US Combat Ship Decision Coming in 'Very Near Future'

Gestart door jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter), 09/11/2014 | 10:32 uur


Citaat van: Harald op 10/11/2014 | 14:12 uur
Eigenlijk is de ontwikkeling naar SSC (small surface combatant) of ook wel Sea Controle Frigate, te vergelijken met onze ontwikkeling van de vervanger M-fregat en de MKS180 bij de Oosterburen (Duitsland).

Kernpunten :
Langer in zetbaar, grote range, Multi-functioneel, grote heliplaats/deck/hangaar, gebruik UAV of mini-heli's, Multi-Mission bay, Slipway (gebruik van RHIB's, 10 a 16 meter), Wapensystemen voor alle doeleinden, dus ASW, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface Nieuwe radar (active-phased array radar). maar ook goede EW systemen en CIWS. Ook een boardkanon 76 mm of groter.

ASW met zowel vaste sonar, als sleep sonar. Als ook dipping sonar vanaf helicopters.   

En dit alles met een zo klein mogelijke bemanning van rond de 100 - 130 koppen.

Maar als ik kijk naar de kosten, welke de Amerikanen denken dat hun SSC schepen zullen gaan kosten, dan schrik ik heel erg als ik dit vergelijk met de kosten van onze LCF fregatten en/of Karel Doorman Klasse of de Iver Huitfeldt klasse fregatten (Denemarken) en ook het budget van de M-vervanger (volgens mij) ca, € 450 miljoen euro per stuk.

De Amerikanen denken aan zo´n $ 800 miljoen USD ( € 624 miljoen) per schip.

Wat voor een volwaardig fregat niet een erg ongangbare prijs is. Hoewel aan de hoge kant gezien de verwachte order grote en gebruik van bestaande technologieën.


It's time Time for a "Sea Controle Frigate"    (erg interessant artikel)

While  Oliver Hazard Perry-  class frigates are not the only platforms you would want for a serious confrontation, they are great independent-deployers and effective at a multitude of missions such as escort operations and antisubmarine warfare (ASW). As the Navy decommissions the last 15 frigates, soon to be joined by 21  Ticonderoga-  class  cruisers, we will call on our existing hulls to support their ongoing missions. There is little doubt the littoral combat ship (LCS) fills some of this void, but even the top brass seem to agree that it's ineffective in a high-endurance, blue-water setting. 

In January, a report from the Pentagon described a plan to cut the amount of LCSs from 52 to 32 ships, and in a leaked classified memo, Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Admiral Tom Copeman called for a new type of multi-mission ship.  1   Many envision a new combatant ship that incorporates air- and missile- defense radar and an electromagnetic railgun. While it is imperative that the Navy build these types of ships, a multibillion-dollar warship juggernaut is simply unnecessary when a new, cost-effective frigate could effectively accomplish the same missions.

Of the many potential frigate designs, Huntington Ingalls Industries offers one derived from its successful national security cutter (NSC) hull dubbed the "patrol frigate," originally intended and modeled for international navies. At first, it may seem preposterous to paint a Coast Guard cutter gray and call it a warship. In the July 2013 issue of  Proceedings  , Norman Polar opined that more frigates were needed, but was quick to dismiss a patrol frigate as a viable option. He claimed it "lacked growth potential and service life, as well as certain military features." 2   But tweaking the NSC could turn it into a viable candidate that meets the Navy's needs.

The Patrol Frigate Baseline

The  Legend  -class NSC is 418 feet long, displaces 4,500 metric tons, has a draft of 22 feet (the same as the  Perry  s), and operates with a combined diesel-and-gas propulsion system, which allows twin screw propulsion on a single engine. Its sprint speed can exceed 30 knots on full power and 18 knots with one engine online. It has a large 50 by 80 foot flight deck, twin hangar bays that accommodate two Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawks or four MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicles, and a stern launch ramp for small boat operations. It's equipped with a Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS), a Bofors 57-mm main gun, six .50 caliber machine guns, Mk 36 SRBOC (rapid chaff decoy launchers), Nulka active decoys, and the same SLQ-32v2 electronic-warfare suite found on  Arleigh Burke-  class destroyers (DDG-51s).  3   

In 2012, Ingalls introduced the "Patrol Frigate 4921" concept ship with improved weapons and combat systems. It has an upgraded 76-mm main gun, a new CEAFAR 4th generation active-phased array radar, and both a hull mounted sonar and multi-functioned towed array (MFTA). Installed behind the main gun on the forecastle in a "reserved space" is a 12-cell Mk 56 Vertical Launch System (VLS) capable of holding 12 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles (ESSMs) with up to a 30-mile engagement range. In lieu of the Phalanx is a more effective SeaRAM CIWS with 11 RIM-116 rolling airframe missiles. In place of the stern launch ramp is one Mk 32 triple torpedo tube set and eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles. It supports the SH-60 Light Airborne Multipurpose System Mk III with either Mk 54 Torpedoes for an ASW mission or AGM-114 Hellfire missiles for antisurface warfare. It has a 45-day endurance and a range of over 8,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.  4    (In comparison, LCS-1 and 2 have ranges of 3,500 nm and 4,300 nm with a 21-day endurance, and DDG-51 has a range of 4,400 nm with a 30-day endurance.  5   ) 

This "patrol frigate" concept is an interesting starting point, but it's not exactly what we need. With the right research and a little creativity, a more ideal "sea control frigate" variant could be developed without additional hull modifications.

Sea-Control Frigate Transformation

To effectively transform the "patrol frigate" into the "sea-control frigate," its weapon system must be upgraded. After careful analysis of the hull, adequate space is available to accommodate the installation of a centerpiece 16-cell Mk 41 tactical length VLS that takes the place of the proposed Mk 56 VLS on the forecastle, as well as an accompanying VLS and radar cooling and support system.  6   The VLS supports a multi-mission configuration of ESSMs, antisubmarine rockets (ASROCs),
and long-range antiship missiles (LRASMs). This brings a tremendous capability to the frigate, as ESSMs are quadpacked into each cell for an increased maximum of up to 64 missiles. A sizable ESSM loadout using CEA radar and illuminators is specifically designed to overcome the vulnerability of existing shipboard systems to saturation attacks by supersonic sea skimmers such as the SS-N-22 Sunburn or SS-N-27 Sizzler, which have reaches of several hundred miles.  7   Thus, this added capability is especially necessary to conduct tasking in these resulting anti-access areas, notable across several areas of operations. 

