Coast Guard Cutter John F. McCormick (WPC 1121) crew transits through the San Francisco Bay, Saturday, March 4, 2017, during their voyage to homeport in Ketchikan, Alaska. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart
“We need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection. “
He suggested that the Navy needs F150 pickups rather than Ferraris. Metaphorically the Webber class could be the Navy’s small Toyota pickup–cheap, reliable, versatile, and economical to operate.
A strong point for the Webber class is that it is probably the smallest and cheapest combatant, being currently manufactured, that can self deploy anywhere in the world (other than the polar regions) with minimal support en route as demonstrated by their self deployment to Hawaii and Alaska and USCGC Olivier F. Berry (WPC-1124)’s successful patrol to the Marshall Islands, 2200 miles from her homeport in Honolulu.
As currently equipped there is not a lot of free space apparent on the Webber class, but removing the eight meter “over the horizon boat” would free up a large area where mission modules could be placed. We can think of it as the bed of the pickup.
180201-N-TB177-0211 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Feb. 1, 2018) Island-class patrol boats USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332), left, USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309), middle, and coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) patrol the open seas. Wrangell, Aquidneck and Firebolt are forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg/Released)
Countering the Swarm:
The Navy’s most likely first use of a Webber class could be as replacements for the Cyclone class in South West Asia. Countering the large number of Iranian fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) is a mission the Cyclone class is expected to do now, protecting both larger Navy vessels and the tanker traffic that must pass through the Straits of Hormuz.
The Fletcher laser guided rocket launcher fires BAE’s 2.75 inch laser guided rockets known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. (Shawn Snow/Defense News Staff)
An earlier post, “Modifying Webber Class Cutters for Duty in SW Asia,” was aimed at this threat as applied to the Coast Guard Webber class that will be going to Southwest Asia. As a minimum the Navy will likely want some form of guided weapon, Perhaps the APKWS would suffice, if provided in sufficient numbers.
Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL
The 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 that are currently mounted on the Webber class might be up-gunned (30, 35, and 40mm guns are all possible) and the mount might also be modified to also launch APKWS. Alternately the Mk38 might be replaced by BAE’s 40mm/70 MK4 and the Toplite gun director c(urrently mounted on the Mk38) could be mounted on the mast to control the 40mm, as the Israelis have done with some of their installations of the system, assuming the 40mm Mk 4 does not weigh too much.
BAE Bofors 40mm/70 mk4
Optimally, the outfit should include Longbow Hellfire. It could probably be mounted as single tube launchers affixed along the sides of the superstructure. I have seen a mockup of such a launcher. The missile itself is only about seven inches in diameter. If willing to replace the boat with missiles, its likely Lockheed could produce a 12 round launcher based on half the launcher being installed on the LCS.
ATLANTIC OCEAN—A Longbow Hellfire Missile is fired from Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit (LCS 7) on Feb. 28 2017 as part of a structural test firing of the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM). The test marked the first vertical missile launched from an LCS and the first launch of a missile from the SSMM from an LCS. (Photo by U.S. Navy)
In other theaters there is likely a desire to have a larger anti-ship missile.
The Navy has been talking a great deal about “Distributed Lethality.” The concept has its origin in a January 2015 US Naval Institute article by then-Director of Surface Warfare Requirements (OPNAV N96) Rear Admiral Tom Rowden, RAdm. Peter Gumataotao, and RAdm. Peter Fanta.
Rowden’s co-author and successor at N96, Rear Admiral Pete Fanta, continued the drum beat with the memorable phrase, “if it floats, it fights,” suggesting that anti-ship missiles should be put on virtually all units.
On the Webber class, this would most likely the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), recently chosen by the Navy to arm its LCSs and frigates. A four cell launcher could probably replace the boat. The missile is only 13 feet long.
A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California (USA). The missile scored a direct hit on a mobile ship target. 23 September 2014. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell
A new missile, “Deepstrike,” is being developed for these launchers. “The missile will be able to strike targets up to 309 miles away with precision, including moving targets both on land at sea.” (see also)
A Webber class equipped with these could function in the same way as the Army and Marine vehicles operating in the littorals and many river systems. Targeting would be provided by offboard sensors through networking.
