The two variants of the Navy Littoral Combat Ship -- LCS-1 Freedom and LCS-2 Independence - side by side off the California coast.

The two variants of the Navy Littoral Combat Ship — LCS-1 Freedom and LCS-2 Independence – side by side off California.

PENTAGON: John D. Burrow is in a hurry – and if you think you know what the Navy needs as an alternative to its controversial Littoral Combat Ship, you will be too. Minutes ago, the Navy released a pair of Requests For Information (RFIs) on LCS alternatives – one RFI for concepts for the ship as a whole and the other for specific shipboard technologies. The deadline for responses: 22 May. As Burrow told reporters this morning, “the RFIs will give them 21 days to provide that information.”

“We’re not going to have time for them to go through and do a design,” said Burrow, head of the Small Surface Combatant Task Force. “[We want] mature ship designs that are in production today and/or mature ship designs that have a high degree of fidelity [so] that we can understand the degree of technical risk.”

Meanwhile, in parallel to industry’s rush effort, Burrow and his staff will consult Navy personnel at Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, and elsewhere during May to get real sailors’ takes on what a small warship needs. Then Burrow and his SSCTF staff will have a month to mate up what the fleet says it needs with what industry says is it can do, analyze the information and narrow it all down to a set of options – not a single ship, but a range of different designs, Burrow emphasizes – to offer to Navy and Defense Department leadership.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Burrow acknowledged to reporters. “Remember I’ve got to 31 July to wrap this thing up.”

That said, the Navy’s done plenty of prior work for Burrow to build upon, one Congressional staffer told me: “It’s more feasible than you might otherwise think when you consider that in fact they’ve been studying this stuff without telling people since early last year, since early 2013.” Likewise, industry has been touting LCS alternatives for a while — such as Lockheed Martin’s modification of its Independence-class LCS for foreign markets, or Huntington-Ingalls’ upgunned version of the National Security Cutter it builds for the US Coast Guard

The Small Surface Combatant Task Force itself, however, was set up just months ago by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to review whether the existing LCS variants, a modified Littoral Combat Ship, or an entirely new design – even a foreign ship – would best meet the Navy’s needs against increasingly lethal future threats. Whatever ship gets picked, it needs to be ready to enter production in 2019 when the existing LCS contract ends, so production can continue uninterrupted. To do that, the Navy needs to award a new contract for something in fiscal year 2016, for which the services are already building their budgets.

Burrow emphasized repeatedly that he and his team are not holding a competition, not conducting a formal analysis of alternatives – though their work could certainly be the basis of one – and don’t even have formal requirements yet. Some analysts have worried that Sec. Hagel had predetermined the outcome with his memo’s pointed suggestion that the Navy needs something “generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate,” a class of ship significantly larger than LCS. (While some highly capable frigates are in production today, they are all foreign designs). But Burrow emphasized he was not seeking to justify any particular concept — or for that matter to pick any one option.

“I want to make sure everybody understands that I’m not coming in at the end of the day saying ‘this is your ship design,’” Burrow said. “We’re looking at a larger set of alternatives” to offer Navy leadership.

SSCTF is casting a wide net for good ideas, then winnowing out the best to offer Hagel, Navy Sec. Ray Mabus, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert. At a minimum, the task force will offer three choices: a modification of Lockheed Martin’s Freedom-class LCS; a modification of Austal’s Independence LCS; or an entirely different ship. Each of these options may itself have variants or different mission-specific configurations.

Then the SSCTF will rate each of these options for cost, technological risk and suitability for a range of different missions. The specific mission needs – their “capability concepts” –  aren’t final yet, Burrow said, but he expects there will be at least four: mine-clearing, sub-hunting, combat against other surface ships, and air defense.

It’s worth noting that the current LCS designs are built for three of these four missions, with plug-and-play “mission modules” – admittedly still in development – that can convert a Littoral Combat Ship from a sub-hunter to a mine-sweeper to a defender against fast enemy boats. (Anti-air warfare would be the addition). Hagel, his acting deputy Christine Fox, and many in Congress are deeply skeptical the current Littoral Combat Ship design can carry out those missions in a high-threat environment like the Western Pacific. The director of Operational Test and Evaluation is pretty certain LCS isn’t tough enough, having called both ships not survivable for the last two years. The tight schedule, though, makes it hard to find an alternative to LCS that can be ready on time.