With an ever-increasing subsurface threat, ASROCs are an essential defense-in-depth element that hedge against the possibility of the presence of diesel-electric submarines in a vital area outside the range of over-the-side torpedoes. Moreover, the prospects of supporting the LRASM, slated to enter serial production in 2015 to replace the aging Harpoon, is an important future requisite to be a value-added in a surface action group. With a reach greater than 200 miles, and jam-resistant multimodal radio and electro-optical targeting systems, it has a truly effective over-the-horizon anti-surface capability.  8   

Because of the added LRASM, the less effective Harpoon missiles are removed from the fantail, and the torpedo tube set is either moved to the port midships or removed completely. A clear fantail is then used to hold additional rigid-hull inflatable boats or serve as a flexible "creative space" for any future capabilities. For example, it could support special-operations equipment, unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles, or antisurface decoys. Furthermore, the fantail has the space to support small mission-module containers that have common roots with the NSC's systems.  9   This opportunity allows for the installation of a plug-and-play variable-depth sonar, which greatly enhances deep-water ASW capability, especially in conjunction with the integrated MFTA.  10       

Another interesting possibility is a mine-countermeasures module that takes full advantage of the WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System technology, but with a smaller container footprint. Although not a primary mission, having the potential to install a mine-warfare capability would be invaluable in any future conflict. Both systems are already being designed for the LCS, which might rationalize spending the time and money needed to develop the mission packages while pursuing a plan that cuts the amount of LCSs in service.

On a final note, there is ample space to install two remotely operated Mk44 Bushmaster II 30-mm chain guns amidships, above the helo hangar, on either side of the SeaRAM. These guns have 50 percent more firepower than the smaller Mk 38 Mod 2 25-mm variant and are already integrated into the LCS surface-warfare mission package.  11    In addition to covering all axes of the ship with firepower, they also supplement the main 76-mm gun against crucial threats like swarm attacks.


The biggest potential drawback has been that while the hull is built to U.S. Navy structural design standards, other elements of the ship do not fully meet the frigate level II survivability requirements, defined in OPNAVINST 9070.1 as an "ability for sustained operations when in support of a Battle Group and in the general war-at-sea area" and "an ability for sustained combat operations following weapons impact." 12    Additionally, the vessel does not fully comply with the American Bureau of Shipping's naval vessel rules, controversially created after the NSC was designed, that established a code of specifications to militarize a ship.  13   

A new frigate must be capable of taking and surviving hits similar to the two Exocet missiles that struck the USS  Stark  (FFG-31) in 1987 and the mine that crippled the USS  Samuel B. Roberts  (FFG-58) in 1988. That's not to say NSCs aren't highly survivable ships; they have a state-of-the-art damage-control system, a collective protection system for chemical, biological, and radiological protection, and various other comprehensive and redundant systems.  14   However, there are still some shortcomings, specifically in the area of shock and survivability, with no assurance that it could survive in a hostile environment.  15   

In September 2012, a survivability revision came out that recognized the changing nature of ship design and system threats, measured against other objectives (such as cost, which eliminates the prescriptive survivability characteristics).  16   When asked, an Ingalls representative said the company would be willing to help define the needed survivability requirements and mitigate shortcomings with manageable design changes for a newly proposed sea-control frigate.  17   These enhancements include anti-vibration engine mounts and a passive countermeasures system to reduce acoustic and radar signatures, respectively, and installing ballistic resistant steel plating, side and bottom protection, additional system redundancies, and a variety of extra damage-control devices.

However, even with additional enhancements, it's impractical to check off every minute box that may be requested for survivability, especially specific rules detailing things like the exact designs of firemain systems and other features established in the naval vessel rules that were not yet in existence when the hull was designed. Nevertheless, a holistic view of these modifications and the improved weapon system in accordance with the latest survivability instructions, for all practical purposes, show that a sea-control frigate can indeed become an extremely survivable combatant, even comparable to the  Oliver Hazard Perry  class. It's also substantially more survivable than the aluminum-hulled LCS that was built to the lowest level I survivability standards and never intended for actual combat.  18


The last production cost for an NSC was $490 million, with a total average drive-away price of $684 million (the rest accounting for government-furnished equipment, post-delivery test and evaluations, etc.).  19    How much would a sea-control frigate cost? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already explored limiting the purchase of the LCS and buying 20 of the aforementioned patrol frigate types as an option to reduce overall acquisition costs.  20   The report concluded it would cost $60 million per ship to upgrade the CIWS to a SeaRAM, install a Mk 54 VLS system, radar, illuminators, and ESSM missiles, and integrate the weapon systems. To further convert it to a sea-control frigate, additional costs would be incurred from other improvements: most notably, the larger VLS, and the survivability redesigns with comprehensive shock hardening. 

An exact price estimate is dependent on multiple factors such as timing, quantity, and contracting methodology. Although it can't be determined without a formal feasibility study, information from the congressional report and the price of installing these weapon systems on other warships suggests that adding a likely $120 million would result in an end cost of $800 million. This is about half the price for a DDG-51 Flight IIA ($1.8 billion) and a third of the price for a DDG-51 Flight III ($2.3 billion).  21   Recent estimates put the final price of the LCS with mission modules at 70 percent of this cost, a comparable target price recently reported as a key requirement for a medium-sized surface combatant.  22   

Design costs, upfront testing, and the learning curve are minimal; eight other similar hulls would have gone through production, and all the combat systems are operational on other Navy platforms. Efficiency and standardization are at their prime. Because of recognized deficiencies from the first three cutters, substantial changes to the structural design were made to achieve greater fatigue life.  23    Recently, NSCs have been operating in far-reaching places like the Arctic Ocean with no reported stress or fatigue issues, and the hull is now recognized by the Coast Guard as being able to support a 230-day-per-year underway operational tempo.  24   The Navy would be getting a proven product, and the class wouldn't be plagued by as many delays and similar deficiencies typical in the introduction of ship classes. Likewise, industry sources acknowledged that a fixed-price contract can be established from the start, which would prevent any cost overruns—a rarity in present-day shipbuilding.  25   

Even more features can be added when weighed appropriately against a higher cost. Some options include additional survivability enhancements, a composite deckhouse structure, upgrading the 76-mm gun to a 5-inch, substituting the radar with a SMART-S or a lighter Aegis SPY-1F (possibly modified to support ballistic-missile defense queuing), or even slightly lengthening the hull for more module or VLS room.


gehele artikel


'Sea Control Frigate' – Analysis of Alternatives

Since its publication in April's Proceedings, I've been pleased that "It's Time for a 'Sea Control Frigate'" has helped start a discussion about a new small surface combatant (SSC) on message boards, the blogosphere, and social networking platforms. The article describes how a modified version of the Coast Guard's National Security Cutter with improved survivability features and combat systems could offer a terrific supplement to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). With the attention the article received, various readers had questions concerning some ideas brought up, so I've taken the time to address them.