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
This is probably unlikely, but there might be a place for craft that could perform ASW patrols off ports and amphibious objective areas or around choke points.
TRAPS containerized active/passive towed array from GeoSpectrum Technologies.
I have looked at how we might add torpedo tubes to the Webber class that could launch ASW torpedoes, but it is more likely aircraft, most likely helicopters, would be called in to make the actual attack. The ship would be primarily a sensor node, minimizing the requirement to keep ASW Helicopters airborne.
120mm Mortar for Naval Surface Fire Support:
Another truck like use would be to add this containerized large mortar as a way to provide naval fire support. This weapon is not currently in the US inventory but it does look promising. Guided projectiles are being developed for the 120 mm mortar.
Security for MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet
I am not sure what precautions the Navy has made to protect the ships of the MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet, but if I were an enemy there are might be strong incentive to destroy these ships that transport the most ready reinforcements of heavy equipment.
Webber class PCs might have a role in protecting these.
Large Unmanned Surface Vessel.
The Navy is seeking to procure a medium unmanned surface vessel (MUSV), 12 to 50 meters in length. The Webber class might be the basis for such a vessel. The modular systems described above might also be used on the MUSV.
Visit, Search, Board, and Seizure:
This is the mission these little ships are built for and, consequently, no change may be necessary. The mission might be stopping and boarding hundreds of small craft as was done off Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time, or it might be enforcing a blockade against Chinese shipping at the Straits providing access to the South China Sea. If resistance is expected there are a number of ways the vessels’ armament could be augmented, including missiles or torpedoes, but in most cases its likely air or backup could be called in. The real advantage is that the Navy would not need to tie down DDGs doing this work, and potentially risk it being damaged by improvised weapons on a vessel being boarded. For more challenging assignments two or three could be teamed with one or two providing boats and boarding teams and the other as a weapons carrier.
I am going to make a couple sets of comments. First on the origin of the problem. Neither the Cyclone PC nor the Webber FRC are big enough for expeditionary roles (hence the need for a forward logistics ship). The FRC could stand to be a little longer.
Both services could benefit from different designs. In the case of the PC the Navy is being stupid trying to keep them running longer and deployed.
In the case of the Webber, the CG should demand that the Navy pay for an “expeditionary cutter” IF it wants the USCG to operate for long periods overseas. The USN has the bucks, but big blue sucks up too much of the SCN.
As to which weapons are needed for naval service. Some of which you have nailed.
Fours dual .50s in RWS are minimum. Possibly Upgrade the 25 to 30mm like so many others are doing.
Either way, Hang Spike missiles on mounts are well. Include at least two mounted 40mm AGL latest version Mk-19, let’s not forget that fire cannon are good weapons less deadly.
How would the 40mm AGLs be in a maritime environment at sea? I’ve got a very small experience firing one on land, and I know they were used with some success in Vietnam on riverine craft. With my (admittedly very limited) experience, I wonder what the range limitations and hit probability with such a low velocity round in the dynamically moving environment of the sea or Persian Gulf on a smaller vessel would work out?
I’m definitely not a fan of the Mk19 40mm grenade launcher for ship board use. Its a weapon designed to suppress infantry of an area. I is not designed to hit point targets with accuracy. Time of flight is very long for anything more than point blank range which is very short.
They were used on Swift boats in Operatrion Market Time as well as Gamewarden on the rivers. Not sure of modern ammo, but about 4000 yds.
A good gunner can lay a pattern.
Chuck, the 40mm ammo comes in many types. Some can take out small boats aka swarmers with great affect. Unlike cannons, a direct hit is not needed to get a kill. Think about three fast movers closing fast being covered by multiple grenade rounds fired quickly.
From a GMCM SWCC I know re: Mk-19
All Excellant weapon.. Carried 2 on my boat In Gulf 1988 Modernized stabilization makes it more lethal and you don’t have to get in so close for the kill, like our old PB MKIIIs.
