SAS12: LCS modules may never be ‘final’

SAS12: LCS modules may never be ‘final’

People often ask Navy Capt. John Ailes, program manager for the littoral combat ships’ mission modules, when they’ll reach “final capability.”

“The exciting thing is, when we get asked, one answer is … never,” he said.

The modular nature of LCS means almost anything an engineer can dream up, within reason, can work. Meanwhile, shipbuilders Lockheed Martin and Austal USA don’t need to pause construction because the Navy wants a new sonar, or other new equipment; instead, by moving in parallel, the Navy can phase things in as they become available, Ailes said.

“People say, ‘Hey, you’re changing your story,’” — that’s because the story does change, he said. The PointPoint decks of yesterday wouldn’t have included General Dynamics new Knifefish unmanned sensor, for example, and the ones of today may not reflect whatever new gizmo is still in the lab.

So if you follow the Navy and you get confused or mixed up about what equipment LCS is supposed to carry and when, that’s just how the program is going to be, it seems. In fact the anti-submarine warfare module apparently is up in the air as the Navy re-thinks what it wants — of which more in a moment — and although the suface warfare module soon could get the surface-to-surface missile it needs for standoff attacks, that’ll only be a stopgap before the introduction of a second (or third) missile down the line.

The Navy plans to field a repurposed Griffin air-to-surface missile as LCS’ ranged weapon; Ailes said testing is going well because the missile is so “mature.” It needed a new missile after the Army killed its Non-Line Of Sight missile, which the Navy had been counting on plugging into LCS. So the fleet will buy enough Griffin missiles and launchers to outfit one ship, and it will give those weapons to the ship it thinks most needs them, based on its mission.

Meanwhile, the Navy is gearing up to begin a competition next year for LCS’ next surface-to-surface missile, Ailes said, one with “longer range and greater autonomy,” although it isn’t clear yet compared to what. Despite Navy officials’ bullishness about LCS’ “modularity,” the ships’ compartments were designed for NLOS, so that, plus their aluminum topside construction, will likely limit the size and weight of the weapons they’d be able to carry.

All this means it’ll be several more years before the Navy has an actual program to develop and buy missiles that it can field across the LCS fleet. Likewise with the putative ASW module, which the Navy brass opted to restart after developing an earlier model that it decided it didn’t like. The concept for the new equipment will take advantage of the ships’ high speed — 40 knots or better — and introduce a new way for surface ships to hunt submarines.

In addition to a towed array, Ailes said the Navy wants a continuously active variable depth sonar, one an LCS can trail out at speed and use to search for submarines as it stays on the move. Navy officials have been talking for a few years about how convenient it would be for a few LCSes to go ahead of a strike group and screen the route of submarines, taking the first pass at a corridor that a carrier’s escorts could then search again with their own sonar. But LCS’ anti-submarine kit isn’t scheduled to come together until 2016, so it may not actually deploy until after the new missile.

The mine countermeasures gear, however, is working well, Ailes said proudly. In tests with the USS Independence, sailors have shown they can use their helicopter-mounted sensors to find mines (despite what you may have read in the New York Times) and the Navy is looking forward to more testing when Independence gets to its new homeport in San Diego. The mine gear has its major operational evaluation in 2014, Ailes said, and he seemed confident it would be ready by then.

One potential challenge, Ailes acknowledged, is the endurance of an LCS’ sailors.

“Can this crew operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and at what point does that become a limiting factor?” he asked. But Ailes also said that “When we really do it” — as in, hunt for mines — “it’ll be multiple LCSes.”

And when will that be? No word. The timeline for actual, real-world relevance of LCS is hazy and — significantly — almost beyond the limits of the recent Future Years Defense Plan. At one time, the Navy said LCS would operate in multi-ship “surface action groups;” they’d be more like a “fighter squadron” than a traditional task force. Today no one seems to know when that vision could actually become practicable, and the Navy seems more than content to wait however long it takes.

In the meantime, the world of LCS is getting excited about the USS Freedom’s trip to Singapore next year, which officials are again characterizing as a “deployment,” as with the “early deployment” in which the ship changed homeports from Florida to California. (The Navy has not, however, billed the Independence’s move to California as a “trial deployment.”)

Ailes said the Freedom would take a “module” to Singapore very similar to the one it took to San Diego, apparently not a “demonstration” module as the Navy said earlier. If it’s like the one the ship used before, it could include extra small boats for a beefed-up boarding team, which could comprise sailors who’ll be forced to sleep in “berthing modules” carried in one of the ship’s mission bays. The Freedom did not have enough racks of its own to accommodate the extra people.

Many of the other details about the Singapore mission don’t yet appear final, but officials with Lockheed Martin — which not only built the Freedom, but has the contract for some of its maintenance and logistics support — said Friday they were already planning now for the trip.

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Is the USS Freedom going to have it’s very own oiler to follow it across the Pacific, or are they going to line up oilers every two days in route?

“People often ask Navy Capt. John Ailes, program manager for the littoral combat ships’ mission modules, when they’ll reach “final capability.”