Analyzing Cost and Production

Many asked how the projected cost for the ship could cost $800 million with the last national security cutter price costing $735 million. Surely the upgrades mentioned in the article are greater than $65 million. They are indeed. However, what was probably missed is that the $735 million order for the last NSC was for a single ship – economies of scale can drastically reduce the cost per unit due to various efficiencies gained. For example, when the Coast Guard ordered several at a time, pre-NSC #5, the cost was substantially less. My math: the 2006 per unit cost for an NSCs (in a bulk order) was $584 million – when we account for inflation, it goes up to a current value of $650 million, or $85 million less than the last single contract. (The Coast Guard had to order the later ships one by one because it wasn't written into the budget at the time –and it was uncertain if the 7th and 8th NSCs would even be funded). Thus, a procurement cost of $684 million, which is used in the article and various other official reports, is an average between all the ships. Most likely a base hull would be even less than this, as the price doesn't include the initial hull design costs (this was incorporated into the NSC program), there are increased economies of scale, and various items included in the NSC price are not be needed on a navy frigate (eg: the complex stern boat launching apparatus). While I estimated $800 million by adding the cost of a VLS, an upgraded 76mm gun, a new radar, and various survivability upgrades, in accordance with navy and congressional reports, a fixed price will likely creep closer to the $900 million mark due to inflation over the next few years and other add-ons the Navy incorporates (this would happen with all of navy shipbuilding though).

Ship Force Numbers and Value Metrics

The latest LCS estimates are at $550 million per ship including mission modules vs. $800 million for a sea control frigate. Assuming we have the same budget to work with, and we're deciding between a basic LCS only, we'll either have to choose between 20 LCSs, or 13-14 frigates. This led many to question if it's worth having a lesser amount of warships for the same price. First of all, for the most part, comparing these numbers are like apples and oranges – who cares about the amount of a certain ship if they can't do the missions that we need them to do, especially cost efficiently? However, as much of a red herring the argument is, politically, it's still hard to rationalize, especially since many elected officials find it easier to talk about our ship count in terms of our budget, vice a thoughtful debate on capabilities and requirements. In contrast, one good metric to take into consideration is the average number of ships at sea on missions per day. 20 LCSs on a 3 crews-2 ships-1 deployed plan, averages 20 total days a quarter of underway time on assignments, or 4.5 ships per day. 14 stateside frigates on a traditional deployment cycle average 32 days a quarter out to sea on assignments, or 4.9 ships per day. This means that despite a lesser amount of ships, the sea control frigate still has more underway time doing planned missions than the LCSs. I calculated this data from the class average of underway hours per quarter, and verified this by known historic and planned deployment operational schedules for frigates/destroyers and littoral combat ships.

At first, this may seem contradictory to statements made by officials like Rear Admiral Rowden, who recently claimed that 26 forward deployed LCSs equate to 120 CONUS-based single-crewed ships. This kind of statement is misleading. The Admiral is correct for certain missions and events like foreign nation cooperation and training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), vessels in distress or under pirate attack, counter-narcotics operations, and little-to-no notice popup missions like special ops support. For example, let's take an earthquake in a Southeast Asian country. The LCS is perfectly fitted to get underway immediately from Singapore, speed to the location, and provide necessary humanitarian assistance, all within hours. However the same can't be said about the majority of tasking and deployments that have requirements already defined by combatant commanders relating to sea control, like naval escort, focused operations, and deep-water anti-submarine warfare. These missions all require more consecutive days-at-sea, which helps explain the reason why, by design, the LCS averages less mission days per ship than frigates and destroyers.

That's not to say the 3-2-1 cycle isn't the right method with the LCS. On paper, minus the sea swap trap, it's actually a smart plan that saves money and optimizes the ships very well. It's also necessary to have a flexible warship forward deployed for the reasons stated above, but only for quick back and forth missions in the littoral environment, not sustained blue-water deployments. If we do end up purchasing LCS variants, most of these ships will regrettably end up getting pulled from the presence and shaping missions they were designed for to support these missions.

Determining Feasible Designs

Earlier this month, a request for information (RFI) came out that asked the shipbuilding industry on input for a follow-on to the LCS from mature designs, which led many readers to ask what's actually on the table. The context of the RFI may seem like it's targeting a number of different ships and shipbuilders, but it's in fact just a formality required in the consideration process for any future acquisitions; there are actually only a few possibilities here. The foreign contender with the best shot, if any, is Norway's Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate because of its past relationship working with NAVSEA and Lockheed Martin. Although any proper frigate is preferred over the LCS because it's better optimized for operating in blue water environments, I'm partial to the sea control frigate because of its large flight deck and hangar spaces, which gives it the flexibility to support drones and manned helicopters together, something that will likely become the norm within the next 30 years. However, the truth is because of the timeliness of the request and decision making process, together with the red tape that a foreign design has to go through (which was touched on in the original article), it's probably too late in the process already to even consider a foreign design, regardless or not if it meets what the Navy's looking for. This is unfortunate; we've essentially locked ourselves in a box by not starting this process earlier (or coming up with an organic solution for that matter).

