JHSV USNS Millinocket Completes Acceptance Trials
(Source: Austal Ltd.; issued Jan. 14, 2014)
Joint High Speed Vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) successfully completed Acceptance Trials (AT) on January 9, 2014, in the Gulf of Mexico. This milestone achievement involved the performance of intense comprehensive tests by the Navy while underway, which demonstrated the successful operation of the ship’s major systems and equipment. This is the last significant milestone before delivery of the ship, which is expected in late January.
This vessel is the third of ten JHSVs that Austal has been contracted by the Navy to build in its Mobile, Ala. shipyard. The Navy selected Austal as the prime for this $1.6 billion contract in 2008. Austal’s teaming partner, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems (a business unit of General Dynamics) is the ship systems integrator, responsible for the design, integration and testing of the navigation and communications systems, C4I, and aviation systems.
Craig Perciavalle, Austal USA President, had this to say regarding the successful completion of Acceptance Trials: “The completion of this major milestone for the third vessel in the JHSV Spearhead-class further demonstrates the maturity of the JHSV program. With the first two ships delivered, the third making final preparations for delivery now, and two more under construction at this time, this program is progressing well, evidence of Austal’s success in executing its production plan for efficient serial production.”
Perciavalle complimented Austal’s hard-working shipyard staff by saying, “I am so proud of the talented shipbuilders here, especially in knowing we were able to fly a broom on the mast when they returned signifying a clean sweep of trials events.” He continued, “The entire team should be so proud of this significant accomplishment that was executed so well.”
As the U.S. Department of Defense’s multi-use platform, the 103-meter JHSV will provide rapid intra-theater deployment/transportation of personnel, equipment and supplies. The vessel will support military logistics, sustainment and humanitarian relief operations at speeds of up to 43 knots. The JHSV will transport medium-size operational units with their vehicles, or reconfigure to provide troop transport for an infantry battalion, allowing units to transit long distances while maintaining unit integrity. The vessel also supports helicopter operations and has a slewing vehicle ramp on the starboard quarter which enables use of austere piers and quay walls, common in developing countries. A shallow draft (under 4 meters) will further enhance theater port access.
USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) will soon be followed by USNS Fall River (JHSV 4) which Austal christened and launched this month. Fabrication and assembly is well underway on USNS Trenton (JHSV 5) and the first aluminum for USNS Brunswick (JHSV 6) will be cut in mid-January.
Austal USA is a full-service shipyard offering design, construction, service and repair. Austal has been contracted by the U.S. Navy to build ten 103-meter JHSVs and eight 127-meter Independence-variant LCS class ships (including USS Independence (LCS 2) and USS Coronado (LCS 4) already delivered to the Navy), six of which are a part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract.
US Navy's New Plan Aims To Lock In 8-month Carrier Deployments
Jan. 15, 2014 - 05:45PM | By SAM FELLMAN
Adm. Bill Gortney, head of Fleet Forces Command, said Wednesday that the Navy's new eight-month carrier-deployment plan is 'about at the limit of a sustainable model to keep sailors and their families in the Navy.' (Mike Morones / Staff)
From the standoff with Syria to the response to the typhoon-stricken Philippines two months later, the US Navy fleet showed its global might in late 2013. But those deployments bear long-term risks: sailors worn down by longer cruises and scheduling flux that can shorten or endanger overhauls needed to reset the hull.
Experts have warned that the fleet cannot keep sailing at this rate.
The four-star in charge of Fleet Forces Command unveiled Wednesday the Navy’s latest plan to better maintain its ships and return a measure of predictability back to sailors’ and spouses’ lives. The Optimized Fleet Response Plan calls for extending the carrier strike group deployment cycle to 36 months and includes a standard eight-month cruise. While an increase over the once-standard six-month deployments, Adm. Bill Gortney stressed that eight-month cruises will be a drop from today’s carrier cruises that stretch months and beyond.
“We’re trying to get our deployment lengths back in line to an eight-month deployment,” Gortney said Wednesday at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium held outside Washington, DC. “Right now, we’re averaging anywhere from nine to 10 months for all of our carriers, our and destroyers, especially the [ballistic-missile defense] ships, and our [amphibious ready group] ships.”
Gortney hopes to lock in eight-month cruises for carriers and the air wings and the escort ships that sail with them — nearly 85 percent of the fleet. These changes likely will end up affecting amphibs and the sub force after they take effect, strike group by strike group, starting in November 2014.
The first to adopt the new schedule will be the Truman Carrier Strike Group after its deployment.
In addition to locking in eight-month cruises, Gortney said his plan will boost sailors’ time spent at home. Gortney believes this will lower the stress of sailors and their families.
“We think eight months is about at the limit of a sustainable model to keep sailors and their families in the Navy,” Gortney said in an interview Wednesday. “Now eight months may sound like a long time. When I grew up, it was a six-month [deployment] — at the time ... we thought was the level. But that was a six-month in a 24-month turnaround.”