Maybe the question should be “When will the mission modules reach initial capability, or you know, exist?”

The Admiral saying they can upgrade and replace modules indefinitely sounds great, but also sounds like he was ducking the question.

Rick, it is 2400 miles from San Fran to Hawaii and about 2300 miles from HI to Wake, 1500 to Guam, 2900 from Guam to Singapore, assuming you don’t want to port in the Phillipines, and the LCS class all have a range of around 3500 nm to 4300 nm at 18 kts, longer at a slower speed, so how would getting to Singapore be a problem?
The LCS classes have a couple big problems, but deploying them isn’t one of them. Price, their modules not being ready, their offensive punch… Those are the LCS problems I see. The LCS classes can cruise, maximum, for around 9 days at 18 kts. Obviously no commander is going to want to be below 35% of max range for long, so the LCS classes will both end up being refueled every 6 days or every 2600 nautical miles. Deploying them isn’t the problem, getting them where they are supposed to be with enough offensive firepower to keep their enemies from blasting them out of the water post haste is the problem. And it is possible that the Navy may actually find a replacement for the NLOS that will allow the LCS class to work as intended.
And I recognize that that is a remarkably lame defense of a class of vessels that the Navy is going to be sending into situations that could develop into kill or be killed sooner rather than later. But I think that the LCS-2 class in particular have attributes that make a corvette like this worth developing. They are no destroyer, they are not even a frigate, but though their price rivals a frigate they have abilities that no frigate can come close to. Draft, speed, a huge hanger deck and 11,000 cubic meters of payload volume make this a corvette that can do things that no other ship can do. But it is not a destroyer, nor even a frigate. It can’t slug it out with a well armed enemy and do anything but sink slow enough to allow the crew a chance to escape.

Anyone else think that a 5 km weapon might not cut it for defending a $200+M ship? C701 goes what, 20 km?

Looks more like a supply ship with a single deck gun. A bunch of Malaysian pirates will be able to capture this “combat ship.”

Had a feeling that stumbles like this will happen expect more next January when sequestration hits.

well, when you don’t have anything in your hand, it doesn’t make any sense to bluff.….but I do believe that all of the other players at the table already know we don’t have anything, so we might as well fold.

all they would have to do is surround it with 3 boats, that poor optically guided 57mm can’t touch anyone, then put a few 50 cal rounds in her bridge and she’ll be dead in the water, along with her crew

I have seen cost figures from $500 million to the $700 million per ship. In last weeks NYT article the Navy claimed 400 million per ship. Also see new CRS report on LCS dated 4/6/12 titled: Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program-Background, Issues and Options for Congress
Status of mission modules and development (start p. 10)
Griffin missile range given as 3 miles (nm?) with no longer range version possible before 2017.
Review issues with both LCS designs (start p. 28).
“The Navy plans to purchase 24, and deliver 9, LCS seaframes by 2016; however, it will not have a single fully capable mission module at that time.” (p. 38)

Good point!

…Because baggage trains didn’t prove to be vulnerable to the land forces in Iraq we know that unstealthy tankers following stealthy corvettes wont be an easy target to unconventional enemy forces…

The same fuel concern could be made for interceptor aircraft that aren’t designed for endurance but speed. Regardless of the LCS’ relatively high fuel demands, those demands are still less than that of Arleigh-Burke destroyer.

Worse comes to worse, the Navy can just build for the Freedom class an auxilliariy fuel tank mission module. This flexibility of space is the LCS’ key advantage over conventional surface ship designs.

The Avenger class mine counter measure ship, LCS is replacing was wood hulled and only required 2 .50cal machineguns to defend it. As “cool” as all the guns look, it seems like we’re hanging alot of undue expectations and hood ornaments on these ships.

Yea Captain never be finished just keep on changing them, modules, keeping the beltway bandits, defense contractors, and soon to be retires )6 and above employed. Good going Captain — you speak the party line. The LCRs, little crappy ships, cant not stand toe to toe with a warship. Oh they got the speed to haul *ss, reminds me of the Italian and French Navies in WW2, fast ships, good for running out of harms way. AT least they had some fire power. Question what price are these modules. Bet a LCS that they are at least 1/4 the cost of one of those crap cans. I feel for my shipmates who will go in harms way.

This is where that no sole sourcing bites us in the 6 once again. There are modules and systems already in production that work — but they are European (being used on Sweed and German corvetts as we speak) and sole source items. Like I said previously — ” If we see something better that works and is already available, we should be able to purchase it without having to conduct a competition and do R&D funding to come up with something close to the item we want.’ ” IN other words — why go through the years of competition and bidding and R&D to build a car with the same specs as a Ford mustang when you can buy one off the lot today and get a big discount buying in bulk???” This one change in acquisition would save the military millions upon millions a year.

The problem with a ship that’s “not a destroyer, not a frigate, but *costs* as much as one” is that it leads politicians to press them into service in place of actual destroyers and frigates. In the old days, battlecruisers looked a lot like battleships and cost the same as or more than battleships…and they tended to get *used* as battleships. As HMS Invincible or HMS Hood how that turned out.

