Navy Littoral Combat Ships – Revolutionary, Vital

This blog was written by Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, Director Surface Warfare:

There has been a lot of discussion on the littoral combat ship and how the LCS will shape the surface Navy.

This debate is both natural and healthy. All parties have a vested interest in ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately on a quality platform and that our Navy continues to remain not just relevant, but a leader in today’s global maritime environment.

I believe that both objectives are being met with the LCS.

The Navy is committed to the LCS program and we are confident that we are on a path to success.

  • LCS provides unique capability; it is designed to win against 21stcentury threats in coastal waters where increasingly capable submarines, mines, and swarming small craft operate. Currently, we depend on frigates, patrol combatants, and mine countermeasure ships to counter these threats.  These classes of ships are nearing the end of their service lives.  In LCS, the capabilities of three ship classes are provided by a single class, thanks to an interchangeable modular design that allows the ship to be reconfigured to meet mission requirements.
  • The Navy routinely expects issues to arise with first-of-class shipbuilding programs. Every Navy ship is designed with a test and trials period specifically

    USS Freedom (LCS 1), left, and USS Independence (LCS 2), right, maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California.

    to ensure everything is working correctly, and repairs can be made, if required. This also allows us to incorporate lessons learned into the follow-on ships before they’re delivered.

  • LCS 1 and 2 are R&D ships. The continued testing and operation of the first-of-class ships will also provide us valuable real world data to inform refinement of our distance support, maintenance, manning, and operational concepts.

Proof that we’re learning…

  • LCS 3 successfully completed INSURV Acceptance Trials last Friday, with 85% fewer discrepancies identified compared to LCS 1. We’ve learned a great deal about these ships in the process, and we will only continue to learn more as we bring additional LCS ships to the fleet.
  • The Navy is conducting developmental tests on components of the LCS mine countermeasures mission package. All components of the package are scheduled for full operational evaluation in fiscal year 2014.
  • The LCS program is vital to the U.S. Navy and our allies and partners.  From concept design to delivery, LCS took significantly less time than the traditional surface combatant ship (CG 47/DDG 51) timeline of 12-15 years.  In a relatively short period, we have designed a revolutionary new ship class, commissioned two ships, and will soon deliver the third LCS with nine more LCSs in various phases of construction or pre-construction.

There has been a lot of debate about the future of LCS and how it will impact the way in which the surface Navy operates. This is a new class of ship with unique capabilities. I look forward to continuing the discussion with you.

Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden

 

Transcript from 9 May LCS Media Roundtable

Rear Admiral Tom Rowden

Director, Surface Warfare Division, Navy Staff

Rear Admiral Jim Murdoch

Program Executive Officer, LCS

 

 

 

Question:  Why are we all gathered here today?  What is it you’d like to talk about?  [Inaudible] last night, so to both admirals, can you tell us why we’re here?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden:  This is Admiral Tom Rowden, Director of Surface Warfare. We’re here to talk about recent successes associated with both LCS-1, LCS-2, and LCS-3. Specifically with respect to LCS-1, she’s back waterborne.  She’s prepping for her special trial and proceeding towards the Spring of ’13 deployment. With LCS-2, she’s arrived in San Diego following successful DT operations down on the Gulf Coast and a successful transit to San Diego. LCS-3 just completed acceptance trials on Lake Michigan which was a significant success for that particular ship. And to see if you have any questions about where we’re going with the program.

 

Jim, any comments?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch:  Thanks, Tom.  Jim Murdoch here. I just returned from Marinette last week where we conducted the acceptance trial on LCS-3.  I was very pleased to be able to present a complete ship.  We tested in the Great Lakes, everything that we could test.  Demonstrated full power very smoothly.  The trial went very well from my perspective, and in fact the number of major deficiencies, the so-called [starred] cards that are written by the INSURV board on a trial, reduced from over 50 on LCS-1 to less than 10 on LCS-3.  So we’re very pleased with how LCS-3 is shaping up.  The trial went well.  And in fact last Wednesday while I was out in the middle of Lake Michigan underway with LCS-3, both LCS-1 and LCS-2 were underway off of San Diego as Independence, LCS-2, prepared to fall in on her new homeport of San Diego, California. Once again, we’re very happy with how that’s going, and looking forward to getting LCS-1 prepared for a deployment next year and continued mission package testing with LCS-2. With that I’d pause and let Katie kick off with a round of questions.