I keep looking at videos of test-firings of various types of gun mounts on naval vessels while shooting at small vessels while both are moving in a mild to moderate sea state. I can’t help but keep thinking the primary problem/difficulty/failure is hit probability. (Thus the interest in smart munitions, like Hellfire, etc., but they are *expensive*!) This causes me to circle back around and wonder if we are going the wrong way with the Mk.38 mounts, looking to up-gun them to 30/35/40mm. (With that type of mount and weapon system, larger caliber generally means same or slower rate of fire, and fewer rounds on board the mount.) How about we down-size the caliber to a .50-cal GAU-19? This would be like a ROSAM mount but with the bigger magazine of the Mk.38, it could hold more ready rounds, giving either more bursts, or longer bursts to get on target. Against most of the Iranian Navy (small boats), .50-cal HEI would work just dandy.
Problems with going to a .50 cal or smaller.
The rounds are not explosive and produce no fragments so you actually have to hit critical parts and or individual crew members.
Second, it is not too hard to harden critical components on the target to resist penetration by .50 cal or smaller.
Third, effective range is much shorter meaning you have less time to engage and the other guy might outrange you.
Forth, accuracy is not as good. Take a look at my two part post.
For small boat aka little swarmers, Ma Duece is the most cost effective round.
The purpose of the PCs in the conflict with the swarm is to act as last line of defense before the tanker or high value unit is engaged. Navy high value units at least have some self defense capability, but tankers do not. Meanwhile, hopefully aircraft would take out most of them. Frankly I think most of the swarm is just cover and distraction for the torpedo and missile equipped boats, although there may be suicide or unmanned explosive boats mixed in.
Frequently I see an error in comparing the cost of a missile with the cost of a gun fired projectile, because the cost of the gun is not taken into account, nor is the cost of maintaining the gun and the training of the gunner and maintenance personnel which can be substantially more than the cost to support a missile technology.
Certainly there are more capable craft than the Webbers, but any more capable craft built in the US is going to cost more.
Ideally you would want every round to be a hit and every hit to completely eliminate a boat as a threat so that you can quickly move on to the next threat. As the caliber of the gun increases to about 40mm (with the exception of the grenade launcher) you get closer to that ideal. At any given range the gun is more accurate, the round is more likely to completely destroy the boat rather than leave it damaged but still dangerous. The 40mm even has the 3P ammunition like the 57mm which allows an effective air burst.
Great points, Chuck. I’ll do some reading on those 2-part articles. My only continued objection to moving up in caliber is the 3P ammunition. There has been issues in Navy/USCG testing with the effectiveness of the 57mm 3P ammo (not lethality, if I recall correctly, but with hit probability on small moving targets – I may be mis-remembering), and if the 57 can’t cut it, presumably the 40 wouldn’t do as well, making it even worse….
I think, overall, the ideal (low cost, high hit probability, good terminal effects) weapon system isn’t here yet, but that 70mm smart round seems really, really close. Probably the best of all options for the counter-small boat option…
Modern RWS can improve the hit probability of .50 on up
Yes, definitely a place for ROSAM with .50 cal. Probably 100% improvement in hit probability compared to crew served, not to mention, not having the crew be an aim point, but still not a reason to replace the 25mm with a .50 caliber with a lot of ammunition which was the suggestion. .
I think .50 bmg is too small. But it is cheap. For the cost of one Hellfire you could put 18000 (approx) down range with is about 18 minutes ‘run time’ (approx) from a GAU. The question is how many mounts do you want because even a small RWS is large and the Webber (Sentinels) aren’t very big? One on each beam? One on each beam and one aft? Two aft? How about of couple of 20mm or 30mm cannon as well to disrupt the attack? Or attack drones? Or how about operating in pairs or squadrons for multiple support? Where do you stop? How much a threat is this swarming anyway? If you are moving at 30kts and throw out rounds to a couple of miles how are they going to get to surround you? Are these attackers super-duper robotic hydrofoils doing 60 kts plus? Investing in that amount tech isn’t viable because you enemy might as well get drone or helicopter and take you with a missile. Surely airborne ISR is more important? And perhaps airborne delivered munitions are too? I think swarming is more about keeping weapons company in research grants than perhaps a real problem.
