The Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, answers your questions about the capabilities of the littoral combat ship. This is the second in a two-part series in response to your 5@5.
Background: LCS will establish and maintain dominance in near-shore environments (littorals), and is a critical part of the surface force’s ability to provide deterrence, sea control, and power projection around the world. Want to learn more? Read on.
Question: I’m very concerned, and if this it true, disappointed concerning the LCS’ ability to swap mission modules:
Answer: The challenge, here, has more to do with the personnel required to perform a given mission for a given Mission Package (MP) than it does with equipment. We have demonstrated the 96-hour capability numerous times, but the challenge is taking a core crew that has been doing one mission, say SUW, and then integrating a new MP, like MIW, which requires the core crew to shift gears and perform an equally challenging mission set with a new MIW MP crew. There is some integration training and re-certification required that extends beyond the 96-hours. Of course, it is extremely important to compare LCS and its timely mission flexibility to that of existing capability, capacity, and business practices. In January, we received an urgent Request For Forces from one of our Combatant Commanders (CCDRs) for more Avenger class MCMs forward, and the ships didn’t arrive until last month. Even when taking into consideration the additional crew integration and critical logistical planning factors, LCS will deliver its capabilities much quicker. Rest assured, we recognize that our ability to change MPs to meet changing requirements is one of LCS’s most valuable assets, and we are working hard on how to stage, swap, and sustain the MPs in various theaters, we will test our MP swap-out-related planning factors during LCS 1’s upcoming operations in the South China Sea while she is stationed forward in Singapore next year.
Question: What does the whole LCS concept mean when it comes to manning? Does it mean a reduction in manning?
Answer: The LCS program’s groundbreaking operational and sustainment concepts are transforming the Surface Force. Each LCS will be manned with a core crew of less than 50 personnel, and will support one of three distinct mission areas (Mine Countermeasures, Surface Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare) using an embarked mission package with a crew of up to 19 personnel. LCS will also have an aviation detachment of 23 personnel.
To support this crew, LCS relies on automation and shore-based support to a greater degree than legacy ship classes. The savings from crew size more than offset the increased shore support. LCS Sailors will increase their skills at a higher rate than elsewhere in the Navy because of the unique cross-rating requirements and extensive training which includes state-of-the-art trainers.
Navy efforts are now focused on transitioning from testing these initial R&D ships to operationally employing the ships and ensuring the Navy is prepared to man, train, and equip this entirely new class in the most efficient and effective manner. This includes an in-depth review of the crew size and billet base to determine if and where we need to make any adjustments.
Answer: LCS was designed with speed in mind. Each variant has demonstrated a top sprint speed in excess of 40 knots. These speeds become a force multiplier, giving LCS the ability to rapidly reposition for operational effectiveness and chase down high-speed targets. As these ships deliver in numbers, they will be based in the United States and ultimately forward deploy for about 16-18 months at a time to all the Fleet Areas of Responsibility (AORs).
Answer: As with any first-of-class shipbuilding program, the Navy expects issues to arise. Every Navy ship is designed with a test and trials period 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 delivery. As first-of-class research and development ships, the test and evaluation of LCS 1 and LCS 2 is providing significant lessons learned, having led to design and production improvements on follow-on ships, and continues to inform our concepts of operation. Navy has seen significant learning curves with the follow-on ships. In May, Navy completed the Acceptance Trials for LCS 3. This was the first LCS trial in three years, and the most complete LCS trial we’ve held to date. And when you look at the deficiencies, identified in what we call “starred cards,” LCS-1 had 52 starred cards; LCS-3 had 7. This 86% reduction clearly demonstrates improvements.
Question: I see there are 2300 likes on this add. Has anyone looked at the cost of these new ships, repair cost, and even have any idea how many times these ships have had to be repaired due to design flaws. If we can’t afford to keep our sailors in the navy, then why are we waisting money on a design that is not needed right now.
Answer: LCS is absolutely needed right now. The ship and its mission packages will deliver enhanced capability compared with that currently provided by guided-missile frigates, mine countermeasures ships, and patrol coastal ships – many of which will decommission over the next several years. We are on a path of success in the LCS program and it will provide our Navy the warfighting capabilities we need, specifically in the areas of littoral surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare.
It is not uncommon for the Navy to discover and correct technical issues encountered on first-of-class ships during the post delivery test and trial period. In fact, this is one of the main reasons for the test and trail period. This also allows us to incorporate lessons learned into the follow-on ships before they’re delivered. Development risks have been reduced with the construction and testing of the first four ships. Lessons learned from the lead ships have been incorporated in the follow on ships as part of their baseline and subsequent change activity has been minimized.
Navy has been very mindful of controlling cost in this program, as evidenced by the dual block buy, which took advantage of the competitive, affordable, fixed-price proposals from both industry teams.
LCS enables Navy to implement the Department of Defense Strategic Guidance directing us to develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives.