US Navy And Its New Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)
|courtesy General Dynamics|
This is supposed to become the back-bone of naval strategy of USA in future. To some extent this has come about after watching the success of "Flex" ships of Denmark. The US Navy’s $30+ billion “Littoral Combat Ship” program was intended to create a new generation of affordable surface combatants that could operate in dangerous shallow and near-shore environments, while remaining affordable and capable throughout their lifetimes.
The LCS program was announced on November 1, 2001. The LCS is a relatively inexpensive Navy surface combatant that is to be equipped with modular “plug-and-fight” mission packages, including unmanned vehicles (UVs). Rather than being a multimission ship like the Navy’s larger surface combatants, the LCS is to be a focused-mission ship, meaning a ship equipped to perform one primary mission at any given time. The ship’s mission orientation can be changed by changing out its mission packages. The basic version of the LCS, without any mission packages, is referred to as the LCS sea frame.
"1 On November 1, 2001, the Navy announced that it was launching a Future Surface Combatant Program aimed at acquiring a family of next-generation surface combatants. This new family of surface combatants, the Navy stated, would include three new classes of ships: a destroyer called the DD(X)—later redesignated the DDG-1000—for the precision long-range strike and naval gunfire mission; a cruiser called the CG(X) for the air defense and ballistic missile mission, and a smaller combatant called the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to counter submarines, small surface attack craft, and mines in heavily contested littoral (near-shore) areas. For more on the DDG-1000 program, see CRS Report RL32109, Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O'Rourke. For more on the CG(X) program, see CRS Report RL34179, Navy CG(X) Cruiser Program: Background for Congress, by Ronald O'Rourke. "
Additional missions for the LCS include peacetime engagement and partnership-building operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, maritime intercept operations, operations to support special operations forces, and homeland defense operations. An LCS might perform these missions at any time, regardless of its installed mission module, although an installed mission module might enhance an LCS’s ability to perform some of these missions.
Planned Procurement Quantities
US Navy plans to field a force of 55 LCS sea frames and 64 LCS mission packages (16 ASW, 24 MCM, and 24 SUW). The Navy’s planned force of 55 LCSs would account for about one-sixth of the Navy’s planned fleet of more than 300 ships of all types.
US Navy plans call for procuring 19 LCSs in the five-year period FY2012-FY2016, in annual quantities of 4-4-4-4-3. These 19 ships account for more than one-third of the 55 battle force ships in the Navy’s FY2012-FY2016 shipbuilding plan. The Navy’s FY2011-FY2040 30-year shipbuilding plan, submitted to Congress in February 2010 in conjunction with the FY2011 budget, shows three LCSs per year for FY2016-FY2019, two per year for FY2020-FY2024, a 1-2-1-2 pattern for FY2025-FY2033, and two per year for FY2034-FY2040. LCSs scheduled for procurement in the final years of the 30-year plan would be replacements for LCSs that will have reached the end of their 25-year expected service lives by that time.
Two LCS Designs
On May 27, 2004, the Navy awarded contracts to two industry teams—one led by Lockheed Martin, the other by General Dynamics (GD)—to design two versions of the LCS, with options for each team to build up to two LCSs each. The LCS designs developed by the two teams are quite different—the Lockheed team’s design is based on a steel semi-planing monohull, while GD team’s design is based on an aluminum trimaran hull (see Figure 1). The two ships also use different built-in combat systems (i.e., different collections of built-in sensors, computers, software, and tactical displays) that were designed by each industry team. The Navy states that both LCS designs meet the Key Performance Parameters (KPPs) for the LCS program.
Estimated Procurement Costs for 55 LCS Sea Frames
The Navy’s FY2012 budget submission estimates the average unit procurement cost of the LCSs to be procured at a rate of four ships per year in FY2012-FY2015 at about $468 million in then- year dollars, excluding outfitting and post-delivery costs, and the average unit procurement cost of the three LCSs to be procured in FY2016 at about $512 million in then-year dollars, excluding outfitting and post-delivery costs. The Navy’s FY2012 budget submission estimates the total procurement cost of the final 53 LCSs at about $28 billion in then-year dollars, excluding outfitting and post-delivery costs. Adding the procurement costs of the first two LCSs would result in an estimated total procurement cost for all 55 LCS sea frames of about $29.9 billion in then-year dollars, excluding outfitting and post-delivery costs.
Manning and Deployment Concept
The Navy plans to maintain three LCS crews for each two LCSs, and to keep one of those two LCSs continuously underway—a plan Navy officials sometimes refer to as “3-2-1.” Under the 3-2-1 plan, LCSs are to be deployed for 16 months at a time, and crews are to rotate on and off deployed ships at four-month intervals.8 The 3-2-1 plan will permit the Navy to maintain a greater percentage of the LCS force in deployed status at any given time than would be possible under the traditional approach of maintaining one crew for each LCS and deploying LCSs for six or seven months at a time.
