Monday, July 29, 2013

HAYLER and the Never-was-has-beens

Here is a change I would really like to see in how we train our senior leadership; they need to act more like a customer of the defense industry - not sound like a paid defender of it.

Part of it is training, part of it is practiced art, but we had another example of it this weekend. The CNO's Public Affairs office rolled this quote out and it is a perfect example of a lot of what is wrong with the discussion about LCS.
Greenert spoke about the GAO report that was leaked days in advance during a Pentagon press brief held July 19 to discuss the status of the Navy with the Pentagon Press Corps. In his comments Greenert compared the LCS with debuts of previous first- in-class ships and said there was initial skepticism with those platforms too.

"My view is, what we are finding is not that significantly different from the Perry class of the ʻ60s and ʻ70s, the Spruance class of the ʻ70s, nor even the Arleigh Burke class when it comes to the size and the impact on it," Greenert said defending the initial hiccups of the LCS.

Not one for excuses and understanding of our nation's budget constraints Greenert added, "But we need to be vigilant, we need to follow up, and we have work to do."
Where to start?

1. No, no, no, no; you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot take a ship like LCS that was sold as "transformational" and "unlike any other warship" and then when things go sideways say, "Well, it is just like all our other programs." That is both self-contradictory on its face, and also in this case, not in line with the facts.

2. The facts. LCS-1 was commissioned in NOV08. Almost 5 years ago, and we have 4 LCS commissioned; two of each sub-class of LCS. The USS SPRUANCE (DD-963) was commissioned in SEP75. Five years later, in 1980, we had just commissioned hull 30, USS FLETCHER (DD-992). That left one ship in the class left, the USS HAYLER (DD-993) that we'll get to in a minute. So, ummmm, no. Admiral Greenert, the experience we have having with LCS is quite significantly different than our experience with the SPRUANCE class. Shall we go on to OHP next? Let's not and say we did; I want to stick with the Spru-cans.

There were two sub-classes of the SPRUANCE; the TICO Cruisers (yes, I called it a sub-class), and MIDN Salamander's favorite ship, the KIDD class DDG (BTW, LT Salamander's favorite of that class for special reasons was USS SCOTT (DDG-995).)

No, the LCS is nowhere near the experience of any the classes mentioned. First in class always has growing pains, always has always will - but here is the biggest ball of gall that we are being asked to swallow by the CNO with that statement. Five years after its commission and LCS-1 cannot engage anything more challenging than a Boghammar, 1-on-1. Half dozen Boghhammar at sea-state ___ coming from between ___deg and ___deg relative at ___F and ___% humidity, well .... nuff said on that.

LCS isn't even really PMC in ASUW. She can only conduct ASW as a flaming datum for others. She can conduct MIW one mine at a time, once.

Almost out of the box, and unquestionably at the 5-yr mark when the class was almost complete, SPRUANCE could do her primary mission, ASW with style and verve with both sensors and LWT coming at the target from over the side and from on top via ASROC and helo. Heck, back in the day - she could even nuke the frack out of you. With Harpoon and two 5"-54 she could more than hold her own in ASUW if needed. Point defense AAW with Sea Sparrow, nice to have and effective for her day.

Room to grow? Yes, as designed and without affecting her primary reason for being; ASW. With LCS you can grow, but only if you want to give up her reason for being; speed. Once the SPRUANCE came in to being with the MK-41 VLS ... well there you go.

With proven technology mixed in with some new but tested improvements - SPRUANCE was a classic case of evolutionary success, not the transformationalist revolutionary dog's breakfast that is LCS.

The last of the straight-stick SPRUANCE was the HAYLER. Yep, that's her in the upper-right hand corner. Commissioned in MAR83, decommissioned in AUG03. Yep, do the math; 20-years of service; sunk as a target in NOV04.

Here is a fun fact about HAYLER, when she was funded in 1978, she was supposed to be DDH-997; yep, a helicopter destroyer.

