SNA: LM’s LCS enters its ‘cookie cutter’ phase

SNA: LM’s LCS enters its ‘cookie cutter’ phase

There are a lot of unknowns and unanswered questions about the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, but Lockheed Martin company officials effectively put up their hands Tuesday and said “Hey — not our problem, guys.”

The leaders did not use those words, of course, but they were eager to make clear that from Lockheed’s perspective as the builder of the Freedom class, everything is going smoothly. The first LCS soon will finally and formally join the fleet. Lockheed’s second ship, the USS Fort Worth, is doing its early sea trials. Its third ship, the Milwaukee, has 17 of its 46 construction modules under construction. Its fourth ship, the Detroit, has three of 46 under construction.

(The ships are built in blocks, like giant Lego sets, then side-launched into the Menominee River.)

Lockheed vice president George Barton expects the Navy to award two more hulls this year, and then right on through until it completes its first batch of 10 ships. Austal USA, down in Mobile, Ala., has a contract to build a parallel run of its aluminum Independence-class design.

But Lockheed can’t speak for Austal and it can’t speak for the Navy. It can’t speak for the other contractors whose products are part of the ships’ interchangeable mission equipment. All it’s focused on, officials said, is getting into the sweet spot of serial production that was always supposed to be a key advantage for LCS, driving out as much cost and time as possible on subsequent hulls.

Starting with LCS 5, the Milwaukee, the design for the class is “done, locked and stable,” said Lockheed’s VP for ships, Joe North. So the design changes that plagued the Freedom as it was being built should theoretically be a thing of the past. “From 5 on … these ships are cookie cutter,” North said. Lockheed hopes the shipyard in Marinette, Wisc., should be able to get into a rhythm and just start cranking them out, increasing the company’s margin with each saved dollar and each day less than the ship before.

One key difference between the Freedom and its successors is the corrosion resistance build into the ships’ “waterborne mission zone,” the stern compartment where sailors launch and recover boats and their trademark maritime robots. North said based on the Navy’s experience with standing water and rust in the Freedom, the subsequent ships will have better coatings and other improvements to help crews fight rust.

The other, larger issues remain, of course: LCS remains a heavy fuel user, especially at high speeds. It still does not have a long-term surface-to-surface missile with which to defend itself or support troops ashore. Its mission modules may or may not materialized as planned. The Navy still needs to scale up the small, experienced crewing it has used on the early ships to a full fleet scale. The ships still need to do a no-kidding deployment somewhere.

But from Lockheed’s perspective, the program is getting into a sweet spot, and it clearly wants to keep that going for as long as it can. If the Navy can keep its ambitions for 55 or more LCSes through the big crunch, Lockheed’s early heartache on the ships may wind up paying off handsomely.


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Everywhere you find our security being undermined with shoddy systems that puts lives at risk you will find Lockheed.

The big difference between us and China is that China the executives of Lockheed would have faced the firing squad long long ago.

I might be alone on this, but I don’t think the SuW package issues are a major problem. In fact I expect after the ASW & MCM moduls are functional we’lll see a backfit capability to give at 55 ships limited SuW capability without having to dedicate full ships to the role.

The ASW and MCM capabilities are the important ones anyway. The surface warfare thing is the flashy sexy thing but the least important. Knee jerk reaction to the Millennium Challenge debacle.

I don’t support the program, but I really hope this works; otherwise we’ve blown millions on a piece of aluminum junk.…

The SuW aspect certainly doesnt HAVE to be a major problem, but it has got to be addressed, along with AAW, at least adequately for self defense, in order to work the littoral ASW and MCM missions. “Adequately” is of course one of those fuzzy words with as many different meanings as you care to have experts, but.… if a couple of jetski’s or cigarette boats with RPG-armed riders can consistently run the LCS off of its inshore MCM tasks, or come scurrying out to make the LCS forget about its ASW mission, then the LCS is neither an MCM nor an ASW asset.

IMHO of course! :-)

And I’d bet that neither model would make much of a fishing reef.… . .LoL!

You’ve got about 3 geographical areas in the world where the whole swarming boat thing could even begin to work, and only two of those where it’s remotely likely, both in the middle east. Those locations provide us ample basing opportunities so permanent Reaper/X-drone orbits are easily maintained. Beyond that there is no real surface warfare mission for these ships and even in those cases it’s pretty limited.

Gooney birds, both of them. All this crap about multi-mission capable. The damn ship will either miss the battle or, like the Japanese at Midway, have the wrong mission module and get sunk. We just need a plan Jane frigate, sturdy and cheap, with some standard combat power (anti-air and anti-ship missiles, torpedoes, guns) so it can defend itself while on station. Sort of a step up from the FFG-7. Anything out there in the international market that fits the bill? Otherwise, we’re wasting out time and money. Costly and exotic solutions to basic problems we lose us the battle.

It probably would be cheaper to just bring the battleships back. No issue of survival there! And loaded with firepower.

Agreed, how is a whole SHIP class designed with small boat combat in mind? Up-gun some rhibs, use drone boats with auto cannons, use UAVs… hell the shotgun rounds for the burkes were a big improvement.

The LCS is also supposed to perform roles that are often forgotten about (but still critical) like minesweeping. Even if we got a proper frigate we would still need something to do that job.

