’re in a great power competition these days, in case you hadn’t noticed or heard – and because of that, it’s important that we have to start thinking how to get better more quickly, and the flexibility and adaptability is a piece that’s important. And frankly that isn’t in the DDG Flight III. … We think it’s probably time to rethink the hull.”

Boxall also acknowledged budget constraints, both to the Pentagon budget as a whole but also within the Navy, as the service kicks of its $100-billion Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program just two years before the large surface combatant would start.

“We need to grow these ships, so there’s a good likelihood they’re going to be bigger than what we have today. And if they’re bigger than what we have today, it implies they’re going to be more expensive. And the question is, how much more [expensive]?” Boxall said.
“And then the question also becomes, well, if I have them that big, in the mix of ships, do I need as many if I have a very capable frigate? And I don’t know the answer to that. Now you could say, we keep the same number we have today and we just continue to grow because this is what’s good for the Navy and the nation – but I’m going with an assumption that there’s not going to be a huge windfall in growth in the [Navy shipbuilding] account, so if I’m going to design a ship that’s going to be twice as expensive, I think that’s dead on arrival. … Cost is a huge consideration. But again, our ships are very expensive today because of how we designed them. It’s $100 million, $200 million to upgrade these ships. If we take those costs, the operational costs day to day – if we get a more common fleet, I don’t have to have 20 different training tracks for 15 different combat systems out there. I can go to one or a very minor variance of that one. And so that’s where I want to be, is by getting more common and by getting smaller and more capable.”

State of the Frigate Competition

The guided-missile frigate will be the first program to leverage the common combat system and common radar that Boxall thinks will keep operational costs down and therefore allow more decision space on acquisition costs.

The Navy currently has five companies working on conceptual designs for the frigate program. All five are expected to bid on the request for proposals for detail design and construction, which is expected out this year, and the Navy will select a single frigate builder in FY 2020.

Whoever wins the competition, though, Boxall said the Navy will end up with a highly capable ship.

The Frigate RET’s conversations with industry began in 2017. Boxall said the companies were very clear about what requirements were driving up cost, and the two sides were able to work together to reduce cost where possible and increase capability where possible.

“Now we’re at a point when we start competing, where we’ll say, okay, we know what we want, but if we can get a little more – if it’s marginal cost on the front end and it gives me a really good improvement in capability, I am open to that,” he said.
“And if that capability takes away from what I need on the large surface combatant, then yeah, that’s a really exciting place to be.”

“What we have already with the frigate, I’m incredibly confident; industry has been amazing at their ability to let us know what’s driving their costs, and I think we’ve been pretty good at easing some of those things where we can get a good balance of cost. This is all about bang for buck,” he continued.
“Frankly, I really think the combatant commanders are going to be thrilled to get those out there, with that much capability on that ship at that price.”

He noted that the acquisition documents outline threshold capabilities and objective capabilities; a frigate that meets the threshold requirements will be a solid asset for the fleet to use, but a frigate that can buy objective requirements for a reasonable cost could start altering the balance of small versus large combatants the Navy wants to buy.

The Navy currently has a requirement for 104 large combatants and 52 small combatants. While the Navy today isn’t ready to pinpoint exactly how the balance of large/small/unmanned surface combatant requirements would change, Boxall repeatedly noted that relying more on a highly capable frigate or small combatant would be a better use of the Navy’s funds, allowing more ships to go more places and reserving the large combatants to focus on things that only they can do: haul the largest of radars into theater, launch the largest of missiles, and so on.

Integrating Unmanned Systems

The Sea Hunter, a Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV). US Navy Photo

Boxall and his team will also start talking to industry this week about the unmanned piece of the Future Surface Combatant family of systems. The Navy now is interested in a medium and a large unmanned surface vehicle, which will add more sensors and payloads on the water for the fleet to leverage.

Boxall said he is excited about the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV), also called SeaHunter, which is an Office of Naval Research asset located in San Diego.

“We now see that we’ve got a platform we can start being innovative with. Let’s try different payloads on there, and let’s go get that thing out there,” Boxall said.
“We’ve already done some of that, and we’re going to continue to learn more.”

Boxall said the Navy would be more interested in innovating at this level – it is cheaper to try something new and fail at the unmanned combatant level rather than the large surface combatant level – and he’s excited to hear what industry has to say about this piece of the future surface fleet.

“I think it is safe to say that we are going to [release requests for information] to industry while we’re here at SNA to say, okay, tell us what you think about your ability to build different sizes of USVs. Look at the capabilities we have on ships today; how would you put some of that on large and medium unmanned? We’re kind of in that same aggressive decision space.”

  • thebard3

    I like the concept to build in capacity for future installation of systems that don’t yet exist, but historically, the Navy doesn’t seem too interested in actually implementing this strategy. Witness the Ticonderoga class cruisers, decommissioned early primarily due to lack of VLS.

    • sferrin

      The Spruance class was an example of forward thinking. Widely criticized in the beginning for being under-armed, by the end they were very capable (though they should have got the 8″ Mk 71 gun up front). Most of the Spruance class is on the bottom of the ocean *despite* having a VLS though. (Hey, nobody ever accused the USN of being wise.)

      • thebard3

        Good point, albeit they were unequipped with Aegis, but that’s another example of a capable platform, not upgraded to the extent possible.

      • Secundius

        “Spruance” hulls were meant to take the Recoil Force (i.e. 24.6 tons/inch squared) of the Mk.71 8-inch Naval Gun. Without damaging the Ring Mounts and the Hull…

        • sferrin

          Not sure what you mean here. Your comment reads like the Spruance *wasn’t* designed to handle the Mk71 but your comment says they were. I’d think they were as they were meant to be the first user of them. There was even corporate artwork back in the day of a Spruance fitted with it up front.

          • Secundius

            Original “MCLWG”, was a Navalized 6.889-inch (175mm/60-caliber) M107 SPG Howitzer, with a range of ~40,000-meters and NOT the 8-inch Naval Gun. The USS Hull, could absorb the Recoil Force of 6.889-inch gun, but not that of 8-inch gun…

  • Hugh

    Pity the BAE Systems Global Type 26 isn’t being considered (as per the RN, RAN and RCN).

    • Bubblehead

      I agree, its going to be the best frigate on the seas by a long shot. But it would set the timeline off for the FFGX a year or 2. Better to keep chugging along. We need the FFGX ASAP.

      The USN won’t admit it yet, but unless they choose a poor design, they are going to build a lot more than 20 FFGX.

      • Duane

        FFGX is just a “quick and dirty” solution to the problem of lacking small long range escort warships – a warship type that was abandoned after the Cold War. I don’t see the Navy or Congress adding on many more FFGX to the 20 planned, unless as a stopgap pending the new future small combatant which is also being planned too alongside the future large combatant.

        The next generation of small surface combatants will likely include upgraded electrical powerplants to power up directed energy and railgun weapons, which are going to be necessary to knock down huge ASCM salvos directed at the ships under escort. More computing power, artificial intelligence, more unmanned systems (aerial, surface, and subsurface). Networked secure comms. None of that is in FFGX today, but almost certainly will be in the follow on class of SSCs.

        It really makes little sense to plan on huge classes of warships .. far better risk management strategy is to have many more smaller classes of warships, but all sharing common technologies and in particular modularity to support future upgrades, as Adm Boxall is adamant about.

        • Curtis Conway

          Yeah, and that “…small long range escort warship….” with 3,000 mile range is really going to help. Lots of UNREPS just to maintain 80% readiness.

          • Duane

            FFGX is not LCS. although its parent design may well (probably will be) based upon one of the LCS parent designs.

