Thursday, May 12, 2022

LCS Just Cracks Me Up

The best thing about LCS is that when you feel the need to take a break from the war in Ukraine, it delivers you news at just the right time.

Since its commissioning in 2018, the littoral combat ship Omaha has developed cracks in its hull and superstructure that limit the speed it can travel and the sea states it can operate in.
Four years old. Of course, cracks on warships are not new - we saw some issues with OHP, TICO and others ... but this is different.

Before we dig more, let's pause a bit and talk to each other as adults. As was amply demonstrated again yesterday on The Hill in front of Congress, our Navy has a loose association with the truth.

I'm sorry, that is simply a fact - and it is deeper than LCS or our various shipbuilding problems.

There are nicer ways to describe it than "lies" - and "loose association with the truth" is one way. You can call it "happy-talk" or "multi-iterative positivity filtering" if you want to get technical - but really it is just an institutional dysfunction with honesty.

It starts with things as basic as our FITREP/EVAL system. You can throw in our awards system on top of it as well. Even our selection boards with their "we don't need photographs to choose the right people but when we got rid of them we had trouble selecting the right people" that sound almost like a lie until you realize that, yes, we are supposed to be part of this lie so its not a lie - it is loyalty to a lie. Etc. 

In the LCS program's birth at the turn of the century to today, we have seen a path of self-deception that started with hope, then turned to personal loyalty, then careerism to keep what was clearly a sub-optimal program going. As they started to displace water and doubt crept in to those who held out hope that - glory be - no way our Navy leadership could really execute such serial malpractice, a pall of despair began to loiter around the LCS piers. 

So good people in hard jobs did their best to make the best of previous generations' failures...but at every step there was a need for this reason or that for even the best of people to keep a clear distance from unalloyed candor to themselves, their command, their Navy, and their nation's elected representatives. 

Was it just pride? Loyalty to people and not institutions ... or simply our culture? 

Well, those soft-science excuses and habits rarely survive the hard sciences of engineering and metallurgy. Those don't respond to spin or POM cycles. 

The last couple of years we simply had to surrender to reality and began to decommission non-operational LCS well before their expected life. We've relegated the odd-digit FREEDOM Class to secondary or no duty...but...even ole' Sal held out hope that the INDEPENDENCE Class would find of some utility.

The original sin of two decades ago - those compromises and waving away of technology risk - has caught up to even them;
Half of the Navy’s littoral combat ship fleet is suffering from structural defects that have led to hull cracks on several vessels, limiting the speed and sea states in which some ships can operate, according to internal records obtained by Navy Times and confirmed by sea service officials.
documents obtained by Navy Times warn that cracks can grow if the ships transits faster than 15 knots in seas with maximum wave heights of about eight feet.
Such cracks have since been discovered on six of those LCS variants, according to Baribeau, nearly half of the 13-ship Independence class fleet.
There you go. The core requirement was 40+ knots ... yet in 2022 we find what many of us warned about almost two decades ago.

What do you see here?
Asked whether the six ships suffering from hull cracks are operating with those cracks, Baribeau again responded that “all Independence variant ships have been inspected and are able to meet their operational requirements.”

The four-to-eight foot wave range of sea state 4 is “fairly common,” according to Martin, who reviewed the records for Navy Times.

“Being unable to go at speed in sea state 4 is a pretty significant limitation,” he said. “Fifteen knots is a transit speed, a very normal transit speed, less than half of LCS’s supposed maximum speed.”
Again, we see the customer - the Navy - talking as if they work FOR industry and not as a customer OF industry. They know the truth, but can't speak it?

Why? Well my sweet summer child - that is the culture.

As we can't avoid the Russo-Ukrainian War's lessons, what is one of the primary ones we have seen?

It is clear that the Russian military had an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. They lied up their chain of command about their readiness. They lied about their training. They lied about their material condition.

How did that work out for them?

That can be papered over in peace - but you can't paper over such things at war.

BZ to Geoff for keeping this in the news. We need to raise the profile of every LCS failure so it can be an example to future program managers.

Well, that is the theory at least. Let's see how FFG-62 works out. The French and Italians did a good job with their FREMM. They've teed the ball up for us - will we hit it?

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