Group Claims Amphibious Shipbuilding Industry in Danger

Group Claims Amphibious Shipbuilding Industry in Danger

A shipbuilding advocacy group issued a letter to the chairs of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus saying that Congress has put the amphibious shipbuilding industry in danger because it failed to fund the twelfth San Antonio-class amphib.

The letter, written by the Amphibious Warfare Industrial Base Coalition, or AWIBC, to Rep. Rob Wittman, R– Va., and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., criticized the decision not to build a twelfth San Antonio Class LPD or amphibious transport dock. There are currently plans to build 11 LPD 17s “fulfilling the acquisition objective for this class,” Navy officials said.

Although AWIBC did not list a dollar amount in their letter to Congress, the unit cost of an LPD 17 amphibious transport dock is approximately $1.7 to $1.8 billion dollars — according to DoD budget documents.


AWIBC officials refer to the Navy 30-year shipbuilding plan’s call to maintain a minimum of 33 amphibious warships in the fleet, claiming there are only 27 operating at the moment.

“It is critical to national security that these combat warships and their U.S. Navy-Marine Corps teams be available and in position around the globe to respond to threats and to protect U.S. citizens. It is also critical to national security that the U.S. industrial base that provides parts and products for amphibious warships remain strong,” writes the letter’s author, AWIBC Chairman Brian Schires.

Navy officials say their service’s 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for construction of as many as 19 new amphibs. According to the fiscal year 2014 30-year shipbuilding plan, the Navy plans to reach an inventory of 34 amphibs by 2025, Navy officials said.

The letter also states that the absence of sustained funding for LPD 28 will place skilled jobs in the shipping industry at risk.

“Building these warships on a regular schedule ensures stability in construction, keeps production lines active and allows second-and third-tier suppliers to allocate their resources and manpower to support the cost-effective and fiscally efficient production of amphibious warships,” Schires writes.

The letter also requests Congress to fund the early conceptual effort to build a new amphibious warship, the LX®.

The Navy is now conducting an analysis of alternatives, or AoA, for the LX®, an initiative which consists of various efforts to analyze designs, plans and potential technologies for the platform, service officials explained.

The new ship, expected to be ready by 2024, could wind up being built as a new design, a modified amphibious transport dock such as the LPD 17 or a modified dock landing ship such as the LSD, said Lt. Rob Myers, Navy spokesman.

“The AoA is researching alternatives in three categories: traditional Navy standards, tailored specifications and commercial standards,” Myers said.

Highlighting the global demand for amphibious warships is also a priority for the AWIBC, which claims that amphibs have been called upon more than 80 times to respond to mission need around the globe since October of 2011. Amphib advocates also point out that amphibious warships were strategically positioned off the coasts of Egypt and Syria last year, poised to respond to potential crises.

The letter arrives as the service gets ready to formally welcome its newest America-class amphib – the USS America, or LHA (6).  The newly completed big-deck amphib recently completed acceptance trials off the coast of Mississippi.

The acceptance trails involved rigorous tests of the ship’s major systems and components including combat, propulsion, communications, computer, aviation and navigation systems, Navy officials said.

The 44,000-ton, 844-foot long amphib, built to house the MV-22 Osprey and Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, will reach speed of more than 20 knots. The ship is slated for official delivery to the Navy in the spring of this year.

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It is an exercise in rent-seeking. Including the fact that the taxpayer just blew $3B each on some flat-top amphibs…with no well deck. Money squandered.

Well, the first two ships of the America class were constructed with no well deck to, in essence, create a mini-carrier and see how it could impact amphibious operations and doctrine. The remaining ships of the class will have a well deck.

Mostly correct. Some geniuses in the USMC thought it was a major innovation to remove the well deck to add room for more aircraft, ordnance, and fuel — apparently without realizing that the concept of the CV has been long understood since WW2 (go figure). And as the other poster already pointed out — only two LHA-6’s are being built — all others are being constructed with the well deck.

However, given that we may find ourselves with a shortage of carriers, these two ships could be sent to patrol less volatile parts of the world, while the CVN’s are stationed in regions where trouble is more likely. Granted. $3.4 billion dollars is a lot to spend to show the flag — but these ships might demonstrate some usefulness.

The above said, many defense analysts are really liking the idea of building more small carriers, to get better coverage, reduce costs, and spread our assets out more. A Ford-class carrier costs ~$14B, where an LHA-6 costs $3.4B: Hence — you can get 4 LHA-sized carriers for less than the price of 1 Ford (escorts not included).

