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  • 1980’s Era Test and Evaluation Organization Seeks 1980’s Vintage Warship

    The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E’s) latest (2015) report on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program would at first glance appear another in a long line of damning reports suggesting the Navy end the troubled littoral combatant effort. A deeper examination, however, suggests a test and evaluation organization hopelessly locked in a 1980’s era of naval design. DOT&E demands the highest levels of physical survivability for the LCS sea frame as if this part of the LCS system alone was to be exclusively employed in high-end naval conflict. It excoriates the lack of progress in mission module development and sea frame reliability, and demands greater levels of testing, but sometimes grounds its disapproval of some LCS program elements on the result of just one test. The test and evaluation authority is unhappy that the sea frame crew cannot diagnose and repair all equipment casualties. This is not surprising as the LCS concept places a substantial portion of the system’s maintenance with shore-based facilities and units. The rest of the report is a “gotcha” list of details on the progress, or lack thereof in the various LCS mission modules and two sea frames. Perhaps it is time for DOT&E to leave the 1980’s and realize that a modular warship cannot be so directly compared with and tested to the same standards as its multi-mission, unitary capability predecessors.

    The first paragraph of the DOT&E report states, “The now-planned use of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) as a forward-deployed combatant, where it might be involved intense naval conflict, appears to be inconsistent with its inherent survivability in those same environments.” The report also says, “DOT&E does not expect either LCS variant to be survivable in high-intensity combat because the design requirements accept the risk that the crew would have to abandon ship under circumstances that would not require such action on other surface combatants,” and “Much of the ship’s mission capability would have been lost because of damage caused by the initial weapons effects or the ensuing fire.”

    DOT&E personnel must not have read or disagree with the descriptions and concepts of operations published by various authorities on the LCS program. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s 2013 Naval War College paper on LCS makes it very clear that the Navy has always accepted limitations in the LCS’s survivability in favor of low cost and greater numbers. Both sea frames are larger and more physically survivable than the Avenger class mine countermeasures ships (MCM’s) and Cyclone class patrol coastal ships (PC’s) that they replace. They are still robust ships in that they can survive upwards of 15% of their floodable length being compromised while remaining afloat.

    They are smaller and less physically survivable then the previous Perry class frigates but have equally robust active and passive defense systems. Unlike the FFG’s, the LCS is not intended to operate alone in high threat environments. If damaged in battle the LCS is designed to limp back to base and not attempt to” return to the fight” as are so-called high-end U.S. surface warships. Large cruise missiles and torpedoes are the likely weapons of an enemy in what the DOT&E report describes as “intense naval conflict.” It remains to be seen, however, that any warship could meet the test and evaluation authority’s demands for “survivability.” The DDG-51 class USS Cole was completely disabled in an October 2000 terrorist attack by what some experts described as a 400-700 pound shaped charge warhead. The Russian supersonic P-270 Moskit cruise missile has a warhead estimated to be 700 pounds of which 300 are actual explosive. The impact of even one such weapon at supersonic speed would likely disable any U.S. surface combatant, making DOT&E’s criticism of LCS survivability in “intense naval conflict” a moot point if physical resistance to damage is the primary concern. The Navy has accepted limitations in the LCS design from the inception of the program. DOT&E is welcome to disagree, but they need to say that in their report and not compare LCS to higher capability warships that are little more survivable if hit by cruise missiles likely to be employed by U.S. opponents.

    In a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on LCS released last month, DOT&E was very critical of the lack of testing within the LCS program. It suggested that, “The sparse data available do not allow a strong statement about LCS’s ability to meet requirements in other operational scenarios.” One month later, DOT&E’s year-end report on LCS questioned the suitability and reliability of the Independence sea frame based on testing of one representative of the class. The DOT&E report lists a number of equipment casualties and other problems, but does not compare these faults against previous ships under similar test circumstances. A laundry list of equipment faults encountered during a testing cycle is useless without comparison to a deployed, functional unit of the class, or another ship engaged in a similar test and evaluation cycle. Despite this, the operational test and evaluation authority seems content to fault the LCS program based on the same limited testing they recently deplored.

