LCS Mafia’s Full-Court Press

LCS Mafia’s Full-Court Press

The LCS program has used this week’s Surface Navy Association conference in DC for a full-court messaging press against the ever-controversial platform’s critics. Between this month’s Proceedings cover story by Rear Admiral Rowden, director Surface Warfare Division, and yesterday’s LCS Counsel panel the message is loud if not clear: LCS isn’t broken; it’s on schedule (NAVSEA’s chief engineer actually made the claim that it’s ahead of schedule relative to how previous platforms came on line), and it’s exactly the ship that the Navy wants and needs.

However the facts and logic behind those claims are less watertight – about as watertight as LCS-2’s magnesium-alloyed aluminum hull with extensive galvanic corrosion. The ultimate question in the Pentagon’s current fiscal environment is whether LCS’s engineering and design challenges and cost growth are acceptable going forward considering how much is left unknown about how the ship will be used, how it will be manned, and how much it will cost to operate.

The conduct of the LCS Counsel panel at SNA could be viewed two ways: It was either an unflinching defense of LCS or a demonstration of how broken the DoD acquisition process is.

The panel parried the criticisms one-for-one, sometimes going deep into semantics matrices. An audience member questioned the ship’s survivability, the panel asked what the questioner meant by “survivable.” And during the course of the survivability discussion someone brought up MRAP, which was both appropriate in terms of a platform that ultimately saved lives relative to the system it replaced, but off in terms of a platform that was presaged as a requirement going into the conflict.

And that’s where LCS is the poster child for a broken procurement process – including a broken requirements process as part of the procurement process. Basically, the process demands that the service make promises up front to reach the critical mass needed to get a program started, and then break those promises one-by-one as the program goes through design, production, testing, and fleet introduction.

In the case of LCS promises have been broken at every turn: The definition of “affordable” has changed. The unit cost (without mission packages) has nearly doubled. The definition of “survivable” has changed. (Survivability now includes the presence of at least three other LCSs that operate together and, really, it would be best if there was a carrier strike group nearby.) The definition of “reduced manpower” continues to creep up – they just added 10 more crew members to the standard ship’s complement, raising the total to 50.

The rest is a grab bag of factoids that come off as more episodic than protractedly planned. The total buy in the program of record is 24 ships, but the numbers on the slide in terms of out-year production only added up to 14 (12 Lockheed-Martin versions and 2 General Dynamics versions). The two LCS designs don’t look anything alike, but the goal in terms of maintainability and sustainability is commonality. (So why have two versions then?) LCS 1 is going to WESTPAC this spring. LCS 2 is entering operational test in two of three mission areas. One admiral on the panel says “Modularity is the wave of the future,” while another says the modules will be switched out “only to meet theater requirements, not as a matter of routine.” VADM Mark Skinner from ASN(RDA) likened the LCS to an “iPhone with apps” in terms of its open architecture, which again was a perfect metaphor for the ship’s conundrum in terms of the intended versus the unintended. Choosing the right apps could be viewed as a zero sum game. If I had to pay to develop the apps on my smartphone right now, which ones would actually be there?

And the panel introduced the concept of “Rapid Technology Insertion,” one of those brilliant terms that nobody does like the DoD procurement arena. Like “concurrence” with JSF and “spiral development” with Super Hornet before it, the LCS RTI program understands they’re not ever going to have the funding or the time they need to get it right the first go ‘round, so they’ll keep things blissfully ill-defined and jam capabilities into the ship in the event the planets occasionally align down the road in terms of funded technologies.

Nicely ahead of the curve or a complete cop-out? Future LCS crews will be the judges.

And speaking of future LCS crews, unlike the blackshoes with career aspirations that came before them, the LCS is most likely the only class of ship in which they will ever serve. The training pipeline is specific and intense and lasts upwards of two years for a first tour sailor – about the time it used to take a pilot to go through flight school (including FRS training).

VADM Rick Hunt, the director of the Navy Staff at OPNAV and head of the LCS Counsel said he would choose one word to describe LCS: “Opportunity.” It’s an interesting choice, a soft word perhaps by warfighting standards. Will a world of sequestration and trillion dollar bogies fund “opportunities” absent associated terms like “lethality” and “affordable readiness.”

VADM Hunt put a finer point on his meaning, again (as other members of the panel did) unwittingly slamming the system that’s supposed to field effective systems for the fleet.

“We should have put the ship at sea earlier, longer, and let our sailors figure it out,” Hunt said. “We were too conservative. Let our guys figure it out. Let them take it to the next level and they will.”

So what are the syscoms and their “industry partners” for again?

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I don’t think they “think it can fight.” I think they know their careers depend on the project not being called a “failure” too often or too loud, so they go out and shout the critics down. If anyone on that panel thought the ship was what it was advertised, they wouldn’t be resorting to mind-twisting buzz words and circular logic.

People keep comparing this to the F-35. It both is and isn’t. The F-35 while costing millions beyond any fighter in human history at least delivers the firepower of a strike fighter.…when they get it flying.

The LCS has no weapons other than its Seahawks.…oh wait my bad the seahawks cant pull the sleds for mine and sub hunting.….their out…

Wait it has those helicopter UAV’s.…oh yea they crash alot and dont really carry any firepower.….….well.….the UUV! Oh.…..well shit.……

They have a 57mm gun though.….which they cant use at high speeds sense the vessel is nearly uncontrolable

So basically the LCS mafia is trying to push down our throats a ship they think can fight when in reality, it couldn’t even stand up to China, Russia or Iran. It just goes to show that the LCS is a Joke and the US Navy needs to sink the LCS for a Multi Role frigate with Littoral capability.

They also have so much in common. Both are a good example of good or promising engineering concept that are not implemented properly; compromising its usefulness.

Some of the tweets I did re; that conference— Sounds more like someone setting up post USN employment RT @USNavy Live from #SNA2013 — #LCS ===== Balance in the LCS failure conversation here: http://​goo​.gl/​u​9​PN3 vs. RT @USNavy Live from #SNA2013 — #LCS 1– ======== Paper tiger RT @USNavy Live from #SNA2013 — #LCS 1– We’ve got what we need in place for the first deployment. ======== Typical corporate group-speak empty message RT @USNavy VADM Hunt #LCS discussion #SNA2013 — We can either embrace this change or fight it– ===== How about two words:RICO Statute RT @USNavy VADM Hunt at #SNA2013 — If I had one word for #LCS, it would be opportunity. ======= ts’ called lying folks: RT @USNAVY Live from #SNA2013 — #LCS is bringing a warfighting capability to the fleet…

What shocks me the most is that the US Navy never hired a Captain who had experience sailing a Corvette ship.

The idea itself sounded good. Until you factored in everything wanted with what realisticly was possible. Then it failed.

Let’s hope that sequestration will sink the LCS and its brass with it.

Quote of the year. And it is only January.

The question of “survivable” is a serious one: anyone who knows even a little history w/r/t littoral combat during WW2 in the Pacific knows that what those battles lacked in size they more than made up for in sheer intensity. The LCS hasn’t got the firepower to give any naval adversary serious pause (mere pirates don’t count in a real war). The notion that (from other articles) b/c it has a chopper aboard means it has an OTH attack capability, or that now it means 3 of them have to act together, or otherwise with a *carrier group* nearby would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

If LCS were such a great design/concept: then why have ALL the potential buyers of the LCS since deserted the program? Their respective navy’s looked at the program, design, etc; concluded the obvious, and walked away.

If other navy’s have managed to design a similar sized ship, far more heavily armed/armored, with “mission packages”, for half the cost — it isn’t hard to see why. Unless, you’re part of the LCS mafia.

I’m afraid I can’t remain silent on your armchair admiral comments any longer. You and this article miss the fundamental point of the LCS… Modularity. The admirals defending it understand that construction cost pales in comparison to Total Ownership Cost and it would be your Multi-role frigate that capsizes an ever shrinking Navy budget, unable to keep up with the ever changing threat. The telescoping nature of innovation requires decoupling the ship from its war fighting capability. Bashing the system only shows that you have no grasp of the challenges faced by innovation. Aegis, VLS, CWIS… all systems that met significant challenges through their respective development history. Now you’ll find them providing the capability that keeps our Navy number 1 in the world.

I hope you’re right, Alex. My point is it’s a lot to ask of the system for mission areas that can be accommodated by other existing platforms or a simple tactical shift. “We’ll see” is not a plan … or is it our only plan?

We won’t even have any mission modules until 2014 and who knows if their integration into current ships’ systems work properly. The mine hunter version may be closer. We have no antiship missiles since NLOS was cancelled due to non-performance except for an Israeli design (I believe) with a dinky 22 pound warhead. It was a dumb idea to have two totally different versions that require two different maintenance and spare parts pipelines.
It’s already known that swapping out modules while on deployment will be difficult as they will have to be stored wherever the ships may go. And from experience we know what a pain it is to exchange crews between the states and wherever they are stationed.

