Photo: A modified Littoral Combat Ship design based on the Lockheed Martin Freedom-class. US Navy Image. Click on the image to enlarge. Note the USNI post also includes an image of a modified Independence class LCS
USNI is reporting that the existing Littoral Combat Ship designs will be modified to become the new Small Surface Combatant. It is not clear if they mean they will continue to build two designs in parallel, or if they mean they will select only one of the two. Perhaps there will be a competitive bid.
In spite of apparently incorporating all the elements of both the anti-submarine and anti-surface modules plus over-the-horizon Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles, it is reported they will have a lighter displacement than the existing LCSs. Surprisingly they apparently will not include VLS, but will include a multi-function towed array sonar, over the horizon ASCMs, upgraded radars, EW, and Cruise Missile decoy systems, torpedo countermeasures, a Mk38 Mod2 25 mm, and additional armor, in addition to the Mk110 57mm, two Mk46 30mm, Hellfire, MQ-8 UAVs and HM-60 helicopters. Both designs will use SeaRAM.
The question for the Coast Guard now is, how much commonality with this new class can be incorporated into the Offshore Patrol Cutter either as equipment actually installed or as equipment fitted for but not with? The more commonality that can be achieved, the more supportable the ships will be over the long haul.
The world seems to be becoming a more dangerous place, where the US may need every warship it can muster. We cannot afford the luxury of building the OPCs without wartime potential.
As expected, the EuroNaval 2014 trade show is offering some interesting products. This one might be of interest if the Coast Guard ever decides to get back into the ASW mission. Thales, maker of some of the most highly respected sonars in the world, is offering both hull mounted and towed active/passive sonars for vessels as small as 300 tons. The towed sonar is the CAPTAS 1, joining two previous members of a family of systems that share common technology. The Largest of these, the CAPTAS 4 is being evaluated for the ASW module for the LCS.
There has been a report that the Colombians are purchasing two subs from Germany, and that “The U206s are critical to Colombia’s fight against the drug gangs’ semi-submersible vessels.”
I also see a need for ASW assets to deal with the problem, but the Type 206A subs are tiny, slow, and old enough to be Coast Guard Cutters (They have crossed the Atlantic for exercises). The newest entered service in 1975. Their systems have been updated, they do have passive detection systems, but there have got to be easier and cheaper ways to detect drug subs and self propelled semi-submersibles.
It will be interesting to see how they are actually used. If this does work, will the Coast Guard get their own subs?
This is the second of two parts. The first part focusing on what I believe are the current shortfalls in the US Navy force structure is here.
Since part one, additional cuts to the Navy’s plans have been announce. Attack submarines which have an important ASW role are now expected to decline from a current 55 to 40 in 2030 and all SSGNs will be removed from service. Additionally the Navy will prematurely retire seven cruisers and two amphibious warfare ships. The planned five year building program is going from 57 ships to 41.
Now we will look more closely at what Coast Guard Cutters may be called upon to do in future conflicts, what changes to our existing force might be prudent, and desirable characteristics for future cutters. Continue reading →
According to Reuters, when the new Chief of Naval Operations addressed the Surface Navy Association on January 10, he offered some clues as to how he thought the Navy might address the changing environment and stated that a review of the Navy’s force structure is expected this spring.
There are a few areas where CG and Navy interests might intersect.
“The four-star admiral mapped out some areas of continued investment, including unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles…”
The CG could benefit, if Navy systems don’t become so sophisticated they are priced out of reach. Hopefully the Navy will apply their Broad Area Maritime Surveillance System (BAMS)(Navy illustration left) to areas of interest to the Coast Guard and the CG will be able to use it to help maintain maritime domain awareness.
“Greenert, who took over as the Navy’s top uniformed officer in September, told a packed audience that he made some changes to the Navy’s budget plan after visiting the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important shipping lane, which Iran last month threatened to shut off if new U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program halted Iranian oil exports.
“He said funds were added for more mine warfare equipment, counter-swarm, and anti-submarine warfare.”
This could refer to mission modules for the Littoral Combat Ship program, but increased emphasis on ASW could mean another ship type may be needed. There could be an opportunity to share a hull with the OPC.
“Other priorities for the Navy in coming years included work on a next-generation destroyer to replace the Arleigh-Burke DDG-51 destroyers, a ship that he said would need a common hull and modular systems.”
So modular systems are being extended beyond the LCS program. This may be a way for cutters to have a meaningful war time role without the burden of maintaining weapon system on board in peacetime.
He also underscored the Navy’s interest in development of an anti-torpedo torpedo and new electronic warfare capabilities.
Monday, June 20, was the deadline for industry comments on the draft specs for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). I wasn’t privy to the draft, but did have a limited opportunity to discuss them with someone who was, so I’ll offer my own, admittedly unsolicited, comments. Our last substantial discussion of the ships’ characteristics was here. The general description doesn’t seem to have changed much since the last presentation to industry–go here, and select “Industry Day Presentation” for a pdf of the slides.
The selection criteria (section M of the RFP) was not included in the draft. Perhaps the Coast Guard thought it would be premature, or perhaps they were unable to reach a consensus before the draft specs were released, but this was unfortunate, in that the vendors were unable to comment on how the selection criteria will influence the design. Additionally, in the interim they will be unable to proceed in any meaningful way, in formulation of the design.
The draft specs do define a range of characteristics, a minimum threshold and a higher desired level, but without a selection criteria, it is impossible for the vendor to determine if meeting the higher criteria will help him get the contract. Is it a significant selling point or just nice to have? If value is not specified in some way, it may mean that the minimums are the only truly relevant specifications. The selection criteria drives everything and unless you can define your priorities, and how much it is worth to you, it is unlikely you will get what you really want. One way to do this might be to assign a monetary value to higher levels of performance, with perhaps a formula for identifying the value of intermediate levels of performance. How much is going from an 8,500 mile range to a 9,500 mile range worth? To go 25 knots instead of 22? If you can’t decide this before the request for proposal (RFP), it’s going to be very hard to explain why you want to give the contract to a higher bid with more capability when it’s time to make the award. Ambiguity can lead to protracted legal disputes. Continue reading →
The Naval History and Heritage Command noted, “On 18 March 1945, USS Menges (DE 320), USS Mosely (DE 321), USS Pride (DE 323) and USS Lowe (DE 325) sank the German submarine U 866 south of Nova Scotia.”
These four Destroyer Escorts were among the 30 manned by the Coast Guard.
DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY — NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE — WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
“Harry James Lowe, Jr., born 6 January 1922 In Paducah, Ky., entered naval service as a seaman apprentice 28 August 1940. He served in San Francisco from 6 December 1940 to 12 November 1942, when he was killed in action off the Solomon Islands when he refused to abandon his gun in the face of an onrushing Japanese torpedo plane. For his extraordinary heroism, Gunner’s Mate Third Class Lowe was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. (The torpedo plane crashed into his gun mount-Chuck) Continue reading →