Comments

  • PolicyWonk

    First of all, neither LCS variant would be in as much trouble if they had been originally built to the navy’s level-2 standard. A bare hull with generic mountings for weapons along with the mission package capabilities would’ve been better than what the taxpayers are saddled with now. The over 40-knot speed is seemingly unnecessary, as no one in the navy is able to articulate what need that requirement meets (it certainly can’t outrun a missile).

    Furthermore, if LCS wasn’t intended to go into harms way, it never should’ve been associated with the term “Combat”. A combat ship has some measure of toughness/survivability implied as it would seemingly be sent into harms way.

    If the navy wants a littoral ship – it should design one that takes the lessons of littoral warfare into account (unlike either LCS variant). A truly littoral ship probably shouldn’t be much more than 2000 tons; if the navy NEEDS a frigate, they should BUY a frigate – possibly based on the HI-NSC design used by the USCG (an up-armored and enhanced armament version was offered to the navy, and could be ready relatively quickly).

    The “new” LCS should be able to take a punch, protect itself, and dish out some real punishment to the bad guys. If it is built to accept a mission package so it can hunt mines, or optionally subs (in the littorals), so much the better. But lets try to perform the threat analysis first and design whats necessary to defeat the threat – instead of creating another set of corporate welfare programs. And while we’re at it – maybe the “new” LCS should be built to compliment the same kind of missile boats we’re currently building for Egypt.

  • Gary Church

    License build U-boats.
    If the Navy does not want to play the 21st century littoral reality game then give them to the Coast Guard and let them do the mission.

  • Peter

    At $893 million (constant 2009 USD), the Japanese “Akizuki” destroyers
    with their 5-inch gun and 32-cell VLS seem like a nice fit for a U.S.
    Navy frigate. It’s like a mini Arleigh Burke destroyer with SSMs, torpedo tubes, two 20mm CIWS, and a helicopter.

    • Matthew

      And a draft almost double that of the LCS’s defeating the purpose of the littoral concept.

      While neither LCS in their current set up are a knock out asset they are suited to littoral waters (in terms of draft, Not weapons load out). For people suggesting the USCG Cutter or eve Frigates, If you go that large then you may as well just order more Burkes because they will all have about the same draft and if you end up with two ship classes that can only stick to the same area’s then you are wasting money.

      • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

        Does this platform still need to be optimized for littoral operations? That isn’t clear in the RFI or the article. If they are planning to use the existing LCS under contract for MCM, Swarmboat/Pirate SuW and litttoral ASW but want to a more robust platform capable of independent sailing (or escort) with some kind of area AAW capability, then a shallow draft becomes both unnecessary and impossible (if they are going to be capable of carrying enough of a magazine to be useful).

        • Matthew

          The initial reasoning for the LCS program was for a vessel capable of littoral operations effectively after a number of incidents showed the vulnerability of standard USN frigates and Destroyers.

          Where they stuffed up is from the start they wanted a multi-role combatant but failed to list how much of a combatant they wanted.

          I think the LCS program could have or still could be a capable vessel but they jumped the gun on production too early. Should have stuck with the two test bed’s and from their they could have figured out all the problems.

          • Gary Church

            I disagree. They are all engine and no room for anythings else. A fundamental error in the design and proof that there are some not-very-bright people making decisions. Like the V-22, it does not matter how fast it goes if it cannot do anything else.

          • Matthew

            But it’s not all engine room. In fact the LCS-2 has enough room that they can have a second mission package on board in the cargo bay while having another already fitted. Its has so much room that they were able to build in an actual rounded stair case instead of the standard ladders.

            The fact the original designs offered by both teams had VLS systems and more shows that they have the room available. Naval brass chose not to go along with it.

            The V-22 is capable of plenty, In fact it has greater range then any other helicopter so based from USN ships is a valuable asset if operation is beyond the range of standard helicopters.

            You sir merely like to look at all the bad and propose the ludicrous.

