Tuesday, February 11, 2020

LCS: As We Always Have Known Her

As we stumble in to the Terrible 20s, with each passing quarter, the damage becomes clearer and clearer from the star-crossed poster child of the Age of Transformationalism, LCS.

The opportunity cost in reputations, institutional political capital, money, and combat capability is still not fully understood - we just know it is more than it appears.

Especially in the last five years, some smart, focused, well meaning professionals have invested their time, seabags full of cash, and barges full of Sailor sweat to attempt to salvage something of use from this exquisite Tiffany White Elephant.

By the end of this FY, we will have some good data on what their hard work yielded following deployments of the INDEPENDENCE Class to WESTPAC and FREEDOM Class to the Caribbean.

There are a lot of secondary indications that the operational side of the Navy has finally freed itself from having to defend the concept of LCS, and will just focus on doing what it can with what the Potomac Flotilla bought for them.

To underline this fact was the overdue announcement that the juice just wasn't worth the squeeze for the first four ships;
The Navy also plans to send several "less-capable" platforms into early retirement. That includes the first four littoral combat ships, which the Navy turned into non-deploying test ships in 2016, according to a Navy official familiar with the plan.
The first four ships are just too sub-optimal and different from follow on units to justify spending money and Sailors on.

Nice to see, and a smart move as the money starts to tighten.

While we are on the topic, over a decade ago I offered up "PLAN SALAMANDER" as the last-minute reprieve from making the mistake of going in to full production of LCS. It was, in essence, to license build a couple of dozen multi-mission Eurofrigates until we could come up with a US design. Of course, it took a decade or so until Big Navy came to the same conclusion, roughly, and we got FFG(X).

Over at twitter, a reader asked for an update, and there really isn't one - but there is this reminder in the last 24-hrs by the irreplaceable David Larter;
The Navy is expected to buy its first next-generation frigate this year, so here’s what the next few years are going to look like in FFG(X)-land, according to budget documents released Monday.

The Navy plans to award the frigate design and construction award to one of the competitors in July, the documents say.
July is close. We'll know soon.

Here is my take again on the four options, in order of preference.

Fincantieri’s FREMM design
: A proven, scaleable, multi-mission frigate that the French and Italians have enjoyed much success with. Lowest risk and most capable (though I'm still pissed we're putting a 57mm on a design that can take a 5" main gun).

Huntington Ingalls Industries Upgunned NSC: This has moved up my list because it is a relatively low risk design and has a good price point. Yes, there are many limitations, but this will answer the call for the next decade.

GD/BIW/Navantia’s F-100 variant: this pocket BURKE used to be my #2, but reading the tea leaves about numbers and cost desires from OSD and The Hill, I think this may be a bit too much for what we want from FFG(X). Great design though. Like FREMM, proven and multi-mission.

Austal USA’s INDEPENDENCE-class LCS based FFG: No. Are you kidding me? Are you serious? Just no. We've had enough of this vanity project and every time this stained class of ship pulls in to a foreign port our nation loses reputation. If this wins, everyone in OPNAV needs to be simply fired and replaced. Buddha knows we have enough people who can do the job better.

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