Monday, March 19, 2007

Lexington on LCS

The Lexington Institute published "Modularity, the Littoral Combat Ship and the Future of The United States Navy" last NOV. Look at who is who on the last page of the 20 page PDF to see who is involved; that is worth your full read. Of note, Byron's Congress Critter is in the intro ... I think his staff may not have briefed him all that well....
It will be a low cost, highly flexible, fully networked ship.

However - this is not just a cheerleader publication. You will find in here some very pointed questions that demand answers. From what we have seen about LCS in the last month, these questions are being asked - or, as the case may be - we have reached the point in the program that you simply cannot hide and "Happy Talk" things anymore.

Like I said, this a good read - and if you are not familiar with the ideas behind the LCS concept of operations - it is a good primer - not that I agree with all of its conjecture. On top of it all, Ymarsakar was on to something with the Lego comment.
Simply put, modularity means the creation of interchangeable components or parts of a complex system linked together to perform desired tasks or missions through a set of common standards and interfaces. The popular image is of the children’s toy known as Legos, a set of blocks and components of different shapes and sizes that the builder can link together by means of a common interface to make complex objects.
You can't make this stuff up.

I mentioned the pointed questions. Having read them a few times I have come to the conclusion that this is a very damning article - but it is written in a way to be nice and political. What is your take? Here are the points I found that just blow a hole in the program; questions many have been asking for years.
However, in order to realize the true value of modularity, the Navy must fund future spirals even as it is deploying the first ships and modules based on current designs and technology.(NB: hundreds of millions more per hull)
LCS modularity also embraces new approaches to unit support and logistics. To most effectively exploit a flexible configuration, LCSs must be capable of rapid exchange of mission modules. Such an exchange must be conducted forward, requiring in turn, the forward positioning both of additional modules and module specialists. Arrangements will have to be made to allow for forward deployment and storage of mission modules. It is possible that sea basing of support services and additional modules will prove an effective means of supporting rapid mission evolution. Consideration is being given also to underway exchange of mission modules. Because of the reduced manning, additional capabilities to conduct forward maintenance probably will be required.(Read: big tail) Manning and training presents another challenge for the LCS program.
It is important also to recognize that the traditional approach to acquiring ships and sizing the Fleet is no longer sustainable. The results have been skyrocketing costs, a declining force structure, inadequate recapitalization and lengthy technology refresh rates. New approaches are required. Lessons learned from the LCS program, together with those acquired on the DDG 1000 should be applied widely in the Fleet. Indeed, if the LCS program proves itself, modularity should become the template for the design of future classes of warships. There is no reason why larger vessels cannot be constructed employing the basic principles of modularity demonstrated in LCS.
• The Naval Research Advisory Committee report on science and technology for modular systems concluded that the process of implementing modular systems required that a taxonomy of modularity be defined and that, in particular, the Navy needs to develop a systems analysis capability for complex, interactive capabilities. It is not clear whether sufficient capability is resident in both the Navy and the private sector.
• A singular benchmark for LCS success is the design and integration of mission modules. The program must be able to demonstrate that a modular open architecture can be created. It must establish the standard interfaces that will create a baseline for development of follow-on systems to be deployed in subsequent spirals.
• Second only to modularity is connectivity. Not only must the modules perform as intended — once integrated with the sea frame — but they must also connect with other ships of the LCS squadron, with off-board sensors, with the rest of the Fleet and with joint and combined forces.
• In the medium and long term, the LCS program will only be successful operationally and in terms of impact on acquisition and sustainment, if exacting configuration control is maintained.
• In addition to demonstrating the feasibility of modularity, the utility of both sea frame designs and the operational value of LCS, the Navy also needs to adapt its manning and training procedures and systems to reflect the LCS’s many unique features.
• The Navy will have to reorganize or modify its support activities to meet the unique characteristics of the LCS. The traditional approach to fleet sustainment will not be adequate for an LCS squadron. First, there will be the need to forward base sets of different mission modules and associated mission crews. Because of the small size of the LCS crew, additional maintenance requirements will fall on intermediate facilities.
• Finally, how the LCS will be employed is subject to some uncertainty. Advocates expect that once it is deployed, the LCS will help to promote the development by the Navy of a CONOPS for distributed, networked forces. The program is intended to allow the Flight 0 LCS to be deployed with the Fleet, in part, as a learning exercise.
Because of the reduced crew size, each individual member of the crew will be filling an essential billet. The loss of even a few crew people could significantly degrade ship operations. In addition, the LCS goal of being able to rapidly swap out modules in response to changes in missions will require rapid change out of mission personnel and the equally swift recertification of both ship and crew for the new mission. (what rapid turnaround?)
Finally, a basic element of the LCS program is rapid technology refresh through a program of measured spirals. However, the Navy has not funded future spirals. This is a mistake. Funding needs to be provided to ensure that improvements can be made to mission modules and more advanced technology inserted.

Sid has a good suggestion. It might also be good to go back to 2002 and look at "The 4 questions."
In order to stimulate thinking, participants at the March 2002 workshop were asked four questions that examined the reasons the littoral combat ship program sprang to life.

Question 1. Is the littoral combat ship a mission/capabilities focused frigate or corvettesized ship optimized for littoral environments?

Question 2. Is the littoral combat ship a very small displacement, advanced technology vessel?

Question 3. Is the littoral combat ship an answer looking for a question?

Question 4. Is the littoral combat ship a set of access capabilities that can be addressed by several types of surface ships/vessels, or by platforms other than ships?
I still like #3.

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