I find the Weber design pretty much under whelming. OK for police work, but not a (limited) combat boat. For police work there are better designs such as the Australian Cape class. If you want a ‘gun boat’ and think swarming is a genuine problem then you need to be looking at designs over 50m.
ALL, we need to stay focused on the original premise: Easy mods to the FRC design to make it more combat capable. The FRC is not and cannot be a FAC Fast Attack Craft without substantial mods (like building a new vessel). Big missiles, big guns not only are questionalbly too heavy/big, they take a lot of RDT&E funds to get installed and a long time to do that work. VLS adn NSM are pretty much out of the envelop.
ROSAM need RWS are definitely IN. Updating weapons in the DOD system is the path and contracting method as well. Supporting a TEU (ISO dimensions for a IC type freight container) are certainly in IF there is space around it for the container frame and supporting utilities?
What a sensors?
Too bad that a UAV pad would take up so much area. Why I said a little longer would be nice to do and expensive~
I don’t necessarily think a UAV is out of the question. Scan Eagle has flown off of some pretty small vessels. Would probably preclude some other options but then it might be a team approach where one supplies the UAV and a different boat weapons system.
I am not sure Where one could put a UAV pad on an FRC Perhaps the Scan Eagle launcher could go on top the of a TEU?
Will send you some pics
The original premise was the FRC being used as a “pickup truck of the sea”. The anti-swarm role is just one of many possible roles.
My take is while the FRC could probably be armed like PCs and replace thems, it is too limited to take on the other roles the Navy is looking to increase it’s capabilities in.
In the anti-surface, ASW and missile truck or distributed sensor roles a lot of work is going into leveraging USVs for that kind of thing. This is the likely direction for those missions.
While I know work has gone into optionally manned MK VI boats, purpose built unmanned vessels are the most likely outcome.
The naval strategy is shifting rapidly to distributed lethality which requires more shooters, more sensors, longer-ranged weapons and better connectivity between assets.
The Navy is unlikely to heavily invest in anything that does not contribute to those goals.
Honestly, I think the original premise is totally unworkable. The FRCs, in spite of being much larger than any WPB before, are still extremely small as ships. There’s just not enough payload to work with to make them “pickup trucks.” The original, original premise, as conveyed by Adm. Greenert, was clearly an ongoing support of the LCS program, which was under fire back then (and since, but that speech/statement was definitely damage control). LCS is a much bigger vessel than FRC, and LCS has finally been recognized as a failure to be replaced by a stop-gap frigate. This concept is a proven failure, and we should put it behind us…
I agree the FRCs are too small. They will not be able to carry the payloads the Navy is contemplating.
The LCS has been a debacle. There were many concepts at play there, some ok and some terrible.
I’d argue the speed requirement and subsequent use of hulls and powerplants optimized for speed doomed the program. Too fragile and too much of a logistical burden. Couple that with absurdly low manning and you have a ships that aren’t very good pickup trucks.
In short, the Navy’s execution of the pickup truck concept was abysmal.
The concept of modular and adaptable vessels is likely to continue in some fashion though, even if the vessels are USVs.
The real cost of being able to destroy an enemy asset is not the bullet that does it, it is the cost of maintaining the capability until it is necessary. It includes the ship or aircraft, the people who man them, the support and training they require to fulfil that purpose, The weapons and ammunition are already paid for whether they are ever used or not. In fact most weapons are paid for but never used. Being parsimonious about the ammunition is an attempt to save pennies while risking millions.
I am British I don’t understand that way of doing things. ‘Fitted for but not with’ takes care of weapon cost, and if we are silly enough to actually install a system we never ever buy enough rounds. If we did somebody might be tempted to use them and, well, think of the cost…..
I don’t have any experience on small surface combatants, but I have read some books about them because the Chilean Navy has operated missile boats since the beginning of the 1980-decade. Among this books are “Boats of Cherbourg” and “Iron Fist from the Sea”. I have also read some accounts of the performance of Iraqi missile boats in OIF and I have talked about missile boats operations with several former commanding officers from such vessels.
In my opinion, a small surface combatant needs a strong hard-kill and soft-kill capability. Without them she is an ease prey for an armed helicopter or aircraft. Also, a 1.500 nautical miles range isn’t enough for most operations. With such a range you can barely attempt performing hit and run tactics.