    DOT&E criticizes the LCS sea frames crews because, “they do not have adequate training, tools, and technical documentation to diagnose failures or correct them when they occur.” The testing agency acknowledges the emphasis on off-board LCS maintenance when it states, “By design, the ship’s small crew does not have the capacity to effect major repairs. Instead, the Navy’s support concept depends on the use of remote assistance in trouble shooting problems and the use of Navy repair organizations and contractors for repair assistance.” Despite this admission, DOT&E makes the superficial criticism that, “the Navy’s limited stock of repair parts for LCS systems, many of which were sourced from offshore vendors, can result in long logistics delays and occasionally forces the Navy to resort to cannibalization of another ship in order to expedite repairs.” These comments sound more like the usual criticisms of the LCS program from the GAO and CBO, rather than observations on operational testing of LCS capabilities. This is perhaps not surprising given that DOT&E Director Dr. J. Michael Gilmore is a veteran of the CBO and was a critic of the LCS concept while serving in that office’s National Security Division. Dr. Gilmore may very well continue to object to the idea of off-board maintenance support. If so, he should make that clear in his report, and not blame parts shortages. As with its survivability definition, DOT&E’s concept of proper ship maintenance seems grounded in past decades where a warship’s operational and repair capabilities were resident on a unitary hull. The LCS concept tries to limit the costs of maintenance by separating some aspects of the ship’s missions and capabilities from its hull as suggested in a 2006 RAND report commissioned by the Navy to investigate the spiraling cost of naval surface combatants.

    The operational test and evaluation office puts on a different “public face” when its 1980’s-era testing methods are criticized. In a recent response to an article by Sidney Freedberg Jr. on the breakingdefense.com website entitled, “LCS Test Vs. Fast Attack Boats ‘Unfair”, DOT&E fell back on a familiar defense to justify its criticisms. The office stated that it accepted that, “LCS is being introduced in an incremental manner,” and that it, “accepted the Navy’s defined success criteria to assess these events.” Despite this, DOT&E goes on to say that, “In a real battle, there would be a good chance LCS might have sustained damage at that point that could have affected its subsequent capability to successfully repel the attack.” This statement shows the test and evaluation office insists on measuring the Navy by its own standards and not those the Navy desired, in spite of accepting the Navy test criteria. It would be helpful for DOT&E to publish a list of their experts involved in monitoring the LCS program to assess whether or not the test and evaluation authority has the operational experience to be as critical as it has been of the littoral combat ship program.

    The 2015 report includes substantial material from past years’ reporting which makes the laundry list of LCS faults appear more dangerous and distressing. Such reports on warship faults have been the stock and trade of Congressional watchdog groups like DOT&E, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) since the early 1970’s. They are absolute requirements for organizations whose primary mission and reason for continued funding and existence is finding fault.

    LCS was never intended to be as survivable in high-end naval combat as previous warships were designed. The modular warship was designed as a component of a joint, networked battle force whose payloads are more important than the platforms that carry them. LCS is a compromise platform that included elements of previous frigate, patrol and mine warfare platforms. It sacrifices some of the physical survivability of the previous frigate design in achievement of numbers of ships. It forgoes redundancy and other physical characteristics of survivability in favor of active and passive defenses that maximize its ability to field modular payloads. It does not have to replicate the physical and capability-based survivability of larger warships. To do so would increase its price, limit its modular capabilities and needlessly replicate what is already provided by high- end combatants like the DDG 51 class destroyer. Demanding that LCS be more physically "survivable" in order to play a role in high end combat, and retain maximum maintenance and repair abilities aboard represent past naval designs whose costs are not sustainable in building a low end surface warship for present need. In demanding legacy, expensive capabilities in LCS, DOT&E is in effect demanding that MTV play music videos, even when every such program is available in seconds to a customer on youtube. DOT&E is clearly locked in a 1980's assessment of a 21st century battle network force. Link
    _______________________________________

    A spirited rebuttal of the "LCS is not survivable" accusation
    My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

    Comment


    • Let's bring back battleships, A-10, and F-14!!!
      "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by gunnut View Post
        Let's bring back battleships, A-10, and F-14!!!
        No need to bring back the A-10, it never left :-D
        My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
          [B][SIZE=3]
          low cost and greater numbers.
          Oops...

          2 sugestions to lower costs: drop the "40knot" mania, and carry only 1 Seahawk.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by gunnut View Post
            Let's bring back battleships, A-10, and F-14!!!
            Good thing the A-10 never left.... ;)

            You forgot the F-111 though....!


            Funny, but with the navy now looking at the longer range and faster anti ship missiles and the everyone paying more attention to the pacific.... seems like something with the range and ability (long range aam's) (modernized) of the F-14 is pretty attractive.....

            And what's this talk of 'arsenal' planes...

