Rear Adm. Thomas S. Rowden is the Director of Surface Warfare. This blog was originally posted in the current issue of Surface SITREP.
Integrating LCS into the Fleet is one of my top three priorities. Since the 55-ships of this class will represent about one-third of the future small surface combatant force, it is imperative we manage and complete the critical path outlined in this SITREP to deliver LCS’s powerful modularity and payload capabilities to the Fleet.
I’m sure many of you have read or heard about recent news articles on LCS. As you all know, it is important to have context. This SITREP is intended to provide some of that context. We are addressing the challenges and opportunities associated with the LCS Program – an approach culminating in the development of an adaptable LCS Concept of Employment (CONEMP), which will inform a family of LCS CONOPs for the ship, its Mission Packages, the needs of our Combatant Commanders, and an appropriate strategic lay down strategy for the ships and their MPs.
LCS 1 USS Freedom is presently in Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) in San Diego and is on track to complete in October with some additional training and certification events shortly thereafter. Additionally, CNSF is executing a rigorous plan to prepare FREEDOM for forward stationing in Singapore beginning next spring. It won’t be long before we have four LCS’s forward-stationed, and I am excited about the kinds of things those ships will do alongside our friends in the region.
LCS 2 USS Independence is also in San Diego, conducting Developmental Testing on the MCM Mission Package. Her PSA is on track to begin in September.
LCS 3 USS Fort Worth sails away from Marinette, WI this month, destined for San Diego and a Post Delivery Test and Trials (PDT&T) period. She will commission next month. As INSURV reported, FORTH WORTH’s Acceptance Trial (AT) in May was the most complete trial to date. LCS 3 had seven starred cards compared to 52 for LCS 1. This is a clear indication that Industry’s learning curve has improved.
LCS 4 Pre-commissioning Unit Coronado is under construction in Mobile, AL and will deliver next spring. We’ve also seen our learning curve in design improve, with the incorporation of changes and improvements developed from the construction, testing, and operation of LCS’s 1 and 2. LCS 3 through 6, currently under construction, will benefit greatly.
To ensure we manage and complete LCS integration into the Fleet, several independent, specialized reviews have been conducted. More may be ordered to ensure we thoroughly understand and align the program elements of this new class of ships. Each independent assessment supports the evolution of the ships, modules, and support concepts with a commitment to provide the best value adjustments to all three components as we integrate LCS into the Fleet.
Two CFFC wargames and reviews by OPNAV and INSURV have been conducted. Each has resulted in a better understanding of obstacles and areas requiring improvement. The OPNAV Readiness Review addressed the Navy’s readiness to receive, employ, and deploy the LCS Class. INSURV’s review regarding LCS’s Special Trial (and a look at its materiel condition and maintainability) is not yet complete, but I know they also identified areas for improvement. CFFC hosted a series of wargames to “play out” the LCS concepts in a scenario-driven event to examine sustainment, logistics, and operations. Many of the concepts are new to the Surface Navy and these wargames were a great opportunity to familiarize a significant number of the people from across the Fleet and support organizations with how LCS will operate and what is required to support it.
While LCS will fulfill many of the mission sets of the in-service FFGs, PCs, and MCMs, it is not intended to be a one-for-one replacement. However, we expect the introduction of each successive LCS and MP increment to fill the gaps resulting from ship decomm’s. I’d add that even in the initial Mission Package increments, the capability delivered is equal to or better than that associated with the FFGs, PCs, and MCMs.
Both LCS variants were built to be minimally manned; however, they maintain the flexibility for a larger crew if required to most effectively carry out operations. As we gain more experience operating LCS 1 and 2, we may conclude that we need to increase the crew size to better accommodate watchstanding and maintenance. Notably, the pilot program to add 20 berths to LCS 1 is intended to provide the flexibility to experiment with enhanced core crew manning, but it also gives LCS 1 the flexibility to embark ship riders/foreign exchange personnel while forward stationed in Southeast Asia.
We intend to work within the “Threshold” of 50 Sailors as identified in the ship’s Capability Development Document (CDD) while still meeting the operational availability needs of our Combatant Commanders. We are going to get the crew size right such that we maximize the value of the ship to our operational commanders; folks want to focus on a number, I like to focus on the capability of the ship and its Sailors.
The reduced manning concept necessitates a new maintenance model. We are conducting an evaluation, expected to conclude in September, on the extent to which additional personnel of varying experience, rank, and expertise might decrease reliance on contractor-performed maintenance. It’s critical we balance the mix and number of onboard maintainers, who increase the ship’s self-sustainability and consequently its availability, with the appropriate crew complement required for watchstanding requirements.
LCS’s manning and rotational crew constructs necessitate a heavy emphasis on shore-based training. Currently, LCS Sailors attend a significant amount of vendor-based training to meet the requirements of the program. As we transition these courses to Navy training programs and refine the crew rotation interval, we believe the total training pipeline time will decrease without sacrificing quality. The ‘3-2-1’ construct – in which three crews rotate between two ships, one of which is stationed forward – creates higher operational availability than our single-crewed ships presently achieve.
The modular design of LCS and the flexibility inherent in our MPs will allow us to respond to requests for focused forces far more quickly. The POR is for 64 MPs. The program has an inventory objective of 24 SUW, 24 MCM, and 16 ASW MPs, delivered via an incremental approach whereby modules of improved capability and capacity provide us the ability to modernize elements of the ship’s combat capability to defeat new and emerging threats (and adapt to changing fiscal or technological conditions) without taking the ship off line. This also enables us to rapidly expand into other mission areas with the development of new MPs based on identified warfighting gaps. On any other platform, adapting by replacing either it or its integral systems would require costly redesign and structural alteration (as the CNO described in his recent Proceedings article) but modularity mitigates these risks. We see LCS providing capability to conduct anti-piracy, VBSS, ASW, MIW, SUW, and Theater Security Cooperation missions, as well as assuring access and maneuver space for CSG, ESG, and multi-mission SAG operations.
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. As for concerns regarding MP swap-out, the issue is associated with personnel more than the equipment. We have demonstrated the ability to change-out modules in 96 hours numerous times. But as we all know, changing out machinery is only part of the equation. Integrating new MP personnel and working them up together is also a necessary step, which also takes some time. We will test our MP swap-out-related planning factors during LCS 1’s upcoming deployment.
In short, our first two ships have been excellent R&D ships, and we’ve learned a great deal in a relatively short period of time. As we’ve done before when introducing a new class of ship, we are incorporating lessons learned, making necessary adjustments, and conducting recurring assessments, all of which has us on an effective glide path towards the successful introduction of LCS’s new concepts and systems.
Make no mistake, we have a more to learn and hard work ahead. All the dimensions of the program are inter-related, so manning impacts training which impacts maintenance which impacts sustainability, and so on. We will find the right balance and continue to improve each element as the program evolves in an affordable way.
We can raise and address the issues we’re facing forthrightly and be confident in the LCS program. We are progressing through anticipated cultural and process changes as we implement the new constructs for operating, manning, training, and sustaining these ships. Everyone involved is closely monitoring program execution while we employ internal reviews from multiple perspectives. We are committed to charting a course to full Fleet integration, and I am confident that we are getting it right.
Thanks again for your support, encouragement, and willingness to help my N96 Team integrate and operationalize LCS.
Take care and Vr, Tom