Industry view: Why the Navy needs a ‘Patrol Frigate’

Industry view: Why the Navy needs a ‘Patrol Frigate’

In this commentary, Huntington-Ingalls Industries’ corporate director of customer relations, Patrick H. Stadt, makes the case for a U.S. Navy version of the company’s National Security Cutter.

The fourth of eight planned National Security Cutters is currently in production at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. The first three cutters have been delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard and are already proving themselves as highly capable, multi-mission ships.

The NSC’s capabilities not only support the traditional U.S. Coast Guard missions of search and rescue, fisheries enforcement and counter narcotic patrols, but also add national/homeland defense and support of Navy missions to the mission set. Principally designed to carry out all of those Coast Guard missions, the NSC is also highly capable today of fulfilling several missions in support of naval requirements, particularly where greater endurance and mission flexibility are key factors.

With minor configuration variations, the NSC can become a Patrol Frigate that can perform additional missions against a broad array of threats including air, submarine, and surface. As navies worldwide grapple with balancing affordability, capability, and performance, integration of Patrol Frigates into a fleet mix will efficiently and effectively capitalize on the ships’ strengths to carry out a broad range of frigate missions.

The NSC was originally designed as the replacement for the aging Hamilton class of 378-foot cutters built in the late 1960s. NSCs were first envisioned to have modern propulsion and communications systems but relatively few major differences when compared to the cutters they were replacing.

During the design spirals that refined the requirements, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 occurred, and along with the disposition of the nation, the requirements changed for the NSC. The new cutters had become much more than just replacements for the old Hamiltons.

These post-9/11 requirements for the NSC resulted in a better armed, more survivable cutter with enhanced communication and aviation capabilities. With the exception of ice operations and aids to navigation, the NSC is fully capable of carrying out all of the varied missions of the service.

Not only do they possess this multi-mission capability on every deployment, they do so independent of any other floating unit. Their 12,000 nautical mile range allows for extensive on-station operations; the optimally sized crew of 110 is trained and capable of carrying out the numerous missions while embarking only an additional six-person aviation detachment for normal ops and an additional 11 persons for wartime ops.

With a top sustained speed of 28 knots and endurance based on food stores of 60 days, the NSC is a ship capable of projecting a relevant, persistent, independent presence. Its armament is similar to the combat system suite found on the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships, which also includes soft kill and other electronic warfare systems. Fully interoperable with the U.S. Navy, it is also capable of underway refueling and replenishment. With this degree of flexibility and capability inherent in the NSC, it stands out as a ship that could greatly benefit navies around the globe in mission areas envisioned for small surface combatants and quickly fill the gaps caused by the decreasing numbers of frigates.

To quantify how NSC as a Patrol Frigate could be complementary to other small surface combatants, HII used a modeling and simulation program that was derived from a personnel and fuel cost evaluation tool. Prior to running any simulations, HII retained MicroSystems Integration, an established modeling and simulation company, to validate the model and its input assumptions. After minor adjustments, the model was found to be sound and useable for the purpose of analyzing various operational scenarios employing patrol frigates and small surface combatants.

For the purpose of the modeling, the 2010 Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment’s paper on “Littoral Combat Ships, An Examination of its Possible Concepts of Operation” was employed to baseline the mission areas and operational scenarios. The CSBA paper was also the prime reference in “The Littoral Combat Ship and Irregular Warfare,” an article written by Capt. Robinson Harris and posted on the Second Line of Defense website on Sept. 14. The CSBA paper suggested 19 varied missions, including special forces insertion and extraction; maritime interdiction; influence/humanitarian assistance, disaster response operations, and resource protection, the last being the focus of Capt. Harris’ discussions.

MicroSystems Integration used historic U.S. Navy data from the 2010 Navy Program Guide to calculate the expected frequency for each of the 19 missions for the LCS-type ship during an average year and then assigned the preferred ship to each. The history was taken from legacy ships that now perform “LCS type” missions. Preferred ships for a given mission were determined through numerical analysis of rated parameters consisting of speed, endurance/presence, defense, small boat launch and recovery, aircraft launch and recovery, command and control, draft, and stealth. For the purpose of this analysis, the Patrol Frigate was “as built, operating independently” (equivalent to the current NSC configuration) and the LCS was “missionized, operating independently” (a blended version of the two LCSs currently in production).

The analysis determined that out of the 19 missions traditionally performed by small surface combatants, seven indicated the Patrol Frigate was the preferred ship. When compared against a non-missionized LCS, (just the seaframe, no mission systems), the Patrol Frigate was the preferred ship in 15 missions.

To compare operational costs (fuel and personnel), six modeled scenarios were run based on proposed scenarios in the CSBA paper, ranging from securing loose nuclear weapons to maritime interdiction. For those two scenarios, the Patrol Frigate reflected an operational savings of approximately 29 percent and 33 percent, respectively, when compared to an LCS-type ship.  In all six scenarios (the two above and convoy protection, maritime stability operations, counter piracy/counter crime, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response), the Patrol Frigate reflected an operational savings of approximately 26 percent.

The modeling and simulation performed supports the premise that the Patrol Frigate would make an affordable and strong contribution to the low-end of a traditional threat spectrum.  By constructing a mixed fleet of high-conflict and low-conflict capable ships, navies around the globe can glean significant budgetary savings while better aligning ship capability with anticipated mission scenarios.

The Patrol Frigate is an optimum balance of affordability, capability, and proven performance for low-conflict, high-endurance missions and would be a cost effective addition to combatant fleets around the world.

Join the Conversation

That’s what everyone was calling for, get rid of the over priced LCS for the more sensible National Security Cutter’s patrol frigate design.

It would be interesting to compare this converted NSC patrol frigate to a Spearhead class JHSV similarly converted.

They are both built to commercial standards (neither are warships). But the Spearhead class JHSV is larger and the lower drag hull form is far more fuel efficient at any comparable speed of operation.

And add a number of SAMs and 4/8 FIM-92 Stinger missiles on it ‚for it’s defense.

It makes sense to as much as possible have the same platforms being used by the Navy and USCG. There are economies of scale to be had, and having the same capabilities makes for easier force integration should that become necessary (which is aways seems to be during any conflict of consequence).

There are actually quite a few different Remote Weapons Systems out there now that can mount guns up to the M230 Bushmaster 30x113 (used on Apache),
and various missiles from Javelins and Israeli Spikes to Stingers and other MANPADS.
Shod readily adapt to Griffin as well.
These RWS also have the added benefit of effective Electro Optical scene magnification and Imaging Infrared capabilty.
Folks are worried about swarms?
Fit one of these corvette-class light frigates with 4 or more of these RWS around the ship, each independently operated and not dependent on the ship’s central main sensors. We want to able to effectively engage several threats at once.

The Navy needs to adapt a Coast Guard patrol frigate because they will be patroling the Artic Ocean as soon as global warming finishes melting more of the polar ice caps and it becomes the shortest way from Japan/China to Europe/US East Coast. The Navy has nothing that can operate there.

They say Spain, Norway, Russia, South Korea and China makes the best frigates and corvettes in the world. Maybe we need to look at their deigns and compare it with ours (USA), if we want to be the best and competitive on sea battles and defense

They say Spain, Norway, Russia, South Korea and China makes the best frigates and corvettes in the world. Maybe we need to look at their designs and compare it with ours (USA), if we want to be the best and competitive on sea battles and defense.

NSC is not built to military standards, it was built with off-shelf commerical. It had tons of problems in its development phase and still having them. Why would Navy want something just as under-armed, and equally flawed in its own ways to the two LCS? Industry trying save money by getting Navy change its mind to buy something else, its mistake.

Navy needs build something meant to do what they want to do in the first place. They want cheap frigate, that flexible, as sturdy. I served in the Navy one Perry Frigate, it wasn’t much talk home with but least it was better armed than what their putting out.


There is a 5 May 2012 story on the newswire titled, “New Coast Guard ship has rust, holes in hull”, by Alicia A. Caldwell, Associated Press

Here are a few interesting excerpts:
— “…Capt. Charles Cashin, who commands the Coast Guard’s newest national security cutter, the Stratton, said he called in engineers last month when his crew discovered a trio of pinholes and a fourth hole slightly smaller than a golf ball in the ship’s hull.“
— “The holes and other spots of rust on the hull are unusual, given the ship’s age. The Coast Guard took delivery in September…“
— “Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, a Coast Guard spokesman in Washington, said engineers aren’t yet sure what why the ship is already having problems with rust and holes…”

Proceedings said as much twice last year.
and the danish absalon is a great design at 40% cheaper than the LCS

Just go for off the shelf stuff. An upgraded fog 7 with VLS lke the Australians did to their ffg7s.

