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12 juin 2014 4 12 /06 /juin /2014 16:20
USS Coronado Completes Final Contract Trials



Jun 9, 2014 ASDNews Source : US Navy


USS Coronado (LCS 4) successfully completed final contract trials (FCT) June 6.


The trial, administered by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey, is part of a series of post-delivery test and trial events through which the ship and its major systems are exercised.


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17 septembre 2013 2 17 /09 /septembre /2013 12:20
Surface Warfare Mission Package Concept. Government Accountability Office Graphic

Surface Warfare Mission Package Concept. Government Accountability Office Graphic

BETHPAGE, N.Y. – Sept. 16, 2013 – Northrop Grumman Corporation


Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has received a $25.2 million contract from the U.S. Navy for additional Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mission Modules. The company will deliver three mission module packages - two for surface warfare missions and one for mine countermeasures.


"Northrop Grumman continues to demonstrate that, as the mission package integrator, we are delivering high quality, fully integrated mission modules," said Doug Shaffer, director of information operations and electronic attack, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "With this procurement, we will work with our customer to capture synergies across the mission module production base, enhance production and supplier base stability, and reduce cost to the Navy."


The littoral combat ship has three primary missions – mine warfare, antisubmarine warfare and surface warfare. Each of the mission packages involves the integration of manned and unmanned systems operating across the air, surface and subsurface domains.


"I continue to be impressed with the Northrop Grumman-led teams' performance as they deliver high quality mission modules on cost and schedule," said Capt. John Ailes, Navy littoral combat ship mission module program manager.


Each mission package comprises a specific set of subsystems such as data processing equipment, vehicles and sensors, and others. The capabilities contained in each mission package focus on mine countermeasures, littoral antisubmarine warfare or littoral surface warfare operations. The mission modules being delivered under this contract facilitate efficient modular mission package embarkation, mission package operations and debarkation that is central to the LCS modular Mission Package concept.


To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered two surface warfare mission modules and one mine countermeasures mission module for LCS. The second and third Northrop Grumman-produced mine countermeasures mission module and the third surface warfare mission modules are currently in production. Northrop Grumman performs the final integration work at the Mission Package Support Facility located at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, Calif.


Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in unmanned systems, cyber, C4ISR, and logistics and modernization to government and commercial customers worldwide. Please visit www.northropgrumman.com for more information.

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10 septembre 2013 2 10 /09 /septembre /2013 11:20
Both variants of the LCS class at sea photo USN

Both variants of the LCS class at sea photo USN

Sept. 09, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: Congressional Research Service; issued Sept. 3, 2013)


Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress Ronald O'Rourke

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a relatively inexpensive Navy surface combatant equipped with modular “plug-and-fight” mission packages for countering mines, small boats, and diesel-electric submarines, particularly in littoral (i.e., near-shore) waters.

Navy plans call for fielding a total force of 52 LCSs. Twelve LCSs were funded from FY2005 through FY2012. Another four (LCSs 13 through 16) were funded in FY2013, although funding for those four ships has been reduced by the March 1, 2013, sequester on FY2013 funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2014 budget requests $1,793.0 million for four more LCSs (LCSs 17 through 20), or an average of about $448 million per ship.

Two very different LCS designs are being built. One was developed by an industry team led by Lockheed; the other was developed by an industry team that was led by General Dynamics. The Lockheed design is built at the Marinette Marine shipyard at Marinette, WI; the General Dynamics design is built at the Austal USA shipyard at Mobile, AL. LCSs 1, 3, 5, and so on are Marinette Marine-built ships; LCSs 2, 4, 6, and so on are Austal-built ships.

The 20 LCSs procured or scheduled for procurement in FY2010-FY2015 (LCSs 5 through 24) are being procured under a pair of 10-ship, fixed-price incentive (FPI) block buy contracts that the Navy awarded to Lockheed and Austal USA on December 29, 2010.

The LCS program has become controversial due to past cost growth, design and construction issues with the lead ships built to each design, concerns over the ships’ ability to withstand battle damage, and concerns over whether the ships are sufficiently armed and would be able to perform their stated missions effectively.

Some observers, citing one or more of these issues, have proposed truncating the LCS program to either 24 ships (i.e., stopping procurement after procuring all the ships covered under the two block buy contracts) or to some other number well short of 52. Other observers have proposed down selecting to a single LCS design (i.e., continuing production of only one of the two designs) after the 24th ship.