There are several different variants of the LCS that are likely to be considered alternatives– most concepts have been pitched publically in some manner, mostly to international navies under the banners of "International LCS" and "Surface Combat Ship". These variants could include similar features to a sea control frigate, such as a Mk 41 VLS supporting ESSM and ASROC, a CEAFAR or SPY-1F radar and fire control system, other survivability features, and for the LCS-1 class, an upgraded 76mm gun. However, there are still some problems with this: unlike the NSC hull which was built with reserved spaces that can accommodate a VLS and other systems without hull modifications, a variant of the LCS would likely require design changes more substantial than any NSC-derivative. One industry news source remarked that an international LCS design pitched to Israel that incorporated some of the above mentioned weapons features had an estimated cost of over $700 million (this was in 2008, so it would likely be even more today). Another claimed a rough order-of-magnitude cost would be $800 million, equivalent to a sea control frigate. However, the price pitched to the Navy by Lockheed or Austal might not even matter – with the trends of the LCS shipbuilding program, it's possible that whatever price is proposed will balloon up even further. This is probably not a risk the navy would want to already take for a program already under heavy scrutiny for its ever-rising costs, especially with a fixed-price option on the table for a sea control frigate. Secondly, it's likely that no design changes will be able to offer an improved endurance and range; therefore, even with upgrades in weapons and survivability, it would still be ill-suited for blue water missions. Moreover, the manning structure and contractor reliance wasn't made to accommodate long lasting blue-water missions either, which means even some small casualties that are normally fixed by a DDG/FFG ship's force could and throw off an entire mission; something probably not ideal for optimizing the readiness kill chain.

This leads us back into re-examining the numbers. With the same budget, an up-armed LCS design with a higher unit cost reduces the number of LCSs that are produced. For example, an improved LCS costing $650 million each (which by all estimates are very optimistic) buys only 17 ships, three less than planned. As the LCS cost continues to increase, the ship price per unit gap continues to close, until its relatively the same price.


Eigenlijk is de ontwikkeling naar SSC (small surface combatant) of ook wel Sea Controle Frigate, te vergelijken met onze ontwikkeling van de vervanger M-fregat en de MKS180 bij de Oosterburen (Duitsland).

Kernpunten :
Langer in zetbaar, grote range, Multi-functioneel, grote heliplaats/deck/hangaar, gebruik UAV of mini-heli's, Multi-Mission bay, Slipway (gebruik van RHIB's, 10 a 16 meter), Wapensystemen voor alle doeleinden, dus ASW, Anti-Air, Anti-Surface Nieuwe radar (active-phased array radar). maar ook goede EW systemen en CIWS. Ook een boardkanon 76 mm of groter.

ASW met zowel vaste sonar, als sleep sonar. Als ook dipping sonar vanaf helicopters.   

En dit alles met een zo klein mogelijke bemanning van rond de 100 - 130 koppen.

Maar als ik kijk naar de kosten, welke de Amerikanen denken dat hun SSC schepen zullen gaan kosten, dan schrik ik heel erg als ik dit vergelijk met de kosten van onze LCF fregatten en/of Karel Doorman Klasse of de Iver Huitfeldt klasse fregatten (Denemarken) en ook het budget van de M-vervanger (volgens mij) ca, € 450 miljoen euro per stuk.

De Amerikanen denken aan zo´n $ 800 miljoen USD ( € 624 miljoen) per schip.


Citaat van: jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter) op 09/11/2014 | 11:12 uur
Wishfull thinking: het zou geweldig zijn als  een Damen ontwerp (LCF of M opvolger) gekozen zou worden als SSC (als ze überhaubt aan de RFI hebben mee gedaan), niet dat ze er veel aan zouden verdienen, immers alle nieuwe SSC zullen in de VS gebouwd worden maar het zou vast een export hoofdprijs kunnen beteken voor een dergelijk model naar andere landen.


Besides, law requires them to be produced in American shipyards, which means the Navy would need to acquire the rights of the license to build the prospective ships. This has not been explored, and there is no guarantee that foreign companies would agree within reasonable terms. Moreover, our shipyards are unsubsidized when compared to foreign competitors, which likely erodes some cost advantage.


Citaat van: Ace1 op 09/11/2014 | 13:37 uur
Het concept van de Huntington Ingalls Industries Patrol Frigate design, doet mij erg denken aan de Oliver Hazard Perry klasse denken.
Maar waarschijnlijk is Huntington Ingalls Industries Patrol Frigate design gebasseerd op de US Coast Guard  Legend-class cutter?

Misschien eens proberen de eerste zin van de betreffende paragraaf te lezen, zal verhelderend zijn.


Het concept van de Huntington Ingalls Industries Patrol Frigate design, doet mij erg denken aan de Oliver Hazard Perry klasse denken.
Maar waarschijnlijk is Huntington Ingalls Industries Patrol Frigate design gebasseerd op de US Coast Guard  Legend-class cutter?


What's Next After LCS?

An artist's concept of the Multi-Mission Combatant offering based on the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship design

On Monday the Pentagon capped the Littoral Combat Ship program at 32 ships and the Navy has been tasked with finding a more lethal surface combatant to follow on to the two LCS hulls that have been mired in controversy for the better part of a decade. Announced Monday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the Pentagon is directing the service to, "submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate," he said in remarks to reporters at the Pentagon.

Hagel's direction will kick off the search for the Navy's first new surface combatant design in more than a decade. The search for the LCS follow on will run in tandem with early work for the service to replace its high end cruisers and destroyers which will expect to start construction in 2028, Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of surface warfare (N96) for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) told USNI News in an interview in the Pentagon on Jan. 9.

Hagel offered a few hints what the Pentagon is looking for in the follow on to the Lockheed Martin Freedom-class and Austal USA Independence-class LCS hulls.

"We need to closely examine whether the LCS has the independent protection and firepower to operate and survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific," he said.
"If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal restraints, we must direct future shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict."

Criticisms from internal Pentagon reports from the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) have called into question the survivability of the Freedom and Independence class hulls, "because its design requirements do not require the inclusion of survivability features necessary to conduct sustained combat operations in a major conflict as expected for the Navy's other surface combatants," according to DOT&E's most recent 2013 annual report.

Sources familiar with program shift told USNI News DOT&E will have a hand in the next study moving forward with new design.

The LCS is currently designed to be manned a crew of about 90 sailors for surface warfare (SuW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine countermeasure (MCM) operations. Each operation is executed by a series of mission packages that can be swapped out of the ship depending on the circumstances.

The Navy had planned to field 52 of the ships, split evenly between each variant. The service committed to buy 20 of the ships as part of a 2010 $8.9 billion block buy between Lockheed Martin and Austal.

The new ships would likely be built with a more permanent capability for ASW and SuW missions built into the hull with less of an emphasis placed on the modular aspect of the ships.

Whether or not the new ships will have a MCM capability remains to be seen. The U.S. Navy tested an organic capability for MCM on the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) but cancelled the program.