Regarding the Webber class as a small surface combatant, I think it should be prepared for fighting against corvettes and smaller fighting ships and boats. With that in sight, I would add another Mk-38 gun in “B” position (instead of the 2 .50 machine guns), a Hellfire launcher (as used in CB-90 boats) in “C” position (between the second Mk-38 and the bridge) and, in the deck space left by the “over the horizon boat”, I would install a Mk-29 launcher with 8 ESSM block 2, for Anti-Surface and Anti-Air-Warfare.
Alternatively, I would adapt the deck space left by the “over the horizon boat” for installing a “Mission Module Bay” as used by the Littoral Combat Ship. So, you could install any weapon designed for such bay, as the Mk-46 30-mm gun or the Hellfire vertical launcher, but you would loose the Anti-Air hard-kill capability provided by the ESSM block 2.
Not a bad weapons load-out idea, but I’d be worried about weight, electronics (to control a couple high-tech systems), and crewing…
I think your post brings in a significant concern none of the above has discussed, air defense. Really, the most effective killer of a vessel like this would be a helicopter with a small AShM, like Penguin. I’d have to look up weights myself, but I’d go with a SeaRAM on the large deck where the crew-served .50s are now, and the APKWS on the stern where the boat ramp is now. SeaRAM amd APKWS are self-contained systems, so additional electronics would be nil, and extra crew would only be 1-2 FCs.
We focus a lot on Iran, and Iran has attack helos, but theoretically there would be air cover in the Persian Gulf… Can’t trust that would be the case in So. China Sea or Sea of Japan though… I guess this comes down to what threat level the boat/ship would be built to.
It is also that in higher threat areas, the boats can be operated in a group that includes more robust AAW capability.
It might be possible to replace the Mk38 with SeaRAM but it does weigh almost 7 tons.
Part of the problem is that new systems are frequently looked at in isolation rather than how they fit in the total system. Looked at in isolation, every system has to be prepared to meet every threat. This is why we end up with so many gold plated systems and so few total systems. We need to look at these as a small part of a total system that can include AWACS, P-8s, aircraft carriers, and DDGs. We need to complement them, not replace them.
You are spot on Chuck. I don’t know if the Webber is the perfect answer. I suspect it might a bit smaller than would be optimal. We might be better off using the OPC as our mid-size truck.
I agree with your point about complementing and freeing up existing assets rather than trying to replace them. The Navy increasingly talks about additional nodes in it’s distributed network. A Webber or OPC variant could function as sensors, shooters or auxiliaries in the network.
Increasingly, it is about the capabilities of the network of assets rather than the capabilities of the assets individually.
This is an interesting development.
While I dont believe replacing the PCs is on the table for this vessel, some of the other roles you described in your original post certainly are.
I understand it is still early but we are living in times akin to the military’s first adoption of the airplane.
Things will progress rapidly.
Yes I referenced this solicitation in the post. https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=3cc2f01d1e59d368f58657b2045eb697&tab=core&_cview=0 because I thought perhaps we might see the Webber class developed into an optionally manned vessel. In an unmanned state, might serve as picket line, missile carrier, or mother ship for mine countermeasures unmanned subsurface vessel.
Does the OPC have potential in the roles you describe? More seaworthy, greater endurance, more capacity for carrying weapons, sensors, mission modules or aircraft.
With the FFGX seemingly turning into a ship with Burke-lite capabilities, There is a need for a something on the lower end of the spectrum.
Once again, the idea is not a first tier combatant but a ship that could fill aux but important roles while extending the network of sensors and shooters.
Granted more expensive but we’d be getting much more capability as well.
A couple of years ago I did an analysis of what a wartime fit for the OPC might look like. It would also pretty well describe how the Navy might use the same hull. They would probably want more speed although I think it could still be very useful without any additional speed. https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2016/09/29/what-might-a-wartime-opc-weapons-fit-look-like/
Remember that Operation Market Time was a layered. There were DERs offshore, then WPB (a couple of classes) nearer to the shore, and PCFs hugging the coastline. I don’t see the FRC doing all of the above. I do see the FRC working with Mk VI PBs and PCs (so long as they remain in service) and the 110s ditto.