This is about to get fun.

As regulars know, I was and will always be a fan of the Sea Control Ship (all praise the late great SPS PdA), so you know where I am going.

As the pogues at DOD-GAO still have the 1978 observations on the concept classified, we'll just free-form with what we have.
Litton-Ingalls completed sketch design work for DDH-997, which moved the helicopter deck aft, stretching the length of the hangar and displacing the Sea Sparrow launcher to the top of the hangar. The design would have accommodated two SH-3 Sea Kings or four smaller SH-60 Seahawk or SH-2 Seasprite helicopters.
From a very interesting 1991 USNI Press imprint, The Hybrid Warship: The Amalgamation of Big Guns and Aircraft, we have an outline of what Congress authorized.

From the same book, I am led to believe the DDH concept spawned quite a few ideas. My favorite - that yes I would gladly take 1 of for 2 SPRU - was from the 1977 Proceedings article by CDR Ronald J. Ghiradella, USN.
Length Over All (LOA): 606 feet
Beam (hull and sponsor): 66 feet

Overall beam (width) with the ducted uptakes and angled fight deck: 87 feet

Fight deck length: 470 feet and can support simultaneous takeoff of 5 medium-sized helicopters

Weapons: 1- 5 inch/54 dual purpose gun
4-30 mm General Electric GAU 8 (a) guns
1 Harpoon launcher (An ASROC could be substitute)
1 Basic point defense missile system

Elevator measures: 62 x 26 feet

Embarked aircraft: 12 medium-sized helicopters or 8 medium-sized helicopters and 4 Harrier-type aircraft

Let that soak in a bit and ponder this with me. HAYLER was commissioned in 1983, so let's assume that this ship was a go either as Congress said or CDR Goodchocolate's mod - and let's make a run of 4; add a couple of years for the mods and say HAYLER commissioned in 1985 with follow-on ships every two years after that. 85, 87, 89, 91. The oldest ship would be 28, the youngest 22.

Think about what we have actually used our Fleet for since 1980. Not what people wished it would be used for, not what they planned it to be used for - but actually no-kidding used for.

Because of our unique position and responsibilities on the world's oceans, our ships need as a baseline capability flexibility and capacity. The DDH has that in spades. The latest realization of this tradition that traces its line back to when we built big frigates well over 200 years ago, is the CNO's "payloads over platforms."

If you could have kept DDH and her sisters out of the Amphib Navy ghetto, the clear utility of that platform over the last few decades is clear. The original ASW mission is straight forward - but think of its utility in the decade+ Northern Arabian Gulf embargo ops. Disaster relief in places such as Haiti. Anti-piracy. Even a temporary home for the HMM when needed. 

The clearest utility to me though is support to Special Operations. Even has its own organic NSFS. The little mini-KIEV would have been nice to have around. I think our friend CAPT Hendrix would find a home for it in one of his Influence Squadrons.

A great addition to the toolbox.

Oh wait, here comes the buzzkill guy from OPNAV shaking his finger and saying in that high pitched whine that drives men nuts, "OK, fine Sal. What in the 1980s would you not fund in order to pay for this?"

My response as always, "Dude, that is your job. Give me a menu of options to choose from and I'll let you know."

Of course, the DDH was a never-was-has-been, but let's come full circle back to the CNO.
... what we are finding is not that significantly different from ... the SPRUANCE class of the ʻ70s, ...
If you change the time frame from the beginning of the program to the program in general - then yes, you may have something. Like the SPRUANCE, what can we do with the platform that we have in order to best make it most useful to the Fleet? What from a financial and engineering point of view, makes the most sense?

The LCS simply does not have the "wiggle room" that SPRUANCE had - so there aren't that many options. I am encouraged that there is a much more open mind in the Navy towards the clear short comings of LCS, and that is good, as only through a clear view can we find the best way to make this work.

SPRUANCE; don't insult her memory by throwing her in with LCS - she has been insulted enough in the last decade.

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