USNI News reached out to several naval experts on potential follow-ons to the LCS and came back with four ships that could fit the bill under Hagel's mandates.

Internationally, several frigate designs have proven successful but under U.S. law, those manufactures would have to partner with a U.S. company to move forward.

Though it's still early in the process for the Navy, there are at least four contenders for the small surface combatant that have emerged over the last several years as so-called international variants for existing U.S. ships — or in one case — a foreign frigate built with extensive U.S. cooperation.

Patrol Frigate

Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has long pitched a gray hull variant of the Legend-class National Security Cutter (NSC) it's currently building for the U.S. Coast Guard at its Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.

An artist's conception of Huntington Ingalls Industries Patrol Frigate design.

Dubbed the Patrol Frigate 4921 by HII, the 5,070 ton combatant would be built around a twelve missile cell vertical launch system (VLS) paired with an active phased array air search radar and X and S band surface search radars, according to information provided to USNI News by HII.

The ship concept includes torpedo tubes and hull mounted and towed array sonars for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations. The ship would have a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion system, a top speed of 28 knots, an 8,000 nautical mile range and a 60-day endurance.

Freedom International Variant

Lockheed Martin has pitched a variant of its Freedom class LCS for international customers that — in its largest offering — includes VLS and AN/SPY-1F variant of the company's Aegis radar. A version of the Multi-Mission Combatant is thought to be in the running as an offering for the Saudi Naval Expansion Plan II (SNEP II).

A Lockheed Martin concept for variations of the Freedom-class LCS design from corvette to Frigate sized hulls.

In late 2012, the company presented three variants of its Multi-Mission Combatant that range from a 1,650-ton corvette up to a 3,500-ton frigate sized ship, according to information provided to USNI News by Lockheed Martin. The largest variant would field the AN/SPY-1F with smaller versions built with a CEAFAR active phased array air search radar, according to an Oct. 2012 report in Jane's Navy International.

The variants would preserve some measure of the modular mission space found on the Freedom-class LCS, according to the Lockheed material.

Independence International Variant

Before Austal USA split with General Dynamics to build the production variant of the Independence-class LCS, General Dynamics touted an Aegis capable international version of the trimaran with an air search radar capability.

Little else is known about the then proposed offering from General Dynamics.

That version of the Independence hull, "features an innovative trimaran hull form that provides outstanding stability, volume and sea keeping; a flight deck that is nearly three times the size of any other surface combatant; and a mission system that is built upon an open architecture computing environment," according to a years-old release from General Dynamics. Austal USA — the current builder of the Independence ships — did not immediately return calls for comment.


The Spanish-built Álvaro de Bazán class frigates (F-100) are the most proven platform of the four ships experts told USNI News that were ready candidates for follow on to the LCS hulls.

Spanish Navy Ship Álvaro de Bazán (F-101) in 2005.

The 4,555 ton ships field the U.S. Aegis weapon system, pairing an AN/SPY-1D air search radar with a 48 VLS cells armed with 32 SM 2 Block IIIA/B air defense missiles and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM). The ship can also conduct the ASW mission with both a hull mounted sonar and a towed array, according to Naval Institute's Guide to Combat Fleets of the World.

The Royal Australian Navy is basing its Hobart-class surface combatant on the F-100 design.

A previous relationship with General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (BIW) between the F-100 shipbuilder Navantia's predecessor (Izar) could make it easier to bridge international defense trade restrictions.

Izar had teamed with BIW and Lockheed Martin in 2000 to form the Advanced Frigate Consortium (AFCON) that jointly developed a smaller Aegis combatant for international export.

AFCON counted the F-100 ships and the Fridtjof Nansen-class frigates for the Royal Norwegian Navy as successes for the consortium, according to an archive of AFCON's website.


Littoral Combat Ship Mission Packages Safe From Budget Axe For Now

USS Independence (LCS 2) deploys a remote multi-mission vehicle (RMMV) on Aug. 22, 2013. The Navy plans to buy 18 RMMVs over the next five years.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's mandate capping of the first variants of the Littoral Combat Ship at 32 hulls will do little to limit the acquisition of the mission packages for the Flight 0 LCS over the next five years, navy officials told USNI News last week.

Though the service is currently working on a study to asses a follow on to the Lockheed Martin Freedom-class and Austal USA Independence-class of ships, any changes to the mission package elements won't manifest themselves over the so-called future years defense plan (FYDP), Vice Adm. Joseph Mulloy, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Integration of Capabilities and Resources (OPNAV N8), told USNI News following a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces on March, 26.

"We still have a plan throughout this FYDP to continue build most of these mission packages and none of the money has been taken [out of the budget]," Mulloy said.

The Navy is on track to assemble 45 mission packages over the next five years at a total cost of $1.6 million, which includes $316 million for the Lockheed Martin Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) used with the Mine Countermeasure (MCM) mission package as a separate line item, according to Fiscal Year 2015 (FY2015) budget information provided to USNI News by the service.

LCS Mission Package Spending

Een grafiek over de ission packages program kan ik helaas niet in Url kopieren is te zien op onderstaande link.

The packages MCM, surface warfare (SuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) are designed to be swapped out of LCS to tailor the ship to a particular mission set with a specialized set of crew to be brought on board as needed.

The Navy had planned for 64 mission packages for the 52 planned LCS hulls — 16 ASW, 24 MCM and 24 SuW. Over the FYDP, the service plans to buy 10 MCM, 18 RMMVs, 10 SuW and 7 ASW packages.

However with a reduction of 20 hulls, it's unclear how the mission package numbers will be reduced past FY 2019.

"Sixty four is the operational requirement until we're done with the study. If you're looking at a ship that didn't need packages, then you might come down to 48 or something, but that's not decided," Mulloy said.
"You have to do the study on the hull first and deiced if [the next small surface combatant] has mission packages or not. Or does it have a different mission package?"

Hagel's directive told the service, "submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, consistent with the capabilities of a frigate," in February.

The options for review by the Navy include a new design, a modified variant of LCS or an existing ship design.

The evaluation process — when completed later this year — will determine how modular the next small surface combatant will be.

Several naval analysts told USNI News in late February that the ASW and SuW packages would be the most likely candidate for reduction as most of the Navy's surface ships are equipped with fixed anti-surface and anti-submarine components — like hull mounted sonars and anti-ship missiles.