 

Question: Jim Wolf, Reuters. I’d like to ask about the deployment to Singapore of the Freedom.  I understood Admiral Rowden to say that would be in the spring of 2013.  Can you please talk about how many ships you expect eventually to go to Singapore and other overseas deployments?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: First of all, we don’t talk about future operations but I can tell you, the preparations that we have going through with LCS-1 and some of the objectives that we have with respect to deploying the ship forward.

 

This ship, a new concept.  A new crewing concept.  New maintaining concept.  New sustaining concept.  And we’ll be deploying the ship for about ten months in the spring of next year. In the meantime we’re prepping her for success in the execution of that deployment.  We will be learning a heck of a lot about how to logistically support, how to sustain it, how to maintain it, and how to rotate the crews, which is a new concept for us, really, with respect to this particular type of ship.  We have dabbled with crew rotations in the past, but these ships will be rotating crews and we want to make sure that as we go forward and bring more ships into the fleet and deploy them, that we have the best processes down in order to maximize the value to the combatant commanders as we forward deploy these ships.

 

Question: Admiral Rowden, Sydney Freedberg here from AOL Defense. I’d love you to go into more detail about that rotational crewing.  I guess it’s been done with some kind of subs and it’s been experimented with elsewhere, but with especially the relatively small crew compared to the size of the ship and therefore the maintenance demands and perhaps the sheer fatigue involved, I’m very curious to learn how you’re going to manage the strain on the crews and also at the same time maximize the number of hulls that can actually be forward deployed as a portion of the total fleet.

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: Obviously the crew rotation will allow us to try and certify the crews back in the United States, rotate them at an appropriate time so that we don’t over-fatigue the crews, and we’ll ensure that we’ll maximize the operational availability for the ships.

So we have train to qualify and train to certify for these crews.  We’re going to be heavily utilizing shore-based trainers, both for the operators, for the ship support, ship operators and the engineers, and then we will have a hull back in the United States that will also allow them to, that they will be training on in order to complete their certification in preparation for when the crew forward deploys on the ship.

We’ve done crew swaps in the past with DDGs and they have been successful.  However, we’ve gone specifically to that concept here on the LCS.  We want to make sure that we get it right.  So this deployment next spring will ensure that if we have to make any modifications that we’ll be able to make those modifications.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: I just wanted to add that early on in the program we projected, just looking at the issue, that with the size of crew that we had the ship designed for, that we’d be able to operate for about four months before crew fatigue became an issue that would dictate a crew rotation.

 

So as we’ve operated Freedom over the past couple of years, that’s proven to be about right.  So currently what we’re planning is to maintain the current schedule that exchanges the crew every 115 to 120 days.  I just wanted to throw that in there.

 

Question: I didn’t get a final answer to my question about how many ships ultimately will be going to Singapore and any other foreign location?  I heard Admiral Rowden say about ten months in the spring of next year.  Does that mean that after ten months another LCS hull will rotate into Singapore?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: I’m not really at liberty to discuss future operations at this time.  We’re concentrating more on this deployment for LCS-1 to Singapore.

 

Question: Jim Wolf, Reuters.

 

Can you please give any idea of what sort of shore-based logistics will go into Singapore?  What kind of a package you’ll be bringing to Singapore to leave permanently or semi-permanently? In Singapore to support the deployments?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Jim Murdoch here.  I’ll address that question.

 

Initially, as you may know, the Navy operates and the Military Sealift Command operates in the Singapore vicinity and we have a Commander of Logistics Group who is resident there.

 

With LCS we are in the stages of discussions — I’m not actually, the Pacific Fleet is — with the Singaporeans.  So we anticipate having a relatively small footprint of some sailors as well as maintainers from our maintenance community, our supporting contractors, to support the ship’s operations.

 

Question: Can you put any kind of a general order of dimension to what that means, a small footprint?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: I’d categorize it — Small footprint is something less than 40.

 

Question: Permanently deployed to Singapore to support?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Much smaller than that permanently deployed, but we will have to have teams come in and out when the ship is there to address routine scheduled maintenance.

 

Question: [Inaudible]

 

You said there were less than ten discrepancies on LCS-3.  Can you just give us a run-through on what those were?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: The final INSURV report, Mike, will be available to you on Friday.  In general categories I would just offer you a couple of examples, but the final detailed report as INSURV would normally prepare one takes a little over a week to be released to me.  So I really don’t want to give too many specifics in advance of Admiral Ray’s final report.