Under the new deployment plan, fleet sailors will be home 68 percent of the time, Gortney said, adding: “That’s really high. We’re not anywhere close to that right now. And so an eight-month deployment in a three-year period ... we think that that’s going to be sustainable to our sailors.”
“But it’s right at the edge, we think. And we don’t want to go over that.”
Fixing fleet manpower remains a top priority, with thousands of billets open. The Navy is reviewing all of its career sea pay, the first review in 13 years and after a decade of surging operational tempo. Officials also hope to plug more of the fleet’s manning gaps using many carrots — some sticks.
“We are seeking people to volunteer and we will be ordering people to go back in order to fleet,” Gortney said. “But we will be compensating people for that.”
CNO: New Surface Ships Key to Navy Future
By Kris Osborn Thursday, January 16th, 2014 12:08 am
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert cited the Littoral Combat Ship, Mobile Landing Platform and Joint High Speed Vessel as critical new ship programs essential to the service’s future surface warfare strategy.
“We’ve got to integrate and embrace these new ships that are coming in and make them work and make them part of the scheme of the equation,” he said Wednesday at the Navy Surface Warfare Association’s Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.
The emerging Littoral Combat Ship program will increasingly become an integral part of the fleet, Greenert said. He explained that the LCS would be key to naval operations and that ships would be in Bahrain, the South China Sea, Singapore and other strategically vital parts of the globe.
Overall, the Navy plans to buy 52 LCS ships. The first LCS, the USS Freedom, recently finished up a 10-month maiden deployment. Other LCS vessels have been built, tested and christened while many others are under construction.
“They are going to start coming at us and we have got to accept them and move along, bring that mission package capability into the fleet,” he said.
The LCS ships are configured with modular or interchangeable mission packages, groups of technologies designed to accomplish a certain set of aims such as countermine, anti-submarine and surface-warfare missions.
Greenert also praised the emerging Joint High Speed Vessel, or JHSV, program, saying it will bring important technology to the fleet. The Navy plans to acquire as many as 11 JHSVs, ships engineered for fast transportation of troops, vehicles supplies and equipment.
“They are capable of transporting 600 short tons 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots and can operate in austere ports and waterways, providing U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility. JHSVs also have an aviation flight deck and berthing space for up to 104 personnel and airline-style seating for up to 312,” a Navy statement said.
The fourth ship, JHSV 4 or USNS Fall River, was christened on Jan. 11, 2014. Greenert said a JHSV is leaving for a deployment to EUCOM, AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM areas of responsibility.
“We have 11 of them coming and two more of them coming this year. We’ll have four about a year from now, with three of them on deployment,” Greenert said.
Another ship in development emphasized by Greenert was the Mobile Landing Platform, or MLP.
Built by NASSCO, the Navy’s first Mobile Landing Platform recently completed contract trials and is slated for final delivery in March of this year. The MLP is a massive 80,000-ton, 785 foot-long commercial Alaska-class crude oil carrier configured to perform a range of military missions such as amphibious cargo on-load/off-load and logistics support.
“It is big. It has volume and persistence. Imagine what we could have done with this in Operation Damayan,” he added.
The mobile landing platform is able to accommodate MV-22 Osprey helicopters and maybe be able to accept F-35B Joint Strike Fighter landings, Greenert explained.
The Navy plans four new sea-basing ships to include two Mobile Landing Platforms, or MLPs and two modified MLPs, configured into what the Navy calls Afloat Forward Staging Bases, or AFSB.
“This thing is designed to support land operations, airborne operations, and special forces operations,” Greenert said.
Navy Still Expects to Build 52 Ship LCS Fleet
By Kris Osborn Thursday, January 16th, 2014 5:36 pm
Crystal City, Va. — The Navy’s acquisition executive said the service’s Littoral Combat Ship request for a 52 ship fleet “solid” and on track despite recent media reports that the Pentagon has directed a reduction in fleet size to 32 ships.
Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley would not address specifics about the LCS program contained in reports on the issue, choosing to highlight the programs merits and not comment ahead of the anticipated 2015 budget drop expected next month.
“We won’t talk about the ‘15 budget process until the ’15 budget goes to the Hill. We have a valid requirement for 52 ships and the program is performing strongly in terms of cost. We’re conducting operational testing in accordance with the schedule,” Stackley told reporters June 16 at the Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.
According to several press reports, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has instructed the Navy to reduce its planned buy of the new Littoral Combat Ship from 52 to 32 ships, substantially limiting the size and scope of the emerging multi-mission, shallow-water ship program.
A Defense News report mentions a Jan. 6 memo from Acting Deputy Defense Secretary Christine Fox account announcing the decision, citing budget guidance from the White House on some large acquisition decisions.