In response to criticisms of the LCS program, the Navy has acknowledged certain problems and stated that it was taking action to correct them, disputed other arguments made against the program, and maintained its support for completing the planned program of 52 ships. Reported comments from some Navy officials suggest that the Navy might be open to changing the design of one or both LCS variants after the 24th ship or perhaps down selecting to a single LCS design after the 24th ship.

A September 2, 2013, press report stated, “The office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD)
reportedly supports the idea of limiting total purchases of littoral combat ships to only 24.... The Navy, according to sources, is countering with proposals for higher numbers, but strongly advocates going no lower than 32 ships.... The OSD proposal to limit LCS to 24 ships is understood to be part of” an alternative Department of Defense (DOD) budget plan that assumes reduced levels of DOD spending and includes “severe reductions in purchases and programs.”

Issues for Congress concerning the LCS program include the following:
• the impact on the LCS program of the March 1, 2013, sequester on FY2013 funding and unobligated prior-year funding for the program;
• the potential impact on the LCS program of a possible sequester later this year or early next year on FY2014 funding and unobligated prior-year funding for the program;
• whether to truncate the LCS program to 24 ships or some other number well short of 52;
• whether procurement of LCS sea frames and mission modules should be slowed until operational testing of the sea frames and mission modules is more complete and other acquisition-process milestones are met;
• whether to down select to a single LCS design after the 24th ship;
• technical risk in the LCS program; and
• what defense-acquisition policy lessons, if any, the LCS program may offer to policymakers.

Click here for the full report (94 PDF pages) hosted on the Federation of American Scientists website.

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31 mai 2013 5 31 /05 /mai /2013 12:20
New US Navy Littoral Combat Ships Cannot Fullfil Agreed Missions

16/05/2013 by Victoria Knowles - Armed Forces International Reporter


A Navy ship cannot meet its mission, according to an internal US report.


Last year, US Navy chiefs were cautioned that a program to assemble Littoral Combat Ships, costing $37 billion, cannot fulfill its agreed mission due to the vessels being too lightly armed and manned, a confidential report found.


"This review highlights the gap between ship capabilities and the missions the Navy will need LCS to execute", the 36-page report said, compiled by Rear Admiral Samuel Perez for the Navy last year.


The Littoral Combat Ship is a vessel that can adapt to carry out one of three assigned roles: anti-submarine, anti-mine, or ocean surface combat. To achieve this, it uses interchangeable modules, missiles, unmanned underwater vehicles and helicopters, dependent on the mission. In theory, these modules function like LEGOs, interchanging a sonar collection in the anti-submarine equipment for a 30mm gun from the surface warfare kit.


Littoral Combat Ships Do Not Function Effectively


But in practice, these modules don't function efficiently. The target was a 96-hour turnaround between the in place modules and other specific tools required. A vessel this flexible and adaptable could respond quickly in the event of a crisis. But the report, acquired by Bloomberg News, reveals that while a four day module exchange technically is possible, a nearby dock is required, with the next module's components already to hand. This means a lot of preparation beforehand is needed to set up, and necessitates acquiring spare modules from naval bases in advance. This is a process that, during a training exercise, took weeks.


Also, the Littoral Combat Ship is far from durable. A late report states that the vessel is not anticipated to remain competent following a strike from an opponent, which presents a major issue for a naval ship. Granted, it wouldn't be able to execute an entire naval battle on its own, but it takes less than an enemy warship to sink it: this vessel can be taken out by only a single hostile cruise missile.


The Navy currently has 20 vessels under contract from a proposed fleet of 52. Construction costs have increased two-fold, from an original target of $220 million per ship to $440 million.


It is still feasible for the Littoral Combat Ship to undergo drastic improvements; while the 12 month-old report highlights crucial flaws, they are not completely unconquerable. Addressing them will require further monetary invest and time, which is a period of sequestration, both these resources are progressively scare.

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20 mai 2013 1 20 /05 /mai /2013 11:35


May 17, 2013 By Zachary Keck - Flashpoints


Despite growing questions concerning cost overruns and survivability in conflict, the U.S. Navy plans to send 11 littoral combat ships (LCS) to the Pacific region by 2022, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, Jonathan Greenert, said this week, Xinhua and Jane’s reported.

