Navy Chooses Existing LCS Designs as Basis for Small Surface Combatant

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.

China Builds Cutter X for Nigeria

NavyRecognition Photo, Model of P18N OPV on the CSOC stand during AAD 2014
Photo credit: NavyRecognition, Model of the P18N OPV on the CSOC stand during AAD 2014. Click to enlarge.

NavyRecognition reports delivery of another cutter similar in concept to Cutter X. This time it is first of two being built in China for Nigeria.

P18N Offshore Patrol Vessels have a displacement of 1,700 tons, a length of 95 m, width of 12.2 m and beam of 3.5 m. It is powered by two MTU 20V 4000M diesel engines (I believe this is essentially the same engine as in the Webber class WPCs–Chuck). The maximum speed is 21 knots. The endurance of the vessel is 20 days at sea (range 3000 nautical miles at 14 knots) for a crew of 70 sailors.

The range and speed are certainly adequate for their purposes, but “nothing to write home about,” and the hangar is only suitable for UAVs, but it is actually better equipped in some ways than the proposed Cutter X with a 76mm gun and two 30mm. This probably contributes to the size of its 70 member crew.

Nigeria is modernizing their forces. The Nigerian Navy took over the former USCGC Chase in 2011, and they expect to get the Gallatin in 2015. Nigeria is the source of much of our imported oil, and they have an ongoing insurgency and a serious piracy problem.

If the helicopter on the model pictured above looks familiar, it is a Z-9, a Chinese license built version of the French helicopter that was the basis for the H-65. Chinese variants include both ASW and attack helicopter versions.

“Cutter X” Revisited

Photo: French Patrol Vessel, L’Adroit, DCNS photo

Almost two years ago I made a proposal for an alternative fleet mix. Since then the cutter recapitalization program has moved along. Funding of the eighth and final National Security Cutter is expected in FY2015. 30 Webber class WPCs have been funded and the contract with Bollinger has run its course. The Administration has asked for funding of two more in FY2015. If the Congress does what they have done in the past the Coast Guard may get funding for as many as six.

Like the original post, the purpose here is to offer another possible cutter fleet mix that might be procured at the same cost as the “Program of Record” (POR) that would include approximately the same number of units but provide more large “cruising cutters”, eg, over 1000 tons (49 vs 33), while hopefully replacing the existing WMEC fleet earlier, avoiding the worst of the disastrous drop in the number of major cutters that appears likely in the 2020s, and providing more cutter days while requiring fewer or at least no more personnel than either the legacy fleet or the POR.

The original post was largely in response to a Department of Homeland Security study modeling the effectiveness of alternative fleet mixes, “Options for the Future USCG Cutter Fleet Performance Trade-Offs with Fixed Acquisition Cost,” by Alarik Fritz • Raymond Gelhaus • Kent Nordstromr (.pdf). My hope was to offer a better alternative that might be evaluated by a follow-on study.

What comes through loud and clear, from that study is that:
◾The Coast Guard need some ships with the capability to do boat and helicopter ops in State Five Seas particularly for operations in the Northeast and Alaska.
◾In the Southeast and West, where the primary missions are Drug Enforcement and Migrant Interdiction, we are a long way from a point of diminishing returns, that is, mission performance is directly linked to the number of cutters, effectiveness increasing in almost direct proportion to the number of cutters available.
◾The cutters’ ability to launch boats and helicopters in State Five conditions are much less important in the West and Southeast where most of the cutters are normally deployed.

Meanwhile the Coast Guard’s responsibilities continue to grow.

The concept of Cutter X was basically to take the equipment and crew of the Webber class and put them in a larger, higher endurance, more seaworthy hull and augment the crew only as necessary to deal with the additional endurance, the availability of two boats and helicopter and/or UAV operations. The original post provided several examples of similar ships, and since then I have posted another example. Basically the result is a relatively simple vessel, only a bit more sophisticated than a 210 but grown about 50% larger with the possibility of a hangar in addition to the flight deck. My presumption would be that these ships would rely more on shore based aircraft rather than an organic air search capability, meaning the tempo of air operations would be lower than for larger cutters. They might operate more frequently with UAVs rather than helicopters. In other words, a ship of about 1,500 tons, about half the size of the OPC, closer in size to a 270 than a 210 (but perhaps longer than the 270, L’Adroit at 1,450 tons full load is over 285 feet long), and about four times bigger than a Webber class WPC. Other characteristics I would expect are a speed of approximately 24 knots, a range of 5,000 miles or more, and an endurance of at least three weeks. Weapons would initially be limited to a single Mk38 mod2 25mm and crew served .50 cal.