Pentagon and Navy officials would not comment on the memo or the acquisition decision regarding LCS fleet size, citing budget deliberations as pre-decisional.
“We continue to work with OSD (office of the Secretary of Defense) on all our ship acquisitions,” a Navy official told Military.com.
However, the LCS program has long been the center of some controversy and disagreement within the Navy as well as among analysts and lawmakers. An internal Navy report released last year questioned the ship’s ability to perform its mission, and a number of lawmakers and analysts have raised questions, wondering if the platform is survivable enough, among other things.
The $37 billion LCS program, in development since 2002, is a next-generation surface-ship aimed at delivering a fast, agile, near shore vessel equipped with technologically advanced “mission packages” engineered for surface warfare, anti-submarine and mine-countermeasure missions, among others.
Overall, the Navy plans to acquire as many as 52 LCS vessels. In total, this high ship number will comprise a large percentage of the Navy’s overall surface fleet.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom and Independence — designed and built by two industry teams, respectively led by Lockheed Martin and an Austal USA-led team. Contracts were awarded to Lockheed Martin and Austal USA on December 29, 2010, for the construction of up to 10 ships each.
Maiden Voyage to Display Joint High-Speed Vessel’s Capabilities
(Source: U.S. Navy blog; posted January 14, 2014)
As the Navy’s first joint high-speed vessel, USNS Spearhead, begins its maiden operational voyage, Shannon reminds us that we can learn much about the character and capabilities of this amazing ship during the deployment.
Just think of it: a maiden voyage on USNS Spearhead, our Navy’s newest class of ship, the joint high-speed vessel. It will be a voyage of learning, a chance to discover even more about the capabilities and characteristics of this technological marvel. What an opportunity for Capt. Doug Casavant and his crew. I can almost taste the tang of the salty air and feel the sensation of power and speed as Spearhead begins building legends of naval service.
This ship class will play an important part in the future of our joint forces with its affordability, flexibility, speed and agility. Spearhead’s performance to-date is solid, and I think this first deployment will offer us an amazing opportunity to further demonstrate the important capabilities this class of ships brings to our fleet.
We spent a long time learning about high-speed catamarans as we chartered HSV 2 Swift and Westpac Express. Then we were involved in the concept and design of the JHSV – a purpose-built ship with enormous capabilities for speed, austere port work and cargo carrying. The logistics missions Spearhead will take on during her first year of operation will write a new chapter in the book of high-speed movement of military cargo and the widespread coverage for civic assistance and humanitarian aid that is gained through the simple expedient of speed.
Spearhead’s size, speed and capacity supports a wide range of operations including operational maneuver and sustainment, relief operations in small or damaged ports, global fleet station operations, flexible logistics support and rapid transport as an alternative to airlift.
Spearhead can transport 600 tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots; its aviation flight deck can support day and night flight operations for a wide variety of aircraft, including CH-53 Super Stallions.
Spearhead and its sister ships will bridge the gap between high-speed, low-capacity airlift and low-speed, high-capacity sealift to provide for the movement of personnel, equipment, and supplies over operational distances, sustainment of joint theater and multinational logistics, and augmenting the combat logistics force.
That said, JHSV is not replacing existing platforms; it is complementing them. One of the primary goals of Spearhead’s first deployment is to evaluate new missions that might be supported by this new ship class with an initial focus on mission options that involve little or no modification to the existing sea-frame.
The JHSV class will be able to provide a persistent regional presence that increases maritime security through the cooperative efforts of joint, inter-agency, and multinational partners, as well as non-governmental organizations.
Spearhead’s first deployment to the European Command, Africa Command and Southern Command areas of operation directly supports our Navy’s commitment to presence and partnerships in these regions, and will also provide an opportunity to test new concepts and new missions that the ship wasn’t originally designed for and to allow us to capture the lessons learned that are so critical for the first deployment of a new ship class.
Spearhead’s crew will work with regional navies that operate comparable-sized ships during maritime missions such as Africa Partnership Station and Southern Partnership Station.
Our JHSV design has already evolved to include a range of missions with adaptable sensor, communication and support payloads. This maiden voyage will examine additional innovative missions for JHSV and will likely influence updates to the ship’s concept of operations.
The whole program, especially this first operational deployment, is the stuff of dreams for Sailors and mariners alike. I can’t wait to see how the story comes out.
Littoral Combat Ship Cut Plan Reopens Navy Riff: Build ‘Em Fast Or Rugged
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.on January 17, 2014 at 4:30 AM
The two Littoral Combat Ship variants, LCS-1 Freedom (far) and LCS-2 Independence (near).
CRYSTAL CITY: The Littoral Combat Ship was supposed to be one of the fastest things in the fleet, but it seems like the skeptics – and the sequester – have caught up with it. The question is, what’s next?