The MCM package, however, is the least likely to be trimmed as the service is set to retire the 1980s era Avenger-class mine hunters in the next several years.

MCM is by far the most complex of the mission packages and represents the Navy's largest looming capability gap that LCS was created to fill.

Alone, the MCM and RMMV line items account for almost $1 billion of the $1.6 billion total for the mission package program over the next five years.

Other components of mission packages have not fared as well in ongoing Pentagon budget trimming.

The Navy zeroed out a planned buy for 17 Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft from its FY 2015 budget submission.

The Fire Scouts were planned for the LCS SuW mission package.


New LCS Sonar and Missile to be Competed Next Year

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam for a scheduled port visit.

In the next year the Navy will begin competition for the follow on sonar and surface-to-surface missile system for the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Surface Warfare (SuW) mission packages of the Littoral Combat Ship, Capt. John Ailes, head of the LCS mission module program for Naval Sea Systems Command said at a briefing at the Navy League Sea Air Space Exposition 2013 at National Harbor, Md.

Currently, the ASW mission package is testing the Thales 2087 sonar. The sonar was a swift replacement following the cancellation of Lockheed Martin's Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle – (RMMV) for use in the LCS package. The Navy wanted an "in-stride," capability to allow the ship to scan for submarines at speed. The RMS would have required an LCS to remain on station while the RMMV patrolled for subs.

Ailes said that testing with the Thales 2087, combined with a towed-array, was positive and that the ship could effectively detect and track subs

"We also have a system that is particularly immune to noise," Ailes said. "That gives us a big advantage so we can go fast. Much faster than the in service fleet is able to and we can still find and prosecute submarines."

The Navy will also begin competition for the surface-to-surface missile for the SuW package in a year.

"The focus will be on systems that are in production. We don't have a lot of research and development [money] to develop a new system. Our money is focused on integrating a new system," Ailes said.
"We took the same launcher that is being used for the patrol craft, modularized it and dropped it into the [LCS] weapon zone."

The SuW package was originally designed to accommodate the Non-Line-of-Sight missile system (N-LOS) to provide a standoff capability for the LCS at a range of 25 miles. N-LOS was cancelled in 2010. In 2011, the Navy announced it would examine Raytheon's Griffin missile to test in as part of the package.

In the last month, the Navy has conducted tests with the Griffin on Cyclone-class patrol craft ahead of a competition for a new missile.

Both the ASW sonar and the SuW surface-to-surface missiles have suffered major delays in development over the life of the LCS program

jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter)

Citaat van: Vandaag om 11:02
Given tightening Pentagon budgets, an entirely new ship design is unlikely, however North speculated that several European yards have likely submitted information for the RFIs.

"I can imagine every shipyard across Europe — which is very stagnant and a lot of them have designs — [submitted a packet]," North said.

Wishfull thinking: het zou geweldig zijn als  een Damen ontwerp (LCF of M opvolger) gekozen zou worden als SSC (als ze überhaubt aan de RFI hebben mee gedaan), niet dat ze er veel aan zouden verdienen, immers alle nieuwe SSC zullen in de VS gebouwd worden maar het zou vast een export hoofdprijs kunnen beteken voor een dergelijk model naar andere landen.


LCS Mission Packages: The Basics

USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Independence (LCS-2)

The beating heart of both variants of the littoral combat ship (LCS) is the series of three mission packages the Navy is developing to handle some of the service's most dire needs in the littorals.

The modular ship is a marked departure from the past in the way the Navy develops capability for its surface fleet. Sailors often liken the LCS to a video game system—with the mission packages being the actual games. But instead of "Halo" or "Call of Duty," sailors will try their hands at mine countermeasures (MCM), surface warfare (SuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW).

On paper, the new capabilities and updates of existing functions will greatly increase the Navy's ability to rapidly undertake some of its most dangerous jobs.

However, the mission packages have experienced delays of up to four years in fielding because of design problems, cost overruns, and manufacturing delays, according to the Government Accountability Office.

A July report from the GAO said, "a pause is needed" in the acquisition of the mission packages pending further review of the total LCS program.

"Navy has a great deal of learning to do about the ships, the integrated capability that they are intended to provide when equipped with the mission modules, and how the overall LCS concept will be implemented," the report concluded.

On Aug. 8, USNI News interviewed Capt. John Ailes, program manager for LCS Mission Modules (PMS 420), Program Executive Office LCS with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), for an update on the embattled mission package program.

Ailes acknowledged past failures in the program but painted an optimistic picture of the way forward for the mission packages.

"It's a wondrous time to be the mission package guy today compared to three years ago because you can point to the successes," he said.

Starting next year, the Navy will test the packages in a series of operational evaluations (OPEVAL) as a final examination before moving the new capabilities into the fleet.

Mine Countermeasures Package

Mine Countermeasures Package Government Accountability Office Graphic

The most important mission for the LCS is mine hunting and minesweeping.

The backbone of the Navy's mine countermeasures mission is a fleet of small, aging wooden warships—the Avenger class (MCM-1). Those 13 ships— commissioned in the 1980s — are among the oldest in the fleet and have remained long past their anticipated retirement date.

Starting with an operational evaluation in 2015, the LCS is slated to replace the Avengers with a requirement to sweep a mined area in half the time it takes legacy systems in a series of four increments, Ailes said.

In the 2015 OPEVAL the Navy plans to test the fundamental components of the MCM package: the helicopter-deployed airborne laser mine detection system (ALMDS); the mine-killing airborne mine neutralization system (AMNS); the remote minehunting system (RMS), composed of the remote multi-mission vehicle and the AQS-20A sonar.

"We search the top part of the water column with the airborne laser mine detection systems, the ALMDS," Ailes said. "In the rest of the water column we use the remote mine hunting system." ALMDS and RMS will combine to search for surface mines and mines that lie well below the waterline."

Remote Minehunting System (RMS) during developmental testing of the Littoral Combat Ship's mine warfare mission module package.

Problems with the RMMV have delayed the MCM package more than any other component of the mission package. "It's had a storied past," Ailes said. "Mostly for reliability."

The Lockheed Martin system operates just below the surface of the water paired with the AQS-20A sonar. The 14,500-pound, 23-foot long behemoth is deployed from the boat launch of an LCS and is controlled by an operator on board the ship.

Early iterations of the RMMV failed on average every eight hours. The Navy had improved the average to 45 hours before NAVSEA undertook a reliability program to improve the performance.