Photo: L’Adroit, looking forward from the flight deck toward the superstructure and the hangar.

Basically my assumption was and is that the tradeoffs between ship typed would work something like this:

1 NSC = 2 OPCs = 4 “X” class = 12 FRCs

This equates to approx. prices of: $700M/NSC, $350/OPC, $175M/Cutter X, and $60M/FRC.

It is no longer possible to trade-off NSCs for X class cutters, so the new alternative mix would look like this:

8 NSCs, 15 OPCs, 26 “X” class, and 42 FRCs

This gives us as many vessels as the program of record (91), more “cruising cutters” capable of sustained distant operation (49 vs 33) including 23 ships (8 NSCs and 15 OPCs) that are capable operating boats and aircraft in sea state 5 for Alaska and the Northeast, and 15 OPCs with ice strengthened hulls for operation in the Arctic and potentially the Antarctic.

Like the previous post I’ll compare this possible fleet mix to the Coast Guard Fleet as it existed in 2000/2001 (which was larger than the existing fleet) and the fleet in the Program of Record (POR), on the basis of cutter days available and crewing requirements using both conventional and augmented crewing.


For the analysis below I have used the following as the personnel allowances for the new classes:
◾NSC 122
◾OPC 90 (still to be firmed up)
◾FRC 24 (includes two extra junior officers assigned to gain experience)

While some of the vessels cited in my previous post as comparable to Cutter X are crewed by as few as 30, which I will use as a lower limit, I believe the Coast Guard would use more, if only as an opportunity to provide more at sea experience. At most, the personnel allowance should not be more than that of the 210s. My figures may be out of date, but at least at one point that was a crew of 62. I’ll use this as the upper limit.

Cutter Days AFHP and Crew Requirements:

The 2000/2001 fleet: Theoretically the 2000/2001 fleet could have provided 8,140 cruising cutter days away from homeport (AFHP) (44 cruising cutters x 185 days) and would have required a total personnel allowance of 5,477 (1.49 cutter days/crew member).

The Program of Record: Without augmentation, the program of record would theoretically provide 6,105 cruising cutter days AFHP (33 cruising cutters x 185 days) and require a total personnel allowance of 4,618(1.32 cutter days/crew member).

With Augmentation (increasing their personnel allowance by a third and running the cruising cutters 230 days/year) the program of record would theoretically provide 7,590 cruising cutter days and require a total personnel allowance of 5,693 (1.33 cutter days/crew member).

Proposed Mix: Without augmentation, the proposed mix would theoretically provide 9,065 cruising cutter days AFHP (49 cruising cutters x 185 days) and require a total personnel allowance of between 4,114 (assuming a crew of only 30 for Cutter X, 2.2 cutter days/crew member) and 4,946 (assuming a crew of 62 for Cutter X, 1.83 cutter days/crew member).

With Augmentation (increasing the personnel allowance of the cruising cutters by a third and running them 230 days/year) the proposed mix would theoretically provide 11270 cruising cutter days AFHP (49 cruising cutters x 230 days) and require a total personnel allowance of between 5,150 (assuming a crew of only 30 for Cutter X, 2.19 cutter days/crew member) and 6,259 (assuming a crew of 62 for Cutter X, 1.80 cutter days/crew member).

What about the loss of FRCs? The proposal would trim 16 FRC from the POR. They are projected to operate up to 2500 hours per day. If we assumed that all 2500 hours were devoted to offshore cruising for the 16 additional units, that would add 1667 days AFHP to the POR for a total of 7,772 days AFHP for the un-augmented fleet (1.68 cutter days/crew member) and 9,257 days AFHP for the augmented POR (1.63 cutter days/crew member)(disregarding the 42 additional FRC that are included in both the POR and my proposed fleet mix).

In summary Cutter Days Available:
◾————————————–————–Un-Augmented———Augmented by 1/3
◾2000/20001 (cruising cutters only)—————–8,140———————N/A
◾POR (cruising cutters only)—————————6,105——————-7,590
◾POR (w/1,667 additional FRC day AFHP)——-7,772——————–9,257
◾Proposed Mix w/Cutter X (cruising cutters only)9,065—————–11,270

It looks like this alternative provides an improvement of at least 16.6% over the program of record, possibly as much as 48.5% depending on how you view the FRCs as a patrol asset. It appears that the un-augmented version gives virtually the same number of ship days away from homeport (within 2% assuming both we count the additional WPCs as cruising cutters and that the augmented ships provide 230 days AFHP. If they provide only 225 days AFHP even this small advantage goes away) as that of the augmented version of the program of record while requiring 13 to 28% fewer crewmembers (several hundred to over 1,000). And without the possibly problematic requirement for augmentation.