After a Pentagon memo recommended slashing the program by more than a third — from 52 ships to 32 — its backers came out swinging. “We have heard for the past 12 years about the importance of the LCS to our future Navy,” House seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “Although this platform has had its share of development difficulties, I believe it has a necessary role to play in the future fleet.”
What’s more, LCS proponents have at least a year to reverse the decision. The Navy is locked into a long-term contract for Littoral Combat Ships that ends in fiscal year 2015 with the purchase of the 24th LCS. Short of breaking that contract and paying penalties, the Pentagon can do nothing to LCS in the budget it is currently preparing to send to Congress. “This year is another oversight year and next year is a decision year,” one Hill source told me. What will really decide the LCS’s fate is the next contract, which will be in the 2016 budget.
It’s also possible that there could be no new contract and no 2016 money at all, which would end the program at 24 ships. The 32-ship number leaked this week certainly has the smell of an internal Pentagon compromise between going the full 52 and stopping dead at 24. Noted naval analyst, author, and LCS critic Norman Polmar still hopes the slam-on-the-breaks school will prevail: “24 might be a better total number for the current LCS program,” he told me in an email.
Then there’s the bigger picture. However many Littoral Combat Ships are cut – and at least some will be in this brutal budget environment – the Navy needs to start thinking hard about what to buy instead. The deeper the cut, the faster they need to figure something out. Stopping LCS at 24 ships would have given the Navy only a year to figure out its next move. Even the 32-ship compromise means the last pair of ships would be bought no later than fiscal 2019, an eyeblink for developing a new warship design.
“With 20 fewer LCSs in the plan, I presume the Navy must be looking at another small or medium-sized combatant,” Eric Labs, a naval expert at the Congressional Budget Office, said Thursday at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference. But what is the other ship? And for what purpose?
LCS is meant to enter shallow waters — the littorals — in order to either clear minefields, hunt enemy submarines, or fend off fast attack boats, depending on which of three plug-and-play “mission modules” is fitted to the basic hull. (Just to complicate things further, there are two radically different hull designs: a kind of giant speedboat built by Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine; and a spaceship-like trimaran built by General Dynamics and Austal).
Are those three missions the right priorities?, asked Congressional Research Service analyst Ronald O’Rourke. If so, are they best done by the same ship? If so, should that ship be small and fast, like the LCS?
“What’s amazing to me is just how often and how far way the discussion of LCS drifted from these central questions,” O’Rourke said. Much of the fault was the Navy’s. For a decade, he said, “the Navy continued to throw more missions into the discussion and to further confuse the issue of what it is we were really supposed to be trying to accomplish with this program.”
But the mistakes began at the very beginning, O’Rourke went on: “The Navy, prior to announcing the LCS as its preferred solution for performing those missions, never performed a rigorous analysis of multiple concepts to show that a small, fast, modular ship was in fact the best and most promising way to do it.”
So controversial was the small-and-fast approach, in fact, that some in the Navy dubbed the LCS the “little f*cking ship.” The Pentagon’s notoriously independent Director of Operational Test & Evaluation said the design was too small and too lightly built to keep fighting after it took a hit in combat — not a fatal flaw for the supporting roles it was meant to fill, but definitely a flaw.
The LCS did get built — after massive initial cost overruns now under control — although maintenance problems have marred its performance, including electrical plant failures that left it adrift on its first overseas deployment. Now, after surviving all these problems and criticism, the program’s fate is again in question.
Cutting the Littoral Combat Ship reopens a debate at the heart of the Navy: Should the fleet continue its traditional approach of buying a relatively small number of relatively large ships, like its current workhorse the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyer, or buy more, smaller vessels, like LCS? In fact, LCS was itself a scaled-up version of the late Adm. Arthur Cebrowski’s “Streetfighter” concept, a vessel intended to be so small and cheap it was effectively expendable. In the information age, Cebrowski argued, you didn’t have to put all your weapons and sensors on a single big ship: You could have multiple small vessels linked by a network and working in concert. If any one of them got sunk, you had plenty more.
Most Navy officers were aghast, unsurprisingly. Ever since the USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides” – with her famously cannonball-resistant hull, the US Navy has wanted ships that could take a hit and keep on fighting. The counterargument: In an era when a single suicide boat can cripple a destroyer (the USS Cole) or a single missile a frigate (the USS Stark), the Old Ironsides model just doesn’t apply anymore.
“These two sides in the debate almost seem to be talking past each other,” O’Rourke said. “A key point of departure, a fork in the road that sends the groups down different paths, has to do with a fundamental difference they appear to have on future surface ship survivability.”
The small-ship insurrectionists believe that bigger doesn’t mean much more robust, not in the face of modern weapons, and that incoming threats move too fast to stop. The Navy mainstream believes that size does matter and self-defense is possible. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, in particular argues that ships can protect themselves in the 21st century if they limit their own tell-tale electromagnetic emissions, deceive enemy targeting systems with electronic jamming or cyber warfare, and as a last resort shoot down incoming missiles with anti-missile missiles of their own — or, in the future, lasers.