Why should we build ships when the Navy’s defense contractors are getting rich off of designing them? These people make no sense. We don’t need real ships to have a decent Navy, all we really need is more good paper designs of ships (that with any luck will never get built). The AWIBC is on crack if they think their wimpy little group can out lobby the big defense contractors.

Easy kill the F-35B or the JSF all together and use the funding for new Amphib ships, and maintenance.

And now you don’t have a fighter to operate from those amphib ships.

Well if the Navy and friends would stop trying to build super ships and build smaller amphibs we’d be a lot better off.

Lance comes through AGAIN!

“Shipbuilding Advocacy Group”? Is that Beltway-speak for Shipyard Lobby? Where’s Pete Russo when you need him?

The key to the problem of not building enough ships is to build fewer ships? Why not outsource shipbuilding to China like we do every other industry? It makes as much sense as paying a defense contractor more to screw us on development.

Concept of Sea-Control ship has been in making since Vetnam War when the Harriers started to get tested out for use on ships like the Guam in early 1970s. There been good use of such ships, they just need the aircraft to make them truly effective. Harrier was what it was then, the F-35B will be US Navys now.
Other Navies used these type Sea Control Ships, like recently retired Principe de Asturias (Based on a US design no less). America Class LHDs acting as dedicated SCS isn’t bad thing, they still can airlift a lot of maries to their destination by helo. Its same having a LCAC, but this is try at something new.

I’m on the fence on this sort of thing, you have industry dependent now on US Military construction to keep them, afloat. There hardly anything civilian wise for them to compete with that would work. Look at Britain, BAE is closing one of its shipyards down because its best economic thing they can to do stay variable in the future when it comes to shipyard work.

US is no different, They can’t make ships cheaper than say South Korea or China or Northern European nations. We make them solid and good, but at high cost for our skilled works. Inflation is cruel mistress after all. US Shipyards going cry over lack solid funding, thats fine. I just wish the yards would delivered solid results. LPD 17s were the poster child of bad quality for high-ticket item. LCS are bad design with quality problems., Nothing perfect mind you, but it stands out when its the yard ship side. Asking for money becomes challenging. I wish we still had more competing yards out there.

The LCS being crap is not the fault of the welders in the ship yard. It’s the fault of the designer, in this case Lockheed. The cost of designing ships and the time required has gone up exponentially since the Navy started outsourcing this work to the big defense contractors. With so much money and time going to the development phase, there is little left for actually producing ships, thus we lose fabrication workers with critical skills while the big defense corporations f away billions. Hell, the LCS cost more to design than an Iowa Class Battleship. Does that seem reasonable?

I’m on the fence on this sort of thing, you have industry dependent now on US Military construction to keep them, afloat. There hardly anything civilian wise for them to compete with that would work. Look at Britain, BAE is closing one of its shipyards down because its best economic thing they can to do stay variable in the future when it comes to shipyard work.

Question is the quality there putting out, their asking for sustainable work. LPD-17 wasn’t smelling like roses when it came out, replaced number type of ships, which fell short on many angles. The design gotten better, but…i’m not sure what government accounting ability office say about if the Navy says it wants more of something that doesn’t work.

Not something new, pretty much the same thihng as the older LPHs which didn’t have well decks either.

Most countries charge a port fee for foreign flagged vessels to use their domestic tax payer supported facility. The US quit doing that in the ‘80s and we watched as our civilian ship building industry got exported to 3rd world crap holes because of it. So now we build and support our ports all on the backs of the US taxpayer, about a quarter of which don’t have jobs right now. Then we outsource the design of our Navy ships to defense contractors who want to get fat off of dragging their design and development out forever. But it’s all good because we have plenty of welfare, food stamps, big screen tv’s, and a lottery.

The acquisitiony nature of the business makes you wonder if Lockheed gives two damns about shipbuilding.

In the free market companies shed business arms to consolidate around expertise. In military-land it’s using your slush money to turn into a cartel that does a little bit of everything…

You go on and on about outsourcing the design of Navy ships. Please tell us OTHER THAT LCS, which other ship designs were outsourced.

LPD-17 are ‘short well-deck’ ships, offering only about 42% of the well-deck capacity the older 8-vessel LSD-41 class (“Whidbey Island”) at around. LPD-17 offers the MEU 189 x 49 feet of well-deck. LSD-41 features 440 x 50 feet of well-deck area.

Amphibious assault is at the end of the day massively dependent upon ship-to-shore-capability.
Even with LSD-41s it is hard to produce a potent First Wave landing in multiple locations with full-weight Main Battle Tanks and armored Personnel Carriers — none of which can be helo’d to the beach.