"It was very frustrating with the early tests that we had on the ships because the vehicles we had were not beneficiaries of reliability growth," Ailes said.

The focus was on improvements in the hydraulic systems of the RMMV, integral to operating the craft, NAVSEA's Steve Lose told USNI News.

In June, NAVSEA completed its reliability work and now states that reliability numbers for RMMV has grown to more than 200 hours.

"That was highly successful, the reliability issues are really behind us," Lose said.

AQS-20A is the primary sensor of the mine-hunting systems on LCS. The Navy has largely corrected detection problems found in early developmental testing with training and software and hardware upgrades, Ailes said. A plan to field the sonar from the package's MH-60S was canceled for safety reasons.

"We took the Q20 and flew it from a 60S for a long time but the problem was, if an engine failed you could lose the aircraft," Ailes said. "It hardly ever happens but once you lose an engine it would be catastrophic."

NAVSEA instead decided to field the sonar only on the RMMV.

"That's the centerpiece of increment," Ailes said.
"If RMS works you're going to be able to find mines and do it in a rapid fashion."

The ALMDS was another program the GAO chided in its July report.

An early version of the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System.

Mounted on a MH-60S helicopter as part of the mine package, the ALMDS uses lasers to search for mines floating near the surface or just under the water line.

"One of the challenges airborne laser has is that it was originally designed to be a single pass system," Ailes said. "What we discovered was false alarms and what we did was create a tactic in which we revisit an area multiple times, looking for persistence in the water column."

The new tactic combined with an improved computer system will still meet the goal of covering an area twice as fast with legacy systems.

The fourth capability for the first part of the MCM package is the airborne mine neutralization system (AMNS).

AMNS is lowered by a helicopter in the water after the crew has detected mines and is guided by an operator on board the helicopter to neutralize the mine. The system struggled with breaks in the fiber-optic cord that tied it to the sled; operators also had difficulty engaging the mines.

Ailes said that improvements to the arrangement of the neutralizers and skilled operators have blunted some of the impact of earlier problems with the system.

MCM Future

Following the 2015 test of the first LCS MCM iteration of the MCM package, the Navy will expand the package.

Increment two will include the coastal battlefield reconnaissance and analysis system (COBRA). Mounted on a Fire Scout helicopter unmanned aerial vehicle, COBRA searches beach zones looking for lines of mines, and looks into the surf zone.

Increment three will add the ability for the mission package to look for magnetic and influence mines. Unlike conventional mines that detonate when coming into contact with a ship's hull, magnetic and influence mines detonate when it detects the signature of a war ship.

Unmanned surface vehicle (USV) with unmanned surface sweep system (USSS) began development with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for more than a decade.

"It's a cable that you tow behind the USV," Ailes said.

"It provided both acoustic, making noise like a ship, and the magnetic signature of a ship." Ailes said. It tells the mines, "I'm a ship, you should blow up."
The program was successful but the amount of power required to function overwhelmed the cable. "The challenge that we had was, once it was towed behind [for] eight hours it melted," Ailes said.

Since early tests the Navy has improved the reliability of the cable and currently is soliciting bids to develop the system for an expected 2017 introduction.

The final capability, due for a 2019 introduction, is the Knifefish unmanned underwater vehicle. Ailes said the tests for the system to find and detect buried mines have gone well but introduction could be delayed due to budgetary concerns.

"It was the biggest victim of sequestration," he said. "That will have some schedule impact for them."

Surface Warfare

Surface Warfare Mission Package Concept. Government Accountability Office Graphic

The surface warfare (SuW) package for littoral combat ship (LCS) is the simplest and most-tested mission package the Navy plans to field.

It is designed to convert the ships into close-in fighters, with a primary mission of fending off attacking swarms of small boats close to shore.

In addition to the 57mm main deck gun, the SuW package includes twin 30mm Bushmaster cannons, a planned surface-to-surface missile, and an MH-60R helicopter.

The most difficult part of the package has been developing the missile system.
The Navy had planned to use the non-line-of-sight launch system (N-LOS) in partnership with the Army. The almost 25-mile range of the missile was thought to be ideal for the LCS and for placement in forward operating bases. The Army, however, canceled its part in the program, leading to skyrocketing development costs. The Navy then announced in 2011 that it would use the shorter-range (about 5 miles) Griffin IIB missile for initial testing on LCS in 2015, ahead of a longer-range replacement missile in 2019.

"It's a very short range and you'd like to be able to reach out farther than that," Ailes said.

When USS Freedom (LCS-1) deployed in 2010 to the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific, it replaced the missile with extra berthing for Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments and Navy Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) teams to assist in intercepting illegal traffickers. The Navy redefined the VBSS capability as the first increment of the SuW package that will be tested in 2014.

"We'll be heading to OPEVAL next year and we feel highly confident," Ailes said.

Anti-Submarine Warfare

Anti-Submarine Warfare Package. Government Accountability Office Graphic

The Navy canceled a version of the ASW package that would have used the RMMV to patrol for submarines in favor of a so-called "in stride" capability that would allow the ship to move at speed to detect submarine threats.

"It is, in some ways, the most mature because it uses systems that have been out for quite a while," Ailes said.

The current center of the system is a Thales 2087-towed sonar in wide use by the Britain's Royal Navy.

"Submarines very closely track the temperature, salinity and pressure of the water column. They know the depth they can go to and basically hide because sound is refracted based on the temperature salinity and pressure profile. They call that the layer and they like to hide there," Ailes said. "If you have a hull-mounted sonar, like on our cruiser/destroyer fleet, there are places there that you just can't see with your active source because the sound is refracted."

A variable depth sonar can pierce the layer and allow LCS to detect quiet diesel and electric submarines, he said.

The sonar is paired with a towed lightweight tow torpedo decoy the Navy has had under development. "It's a very effective torpedo decoy," Ailes said.

The offensive component of the ASW package is on the MH-60S helicopter, which fields Mk-54 airdropped lightweight torpedoes. The GAO was the least critical of the ASW package in its July report.

"The planned technologies—consisting of a variable depth sonar, multi-function towed sonar array, and towed torpedo defense capability—are considered mature, and some are already operational in other navies," read the report. "The Navy highlights this ability to implement a shift in requirements as an example of the benefits of LCS's modular design, in that it allowed for an easy interchange of systems and modification of planned capabilities."