Speaking at the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX) in Singapore on Tuesday, Greenert told reporters that the Navy ultimately hopes to deploy four LCS to Singapore by 2022, with the remaining seven heading to Sasebo, Japan, where they will replace the mine countermeasures ships currently stationed there.

The LCS is a fast, maneuverable, and multi-mission surface ship that is designed most immediately to enable the U.S. Navy to operate a shallow vessel in coastal waters to deal with a number of different emerging asymmetric threats, including anti-access challenges.

The Navy first ordered LCS in 2004 and under the most recent 30-year shipbuilding plan will ultimately procure 52 vessels, down from the 82 it planned to purchase in early 2005. They come in the Freedom variant and Independence variant, which are being built by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, respectively.

The first LCS, the USS Freedom (LCS 1), left its home port in San Diego in March of this year and reached Singapore in the middle of last month to begin an eight-month deployment, its maiden overseas voyage. It was expected to participate in the IMDEX conference this week.

At the conference Greenert said that nations in the region had been impressed with the USS Freedom’s capabilities. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin used IMDEX to pitch a multi-mission ship similar to the LCS to Southeast Asian nations, including Singapore.

Inside the U.S., however, the LCS program has lately come under increasing scrutiny. An internal U.S. Navy report written last year but leaked to the press this month questioned whether it was too lightly armed and manned to fulfill its declared missions. A report by Bloomberg News, which obtained a copy of the report, said:

“This review highlights the gap between ship capabilities and the missions the Navy will need LCS to execute. Failure to adequately address LCS requirements and capabilities will result in a large number of ships that are ill-suited to execute” the warfighting needs of regional commanders.

The report went on to note that the ship’s width may prevent it from utilizing certain ports and judged the decision to procure two LCS variants as creating unnecessary logistical and maintenance burdens.

Compounding the ship’s troubles, many of the planned ships are now running between eight and thirteen months behind schedule. This revelation has prompted criticism from some members of Congress, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ). At a Congressional hearing earlier this month, Sen. McCain noted: “The Navy plans for the Littoral Combat Ship to comprise over one-third of the nation’s total surface combatant fleet by 2028, and yet the LCS has not demonstrated to date any adequate performance of assigned missions…. We need to fix it, or find something else quickly.”

Navy officials have continued to defend the LCS, however. Speaking on board the USS Freedom on Saturday, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the program had started out as a mess but has since become one of the Navy’s best performing programs.

Calling LCS “an incredibly capable ship,” Mabus said that the ships are “going to be one of the most important crucial platforms in the United States Navy in the future.”

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7 juin 2012 4 07 /06 /juin /2012 11:39

USS Fort Worth crédits LOCKHEED MARTIN


07.06.2012 By Galrhan - informationdissemination.net


Today's guest is Christopher Cavas, Journalist at Defense News and Navy Times.

"You have covered the Littoral Combat Ship program from inception to present, and know the history of the program as well as anyone. You have written a story on virtually every newsworthy event related to the Littoral Combat Ship from the beginning. You are one of a handful of people outside the Navy and Industry who has both a deep history and familiarity with the program. Some suggest the LCS program should be canceled. Others say the LCS program has merit. What is the Littoral Combat Ship in your words, and what should LCS be looking to the future?"

The Littoral Combat Ship is, in a word, a challenge. A challenge to understand, a challenge to develop, a challenge to build. The program is a challenge to manage, to defend, to get to sea. To train for and crew, to support, to maintain. To develop mission modules for, to perfect and operate dozens of new technologies in those modules, to control those technologies in an operational environment. A challenge to develop a concept of operations for, to convey to the fleet what it should be used for, to keep from being misused.

For a decade now, the program has struggled to explain its purpose. It remains an incomplete story, constantly threatened, continually under attack, and desperately anxious to prove itself. The challenge to validate the program is repeated with every annual budget cycle, inside the Pentagon and to Congress.

The political challenge is constantly repeated as lawmakers come and go. Recently, several politicians relatively new to the program or to Capitol Hill have called for stronger oversight and more government reports.