Can we get some real media attention on this travesty of a “warship”? I’d like to see 60 Minutes do an expose’ on this over-hyped, under-armed, corvette similar to what they did on Congressional Insider Trading. Otherwise, this thing will continue to be funded, putting our sailors at risk when they’re caught in this thing when the next crisis hits. Funny thing about contingencies, they’re hard to predict. One fights with what one has and no enemy is going to wait until we get the “right modules”.

Sure, surround the 300o ton ship moving at 40 knots on the straits, about 1 meter waves right now according to the weather. Then after they “surround” the ship moving 40 knots in those conditions they have to scale it and get on board. Incidentally, putting accurate fire on target with a .50 cal while you are bobbing up and down 3 feet should be fun.

I’m no LCS fan but your scenario isn’t even close to plausible. These clowns hijack merchant ships and yachts, not warships.

It’s why we need to get Congress to kill the LCS Crap before it kills anyone who has to pull duty on them. They need to pull the funding from them and buy a Frigate design from Europe.

Jeff dont kid yourself. They have already expanded the sizes of both vessels to get more fuel.

And the Burke bring one hell of a heavy war load and can cruise at a good pace. The LCS (not even LCS-2) cant even make over 1,000mi unless its at 18 or so knots.

The thing people who support the LCS wont see or dont want to is this.……

Its a under gunned over priced POS version of the Absolon. Seriously the Danes got stanflex down in the 80’s. They have sense implimented it on all their new designes.

The Absolon cost around 300mil per ship. Takes a crew of 100 or so. Does litteraly every mission of the LCS BETTER. Oh i forgot to mention. It can also transport some 300 mines (and lay them). Has transport capacity for 300 more crew or marines. Ands can load and unload 7 main battle tanks at the dock.….….…

Yep and the LCS can do what.

OH IT GOES FAST.….……Is it me or is our Navy going through a mid life crisis???

What the Navy should go after.

That could go either way: the notion of modularity does imply that R&D geeks can continually evolve newer mission module capabilities as newer technologies arrive.

However, for the expected lifetime of the ships, there really probably isn’t any “final capability” to be achieved.

The trick will be in convincing the R&D folks
to keep each new MM design within the standard MM footprint/volume and weight limits.

It’s why the US Navy needs to kill the LCS and get it’s act together and get a Frigate. If they wanted something like an LSC, then they should have gotten an Absolon to begin with

LCS-1,3,5… wide open speed (40 + knts) goes from 100 percent fuel load to zero percent fuel in 11.7 hours. ugly fact .. what CO would e v e r run his ship’s fuel below ____ percent (fill in the blank)?

that’s a great idea Jeff, let’s make every 3rd LCS a supply ship, we could call it the ‘milch cow’ class

now I’m only worried about the cost, how many years and millions will it take to create and deploy the milch cow module or “MCM-69A flight IA.001″

quick Admiral, get the power point ready… LOL

oh, and what if your LCS begins her high speed retreat when she’s already down to 70 percent fuel onboard ???? or 50 percent onboard ?? then, she can run wide open for about 6 hours. And she won’t want to ballast down (to stay stable in seas) because that would slow her retreat.

somehow I do think that STemplar would not love being on the LCS if this was happening.

if we could only get a few Admirals on board in a hot situation (being shot at), then I guarantee that they would never want to ride another one

what really amazes me Belesari is how many people here get red in the face defending the LCS as it it was the greatest thing ever to float

it’s going to be even worse, it’s the Admirals who will be giving the orders the “US Navy warship?” to deploy to hot situations, after all, they are warships are they not?

but I bet you a dollar that no Admiral’s son (or daughter) will ever serve on one-they’ll make sure of that.

I’ll admit it’s not a BB but the LM LCS does have Sea Giraffe radar for your “poor optically guided 57mm” gun, a SeaRAM launcher (also with radar), and the deck mounted machine guns – spend a minute to get your fact straight

get facts straight ?? wow… first error by you: LM LCS does Not have a Sea Giraffe Radar. Also, even if it did, Sea Giraffe is a Search radar, not a Gun Fire Control System GFCS radar. And finally, the 57mm really IS a “poor optically guided” gun !

Facts ? most of your post above is full of false “facts”.

If the Navy is able to upgrade surface warfare modules like I upgrade computer components then great. But when are we going to see version 1.0 on an LCS? That’s the question I think he didn’t want to answer.

Another interesting piece is that the Navy has been manning the mission modules (specifically the ASW module) with Sailors since around 2004/2005. For these Sailors, they spend 4 years sitting around a building waiting to do their job. Since the ASW module will not be ready until at least 2016, about 3 entire crews will rotate out of the program without even ever seeing the module they were stationed there to man!

actually, lcs does have sea giraffe.

It need powerful engine like powered by nuclear or electricity engine and alot of fire power like automatic missile reloads, torpedo launchers, powerful radars, networkng and other high power armament to defend itself from any rogue and attacking force.


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