Pinholes sound like bad steel… or are they using recycled tomato juice cans? Our services just plain don’t deserve this unending stream of MIC garbage.

Absolon looks good. And they don’t sprout pinhole leaks on a shakedown cruise: in the Skagerrak, that might get REAL interesting.

Rust is an ancient enemy, and the solution is simple and inexpensive; unfortunately, someone forgot to apply it.

They probably need a patrol frigate more than a new air craft carrier.from rben6.

How feasible would it be to put a VLS system on the NSC? Maybe a small 24-cell VLS would be sufficient for the missions we would expect of it. With quad-packed ESSMs for air defense (i.e. 4 ESSMs fit in one VLS cell) and VLS harpoons or ASROCs for ASuW and ASW, you’d have a versatile ship. Put in the much larger strike-length VLS, and you could carry Tomahawks…

The USCG (and/or Navy) need to start building more ice-breakers for this task, as we have pitifully few in the inventory.

Pinholes also develop from errant weld strikes. It weakens the metal and causes premature failure. Sometimes it will show a slight discoloration of the metal around the pinhole sometimes not. I spent 10 years in the Navy and seen it a couple times myself in seawater piping. I never seen it on the hull but this could be one explanation. Another could be using the wrong steel alloy in construction. On the USS Bridge, we had to pull into the shipyard just after commissioning because the shipbuilder used the wrong alloy for the seawater pipes. A whole bunch of seawater mains had to be replaced and refitted with the correct pipe. We were pulling into the shipyard anyway as apart of the contract but the longer we were on the ship the more the shipyard period became required just to function. I am not an engineer or a welder. Just making a guess as to why this could be happening.

What you have to see is that these may be coastal patrol Lotoral ships but they have to be combat ready to be used in multiple roles as well. The FFG7 is a perfect example. They do many more jobs than what they were originally planned to do. they are a true blue water craft but if the need arises, we will use what we have on hand. The ship must be combat ready, must have capabilitie to protect itself and project power in a manner to make itself worth the money it costs.

Chasing drug runners might be fine for these Coast guard ships, but a RPG will put one out of commisiion. What do you think a Exocet would do to one of them? And No, they cannot defend themselves against that kind of attack.

The one thing you can guarantee, the navy will NEVER accept a design that the Coast Guard used first!

Spain & Norway doesn’t build Frigates, they build Destroyers that are called Frigates for political reasons(sounds cheaper). Russia I would say builds the best, as that’s all they’re building other than subs. Dunno about S. Korea, haven’t seen their new FF(X) yet, and China makes mediocre frigates. Which is more than the US can boast, as the US has officially gotten out of the Frigate game as stated by SecNav a few months ago.

The design for a high capability, multi-purpose Frigate(nee Destroyer) exist and is already in production. The Euro-spec Horizon Frigate is modular in design to accomodate the different needs of the UK, France and Italy. I’m all for jump starting american Industry, but pushing a very competent Coast Guard design would leave alot to be desired versus a Full Naval Combat design. The FREMM multipurpose frigate is in production and suits the Navy’s needs while addressing the all too obvious shortcomings of the LCS. Putting it into american production should be no problem.

Just finished “Six Frigates…” great book and may say alot about the Navy mix of ships. We do need to look at coastal defense and maybe the Navy needs to think about both PF (FFG-7 was originally PF-109) and the LCS. LCS is like some Air Craft, in that the first version is where we learn and spend, but if we can make use of its speed and versitility it might be the F-22 of the surface word while a PF might serve a complimentary role.

Well if a big war accures the Navy does have to think about what are they gonna use to defend all the merchant ships sailing back and forth, just like in WW2. They need a ship that does not break the bank like the Zawalt class DD’s, but that is another topic. Has fire power to deal with Submarines and surface and air defenses. VLS seems to be the best answer for that. They need a system like AGEIS as well to be able to monitor ahead of the convoys but cheaper but do not sacrificing quality for cheaper but a system that does the job to help with convoy escort. I would prioritize the ASW role though and the ship could patrol the coast as well with the Coast Guard using it.
The key is to have more cable escorts in the fleet for a cheaper price with good quality.

you forget the 327’s.

The US Navy would never accept nor would US industry allow the perches of a foreign ship design the size of a frigate.

If the US Navy should consider Huntington-Ingalls Industries’ NSC ship design why not Lockheed Martins’ 150 meter “Multi-Mission Surface Combatant” (MMSC). This ship would have advantages over the NSC design and whatever problems that exist in the LCS can be addressed in the new ship

The only option left if congress kills the LCS is to go with a Frigate version of the NSC. We did it before with the Spruance class destroyers that were the basis for the Ticos. Why not do the same thing with the NSC as well.