But LCS has never suffered from a lack of oversight. Questions about the program’s progress were a regular feature of every Navy posture hearing beginning in 2004. The House Armed Services Committee, particularly Seapower subcommittee Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and his successor Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), routinely held LCS hearings featuring not only Navy and industry reps, but all the strongest LCS critics, including government oversight experts from the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and the Government Accountability Office, along with a host of think tank witnesses (including Bob Work, then a Washington analyst, now, as Navy under secretary, the ship’s cheerleader-in-chief). A series of Pentagon oversight entities constantly reviewed the program’s purpose and performance, usually with strong criticisms and guidance. For years, every budget bill report from the House and Senate appropriations and armed services committees has contained strong language expressing concerns about the program’s performance, even while continuing to support the LCS concept.

US Navy Photo

Most of this discussion centered on the two LCS ship designs. Yet the mission modules -- the key to the LCS concept of a platform able to change missions with a swap of equipment -- continue to be a problem area, often poorly articulated by presenters and misunderstood by listeners. LCS discussions still focus on the ships, something perhaps not hard to understand given that the makeup of the mine module has changed, the equipment and the very concept of the anti-submarine module has been fundamentally altered, and the surface module lost its surface-to-surface missile -- the most powerful element it had going. All of this compounded by the fact that none of the modules is in service, or even been operationally demonstrated.
With two ships in commission, another about to be delivered, and more on the way, the LCS is now moving into an entirely new phase, transitioning from a development, acquisition and shipbuilding program into an operational mode. The center of LCS discussion is moving outside Washington to Norfolk and San Diego. Next year it will jump across the world’s largest ocean and drop squarely in Singapore, where the western Pacific press, from a variety of viewpoints, will be taking great notice.

The fleet is only tentatively picking up the LCS drumbeat. Inside the beltway, Work is today the type’s primary champion, staunchly and often emotionally defending and explaining the ship to any and all comers. The Navy’s top leadership and the flags at NAVSEA continue to talk up the program and the Pentagon’s surface directorate is joining in. U.S. Fleet Forces commander Adm. John Harvey in Norfolk has been a key advocate, particularly in his admonitions last year to fleet commanders not to use the ship in roles for which it isn’t intended. Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, commander of naval surface forces in San Diego, now is speaking about the Freedom’s potential to be an effective fleet unit.

But years of over-reaching promises followed by long production delays have eroded confidence among mid-level officers and experienced sailors in the program’s future. O-4s and O-5s, E-7s and E-8s seem to be routinely advising their juniors to bypass LCS and aim for more established programs. O-6s who five years ago were enthusiastic LCS supporters have turned away.

Even the voice of industry has become somewhat muted. Lockheed Martin remains out in front in many LCS promotion efforts, joined now by the Italian firm Fincantieri, which purchased the Marinette Marine shipyard that builds LockMart’s ships. But General Dynamics has gone virtually silent, a consequence of a 2010 decision to split from its Austal USA shipbuilding partner to position itself for future LCS ships, only to see that possibility slip away with yet another Navy change-of-concept for the program’s construction. Austal USA, a small-time operation compared with the GD behemoth, has not come close to matching its former partner’s PR efforts.

Adding to a lack of cohesiveness, both LCS primes still convey a sense of competition, even though the Navy is committed -- for the moment -- to building equal numbers of each type. The “ours is better than theirs” attitude might be good for one or other of the designs, but it is not helping the overall LCS effort.

US Navy Photo

This is a frustrating time in the program’s development. The two prototype ships have yet to take effective mission modules into action. The adolescent concept is starting to look real -- both LCS ships finally joined together at the beginning of May in San Diego -- but it will still be some time before an LCS is doing something the Navy really needs it to do.

From the mid-2000s when the LCS construction schedule started to slide and zoom up in cost, the program acquired a widely-acknowledged reputation as a troubled (that’s a nice word for it) effort. Navy mismanagement, changing priorities, overzealous and unrealistic expectations, shipyard and contractor inexperience all piled on to give the program an aura of unrelenting chaos. People might not understand what it was, but lots of folks -- particularly on Capitol Hill -- knew it was a mess. It took years for the service to work its way through numerous issues. Many problems remain, but it seems now the worst has been overcome, at least from a programmatic standpoint. In fact, from many aspects -- steady schedule, fixed pricing, stable design, increasing shipbuilding experience -- the LCS program is entering into a new era of maturity.

But widespread negative perceptions remain, and everyone involved in the effort remains challenged to demonstrate it can do what it is supposed to do. Still without any concrete missions accomplished, the LCS continues to be the target of often withering criticisms. The past few months in particular have seen a dramatic rise in the number of negative media stories, followed by attention-craving Congressmen calling for more oversight and more hearings and more reviews.

