Thursday, March 22, 2007

LCS solution: build the Visby

UPDATE: A good video that lets you look over the Visby is here - and a better overview of how the Swede's view Littoral combat is here.
Sometimes when you find yourself in a huge mess, like we do with LCS, you need to go back to where you started. From back when it was still called a Streetfighter, read
While it’s anyone's guess as to what a Streetfighter might look like, Mahnken says a platform like the Visby, a Swedish Navy corvette, is promising. Delivered by Kockums AB (whose parent is Germany’s Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft) in June 2000, the Visby is the first of six 73 m corvettes that incorporate the latest stealth technology. The vessel’s lightweight hull, which is made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic, has large, flat angled surfaces, which results in a very favorable reflection of radar waves. Additionally, air defense systems and other types of sensors are concealed behind specially designed hatches within the hull, further minimizing the vessel's radar signature. A highly adaptable, the Visby Class can fill many roles that would otherwise require the procurement of several mission-specific platforms. It can be outfitted for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (AsuW), mine countermeasures and patrol.

Propulsion for the Visby is supplied by four gas turbines, rated at 16,000 kW total at high speed operation, and two diesel engines, rated at 2,600 kW total, for low speed operation. The engines are connected to two gearboxes that drive a pair of waterjets. Top speed is in excess of 35 knots.
And cost? We are already pushing $400 billion+ without Mission Modules. Remember where we were?
Each LCS hull must cost no more than $220 million, in 2005 dollars. The “objective cost,” the price the Navy wishes for, is $150 million.
Let's take a deep breath. Where did we go wrong? First, the 45+ knot requirement made the cost spike and required a lot of engineering work that costs lots of money and tradeoffs in other areas. 35 knots is more than fine. Then we forgot multi-mission and went modular. We went from a "nice to have but not must have" CEC (Combined Engagement Capability" into the fuzzy "distributed and networked." Then we went from onboard to offboard weapons. It all cascaded from there.

So, that is where we started. Why the Visby now? Well for starters, it is there and available - heck they even have a Visby+ in the works if you want a larger ship.

The cost is right ($180-250 million depending on what source you access).

I sure like the engineering plant.
Vericor Power Systems announced that the first Swedish Navy Visby-class stealth corvette was recently launched powered by four TF50A marine aeroderivative gas turbines in a Combined Diesel Or Gas (CODOG) turbine configuration.

Vericor Power Systems provided the TF50A propulsion packages that are used as the main propulsion system along with two MTU 16V 2000 N90 diesel engines. Honeywell Engines and Systems in Phoenix, Ariz., manufactured the TF50A gas turbines.
The Visby as it may not be quite what we want - but the Visby+ as described may be. That PDF is nice as it gives you a solid overview (with pictures) of the Visby's constuction. Composites are a big part. Personally, I like things any HT can repair, but the pluses may outweight the minuses. For reference and review, I recommend this lecture from U.C. Davis.

Before I forget about it - another thing that we keep overlooking WRT the LCS - let's just be honest here in the family. We need new "Destroyer Tenders" to do this right. I was reminded of that, and other "issues" on this guy's post. Worth a read as well.

Sometimes you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. To paraphrase General Patton; a many good ships on station now are better than a few perfect that may or may not be on station in 10 years - or even perfect.

The Visby could use RAM or such, but unlike the Legoland LCS concept, the Visby comes to the fight with everything else she needs.
* Bofors 57 mm/70 SAK Mk3
* 8 × RBS15 Mk2 AShM
* 4 × 400 mm tubes for Type 43/45 torpedoes
* ASW mortars
* mines (as needed)
Review the Visby in more detail here and here, and then tell me if you have a better idea inside the LCS concept (NB: I like Frigates better - but lets stick with the LCS/Corvette concept).

Another thought; imagine if we had bought a production run of 6 Visby. Forward deploy them to, I don't know, Japan. Validate the concept. Know what works - then if you want, build a flight of new construction design if the Visby does not fit the bill. If we did that in ~2000 - right now those ships would be on station in the Northwest Pacific or even the Persian/Arabian Gulf. We used to do things that way.

Heck, we could have gone cheap and built the Skjold. Anyway, we should get moving - some people are already using our PPT paintjobs.

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