Tuesday, November 17, 2009

LCS - truth trumps PPT

There was once a time when the core group of LCS critics were a small, lonely, bunch. Picked on by many - called nasty names - dismissed as not being transformational enough in our thinking.

Always derided as not understanding that historical norms, institutional knowledge, and a traditional understanding of a warship at sea no longer applied to today's 21st Century Navy. Didn't we see? We are even creating new naming protocals for our ships! Entire classes will begin their hull numbers with "21!" Better yet, "1,000!"

It wasn't so much the cost - it wasn't so much the etheral transformatinalist's language - it wasn't the wave-of-the-hand dismissal of damage control reality that bothered everyone at the core; no. What was most worrying was the focus on manning to a minimum in full knowledge that watchkeeping and ship's maintenance could not be radically reduced - as humans are human - they have to sleep, eat, and take care of those things mammals need to do.

Sailors have always been "hybrid." When a ship is engaged in combat operations - it has never been overmanned. Damage control, extended combat watchkeeping, and fighting hurt always required a properly manned and trained ship. These things the LCS critics took as self-evident. The "Optimal Manning" cult of the Green Eye Shade though did not. Hope is not a plan, but for some it sure was a manning concept.

Like we often warned - after a few PCS cycles, shadows appeared pier-side, deployments were planned, ships needed to be manned, and missions needed to be done - that changes would have to be made.

Behold.
The Navy’s first littoral combat ship, Freedom, will add 20 sailors to its crew when it makes its trial deployment next year, making for a total complement of about 95 people, as opposed to the crew of 75 the ship was originally designed to carry.
...Freedom’s 20 extra sailors would sleep in two 12-rack berthing modules, about the size of shipping containers, which will ride in the ship’s multiuse mission spaces. While the 75 core crew members will stay in the ship’s integral berthing spaces — which include double-tall racks, rooms of no more than eight sailors, and a head and shower to each berthing area — the VBSS sailors’ lodging will be more like those of sailors on a destroyer, he said.

“The racks are exactly the same — there’s a vent fan, a night light above it, there’s the same strap to hold you in. They’re that creamy beige color with the little step,” Good said.
Did you catch that? My first thought - how much extra space will there be in the multiuse mission spaces for mission modules?
In addition to the extra sailors, Freedom’s “tailored” surface warfare package will include two 33-foot rigid-hull inflatable boats for its VBSS sailors; its two Mk 46 30mm guns mounted on the multiuse boxes atop the superstructure; an armed MH-60S Seahawk; and “quite a collection of boarding team equipment,” Good said, including flak jackets, small-arms weapons, grappling hooks, and specialized gear for at-sea boardings.

Freedom will not take a Fire Scout unmanned helicopter or any of the maritime robots it’s designed to carry, nor will it carry the Non-Line-of-Sight missiles designed to be part of its surface mission package. That weapon, being developed with the Army, is still being tested.
Friends - in this case - "tailored" means incomplete.

So, what do we have here? From the sounds of it - there is no way you could fit a complete Surface Warfare Package in an LCS, as - moment arm concerns aside - I don't think you could fit the additional people and equipment to support NLOS, Firescout etc. I will give you partial credit though - assume a one for one swap for Seahawk and Firescout - just to make it simple as we go forward on this post. But still .... is this what we mean when we talk "Surface Warfare Mission Module?"

We should probably call this something else - as what they are putting onboard isn't going to be doing much Surface Warfare. Call this the Maritime Law Enforcement package .... which is a Coast Guard Mission ... which makes LCS ..... wait for it .... a very fast, very expensive Patrol Gun Boat with extra space.

Thank you - pay the bartender, I will pick up my beer on the way out.

Let's get back to the manning issue though.
Cmdr. Don Gabrielson, Freedom’s Blue Crew commissioning commander, who has since moved on to a position on the Joint Staff, anticipated criticism of the Freedom’s taking extra people. It might be seen as an early concession that the ship can’t operate in the real world with the small crew for which it was designed, but that’s not so, he said.

“People are going to say, ‘Hey, this is more people than they said they’d need. They’re lying to us!’ ” he said. But just as an LCS will take aboard custom equipment to hunt submarines or mines, so too does it need custom gear — in this case, sailors — for a visit, board, search and seizure team, he said.

“VBSS is a manpower-intensive evolution. I did one deployment to the [northern Persian Gulf] and boarded 400 ships in three months. Sometimes, when you board those ships, you keep them, lock them down for five months at a time, and you need sailors aboard all the time when they’re in that condition.”
An LCS can’t spare any of its 75 sailors — 40 multitasking core crew members and 35 sailors from a mission-module and an aviation detachment — so it needs the extra hands.
Shipmate - what I am missing? You have a partial, excuse me, "tailored" mission package, but you still have to bring and extra 20 personnel? I thought you said 35 were for the mission-module? So, let me do my NROTC BA math here; 35+20=55 to support just a partial, excuse me, "tailored" mission package?

Funny - I didn't see that vignette on a PPT anywhere. Oh, weren't we warned by the Antitransformationalists about the fact that operating at sea is by it very nature a "manpower-intensive evolution?" Weren't they told to sit down and shut up? Oh yea - thought so.
“One of the things we’re looking at is crew workload. We’re monitoring it, and it was deemed prudent that we should bring on a separate team for that [maritime security operations] boarding team capability,” said Capt. Mike Good, the program manager for LCS’s mission modules.
You bet it is. Thing is - there is no reason this needed to be said in 2009. "We" knew this over a half decade ago, but no one wanted to hear it.

Now that we have handled the manpower issue in macro - let's look at it in micro.
“The racks are exactly the same — there’s a vent fan, a night light above it, there’s the same strap to hold you in. They’re that creamy beige color with the little step,” Good said.

However, the berthing containers will not include showers or heads for the extra ship riders. For the trial deployment, sailors will use the core crew’s heads and showers, and Naval Sea Systems Command will look into developing a new stand-alone restroom container for future use with, but not part of, the extra-sailor berthing modules.

“As you might imagine, it’s a better strategy to separate them,” Good said.

Gabrielson said the VBSS team using the crew’s heads and showers “was a nonissue.”

“It’s not something where people are gonna go, ‘This is bad,’ ” he said — but it could be tricky given the geography of the ship.

Many of the ship’s heads and showers are inside the eight-person berthing spaces, meaning VBSS team members will have to enter crew members’ berthing rooms to use their facilities. Chiefs and officers also share heads and showers.
Nasty spin. Why do we teach our leaders to spin? In this day and age, you are not fooling anyone - you just degrade your credibility.

Don't call an issue a "non-issue." Don't say that is isn't something a Sailor is going to complain about as bad - when you know very well that the poor SOB's in the live nearest bearthing area with a head and shower to the two 12 man shipping containers are going to find a bad experience dealing with a parade of their fellow Sailors bust'n a55 in their head all night long as they try to sleep. It is one thing to share a head with 8 men eating poorly - it is altogether another thing to double that number or more.

How about we just acknowledge the challenge, say we will mitigate it and move on? Don't pi55 on Phil Ewing's head and tell him it's raining. That is just insulting.

So, there you go. So far, LCS is moving along just like we told you it would. Shame - this was avoidable. All we had to do was go with the VISBY option or even better - Patrol Frigate along the lines of the better European designs.

Sigh. And the people responsible are still not held to account.

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