Problem is, none of these recent negative reports has offered anything new. More information about old problems, in some cases, but no new issues. Eternal hand-wringing about old problems is fun for some, but is it productive? Who is questioning the questioners? Or is it just a familiar tune that everyone’s used to?

Junior lawmakers new to the game or those who never sat on the relevant committees calling for new hearings about things they missed is nothing new. But that they do so is not always related to good oversight -- sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned grandstanding. (Imagine, politicians trying to call attention to themselves!)

Reporters writing shallow or repetitive stories, and editors calling for similar stories because everyone else is doing them, is not good journalism, even when it comes from leading publications. Sometimes it’s an honestly elusive story, sometimes it’s just plain lazy.

Leakers who offer deeper information about situations already reported don’t always have great new stuff, sometimes they just have more stuff.

Think tanks who jump on these reports as indicators of true developments, rather than media and political frenzies, don’t help by granting an aura of learned pretentiousness to the discussions.

Critics who simply don’t like the LCS concept – and aren’t going to change their minds -- aren’t always describing real problems. Sometimes they’re just talking about their personal preferences. Sometimes they just don’t want to take the time to really find out what’s happening, repetitively recycling great rants from yesteryear.

On the other side of the argumentative aisle, Navy leaders describing the LCS as a mature, well-thought out and operationally proven system do the entire effort a disservice by getting ahead of the game. Talking about four ships in Singapore, eight ships in Bahrain, or meaningful contributions to the art of mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare and surface actions and drug hunting isn’t very helpful when you try and make it sound like you’re out there right now doing that sort of thing.

US Navy Photo

With the primary acquisition challenges now dealt with, with the Navy beginning to focus on the effort to get these ships into service, here’s the crux of LCS from here on out: change.

To be sure, there are plans in place for everything the Navy’s planners can think of. But chances are exceptionally high that everything will change as the ships and their crews take them to sea.

LCS is not a done deal. It is not a mature, final design. It does not have a fully proven concept of operations. It is not clear how many sailors should crew the ship, or if a group of manned and unmanned off-board vehicles can be simultaneously and effectively operated, or if those systems will work, or what effect having an LCS with any particular module will truly have on an operation. It is not known whether either of the combat systems will be completely effective (probably not), what specific changes should be made, or how they can be made to both ships. It is not clear which module handling system work efficiently and not break down when you need it. It is not known if the networked communications, computer and control systems will work effectively. It is not known what the final costs will be to buy the modules and operate the ships on a forward-deployed basis. It is not known if the supply, maintenance and parts support systems will be effective. Heck, it is not known if they should begin painting the aluminum superstructures and hulls. It is not known -- well, you get the idea.

Anyone calling for a halt in the program while definitive answers are found to any of these questions is demonstrating a deep absence of understanding what the program is about. That is not the point, sir. Yes, there is a plan, there is a concept, there is a certain direction, but the end result in many cases may well not be what is currently envisioned.

The ships were designed with a main battery unlike anything ever carried by a combatant ship: empty space. Big, empty mission bays ready to accept large containers of equipment and systems, along with flight decks much larger in proportion to other surface fighting ships.

Will some of the mission equipment not work well? Probably. Have something better? No problem. Change it. Bring stuff in and install it, ship stuff out, bring in different stuff.

You can’t do that on other warships. Can’t do it on Arleigh Burke or Zumwalt destroyers, or new British or French or Italian or Chinese or Russian destroyers and frigates. Forget about other 3,200-ton frigates or corvettes, they’re already packed with gear. When those systems age or become obsolescent, the ships will age with them. But an LCS is designed to grow, change and morph over time, adapting to changing requirements and priorities in -- it is hoped -- an efficient and effective manner.

No navy has ever had a ship like this. The Danes tried the modular concept on a much lower level, but the LCS takes the idea significantly further. If it works, it will mean the Navy has gotten a new minesweeper, a new inshore ASW ship, a new brown water surface combatant, a new special operations platform, a new maritime interdiction ship, all in one platform. If it doesn’t work -- well, it won’t be the first time a type of ship entered service and then faded away after a few years. That’s not good, but it certainly happens.