            As I wrote, its requirements are already established and make it clear that FFGX is a larger multirole ship capable of long range escort fulfilling simultaneous roles of ASW, SuW, and air and missile defense, but for the latter role, on a much smaller scale than DDG-51s. 5,000 mile range is specified (the Indy variant already meets that and more with existing aux fuel tankage). The Freedom variant can meet that range requirement simply by extending the hull length, just as LM already did for the Saudi multi mission surface combatant design based upon the Freedom LCS.

        • Reading what’s come out so far, FFG(X) is not a Perry-style small escort. If anything, the closest historical example I can find for its intended role is Omaha-class light cruiser of the 1920’s – something intended to operate independently in support of the main battleforce, supplying information and fighting off enemy light forces.

          • Duane

            Agreed … FFGX is definitely not a OHP clone … it is in most respects a LCS clone, but with a couple of differences (longer range, a little bigger, with a small VLS, and an updated radar – otherwise it carries virtually all of the equipment now on LCS but simultaneously – not one role at a time as LCS). FFGX design was constrained by time (first ship delivered by 2025) and by use of a parent ship design. The FSC will not be so constrained.

            FFGX is a bridge to the future, not the future itself. That’s why the Navy is already working on its more capable successor.

    • DaSaint

      I’m not sure it won’t be…

  • M Yates

    I’m still interested in what safe guards and procedures will be in place to prevent a USV from being hijacked.
    We’ve already seen the Chinese try to steal a Unmanned submersible. I can’t imagine they won’t steal a USV that is hundreds of miles or more from the nearest naval unit. Oops, it just disappeared.

    • Centaurus

      Yes, I picture Chill Willis riding off with ninja goggles spanking one with his cowboy hat.

  • sferrin

    “The ship will likely be larger than today’s destroyers, and therefore more expensive. With increased space, weight, power and cooling, it will have the margin available for a larger radar if the Navy were to choose to scale up its AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar in the future. It will have not only Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells but also space for a future long-range missile that would be larger than VLS. And it will have the command and control capability and the space for an air warfare or other domain warfare commander to embark his or her staff on the ship.”

    Sounds like a Zumwalt hull to me. Swap out the aft gun for a Northrop Grumman Modular Launch System and you’re halfway there.

    • thebard3

      I assume the navy wants something a little bit smaller, and certainly much cheaper. Also, the superstructure obviously needs a redesign for the SPY radar and CW directors. Considering those requirements, the existing stealthy superstructure becomes obsolete anyway.

      • Secundius

        Actually NO! Something in the ~$2.5-Billion USD per Ship price range. And to have some “Modular” capabilities akin to the “Littorals” (i.e. Mission and Cargo Modules)…

        ( https : // foxtrotalpha . jalopnik . com / why-the-u-s-navy-wants-a-new-generation-of-warship-1829216302 )

        • Curtis Conway

          Modularity is good. However, we should look very carefully at the radar. In a very dense EM warfare environment a diversity of radar capabilities enhance that electronic visibility and complicate the Electronic Warfare equation for the adversary. We may need an LRDR on the LSC. It will already have to have Integrated Air & Missile Defense capability, and having a different sensor may help. Multi-band detection, tracking and fire control, particularly in the Passive realm, will be very important.

        • thebard3

          Sorry, I meant smaller than the Zumwalts., which are around 15000 tons and $7.5B per (including sunk cost).

          • Secundius

            Actually “Tico” replacement “Might” exceed 20,000 tons in weigh category. Combination “Freight Hauler”, “Troop Transporter” and “Defense Ship”…

      • sferrin

        A “little bit smaller” gets you a Flight III Burke, which is too small.

        • Secundius

          Flight IV Arleigh Burke, was ~6-feet wider than Flight III AB’s, but was cancelled in 2014. And funding reallocatted to the funding of “Ohio” class SSBN replacement, the “Columbia’s”…

  • RobM1981

    It’s perfectly acceptable to move away from old terms for hulls. There is no ship of the line anymore, nor is there a battleship. Frankly, it’s hard to call our cruisers by that name anymore, and we see that the Burke’s have largely usurped them in any case.

    What we call them doesn’t much matter.

    What they do is what counts, and the tradeoffs are clear: larger ships can carry more weapons and sensors, and absorb more punishment – to a point.

    Do we foresee a future war in which damaged ships return to Pearl for repairs, like they did almost 80 years ago? Or is a future war going to be a volatile thing, over quickly?

    Do we foresee drone, or nearly drone, ships, with minimal crews? If the ships are largely disposable (wrt combat damage), then the hulls only need enough crew to man them for transit and normal casualties, not battle damage.

    Do we foresee weapons that are basically impossible to defend against, or are defenses feasible? How does that drive hull shape and size, if it is even feasible?

    Lots of variables. Lots of moving parts.

    • thebard3

      Much of the ability to withstand battle damage and return to base disappeared with the associated armor. Small systems still maintain some amount of armor, but largely, I think the ships have to go in, neutralize a potential threat, and get out before they’re targeted. I was on a Perry class frigate and that was definitely the priority for the order of battle.
      As far as your other points, it’s hard to envision what combat systems might be around 20 years from now. There’s still a lot of tradition that drives things in the Navy. It’s definitely a challenge to build a platform to support unknown future modifications.

      • Duane

        Any armor can be easily defeated by current gen ASCMs with shaped compound warheads and void sensing.

        The best armor is missile defense – both kinetic and electronic.

        • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

          Not sure I agree as to how easily shaped charge warheads defeat real armor. At the very least serious armor minimizes effect of hit. This is not to disagree that missile defense is best…not getting hit is always better.

          I am concerned that we are creating a fleet with a glass jaw. One good punch and we go home. At some point we may have to stand our ground.

          • Bryan

            I’m going on what you said and not Duane(I can’t see what he wrote.)

            I think a lot of people look at this incorrectly. As armor vs weapon evolved the engineers noticed something fundamental in WWII. Add more armor and the ship sinks straight down or just rolls over and dies. No more buoyancy. But those ships with compartmentalization got hit they didn’t sink. They just listed. The armor stopped helping and was just making the ship heavier without justification.

            So in simplified terms, today’s way of accepting the hit, maintaining buoyancy, righting the ship with ballast, controlling damage with crew and fighting on enough to expend one’s offensive weapons as a Level III ship is well thought out. Numerous hits/explosions show that the ships actually work like the engineers said.

            Now I believe going below a level II ship(not expected to fight on but to say afloat) is a recipe for losing a lot of sailors and losing the war. It’s not going to work as those who fight for a level I ship think. We are going to have ships sink, crews in the water and with other ships putting themselves at greater risk while trying to save them instead of killing the enemy. Put simply, there is something to be said for just limping home during first day of war, war and peace.

          • The Navy really didn’t move away from armor after WWII. We just have that impression because it stopped building battleships and cruisers (mainly because of small budgets). To this day the carriers are still quite heavily armored.

            Survivability is a complex issue and both armor and compartmentalization play important roles. While the latter is probably more important overall, armoring critical systems is far from counterproductive.

          • old guy

            You are correct, Spaghetti armor ( rods in alternate location (each sheet of rods offset by 1/2 rod space, is very effective,
            O O O O O O O O
            _O O O O O O O O
            O O O O O O O O
            It breaks up the plasma tube. Imagine the misile coming up from the bottom of the page.No clear path,
            Sorry, I am not good enough at typing to portray it correctly.

    • Curtis Conway

      Like the comment, but if it has a crew . . . it’s not a drone.

      • RobM1981


        I want to expand on my comment a bit, based on some later thought.

