Good people can find themselves on one side or the other when it comes to the LCS debate. To keep yourself grounded between the hope, hype, and hyperbole - look to the neutral facts and historical record of the program.
Thanks to our friends at the Federation of American Scientists, you can get a full copy of Ronald O'Rourke's, Congressional Research Services, Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress.
Here are just a few of the conversation points:
Other Program IssuesOK - so we will have purchased ~43% of a run of ship without one ... a single one ... FMC mission module in place. If the mission modules shift to the right, as they will probably do, then will we have over half before we even know we can get any fight out of them?
The Navy plans to purchase 24, and deliver 9, LCS seaframes by 2016; however, it will not have a single fully capable mission module at that time. As of September 2011, the program planned to conduct a key DOD review in January 2012; however, this review, which includes a program cost estimate and technology maturity assessment, has been delayed to an unspecified date in 2012.
Major elements of each of the three mission modules have yet to be demonstrated and there are unknowns about their cost and performance. Until the program demonstrates these capabilities in a realistic environment, the program will be at increased risk of cost growth, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls.
Just for fun, because I know the Church of the LCS can't stand them - let us look at the FFG-7 class of ships. There were, shocker, 55 of them built in the United States.
Would those who came before us have let FFG-7 (USS OHP actual commissioned in 1977) through FFG-31 (USS STARK commissioned in 1982) be bought and paid for without even knowing SM-1, Harpoon, MK-46, SLQ-32, or helicopters could even work? Wait .... oh that's right; they actually built ships based on sound practices with weapons systems that were known to work before putting them on a new class of warship. BTW, when did we decide that hope was a plan? I think I slept through that class; my bust.
Among the other goodies in the report is a good outline of reports and observations about LCS over the years. This one from Chris Cavass' April 2011 article in AFJ.
Perhaps the only sure thing is that the Navy has tried its best to come up with possible answers to these questions. The thing to do now is not to promise that solutions are at hand but to put the LCS in the hands of young sailors and let them go out, get hands-on experience with the ships in multiple scenarios, find out how they’ll work best, and adapt.Here is the problem with this - there is nothing new or transformational about LCS. It is a large, under-armed corvette that may or may not have functioning mission systems. There is nothing now in the Fleet even close to the growth and experimentation that took place in the 30s WRT air or submarine power going on. Nothing even close to the steady improvement of cruiser classes or fast battleships. Not even close. This isn't build-a-little-test-a-little-learn-a-lot of Aegis fame; this is build-a-lot-pray-a-lot-trust-in-hope.
The 1930s were exciting times for sailors and aviators living through the great age of naval aviation experimentation and making believers out of doubters. The 2010s and 2020s could prove just as rewarding for today’s LCS sailors, headed on courses both known and unknown.
Aw heck, I could do this all night. Read it all, but here is another goodie. A reminder that we need to be extra careful about discussing per-unit costs. Watch how quickly the truth can change.
FY2009 BudgetThat is an increase in 6.5% & 27%. It continues.
The proposed FY2009 budget, submitted in February 2008, showed that the estimated end costs of LCS-1 and LCS-2 had increased to $531 million and $507 million, respectively—or to $631 million and $636 million, respectively, when OF/PD (outfitting and post-delivery) and FSD MSSIT (Final System Design Mission Systems and Ship Integration Team) costs are included, or to $606 million and $582 million, respectively, when OF/PD costs are included, but FSD MSSIT costs are not included.
The proposed FY2013 budget, submitted in February 2012, showed that the estimated end costs of LCS-1 and LCS -2 remained unchanged from the previous year at $537 million and $653 million, respectively. These two figures become $670.4 million and $813.4 million, respectively, when OF/PD and FSD MSSIT costs are included, or $645.4 million and $759.4 million, respectively, when OF/PD costs are included, but FSD MSSIT costs are not included. The Navy’s FY2012 budget submission states that OF/PD and FSD MSSIT costs are non-end cost items, and that FSD MSSIT costs for LCS-1 and LCS-2 “are not true construction costs and are [instead] costs associated with design completion.”
Sadly - we are past the point of ditching this, we will have to make it work somehow - but oh the opportunity cost. The suboptimal use of our Sailors and our shipbuilding budget. So much buying so little for so few years. I am waiting to be proven wrong - and in a way hope I am; but no evidence so far. I'll keep looking.
Hat tip RB.