Is it doable? What is the timing? How would it effect with other programs?

The eight NSC should be essentially fully funded by the end of FY 2015. Thirty FRC are already funded. Funding twelve more to bring the total to the proposed 42 by the end of FY2017 would only require funding four per year, and might be done in only two years if Congress continues funding six a year, meaning funding for construction of X class cutters could begin in FY2018.

I think the funding could look something like this

————-OPC—X class
FY 2017—–1
FY 2018—–1——–1
FY 2019—–1——–1
FY 2020—–1——–1
FY 2022—–1——–2
FY 2023—–1——–3
FY 2024—–1——–3
FY 2025—–1——–3
FY 2026—–1——–3
FY 2027—–1——–3
FY 2028—–1——–3
FY 2029—–1——–3
FY 2030—–2——–0
FY 2031—–1——–0

The proposed mix funds 33 new generation large cutters by FY 2026, four years before the POM. The cutter X program would be fully funded in FY2029. Through FY2030, when the Program of Record is expected to be completed, it will have funded 48 new generation large cutters compared to the 33 new cutters of the Program of Record. In FY 2031 the proposal will add a 49th cutter. Since the X class cutters are nearer the size of existing cutters, they might also reduce the expense of modifying the shore establishment to support a larger number of OPCs. Additionally eliminating the requirement for augmentation will minimize new construction ashore to support the augmentation crews.

Other Considerations:

The proposed fleet mix has a pyramidal structure that may work well as a training ground for COs, e.g., assuming O-3s command the 42 Webber class (I know currently we have been using O-4s), O-4s command the 26 X class, O-5s command the 15 OPCs, and O-6s command the 8 NSCs.

Politically it is probably better for the Coast Guard to have two concurrent shipbuilding programs (OPC & X class) rather than just one, since that will normally lead to budgetary support from two Congressional delegations.

Singapore Builds “Cutter X”


Singapore is building a new class of patrol vessels that look very much like my proposal for “Cutter X”, trading some Webber class and some larger ships for an intermediate design, costing about half what an OPC would cost, basically putting the equipment and crew (with some augmentation) of a Webber Class into a larger more seaworthy hull, to allow them to be used for extended operation in environments that do not require the ice strengthened hull and ability to launch and recover helicopters and boats in sea state five provided by the OPC.

Singapore is building eight of the ships under the project name “Littoral Missions Vessel” to replace eleven smaller, 500 ton, Fearless class patrol vessels that are approaching 20 years old. These ships are reportedly 80 meters in length (262.5 feet), displace 1200 tons (probably a light displacement), have a beam of 12 meters (39.4 feet), a range of 5,000 nautical miles at 15 knots, and a speed of 27 knots, all with a crew of only 30, though they do include additional accommodations for 30 more. (more here)


It appears these ships will use the same engines as the Webber Class. It is not clear how many of these engines they are using. Two would give them almost 12,000 HP which would almost certainly be good for at least 24 knots, but it might require three or four engines to make 27 knots.  (reports now indicate the class has two engines totallin about 12,000 HP)

In some respects these ships are more capable than the proposed cutter, in that they will have a 76mm gun and firecontrol system, in addition to smaller remotely operated weapons. It also appears to have space reserved for a small AAW missile system. On the other hand, while the flight deck can handle an H-60, the ship, unlike the French L’Adroit which was my model for “cutter X”, has no helicopter hangar, although it might be possible to add one using the same solution employed on L’Adroit (putting it under the bridge).

Soon, I expect to do an update of the “Cutter X” proposal, based on where we are now in the cutter recapitalization program.

More Info on the Eastern OPC Proposal


All photos credit Navy Recognition

Recently found a brochure for Eastern’s OPC reportedly from last year’s Sea, Air, Space Conference. Credit FCNoVA from this discussion group. We have discussed this class before and here, the comments may still be of interest.

Relative to the question does the design meet the “objective” criteria or only the minimums it looks like relatively good news, meeting or exceeding the objectives in terms of endurance, speed, aviation facilities, and accommodations. I presume since this design meets most of the objective criteria, the other two designs will also similarly exceed the minimums. I will provide some of the information provided in the brochure and then provide my comments.

You can read the brochure here:

Length overall: 328ft
Length between perpendiculars: 297ft
Beam overall: 52ft
Beam waterline: 48.67ft
Depth: 24.5ft
Draft: 16.1ft

Commentary: Compared to the Treasury Class (327 ft) cutters, this is, of course only one foot longer, but the beam and draft are both substantially greater, greater in fact than the beam and draft of the 378s, so we can expect the full load displacement to be considerably greater than the 327s’ approximately 2500 tons, and close to the over 3,000 ton full load displacement of the 378s. Unless the vertical weight distribution is messed up, these are likely to be good riding, very seaworthy ships, a notable improvement on the 270s and 210s.