        It would be nearly impossible, and unethical, to man a ship with an open assumption that “if it gets hit, it sinks.” Who wants to be the cannon fodder for that one?

        A ship will either have to be manned to survive damage, or unmanned. Any kind of “manned for non-combat” situation would open a can of worms.

  • Duane

    I like what we’re hearing from Adm Boxall. Not constrained to backfill old 20th century ships with the same but newer hulls. Focus on modularity and ready updatability, which none but LCS have today. Hopefully FFGX will also follow in that mold. Technology changes vastly faster than ship hulls and power plants wear out. IBM figured that out decades ago with the fully upgradeable IBM PC.

    As for what kinds of capabiiities these new large surface combatants will need, this is the hard part – start out with figuring out what the Navy needs to do to keep the seas open and win any naval wars and support joint actions with the other services. Seems obvious? Not really.

    Are big warships just big missile launch pads with big radars? Is that what we really need a lot of in the future fleet? What if massive salvos of long range ASCMs capable of overwhelming any missile defenses and quickly emptying out missile magazines are the future? If that is the case, big ships just mean big targets. Unless and until the Navy can figure out how to defend against a 1,000 missile ASCM salvo on a CSG or an individual large surface combatant, we’ll just be pouring more resources into building future artificial reefs filled with dead sailors.

    Maybe what we really need is a large fleet of small surface combatants, a small number of CVN air and missile defense escorts, and a gazillion drone ships of all types and sizes. And lots more SSNs.

    Do we even need large surface combatants at all, beyond providing air and missile defenses for CVNs? Lots of people today question whether or not we even need CVNs. I am not one of those, but nevertheless, these are the kinds of questions the Navy needs to answer before it begins to build a set of requirements.

  • Carney3

    “kicks of” should be “kicks off”

  • Secundius

    “Ticonderoga” class Cruisers due for retirement within the next Seven years
    1. Mobile Bay, in 2020
    2. Bunker Hill, in 2020
    3. Antietam, in 2021
    4. Leyte Gulf, in 2021
    5. San Jacinto, in 2022
    6. Lake Champlain, in 2022
    7. Philippine Sea, in 2024
    8. Princeton, in 2024
    9. Normandy, in 2025
    10. Monterey, in 2025
    11. Chancellorsville, in 2026

    ( https : // navy – matters . blogspot . com / 2018/09/aegis-cruiser-retirement-schedule.html )

    • Curtis Conway

      More Small Surface Combatants will have to be built just to keep the numbers up, and those numbers represent combat capability. Can’t count on the LCS to do that. The Large Surface Combatant won’t be out in a decade, so stretching the Cruisers out is an absolute necessity.

      • Secundius

        Next Cruiser replacement, will most likely NOT be a Cruiser and/or Destroyer designed hull. But share the attributes of a Cruiser and an LPD. Somthing akin to a WWII “APD” (Transport Destroyer, “PPA” (Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura) or Offshore Multipurpose Patrol Ship and “BMD” (Ballistic Missile Defense Ship. Both a Fighting Ship, Cargo Hauler and Marine Transporter. Truly what the US Navy wanted back in 1934, but lacked the resources to actually build one…

        ( http : // www . thedrive . com / the-war-zone/20160/heres-the-navys-vision-for-a-new-cruiser-to-replace-the-aging-ticonderoga-class )

        • Curtis Conway

          I tend to be in agreement. Propulsion is going to have a visit. Now if Russia really does begin a Kirov building program, that could change. Given Russia’s current financial condition I don’t see that happening. Not and build subs too along with everything else they are trying to do.

        • Curtis Conway

          The Raider support vessels were the four-stacker converts weren’t they? Engine rooms became berthing compartments?

          • Secundius

            Approximately 60 were of the “Rudderow” class Destroyer Escorts, which removed the aft 5-inch gun for extra Berthing for up to 200 Marine and LCVP’s…

          • Curtis Conway

            We got the Raider Battalions back, so their ride should return, hopefully in the form of LCS. Then they have something fruitful to do.

          • Secundius

            Well at least in the case of the “Freedom” class, which has the ability of Beaching Herself to let of Cargo and Troops. And move off the Beach or Shallows.

            Fourth paragraph…

            ( https : // www . militaryfactory . com / ships/detail.asp?ship_id=USS-Freedom-LCS1 )

          • I would not trust that information. Not only have I never seen that idea mentioned anywhere else, LCS-1 lacks the sort of ramp that would be needed to load/offload anything after being beached.

          • Secundius

            Correct me if I’m wrong, but LCS’s have Twin Boom Extendable Gantry Cranes extending from the cargo decks to the sea. Capable of at least 13.5-tons Lifting Capacity…

          • They do – on stern. Are you suggesting they are going to back onto the beach? Because if they did there is no way they’re getting off again without help.

          • Secundius

            Waterjet Intake Inlets are located on the Bottom of Hull, just abaft Amidships. And Waterjet’s are recessed on the Fantail…

            ( http : // kr . speco .co . kr / bbs/files/newse/2007080215331162934700.bmp )

            ( http : // archive . jsonline . com / Services/image.ashx?domain= www . jsonline . com & file=NAVY18G.jpg&resize=250*31 )

            Alternative is “Belly Flop” with Extreme Prejudice…

            ( https : // www . popularmechanics . com / military/weapons/a19685292/amphibious-vehicle-belly-flop-ocean/ )

          • Duane

            It might be possible to beach an LCS, but that’s not gonna happen. Even with their relatively shallow draft (12-14 feet, depending upon variant), in many areas of the littorals you’ll still be far from the beach .. and very vulnerable while beached.

            LCS is not a ship to shore connector – that’s what the amphibs provide, while LCS rides shotgun to protect the ARG from subs, surface craft, and mines.

          • Secundius

            “IF” the US Navy and the USMC require a Fast Reactionary Force on the scene FAST. And FASTER the the “EPF” can deliver them. They’ll probably weigh their options and TRY anyway…

          • DaSaint

            Not likely to ever be conducted. Too many risks to the hull, and particularly when there are other means of getting ashore: helicopter, RIB, Rigid Raiding Craft, etc.

          • Secundius

            Just like 355-Ship Navy Promised by “DT”! Not happening either…

          • DaSaint

            Not in our lifetime!

          • DaSaint

            I always felt that LCS should be carrying around a couple platoons of Marines with their Raiding Craft per deployment.

          • Curtis Conway


          • DaSaint


          • Duane

            One of the planned future mission modules, after the initial three (SuW, ASW, and MCM) are delivered is SOF insertions. Along with another for ECM and another for fleet-central comms station.

    • Scott

      This probably has changed, Leyte Gulf is going to be around longer. I am on her maintenance team.

      • Secundius

        Date of article was September 2018! So IF changes were made, it was made after September 2018…

  • Marc Apter

    The Admiral said, “Boxall couldn’t comment directly on the FY 2020 budget, which was expected to be released the first week of February but will likely be delayed due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.” The shut down, a new excuse as to why they don’t have an answer to something. He is talking about the President’s Budget, something Congress will ignore, as they have been doing for years. Congress should look favorably on the Navy’s needs, not Trump’s request. Does he know what the Navy needs in 2020, and can he articulate it?

  • sid

    The pitting on that chock in the pic above speaks volumes about the egregious neglect that afflicts the entire fleet.

    The USN is willfully allowing its current ships to rust away. The shabby sight of the USS Fort McHenry in the Bosporus a couple weeks ago sent a sad message that many in the USN are apparently oblivious to.

    If the USN isnt going to tend to its current ships, then why fund more?