A little history. In 1927, two of the biggest ships in the world were commissioned into the U.S. Navy. The huge aircraft carriers Lexington and Saratoga dwarfed the fleet’s battleships and represented an enormous investment, particularly in a peacetime Navy that faced no urgent threat. One might have presumed the Navy had really thought out this aircraft-carrier thing, knew how to design the ships, operate the systems and planes, fit them into fleet battle concepts and tactics. But that might be presumptuous.

Many people know that the Navy designation for an aircraft carrier is CV. What many people don’t know is what that originally stood for -- cruiser, heavier-than-air. Those enormous aircraft carriers were cruisers, or scouts. They had eight-inch guns to fight off the other guy’s scouts, and their aircraft were largely intended to scout the enemy so the big battlewagons could move into position.

It was another 16 years or so before the modern concept of an aircraft carrier matured. Years of experimentation, trial-and-error work, technological development, a huge tactical leap demonstrated by a skilled enemy, and the loss in five months of four of the fleet’s seven fleet carriers produced lessons learned that resulted in a combat system far removed from 1927. But many of those matured concepts of 1943, through many technical evolutions, are still at the core of today’s carrier strike group concepts.

Hopefully it won’t take that long, or cost that much in blood and bucks, to mature the LCS concept into an effective naval unit. But the challenge facing today’s Navy is to make the system work, to find its weak points and come up with changes, to find out what it can really do and stay away from what it won’t. To adapt what you’ve got to what you need.

And yes, government testers, oversight committee members, critics and reporters, there won’t be final answers to many of these questions for some time. Get used to it. Roll with it. That’s the idea.

NOTE: All views expressed herein are my own, and are not connected to, nor do they represent in any way, Defense News or Gannett Government Media.

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19 avril 2011 2 19 /04 /avril /2011 17:30

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e3/USS_Freedom.jpg/220px-USS_Freedom.jpg  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/37/USS_Independence_LCS-2.jpg/220px-USS_Independence_LCS-2.jpg

LCS 1                                                                LCS 2


April 19, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE


Now that the U.S. Navy has decided to put its new "Littoral Combat Ship" (LCS) into mass production, it faces years of uncertainty and experimentation as this radical new combat ship design seeks to find out what works, to what degree, and what doesn't. There is some nervousness about all this. The U.S. Navy has not introduced a radical new design for nearly a century. The last such new design was the aircraft carrier, which required two decades of experimentation, and a major war, to nail down what worked. Even the nuclear submarines of the late 1950s and early 60s were evolutionary compared to what the LCS is trying to do.


In the last five years, two different LCS designs were built, and put into service. Problems were encountered. The much smaller crew required some changes in how a crew ran a ship, and how many sailors and civilians were required back on land to support an LCS at sea. It was found that, so far, the interchangeable mission modules take far longer (2-3 days instead of 2-3 hours) to replace. The LCS has still not seen combat, and the navy wants the first violent encounter to be successful, or at least not disastrous. It is expected that there will be surprises, which is about all that can be guaranteed at this point.


The navy surprised everyone last year by choosing both designs, and requesting that the fifty or so LCS ships be split between the two very different looking ships. It was only recently, after over a decade of development, construction and delays, that both versions of the LCS entered service. Both were worked hard, to determine which model should become the standard design. Both ships delivered impressive performance. But the navy also believes that having two suppliers, even with different designs, will provide the kind of competition that will keep costs down and quality high. If one of the builders began to screw up, they would lose some, or all, of their orders. Such an incentive program has worked in the past. Current plans are to place an initial order for to 20 LCSs, to be built between 2011-15.


While both ships look quite different (one is a traditional monohull, while the other is a broader trimaran), they both share many common elements. One of the most important of these is the highly automated design, and smaller crew. Both ships have accommodations for only 75 personnel. Normally, a ship of this size would have a crew of about 200. The basic LCS crew is 40, with the other 35 berths occupied by operators of special equipment. But that is already being exceeded on one LCS, which has a detail of 15 sailors for handing special equipment and another 23 to take care of a helicopter. Another shortage encountered is time. Although sailors work a typical six hours on/twelve hours off routine, there are plenty of miscellaneous jobs that cut into off duty hours (taking on supplies and fuel while underway, standing fire/safety alert during aircraft or small boat operations and so on). At times, some sailors were only getting 5-6 hours sleep a day. Fortunately, the LCS uses a two crew system, with each crew being on the ship (at sea or in port) for 40 days, and then the other crew takes over. In addition to a second crew, there are more maintenance personnel available back at the LCS home port, to help with needed repairs and upgrades the crew would normally handle. But with the smaller crew, these chores will be taken care of in port, using additional personnel.