126 total
20 commissioned officers
12 CPOs
94 E-6 and below
Also included are a 466 sq ft physical fitness area, a 20 seat training room, and a 48 seat crew’s lounge.

Commentary: Note these are the accommodations, not the expected crew which will be 15 officers, 89 enlisted, and detachments totalling 12 for a total of 116. The Coast Guard is avoiding the mistake made on the Littoral Combat Ship of assuming a small crew, limiting accommodations, and then finding they need a larger crew than the ship was designed for.

Range 9,500 nmi @ 14 knots
Sustained speed: 24 knots
Sprint speed: 26 knots.

Commentary: This is an area I was afraid we would see the design compromised. For similar speeds, this range is comparable to the that of the 378s. At speeds above 18 knots, its all diesel power plant will give it greater range than the 378s.

Main Propulsion/Auxiliary Prop and thruster/Electrical:

Main Prop: Two 12,204 HP MAN geared diesels
Ship Service Generators: 4,1044 kW
Auxiliary Prop/thruster: 750 kW, 1005 HP

Commentary: I interpret this to mean four generators of 1044 kW or 4,176kW total. That is a lot of power generation potential. By comparison a 378’s total capacity is 1500 kW, the 270s have 1425 kW. This suggest that the ship will have a hybrid power plant with the generators used for driving electric cruise motors. Running only three generators, one could probably supply routine electrical requirements and the other two could propel the ship. Two generators would supply the equivalent of approximately 2800 HP, this might be enough to drive the ship at 14 knots. Certainly three generators supplying 4200 HP would be more than enough. This will allow the ship to cruise with the Main Diesel Engines shut down.

The combined horsepower of the main diesels, 24,408 HP is more power than the diesel engines of the National Security Cutters which we know provide a high cruising speed, and it is about three and a half times the power of those on the 378s or the 270s.

The thruster is apparently of the drop down trainable type, allowing it to be used as an emergency or loiter propulsion system. The available power is relatively high meaning the ship could probably make seven or eight knots on the thruster alone.

I expect what we will see is two main engine spaces, each with one main diesel and one or two generators. Hopefully the main spaces will be separated by more than a single bulkhead, perhaps by the engineering control room, so that damage at a single point cannot effect both engine rooms. Hopefully also, at least one generator will be outside the two main machinery spaces. If so, these ships will have extraordinary main propulsion redundancy with at least three different spaces and five different systems capable of moving the ship–two MDE, two motors on the main shafts, and the bow thruster.

Construction: Steel Hull with an Aluminum Superstructure. Commentary: No surprise, although I would have liked to see steel superstructure, but it is a reasonable compromise.


Aviation Facilities:

Hangar: H-65/H-60R+UAS/UAV
Flight Deck: 3725 square feet

Commentary: Good news that the hangar will be large enough to accommodate both a Navy MH-60R and a UAS although I am a bit concerned that since the Navy has moved to a larger airframe for their Firescout, there is a chance that the UAS may not include the latest version of what is likely to become a standard system.

Apparently the Flight Deck is at least as large and probably larger than that of the 378s.



57mm Mk110 mod X
Electro-Optic Sensor System
25mm Mk38 mod2
two .50 cal. ROSAM (stabilized mount) plus two .50 cal. in soft mounts
ESM system
Mk53 mod X ASCM decoy system

Commentary: No surprise in what was mentioned. The radar fire control system that was included in previous specifications was not mentioned. This may have been simply an omission, but the Electro-Optic System might also serve as a firecontrol system, although it would be decidedly inferior to a radar system against surface targets in low visibility and against air targets in all situations. Consequently I am a bit concerned that this system has been compromised in the interest of simplifying the design.

The excess generator capacity may make these ships suitable for use of energy intensive weapons that may be developed in the future.

Let’s Give the OPC a Class Name–USCGC Newcomb (WMSM-915)

The procurement process for the Offshore Patrol Cutters is well underway. Three conceptual designs have been selected for further development. Challenges to the selection process have been rejected. There should be decision on the final design and contractor about the end of next year.

Perhaps the ships might feel closer to reality if there were a class name. I like the fact that we have been naming ships for notable figures in the history of the Coast Guard and its predecessor services as was done for the Bertholf and Webber Class cutters. Lets continue that with the Offshore Patrol Cutters.