The problem is the Navy does not want the job. Otherwise it would not have tried giving away the Cyclones for so long to the Coast Guard. It is the reason the USCG has had 6 hideously undreamed (for the Gulf and its potential conflicts) Island class boats stationed in the Gulf for years.
I would say the US Congress really needs to take a look at simply funding the service that actually wants to buy Patrol ships. Set up a new round of Sentinels that are up armed and fund the guard.
I seem to recall Rafal touting the 30mm Typhoon as a drop in upgrade. Could the manual 50 cals be switched to a mini typhoon to gain the stabilization benefits? Add Hellfires wherever – seems doable the Griffons on the Cyclone are a bolt on. I would think you should not forget the same addition (to the Cyclone) of a trained stinger crew. If sensors allow or if link capability to larger navy ships is possible a decoy/jamming system would seem prudent.
More good choices, but lots of weight.
I don’t see the FRC as a “pick-up truck,” and if we’re thinking of squadding them together, as Chuck suggests, there is some capability enhancement, such as: 2 FRCs set up for AAW, and 2-4 set up for surface action (30/40mm and Griffons/Hellfires), and deploying them together as a squadron… Still not really a pick-up truck, but flexible. Distributing capability means if one or two boats are lost, the little squadron’s full capabilities have not been lost (although certainly degraded). The question is the value to 4-6 FRC-size hulls with distributed light weapons, vs. one larger hull with better weapons (OPC-size or FF-size with NSM and ESSM, for example). I guess that is why most of the discussion above has centered on small craft interdiction, as is done in Persian Gulf; that’s the natural mission set the FRC/WPB size hull is thought of fitting…
Replacing the Cyclone class in Bahrain is almost certainly the first increment, but once the Navy has a few, I think they will find lots of uses for them. Can buy ten FRCs for the price of one LCS, About 15 for the price of an FFG. Manning is harder. Man three FRCs for one LCS and four or five FRCs for one Frigate, but they probably require few contractor and other support personnel than at least the LCSs which have very austere manning.
Its probably impossible to give the FRCs anything more AAW capability than a SeaRAM and that might be a stretch.
More likely Webber class would be teamed with an FFG in a mini-Surface Action Group, with the FFG providing Area AAW defense capability and the Webber class providing more ASCM launchers, complicating enemy targeting, and conducting rescue If the FFG is sunk.
During the Okinawa Campaign, when the Navy was putting destroyers out as radar pickets they either went out in pairs or they were accompanied by LCIs with up graded weapons. These were the original LCS (Landing Craft Support). They were about the size of the Webber class, maybe a bit lighter. The destroyer crews called the “pallbearers.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landing_Craft_Support
The LCS(L)-3 classes of ships aka gunboats were “Mighty Midgets of the Pacific” may have been small at 138 ft. and 387 tons, but they were heavy steel hulls with a very large number of weapons. Configurations varied by from 7 gun mounts upward.
Not the same as the LCI landing craft nor the LCS boats
(see “American Amphibious Gunboats in WW2” history book by Robin Reilly)
These were some of the most impressive little warships, and building them virtually the same way would be a dandy surface interdiction craft for the missions we’re talking about. Add NSM and SeaRAM and maybe upgrade the heaviest gun to a Mk.110…
Okinawa picket ships is the right idea. The Navy needs, well, a boatload of vessels it can install a SeaRam (which has built in radar and is reloadable at sea), sonar and torpedo launchers.
Harpoon (or comparably sized) antiship missiles would be nice too. If the 240 ton Pegasus hydrofoil class could carry 2 quad Mk 140 Harpoon launchers, there’s no reason a 100 ton larger FRC couldn’t carry one. That the LCS can be 3000 tons larger than Pegasus (which had also a 76mm) and yet be totally outgunned by a patrol boat one-twelfth its size is a mystery for the ages. It just makes those LCS Spike and Hellfire missile tests look pathetic. It’s like a police force not buying any pistols but instead testing which brand of pepper spray has the most stopping power.
