Congress is always on the Pentagon’s case about overdue homework, but the sequestration-induced breakdown of the budget process over the last seven months has left the Defense Department even further behind than usual. Now the 2014 budget request is finally out — albeit already overtaken by events — and the Senate and House are scrambling to hold one hearing after another. To do their job, they need data the Pentagon hasn’t gotten to them yet: In this case, the Navy’s legally mandated Annual Naval Vessel Construction Plan.

The chairman and top Democrat on the Seapower panel of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Randy Forbes and Rep. Mike McIntyre, are about to send Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a terribly polite note asking the Navy to produce the plan before Wednesday, when the subcommittee will hold its hearing on the services’ budget. (Click “download this document” to read the letter).

The number and types of ships the Navy builds is a closely watched metric of the nation’s naval strength, frequently tossed around in partisan battles. That’s particularly true since January 2012, when the administration announced its now-infamous “pivot” to Asia and the Pacific, which as the world’s largest body of water puts a strategic premium on warships, and lots of them. Lately Congress has ordered the Navy not to get rid of aging ships ahead of schedule to save money, and such retirements are another part of the report.

“We know it’s finished and has been signed-out of the Chief of Naval Operations’ office,” a Hill staffer told Breaking Defense. “The hope is to get it approved from the Office of the Secretary of Defense before next week’s hearing.”


  • Curtis Conway

    USN’s New Frigate

    If we Keep It Simple so we don’t own the last “S”, then
    start with something already in construction and well understood. The US Coast Guard National Security Cutter
    (NSC) is an outstanding example of a smaller, very capable vessel that already
    possesses many of the attributes required to support combat operations at sea
    in the Littorals. The NSC is designed
    and built for significant time underway in the Northern Latitudes (North
    Atlantic/North Pacific). Few
    modifications are required, but several are needed to fill the bill for
    supplementing the battle group at sea, particularly for longer stints of
    underway time in the Pacific. Required
    improvements include:

    1. Range
    can be extracted by using one of the Hybrid Electric Drive configurations,
    enabling the stretching of fuel while cruising with the MAGTFs as slower

    2. Larger
    gun. Perhaps bigger than the 76mm
    currently on FFG-7 Class vessels.

    3. Missile

    a. The
    SPQ-9B 3D radar is already present to support missile operations.

    b. A
    RAM or ESSM in turret or flush VLS launchers employed on the DDG-1000 should be
    available. This should be a large and
    robust array of missiles due to the nature of the likely mass attack from our
    most likely foe in the Pacific. SEA Ram
    would make a better point defense missile system due to its autonomous
    operations capability (has its own radar).
    If sufficient energy is available then an upgrade to Directed Energy
    Point Defense (DEPD) in place of RAM/SEA Ram would be advisable. One does not have to reload lasers, just provide
    them power. VLS enables the employment
    of VLA (Vertical Launch ASROC) Anti-submarine Warfare weapons.

    c. Cooperative
    Engagement Capability (CEC), or net-centric combat system capability (NIFC-CA)

    4. Advanced
    display system for Combat Information Center (CIC) should be the Ship’s Self Defense System (SSDS).

    5. The
    US Navy’s Common Integrated Bridge Display system that will go on the new
    Carriers and Amphibious Assault Ships.

    I would truncate one of the two hangers to make room for
    additional VLS space. Of course the embarked
    helicopter would be a MH-60(R).

    The above items will escalate the cost of the platform.
    However, the longevity already built into the hull, with a well thought out
    Integrated Power System, including the Hybrid Electric Drive, will provide a
    guided Missile Frigate that will still be doing its job for over 30 years, and
    save a lot of fuel due to the propulsion system efficiencies.

    An additional sensor that is required would be SPY 3D (SPY-3/SPY-5/SPY-F/AMDR
    Lite) type radar. The antennas should be
    mounted as high on the mast as practical, integrated into its own Radar Set
    Controller (RSC) that supports data for displays and direction for
    weapons. Existing off-the-shelf
    components such as (SSDS) should be used in the Combat Information Center (CIC)
    for operations and control. Existing
    software for the RSC on surface ships, coupled with weapons control consoles of
    the other combat system elements located in the same space provide an
    integrated, central location from which to fight the ship. This will produce a relatively light weight
    base configuration for a sensitive and capable 3D radar capable guided missile
    frigate for a fraction of the cost of the larger DDG-51 surface combatants. Other
    bells and whistles for the base configuration can remain or added later:

    1. Integrated, automatic, encrypted, jam
    resistant, and Low Probability of Intercept, point-to-point communications
    built into the primary radar system using the array faces as the antenna.

    2. Wide
    band ESM receiver capability.

    3. Missile/gun
    fire control capability

    a. Anti-aircraft/missile

    b. Counter
    Battery Fire Direction

    4. Tracking

    a. Surface Picture

    b. Land
    mass for navigation

    c. Periscope

    With the RAM and/or ESSM it would be a great pinch hitter in
    the littorals in emergency situations.