Lockheed Contouren Bericht Littoral Combat Ship Pitch

An artist's conception for variants of the Freedom-class LCS design provided to USNI News.

Lockheed Martin outlined the range of options they presented to the Navy as part of the Pentagon mandated study into a follow-on ship to the Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ships in a media briefing on Monday.

Lockheed — as part two April requests for information (RFI) from the Small Surface Combatant Task Force — submitted a variety of options based on their current Freedom-class (LCS-1) design.

Joe North, vice president of Littoral Ship Systems for Lockheed, emphasized the sea frame ability to accommodate increasingly sophisticated radars and weapons systems within the constraints of the basic design.

"We have a lot of flexibility in the hull. If you remember, we're carrying around 180 metric tons of capability, empty space right now, for the mission packages, so depending on what they're looking at we have a lot of capability in the hull from a naval architecture standpoint," North told reporters on Monday.
"From a performance standpoint, we can add to the ship and make [systems] permanent or if you want to look at separate packages."

Part of those options include a much more robust anti-air warfare (AAW) capability with permanent vertical launch system (VLS) cells capable of holding anti-air missiles and much more capable radar.

"[Increased] radar capability is everything from solid-state more capable rotators to a high end capability —the hull allows that," North said.

As part of its international offering for ships based on the Freedom hull, Lockheed has offered a SPY-1F air defense radar — an 8 foot diameter version of the radar on U.S. destroyers sized for frigates.

An upgunned Freedom — at its current length of 118 meters — could also include 4 to 32 VLS cells. Each cell would be capable of fielding four Raytheon RIM-162D Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles (ESSM), North said.

"[VLS] is a modular package in itself because it gives [the ship] the capability to launch several types of missiles including ESSM, which is one of the things they'll absolutely come back and look for to give the ship some more self protection... as a permanent installation," he said.

Critics of the current Freedom and Austal USA's Independence classes of ships have zeroed in on a perceived lack of offensive capability for the two ships.

Austal and Lockheed have developed preliminary designs of their ships with VLS for international sale.

In remarks earlier this year, then acting deputy defense Christine Fox implied the current LCS variants were "niche" platforms and the Navy needed tougher ship.

"We need more ships with the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary," Fox said in February, just ahead of a Pentagon announcement forcing the Navy to take a second look at the LCS program.

As part of the coversheet for its response to the Navy's RFI, Lockheed included a Freedom variant with a quad cell VLS firing what appear to be Raytheon Standard Missile (SM) 2.

In the surface-to-surface realm, North said the ship could accommodate either the current BAE Systems Mk 110 57 mm gun or a larger Mark 45 five-inch gun. The range of offerings did also factor in Naval Sea Systems Command decision to integrate the Longbow Hellfire AGM-114L for the fast attack craft/ fast inshore attack (FAC/FIAC) threat.

The Flight 0 Freedom and Independence LCS will be manned by 90 sailors for surface warfare (SuW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and mine countermeasure (MCM) missions by a series of mission packages that can be swapped out of the ship depending on the circumstances.

The Navy's original plan was to build 52 LCS but cut the Flight 0 program at 32 — a reduction of 20 ships as part of the current reexamination of the LCS begun in February under mandate from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The RFIs were part of the work of the Small Surface Combatant Task Force tasked to evaluate other options beyond Flight 0 LCS. The group was mandated to examine: A modified design of an existing LCS, existing ship designs and a new ship design.

"The RFI will ask for pretty specific information that will give us insight to the ship integration requirement, the performance, what are the primary, second and third order costs associated with [concepts]," John Burrow, executive director of the Marine Corps Systems Command and current head of the Small Surface Combatant Task Force told reporters in April.
"It's a fairly detailed list of information that we're looking for."

The task force is due to submit their findings by the end of July.

Given tightening Pentagon budgets, an entirely new ship design is unlikely, however North speculated that several European yards have likely submitted information for the RFIs.

"I can imagine every shipyard across Europe — which is very stagnant and a lot of them have designs — [submitted a packet]," North said.
"I bet you woke up the entire planet."


The SSC could be similar to this Lockheed Martin concept for a small combat ship.

Als ik het goed begrijp is een Small Surface Combatant (SSC) een gemodificeerde Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)?

jurrien visser (JuVi op Twitter)

US Combat Ship Decision Coming in 'Very Near Future'

Nov. 8, 2014

WASHINGTON — Senior US Navy leaders have made their final presentations to the Pentagon's top leadership on their choice for a small surface combatant (SSC), and a decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on what sort of ship to build after the littoral combat ship (LCS) could come soon.

"The secretary took another meeting by Navy leaders during the last week of October," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said Friday. "The purpose of the meeting was to review the Navy's recommendation for the way forward. The secretary expressed his gratitude for the hard work and analysis that went into forming that recommendation and assured Navy leadership that he would be rendering a decision in the very near future."

Asked to confirm if Hagel now had all the information he needed to render a decision, Kirby added, "we do not anticipate that he requires more at this point."

The future course of the LCS program has been in doubt since February, when Hagel directed the Navy to develop a more heavily armed warship — the SSC — to succeed the politically troubled LCS. A decision on the form of the SSC is to be made, Hagel directed, in time "to inform" the 2016 budget submission, due to be sent to Congress in February 2015.

The Navy presented its initial findings to Hagel on Oct. 6 in a meeting attended by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work; Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Jamie Morin, the director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

Unusually, Director of Operational Test and Evaluation Michael Gilmore also was in attendance. Gilmore has long been a critic of the LCS program, particularly regarding survivability issues, and has heavily influenced Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expected to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee when the new Congress is seated.

Meanwhile, the LCS program itself is moving forward. The Fort Worth is to leave San Diego later this month to begin a 16-month Western Pacific deployment — the second such LCS cruise. The Freedom-class LCS Detroit, of the Lockheed Martin variant, was launched Oct. 18, and another ship, the Independence-class Montgomery, will be christened Saturday at Austal USA.

The Navy expects to double the number of ships in service during 2015 when four more ships are delivered, bringing the active total to eight.

Twenty-four LCSs are either in service, under construction or on contract. Another eight ships are expected to be ordered based on existing designs. The switchover to the SSC, Hagel has directed, is to begin no later than the 33rd ship to be ordered.

It's expected the Navy will call the ships something other than LCSs or SSCs — perhaps light frigates or corvettes.|nextstory