Great points here Chuck sir. FRCs would be an ideal replacement for the PCs, particularly in the Arabian Gulf and Carib/EPAC. The FRCs have the legs to replace the PCs, the weaponry, and are less man-power intensive. It appears the only thing they *don’t* have is a UAV flight deck. However, if you use the FLARES system with ScanEagle, you only need a 4’x4’ platform.
Grant, It would not hurt my feelings if the Navy showed the Coast Guard how to put Scan Eagle on Webber class.
If there was a suitable UAV nee RPV to go on the FRC, the USN should pay for it – lock stock and barrel meaning R&D, engineering, support systems and weapons. And remember the USN has NO official rqmt for a PC replacement.
WHY because as Paul said above:
“The problem is the Navy does not want the job. Otherwise it would not have tried giving away the Cyclones for so long to the Coast Guard.”
The above leads me to conclude, some good congressional person is going to have to Cram more and/or better FRCs down the Navy’s gullet. Been done before for better or worse.
Grant I think the FRC are a good basic design, Chuck and I have been kicking around UAV nee RPV. It think the FRC could use a stretch. That would allow for a UAV (probably larger to satisfy NAVAIR?), and to provide some flexibility in other payloads. I would like to work more on Chuck’s idea to have TEU sized space on deck in addition to the boat ramp.. Might not mean a 20 ft. lengthening?
That might be one way to fit in another pair of engines and boost speed to about 32. Kind of hate to add more development cost. Think perhaps they should buy a few, try them out, and then start making mods, rather than mod first.
I think we, including/especially(?) me, are reaching way too far. In looking back and re-thinking this, I think re-purposing the FRC is only reasonable with very minor changes.
What the USN needs to do is: (1) figure out what it wants, and (2) see if anything fits the requirements, and (3) if nothing exists, design a purpose-built vessel to do the job.
The whole “pickup truck” idea is questionable and didn’t work at LCS-size, and trying to do it on a smaller displacement/hull is probably moving in the wrong direction…
And just like that USNI stole my idea! (joking). Here’s the pick-up truck concept on a larger displacement hull. (The author just neglected to tag in the merchant conversion as fitting the pickup truck concept…)
I think the LCSs came in for a lot criticism precisely because they were too big for a one pickup load concept. Expectations for a ship of that size are much higher.
There is a lot to be said for single mission ships. Their crews get expert in that particular mission. They are distracted by training for other missions.
The Danes pioneered the concept years ago with their SF300 and Stanflex modules. Though they’ve since opted to move to larger vessels, they are still utilizing StanFlex.
We should not confuse having space and weight margin with single mission. The LCS have problems getting underway and staying underway. Despite their size, they do not have much in the way of weight margin, henceforth the plan to fit them with only four NSMs.
The idea was to have this flexible space, common interfaces and “bus” so that different things could be plugged into it later. As the Navy pivots back to peer or competition and sees the need for better surface warfare capabilities, the decision was made to fit LCS with anti-ship missiles.
Unfortunately for LCS, despite it size, it is very limited in payload. It can only carry four NSM. It’s limited range and questionable reliability pose logistic and operational problems.
Might point is, the idea of having a ship with flexible space and a computer “bus like” standard interface for weapons and other things is not a bad idea. Those ideas are likely to be incorporated into future platforms.
With LCS though, the implementation has been horrific. The Navy tried to combine a Ferrari with a Ford F150 and ended up with an Edsel.
The Danes have arguably done a much better job of it with their Absalon class ships.
Anyway, I agree with Bill Smith on this. If the FRC is to be used by the Navy, it would mostly likely be in minimally tweaked version.
I would expect if the Navy does procure any Webber Class, initially at least, they will be direct replacements for the Cyclone class and so should not be too different from the Coast Guard ships with some upgrades such as those suggested for Coast Guard Webber class going to SW Asia.
Once they are in the Navy inventory, I think they will find other uses for them.
Remember that the USN has NO rqmt to replace the Cyclone PC class. Nada
Lee, no current requirement, but they keep putting money into them to keep the Cyclone class going, and as you know they are probably the busiest vessels in the Navy fleet. .Could create a requirement quickly enough and would hardly make a blip in their ship building budget.