Corvette, hell that’s a WW2 style ship.


You are spot on. This ship is a product of the “Navy as a business” groupthink that plagued us through the 90’s and early 2000’s. We haven’t totally shed that yet, esp in the Flag ranks…because if the CNO is behind it, and you are not, then you lose your chair in the next round when the music stops.
I remember quite clearly hearing after the Stark incident, and the Belnap melting to the water line we would build “no more aluminum superstructure ships.” Likewise, after losing so many A-7’s to engine failure “no more single engine tacair”. Yet here we are: Our biggest two programs: A ship that is aluminum with the name “combat” in it (hello, battle damage?) and a single engine a/c that will be our largest buy in this century.

I wonder how many billions we will ask for for Kevlar armor once the first LCS melts to the waterline? Chances are, we won’t get it in this budgetary environment. Like the PT boats of WWII, they’d better be able to hit and run. Oh, wait…cruise missiles.

Good reporting Wade. Be well, my friend. JC

What modules? Very few modules have been developed and fewer still tested. When costs started climbing like a just launched Trident missile, the development of the modules was postponed.
The SH-60 can’t tow a mine sled, the 57 mm gun is outclassed by almost warship in the world and the crew is too small to sustain the vessel.
Sorry, but a multi-role frigate would be more cost effective than the LCS. Even a Perry class frigate could outfight the LCS and they only have one 76mm gun.

You might want to spend at least a couple of minutes talking to some Naval Officers from the US or heck, even allied Navies and ask them how many “Captains” they hire.
The answer is ZERO because they grow their own Captains. In the case of small ships they tend to be Lieutenant Commanders or even Lieutenants.

Belknap did not “melt to the waterline” by any means. Much of the upper superstructure was indeed destroyed but it was far above the waterline. Google up some post collision pics and you will see. I had the opportunity to walk through the superstructure before it was repaired and can tell you first hand.

“What modules?” — The 30 mm MODULE is an amazing success (It’s a perfect example of modularizing an existing system to provide commonality across the navy), The MH-60 does it’s job wonderfully WRT SUW (search, locate, track, and if necessary prosecute), and the RHIBS launch and recover as intended. What more do you want from the SUW Mission Package? It was never sold as ship to counter frigates or larger class warships. It’s for the tiny, nimble, short range boghammer threats that threaten slower more cumbersome vessels (like a multirole frigate). As to all commenters and the author making comments on the Minesweeping Sled… It’s for Mine SWEEPING. That’s your last resort and is NOT your main goal when preforming an MCM mission. Priority one is find a safe passage that isn’t mined. Second priority if there is no safe route then you search, locate, ID, and neutralize a safe one. THEN after all is complete you sweep just in case you missed one and HOPE you’ve swept enough that it detonates (definitely not an exact science). Quite frankly I would not like to cross a passage that required sweeping. In addition, the unmanned influence sweep system will be in the MCM mission package before we scrap the current MCM fleet so your argument is flawed.

Existing platforms are either aging (Avenger Class MCMs and Perry Class FFGs) or ill suited for the current threats (DDG-51 with a 400k missile against cheap swarming fast attack craft) that the LCS is intended to fill. I can’t speak for the decision makers, but realize that the impact that the LCS has on the future navy goes well beyond the immeadiate and short term threats. Modularity is the only way we will manage to keep up with new threats on the horizon without a fat piggy bank to float this navy, and the LCS is the Navy proactively learning how to do this. Think about the aircraft carriers with that respect. Ever changing threat is met with newer designed aircraft. The ship itself remains fundamentally the same (hence a 50 plus year service life).

“No modules till 2014″? What does it deploy with to SE Asia, carboard cut-outs of 30mm guns and RHIBS?

Are you honestly trying to justify spending $570 MILLION dollars on a ship that can currently (and for the foreseeable future) carry a friggin 30mm (thirty millimeter) gun!?

If this is not sick then I don’t know what is.

Which is why when sequestration hits the LCS and sinks it under sequestration . I believe the US Navy will be forced to look at getting a Patrol frigate out of the US Coast Guards National Security Cutter design.

Once this thing is actually battle tested, then the Navy will learn their lesson… Even though it will be too late.

overheard in a conversation between CNO and VADM Hunt

CNO ask’s VADM Hunt : “where are your modules admiral?”

VADM Hunt: “Modules, we ain’t got any modules, we don’t need no modules, we don’t have to show you any stinkin modules, we’ve got powerpoints!”