That’s a debate that goes well beyond the Littoral Combat Ship and whatever comes after it. It also goes to how the Navy replaces its aging Arleigh Burke destroyers after it cancelled one replacement program and truncated the other, the DDG-1000, at just three ships. Upgraded Arleigh Burkes are now supposed to stay in service until 2072.
The Navy is already contemplating a “Future Surface Combatant,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, the Navy’s director of surface warfare (aka staff section N96). It will be “the later part of the ’20s when we’re going to start contracting for these… to replace our cruisers,” the aging Ticonderoga class, Rowden told the Surface Navy Association conference.
The admiral had a slide of what the new vessel might look like, but he made clear fundamental choices were on the table. That includes questioning the Navy’s longstanding preference for large, versatile “multi-mission ships” like the current DDG-51s, he said. What he did not say was that the alternative would be something like the LCS, which can do only one mission at a time, depending on which mission module is currently aboard.
One thing the Navy definitely does want is more electrical power to run everything from radars to jammers to future laser weapons and rail guns, as well as the ship’s propellers, off a single integrated system. “I think it is about integrated power on the right size ship. I think it is about the right weapons,” Rowden said. “I think it is about affordability, affordability, affordability.”
For the foreseeable future, affordability probably will be priority number one.
Navy Bringing Well Decks Back to Amphibs
By Kris Osborn Saturday, January 18th, 2014 1:00 am
The Navy has begun early design work, affordability studies and planning with industry partners for its third big-deck America-Class Amphibious Assault Ship, or LHA 8, slated to enter service in 2024, service officials said Jan. 15 at the Surface Navy Association Annual Symposium, Crystal City, Va.
Unlike the first two America-Class amphibs now in development, the USS America and the USS Tripoli designed as aviation-centric large-deck amphibs, LHA 8 will be built with a classic amphibious assault ship well deck designed to move personnel, vehicles and equipment from ship to shore, said Capt. Chris Mercer, amphibious warfare program manager.
“This is a very classic, in-house Navy design,” he said.
Navy design work and affordability initiatives on LHA 8 are now underway through a cooperative deal with Huntington Ingalls and NASSCO shipbuilding firms, Mercer explained. Following the early design work and some advanced procurement dollars in 2015 and 2016, detailed design and construction work is slated for 2017 and 2018.
Mercer said the well deck will be important for the Pacific rebalance and linked the decision to return to a well deck with LHA 8 to a capabilities based assessment in 2011 run by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, or OPNAV. This effort examined the total amphibious footprint in light of current and anticipated future threat and conflict scenarios.
“This was an assessment by our requirements folds and the Marine Corps were involved – looking at the total footprint including vehicle lift and cargo. You’ve got more up-armored vehicles from all of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, so air assets are not going to be the sole answer,” Mercer explained.
One analyst agreed that re-introducing the well deck and surface connectors such as Landing Craft Air Cushions, or LCACs, could allow for easier and more efficient ship-to-shore transport of heavier vehicles and amphibious units.
“It is expensive and labor intensive to bring a large amount of equipment through airlift. Vehicles have gotten heavier and complex over time,” said Ben Friedman, research fellow in defense and homeland security, Cato Institute, a D.C.-based think tank.
Friedman explained that during the late ‘90s and early ‘00’s the Pentagon was quick to emphasize lighter vehicles, sensors and the notion that heavier combat assets might be less crucial than was historically the case. This approach, however, was overturned by lessons learned during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which led to up-armoring and use of increasingly heavier vehicles.
“Even in a counterinsurgency environment there are a lot of advantages to a heavy vehicle,” Friedman added.
The requirements for the LHA 8 have been set for several years now, however some small changes here and there have led to tweaks of the Capabilities Development Document, Mercer said.
Bringing the well deck back to the ship will require that the ship’s island to be slightly smaller compared to the first two America-class amphibs.
Aviation-centric big-deck amphibs are configured with more deck-space than their predecessors Wasp and Tarawa-class amphibs are engineered with more hangar space to accommodate the MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter as well as other aviation assets.
LHA 6, the USS America, recently completed builder’s trials and is slated for formal delivery to the Navy later this year and fabrication and steel-work recently begun on the USS Tripoli or LHA 7, Mercer said.
Mercer said as many as 14 different design changes were made to the big-deck amphibs so that the ship could accommodate the heat generated by landings of the F-35B.
“Some changes were as small as putting covers over life rafts and covers over refueling stations and relocating antennas. These are all to help the flight deck accept heat input,” Mercer said.
Overall, the America-class amphibs are large warships. The 40,000-ton USS America, which completed sea trials in November of last year, can reach speeds of 24 knots and is 844 feet –long, Mercer said.