…Say it with me corvette. This thing isn’t a frigate, way too small, and anyone who has pushed it as such is a fool. LCS is out classed by frigates because corvettes aren’t generally used to fight frigates. LCS is only intended to have the auxiliary and specialized non-combat capabilities normally seen on frigates, not to fight them.

Exactly! People who keep wanting to cancel it keep forgetting that critical aspect. It is as much a critical lynch pin in a fleets security as the ability to detect and intercept enemy aircraft or surface ships. And when you consider that anti-ship mines are one of the cheapest methods an enemy could use to deny access or damage our ships, it only increases the likelyhood of encountering them.

While the names for the different classes of naval vessels have changed very flexibly over the last 50 years or so, today, the LCS is AT BEST a Corvette in terms of basic mission capability. The mission modules were intended to just let it switch roles across a wider spectrum of possible corvette-like capabilities, whereas a conventional corvette is locked in to one role based on what is welded down on deck. Run an LCS “wargame” against most of the other conventional corvettes, in the role that a contemporary but conventional corvette was intended, and the LCS will likely not fare well.

Notably, the Royal Navy’s “River” class offshore patrol vessels would fit well with todays definittion of a corvette, but are MUCH smaller than the LCS yet comparably armed.

Hmmm… lets see, the straits of Hormuz, the east African coast, the Malacca straights, the Formosa Strait, the South China Sea, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Malasia, the Gulf of Mexico, east and west coast of South America, the Med in general, .… …

Not that these all ARE currently active, small boat swarm threat areas but they very easily could turn that way with small swings in politics.… .

The point I was trying to make is that a Littoral Combat Ship is designed to operate off of a hostile shoreline, at least in its primary “combat” missions. When you are close to a hostile shore, you are by definition subject to attack by smaller boats, and if you can not effectively deal with them, they can hurt much larger vessels than the LCS (think of the USS Cole in terms of damage possible, or consider what would be the effect of an RPG on an AEGIS face.)

Absolutely true, and under IDEAL situations the 57mm with 3P ammunition would be more than adequate, but the ideal situation for killing small boat attacks is NOT the situation that an even marginally intelligent small boat commander would seek out, EVEN if possessed with suicidal intentions!. Aside from that, some of the not quite “small boats” are most assuredly not small boats in terms of their onboard capabilities.

Consider for a moment what would happen if the LCS were sent to patrol off of a hostile shore where that hostile owned a couple Steregushchiy corvettes. The LCS would either need some serious “top cover” or its patrol mission would continue only at the pleasure of the hostile!

The long range missile for the LCS is a Hydra 70 with a range of a few km, with laser guidance (via APKWS), launched from a MQ-8 Fire Scout, 50 nmi from the ship.

Iranian speedboats are the main targets of course.

Assuming a couple of the four-round launchers on the Fire Scout? And THAT is a very good solution as long as the number of targets stays sort of low!

Of course, that same Hydra 70/APKWS can be launched from a 7-round LAU-68 or 19-round LAU-69 loaded on one arm of an Avenger turret that has been mounted on the roof of a “mission module” (!!) as well! Since it has “terminal homing” the time of flight vs boat maneuver problem becomes null and void, and a couple of Hydra frag warheads (or even “inerts” with the empty rocket motor attached) are more than sufficient for any of the “small boats”.

Very significant is that if you have terminal guidance (i.e. a laser guided CEP), one of those 2.75″ rockets through a bridge window would go a long way to “clearing the bridge” of even a significant sized ship , or taking the rudder off of a hyjacked cargo ship, or.… . :-) And if thats not “good enough” the same fire control system that makes an APKWS work will also work for a Hellfire! :-)


Straits of Hormuz, you can stop there. That’s where the whole swarming boat alleged doomsday was conceived in Millennium Challenge. The LCS is a knee jerk reaction to that black eye and people assuming we needed a new system to counter the threat, when in fact we had plenty of existing systems that had they been deployed for that threat there would have been no debacle in that war game.

Swarming small boats have limited range and the tactic only works in narrow restricted water ways. That specific geography exists in very few locations and where it does exist pretty much every government in the world agrees they don’t won’t trade strangled with the exception of the nuts in Iran. Bottom line is we won’t have basing issues in that area and we will be able to deploy aircraft and drones aplenty.

As far as the mission statement of the LCS for the same reason the USMC hasn’t stormed a contested beach in 2/3 of a century to say the LCS is going to operate near a shore where what you point out could happen is a mission statement and that’s about it. We won’t do it because we have better smarter ways to counter a hostile shore.

The LCS is an expensive speed boat that the surface warfare crowd are looking for an excuse to waste money on. The modular idea was a good idea but it hasn’t panned out as cost affordable. We should have just gone with a basic hull and made a new frigate with a shallow draft in 2 configurations with ASW and MCM and put some decent weapons on it for patrol and been done. We’d already have them ready for production I bet, but we decided a $500 million dollar boat that goes 50 knots and has one gun, no radar and no sonar was a better idea.

Im thinking that we probably agree more than we disagree on this subject.

I totally agree with your assertion that the modular concept was a good idea, AND even with the fact that it is yet to “pan out”. It still could, and would certainly take less time and money that to design and build a credible corvette/frigate from whole cloth. Im thinking that an LCS, properly upgunned and upgraded, could be a very useful warship in many of the ‘restricted waters” and for anti-piracy patrols, aside from having some very necessary MCM and coastal ASW capabilities, but.… . right now its just a bit toothless and as you point out, blind.


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