          • Gary Church

            Wow. I guess you are right. I am just ludicrous. It has so much room and the V-22 is capable. Right.

      • Horn

        It’s not double; it’s 3 feet.

        • Matthew

          Woops, In that case the Akizuki may be a viable option or even a scaled down one. However for people on the internet that say new Perry’s or that a frigate version of the NSC would be capable of same role they are wrong, Those respective ships have drafts 22ft+ but the japanese ship is a astrong possibility.

    • Horn

      I had the same thought. The draft on the Akizuki is around 17.5 ft while the Freedom is under 13 ft and the Independence is around 14 ft. I’m not an expert, but is 3.5 ft really that much of a difference. The Japanese alot of our tech, or close derivatives of our tech. Replacement and modifications shouldn’t be that difficult.

  • Curtis Conway

    Survivability of the LSCs should disqualify them from consideration right up front. Both versions are death traps for our sailors.

    The new Aegis Guided Missile Frigate concept vessel must meet most of the goals required for a new multi-warfare surface combatant. All-ocean is definitely a requirement, as well as the Theater Ballistic Missile Defense capability using a modified Ships Self Defense System (SSDS) Mk2 derived combat system. A magazine large enough for a meaningful loadout is required. The non-rotating 3D sensor directing missiles, Directed Energy Weapons, and a 5″ gun that can shoot guided projectiles is definitely required. Boats should never be a problem which can place a vessel in jeopardy if one has to come Dead In the Water (DIW) to deploy or recover them. Space must be present topside for additional Electro Optical (EO)/Infrared (IR) sensors (six). Should the passive design criteria be included in ship’s capability then directors/illuminators will be present for guided rocket launchers should that capability actually make it aboard ship. The Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) systems should mirror the rest of the fleet to the extent possible, and this vessel could drag a towed array sonar system if two versions are made. The towed array sonar ship would not have boats aft like a National Security Cutter (NSC). The Anti Air Warfare (AAW-centric) version should have boats aft and one helo hanger with donation Mk41 VLS cells down both sides of the ship. The primary
    sensor must be a non-rotating 3D AESA radar. I would put a SPQ-9B (over an exposed rotating antenna) should a backup system be required. The single engine room should be a HED COGAG arrangement, and the GTGs should be upgraded to a GE38 derived form factor replacement for a 501K GTG. If we used derated LM2500+G4 Prime Movers then greater power at lower specific fuel consumption can be achieved using existing design Main Reduction Gears (MRG), shafts and screws. Two yards should compete in construction to keep the cost down and quality high. If an NSC derived sea-frame is modified we will get a fast little ship that is upgradable.

    In the NSC’s case the HED COGAG propulsion system upgrade is relatively
    simple. If we make two NSC derived models of the Aegis FFGs then one yard can build one version and the other yard build the competing design with as much hull commonality and equipage as possible preserved to hold down cost, logistical support concerns, and training requirements, while maintaining our defense maritime manufacturing base. Our naval shipyard manufacturing capacity has
    been in decline.

    Donation Missiles (SM-6s) on our new platform should be an absolute requirement (16 minimum). Several airborne platforms and other surface combatants now possess, or will soon possess, the ability to request a weapon and guide it to target. The E-2D, several of our surface combatants and fighters, and perhaps a P-8A Poseidon with the Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS) are upgradable to this capability.

    Why do I keep insisting on Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) COGAG engineering plant? The DRS/GA HED System integrates to current MRGs with minimum impact to the engine room. The Permanent Magnet Motors save space & weight, and provide greater electrical power generation capacity (higher power density/space) when the MRG is driven by the prime mover LM2500+G4.

    This sea-frame must be an all ocean vessel that is comfortable in the Arctic. This is another reason to exclude LCS hulls. This new vessel must be able to operate autonomously for a minimum of 30 days.

    If Propulsion & Engineering is Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) COmbined Gas turbine
    propulsion And Gas turbine generators (COGAG) then the power density is available to drive . . . . Directed Energy Weapons!

