The Navy just announced a year’s delay in the LCS “frigate” program.
“The Navy has slowed its frigate procurement timeline, looking at awarding a detail design and construction contract in Fiscal Year 2020 to allow more time to understand what it needs the ship to do and how it might affordably meet those requirements.”
You’ll recall that the initial small surface combatant evaluation took place without appropriate analysis and in a very compressed time frame. To the amazement of absolutely no one, the recommendation was to buy more LCS! That process and decision triggered a firestorm of criticism and the Navy was roundly mocked for attempting to pass the LCS off as a frigate.
Now, apparently, the situation has changed.
“Director of Surface Warfare Rear Adm. Ron Boxall told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in a hearing today that the Navy is working under time constraints but not cost constraints at the moment, as the current “Frigate Requirement Evaluation Team” works through what is now the second look at future frigate requirements.”
“…2014 SSC TF [Small Surface Combatant Task Force] and therefore didn’t want to criticize its work, he told lawmakers “the Small Surface Combatant Task Force, the environment when they created that task force was, I’ll call it reactive in nature. We were responding to criticisms and to get to a more capable, survivable ship as quickly as possible. And there was also fiscal guidance that was given to them at the time.”
So, the Navy admits to having selected and designed a ship, the LCS-frigate, in response to public criticisms and negative publicity. Is that really the right reason to select and design a ship? Further, the Navy now acknowledges that the prime selection criteria was financial rather than combat capability. Again, is that the main criteria we want to use when designing WARships?
“This time, the Frigate Requirement Evaluation Team has not been given any cost guidance. Boxall told USNI News at the hearing that there wasn’t even a date yet for when the Navy would have a cost cap – rather, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs …” [emphasis added]
Now? Now? Now, the surface warfare community is looking at what it needs? Shouldn’t it have looked at needs in the original process?
“…the mission set [has] somewhat changed since 2014. Whereas the LCS and the frigate had been envisioned for primarily independent operations near the shore, the Navy now believes the LCS and frigate could be used by fleet commanders to support the carrier strike group out at sea.”
Littoral … out at sea … The Navy just can’t seem to decide what it wants the LCS/frigate to do. Is this kind of dithering really the best our professional naval warriors can offer? Apparently so.
“…Boxall said the Navy is assessing what self-protection systems, offensive weapons, strike group connectivity and more the frigate would need to be the right ship at the right price tag.”
Again, does the Navy really need to perform still more assessments? Shouldn’t professional naval warriors pretty well know what’s needed?
“…Boxall said in 2014 the Navy discounted foreign frigate designs due to none of them exactly meeting its requirements, and the need to quickly begin work on a frigate that would quell LCS detractors. Today, Boxall said there still doesn’t appear to be any other small surface combatant design, foreign or domestic, that exactly meets its needs …”
Nothing foreign meets the Navy’s frigate needs????? Good grief, what kind of frigate are they looking for – especially given the previous statement that the Navy is “assessing” what’s needed? If they’re still assessing, how do they know that no foreign frigate meets their needs? With all the amazing and varied frigate designs out there, none meet the Navy’s needs? Does that really seem like a credible statement or does it seem more like setting the stage to choose, yet again, the LCS as the next frigate?
Okay, I’ve just suggested that this is all laying the groundwork to, yet again, select the LCS as the Navy’s next frigate. Is there any proof other than my invariably correct opinion? Well, consider this tidbit from a USNI News article.
“As the Navy reworks its frigate requirements in the hopes of fielding a more capable ship for a more dangerous world, the two current Littoral Combat Ship builders may still have a slight advantage due to their hot production lines, the acting secretary of the Navy [Sean Stackley] said last night.” (3)
That sure sounds like a pre-ordained conclusion in the making, doesn’t it?
“We have less data on the foreign designs than we do on most of the other designs in the
, but having
said that, what we learned from the Small Surface Combatant Task Force was that
we made some assumptions then that weren’t exactly right,” he said. “We don’t
know if they can or can’t [meet the new frigate requirements] with a foreign
design …” U.S.
Wait a minute!!!!! You don’t know whether a foreign design can meet the requirements? Didn’t you just say that no foreign design meets the requirements? Which is it? Do they or don’t they meet the requirements? And remember, you’ve admitted that there are no requirements since you’re still “assessing”.
“In particular, Boxall said, the 2014 task force didn’t get as much information as desired on alternative foreign designs, something the new effort hopes to correct.”
Not to beat a dead horse, here, but, again, if you didn’t get as much information as desired on foreign designs, how do you know they don’t meet the Navy’s [still being assessed] requirements?????
And what was that bit about, “we made some assumptions then that weren’t exactly right”? I’ve got news for you Adm. Boxall, you made a LOT of assumptions that weren’t exactly right – in fact, they were exactly wrong. Still, I wonder which one he’s referring to?
Is this enough or do you want more incompetence? Of course you want more incompetence! Consider this confused and contradictory statement.
“If we choose to go with a vertically launched system that could take any other longer-ranged missile of the future, that would be a bonus if you will, it would increase the flexibility to adapt to future weapons, but from an anti-surface standpoint that is not one of the focuses of this team at this time,” Boxall told the subcommittee. (Emphasis ours). “Most of the efforts we’re looking at right now is focused on the survivability aspects, (especially) improving the air defense capability.” (What he didn’t mention was that the Navy’s most powerful air defense missiles are all fired from, you guessed it, VLS).” (2)
The Breaking Defense article that this came from got it exactly right with their imbedded comment. If the Navy is looking at improving the air defense capability of the LCS, the VLS is the most flexible and powerful way to achieve it and yet, in the Navy’s mind, a VLS is not a focus. How’s that for confused and contradictory?
The LCS has, from day one, been beset by incompetence on an unbelievable scale and this is just continuing that trend. The Navy lacks even the slightest clue about how to run the LCS program. This would be hysterically funny if we weren't talking about a ship that will make up a third of our future combat fleet.
Adm. Boxall is a blithering idiot attempting to justify and speak for a confused and utterly incompetent Navy.
Are you getting the picture, here? This is utter lunacy and rampant incompetence run amok. This is the best our “professional” naval warriors can offer?? Crap, we’re in trouble!
(1)USNI News website, “Navy Slowing Frigate Procurement To Allow Careful Requirements Talks; Contract Award Set for FY2020”, Megan Eckstein,
(2)Breaking Defense website, “LCS: HASC Seapower Chair Praises Frigate Delay”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr.,
(3)USNI News website, “Stackley: More Capable Frigate Requires Full and Open Competition, But LCS Builders May Have Cost Advantage”, Megan Eckstein,