On paper, the LCS is supposed to handle that role….as soon as they can get underway.
An ASW sonar system that could easily fit on a Webber class. Would probably involve multiple vessels (probably three would make a good team) operating in sprint and drift mode–once a vessel obtains contact, it holds contact while other team members reposition to gain contact or reach attack position. once they get contact, first ship repositions, and so on. http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/2019/february/6810-helras-dipping-sonar-completed-sea-test-onboard-seagull-usv.html
I would like to say, “Great minds think alike.” but anyway. A similar proposal leading to an unmaned version. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2019/february/two-birds-one-stone-new-patrol-craft-and-unmanned-surface
Reading the article, it is clear this is a contract for something akin to the “pickup truck of the sea” concept we discussed.
While the focus is on an USV, it will be interesting to see if an optionally manned version of the Webber will be offered.
The shipbuilder would need a partner familiar with the software and hardware to make a ship autonomous. L3 is a partner in the production of the Webber class and might be in a position to lead such a proposal.
The Webber comes up short in range and payload re the requirements. It would take some serious reconfiguration to hit the ask, perhaps negating the principle advantage which is it’s already in the water.
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Someone is still thinking about this sort of thing. From the Congressional Research Service’s report on the LCS program.
Click to access RL33741.pdf
H.Rept. 116-120 states:
Navy Cyclone-class patrol craft replacement
The committee notes that the legacy Cyclone-class patrol vessels located in Bahrain are
being decommissioned and eventually replaced with the littoral combat ship. The
committee is aware that the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class fast response cutter is in
serial production and that the U.S. Coast Guard is pursuing a 64-vessel program of record.
The committee believes that there is merit in reviewing all available options to replace the
Cyclone-class patrol vessels.
Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report to the
congressional defense committees not later than February 1, 2020, that assesses options for
the replacement of the Cyclone-class patrol vessels. Specifically, this report shall include
a comparison of the Cyclone-class patrol vessels, Independence variant littoral combat
ship, Freedom-class variant littoral combat ship, the Sentinel-class fast response cutter, and
larger surface combatants in terms of one-time procurement costs, annual recurring
personnel costs, and annual recurring maintenance costs. Additionally, this report shall assess the ability to meet the mission requirements of the current patrol craft. This report
may include a classified annex.
18-months since the last update here, and 5th Fleet is now faced with no Cyclones, and both sub-classes of LCS facing severe structural and mechanical failures to the point the Navy is finally walking away from the whole debacle and decommissioning them. PATFORSWA are the only small ships available…. Setting aside the pickup truck idea, USN looks like they need a dozen FRCs with Cyclone-esque weapons, just for Bahrain.
You bring up at lot of good points Bill as did Nicky.
The Navy will highlight the USVs they are using in the Gulf to fill the void but that is disingenuous at best.
While it is important the Navy experiments with USVs, there is no way USVs can perform the roles of Cyclones and FRCs at present.
A small force of grey-hulled FRCs makes a lot of sense.
Congress, a couple of years ago, ordered the Navy to study a navalized version of the FRC.
I do not recall the results of that study ever being made public.
I see a big problem in the money going to Ukraine. Not sure how any administration is going to deal with that for the budget, and with NDAA just passed, I haven’t seen any analysis of this.
I bet certain capabilities, such as the Navy buying some FRCs for 5th Fleet, will go one of two ways: Cut everything in the budget that isn’t a “primary acquisition program” (thus leaving nearly 100% of the patrolling to PatForSWA), or, “hey, this is a cheap way to keep a needed capability” and the Navy buys in.
It’s a bit “apples to oranges,” but recent costs for an FRC is $65m while an F-35 recent price is $78m. My guess is the Navy would buy F-35s over FRCs, but we shall see.
Bill, Operating costs for the FRCs and the F-35 are wildly different as are the supporting costs. The $65M for the FRC doesn’t just buy the ship, it also buys the precommissioning crews’ training and accommodations. It buys spare parts and improvements in the supporting port facilities. The costs are not really comparable.
We are learning a lot from the War in Ukraine and while the numbers look huge, actually it is only a small percentage of our total federal budget.