Frank H. Newcomb

Our friend Bill Wells tells the story of First Lieutenant, Frank H. Newcomb (Captain Commandant upon retirement), CO of the Hudson when it towed the Navy torpedo boat Winslow to safety from under Spanish guns in the port of Cardenas, Cuba during the Spanish American War.


Revenue Cutter Hudson towing USS Winslow while underfire from Spanish guns.

Newcomb was honored by the Navy as namesake for a Fletcher class destroyer, DD-586, USS Newcomb. She had a short but eventful history. In spite of not being commissioned until November 1943. She and another ship sank the Japanese submarine, I-185. She provided naval gun fire support at Saipan, Leyte, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. As flagship of destroyer squadron 56, she lead a night torpedo attack on a Japanese Fleet during the Battle of Surigao Strait. She scored at least one torpedo hit on the Battleship Yamashiro, which was sunk in the battle, and like her namesake, while under fire, she towed a damaged ship, USS Albert W. Grant (DD-649), to safety. Off Okinawa she survived five (or six) Kamikaze hits.

USS Newcomb, DD-586, after taking at least four and possibly as many as six kamikaze strikes

Newcomb’s career was not limited to his time on the Hudson. This short biography (pdf) by Atlantic Area Historian William H. Thiesen also talks about his peacetime leadership, and how Admiral Waesche personal chose Newcomb as namesake for a destroyer as the best representative of the Coast Guard.

“While Newcomb distinguished himself commanding a cutter in battle, he spent much of his career working as a field officer and inspector for the United States Life-Saving Service. Throughout his career, Newcomb championed the rights of those whose efforts merited recognition and promotion. For example, when he had received the medal for his wartime exploits, he insisted that Hudson’s crew receive specially struck medals as well, and the cook and stewards mate became the first African Americans to receive such recognition.

“Many in the Coast Guard as well as the general public have heard the story of the service’s only African American Live-Saving Service crew, which manned North Carolina’s Pea Island Life-Saving Station beginning in 1880. Few may realize that it was locally assigned U.S. Life-Saving Service inspector, Lieutenant Frank Newcomb, who worked diligently behind the scenes to institute an African American crew at that station. In fact, the local community opposed the establishment of an African American manned lifesaving station and arsonists burned down the original station. Newcomb had to camp out at the remote site of the burned out Pea Island station during construction of a new building to prevent sabotage a second time. While no one should diminish the accomplishments of the Pea Island Station’s courageous African American crew, it was Newcomb who risked his career and reputation to institute Pea Island’s African American crew in the racially-charged South following the Civil War.”

There has never been a Coast Guard vessel named for Newcomb. I think it is about time.

If you have any other suggestions for namesakes for the class, please add them in the comments section.

OPC and the LCS Replacement (SSC), Sister Ships?

I am not the only one seeing a possible opportunity for commonality between the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and the Navy’s projected Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) replacement. Here is a comment from Tim Colton’s Maritime Memos.

“The LCS program having proved unaffordable, largely thanks to the Navy’s idiotic passion for bells and whistles, they are now looking for suggestions for what they call a small surface combatant, or SSC. Read the announcement on FedBizOpps… The key words in the RFI are right up front: Small surface combatants enable the Navy to implement the Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG) imperative to develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives.

“It sounds as though we now have a potential overlap between the Navy’s SSC and the Coast Guard’s OPC, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it would be nice if, for a change, the Navy could manage to build some affordable ships. I know, shades of Gary Hart, but I think this is what we need, not more SSNs at $1.8 billion a pop. May Day, 2014.”

There is more information on the solicitation here.

Quoting from the solicitation, “This type of ship provides Combatant and Fleet Commanders a uniquely suitable asset for Theater Security Cooperation tasking and select sea control missions. These small surface combatants build and strengthen maritime relationships by operating with partners and allies in various theaters of operation.”

They are “asking for existing and mature design concepts.” The eight shipyards that bid on the OPC, and particularly the three that were selected, should be in a particularly good position to meet the demands of the solicitation.

We know they want more survivability and range, but they also want low cost and small footprint. To me that means a ship of similar size to the existing LCS but without the requirement for extreme speed that has made them high strung, crowded, and fragile. A slightly lengthened OPC can meet the requirements. Replace the 57mm with a larger gun and the Mk38 mod2 with CIWS/RAM/SeaRAM. Install CAPTAS (active/passive variable depth/towed array sonar) aft and use the extra length to add VLS and a second CIWS/RAM/SeaRAM, and you have a very viable, long ranged Small Surface Combatant.

If the Navy and Coast Guard could share a common Small Surface Combatant, they could probably be made in very economically.