Griffin Selected as Recommended Replacement for N-LOS. The Navy had planned to use an Army missile program known as the Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) as part of the LCS surface warfare (SUW) mission package. The Navy planned for LCSs equipped with SUW mission packages to be nominally armed with three NLOS missile launchers, each with 15 missiles, for a total of 45 missiles per ship. The missiles could be used to counter swarm boats or other surface threats.
In May 2010, the Department of Defense (DOD) approved an Army recommendation to cancel
NLOS-LS Following the cancellation of NLOS-LS, the Navy assessed potential alternative systems for fulfilling the NLOS role in the SUW mission package. On January 11, 2011, the Navy announced that it had selected the Griffin missile as its recommended replacement for NLOS-LS.
The Navy stated that Griffin will be about half as expensive as NLOS-LS, and that it could be
delivered about as soon as NLOS. The Navy stated that an initial version of the Griffin would be
ready by 2014 or 2015, and that a follow-on, longer-ranged version would be ready by 2016 or
2017 One press report quoted an official from Raytheon, the maker of the Griffin, as stating
that the Griffin’s current range is less than 5 kilometers (i.e., less than about 2.7 nautical miles) Another press report stated: “The Griffin’s range has not been officially disclosed.
Anti Submarine Warfare Module:
Shift to Systems With “In Stride” Capability. The Navy in January 2011 provided information on changes it has decided to make to the systems making up the ASW module. A January 14, 2011, press report stated that the Navy
discovered that while its [originally planned] LCS ASW module was able to do the mission,
the equipment package proved unsatisfactory because the ship would actually have to stop in
the water to deploy the equipment. “The ship could not do it in stride,” says Capt. John
Ailes, Navy mission module program office manager….
As for its ASW defense, the Navy plans to deploy a module that will include three parts: a
variable-depth sonar; a multi-functional towed array; and a lightweight towed array, Ailes
says. The Navy will be testing the ASW module package throughout this and the coming
year, he says, with an eye toward initial operational capability in 2017
Mine Counter Measures Module:
Possible Replacement of RAMICS by Modified ALMDS
A January 13, 2011, press report stated:
The Navy is looking to terminate an underperforming anti-mine system from the LCS mission package being designed for that mission.
Service acquisition officials have become increasingly frustrated with the testing results of
the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMCS), Rear Adm. Frank Pandolfe, head of
the Navy’s surface warfare directorate, said this week.
While testing is still underway on the Northrop Grumman [NOC] system, which is to locate
and destroy mines in shallow waters, the results have fallen short of service expectations, he said during a Jan. 11 speech at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference in
To remedy the situation, Pandolfe said program officials are looking to modify the Airborne
Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) to carry out the RAMCS mission.
Also manufactured by Northrop Grumman, the ALMDS uses directed energy system mounted on board a MH-60R helicopter to detect mines at the same shallow depth the RAMCS was designed to destroy.
If the modification is successful, Navy decisionmakers plan to axe the RAMCS platform and use the ALMDS variant, Pandolfe said. The surface warfare chief did not go into specifics regarding what kind of development work would be necessary to make such a transition, but he did note the move would also trim costs on the growing costs on the LCS anti-mine package.
However, Pandolfe reiterated that if the Navy opts to go with the ALMDS approach, the mission package itself would be delivered on time. “They will be where they need to be when they need to be there,” he said
2011 Funding Request
The Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget requested $1,231.0 million in procurement funding for the
two LCSs that the Navy wants to procure in FY2011, and $278 million in FY2011 advance
procurement funding for 11 LCSs that the Navy wanted, under the FY2011 budget submission, to
procure in FY2012-FY2014. (The Navy now wants, under the dual-award strategy, to procure 12
LCSs in FY2012-FY2014.) The Navy’s proposed FY2011 budget also requested $9.8 million in
procurement funding to procure LCS module weapons, $83.0 million in procurement funding for
procurement of LCS mission packages, and $226 million in research and development funding
for the LCS program.
2012 Funding Request
Under Navy budget plans, the four LCSs that the Navy wants to procure in FY2012 are to receive $79 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding. Navy’s proposed FY2012 budget requests $1,802 million in FY2012 procurement funding to complete the four ships’ combined estimated procurement cost of $1,881 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2012 budget also requests $79 million procurement funding for procurement of LCS mission packages, and $286.8 million in research and development funding for the LCS program.
Announced Changes in Mission Module Equipment
Potential risks being looked into by American Congress are
- How will the announced changes in the equipment making up the SUW and ASW modules affect the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) dates of these modules?
- How would the replacement of the NLOS-LS missile by the Griffin missile in the SUW module affect the SUW capability of the LCS, particularly in light of the range of the Griffin missile compared to that of the NLOS-LS missile?
- When does the Navy anticipate announcing its decision on whether to keep the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS) in the MCM module or replace it with a modified version of the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS)? If RAMICS were replaced by a modified version of ALMDS, how would that affect the IOC date of the MCM module and the MCM capability of the LCS?