Also, the America-class amphibs use a hybrid-electric drive system, he added. Hybrid-electric drive for amphibs started in the 90s with Wasp-class amphibs, Mercer said.
“As we were delivering LHD 7 (USS Iwo Jima), it was very clear that we had to get away from steam plants with the inefficiencies and dangers and the training and maintenance and costs. In the late 90s large deck amphibs had a big change. We went with an electric drive option,” he said. “We put that in the USS Makin Island. Fuel savings efficiencies that we gained from a hybrid electric drive in a large deck amphib is moving forward and will only get better as we develop more electronics.”
Navy Seeks Rail Guns, Lasers, Cruise Missiles To Improve Pacific Firepower
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.on January 20, 2014 at 9:22 PM
A Navy cruiser launches a Harpoon anti-ship missile, a 1977 design unsuited for long-range war in the Pacific.
CRYSTAL CITY: “I’ve never wanted to enter any tactical scenario where all I had is a defensive capability. It’s a losing proposition,” said the chief of Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel Locklear. “You will defend yourself until you’re dead.”
That was the PACOM commander’s blunt and public response when I asked him about the chronic imbalance between the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Navy’s surface warships: its cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and controversial new Littoral Combat Ships. Other admirals had angsted over the issue at last week’s annual conference of the Surface Navy Association here, but it’s no coincidence the man who’d have to command any war with China was the bluntest.
The Navy’s has a three-step plan to boost firepower:
1.In the short term, revive the long-range skip-killing capability it lost when it phased out the 600 -mile-range Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) years ago.
2.In the mid term, free up missile launchers for offensive use by replacing defensive missiles — each of which can be used against incoming enemy aircraft or missiles just once — with lasers that can keep firing as long as the ship’s generators turn.
3.In the long term, equip ships with electromagnetic rail guns that can launch solid metal slugs at targets over the horizon at seven times the speed of sound.
“With respect to lasers, we’re talking more about defense,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of surface warfare for the Chief of Naval Operations (staff section N96), when I pulled him aside at the conference. “On the offensive side of the house, we have the electromagnetic rail gun.” Both will be able to fire far more times than any set of missile launchers; the laser will, in theory, hit incoming missiles at literally the speed of light; and the rail gun can fire projectiles at the enemy at velocities no missile can match.
“If you’re getting Mach 7,” Rowden told me, “speed is a difficult thing to defend against.”
That said, rail guns will complement long-range missiles, not replace them: While the rail gun shot would be harder to dodge, the missile can go much farther.
“We’ll have to see what kind of range we’re going to get out of the railgun,” Rowden said. So, I asked, would it ever be comparable to a Tomahawk cruise missile? The admiral laughed out loud. “No! I think it’d be Mach 40 or something like that to get the kind of range.” Rail gun tests to date have suggested they could hit targets up to 125 miles away.
All these weapons, of course, are in the near future. The triple-threat solution is still very much a work in progress, with all three prongs of the Navy’s new trident still in development:
1.The Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), though a derivative of a proven Air Force weapon, is still in testing, with contractor Lockheed Martin putting up $30 million of its own money to bridge a funding gap. “Our lack of urgency on development of the next generation of surface-launched, over-the-horizon cruise missiles is troubling,” Locklear told the conference.
2.The first prototype defense laser will deploy this summer to the Persian Gulf for tests in real conditions. But this baby-steps ray gun is only strong enough to shoot down relatively slow-moving drones, not supersonic anti-ship missiles. Even future high-powered lasers will remain relatively short-ranged defensive weapons, unable to fire at targets over the horizon and out of line of sight.
3.Finally, the Navy’s rail gun has managed some dramatic tests on land, but the weapon’s raw power wears out components — especially the barrel — at an impractical rate. Even when (or if) the Navy gets a rail gun it can fit on ships, only three vessels currently in service or on contract can generate enough electricity to fire one, specifically the three DDG-1000 Zumwalt-class destroyers.
Meanwhile potential adversaries have invested in ever more weapons designed to sink our ships, the most recent example being China’s test of a prototype “hypersonic” missile. (Hypersonic means at least five times the speed of sound).
“That particular test doesn’t bother me,” Locklear told the conference. “[But] this isn’t just about China…..A lot of nations are pursuing hypersonics,” he said, and whoever develops it, “it’s going to get sold.”
Even with current technology, US Navy warships are “out-sticked” by their Chinese counterparts: Their anti-ship missiles have longer range (click here for a great diagram), so they can hit us at distances where we can’t hit back.
Modern warfare is about much more than ships (or tanks, or planes) trading shots with their equal and opposite counterparts on the other side, of course. Today’s weapons range from torpedoes to computer viruses, and they can be launched by platforms ranging from airplanes to the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. Even if you specifically want to sink an enemy ship with an anti-ship missile, you don’t need your own ship to do it: You can use submarines, aircraft, or launchers ashore. Most Iranian and Chinese anti-ship missile launchers live on dry land.