    • Curtis Conway

      The Deck Force is evidently no longer what it once was, or do what it once did. The recent collisions demonstrated that CIC and the Bridge are no longer what they once were either. We don’t even have all the eyes above deck we once had (Signalman). The Signal Shack was ALWAYS the best observation station one could ‘Disturb’, and not disrupt Bridge activities. Instant weather report, not to mention the SM Grapevine that kept the force up to speed. Those esoteric values and capabilities were let go to save money reducing manpower costs. Man has had lookouts and communicators topside for millenia . . . until now . . . because a few KNOW BETTER! How many lives has that cost us?

      • thebard3

        BTW, Curtis; have you seen this? https[colon]//www[dot]navytimes[dot].com/news/your-navy/2019/01/14/the-ghost-in-the-fitzs-machine-why-a-doomed-warships-crew-never-saw-the-vessel-that-hit-it/

        • Curtis Conway

          I ran across it last night. I could not believe what I was reading. THIS is NOT describing My Navy! What happened to my Navy? Helicopter parents of Snow Flakes does not describe (or excuse) this. Boot Camp cannot be what it once was (floating DC trainer in the big pool?). The shenanigans going on in DC now make a lot more sense. Thank G-d we have a Real Leader in the White House for once. However, remember that what you experience TODAY is the result of previous administration’s (multiple) policies that are now bearing (bad) fruit. The description of neglect observed in Adm Fort’s report takes decades to create, and hubris on the part of those who ‘Know Not Their Duty’, probably because those who taught them did not know it either, or set a good example. When the observation is made that the US Navy is ‘Lacking Leadership’ . . . it does not do justice or describe the magnitude of the problem that exist, and that has to start at the top and go to the bottom. i hurt in the pit of my stomach . . . our nation is in trouble.

        • PolicyWonk

          Appalling, no matter how you slice it.

  • Mark Keller

    We shall see!

  • Curtis Conway

    The capabilities of the Small Surface Combatant will help DRIVE the requirements of the Large Surface Combatant. “…but a frigate that can buy objective requirements for a reasonable cost could start altering the balance of small versus large combatants the Navy wants to buy.” IF the SSC is sufficiently capable, then it can steam farther away from the center of the battle group (skirmisher/scout), and having fewer weapons by design will rely on the next Large Surface Combatant (or amphibs) for long range weapons.

    The LSC should be a double-ender (or at least two guns), have large missile fields, and a very capable aviation support requirement.

    • DaSaint

      Double-ending with main guns restricts the design significantly, and possibly increases radar cross-section. Possibly. Starts to look like a Spru-Can.

      Now I’m with you if you mandate a bow 5″.

      Personally, I don’t understand why we don’t ensure that each major combatant has as many defensive systems as possible. For example, I’d appreciate two Phalanx CIWS (P/S) with an centerline SeaRAM above a hangar facing aft. How much could that cost? $45M each? To me, that’s worth it, and should be a baseline defensive configuration, to which you add a larger caliber main gun, and whatever number of VLS you desire, plus anti-ship missiles, and VL Hellfire in some form of mission module.

      And at least two twin Mk32 tubes should be a fit as well, if not triple launchers.

      Just my two bits.

      • Curtis Conway

        For the 5″ guns it has to do with arcs of fire simultaneously. From port/starboard sides with a forward and aft gun it is relatively easy to conduct coordinated fires. With the new HVPs the ability to configure one for surface action, or ground attack (NGFS), and one for AAW/BMD is easier. A John Wayne run to the beach on Coordinated Illumination run is a piece of cake. If both guns are on one end you have to remember to unmask batteries, and with the demonstrated intelligence level of our JOs today (Fort Report), I don’t feel confident they will remember, or understand. For throw-weight and destruction of surface targets a minimum of an 8″ is required. Great for NGFS too. One could do a lot with that 8″ package. Make it a very smart precision guidance and destruction package. Now we can start talking about ‘defense in depth’ with guided projectiles from many miles out at many thousands of feet to close in until the 57 mm takes over. Add precision guided rockets to that in the 2.75″ and 5″ and now we are talking some capability at minimum cost.

  • CharleyA

    So new frigates to supplement / replace the LCS hulls, and new “large surface combatants” aka cruisers to replace the Burkes and the Ticos? At any rate, it seems *smart* to plan increased electrical capacity to support electronics and directed energy weapons, and volume to support larger, longer ranged chemical energy weapons, aka missiles. But I hope they can resist tarting the ships up with exquisiteness. And yea, make the systems more intelligent so sailors can be adequately trained to use them – we’re already seeing that sailors cannot operate / maintain current systems without contractor support.

    • Duane

      Not replacing LCS … and not supplementing LCS either … FFGX is a different ship with a different set of multi-mission roles focused on long range escort.

      • CharleyA

        We shall see. LCS might specialize in MCM and near shore ASW, while the ASuW mission moves to FFGX. I’d like to see more FFGX and fewer LCS.

        • Duane

          No, LCS will continue to provide ASW in the littorals, because it is inherently better suited to that than FFGX. Indeed, the littorals is one of the best places for operating the typical short legged small coastal submarines that the Chinese, Iranians, and NORKs have so many of, yet still pose a lethal threat to both surface warships and merchant ships.

          Where the FFGX will be better suited in ASW is long range escort duty for other surface ships.

          • CharleyA

            Near shore = littorals.

  • This, along with the recent comment in Congressional hearings about wanting as many VLS as possible on FFG(X) seems promising. I would like to see a fleet with a medium size hull (say 8k tons, EASR, 48-64 VLS) providing the bulk of the force and a smaller number of large high capability air defense ships (14k tons, SPY-6, 128 VLS) in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. This should allow a larger fleet without needing to build low end ships of questionable combat capability. Remember, the current all-Aegis force is an unplanned historical aberration that is far more expensive than necessary.

    • Duane

      The ones arguing for all DDG forces like to say that it is more cost efficient to go with larger ships that can support large VLS arrays (96 on the DDG 51s, 122 on the CGs) … that the cost of the ship per VLS cell is lower on big ships. That is likely very true. The same arguments are used for CVNs vs. medium carriers.

      But that does not account for the need for both presence – i.e., lots more hulls showing up all over the theater – and redundancy (taking out one big ship is easier for the enemy than simultaneously taking out three or four smaller ships). Also very big ships with very big capabilities take longer to develop and build and deploy than smaller less capable less expensive ships.

      Note that our principal naval opponents, Russia and China, have opted to go with larger numbers of smaller ships than we have so far. Maybe we’re right and they’re wrong, but it may be the other way around, or somewhere in between.

  • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

    Random thoughts.
    1. 880 ft hull, based on and up-armored to Iowa standards.
    2. Fourth gen nuclear electric generating plant to an all electric drive.
    3. Four screws located on pods around the four corners of the central core, about the center 40% of length. Pods rotate not more tha 90 degrees out board. (It woul be nice if they also swung up, out of the water. Eases maintenance and allows deep at sea steaming and wake reduction). No rudders, clean bow and stern.
    5. Off the shelf AE magazine and handling gear for self and/ or small boy reload.
    6. Aviation to allow F-35 det up to 6 or so. Or other mix as needed.
    7. Big, really big, gun. Whatever proven system is available at launch. Lots of VLS.
    8. Eighteen to 20 ship build.
    9. Since above is impossible, here is the really impossible, a design freeze and true multi ship, multi yard buy.

    I can dream.

    • John McHugh

      You forgot the Wave-Motion Gun.

      • DaSaint


      • Centaurus

        And a partridge-in-a-pear tree.

      • PolicyWonk

        And Photon Torpedoes!

        • Centaurus

          Aye Captain, I’m giving ‘er all she’s got !