 

I would tell you that I am not concerned at all about any of the deficiencies that he wrote in terms of my ability to [be] able to correct them before the ship leaves the Great Lakes and gets to her commissioning date.

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: I think the fact that we got through, the acceptance trial was such a success is just indicative of how we’re moving forward in the program.

 

The delta between LCS-1 and LCS-3 is significant and we are moving forward, and we’re moving forward at an increasing rate as demonstrated by the success that we had in the acceptance trial.

 

Question: Dan Taylor from Inside the Navy.

 

When on Friday is this INSURV report going to be available, and where can it be accessed?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: We’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Question: Sandra Irwin with National Defense.

 

I wanted to ask the admirals if they can comment on some of the cost projections of [inaudible].  We heard the Secretary talk about the 40 percent price reduction after the new contract was awarded.  Can you talk about specifically what is the projected unit cost once you get into full rate production and how does that — We heard there are going to be some modifications and some improvements based on the cracks and some of the problems that were found.  Is that going to potentially increase the cost?  And how much?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch:  Admiral Murdoch here.  I’m happy to take that one.

 

The average ship construction cost across the block buy is $357 million.  That’s the average cost we pay the shipbuilder to build the ship.  The congressional cost cap is quite a bit higher than that.  If you look at it across the Future Years Defense Program it’s about $538 million.

 

To compare that, I take the ship construction cost of $357 and I add in the cost of government furnished equipment and any necessary change and that gets me to about $420 million per ship.

 

So the two nubmers that are the take-away here, the average industry ship construction cost, $357 million; and that ship construction cost plus government furnished equipment and my change order budget is $420.  So those are numbers that have been released to you previously.

 

Question: And the modules add about how much to that?  That’s of course a different number of modules, number of hulls.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Correct.  So the modules are priced depending on which mission module you’re looking at.  The mine countermeasures or the surface warfare or the ASW mission module.  Those are a matter of record in the budget, so I don’t have those in front of me right now.

 

Question: What about the changes that were made to the Lockheed design for the latest round of issues that came up?  How much did that cost?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Sorry, who’s asking that question, please?

 

Question: I’m sorry.  This is Sandra Irwin, again.  That was my follow-up question on the LCS cost.  The changes made to the Lockheed design, maybe not to the design, but changes that were made to address the cracks and some of the other problems that we were told the Navy had addressed.  How much did that cost, and does that change the projection for the pricing?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Thank you for that question, Sandra.  Jim Murdoch again.

 

Changes that were made from LCS-1 to LCS-3 were already priced in by industry when they bid the cost of the ships in the block.  So essentially the improvements that were made from 1 to 3 are already built into LCS-5, 7, 9 and so forth.  The odd-numbered ships are the ones contracted to Lockheed Martin.

 

So currently there’s no effect on the price of the Lockheed Martin ships in the block as a result of design improvements that were made form LCS-1 to 3.  We’ve already paid for those.

 

Question: Can you give us a list of what the major changes were?  Addressing the cracks, extend the hull, I think I’ve heard a couple.  Sydney Freedberg from AOL Defense again.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: I would offer you just a couple of examples.  From LCS-1 to 3 we did improve the position of two of the water jets.  That actually gave us a better hull design and in fact allowed me to put additional fuel capacity into Fort Worth versus the Freedom and gives her a little bit better speed capability, particularly on the diesels.  So that’s the most major change that was done going form LCS-1 to 3.

 

Question: That includes extending the hull for stability?  Is that part of that hull change described there?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Yes, sir.  The hull extension, if you refer to it that way, was what I would call a little bit of movement of the — Movement’s perhaps not the right term.  We did extend the hull so that the outer water jets are further aft on Fort Worth than they were on Freedom. I don’t want to try and talk you all through naval architecture in a 45 minute phone call, but that’s an example of an improvement to the hull design which gave us buoyancy and better operations.  So there are more examples of what we can do and have done moving forward, and we’ll provide those to you separately.

 

Question: And the cracking issues.  Obviously they’ve been addressed – Sydney Freedberg again — addressed by, repairs on LCS-1.  But are there things done to LCS-3 and up that would prevent those kinds of stress cracks from occurring in the first place on those ships?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch:  Absolutely.  Glad you asked.