That said, surface ships can sail far from their homeland to threaten targets a shore-based weapon cannot reach, and they can carry far more missiles than an aircraft or even a submarine. So sinking enemy ships is something the US Navy still needs to be able to do. The problem is that its main tool to do so, in the absence of a long-range cruise missile, is the disco-vintage Harpoon, a missile that entered service in 1977 and whose maximum range is roughly 75 miles.
“People pooh-pooh that Harpoon weapon system,” Rear Adm. Rowden told me. “I think that is a gross underestimation of that weapon.” That said, he went on, the Navy’s working hard “to ensure that we have those long range missiles [to fight for] sea control.”
The Harpoon can be fired from either the Navy’s mainstay F-18 fighter-bombers or from shipboard launchers, but the Navy has removed Harpoon systems from its frigates and never even installed them on its newer destroyers. In fact, the mainstay of the surface navy, the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke, was designed from the beginning not to attack the enemy but to defend the rest of the fleet, especially the aircraft carriers, with a radar and missile system called “Aegis,” after the goddess Athena’s shield. In recent years, Aegis has taken on a new defensive role in ballistic missile defense of cities and bases ashore.
That’s all useful, even essential, but we can no longer assume that no other navy will challenge us with its ships. “We need to think about what is surface warfare’s role in other than defensive operations,” Locklear said, “[and] pay more particular attention to the ability to show up on the scene and be lethal and be dominant.”
“This has been an issue for my entire career,” said Vice Adm. Thomas Copeman, commander of naval surface forces, speaking at the same conference. “We need to improve the offensive lethality of the entire surface force,” he said, “[and] free up more space in the missile launchers for offensive weapons.”
Future Platforms: Unmanned Naval Operations
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
January 21, 2014
This past summer, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert and I stood on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier GEORGE H.W. BUSH, at sea off the coast of Virginia. We watched as the X-47B unmanned aircraft, a sixty-two foot wingspan demonstrator, made its first arrested landing onboard an aircraft carrier. It was a historic moment for naval aviation.
Every Naval Aviator knows landing on an aircraft carrier is about the most difficult thing you can do as a pilot. Recovering the X-47B safely aboard the ship, with the autonomous system landing independent of its human operators, was a vital step toward our future vision of a Carrier Air Wing. In less than a decade, this future air wing will be made up of today’s F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters, MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, and advanced future platforms like the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and our next generation unmanned carrier aircraft.
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are America’s “Away Team.” We provide presence. We are where it counts when it counts, not just at the right time but all the time. We give the President and Combatant Commanders the flexibility they need to respond to any challenge. The platforms we buy to make up our fleet are an important part of our future. Unmanned systems are vital to our ability to be present; they lessen the risk to our Sailors and Marines and allow us to conduct missions that are longer, go farther, and take us beyond the physical limits of pilots and crews. Launching and recovering unmanned aircraft as large and capable as our manned fighters from the rolling decks of aircraft carriers is just one element of the future of maritime presence and naval warfare.
Helos Leading the Way
While we are designing and testing our fixed wing unmanned aircraft, some of our helicopter squadrons have been operating unmanned systems – both in combat and maritime security operations – for years. The MQ-8B Fire Scout is our current unmanned helicopter system. It has been conducting missions including patrolling against illicit trafficking in the Pacific, counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, and combat operations in Afghanistan and Libya. Since the Fire Scout’s first deployments in 2009 our ships, helicopter squadrons, and Marine Corps units have been working together to refine and expand how we use the platform.
The next generation Fire Scout, the MQ-8C with its greater payload and longer range, made its first flight last year. It will deploy in support of our Littoral Combat Ships and Special Operations units. In the past year, we have stood up our first two Fire Scout squadrons in San Diego to train and organize the operators and maintainers who will work on these aircraft. Meanwhile the Marines continue to experiment and operate with the Cargo Resupply Unmanned Aerial System (CRUAS) which carries cargo to patrol bases and forward operating bases in combat areas such as Afghanistan, eliminating the need for dangerous convoys and potentially saving lives.
Under, On & Over the Sea
The future of unmanned systems in the Navy and Marine Corps is focused on incorporating our people on manned platforms with unmanned systems to create an integrated force. A good example of this integration is the Mine Countermeasures Mission Module we are testing for the Littoral Combat Ship. This module includes a small remotely controlled submarine which tows a mine-hunting sonar to detect the mines, paired with a manned Seahawk helicopter which neutralizes the mines once they are found. The development team is also working with unmanned surface and air systems for autonomous mine sweeping, shallow water mine interdiction, and beach mine clearance. Nobody can argue with the idea that when clearing mines we should keep our Sailors out of the mine fields and let our unmanned systems take those risks.