    • Gary Church

      “The director of Operational Test and Evaluation is pretty certain LCS isn’t tough enough,-”

      You know my opinion Curtis; I don’t think any surface combatant can survive against missiles. But I have take a step back from that statement to go two steps forward. A 1300 foot long super container ship at 165,000 tons can carry over half it’s displacement (it is 55,000 tons empty) in containers filled with concrete composite blocks. Layers of these cheap containers would make for a fortress that missiles could not destroy. These ships cost less than a single joint strike fighter. With a large state subsidized merchant fleet of several hundred of these behemoths a percentage could be kept “loaded for war.” A flat deck would allow helicopters and even turpoprop STOL fixed wing aircraft to be operated.

      There is also the option of building them with a moon pool that would allow diesel subs to surface covertly and be serviced and an A-Frame installation at the stern that would allow entire missile boats like the Sparviero class hydrofoil (60 tons) to be lifted out of the water.

      • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

        I know I’ll regret this, but exactly how are containers filled with concrete composite blocks going to keep a missile from blasting giant holes in the hull and sinking her?

        • Gary Church

          The containers float. The ship will float. Practically unsinkable. 18,000 container units mean alot of watertight compartments. Yathink?

          • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

            Well 2 main problems, first of all the shock damage from numerous hits would likely make her combat systems non-functional, but most importantlly while she could stay afloat, it would not take much to make her unseaworthy and all that positive ballast won’t matter a lick when she turns turtle.
            In general, letting an opponent hit you over and over again is not a good way to win a fight, no matter how big you are.

          • Gary Church

            Well, the containers would soak up the “shock damage” better than any warship and surface combatants are going to get hit no matter how big or small. You and Matthew are naysayers who will just keep on arguing no matter what. The fact is a hundred thousand tons of watertight compartments are about as unsinkable as anything can be. I don’t know why you two are trying so hard to say this is not true but……have at it.

          • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

            You just can’t stand having someone prove you wrong.

          • Matthew

            Naysayers using logic and common sense.

            You make the assumption that containers would soak up the “shock damage” better then any warship or surface combatant, I’m assuming you have test’s to prove as much? To my knowledge no such test has ever been carried out so you are merely making an assumption without fact or evidence.

            Yes containers can stay afloat for a time but even they sink, They are not airtight nor can they hold up much weight for an indefinite amount of time.

            The layout of a container ship and the containers is very basic on not designed for strength in combat. If the natural elements routinely knock containers off of the ships how do you think they would fair against cruise missiles?

            I have used evidence based upon past lessons learn’t in the area of naval engineering. Air pockets wont hold a ship up once it’s breached (If the break is large enough), Water will rush in and from the point of entry will add increase weight to the ship causing it to list, From listing it capsizes, once its capsized sinking is only a matter of time (Korean ferry incident for example, She had air pockets all over and still sank). Even if your fantasy vessel didn’t sink there would be no way to prevent a capsize so tell us, Once it’s capsized how is it meant to be of any use in a conflict? Going to arm the bottom of the hull for said eventuality? …..

            You can criticize us when you counter my arguments to said ship…

            1. How to prevent a capsize/listing once water breaches the hull after first hit.
            2. How to prevent the containers from ripping away from the ship once she starts to sink.
            3. Prove the superiority of containers to current defensive capabilities of ship armor.

            If you can answer even one of them then you may get some credibility because at the moment your proposal would make the LCS look like a god..

        • Gary Church

          The containers stack all the way to the bottom of the hull. The bouyancy is mostly provided by the voids in the containers; there is not much wasted air space in the hull.

          • Matthew

            You seriously have no idea about the engineering aspects of a ship do you?

          • Gary Church

            I know the containers stack to the bottom of the U-shaped hull for most of the length of the vessel. You seriously shot your mouth off didn’t you?

          • Matthew

            No I didn’t. You have made the assumption that the containers and the spaces between them is what makes a ship float. Does that mean when they are empty they sink?

          • Gary Church

            No. That means when you poke a hole in it the ocean comes in and then it becomes a submarine. If it is filled top to bottom with containers everyone of those containers (the void spaces inside them anyway) now become a watertight compartment and not only do you have to poke a hole in the side of the ship, you have to poke a hole in every one of those hundreds of containers to sink it. So tell me now what “engineering aspect” of this you do not understand? Seriously.