    This SPY driven Mini-Aegis combat system on the US Coast
    Guard’s National Security Cutter hull (with modifications) will provide a very
    capable frigate sized vessel at about 1/3rd to ½ the costs of a
    DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Curtis Conway

    Concerning Carriers (rational and solution)

    There are those who wonder if the Pacific Pivot is a legitimate and necessary policy. The Middle East will always be a No-Win situation due to the mind set of “you
    must go away so we can win” mentality. Can’t negotiate without common ground. Europe is going to have to step up and start funding more of their own defense which they are starting to do, and we will always be present in some fashion.

    However, the Pacific represents a huge number of Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) necessary for our (and others) economic viability. The two main powers (Russia and China) both of which are escalating military buildup and placing pressure on those 18 neighboring nations in the Pacific Rim (South China Sea mostly), in some cases in territory that is clearly within their Economic Control Zones (within 200 nm of these nation’s coast lines) of their neighbors, and the Chinese are basing
    their expansion upon ancient territorial claims. Way too much water has been under the bridge for that, and the Chinese appear to be looking for a provocation to light the fuse of conflict. China has a huge land mass that they have yet to explore and exploit
    completely, yet is going after their lesser neighbors territory and resources. Also the Chinese will not go to international arbitration. Why? Because they know they will lose in the court of international opinion, the World Court (ICJ), and they do not intend to lose. Look at their plan and measure their resolve in this matter.

    The United States cannot Pivot fast enough. Our economy, and the economies of our allies in the region, depend upon this strategic move, and our economies depend upon continued traffic through these SLOCs. The defense budgets of those 18 nations reflects this reality. Our naval defensive strategy should as well. The very fact that the Chinese do not want more bird farms and tactical aircraft in the region is instructive. We do not have to attack China requiring longer range combat assets. We have to protect the SLOCs, and meet treaty obligations to our Allies.

    This is a mission made for Light Carriers or augmented Expeditionary Strike Groups. A USS America (LHA-6) Class Light Carrier (CVL in effect), with 18 F-35Bs, KV-22 Tankers, and EV-22 AEW&C aircraft are perfect for that task in the South China Sea and surrounding waters. THIS is not what the Chinese want to see in the region. As the George Washington (CVN-73) leaves the region there had better be a ready replacement on hand and maybe two on station. It will take a while to build, train, and stand up CVL Battle Groups. We can build four more LHA-6 Class vessels for significantly less than the cost of one Super Carrier, and the Marines should be relieved of their requirement to buy 80 F-35C with the full complement of F-35Bs for their inventory, training, and logistics train.

    Stretch out Kennedy and Enterprise for another decade and fill with CVLs based upon the USS America (LHA-6). Build at least four more hulls for a total of six. These will be our trouble shooters in the Pacific, and perhaps the Med.

  • Curtis Conway

    Naval Aviation Improvements

    The additional EA-18G Growler Electronic Attack assets is a wise move and buys much when used with stealth aircraft. The new radars of adversaries may make stealth more visible, but the EA-18G attenuates that advantage. One arrow I would add to the EA-18G’s quiver would be a High-Speed
    Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) capable AMRAAM missile.

    The 6th Generation Fighter should look a lot like an F-14D Tomcat in range and combat capability for dealing with future adversary in the Pacific who looks a lot like the old Soviet Union only more dangerous. Coordinated electronic attack capability should be added to all AESA equipped platforms including USAF.

    The V-22 is coming on line and maturing in all required missions (transport, tanker, COD) save one . . . AEW&C. The EV-22 AEW&C Osprey will provide far more synergistic capability for our 911 force (USMC) than its cost. The Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs) will now have AEW&C capability outside land based, or large deck carrier support, which is exactly what is required in the Big Pond (Pacific).

    Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) Debate

    The fleet of the future will require reliability, versatility, flexibility, and capability in order to stay out in front of the threat. When we place this prospect within the Pacific Basin we add a whole new dimension to the equation, and divert fields may be far away. Other “Flies in the ointment” are specific and unique logistics requirements for things like out-sized cargoes of the future. The F-35’s F135 engine in its shipping
    container for example. Then let’s add different operating environments that must
    be supported like an underway Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and an Amphibious
    Ready Group (ARG) that may, or may not be in the immediate vicinity of each
    other, or the beach, and that also needs some of that unique logistics support
    in the form of a peculiar out-sized cargo because they fly a similar aircraft
    with the same engine.

    The Pacific Basin with its vast reaches and large areas with no land around, except for some volcanic atolls upon which a V-22 could set down on the beach. We are talking about the Marine Amphibious World. The flexibility of supporting things with flight decks large and small become much more important and add weight to this factor in the decision making greatly.