 

I recently took a look at the hull sections of LCS-5 and I wanted to particularly satisfy myself as the ship was coming together that we had improved our welding processes and made sure that we didn’t have a recurrence of that six inch hull crack that occurred on LCS-1.  Of course miles of welds in the structure of a ship, so I was pleased to see what Marinette Marine was doing as they construct LCS-5.  Of course we haven’t seen any of those types of issues on 3.  We think that issue is well understood, and quite frankly, it’s behind us at this point.

 

Question: Dan Taylor from Inside the Navy again.

 

The $538 million cost cap, did that include the mission module or is the $538 million to $420 million an apples to apples comparison?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch:  That’s an apples to apples comparison.  That’s public law, National Defense Authorization Act established the cost cap and that does not include the mission modules.

 

Question: This is Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg News.  I had a couple of quick questions.

 

Can you gauge the congressional support for the program at this point?  It was pretty obvious POGO’s release a couple of weeks ago of the year old data [wasn’t] to influence the markups.  What’s your sense of congressional support at this point?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Tony, Jim Murdoch here.  Both Admiral Rowden and I were on the Hill yesterday. Our sense is that congressional support for the block buy of LCS remains solid.  Obviously I’m held accountable for any concerns about the ship construction issues, but I welcome the visibility of reports like the POGO report.  We take all issues seriously and we’ll go resolve them as they emerge.

 

Question: What’s the progress being made to address the problems with the sonar mine detecting set on the counter-mine module?  In particular, the false classification issue and the vertical look.  Is it localization issues?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Also I think I’m probably best positioned to take that.

 

Tom and I worked very closely on the mine warfare mission module.  Your question is specifically about sonar mine detecting set, that’s the AQS –

 

Question: Right.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: — and that recently underwent a very rigorous testing program.  The AQS-20 does both side scan detection of bottom mines as well as searching for mines in deeper water.  And you’re quite correct, the volume search or looking for mines in deeper water presents a challenge to the operator because we have experienced more false contacts than we hoped to.

 

So there are two things we’re doing to resolve that.  The first thing that we’ve demonstrated in testing over the last couple of months is the ability to just take two passes through the search area in deep water and weed out those things that are in fact false contacts.  Then as a matter of the program budget we’re going to improve the particular sonar in the front of the set and I’d be happy to take further questions on that in a separate interview.

 

The other thing that we wanted to prove out in recent testing from Independence, was that even if the sonar really couldn’t establish the depth of the mine within the kind of limits that we thought it could, we wanted to make sure that we could in fact go back in and neutralize, that is blow up that mine that we found.  And in every instance we’ve demonstrated we’ve been able to do that.

 

The LCS mission module hunts the mines with sonar towed by a remotely operated vehicle, and then it destroys the mines that it finds with a neutralization system that’s deployed from the MH-60 Sierra helicopter and we’ve had good testing success with that.

 

Question: How important is it, though, that you fix this false classification issue?  Can you give an example?  I don’t want to say that it can’t distinguish between a conk or a starfish and a Russian mine.  What are the parameters of the classification problems?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Without going into classified details on the phone, the parameters of the problem really are, quite simply, it comes down to what Tom Rowden expects and other operational commanders expect us to do.  And that is how much water can you clear in a day?

 

Ultimately I want to get the sonar to where I just have to tow it through the mine danger area on one pass and not have a lot of false contacts to go look at. But I would tell you that I’m very confident that with what we’ve already demonstrated with that system, I can exceed the capability of our legacy force today in mine clearance.  I want to make that point very clear.  I believe that what the mine warfare mission package has demonstrated recently for mine hunting and mine neutralization will exceed what I can do today with the systems that we have.  Which, by the way, haven’t nearly been tested as extensively as the testing that I’m undergoing with the LCS mine warfare module.

 

Question: So even with these false classification issues it still exceeds the legacy systems.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Absolutely.

 

Question: Okay. I’ll let someone else ask a question.  Thanks.

 

Question: Chris Cavas from Defense News.

Last week out in San Diego the [inaudible] conducted a Material Inspection Report on Freedom, which is sort of a pre — Special Inspection Report to assess the ship’s condition and the crew’s ability to get the ship ready for inspection.