    • Andy Ferguson

      REALLY big target for IRBM’s like the DF-21D’s, for instance.

      • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

        Like CV’s, LHA’s, AOR/E, Container Ships, VLCCs, none of which have a heavy duty, deep magazine anti-IRBM system. For instance.

        • Andy Ferguson

          Show me those ships carrying IRBM’s.

  • sferrin

    Let’s not forget it’s larger than normal flight deck, which will only become more in demand as time goes on.

    • Duane

      Yup, that is a good feature … same as on LCS too. With long range sensing being a critical component of networked naval warfare, ample deployed aircraft, both manned and drone, are keys to success on the surface.

  • Wondering

    Frigate needs to have a 5 inch gun so it can use the HVP.
    I’ve read some on that round and understand it’s supposed to be for mainly anti air.
    Is the range still too limited to be used for anti ship?
    Would a 6″ or even 8″ HVP make any difference? If either are even possible.
    Or would it simply be a waste of money since missiles have a much longer range?

    • Failing to include at least a 5″ gun on FFG(X) is simply indefensible – if anything they should be looking at a lightweight AGS variant with provisions for a railgun.

      • Curtis Conway

        The South Korean and Japanese Frigates have 5″ guns, as do most of those in Europe. Only the US Navy has gone with the wisdom that precision outweighs explosive power. I hope the adversary doesn’t start hardening their weapons against same.

        • DaSaint

          Absolutely correct. It’s not hard to mount a 5″ on a frigate, unless it’s an LCS-variant.

        • Duane

          19 navies of the world have adapted the Mk 110 57mm gun as their primary deck guns on major classes of warships. It is not just the USA.

          Also, the USCG is on board with the 57mm on its national security cutters.

          • Andy Ferguson

            NOT major warships….

          • Duane

            Not on large surface combatants, but on small surface combatants. A FFGX is by definition a small surface combatant.

            In any case, it is a moot argument because the Navy has already determined that FFGX will be armed with the Mk 110 57 mm gun.

          • Andy Ferguson

            Wrong again.

          • Ctrot

            The vast majority of Mk110 usage is on corvette size vessels. Which is appropriate.

        • PolicyWonk

          I have to ask the question when it comes to everyone else using 5″ guns: “what makes us the only smart ones”?

          To some extent it reminds me of all our allies who were initially interested in LCS, but ALL walked away declaring it too expensive and complex for too small an ROI (the Saudi’s are buying a Freedom variant the fixes many inadequacies, at a much better price point).

          So what made us the only smart ones w/r/t LCS? The USN is still changing the story w/r/t what its supposed to do, how its supposed to it, when they’ll be ready to do something useful, etc.

          It’s hard to justify (or defend) continuing building a fleet of ships created by what the USN calls “the program that broke naval acquisition”.

        • Andy Ferguson

          It’s the same fooliness the USAF embraced regarding fighter guns.

          They stuck with those .50 cal machine guns long after everyone else switched to 20mm-37mm cannons.

          Now, they’re playing catch-up again, with the 25mm armed F-35, as they finally let go of the old 20mm M61 after everyone else switched to 25mm-30mm cannons.

      • Duane

        The Mk 110 57mn gun is far superior to the 5-incher. Thirteen (!!! ) times the firing rate, four times the magazine depth, two precision guided bimodal munitions available from US manufacturers vs. none for the 5 in. With swarming attackers as expected in any future naval battle, high firing rate and precision guided rounds are essential to survival.

        The 5-in gun has only one practical use today, if it is ever fitted with precision guided projectiles – short range point missile defense. Otherwise, it is as useful as the appendix is on human beings. Vestigial, but to no real purpose.

        • Ed L

          The Mk 110 57mm is a fine swarm defense and even close in missile defense. But a 5 inch is needed for ngfs antiship and Aaw Just make sure with both systems that if power lost. The 5 inch and 2
          Two 57 mm’s can keep firing. the majority of the Frigates and destroyers In other navies are equip with 100 mm to 130 mm. Some of them are in a 2 gun per turret

    • Secundius

      It’s already be decided that New Frigate is to receive a 57mm Bofors as Main Gun Mount…

      • Wondering

        Dumb, especially if the HVP round is primarily being designed as an anti air weapon.
        Put a lot more 5 inch shells in a frigate than you can missiles

        • Secundius

          The US Navy is more concerned about “Swarming” than “Shore Bombardment”…

          • old guy

            YOU 100% correct. My 40 year campaign, inside and out, to get Navy to recognize the SWARM danger, is now being somewhat, but not fully adressed. At least it is a start.

        • Bryan

          Maybe. It depends on the circumstances. You’re talking about a version of the age old argument do we even need a gun on the front. There are some in the Navy who would do away with the 5″ and replace it with vls. I think their idea is, “You can do a lot of damage from hundreds of miles away to a frigate with 8 more LRASM or SM-6.

          I know we won’t be sinking a properly constructed ship with a 5” or 57mm. So if it’s more of a mission kill the argument becomes why and when would we use a main gun for shooting and not a missile. The Navy determined the rapid fire of the 57mm at short range will give a mission kill just as effectively. I can’t tell you who is correct but I will suggest that we right now have ships with a smaller 57mm and no vls. That is a problem.

          • Wondering

            From what I understand a ship with a vls has to return to base to reload.
            Can a ship the size of a frigate have an adequate number of cells to be effective and still mount a gun?
            To me a Mach 7.3 round(not sure if that number is correct) that is guided and has a range of somewhere around 80 miles is pretty impressive.

          • Duane

            That is the big problem with ship deployed medium to large missiles – no at sea reloads, and very slim magazines. Guns offer much greater depth of magazine. Railguns especially since they do not need large volume shell casings, and are not subject to magazine detonation either.

          • PolicyWonk

            Don’t forget that MIC contractor love missiles, because of the high profit margins. They hate guns, because shells are comparatively cheap.

            The 57mm failed miserably in Canadian testing against a target ship (which BTW wasn’t shooting back), and they had to bring in a ship with a 76mm before any damage was done.

            While the 57mm is fine for USCG purposes (and relatively soft targets), if you really need stopping power, you’ll need a bigger gun.

          • Secundius

            As I recall, in the Test Video. The 3-inch gun didn’t fare any better against a Solid Steel Hulled Ship…

          • PolicyWonk

            Then you didn’t watch to the end (when the ship sank).

          • Secundius

            I saw the sink sink! But what Sank Her? The 29mm, 57mm or the 3-inch. Or the combination of all three…

          • Duane

            In a SinkEx a few years ago (2015, I believe) a 688 SSN hit a decommissioned large naval auxiliary with a torpedo, breaking the vessel in two and the aft 2/3 sank immediately, but the bow section remained afloat. Then a DDG-51 was brought in to point blank range (just a couple hundred yards from the target) and after dozens of shots ran out of 5-in ammo and failed to significantly damage the floating bow section. Finally, the 688 went in and finished off the bow section with another torpedo. An auxiliary isn’t even a warship, and in this case just a small part of the ship, yet could easily withstand many dozens of point blank direct hits by the 5 incher.

            5-in guns are pop guns against ship sized targets.

          • PolicyWonk

            According to the Canucks, it was the 76mm that finally started the sink-sink.

            The 57mm shells apparently bounced off, or did no discernible damage. They considered themselves lucky the other ship wasn’t shooting back.

          • Duane

            All deck guns are useless against ship sized targets … uhhh, that’s why all navies of the world went to guided missiles about, oh, 60 years ago.