          • Matthew

            So I’m assuming in your fantasy mind the containers would all be welded together and to the actual ship? have you also taken into account the effect of water rushing in on any particular section? Take the South Korean ferry, While not having water coming in a sudden shift change in weight (Water rushing in has same effect) caused it to capsize. Even with air inside her the ferry still sank. No Surface ship is built to float indefinitely if hit. Once you have ample water running in no matter how many containers there are she will sink, Fast or slow.

            Should also not that the amount of containers when (not if because this is a dead certainty) she does start to take on water she will sink lower or capsize, If sinking lower then you start to have the effect of having increased stress put upon the lower containers, Too much stress and your safety pockets of air will just rip away from the ship.

            Gary, Go take an engineering course on naval vessels then come back thinking the container ship would work. They are cheap built ships, They cant take a hit, Containers aren’t airtight, They have a terrible draft and slow to respond etcetc..

            In any case thanks, You making me look smarter =)

          • Gary Church

            I can’t say what you just made yourself look like.

          • Matthew

            Get one other person to agree with your view of naval engineering and then you will prove me wrong, Till then you continue to live in fantasy land.

      • Horn

        How would you launch and land a turboprop (really?) STOL aircraft without a flight deck?

        • Gary Church

          I said flat deck.

        • Horn

          What I’m mean is, you’d have to make a lot of modifications to the vessel. Elevators to a hangar deck would be needed. An island would be needed. These modifications would raise the cost considerably; maybe not into the $3.4b for an America-class amphib. As notrizzo mentioned, those blocks don’t protect the hull. They’d be pretty slow. Turboprops also wouldn’t hold up against modern jet fighters.

          Still, an interesting idea though. Bringing back the merchant fleet’s numbers and using them to project power.

          • Gary Church

            No hangar deck. No island. Just a steel non-skin deck. Just land and load and unload and take-off. I did not say turboprops would go up against fighters. That is ridiculous. Those blocks do not need to protect the hull. They just need to float and soak up missile hits. It is basically a return to the sailing ship days of a ship is a ship and you mount what you need on it for peace or war. You lose ten or twenty ships you have ten or twenty more in port getting loaded for war to replace them.

          • Horn

            What’s the point in having this ship at all then? It’d have no offensive capabilities. Where’s the radar going to go if there is no island? We learned in the 1920s that if you are going to be landing or launching anything off a deck, then you will need an island to optimize its use.

          • Gary Church

            What’s the point in explaining this to you over and over? You don’t get it.

          • Horn

            Because you haven’t made it very clear. What would it be replacing? Are these now cargo carriers, MLPs, aircraft carriers, amphibious ships, or a combination? Are they supposed to be armed? “Only a certain number would be loaded for war.” If they are carrying cargo, how would that make them any different than the Lewis and Clark-class ships? If it’s survivability, then you’d be sacrificing way too much cargo space for it. Radar? If it is meant for aviation purposes then where would you maintain the aircraft? If there is a flight deck then you need an island (not in the middle of the ship); it’s a necessity. Is cargo supposed to be loaded in these containers? Are these containers permanently attached to the ship? If so, then how would you quickly load and unload cargo? If not, then you’d have to find a way to attach them so that they would separate from the ship as it starts sinking.
            Basically, I’m asking, “What is it’s purpose?”

            Side note: dry-cargo ships, like the one you linked, have the cargo containers sitting above the water line. I don’t see how that would save the ship, from an engineering stand point.

  • Don Bacon

    Sydney, how about your thoughts on why a Marine Corps administrator is heading a study Hagel demanded of the Navy about a sole-use Navy platform? How (and why) did that happen? Any speculation?

    Added: And what about this, Work being an LCS advocate?
    WASHINGTON — The US Senate late Wednesday confirmed Robert Work as deputy defense secretary.

  • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

    Again the USN is putting out request for information on platform ideas without a firm idea of what exactly they want it to do. Is this a blue water escort ship in need of limited area AAW while focusing on ASW? Is this still a green or brown water platform?
    IMO if you take out the MCM and swarmboat/pirate SuW requirement, you have the makings of a good old traditional Frigate, the only question is how robust does the AAW capability need to be, if we are talking about a mini Aegis destroyer you aren’t going to hit a price point that makes sense, I think you end up getting half the capability of a DDG-51 at 2/3 the price. That’s not a winning formula.

