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U.S. Navy Wants it All When it Comes to LCS

The USS Independence and USS Freedom Littoral Combat Ships

Woah, so the U.S. Navy wants to buy both classes of Littoral Combat Ship in equal numbers for a total of 20 ships, double the planned by of 10 Hulls, according to my former colleague Chris Cavas’ latest piece over at Defense News.

The Navy, convinced that the competition has driven down the cost for the ships, is asking Congress for permission to award each team contracts for 10 ships, for a total of 20 new LCS hulls.

“We’re engaging with key committee members, their staff and industry on whether awarding a 10-ship block buy to each team merits congressional authorization,” Capt. Cate Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s acquisition department, said Nov. 3.

Still, if this plan to convince the current lame-duck Congress to allow the sea-service to buy both Lockheed Martin’s Freedom-class and Austal USA’s Independence-class designs doesn’t work, the Navy will go back to its original plan: awarding a contract for ten ships to one of the two competitors.

But Mueller cautioned that the move does not mean the effort to pick only one design has been put aside.

“The Navy’s LCS is on track for a down-select decision. We have not stopped the current solicitation,” she said. “If the [dual-award] path doesn’t prove feasible and we don’t get the congressional authorization, we will proceed to down-select in accordance with the terms of the current solicitation.”

“The Navy sees either approach procures affordably priced ships,” she said.

Congress — which has yet to produce a defense bill for 2011 — will need to act quickly, as the contract offers and prices put on the table by each industry team expire after Dec. 14. If the LCS contracts aren’t awarded by then, a new round of contract offers would need to be made, possibly pushing a decision into late winter or early spring.

Can’t make up your mind, well, buy both!

Under the proposal, the Navy would split its buy equally each year between Lockheed and Austal USA. Two ships would be awarded under the 2010 budget and two in 2011, with four ships year each from 2012 through 2015. One key issue that will be put off appears to be the choice of combat system. Each team created its own system, with virtually no commonality between the two types. Under the proposal, each team would continue to build ships with their original combat systems.

But wait a second, isn’t there a push to streamline big weapon fleets? Not exactly.

Planners for years have seen the designs as mutually supportive — one of the reasons that the Navy, until the fall of 2009, planned to buy both types.

– John Reed

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

STemplar November 4, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Anyone have a read on the Naval perspective of the new Congress?

I really don't see news on the hulls as news. They both have strengths and weaknesses. The real question is the modules. Building any hulls if the modules aren't working is foolhardy. I'd like to see some journalists cram a mic up the USN's butt on what precisely the NLOS options are. To say nothing of the other modules.

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Jeff November 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I think buying both is generally a good idea. Why waste the fact that you've established tooling and production lines for both. The alternative is a snails pace attempt at buying a single ship while designing a whole new other ship. It will also help the Navy maintain its fleet size to be running both lines at once. Theoretically a double buy will get political support from both competing camps supporting separate shipyards. It will also help an aching industrial base.

I do agree with STemplar, whats the point if there are not any working mission modules. The only counterpoint is that its the chicken or the egg, from a design point it was ridiculous to try and do it simultaneously and one needed to come first and then the other. Hulls first makes more sense but severe pressure needs to be applied to build the modules.

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STemplar November 4, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I think scaling back what modules were supposed to bring to the table and building the hulls with more integrated capability was the way they should have gone. Something like integrated sonar and included anti-surface capacity. Then added additional ASW/MCM capacity through the modules.

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Belesari November 4, 2010 at 9:32 pm

How about having one design optimized for air-to-air and patrol or something and the other ASW and and such.

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blight November 5, 2010 at 9:22 am

If we bought everything we would have the logistical problems of WW2 Germany: 6 kinds of German-built panzers, plus captured stuff from Czechslovakia, Poland and France. The horror.

If you go back through Navy procurement history, protyping of single units is actually quite normal, as precursors to larger build orders built based on the lessons of previous units. You don't use prototyping as a gravy train to subsidize your private shipyards with build orders. This is another case of envisionin capability for which manufacturing capability doesn't exist yet, paying for stuff up front that would've been added down the line when it was cheaper and more feasible just to have it now. It's kind of risky, considering that a bleeding program is often killed for not having results, or in a bad fiscal year…

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Oblat November 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Competition by rewarding both sides equally ?! That is not competition its the exact opposite - now not even the competitive phases are competitive - roll up roll up - everyone is a winner - except the American taxpayer.

It would be considered madness if it didn't reek of corruption.

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Joe Schmoe November 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I actually can't believe that I am agreeing with you on something.