            Comment


            • Originally posted by bfng3569 View Post
              And what's this talk of 'arsenal' planes...
              Right? Novel concept eh? :-)
              My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
                Right? Novel concept eh? :-)
                does this mean my 80's ripped jeans and jean jacket are back in style too...

                amazing how everything comes back around eventually.....

                Comment


                • Originally posted by bfng3569 View Post
                  does this mean my 80's ripped jeans and jean jacket are back in style too...

                  amazing how everything comes back around eventually.....
                  Let's bring back bell bottoms and platform shoes.
                  "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by gunnut View Post
                    Let's bring back bell bottoms and platform shoes.
                    Ok, now you've gone too far back... :(

                    Comment


                    • Eh, given that i saw a mid-20s girl with a flower head wreath on the train today...

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by kato View Post
                        Eh, given that i saw a mid-20s girl with a flower head wreath on the train today...
                        Was she going to San Francisco?
                        My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

                        Comment


                        • Size Matters: Five Reasons the Littoral Combat Ship Is Crucial To Future Naval Operations
                          By Loren Thompson

                          On November 1, 2001, the U.S. Navy disclosed a plan to develop three new classes of warship, each of which was intended to make a distinct break with past designs. Two of those classes were eventually terminated due to high cost. The third is still with us, thanks to its modest price-tag. Called the Littoral Combat Ship, it was conceived to go where other warships could not – into the shallow, contested waters along hostile coastlines.

                          The Littoral Combat Ship was a good idea then and it is a good idea now. Its virtue resides not just in how the geopolitical and fiscal environments have changed since the Cold War ended, but in the way it allowed the Navy to experiment with new ideas aimed at transforming the construction and employment of warships. Everything about LCS was transformational: the way it was developed, the way it was deployed, the way it was manned and the way it was maintained.

                          LCS was a bold attempt to think outside the box, and it predictably became a focus of controversy. Critics claimed it was deficient in both defensive protection and offensive punch because it couldn’t do everything a big surface combatant could do. This complaint was hardly surprising considering that the new warship only cost a quarter of what a destroyer did, but it overlooked the fact that LCS could do plenty of things the destroyer could not do while networking with other warships and aircraft to obtain whatever off-board support it needed.

                          Like the F-35 fighter, another revolutionary combat system under constant attack in the political culture, the Littoral Combat Ship never gets a fair shake from the general media. Headlines complain about the most prosaic deficiencies that testers uncover — the kind of problems endemic to every new class of warship — while ignoring any good news.

                          For instance, in 2015 the Pentagon’s director of operational testing reported that one version of LCS called the Freedom class was “well-suited” to maritime security operations and that its main gun system “performed reliably” during testing. His report went on to state that “the Freedom class LCS has sufficient aviation facilities and meets Navy requirements to safely launch, recover, and handle all appropriate aircraft” while operating in rough seas. Guess how many media outlets bothered to report these findings.

                          The reason I decided to write about LCS today is that the Obama Administration’s final defense budget, submitted to Congress Tuesday, calls for cutting the planned buy of littoral warships from 52 to 40, so money can be freed up for other purposes such as enhancing the land-attack capabilities of attack submarines. There’s nothing wrong with where policymakers want to put the money, but this is just the latest example of how programs are being cannibalized by the Obama Administration’s chronic under-funding of military modernization.

                          So maybe this is a good time to recall why the Littoral Combat Ship was conceived in the first place, and why further complicating its already baroque evolution is a disservice to our nation’s warfighters. Here are five reasons the Navy needs LCS to cope with emerging maritime challenges, and why any alternative is likely to be more costly. (I should mention that several companies involved in the program contribute to my think tank and/or are consulting clients; the same is true of contractors who would like to see the money go elsewhere.)

                          Emerging maritime threats are mainly near coastlines. The U.S. Navy is postured primarily to cope with high-intensity threats in the open sea. Although there is considerable flexibility built into aircraft carriers, attack submarines and surface combatants, none of the warships in the fleet today is optimized for combat in areas close to hostile shores. However, that is where most of the new threats are emerging, from terrorist attacks to floating mines to diesel-electric submarines to freelance piracy. Having retired all of its Cold War frigates — the class of traditional warships best suited to shallow water operations — the Navy needs fast and agile vessels that can cope with emerging threats near coastlines.

                          Other warships are ill-suited to littoral warfare. It doesn’t make much sense to send a billion-dollar destroyer in pursuit of pirates or small groups of terrorists. Even if they could negotiate the shallow waters and narrow passages found in places like Southeast Asia, warships designed to defend against threats like ballistic missiles and supersonic fighters won’t necessarily fare well if confronted with swarms of small, high-speed boats that dart out of nearby inlets. The agile LCS, which can sprint faster than the posted speed limit on many interstate highways, is a better option in such environments. Its 57 mm gun, which fires over 200 rounds per minute with high accuracy, is a good match for the kind of surface and airborne threats found near most coastlines.