            57mm is the world’s most effective weapon against swarms of small craft and aircraft. It is the big brother of the venerable Bofors 40mm AA guns that protected virtually all of our surface warships in World War Two with great effectiveness. Bofors upgraded the 40mm to 57 mm to deal with larger, faster jet aircraft in the 1950s. It is still a superb AA weapon.

          • Bryan

            MIC sell to the military. High profit margin. That is true no matter what they sell. Most of the time it’s not their fault. I was around in the E-2C ashtray fiasco. 100% Navy’s fault.

            As for guns, you do know the dreaded MIC sells those guns to the Navy? Both the 57 and 5.

            As an aside missiles require less upkeep than say, F-18 or F-35. Going with a more missile forward/first day of war strategy has a lot of advantages from strategy to budget.

            Back to guns: When is the last time we shot anything with a 5″ gun? When is the last time we struck shore with a missile. Which is more useful? Most situations where a gun would be used is close in, visual and probably bumping gunwales of peer nations or shooting small boats. The Navy has determined the 57 is fine for that and probably does a better job than the 5″ due to rate of fire. They are probably correct. Outside of small boats using a gun is more about disruption and temporary mission kill.

            Will the HVP change the usefulness of the 5″? I don’t know. The scenarios of shooting down missiles with it seems farfetched to me. We can’t do it now and the price of the shell is starting to get up into missile price. So that ability is right now a George Jetson future idea. We’ll have to wait and see.

          • PolicyWonk

            Heh –

            I am aware the MIC sells guns – but lets face it – some profit is better than no profit. And its likely been awhile since naval ships shot at one another with them. Against small boats in a swarm, a 57mm is adequate – but my point is that its not so good for anything larger (and smart ammunition isn’t cheap).

            What I’ve been suggesting, is that given the number of allied navies that are installing larger guns, we should find out why they’re not opting for smaller caliber guns like we are – did we miss something? It’s not like the USN doesn’t screw up, for example: all of our allies turned down LCS flat because they’re too expensive given the tiny ROI – yet we bought dozens of these monstrously expensive, and uniquely worthless boats.

            For shore bombardment, we’re better off to use navalized versions of HIMARS/MLRS missile launchers, especially given the chances of having to do a forced entry are pretty remote. There’s a lot of room for growth on an LPD-17 (and other ships using that sea-frame), which could carry a lot of these “just in case”.

            The above said, having a turret-mounted gun puts the purpose of a given ship into the frontal cortex of a potential bad guy, and focuses their attention.

          • Secundius

            Face it nothing is going to get and/or ever BE cheap ever again. The “EXACTO” Smart .50-caliber round cost about ~$10-K just for 1 round that capable of a “Surgical Assassination” out to ~10,000-meters. You could buy ~3,846-M20 .50BMG AP-Tracer rounds for the cost of just ONE “EXACTO” Smart round…

          • Duane

            The potential value of a 5 in HVP for missile defense is significant for three reasons:

            1) a precision guided round can shoot down an incoming ASCM

            2) the cost of an HVP is still vastly lower than any air defense missile cost, which ranges from just under a million up to 3+ million each, depending upon range

            3) You can never have enough defensive rounds in the magazine … a 5-in gun could carry a lot of extra defensive rounds that might mean the difference between survival and death.

        • Duane

          Nope – extremely smart. The 57mm is far superior to the 5-incher.

          • Wondering

            Do they have a HVP for the 57mm?

          • Duane

            Not at this time … perhaps eventually, but I’m not sure what the purpose would be. Going HVP would mean a pretty small dia. sabot projectile, probably 30mm or less … you can’t put a lot of HEX in a 30 mm projectile.

            The principal use of the 57mm is blast frag. The round carries enough HEX and tungsten filaments to make soup out of the upper works of a fast boat, or to take down an incoming ASCM or low flying aircraft.

          • Wondering

            I did a little research on the 57mm that the USN is planning on using.
            It was pretty impressive and very flexible, able to engage different types of targets.
            I think you’re right about an HVP being kind of pointless for it

          • DaSaint

            For particular purposes. Your statement should be qualified. In some circumstances, the 5″ is far superior – such as shore bombardment at longer ranges.

          • Duane

            The Navy just abandoned its only shore bombardment ship – the Zumwalts with the 155 mm guns. Because the need isn’t there. If a ship has to stand no more than 8-10 miles offshore – within visual range – to fire its guns, it’s useless and just a target for the shore gunners. With a 5 in gun, that’s all you get unless you’re just blasting the beach, in which case you get a max of 13 miles.

            A 5-incher is a popgun for shore bombardment, with too small a warhead and too short a range. If you’re doing shore bombardment, that’s what TLAMs are for.

          • DaSaint

            The Navy didn’t abandon the Zumwalt because the need wasn’t there. The gun system didn’t work, and was deemed too expensive per round. Now you’re right about the 5″ needing to be within 13 miles, but in some cases that will be sufficient. You certainly can’t do any reasonable shore bombardment with a 57mm, so that’s not really an option.

            Have you ever been near an exploding 5″ round exploding above the ground? To the men under and near it, I doubt that they would consider its effects that of a ‘popgun’.

            TLAM are not used for shore bombardment – they are used to attack specific land-based hardened targets. You know this.

          • Duane

            The gun system worked just fine. The Navy drastically downsized the Zum fleet which made the costs for final delivery of the advanced gun system non-economical … three ships could not support the large fixed cost previously planned to be supported by 30 plus ships.

            The downsizing was a reflection of the Navy deciding that shore bombardment using guns just isn’t much needed anymore. Either land attack missiles or attack aircraft are much more effective than a 155 mm gun, no matter what projectiles it fired.

          • PolicyWonk

            If you’re looking for shore bombardment, at this point MLRS seems to be the best option.

          • Andy Ferguson

            “The 57mm is far superior to the 5-incher.”?


            You’ve posted some zingers Duaney, but that takes the cake!

            How is it “far superior”?

            Range? Payload size? Ammo options?

            Is there a 57mm star shell round?

          • Secundius

            First “Swarming” war that the United States was involved in was WWII. The 40mm Bofors shot down more “Kamikazes” (Swarm) than any other Gun Caliber. The 40mm Bofors accounted for ~33% of all kamikazes shot down in WWII, the 5-inch/38-caliber gun only ~15%.

          • Duane

            Yup – the 57 mm is the big brother of the 40mm Bofors, upsized to deal with jet aircraft and missiles.

          • Andy Ferguson


          • Andy Ferguson


            What Fire Control System was used, WAY back in the 40’s?

            Did they have CIWS?


            Were they defending against supersonic AShM’s?

          • Duane

            I’ve explained this many times. The 57 mm gun has 13 times the firing rate of the 5-in gun. For fighting off small boat swarms, drone swarms, low flying aircraft, and incoming ASCMs, fast firing rate is essential. The 5 incher simply fails on that count alone.

            Secondly, and just as important, is depth of magazine in ready rounds … the 57mm has a far deeper magazine than the 5-incher. 400 ready rounds and 1,000 rounds in the mount vs. just 20 ready rounds and just 475 rounds in the mount in small surface combatants.

            Thirdly, and also just as important, is having precision guided rounds capable of engaging moving targets. Today there is no such thing for any 5 in naval gun. The only precision guided round for the 5 incher cannot engage moving targets – it uses GPS guidance only. The 57mm gun has TWO precision guided rounds capable of engaging moving targets, both of which are all-weather bimodal targeting (laser guided and imaging infrared).

            The difference in range between the two guns is minimal – 13 miles vs. 10 miles. And the difference in firepower between the two guns is actually in favor of the 57 mm because of its X13 firing rate advantage over the 5 in.

  • Adrian Ah

    Perhaps ships can simply be classed by weight.