I’m reading from the report.  “The Freedom was evaluated as no-go and is not recommended to proceed with the scheduled special trial.  Freedom’s crew and contractors were not prepared for the inspection.”  A number of other comments along those lines.  “The TMI Team assesses Freedom as a high risk to pass the special trial and does not recommend the ship proceed to the scheduled special trial until it completes a satisfactory re-demonstration.”

This is San Diego and this is TYCOM, and you are here in Washington.  But since we don’t have Admiral Hunt on the phone today, what is this telling you, and is this a result of too much time in dry dock, in availability, not enough time underway?  Is this an issue about a crew that’s too small?  Is there an ownership issue here with the blue/green, blue/gold crews?  What does this tell you?  What sort of alarm bells does this set off for you?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: Tom Rowden here, Chris.  I’ll take that.  I certainly can’t speak for Admiral Hunt, but what I can tell you is this from my experience as a Strike Group Commander out there in San Diego, working for Admiral Hunt when he was the 3rdFleet Commander, and then continuing to work closely with him when he transitioned from 3rdFleet to [SURFOR], and as the Strike Group guy I was intensely interested in the execution of these particular INSURVs.  And one of the things that he established almost immediately when he arrived in [SURFOR] was this TYCOM Material Inspection Team.  And it’s because he wanted to have keen insight into exactly how well the ships are doing in the preparation of the in-serve inspections.  He charges them to be very very rigorous in their evaluation of the ships.  Partially to ensure that A, the ships are up to snuff; but also to give him good insight of where they are and where he needs to concentrate in the force in order to be able to ensure that we have materially ready ships to deploy.  That’s from the conversations that I’ve had.

He said a series of these inspections, and this is yet one that continues in the series.What I think it did, I think the results point to some of the uniqueness associated with LCS.  For example, on a DDG or another ship, it’s the ship’s crew specifically demonstrating all aspects of the material inspection. On LCS it’s a different beast.  There are contractor personnel that demonstrate, as well as ships force.

As we work through some of these new processes, I think the Material Inspection Team is learning and I think the crew is learning on how to demonstrate these things.  So I think it’s a learning process.  There’s no alarm bells in my mind.  I am fully confident that the ship and the contractors and [SURFPAC] are going to address these issues and move forward for a successful trial.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Jim Murdoch here.  I’d just add that we are in the process of supporting the fleet in correcting all of the deficiencies that accompanied that report.  And the update I have as of this morning is that we are moving forward smartly in virtually every area.  So I’d echo Tom’s statement that the TYCOM goes in with a very high standard and I think in fact probably most of the ships looked at get a no-go recommendation.  And so we’re going to correct all of those things that were found and move forward.

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: I would say of the 11 inspections that they’ve conducted that certainly Freedom was not the first one to get a no-go and the INSURVs have been subsequently completed on a bunch of those ships and they’ve all done fine.  I think it’s just indicative of the rigor that Admiral Hunt is driving into the preparations for the execution of INSURV.

 

Question: Admiral, Phil Ewing with Military.Com.

I wondered if I could jump in and ask about LCS-2 which we mostly have not talked about so far. When Freedom went out to San Diego a few years ago it was billed as an early deployment.  It took a boarding team.  It did some counter-narcotics operations.  But the LCS-2 transit to San Diego was much lower profile and did not get that kind of deployment billing that the first ship did.  Can you explain why that decision was made and tell us when you think LCS-2 will actually make a deployment like Freedom is?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Jim Murdoch here.  I’ll lead off on this one and then pass back to Admiral Rowden.

We made a very conscious plan on LCS-2 to support the developmental testing with the mine warfare mission package that we needed to do in order to support meeting all of our testing milestones.  We agreed to certain testing milestones last year with the OSD level, DOT&E folks and we’re marching to those.  So we have focused LCS-2 on this integrated testing with the mission package, in this case the mine warfare mission package, and I think it’s fair to say that while we’re really focusing on LCS-1 to do our concept of operations development, we’re focusing LCS-2 on the mine warfare mission package integration and doing all the testing that we’re obligated to do to find the hard spots there as Tony Capaccio questioned me about.

That’s really our focus for the two lead ships.  I’d ask Admiral Rowden if he has any additional comment on that.