Built using "smartship" technologies, that actually do greatly reduce personnel requirements, the LCS was expected to get by with a crew of about 40-50 in basic configuration. The sea trials and three years of operations gave the militarized smartship features a workout. These sea trials were very important, because the LCS is over budget, behind schedule and, worst of all, an untried new concept. Many of the operations in the last two years have been of the sort LCS will encounter during its 30 year career. But the strain on the crew makes it clear that heavy combat operations might be more than current crew size can handle. An additional chore is the refueling at sea. The LCS was not built for long voyages, but these have to be undertaken to get the ships overseas, or moved to a different theater once there. Fuel replenishment ships must be available, and the crew has to be ready for a heavy workload.


The LCS crews are also modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to operate specific modules. Thus about 40 percent of the ship is empty, with a large cargo hold into which the mission package gear is inserted (and then removed, along with the package crew, when it is no longer assigned to that ship.) Thus the LCS has two crews when underway, the "ship" crew and the mission package crew. The captain of the ship crew is in charge, and the officer commanding the mission package is simply the officer in charge of the largest equipment system on board. There are a variety of interchangeable modules (e.g., air defense, underwater warfare, special operations, surface attack, etc.), which allow the ships to be quickly reconfigured for various specialized missions. Crews will also be modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to operate specific modules. The design and crew requirements for these module is still a work in progress, but also shows a need for more people, or more automation.


So far, the heavy workload has not hurt morale. The small crew means that everyone knows everyone, and it's standard for people to handle a number of different jobs. Even officers pitch in for any task that needs to be done. This kind of overworked enthusiasm is actually typical of smaller naval craft. These included World War II era PT boats, with crews of up to 17, and current minesweepers (with crews similar to an LCS) and larger patrol boats. There's also the "new" factor. In addition to being new ships, there is a new design and lots of new tech. This gets people pumped. But the experience of using the LCS has to be used to develop changes that will make these ships viable for the long haul.


The two different LCS designs are from Lockheed-Martin (monohull) and General Dynamics (trimaran). The first LCS, the monohull USS Freedom, completed its sea trials and acceptance inspections two years ago. The ship did very well, with far fewer (about 90 percent fewer) problems (or "material deficiencies") than is usual with the first warship in a class. USS Independence (LCS-2) was laid down by General Dynamics in late 2005 and commissioned in January 2010.


Both LCS designs were supposed to be for ships displacing 2,500 tons, with a full load draft of under 3.3 meters/ten feet (permitting access to very shallow "green" and even "brown" coastal and riverine waters, where most naval operations have taken place in the past generation). Top speed was expected was to be over 80 kilometers with a range of 2,700 kilometers. Basic endurance is 21 days, and final displacement was closer to 3,000 tons.


LCS is currently armed with a 57mm gun, four 12.7mm machine-guns, two 30mm autocannon and a 21 cell SeaRam system for aircraft and missile defense. The RAM (RIM-116 "Rolling Air Frame") missiles replace Phalanx autocannon. SeaRAM has a longer range (7.5 kilometers) than the Phalanx (two kilometers). Last year, the navy decided to equip LCS with a surface launched version of the Griffin air-to-surface missile. The Griffin is an alternative to the Hellfire II, which weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds) and carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead and has a range of 8,000 meters. In contrast, the Griffin weighs only 16 kg (35 pounds), with a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead which is larger, in proportion to its size, than the one carried by the larger Hellfire missile. Griffin has a pop-out wings, allowing it to glide, and thus has a longer range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire. UAVs can carry more of the smaller missiles, typically two of them in place of one Hellfire. The surface-launched Griffin weighs about twice as much as the air launched version, because of the addition of a rocket to get it into the air, after which it can glide to the target.


Ultimately, the navy hoped to have between 50 and 60 LCSs by 2014-18, at a cost of $460 million (after the first five.) The USS Freedom ended up costing nearly $600 million, about twice what the first ship in the class was supposed to have cost. The navy believes it has the cost down to under $450 million each as mass production begins.

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