Jump to content

Littoral Combat Ship: The Navy's F-22 Style Disaster

4 replies to this topic

#1 LFC

    Fiscal Conservative

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 30957 posts
  • LocationPennsylvania

Posted 28 May 2019 - 03:35 PM

The new LCS, or Littoral Combat Ship, was supposed to be cost efficient, have modular weaponry, and beef up the U.S. Navy's capabilities in a cost effective manner. It failed to achieve those goals on almost every front. Here's just the part about how it was wrongheaded even at the concept phase.


Arguably the LCS's biggest problem was conceptual. The Navy began spending billions of dollars a year building LCSs without actually figuring out how to use them. “Apart from the Navy’s inability to properly forecast how fast these ships could be built, fielded and paid for, there is a similar tone-deafness to how they will be employed,” naval expert and author Christopher Cavas wrote.

Where previous warships were built tough in order to absorb damage, the LCS was lightly-constructed in order to save money and also to ensure that the ship rode high in the water, thus allowing it to sail closer to shore than other warships could.

But enemy defenses tend to get more dangerous the closer a ship is to land. The Navy had in effect designed a coastal warship that couldn’t risk going near the coast. “LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment,” the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation warned in a 2011 report.

The Navy also insisted that the nearly 400-feet-long LCS be capable of reaching a top speed of more than 40 knots, around 10 knots faster than most warships are capable of traveling. But the speed requirement forced the contractors to install big, powerful engines that consumed fuel at a higher rate compared to other ships’ engines.

The LCS’s fuel-inefficiency limits how long it can spend at sea and also makes it expensive to operate, all while its initial purpose was meant to be helping the Navy expand without a major increase in overall funding.

At the end of the day, the LCS’s higher operating cost risked wiping out any savings that resulted from its cheaper purchase price. One study by defense contractor Northrop Grumman described the LCS as being only “seemingly less expensive” than other ship types.

In another effort to reduce the LCS’s cost, the Navy originally shrank its crew. Both an LCS and a typical naval frigate displace around 3,000 tons of water, meaning they’re roughly the same size. But a frigate usually sails with around 200 people aboard. An LCS initially sailed with just 75 or so, meaning some crew members had to take on twice as much work as on a standard frigate.

Crew exhaustion became a serious problem even before the LCSs began undertaking serious deployments. “The manpower planning was wildly unrealistic,” Mandy Smithberger and Pierre Sprey wrote in an investigation of the LCS for the Washington, D.C. Project on Government Oversight.

Over the course of 2015 and 2016 the Navy finally conceded it had screwed up, big time. “When I took a step back… I saw complexity, I saw instability,” Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, who at the time oversaw the Navy’s surface warships, told Bloomberg. LCS captains were “pulled in 15 different directions,” Rowden admitted.

" 'Individual conscience' means that women only get contraceptives if their employers, their physicians, their pharmacists, their husbands and/or fathers, pastors, and possibly their mayors, Governors, State Secretaries of Health, Congressmen, Senators, and President all agree that in that particular case they're justifiable." --D.C. Sessions

"That's the problem with being implacable foes - no one has any incentive to treat you as anything more than an obstacle to be overcome."

"The 'Road to Serfdom' is really all right turns." --Progressive Whisperer

""The GOP ... where every accusation is also a confession." --Progressive Whisperer

#2 golden_valley

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 6110 posts
  • LocationNorthern California

Posted 28 May 2019 - 06:49 PM

Tax payer money spent on failures get a lot of attention. I always wonder what private industry has spent on their failures. I'm not passing any judgment on anything. Just curious.

#3 baw1064

    formerly of the public sector

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 5099 posts
  • LocationEarthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanos--oh my!

Posted 28 May 2019 - 07:42 PM

OK, so I have a bit of experience with a very small aspect of the LCS:

Part of the weight reduction was to make everything possible on the ship (including the hull) out of aluminum. So what I was involved in was the fire suppression system, which used a commercial foaming solution stored in a tank aboard the ship. The design was tested and worked fine. But then the contractor building the ship substituted a different product than what had been tested, and decided to make the storage tank out of aluminum rather than stainless steel (less weight!).

Some time later, it was discovered that the tank that had contained the solution had a lot of white residue/corrosion. Turns out the solution that was put on the ship, but not the one originally tested, had a pH buffer that reacted with aluminum. If they'd just stuck with the original product, or the original tank material, all would have been well. Arrgh!!! I have no idea what the implemented fix ultimately was...the easiest would probably be to just go back to the original foaming solution.

Bottom line: people have been making ships out of steel for a long time, and have found solutions to all kinds of such engineering and materials issues. But when you try to go completely outside of previous experience, these things crop up. This aside from the larger question of how the ship would actually be used/useful.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” --Dr. Seuss

#4 George Rowell

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 840 posts
  • LocationIn Perth now

Posted 28 May 2019 - 09:44 PM

View Postgolden_valley, on 28 May 2019 - 06:49 PM, said:

Tax payer money spent on failures get a lot of attention. I always wonder what private industry has spent on their failures. I'm not passing any judgment on anything. Just curious.

View Postgolden_valley, on 28 May 2019 - 06:49 PM, said:

Tax payer money spent on failures get a lot of attention. I always wonder what private industry has spent on their failures. I'm not passing any judgment on anything. Just curious.
That is a good point. In my game little or no blue sky research is performed unless it is government funded. The case used to be that several credible companies would bid on a development program and their RD costs would be paid even if they were passed over for the actual system. Some little outfits go blue sky but for small enterprises the patents system merely means they publish how to make a device but often cannot afford to protect it. I do notice that James Dyson made it big despite everything.
A doctor knows a little about a lot. A specialist knows a lot about a little. In time the doctor knows less and less about more and more and the specialist knows more and more about less and less until ultimately the doctor knows nothing about everything and the specialist knows everything about nothing.

#5 D. C. Sessions

    I don't have to pretend to be an adult any more

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 10258 posts
  • LocationCentral New Mexico

Posted 29 May 2019 - 06:22 AM

View Postgolden_valley, on 28 May 2019 - 06:49 PM, said:

Tax payer money spent on failures get a lot of attention. I always wonder what private industry has spent on their failures. I'm not passing any judgment on anything. Just curious.

The semiconductor industry spends R&D per annum that would raise eyebrows in the governmental sector. No way around it; trying to build devices with billions of features 10 nm or smaller with high yields is so far beyond any sane scientist's imagining that they have to invent some pretty crazy stuff just to describe it.

By the way, that "beyond sane scientist" part is not speculative; I wrote a paper last year that our bleeding-edge optics professor was just shaking her head at it -- but it was sourced, and the technology is already in small-scale production. For some time now we've been using argon fluoride [1] deep-UV lasers (193 nm wavelength) but those just don't cut it even with some pretty strange math and doing the lithography under water to get a shorter wavelength due to the refractive index. Now the industry is switching to "extreme ultraviolet" in hard vacuum by bombarding tin with high-energy electrons.

So, yeah, privately funded research.

ETA [1]: Don't tell me there's no such thing. Admittedly, it doesn't last very long but that's a feature, not a bug.
The way a lot of catastrophes happen is that X doesn't occur because there are safeguards in place, therefore people assume X isn't a worry and they remove the safeguards. Then X happens.
— Nate Silver
"Robots aren't the problem. Capitalism is." -- Last words of Stephen Hawking.
These days, "libertarian" is just a euphemism for a Nazi who's afraid to commit.
"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." -- Heather Heyer
"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I gotta give her up, we're gonna make it count." -- Her mother
"Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events." -- some RINO

1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users