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: I think you hit the nail on the head.  I think LCS-1, a CONOPS ship.  Certainly we used it in that initial deployment.  When we deploy her next year we’re going to continue to develop those processes, those concepts of operations that allow us to maintain, sustain, rotate those crews forward, and we’re utilizing LCS-2 for test and evaluation.  However, I think it is notable that she had a very successful transit through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast of Central America and San Diego.

 

Question: This is Tony Capaccio again, Bloomberg.

I have a broader question on the issue.  There’s been a lot of publicity about the level of survivability of LCS and while many ships have level one survivability, this is not unique. Can you make the strongest case you can in terms of what the United States taxpayer is getting from this ship, given that it’s got a limited survivability to go into high intensity conflict?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: This is Tom Rowden.

First and foremost, this is a warship.  I think we all need to understand and firmly place in our mind that this is a warship and this ship is built to go in harm’s way.  Ship design is one aspect.  There are no issues with ship design right now.  The other things that go into making sure this warship is survivable is manning and training the crew.  And I will always assert that our greatest national treasures are the young men and women that join our United States Navy and our ability to train them to fight the ship in battle and to take it into harm’s way is unparalleled.  So I am not at all concerned about the survivability of these ships and their ability to go into harm’s way.  I think the design is just fine and I think the manning and the training that we give these young men and women to take these ships to sea are going to allow us to do exactly that, take these ships into harm’s way.

 

Question: With all due respect, a level one, the Navy’s been pretty up front with this.  It is minimal, if we compare it to level two and three.  And DOT&E has laid out some caveats about the survivability.  So does that not [inaudible] the missions it can be involved in?  The combat missions?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: No, I don’t think so.  Obviously we sail our ships and we design ships to do specific missions.  We will sail those ships to execute those specific missions.  Level one survivability for the missions that we have for LCS is satisfactory along with the training that we give our crews.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: If you look at the ships that LCS will replace, and I recall as an ensign there was a great debate about this class of ships called FFG-7, and in fact there was a lot of debate about the fact that why are we building our new warships, which were new at the time, that’s how old I am, with a single screw propulsion plant.  If you had a single shaft bearing failure, you were stuck.  All you had was the propulser on the bow.

So LCS is different, but if you look at what I would rather have my son or daughter conducting the mine warfare mission, would I rather have them on a 228 foot wooden hulled minesweeper with 50 caliber guns, or would I rather have them on LCS which has speed, maneuverability, air search radars, a self-defense missile, and the capability to remotely operate vehicles to hunt and neutralize mines.  That’s a pretty simple answer, in my mind. I don’t have a lot of concern about the adequacy of the design. Would you like a follow-up question?

 

Question: No.  You’ve addressed it.

Can I ask, on the use of unmanned water vehicles, how integral they are to the LCS’ effectiveness?  We’re doing a Business Week story on that subject, in unmanned water vehicles, and I wanted to get your sense of how important it is for LCS.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: I think it’s very important, and Tony, I think you ought to come and talk to my program managers.  Within my purview I have responsibility for not just the ships but those type systems that go into the mission packages.

 

Question: I’d like to do that.  We’re on deadline and we have to get this in by tomorrow.  Can you give me one example of –

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Absolutely.  The real advantage here I think is to have persistent autonomy in the minefield.  Get the ships out of the minefield, get persistent unmanned vehicles in there to do the search.  I’m well aligned with my resource sponsor on that.  He wants me to get unmanned underwater vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles.  We recently awarded the Knife Fish unmanned underwater vehicle right at the end of the last fiscal year.  We did the contract award.  Knife Fish will actually add the capability to get in a few years here into the minefield and search for buried mines, something that we just can’t do today, and obviously having an unmanned underwater vehicle gives you certain covert capabilities that are attractive to us.

It gets back to the survivability question, though.  I believe that we need to proceed from where we are today, where we have helicopters towing sonars, we have sonars deployed from mine-hunting vessels.  All good capability, all well trained sailors who are effective.  I believe we can be more effective with reliable, autonomous unmanned vehicles that are persistently in the minefields, finding the threat, and allowing us to get in there and neutralize it.

 

Question: Kind of like a blood hound sniffing around underwater.

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Yeah.  And I’d certainly rather have a robot doing that than being out there myself.

 

Question: Thanks.

 

Question: Admiral, Chris Cavas from Defense News.

