Tuesday, January 26, 2016

If This is Defending LCS, You're Doing it Wrong

The events of the last year have, in a way, been a Pyrrhic victory for long standing LCS critics. It would have been the best thing for our Navy and its nation if we had been wrong - and as I mentioned years ago, I wished I were proven wrong - but the facts are clear; this sub-optimal platform will saddle our Navy for the next three decades with lost opportunity, China doll deathtraps that will remind everyone of the cost of the Transformationalists' Tiffany Navy.

In the global marketplace of ideas, the verdict is in. No one is trying to replicate the LCS concept. While we have been making excuses during the long, slow rollout of both LCS variants, the Dutch, Danes, Germans, French, Russians and others have commissioned and deployed superior sub-7,000 ton warships that, unlike LCS, are ready to go to war tomorrow. They are very real, self-deployable warships with provable performance metrics that LCS can't seem to get off the PPT.

Other nations' mocking performance in their rollouts do not stop our blinkered LCS advocates who just won't let go. They cannot accept that their beautiful little theory has been destroyed by a rampaging gang of facts and experience.

They yell louder, they call people names, but the facts continue to be what they are.

If you are new here and to the argument against LCS, just click the LCS tag. There is over a decade of commentary here on it - with links that go back even further. A little more than half decade ago when I realized we had moved past the tipping point to execute Plan Salamander and mitigate much of the negative 2nd and 3rd order effects from this snakebit program, I settled on just hoping that with enough time and money, we could salvage something of use from this program.

SECNAV Mabus & SECDEF Carter have helped in the last year. In not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, most of us had welcomed the stage whisper admission of the failure that led to the redesign of the LCS in to a kind of FF inline with the previous decades LCS-(I) concept, and finally the premature ending of the run. A half-decade late, but a welcome end to the bleeding.

Now, as we have repeated often the last few years, the great effort is to see what can be done to make these ships of some use. You have the Navy you are given, not the one you want.

Does that mean we should stop beating up on LCS/FF? No, not at all. The horrible shortcomings of this program need to be brought out and gibbeted on a regular basis as a warning to future program managers and leaders as to what no to do. It is also needed as now and then, some members of the rapidly decreasing member of the Cult of LCS step out of the shadows and once again try to convince the unwashed masses that LCS is really all that and a box of chocolates. Everyone, you see, are just too stupid, ignorant, or compromised to see its perfection. Have they not seen the PPT? Have they not read the CONOPS? Do they not tasted its awesomesauce?

Well, over at WOTR, our old buddy Steven has dusted off the LCS Tent Revival Handbook to enlighten the heathens. It has kind of a old-timey feel to it, but as the ball is tee'd up, let's grab an old Big Bertha and give a whack at it.

He is a true believer and means well ... but he's wrong, and here's why.

Let's start with the title;
What? Is it still 2007? Shipmate, we are way past the "choose" point. The choice was made, measured, found wanting, regretted, and then retracted. By design, at this point it is our only option - and we've already rejected it with seven servings of buyer's regret.

How is that working out for us?
USS Fort Worth, successfully deployed to Singapore in a variety of missions suffered an engineering casualty that appears similar to that of Milwaukee.
Outline all those PMA it performed, ifyoudontmind. "Successful." I'm sorry - is this successful?
The USS Fort Worth, a Navy littoral combat ship, has suffered extensive gear damage while docked at a port in Singapore. The Navy is blaming the incident on a crew error.

According to reports, the crew failed to use sufficient lube oil, leading to excessively high temperatures on the gears. Debris also found its way into the lubrication system, which also contributed to failure, Defense News reports. The crew did not follow standard operating procedures.
I have yet to see a deployment debrief where gross maintenance neglect is in the "successful" slide. Makes for a rough end of tour award write-up.

Silly. Let's see what else is being thrown up against the wall.
The relatively small size of America’s fleet means that a much higher percentage of ships must be forward-based in order to meet demands for both presence and war fighting missions articulated in the 2015 Cooperative Maritime Strategy.
Relative to who? "What" is forward based and "where" is more important than a number, especially in transition to war. For the foreseeable future, LCS will not be able to conduct any more meaningful war fighting missions than the USN gunboats of COMYANGPAT could after Dec. 7th 1941.
The LCS remains the best program to pursue a modular small combatant.
How long do we pursue until we actually achieve? LCS-1 was commissioned ~8 years ago, 1/3 of its service life. I think we have the answer. With the transition to FF, bolt-on ASCM, and truncated production ... I think the pursuit has turned in to acceptance of failure.
The LCS program has been plagued with legitimate problems to be sure, but defense media sources would rather garner headlines for reporting problems such as the Milwaukee and recent Fort Worth engineering problems rather than analyze why the Defense Department and the Navy chose and have retained the LCS concept.
Blaming the messenger is not a way to progress. I'm sorry, but as per the below, this is simply false. If LCS concept was good, there would be no FF, you would get full production, and other navies would be producing their own versions.