    Class 1 under 500 tons

    Class 2 500-1000 tons

    Class 3 1000-3000 tons

    Class 4 3001 -5000 tons

    Class 5 5001- 7000 tons

    Class 6 7001 – 8000 tons

    etc etc

    If you want, you can put initials in front.


    SS- supply ship

    Class 11 SS (11 might be, say 15000 tons)

    FLS- Front Line ship

    Class 9 FLS

    Just a suggest. Don’t bite my head off.

    • Secundius

      Let me guess, FASA Game Play, Star Trek Universe…

      • Adrian Ah

        Haha! No, I don’t play computer/video games. (I either find most boring, or I’m really crap at them). The weight class system is just something I was thinking of this morning.

        • Secundius

          Back in the ’70’s and ’80’s the Star Trek franchise of Role-Playing Game FASA. Had “Tons” of Star Trek Strategy Role Playing Games, which included Rule Books. Such as Ships of the Federation, the Klingons, Romulans, etc. And placed Ships according to tonnage. Class I was 9,999-tonnes or less, Class II 10,000 to 14,999-tonnes and so on, in 5,000 tonnes increments. After Class XX, it went by 10,000-tonnes increments. There was even one for Space Stations, Colonies, Associated Worlds and Member Worlds. My sons use to play them a lot…

          • Adrian Ah

            Gosh, that’s quite a while back! No wonder I’d not heard of it before. I have played a sci fi role playing game before, but not Star Trek.

          • Secundius

            FASA went out of business in the ’90’s, but there games are still available through some vendors, “Amazon” and “eBay”. Mint Condition ones are quite pricey…

    • Bryan

      Not biting your head off, but I always thought a name of the ship class is pretty useless. It’s what they can do and how we employ them that matters. Changing the classification is like changing uniforms….a waste of money.

  • DaSaint

    A couple things jump out at me here. First, there will be more than 20 FFG(X). Second, each FFG(X) will most likely be more capable than a Flight I Burke DDG, which means that they will be the successor to the Flight Is, as I always suspected.

    Third, If they are that capable, I can’t see either of the LCS variants fitting the bill. I don’t see how either version can carry more than 16 Mk41 VLS cells, never mind 24, 32, or 48, the middle number which seems to be where the Navy is heading and expecting. Neither do they have the capacity to accommodate the generation of additional electricity needed for today’s and tomorrow’s laser weaponry. I sense that what’s coming out of this iterative conceptual design process is a highly modified bare hull with possibly a completely new superstructure with DDG-lite weapons and radars.

    Navantia’s design, FREMM, and the mystery ship from Ingalls (Type 26, Type 26, Type 26!), seem to be more capable of carrying the volumes required, in terms of weapons, hybrid drive technologies, excess power capability and range.

    Also, while the FFG(X) is stated to have a 57mm, I will not be surprised if the winning design is capable of swapping that out and replacing it with the lightweight 5″ Mk45 mount with auto-loader. I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t want the flexibility of the larger round, particularly with the new hypervelocity rounds it can deploy.

    • Secundius

      As I recall the Huntington-Ingalls entry in the FFG(X) Competition is a Patrol Frigate based on the USCG’s “Legacy” NSC. But with a range reduction of ~8,000nmi and NO 5-inch gun…

      • DaSaint

        So that’s what we expect, but the problem is they have not displayed their entry. If it was based on the NSC, which we’re all accustomed to, then why not display it?

        No, I don’t think it’s an NSC. Maybe a Burke hull, maybe another foreign parent design, but if it were an NSC we would have seen it by now.

        Finally, the RFP for the FFG(X) is slated to be a fully open design development contract, therefore open to more than just the 5 accepted in the RFP for the conceptual design stage.

        Watch this development. 2019 and 2020 are going to be extremely insightful.

        • Secundius

          US Navy already stated that the Largest Gun to be Mounted is the 57mm Bofors and to have at least 8 VLS. They just haven’t decided in the case of the HII entry as to which design. The 4501, the 4921 or the 4923 design…

          • Bryan

            First, did the Navy downgrade the vls requirement? It was absolutely a minimum of 16 with them liking 32 just a few months ago.

            Second, we have no way of knowing what HII is putting out, unless perhaps you work for them?

            One thing I believe HII should take note of is that current admirals in the navy are making off hand remarks that the NSC will have trouble being hardened. HII also has a lot of Navy business already. So if the NSC is going to be level 1+ and cost more than the LCS, why bother? At that point go with the lcs. If sucky is what we get, it might as well be the least expensive sucky around.

            So could HII put a descoped version of ddg in? They might. They have one already written up with the Hobart entry. They could descope that a bit more to come out with a 48-64 vls.

            Of course they also could put in a stretch version of ncs with all new superstructure. Might even see an aluminum superstructure. Who knows. i suspect if they are just putting in a version of the patrol frigate then they were just giving a little work to their engineers at the expense of the Navy.

          • Secundius

            I said at [least] 8 VLS’s, not that there going to [be] only 8 VLS’s…

          • DaSaint

            You’re stating that as if it’s an unchangeable fact.

            The Navy previously indicated 8 VLS then changed to 16.

            The Navy stated 20 FFG(X) but now seems to want more.

            And the actual RFP for the design development contract hasn’t been issued. You and others keep referring to the RFP for conceptual design only, which was/is meant to inform the Navy on the art of the possible.

            Let’s wait for the representative RFP for the actual design development contract, shall we?

          • Secundius

            Where specifically did I say the were going to be [Only] 8 VLS’s!/? As I recall, I said at [Least] 8 VLS’s…

          • DaSaint

            You’re right. You did say at least. My bad.

          • Duane

            It is an unchangeable fact – 57mm it is and will stay.

    • Adrian Ah

      I wonder what happens when you take a 7000 ton frigate, swop it’s 5 inch gun with a 57mm one, remove the 32 or 48 cell VLS for a 8 cell one, and reduce the sensors needed, remove it’s torpedoes? Assuming the extra space is used for fuel, could the range double or triple? That’d be pretty impressive.

    • Bryan

      I see the Navy’s decision to be absolutely about money. I believe the main problem with LCS was about money. Basically the Navy didn’t have the money to replace the FF so decided to use, “Transformation” to make up the difference. Turns out that didn’t work. Perhaps one day it will work, but it’s just not going to in the lifetime of the LCS hulls.

      That leaves us where? We can’t afford the FFG right now. All the indicators show that the Navy will have it’s budget continue to flat line or even decrease in the coming 20 years. So will the Navy double down on it’s carriers and her escorts? If so we have the LCS-1 stretch. If not where is the money coming from?

      We get caught up in the, Carrier killer missile or the minutia of SAG’s vs CSG’s when in reality we don’t have enough money to support 10 carriers, let alone 12. Reducing the number of carriers to 9 and using them as strategic wartime assets, not instruments of soft power is the way to go. That frees up not just the money for 2-3 carriers but all the money for the air wing and the carriers escorts.

      Everything I see the Navy doing is to support it’s Carriers at all cost. I suspect we will see the LCS-1 stretch. Much to our shame. In this case I truly hope I’m wrong. We need a large frigate/light destroyer at old school level II. We need to pay for it with a few less carriers.

      • Curtis Conway

        Bingo! Save money and kill sailors.

      • Duane

        No – money was NOT the issue. Capability is what drove LCS design.

        It would be supremely wasteful and stupid to field a fleet of nothing but deep draft large and expensive ships like the CGs and DDGs that are poorly adapted to the littorals. We already have too many of those, and not nearly enough small surface combatants. Between LCS and the future FFGX we’ll have only 54 SSCs vs. 104 LSCs. The ratio should be the other way around (as Admiral Brown says), or perhaps evenly split, with a net result of more ships in the fleet to provide greater presence and also to improve the risk profile. Very large ships attract more enemy attention and attacks, and when one is lost the effect on the fleet is much larger.