LPD-17 ‘Shorties’ (short well-deck) shrink USMC MEU’s option even further.

Why ?
– You must have adequate numbers of Connectors (aircushion light-load-&-fast) and conventional(medium-speed-&-heavy-lift) to launch an effective amphibious assault mission .
– This requires bringing adequate numbers of Connectors towards the projected theater of MEU-operations.
– ‘Shorty’ Amphibs simply cannot.
– Long Well-Deck Vessels like LSD-41 can.

According to the argument of the well-respected RAND-study of 2006 “Why has the Cost of Navy Ships Risen” , without any changes beyond the recent SLEP-upgrades across the LSD-41, inflation-adjusted a 21st-century COPY of LSD-41 should cost under $700 million !

LPD-17-based well-deck capacity thus loses vital well-deck capacity at apparently double-plus the cost for a ‘Re-Production’ of a fully-designed, 21st-century-correct upgraded, and well-tested across 30+ years of service long-well-deck LSD-41 type.

How is that justifiable ?

Would any Marine want to endorse that destructive move ?

Any pride anywhere defending this Less-for-Double+ policy by the LPD-17 folks ?

Its strange that you’re comparing LPD17 to LSD41 when LPD17 was never designed or intended to be an LSD. Although you have accurately described the differences in terms of actual wet-well size, you seem to have forgetten the differences in vehicle stowage ad troop capacities to say nothing about aviation support capabilities. I participated in many amphibious landings and generally, once the LSD and LPD launched their landing craft/LCACs for their first run to the beach, many of their next runs usually took them to the LPD to pick up more vehicles, cargo, etc.

LPD17 was built to replace the LPD1 and LPD4 classes. When its time to replace the LSD41s then I hope that the Navy will create a new LSD class. I’ve seen some models of an LSD built on the LPD17 hullform but with the full length welldeck that appear to be a pretty good starting point.

Lockheed cares about one thing and one thing only, providing the maximum possible return to stockholders. I’ve got Lockheed stock, and I’m here to tell you that’s not a bad thing. Where everything gets all f’ed up is in the rules of the game. Once we started paying for-profit companies a profit on development, we changed the rules such that it pays better for a company to drag out and jack up the cost of every design and development project they can get their hands on. It doesn’t matter if they’re developing Internet software for the Obamacare website or rockets or ships or airplanes. That’s how a company optimizes profits, and that’s what they are going to do.

Seriously? So what game are we playing today? Is this the, “defense contractors are not the only ones who screw up” game? Yes, I know defense contractors are not the only ones who screw up. That’s why the Navy can’t make a rule that contractors are forbidden to screw up, because everyone makes mistakes, but here’s the deal, and see if you can get past you own agenda long enough to follow me here, defense contractors get paid more to screw up and thus they do it with much more frequency than could be explained by just normal every day screwing up. Do you understand what I’m saying? I really don’t feel like it is all that complicated. If someone offered me $1.10 for every dollar I spent, I’d find a lot of reasons to spend dollars. That’s really all it comes down to.

Why does an LCS cost more to design than an Iowa Class Battleship? Hmm, one thing we can be sure of, it has nothing to do with the fact that we now outsource ship design to defense contractors. Just put that thought right out of your mind.

Nice job at evading the question. You keep railing about contractors designing Navy ships so please tell us which ships BESIDES LCS were designed by contractors. The vast majority of the shipbuilding budget is NOT in LCS, its in other ships and I’m interested in how much the contractors are designing THOSE ships.

LPD-17s are suppose to replace more than the LPDs., they were also replacing the Attack Cargo Ships as well and supplement the reduction of LSD as well.

Are you comparing Iowa Class’s costs in World War II numbers or current day numbers? There a huge difference. Back in the 80s i believe, Congress asked how much it would cost to build a brand new Battleship class, they were told it would exceed Navy’s budget at the time. LSC look expensive, but if you compare to them to a large ship like the Ford Class? There big cost difference there.

Not really, they are a one for one replacement for prior LPDs. The LKAs were retired without replacement and The MEU-SOCs and ARGs have deployed perfectly well for over 20 yrs without either the LKAs or LPD-17s. The LHA/LHD in particular carry a lot of the cargo that was previously loaded aboard the LKAs.

Neither inflation nor index of inflation calculators (http://​www​.bls​.gov/​d​a​t​a​/​i​n​f​l​a​t​i​o​n​_​c​a​l​c​u​l​a​t​o​r​.​htm) are exactly new.