Right now, actually at this very minute, Congressman Jackie Speier from San Francisco is speaking at the HASC markup decrying the LCS program and the numerous problems with it.  She just put out a press release about “It’s disturbing the Navy would accept a ship that fails to meet the basic requirements of a tug boat.  The future of the fleet is corroding before our eyes.”  She’s talking about problems that have long been reported and long talked about, although she says “I find it troubling that they [inaudible] press to bring these problems to light.”

There seems to be an element, a persistent element that sort of resists whatever you want to tell them.  They seem to be asking the same questions about you, about the same issues, over and over and over.  [Inaudible] respond to these. Perhaps this roundtable is an effort to respond to that.

I know it sort of comes with the territory of what you do here in Washington, but do you have a level of frustration here?  That it seems that no matter what you do, people just don’t want to hear what it is you have to say.  They’re looking for their own answers.  Or are they right?  Is there really a whole lot more that you’re not talking about here?

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: I won’t comment on the motives of individuals who like to focus on what the LCS isn’t.  I choose to focus more on what it can be.  I guess along those lines I would say hey, number one, we are confident on the path to success with respect to LCS.  I think it provides a unique capability and I think it’s designed to win in the 21stCentury against the threats in the coastal waters where increasingly capable submarines and mines and swarming small craft operate.

Currently we depend on frigates and some PCs and some mine countermeasure ships to counter these threats.  While these classes of ships are nearing the end of their service lives, I think LCS and the capabilities that it brings in a single class will help us in moving forward and doing the missions that these ships do as they move towards the end of their service life, thanks mainly to the interchangeable modular design and the reconfigurable nature of these particular ships. The Navy routinely expects issues to arise from kind of the first of the class shipbuilding programs.  Every Navy ship design we have tested in trials period to ensure that everything works right and repairs are made if required.  This also allows us to incorporate any lessons in the follow-on ships.  I think we’re doing that. Sure there are criticisms and we kind of welcome the criticism because it helps us kind of sharpen our focus on what it is we need to go work on. But these are incredibly capable ships and we’re finding the issues and we’re addressing them, and I think that’s a good healthy debate.

Jim?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Frankly, I expect a lot of criticism because we’re different.  We’re modular.  That’s not a familiar concept to the Navy.  That is people look at what the ship has without the mission module and they say that it’s not adequately defensible.  But I disagree with that.  I think we have good ships and we add the modular capability of the mission packages to them, and you get the capabilities that we need for the Navy’s future to address not only what we know about but what we don’t know about in terms of future threats.

We can put things into a mission package without having to change the ship.  So as we build out this class we can build the ships affordably without having to make changes to the ships themselves to address new threats and I think that’s very powerful.  That’s a tough message for people to accept, but I keep putting it out there.  We’re different because we have a smaller crew, because we’re a somewhat different size and maneuverability with water jets, for example, that the Navy’s not used to.

I accept the criticism, I welcome it, I won’t try to attribute any particular motivations to any particular members of Congress.  My job is to deliver what we’re contracted to go build and I think we’re going to continue to do better and better at that.

 

Rear Adm. Rowden: I think it’s also important to point out, Chris, I’ve spent a lot of time operating in the Pacific, a lot of time operating in the Western Pacific.  I did a tour in Japan.  Much more recently I did a tour in the Republic of Korea.  And I’ve had the opportunity to talk about fleet design, talk about the kind of ships that we need to have operating forward.  And I can tell you from a lot of folks that I’ve talked to, a lot of significant folks out there, recently I was talking to a friend of mine who operates out there and I was asking him about LCS.  He said hey, if I could have LCS out here, I want 50 of them because of the things that, because of the agility in the execution of missions, in the modularity and the things that this ship can do for us.

That’s what I choose to concentrate on, what it can bring to the fleet, what it can bring to the combatant commanders out there, and the value that it brings to operations, specifically to the Western Pacific.

 

Question: Rick Burgess, Sea Power Magazine.

For Admiral Murdoch, can you tell us, is there a competition underway for the training systems or the training infrastructure for the LCS?  And can you tell us a little bit about that?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: Thank you, Mr. Burgess.

Yes, we do have, as Tom Rowden mentioned, a need to do extensive shore-based training with LCS.  So there is an opportunity out there today which will allow different companies to bid on providing capability to train our sailors at the fleet home port for the ship when they are in their off group.

 

Question: Do you know when that competition is going to be awarded?

 

Rear Adm. Murdoch: I don’t know that specific date but we can provide that back to you.

 

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