LCS is a peacetime concept that has not even met its minimum theoretical wartime utility requirements for ASUW, MIW, or ASW. As long as we don't have to go to war, LCS will do fine. As long as we continue to shovel money and excuses at it, LCS will do fine. As long as we continue to set lower standards for it to meet, LCS will do fine.
The 2015 Cooperative Maritime Strategy states that 300 ships will be required to provide both presence and war fighting capability in forward operating areas.
Well, no, we don't live in that universe. With the huge debt bomb ticking away, land powers of Russian and China stretching, domestic budget requirements expanding, and the need to recapitalize our SSBN fleet ... well, no. We are not going to get as many ships as we want, or for that matter we need. We also should not just go for numbers for numbers sake. That is a false economy.
Given the success of the Fort Worth deployment and the potential capability of its anti-ship missile armament, the LCS supports both presence and warfighting as required by the Cooperative Maritime Strategy.
Everything is "potential" with this class of ships. A bolt-on, non-integrated, high RCS box launcher on deck is better than nothing (a moment of quiet reflection for the wasted space where NLOS was supposed to be), but again ... long range ASCM was not in the LCS CONOPS. That is simply trying to get something out of it - a move I approve of for what is is worth. You can bolt those on anything, so why not LCS?
A Reasonable Price
For what? A self-propelled 57mm gun and some bolt on 1-off weapons? Give me three accountants and they will give me four different cost estimations for each Unicorn Class FMC LCS (including contractor shore support etc), but this is just silly at this stage of the game. If you want to go there, then here is a question. Is it better to have 10 ships that have limited capability or 6 ships that are fully mission capable through their primary mission areas?

Which is better; to buy 10 $1 items that give you $.85 utility, or to buy 5 $2 items that give you $2.2 utility in return?
Intelligence and/or future strategic requirements may suggest a larger frigate than the modified LCS with greater range, but unlike the late 1970s there is no need for an escort with a destroyer’s armament to plug a gap in overall U.S. surface force capabilities.
Actually, intelligence and future strategic requirements already suggest a larger frigate than the modified LCS, and as for convoy escort ... a secondary mission, sure. Who is asking for a primarily designed convoy escort? PEO Strawman would like their job back.
The LCS, through its system of modular capabilities resident on a common hull offers an affordable solution to the problem of how to field multiple low-end capabilities and rapidly and affordably update them over time. Each LCS mission package is an assembly of sensors, weapons, associated equipment, and the sailors needed to operate them. The mission module list currently features surface warfare, antisubmarine warfare and mine warfare packages. An LCS can only support one module at a time. LCS represents a compromise in a common hull for all three missions that it is larger than the MCM and PC units, but smaller than the Perry class frigates it replaces.
Oh just stop. Mission modules remain only PPT deep. None are even close to being ready to deploy, much less prove their worth under operational conditions. Also, LCS-1 is ~85% the displacement of a Perry class frigate, and only 30' shorter.
One wonders how the FFG-7 or DD 963 classes, both labeled as under-armed and unsurvivable, or the excessively expensive AEGIS system would have fared in an Internet age of instant criticism and anonymous condemnation.
ISWYDT. I love when it becomes about me, but back to the game. 

First of all, we need to stop even trying to parallel LCS with OHP, but if you so wish, we can. Eight years in to the Perry class, we had commissioned 50 of them and they were conducting global fleet operations in all mission areas.

For the SPRUCANS, eight years in to the program and all 31 had been commissioned, and ditto performance at sea as the OHP.

TICO? 20 ships and the AEGIS bugs well worked out with refinements ongoing. 
The LCS program represents a reasonable attempt to field a common small combatant that meets present U.S. requirements and fits within the force structure of the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Its cost remains significantly lower than other proposed solutions from the analysis community. It has suffered unremitting criticism from an analysis community unhappy with the Navy’s choice of small combatant, from a defense press eager to publish bad news stories, from a retired community unfamiliar with its concept, and from legions of “hobbyists” who heretofore never had access to the age-old, messy process of compromise involved in producing a warship. In spite of criticisms, the LCS still represents the best way forward to produce a small combatant that meets multiple mission requirements in the 21st century.
Actually, no. LCS is a failed attempt. By reinforcing failure until recently, we have only damaged our navy and unnecessarily hazarded its Sailors when future conflict at sea comes. 

The best compromise with LCS has been the attempt to make a marginally better warship with the FF modification and the decision to stop throwing good money at a failed program by ending the buy early.

If you are looking for good news in the sad story that is LCS, that is it.

It would be great for our Navy and the nation it serves if one day I can go over to Steven and the other LCS advocates and say, "Folks, the next three rounds are on me. I was wrong about LCS. You were right. I should have seen this for what it is."

We are not there, and not heading there. As a matter of fact, I feel quite comfortable that day will never come.

The beatings, however, will continue.

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