Will this design accept modular weapon system upgrades in the future ? There will still be a need for offshore artillery to support Marines and other ground troops inland like their forbears. The ability for one hull design to have the versatility to be ASW, surface to surface anti-ship armament, anti missile & anti– aircraft capability would certainly allow the Navy to get more ships launched in a shorter and less costly time frame.

Ted: Based on what you wrote I took ten minutes and looked up the Absalon. Very impressive, especially both multi-helo hangers and a well deck. I am clearly no expert but I never understood why the Navy developed the Burke when we already had the Spruance (non-Aegis) and the Ticonderoga classes and could have replaced the Perrys if they were no longer effective. A new frigate would be a LOT cheaper than a Burke “light cruiser”.

Why can’t the entire U.S. military (I’m a former AF NCO and very patriot) learn to stop making mistakes during procurement? Perhaps I’m being naive and do the generals, admirals, colonels and (naval) captains know what they’re doing and pumping money into the defense contractors so they get their backs washed later.

Why not a upgraded Perry Class? Why did we get rid of the Perry and Spruance Classes anyway? Not sexy or expensive enough? Kind of like “my” service hating the A-10 Thunderbolt/having four strategic bombers and building new jets that are so expensive they will never have enough and can’t put them in harms way? AND everyone knows that we don’t have enough airlift OR sealift! Ahhhhgggg! SOMEONE explain it to me. I’mk serious.

Leave off the Tomahawks, keep a 3″ rapid fire gun, a CIWS, a Rolling AA & several HMG/light cannon and concentrate in “cheap” ASW & AAW so the ship can do escort duty and work in the littoral. Oh wait, that doesn’t spend enough taxpayer money does it!

“MIC”? What is that, code for, “I’ve tighted the straps on my tinfoil hat too tight”?

They don’t need these, its just easier to have a new platform with current Armament and Command and Control, by the time you retrofit a Frigate/Destroyer/Cruiser you are probably spending half the amount but you still have the old rust bucket as your platform. So Maybe it makes more sense to purchase them. Either way the Enemy is not getting easier to destroy and if we want to continue speaking English we need to pay the price.

The USN has no intention of defending merchant ships, which is the reason we have no US Merchant Marine or for that matter any Western natgional merchant marines. Everything is Flag of Convenience and about 40% of the cargo ships we deal with on a daily basis have Chinese crews– complete with Commisars– which means they are effectively controlled by the PLA. IF there is ever a hot conventional war that has any Chinese involvement, we will lose. All it takes to shut us down is for the Chinese to tell the ships under their control to STOP whatever they are doing and do absolutely nothing. By allowing national flag merchant marines to disappear, the USN has guaranteed that our advasaries can do to us with a word what the Germans could not do with torpeados in 2 World Wars. The USN has nothing to escort.

I am in the Coast Guard and served over three years on one of these cutters. I can tell you that they are a great platform. Compared to the older cutters, these ships are well above the rest in operational capability as well as habitablity.

Are you saying that the Navy’s new LCS is “combat ready”?

Habitability doesn’t guarantee survivability, nor does it win wars…

We need to help the Philippines develop their defense on sea, air and land. Now with their ongoing oil discovery and exploration. I think we (US) can profit from it just by helping build,modernize and protect their defenses, With the Philippines territorial disputes with China, the possibilities of conflict with China is very real.

What’s the difference between a cutter and a frigate? I couldn’t find any article that compares the two. My search of navy vessels gave me: aircraft carriers, (battleships — obsolete), cruisers, destroyers, frigates, amphibious craft, and submarines. No cutter is listed, except in the old navy days of sails. Cutters, however, are used by the US Coast Guard. In terms of size, cutters and frigates seem to be the same. (I have a feeling that they may be the same thing, but called differently depending on where they are used?)

A cutter is a law enforcement vessel, with a secondary low end escort mission, also known as a corvette. A frigate is a multipurpose warship, capable of military and merchant convoy escort in low to moderate threat areas with limited air defense, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capabilities. Huge difference.

Cutter connotes smaller, faster, lightly armed, convoy escort or coastal patrol. Frigate more a ship of the line, designated for combat as a battle-group component, more heavily armed, in modern term equipped with helicopters, cutters may be as well, not historically as frequent.


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