    • Duane

      No swapping out. 57mm it is and will stay. Vastly better gun than the 5 in.

      • DaSaint

        It’s a gun for a different set of mission priorities.

        • Duane

          The 5 in gun is still searching for a mission. It doesn’t really have one.

          • Andy Ferguson


            Yeah, pre- and post WW2, those 5″ guns were all wrong….

          • Andy Ferguson


            So ALL those navies using 5″ guns are wrong?

            Sure Duane, NGS in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Falklands….

            All just a HUGE mistake, right?

  • Curtis Conway

    “…the narrative of “large surface combatant” and “small surface combatant” forces the Navy to think about designing and operating the two in tandem.”

    Well, that is all well and good Rear Adm. Ron Boxall (OPNAV N96) . . . until . . . you send the less capable on an Independent Steaming Exercise (ISE). Then, the adversary takes advantage, just as they will with the LCS.

    “But I can tell you in my time – I’ve been doing requirements at the Pentagon for 12 years – I have never…understood…”.

    The question NOW is do you understand we have had this requirements definition problem longer than you have had the problem. The ‘unknown’ and ‘unprepared for’ is what gets you killed. The recent Small Surface Combatants were designed for specific purposes operating in a relatively benign environment with no thought to ISE steaming, which is what the Low End does a LOT to save operational dollars when times are tough. Time to face the music. I suppose that is what the FFG(X) is, and you better not scrimp on it.

    “…Boxall repeatedly noted that relying more on a highly capable frigate or small combatant would be a better use of the Navy’s funds, allowing more ships to go more places and reserving the large combatants to focus on things that only they can do…”

    Now there is some wisdom! Someone should have thought of that when they were designing the LCS.

    • Duane

      No surface ship is safe in independent operations in contested waters, period, ever. They must aggregate in contested waters for mutual protection against air, missile, surface, and subsurface threats.

      Admiral Greenert made that point quite clear in his testimony to Congress back in 2013 – that even the vaunted DDG-51s and CGs are not safe operating independently in contested waters.

      Only a submarine can operate safely and independently in contested waters.

  • James B.

    Burke’s are presently cruiser-sized “destroyers” so going even bigger is past “large surface combatant” and into ridiculous territory. We don’t need, and shouldn’t want, giant complex ships that will result in a death spiral of increasing costs and decreasing buys (e.g. Zumwalt-class).

    If the Burke Flight III hull is too small to be remodeled into a multi-mission cruiser, then we need to reevaluate and remove some requirements. Everything we have designed in decades seems to have mis-aligned priorities, being either wildly imbalanced (the LCS) or simply too big (DDGs).

    Numbers are tactically valuable, allowing redundancy and added complexity to a formation, so we should be building for a fleet where a carrier battlegroup has an escort squadron of 7-10 frigates, destroyers, and cruiser, not 3-4 DDG/CG.

  • Ed L

    I was thinking of a warship call it a dreadnought Say 800x96x25 feet I favor at least four 11 meter rib boats being carried. A Twenty to Thirty Thousand Ton displacement. Rail gun, Large VLS 150 cells. 2 five inchers, 2 ciwz 2 searam 2 57mm 2 remote 20 mm Gatling guns and places for a dozen 7.62 machine guns Marines ability to berth a company 120 marines. plus additional room for special ops and coast guard detachment. Flight deck that could house and support two to four f-35B’s and/or 2 ospreys

  • William Gordon Davis

    Don’t you have editors? It’s not “hone in” it’s “home in”. You may be aware that the birds which return home are not called “honing pigeons”. They return home by making successive approximations and observations to reach a goal. A metaphor for working toward a goal is “homing in” on it. Hone is a verb. It means to use a fine abrasive to microscopically smooth a surface – only after sharpening a blade one hones it to a smooth edge. Synonyms for hone are the verbs buff and polish. Do you really think the Navy is buffing their way toward anything?

    • Secundius

      Actually “Honing In” IS the correct verbiage…

      …The verb “Hone” means “to sharpen or make more acute”, as in honing a talent. In verb form, “Home” (as in “to home in on”) means “to move or be aimed toward a destination or target with great accuracy”…

  • Centaurus

    “the reality is, we know we have to design something, and it’s not far from what we know today.” This is such a brilliant statement, how much did that cost to come up with ?

    • PolicyWonk

      For a normal civilian, about $0.05 on a bad day.

      If military or mil-spec, about $5B (+/-).

      • Centaurus

        We’re toast.

        • PolicyWonk

          This is why I constantly champion a complete extirpation and replacement of the DoD acquisition system.

          To call it a disaster is simply being too generous.

          • Centaurus

            It’s not too generous.Time for a bigger-brained group to take control, someone here isn’t thinking properly.

      • Secundius

        After 2008, virtually every rifle produced within the United States went from Mil-Std. to Mil-Spec., including Military Grade Rifles…

  • MaskOfZero

    You do not “hone in” on a requirement, you would home in on a requirement, or hone your requirements. Hone means sharpen or refine–so you hone your skills. Your missile homes in on a target, or you home in on the enemy’s radio frequency. It could be a homing beacon.

    The Burke is a fine ship which has served well, but it is not big enough, nor does it have the power to perform future tasks, and small frigates most certainly will not have the available power going forward.

    What’s needed is a 15,000 to 16,000 long tons nuclear powered destroyer. (But not a Zumwalt!) This might cost a little more up front, but it would be militarily relevant for its entire service life. The new destroyer/cruiser should provide lavish and spacious crew quarters, which should be easier with a greatly reduced crew due to automation. Smaller crews will make operating costs significantly cheaper. A new destroyer class would allow the Navy to use its brains and realize that morale and crew satisfaction with their work environment makes it easy to attract and keep top quality recruits.

    Having a nuclear powered destroyer fleet would transform the supply chains and fleet logistical tails, and would completely change the Air-Sea battle tactics and strategies. It would also be more environmentally friendly.

    I would also consider revamping a San Antonio class LPD into a missile cruiser/ASW Helicopter destroyer–and fill it with VLS pods, rail guns and lasers. I would make that nuclear powered too, if possible.

    With the length of time these hulls are being in service, it makes sense to go nuclear powered. With all that available power, they can make their own fresh water and JP-8 or whatever liquid fuels required,and they can remain at sea almost indefinitely. As lasers get more powerful, only a nuclear reactor can provide the power needed for a laser or particle beam to vaporize any aircraft or missile whether hypersonic or ICBM in line-of-sight, or to provide sufficent juice for rapid-fire guided hypervelocity rounds over the horizon guided by a Triton or F-35 to distant targets.

    • Ed L

      I think the Dreadnought should be 25 to 30,000 tons, at least 800 feet in length And a 100 feet in beam, and probably 25 to 35 feet draft

  • Rob C.

    I’m excited that the Navy leadership is trying push ahead try get the

    Large Surface Combatant going and trying something new verse rehash what was have as other nations who have money plow ahead with better ships as were stuck in the past so to speak. That so-call Chinese Destroy Type 55 is cruiser size and armed well if everything works right.

    My only concern with them pushing ahead with the Large Surface Combatant is that as in the past, leadership changes hands, you get another group of people with their OWN ideas and don’t want stick with what already laid down. This keeps happening, nothing gets done right in the process.

    Just hope whatever this new design is, its effective and it’s gets done right!

    privately something that bigger than Zumwalts, i want darn thing be label a Cruiser! Lol