    The F-35 is the name of the game for the future in the Marine Corps earlier (2015), and the US Navy later (2017). The F135 engine cannot be placed in either a 260kt cruise speed C-2 Greyhound or 280kt cruise speed V-22 Osprey intact. However, the 350kt cruise speed S-3 Viking rebuild with a larger fuselage can provide the required support . . . and much more. The S-3 aircraft is reliable and has long legs. The GE TF-34-101 has better performance (thrust, specific fuel consumption, and logistical support) today than its predecessors that powered Vikings of old. Development and construction of a new and modern S-3 Viking capable of carrying the encapsulated F135 engine is very possible and within a rather short period of time. Lockheed has already spent some time on this and dropping the flag on this rapid prototype project
    would come on more quickly than a whole new airframe, but time is getting short.

    Flexibility of fleet logistics support, within the context of underway units across a disparate group of aviation capable platforms, is the problem which our solution must fix. Fixed wing is obviously inappropriate for this solution alone. Other considerations in the flexibility argument is support of deployed expeditionary units that may have a vertical landing spot, and if it does, it may support more than just helos. The KV-22 can carry an underslung F135 engine capsule as well.

    Then finally the unforgiving Pacific Basin. Fuel is the key to success if you wish to have the largest probability of survival. How many times in the past did the tanker and a troubled jet head for the beach that was far away? One doing more with less is the secret to efficient use of our resources. The United States Navy has been without a robust and capable tanker aircraft since the retirement of the KA-6D and the S-3Bs. Time to build a mini KC-46A (multi-function tanker) for the Navy.

    The new KC-3A will be a tanker and a COD. The VRC Squadrons will become composite squadrons operating KC-3A and KV-22 aircraft. The roll-on/roll-off equipment will be interchangeable except for the strap down fuel tanks themselves. Control consoles and some support equipment will be the same. This solution provides flexibility and capability to every CSG that they have not enjoyed for some time. A COMBI KC-3A could escort a jet back to the beach and take cargo in half the cargo space on a single longitudinally loaded 463L pallet at the same time. The flexibility of KV-22s to ARGs is already showing possibilities. Training for COD pilots would be platform specific, but require Tanker Specific Training for the flight crew and refueling operators, if that is how it is configured. Everything may be run from the flight deck. The PMA-275 office can manage the KV-22 part of the program and a new PMA-XXX must be stood up for the KC-3A.

    Results will be greater flexibility by the VRCs to be able to get the cargo to wherever it needs to go. The CSGs and ARGs will not have to rely on the ‘Hub and Spoke’ supply chain saving time and fuel (less cost with greater flexibility). The flexibility to resupply all forces anywhere will be added to the VRC tool kit and they will have to DET to the underway platforms, thus expanding the Battle Force Commanders ability to accomplish his mission effectively and efficiently. Many future logistics problems will have a ready solution where in the past the enemy could count on our logistical train to act in a certain way due to equipment capabilities and limitations.

    Development of a pressurized version of the KV-22 will extend its legs and facilitate the development of and introduction of the EV-22 for the MAGTF in support of
    Amphibious Operations in the future.

    The VRC Squadron makeup will be somewhat different. Both
    will contain KV-22s and KC-3As, but the West Coast’s VRC-30 will be KC-3A

    This solution provides the greatest versatility, flexibility, and capability with two aircraft that have, or are currently, building very impressive reliability numbers and are both faster than the C-2 Greyhound. This provides a more efficient force in time response and fuel expenditure for underway logistical support.

  • Curtis Conway


    We must build more smaller multi-warfare capable, small surface combatants. The numbers do not look good in the future (near term or far) and the primary adversary in the Pacific is going to equal our numbers in 2020 with their current production rates, and they are NOT building lightly armed LCSs.

    We must delay large deck carrier production and concentrate on smaller aviation platforms for a decade to get the numbers up. Some of the platforms must be based forward to the Philippines and Australia and perhaps South Korea. The F-35B, V-22, KV-22, and (hopefully) the EV-22 will provide a very capable synergistic force to deal with hot-spots in the Pacific.

    Consideration for inter-service operability must become more of a design requirement on all service platforms in the future.

    Preserving the KC-10A platform with an upgrade will preserve KC-46A tanking capability while carrying more fuel and cargo. We will replace them with KC-Y as planned. If maintenance troops are needed for KC-46As then park older KC-135s in preference to the newer and more capable KC-10A.

    Fully funding Electro Magnetic Rail Gun and Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) should be a priority, with emphasis in current designed platforms for back-fit with these upgraded weapons. Power generation and distribution must already be there or these upgrades will be very long and expensive. They should be a 30-90 day upgrade period at the most during a future Intermediate Maintenance Availability (IMAV) period.

    The DEWs upgrade actually is an operationally synergistic capability. The DEWs increase Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) observation capability to any platform upon which it is installed. Close observation of a ‘line of sight’ target, in real time, is inherent in the design, and a ‘real time ready remedy’ is provided, if hostile intent is detected. This IS a game changing capability, particularly in the higher power levels available in the future (100Kw and greater). If you have a track, and time, options are available. Works night or day and (IR) in most bad weather.

    Got to get out in front with this stuff. Our enemies are.