In the 1980s the US Navy could not wait to get rid of the US Merchant Marine, because it required frigates, P3s and submarines for escort, diverting from Power Projection. Not only did they get rid of the USMM, they also got rid of all national flag merchant marines and we now have the Chinese manning about 40% of the worlds merchant ships. What’s so significant about that? The Chinese can tell their ships to STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING and DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Our economy would grind to a halt immediately.

Gone with the USMM are the commercial shipyards.

Solution: Require that 1 voyage out of 10 into and out of the US be chartered to a US ship. Ship charterers would decide when and where to us US ships. Even small amounts of cargo for short voyages would be a huge improvement from zero. If 10% of US cargo was carried on US ships, it would take about 15 years to build enough ships to meet the need and nearly as many to train enough crews. This plan is sweet, simple and workable. The additional cost of US ships would be spread out among the other 9 flag of convenience voyages. The shipbuilding sector would grow rapidly.

The Navy did not “own” the Merchant Marine in the 1980s. The Navy also did not “own” the Merchant Marine in the 1970s. The Navy also did not “own” the Merchant Marine in the 1960s. The Navy also did not “own” the Merchant Marine in the 1950s. The Navy actually never “owned” the Merchant Marine at all, they are COMMERCIAL SHIPS owned by FOR PROFIT COMPANIES. The real cuprit are the maritime unions who pretty much priced themselves out of existance. When the shipping companies found that the costs of US flagged ships were far higher than the cost of “flagging” their ships in Panama, Liberia, etc they discovered that one of the primary differences was the cost of the crew so they reflagged their ships to the so-called “flags of convienience” and maintained their cost competitiveness.

Nowhere in any of that mess was the Navy. The Coast Guard runs the licensing program for merchant mariners and also the safety requirements (also costly) but the Navy has NO PART AT ALL in it.

In the 1980s we spoke with members of Congress including the Merchant Marine Subcommittee and with US Navy officials. We were told that the USN would lobby against any proposal other than increasing MSC. We were given a reason: “You (merchant ship drivers) will all be dead within 2 weeks of the start of a major war. So what’s the point? This is the reason for pre-positioning.” The USMM died along with all other national flag merchant marines. MSC thrived. The results speak for themselves and there is plenty of blame to go around.

To go forward, we have to get the government out of the subsidy business; build merchant ships to SOLAS standards and have a simple rule that a small percentage of voyages into and out of the US will be on US ships. That should result in an increase in domestic shipbuilding and repair facilities, thus making more yards available to the US Navy.

This is a multifaceted problem, which will only get worse with continued absence of a viable US Merchant Marine.

Key difference is that the Navy OWNS MSC and the “Merchant Marine” is a group of private businesses. The Navy does not pay for the Merchant marine, they and their customers are private businesses just like trucking companies.

What is it that you want the navy or DoD to do here?

As you say, the Navy OWNS MSC, which is in essence it’s own merchant marine. What little of the USMM that remained by Operation Desert Storm was nationalized and for the most part disbanded afterward. Both the USMM and national flag merchant marines worldwide disappeared.

The Navy and DoD are an integral part of the problem and must be part of the solution. Congress will never get behind any effort to rebuild a USMM unless the USN and DoD are onboard. I am proposing a relatively simple method of reserving a small portion of our shipping at little or no cost to the government, does not involve subsidies at all (making it possible to eliminate subsidies entirely) and is easily enforceable through MARAD. For most ship charterers this would only involve 1 or 2 voyages annually or biannually and it would be subject to market forces.

Similarly, ship owners should be allowed to purchase 90% of their ships outside of the US, with 10% reserved for US yards. Shipyard competition from US Navy would drive up cost to the private ship owner, but merchant marine competition would drive down cost to US Navy. Win-Win.

NOTHING POSITIVE is going to happen unless the USN and DoD recognize the problem and get behind a free market solution. Its not a total free market solution, but its a lot closer than anything I have heard of in the last 40 years.

A nation allows its vital industries to disappear at its own peril. We are now facing that peril.

The reason for the huge cost increase, is computer systems and automation. the navy’s new thing is “optimal manning” and LPD 17 class can run with under a 300 man crew. to make up the difference its automation, a $500 dollar valve now cost $10,000 dollars because you dont have the man power to turn it, an it needs to be automated. how’ever it is not possible to take care of both the sailors and the ship with those few people. either the maintaining and repairing of the ship suffers, or the crew sufferes..followed by the ship suffering. its a loose loose. after being on one for 5 years I would know,

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