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guy November 5, 2010 at 9:31 am

Actually, it's not that bad a strategy. Now, you have both companies continually competing over the course of the program. They will both continue to strive to outdo the other, rather than having a monopoly on the ship production once the contract is awarded. Nothing says that DoD has to continue to buy from both forever. Previously, once the down select happened, DoD was forced into buying from a single source that has little continued pressure to be on-time or cheap.

It also will mean more ships faster, with the drawback of a higher logistical burden.

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guy November 5, 2010 at 9:33 am

Also, the Navy has a strong need for a robust domestic shipbuilding program which has been in steady decline. If all the yards close, they're in serious trouble on all future ship buys. 2 vendors keep the yards open and fulfills that goal.

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Dean November 4, 2010 at 5:55 pm

WTF? Two wrongs do not make a right.
But perhaps they do in our politically correct Navy where everyone is a winner.
If our CNO had any balls he would cancel this massive waste of taxpayers money and build a real warship (frigate type) to replace the neglected Perry's.

We need WARSHIPS not fast yachts.

Do you think the Chinese are going to scared of these LCS's?

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prometheusgonewild November 4, 2010 at 7:06 pm

I think at this point the Navy realizes that if something is not in the pipe, it may not be built.
To them both these are in the pipe, so they want both.
I am not sure if this is the right way, but they may have a point
.

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Drake1 November 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

It’s always easy to spend money when it isn’t yours.

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Byron Skinner November 4, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Good Evening Folks,

Hey the Navy knows it politics. The Republicans have the house the two programs that raise the Republican harmon levels are Missile Defense and a 600 ship Navy. The Navy is deeply involved in Missile Defense, Is it any coincidence that the last three carriers have been named after Republican Presidents?

The USAF sees the hand writing on the wall and is thinking of going to Plan B and buying F-16C’s and D’s, now. The F-35 if ever built, its first pilot are still Kindergarden. The UAV’s as talked about in another post are here and they are taking spots out of the line up where pilots in the cockpit once flew. currently the USAF has over 400 pilots that are being rotated into two year tours flying Reapers for Las Vegas.

Don’t be surprised if the Navy’s wish list is extended considerably.

ALLONS,

Byron Skinner

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William C. November 5, 2010 at 12:10 am

As much as I would like to see the old 600 ship Navy goal, that died with the 1980s. I believe the target is 350 ships these days.

LCS was a great idea, but poor execution. The only thing it really does well is speed and possess a large helicopter hanger. But that doesn't excuse everything else.

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Jacob November 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Isn't this the point of the LCS, speed and helos? This thing is supposed to screen larger warships against missile boats and diesel electric submarines.

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jhm November 5, 2010 at 5:58 pm

not really screen. It is supposed to operate in littoral areas. Spending a lot of mullah on a ship that goes fast is a bit of a waste.

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Insider November 5, 2010 at 9:02 am

Stupid. Wasting more money. Award the contract to ONE company. Don't REward both companies for competing against each other. Who are we afraid of offending here? This makes the integrity of the upper echelon of this chain of command laughable.

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jhm November 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm

so right. whole point of a weapons aquisition competition is to have A winner. our maintenance costs are going to soar and all for a teeny ship.

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STemplar November 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Actually dual award competing contracts used to keep costs down. They pay for the 2 sets of 10 now to get both types into production, then further buys are based off both performance and cost. It makes both companies constantly compete. Of course if the stupid modules don't work then you have speed boats with a 57mm gun…..

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Vitor November 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

Well, Bernanke will print enough money so the Navy can afford both.

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Skysoldier173 November 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

Wat is their strike capability? Do these modules include T-lams? Wat happened to N-los? The Army uses precision missles can this be fit on this ship? Iam not a sailor, so wat is their mission? The littorals i heard, but wat else?

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STemplar November 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

ASW and MCM. Support SPECOPS from the littorals.

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Dean November 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Hey Jax, I agree with you to a point that "numbers is presence" but that thinking presumes that "presence has capabilities." Without capabilities the people (i.e. nations) your are trying to "influence" with presence will not take your presence seriously. This would be much like playing poker, your opponent your already knows you are only only 1's and 2's while your pretending to hold a Jacks and Kings.

As I have said before, the LCS is a joke, it has no offense capability and little defense. But what about the modules they say, oh please….I've got a bridge to sell you.

We will be sending our sailors into harms way with a ship that needs frigate capabilities but in essence is nothing more then a fast yacht.

Would you sail on this thing into harms way?

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