  • http://www.usmc.mil @notrizzo

    More thoughts on how and what happends next from the very smart Chris Cavas;

    http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140419/DEFREG02/304190020/Ship-Study-Should-Favor-Existing-Designs

    and another path entirely, a low-end DDG-51 version from the also very smart Craig Hooper;

    http://nextnavy.com/time-to-consider-a-low-end-littoral-operations-variant-ddg-51/

  • Horn

    I always believed frigates were supposed to screen AEGIS destroyers and larger ships from small craft, AAW, and ASW threats. If you want MCM capability, then build a dedicated MCM ship. Don’t skimp on MCM capability just to fit everything onto one ship. Minesweepers are relatively cheap to produce, compared to combat vessels.

  • Don Bacon

    from National Defense:

    It took the Navy more than 10 years to design and start building its littoral combat ships. The warship that would succeed the LCS — dubbed “small surface combatant” — might be in the fleet within just five years.

    Half the time and twice as useful!
    Tastes great and less filling!

  • Don Bacon

    Table 1 from last year’s GAO report–
    =======================================
    Concept
    LCS’s capability against adversaries
    ——————————-
    Early (2004-2008)
    Primarily developed for use in major combat operations.
    Will gain initial entry and provide assured access – or ability to enter contested spaces — and be employable and sustainable throughout the battlespace regardless of anti-access or area-denial environments.
    ———————————-
    Current (2011-2012)
    Current LCS weapon systems are under-performing and offer little chance of survival in a combat scenario.
    Not to be employed outside a benign, low-threat environment unless escorted by a multi-mission combatant providing credible anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine protection.
    =======================================
    Concept
    How LCS will deploy
    ——————————-
    Early (2004-2008)
    Will be a self-sufficient combatant designed to fight and win in shallow water and near-land environments without risking larger combatants in constricted areas.
    ———————————-
    Current (2011-2012)
    Lacks the ability to operate independently in combat. Will have to be well protected by multi-mission combatants. Multiple LCSs will likely have to operate in a coordinated strike attack group fashion for mutual support.
    ====================================
    Concept
    How mission package swaps will be utilized
    ——————————-
    Early (2004-2008)
    Mission packages will be quickly swapped out in an expeditionary theater in a matter of days.
    ———————————-
    Current (2011-2012)
    Mission packages can be swapped within 72 hours if all the equipment and personnel are in theater, which may take significantly longer. An LCS executing a package swap could be unavailable for between 12-29 days

  • bobbymike34

    Should bring back the arsenal ship concept able to launch hypersonic weapons, intermediate range global strike missiles and the new long range cruise missile.
    If you were at a stand off range of 2000km there are very few, if any, nations that could threaten the ship.

  • Agent Orange

    Yes! Come on lads, twenty-one days to do something about it!

  • Gary Church

    There is always Moffet’s idea from the 20’s:

    Basically a 100 tons of aluminum I-beam and fabric and a couple engines. At over 800 feet long it will impress the natives.

  • Gary Church
  • Don Bacon

    DefenseTech, May 1
    LCS Fort Worth Completes Test as Congress Cools on Program

    Navy officials told reporters Thursday the third Littoral Combat Ship recently completed a successful operational evaluation of its surface warfare technologies days after Congress slowed down the production rate for the vessel.

    The USS Fort Worth, the Navy’s third LCS, engaged in scenarios involving swarms of small boats, engagements with its 57mm gun, and search and seizure exercises, said Rear Adm. John Ailes, Program Executive Officer, LCS.

    “We destroyed all the targets and the crew’s performance was excellent. It was a great event and we are pleased with all facets of the surface warfare mission package,” Ailes told Military​.com in an interview.

    http://defensetech.org/2014/05/01/lcs-fort-worth-completes-test-as-congress-cools-on-program/

    • Gary Church

      I don’t know if calling a 57mm gun a “surface warfare package” is funny or sad.

      A Seahawk firing missiles is really far more effective than that gun.