Monday, February 02, 2009

I'll have mine with no bacon please

Is retired Admiral James Lyons a CDR Salamander reader? Naw; just thinks the same in some ways. He sure packages up the last few years arguments well - let's review.
The overall costs of the LCS are largely driven by the speed requirement of 50 knots. It can be safely assumed that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the current hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) costs are directly attributed to the speed requirement. It is not transparently clear what a 50 knot capability (as opposed to 30 knots) confers in the threat today of Mach 1-plus air and surface launched guided-stealthy missiles plus 70-plus-knot torpedoes. Furthermore, in any type of seaway, the ship will not operate at 50 knots nor will it operate at 50 knots in 20 feet of water unless the intention is to dig a trench in the seabed.

Despite the stated requirement for stealth, it is not optimized in either of the LCS prototypes. Both ships display relatively large radar targets. The mono-hull (Lockheed) is derived from a fast yacht hull form and unsurprisingly, stealth was not an important consideration. The trimaran variant (General Dynamics) provides a radar "tunnel" to amplify the radar return from the ship when observed from certain aspects.

Moreover, both hull forms have inherent large and/or noisy acoustic signatures. Further, both prototypes will have predictability large infrared signatures when operating at higher speeds. Neither of these prototypes has anything but a very limited "point" air defense capability. In today's expanding threat environment, any ship designed to be a 21st-century warship is fatally flawed that costs more than $550 million and does not incorporate multiple fire-control systems and a reasonable area air defense capability against stealthy cruise missiles. The argument that an air defense "umbrella" for the LCS will be provided by other air and surface platforms is suspect, if only because the LCS is touted as a precursor weapons system, intended to "sanitize" littoral waters.

In the bid to reduce weight (for speed) both designs include significant amounts of aluminum, but little or no composites in their superstructure. One is almost all aluminum. We continue to ignore the lessons drawn from the Falklands war where British ships with aluminum superstructures burned to the gunwales in a littoral sea fight with Argentine aircraft-delivered iron bombs and French short-range Exocet missiles. Perhaps we should review the logic presented in the mid-1980s when we opted for an all-steel Arleigh Burke DDG-51 destroyer.
There's more, but that will do.

The offered solution (like 'ole Phib, I bet he thinks you take your multi-mission capability with you - not leave it in a CONEX box ashore) sure sounds familiar,
What should be done? The current Navy leadership inherited the LCS program. With the budget constraints Navy ship acquisition programs will face, we simply cannot afford to build a class of ships with the limited capabilities of an LCS. We should step back, acknowledge the LCS shortcomings and look at alternatives currently available.

The Norwegian Aegis frigate, which is a derivative of the Spanish F-100 Aegis frigate, is a candidate that should receive careful consideration. It has a speed of 28 knots; is stealthy and is capable in terms of area AAW and ASW with its Aegis combat system, electro-optical director; hull mounted and towed array sonar, two MK82 fire-control radars, and 127MM and 76MM guns. It also has the capability to host organic manned and unmanned air and surface vehicles. The cost for this very capable warship is about $600 million. Its draft is 5 meters, which also compares favorably with the LCS.
He is just wallow'n in good. Read it all. Mike is blogg'n about it too.

BTW, know why our shipbuilding is still such a hard issue? One, we fumbled - two we have fallen in love with the food trough - third, related to the second - our programs start to look too much like the below.

Hat tip LBG.

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