Another potential risk which is being shown up is the poor combat survivability of these light ships.A December 2010 report from DOD’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation stated:
[On LCS-1,] Critical ship control systems essential to support the crew have performed well
in testing; however, several systems required for self-defense and mission package support
have demonstrated early reliability problems….
LCS is not expected to be survivable in terms of maintaining a mission capability in a hostile
combat environment. This assessment is based primarily on a review of the LCS design requirements. The Navy designated LCS a Survivability Level 1 ship; the design of the ship just allows for crew evacuation. Consequently, its design is not required to include survivability features necessary to conduct sustained operations in a combat environment.
The results of early live fire testing using modeling and simulation, while not conclusive,
have raised concerns about the effects weapons will have on the crew and critical equipment.
Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program Additional live fire testing and analysis is needed to fully assess the survivability of the LCS class of ships. Additional information is available in the classified LCS 1 Early Fielding Report
Hull Cracking on LCS-1
Another potential grave risk which was discovered and is under investigation is the problem of Hull Cracking. A March 18, 2011, press report states that LCS-1 developed a crack as long as six inches through its hull during sea trials, prompting a U.S. Navy investigation of the design.
The Navy is analyzing the crack to determine if changes are required for future Lockheed Martin hulls, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Christopher Johnson said yesterday in an e-mail. This includes reviewing “the design, construction drawings and welding procedures,” he said.
During a heavy-weather ocean trial on the USS Freedom in mid-February, he said, sailors discovered a six-inch horizontal hull crack below the waterline that leaked five gallons an hour. Inside the hull the crack measured three inches. It originated in a weld seam between two steel plates.
The ship returned to its home port in San Diego, avoiding rough seas, after the commanding officer judged the leak rate “manageable,” Johnson said.
Smaller cracks that indicated welding “defects” showed up in the welds of the vessel’s aluminum structure during sea trials last year, Johnson said in his e-mail.
Operation and Support (O&S) Cost
Another potential problem for the LCS program concerns the ship’s operation and support (O&S) cost. At the request of Senator Jeff Sessions, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyzed the impact of O&S cost and other types of costs on the total life-cycle costs of the LCS and (for purposes of comparison) four other types of Navy ships. The results of CBO’s analysis were released in the form of an April 28, 2010, letter to Senator Sessions. CBO estimates in the letter that LCS-1 (the Lockheed Martin LCS design) would have an O&S cost, in constant FY2010 dollars, of $41 million to $47 million per year, depending on how often the ship travels at higher speeds and consequently how much fuel the ship uses each year.
A February 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report stated:
The Navy estimated operating and support costs for LCS seaframes and mission packages in 2009, but the estimates do not fully reflect DOD and GAO best practices for cost estimating and may change due to program uncertainties. GAO’s analysis of the Navy’s 2009 estimates showed that the operating and support costs for seaframes and mission packages could total $84 billion (in constant fiscal year 2009 dollars) through about 2050. However, the Navy did not follow some best practices for developing an estimate such as (1) analyzing the likelihood that the costs could be greater than estimated, (2) fully assessing how the estimate may change as key assumptions change, and (3) requesting an independent estimate and comparing it with the program estimate. The estimates may also be affected by program uncertainties, such as potential changes to force structure that could alter the number of ships and mission packages required. The costs to operate and support a weapon system can total 70 percent of a system’s costs, and the lack of an estimate that fully reflects best practices could limit decision makers’ ability to identify the resources that will be needed over the long term to support the planned investment in LCS force structure. With a decision pending in 2010 on which seaframe to buy for the remainder of the program, decision makers could lack critical information to assess the full costs of the alternatives.
People are not really convinced about the operational concept of LCS
The February 2010 GAO report cited above also stated:
The Navy has made progress in developing operational concepts for LCS, but faces risks in implementing its new concepts for personnel, training, and maintenance that are necessitated by the small crew size. Specifically, the Navy faces risks in its ability to identify and assign personnel given the time needed to achieve the extensive training required. GAO’s analysis of a sample of LCS positions showed an average of 484 days of training is required before reporting to a crew, significantly more than for comparable positions on other surface ships. Moreover, the Navy’s maintenance concept relies heavily on distance support, with little maintenance performed on ship. The Navy acknowledges that there are risks in implementing its new concepts and has established groups to address how to implement them. However, these groups have not performed a risk assessment as described in the 2008 National Defense Strategy. The Strategy describes the need to assess and mitigate risks to executing future missions and managing personnel, training, and maintenance. If the Navy cannot implement its concepts as envisioned, it may face operational limitations, have to reengineer its operational concepts, or have to alter the ship design. Many of the concepts will remain unproven until 2013 or later, when the Navy will have committed to building
almost half the class. Having a thorough risk assessment of the new operational concepts would provide decision makers with information to link the effectiveness of these new concepts with decisions on program investment, including the pace of procurement