Unfortunately, this if flaulty concept that didn’t have leadership that was around long enough focus on common sense directives. Do we ant this thing to act like Frigate or do we want it to be a coastal near-shore ship? Module idea is good, but it has to be functional. Neither these platforms are good, Freedom more traditional design in some senses. but so wasn’t the Cyclone and look how that turned out? Independence is good but its bow to darn narrow and frankly asking for trouble if you want put anything more into it. Worse of them all is their both designs are mainly magnesium-alloyed aluminum. Magenesium don’t go out with fire extinguisher, its either sand or you dump it into the sea. Stupid idea no matter what the cost saving its was. They might as well be Drones.

Here is one article — with links to others: read it and weep.

Another article — from Time magazine — one of those that started the firestorm that brought the LCS Mafia[tm] off the bottom faster ‘n salmon at spawning time…

We’re assuming that we can keep the LCS for decades and simply swap out modules, electronics and engines as needed.

Maybe that works for the USAF and the B-52, but at sea? The Royal Navy kept wooden ships in the Age of Sail for decades because the Age of Sail was a period of relative stagnation. Ships turned over with the ironclad, the casemate and the turret.

You may want to talk to people who have experienced sailing and working on true Corvette ships. At least they know what a littoral corvette ship should look and act like.

Someone please enlighten me? Won’t the magnesium component in the LCS-2’s magnesium-alloyed aluminum hull burn more like an intense hiway flare rather than just melting as a aluminum hull would?

The LCS project should be scrapped becuase it is too expensive andthe ship will have very limited utility overall. Frigates and destroyers canaccomplsih the taks using drones and helicopters while adding to the overal Navy blue ocean fleet.

As the POTUS might say, when it comes to survival, IT IS ONLY A “BOAT” AND IT IS ONLY “50” MEN. NO BIGGIE. It does look nice doesn’t it ?

This shows just how broken military aquisition is — especially that of the Navy. It is totally devoid of a handle on reality and the people involved should be looked at for possible criminality. When will this country hold these people accountable? Waste billions upon billions of dollars. Work to ensure that the fighting men and women of America do not have the best gear availble. And ultimately risk the safty of our country. Lockheed Martin and the admirals it owns (not to mention politicans) need to have their teeth kicked in. Ships that could do this already exist — but wait, since they were designed and built in friendly countries (and not the US) we cannot buy them. We have to bill the American people billions to redesign the wheel — and then say that the wheel is just fine even though it looks like a square. Or lets build a Navy that is designed to fight the Cold War … wait — didn’t we already (kind of) win that? Who cares about budgets, lets build a few more super carriers and DG1000 destroyers even though they are very poorly suited to address the main future treats of mines, missles and subs. People need to lose their stars and some people need to spend some time in jail.

It’s all tied into shipyard economics, all these people pushing these junk designs like the DG-1000 which in my opinion is a modern day Titanic are wasting our tax money. In simple terms they must have financial ties with the shipyards. No lessons will be learned until a disaster at sea happens. Have the people making these decisions gotten stupid? I think so, and at the taxpayers expense.

In all fairness to the current POTUS — the project to create this floating taxpayer-rip-off began long before Obama was sworn into office in January 2009. In fact — the idea was first floated in 2003 with the commissioning of Sea Fighter — during the Administration of George W Bush.

Even as a strike fighter it has a MUCH shorter range and MUCH less air to ground or ship weapons load.

The term “corvette” is still today used by many navies. All naval ship time names are undefined. One sailors cruiser is another’s destroyer, one navies’ destroyer is another’s frigate…

You perhaps are right about modularity being a great thing for an ever changing threat environment. But the LCS programs is (pardon the pun) a wreak. We need a different class of ship in the next five or eight years as a stop gap — buy a European or Asian frigate! Stop producing more than the first two, three or four LCS and learn from operating them. BIG issues like can the structure remain viable for more than thirty years to capture the benefits of future modulars, can the small crew maintain the ship at sea, can we improve them to stay ay sea for a realistic period of time (i.e. more than fourteen days as I’ve read)? JMO and I’d enjoy a further discussion.

Please understand, I hope that the LCS programs proves me wrong. I hope it’s the next great, classic class of warship and it defends “my children now asleep in their beds,” I really do.

“People need to lose their stars and some people need to spend some time in jail.” — Agreed. It will take an independent, joint Presidential/Congressional Commission to have ANY hope of solving the situation with procurement. And we all know that this won’t happen or even if it did NOTHING will come of it — I fear for my country, truly. I just hope our enemies are in an even worse situation.

A frigate with half the armament of a missile boat.….


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