Unrep MSC to amphib

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tales of shipbuilding

Found at Information Dissemination: The US Navy's PF-109 "Patrol Frigate" Program.

Some of the same points made here, albeit with this commentary:
LCS Is a Linchpin to a 21st-Century Family of Ships

The Family of Ships is really a 21st-century version of the high-low mix of the 1970s, which provides the Navy with a valuable experience base and lessons learned across all shipbuilding issues. In particular, there always are powerful forces, both in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, that view the low-mix ships as a fig leaf for not procuring the high-mix ships. This line of thinking has serious ramifications. In the case of LCS, the fundamental assumption is that these ships will operate with larger members of the family. Because the Navy has invested heavily in land-attack capabilities such as the Advanced Gun System and land-attack missiles in DD(X), there is no requirement for LCS to have this capability. Similarly, LCS does not require an antiair capability beyond self-defense because DD(X) and CG(X) will provide area air defense. Thus, if either DD(X) or CG(X) does not occur in the numbers required and on time, the Navy will face two options: leave LCS as is, and accept the risk inherent in employment of this ship in a threat environment beyond what it can handle (which is what it did with the FFG-7); or "grow" LCS to give it the necessary capabilities that originally were intended to reside off board in DD(X) and CG(X). Neither option is acceptable.

As for the high-low mix, it failed for three basic reasons. First, the low-mix ships, i.e., the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) class, became too expensive. Second, the high-mix ships were not procured in the numbers needed to provide the protective umbrellas for the low mix. Third, the communications and surveillance requirements to tie the two mixes together could not be met with the technology of the time. All these pitfalls can be avoided today, provided the Family of Ships is correctly managed and fully funded. The opportunity is here. The technical problems are bounded by the laws of physics. The bureaucratic problems, however, relate to leadership and inside-the-D.C.-beltway acumen. The Navy must address both bureaucratic issues.
The LCS is becoming a $400,000,000+ "low mix" ship, see here, which, of course, triggers Admiral Mustin's comments on why the "high-low" mix failed in the 70's.

Now the Navy is preaching "tough love" for its shipbuilders, see here:

Starting in the spring, Navy Secretary Donald Winter has been making the case for what he describes as "tough love" for the shipbuilding industry.

"The Navy must reassert its control over the entire shipbuilding acquisition process. The Navy owns the fleet, and the Navy is the customer. Sometimes one has the impression that this tiny distinction has been forgotten," Winter wrote in an essay last month. He declined to elaborate on his comments to The Associated Press.

CDR Salamander has much more on the Navy getting less than they are paying for, staring here with the LPD-17 troubles. You know, $840,000,000 over budget woes.

Meanwhile, someone needs to hold a discussion about "The perfect is the enemy of the good" (Voltaire). We don't need perfect ships. We need lots of "good" ships that will allow us to get the missions done.

Earlier post here, noting that the 3000 ton LCS started out as the 400 ton Streetfighter. And here for some suggestions on ways to spend money.

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