                          LCS delivers the right capabilities for coastal warfare. Relatively few navies around the world operate the kind of high-end warships America’s warfighters favor, and those that do are mostly U.S. allies. However, many potential adversaries like Iran know how to lay mines in maritime chokepoints and send swarms of speedboats into nearby sea lanes; a growing number also are acquiring very quiet diesel-electric submarines with an eye to denying U.S. military access in their regions. LCS is equipped with warfighting modules employing manned and unmanned systems for countering such threats. It is also well-suited to inserting special forces along coastlines, collecting reconnaissance, and performing other tasks that bigger warships would be too unwieldy to accomplish.

                          LCS costs much less than other warships to build and operate. U.S. surface warships typically cost well over a billion dollars each, but LCS costs a fraction of that according to naval expert Ron O’Rourke. So it is feasible to buy enough vessels to cover troubled littoral regions around the world for far less money than if the Navy was only building traditional warships. And the savings don’t stop with construction costs: LCS will have a crew of less than 100 sailors, compared with several hundred on major surface combatants. Also, its crewing concept permits each vessel to be deployed more frequently than conventional warships. So the Littoral Combat Ship will have a lower price-tag and greater productivity across its life-cycle.

                          In naval warfare, flexibility is essential to future relevance.
                          If there is one thing military planners should have learned over the last two decades, it is that new threats arise with little warning. So being able to adapt fast will be critical to remaining relevant in future conflicts. The modular design of LCS, which allows the mix of on-board capabilities to be changed quickly, is a logical response to the constantly shifting operational environment. There are many options for modifying the ship’s features in the future. For instance, its automated gun, built by BAE Systems , could be armed with hyper-velocity smart rounds that provide pinpoint accuracy at three times greater range. The mix of unmanned vehicles, sensors and networking options can also be evolved as needed.

                          Judging from the direction the Navy was given to cut the LCS buy in this year’s budget, such thinking is now out of favor as Pentagon policymakers fixate on the rising maritime challenge posed by China. But China is only one country, and the threat it poses is unique. In Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Latin America, it will usually be more cost effective to defend America’s interests using fast and flexible warships like the Littoral Combat Ship, rather than sending high-end vessels. With fewer than 100 major surface combatants in the current fleet and undersea-warfare assets stretched thin, the Navy needs an inexpensive way of dealing with all the dangers that might otherwise go unanswered in a chaotic world. Whether we call it a fast frigate or small surface combatant, LCS still looks like the right answer. Link
                          My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
                            LCS costs much less than other warships to build ...
                            Ok... I won't discuss the "operate" part, but build? While an Arleight Burke does cost over 1.6 billion, that's for a fully equiped/armed 10.000 ton ship. The Independence (LCS-2) cost over 700 million, has fewer weapons built-in and has only 3.000 tons... so, cost-wise, not exactly very good...

                            Originally posted by TopHatter View Post
                            In naval warfare, flexibility is essential to future relevance.
                            And the LCS has it?! It has to go home for every mission change! Where's the flexibility in that?...

                            Comment


                            • To me, the article mostly reminds me that the USN has an entirely different idea what "coastal" waters are.

                              To them, "coastal" starts where the 10m draft of a CVN would let it run aground. To us, "coastal" starts when a submarine drags up a sand wave behind it pulled from the ground half a meter beneath (and yes, we still operate em in these coastal waters).

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by jlvfr View Post
                                Ok... I won't discuss the "operate" part, but build? While an Arleight Burke does cost over 1.6 billion, that's for a fully equiped/armed 10.000 ton ship. The Independence (LCS-2) cost over 700 million, has fewer weapons built-in and has only 3.000 tons... so, cost-wise, not exactly very good...
                                Still a savings of nearly a billion dollars.

                                Originally posted by jlvfr View Post
                                And the LCS has it?! It has to go home for every mission change! Where's the flexibility in that?...
                                Well I don't think anybody is saying that the LCS is a Transformer that can instantly shape-shift on the fly.
                                And "home" could very well be in the Middle East or Asia, at least as far as mission module changes go.

                                I think the point is, nobody seems to want to talk about what's going right with the LCS (or the F-35, for that matter). It's all doom-and-gloom and nothing is going well.
                                My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.

                                Comment

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