Last spring we had the first test flight of the MQ-4 Triton unmanned maritime patrol aircraft, and earlier this month it passed the half-way point in its flight testing. Its 131-foot wingspan – 30 feet wider than the manned P-3C Orion maritime patrol planes we have flown for decades – makes it today’s largest unmanned platform. Triton’s long, slender wings allow it to stay in the air with its sensors for a day at time, providing persistent maritime coverage to the warfighter. Combined with the aircrews and operators aboard our new P-8 Poseidon manned maritime patrol aircraft, Triton will identify and track targets as necessary, ensuring that the fleet has a complete picture of what is happening at sea.
The Future Airwing
The X-47B is the culmination of an experimental program to prove that unmanned systems can launch and recover from the aircraft carrier. The program that follows this demonstrator will radically change the way presence and combat power is delivered as an integral part of the future carrier air wing. Known by the acronym UCLASS, for Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike system, it will conduct its missions over very long periods of time and at extreme distances while contributing to a wide variety of missions. It will make the carrier strike group more lethal, effective, and survivable. The end state is an autonomous aircraft capable of precision strike in a contested environment, and it is expected to grow and expand its missions so that it is capable of extended range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, tanking, and maritime domain awareness. It will be a warfighting machine that complements and enhances the capabilities already resident in our carrier strike groups.
Operating these platforms independently of a pilot, and with growing autonomy, greatly increases the possibilities for what we can do with them in the future. Unmanned carrier aircraft don’t require flights to maintain pilot proficiency; the operators can maintain their skills in the simulator. The planes will be employed only for operational missions, saving fuel costs and extending the service life of the aircraft. They also create the opportunity to advance new ways to use our aircraft, like developing new concepts for swarm tactics.
We are finalizing the requirements that will lead to a design for the UCLASS. We aren’t building them yet. We want to ensure we get the requirements and design set right before we start production in order to avoid the mistakes and cost overruns which have plagued some past programs. Meanwhile our other unmanned systems like the Fire Scout and Triton continue their success.
The Future of Naval Operations
Across the entire spectrum of military operations, an integrated force of manned and unmanned platforms is the future. The X-47B’s arrested landing aboard USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH showed that the Navy and Marine Corps are riding the bow wave of technological advances to create this 21st century force. But it is our Sailors and Marines that will provide the innovative thinking and develop the new ideas that are crucial to our success. The unmanned systems and platforms we are developing today, and our integrated manned and unmanned employment methods, will become a central part of the Navy and Marine Corps of tomorrow. They will help ensure we continue to be the most powerful expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known.
Ray Mabus is the 75th Secretary of the Navy, leading the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. He has served as Governor of the State of Mississippi, Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and as a surface warfare officer aboard USS Little Rock (CLG-4).
Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery
Navy Delays UCLASS Request for Proposal Amidst Requirement Evaluation
By: Dave Majumdar and Sam LaGrone
Published: January 22, 2014 12:12 PM
Updated: January 22, 2014 12:13 PM
The Northrop Grumman X-47B preparing to launch off of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on May, 2013. US Naval Institute Photo
The U.S. Navy has pushed back the release date again for a draft request for proposals (RfP) for its Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft program, service officials told USNI News.
“The UCLASS draft RfP is scheduled for release by the end of this quarter,” wrote Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove in a Tuesday statement to USNI News.
“The program team is exercising due diligence and great discipline in the formulation of the draft RFP and planned evaluation criteria to ensure the government’s objectives are best met. They are still on track to release a final air segment RFP for the technology development phase in third quarter FY [fiscal year] 14 and contract award in early FY15.”
According to sources familiar with the program, the Navy is revisiting the issue of performance requirements versus cost, which is likely to lead to yet another revision to the UCLASS’ specifications and draft RfP evaluation criteria.
The Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) offices have asked Naval Air Systems Command and the Under Secretary of Research, Development and Acquisition to submit a report on the ability of industry to create an aircraft within the cost parameters the Pentagon set with in the last year. The Navy’s key performance parameters (KPPs) require competitors in the UCLASS competition to conduct a 600 nautical mile orbit for $150 million for the cost of the system.
Navy leadership is scheduled to be briefed on findings this week, several sources told USNI News.
The Navy—as was revealed to USNI News on Dec. 20 during an interview with the service’s director of air warfare, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir — wants the UCLASS to be a highly capable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike platform.
The service also wants the UCLASS to have the ability to act as an aerial refueling tanker and have significant growth capacity—all of which will require a larger aircraft. Manazir had said the stealthy unmanned aircraft could weigh as much as 80,000lbs.
“Unfortunately, their current budget probably is not sufficient to get it regardless of how survivable it is,” one industry source told USNI News on Tuesday.
“So, the Navy will either have to make some hard choices [relative to the requirements] to stay within budget, or find additional funding in an already budget-constrained environment. It’s as simple as that.”
Further complicating matters are the requirements set forth by the U.S. Congress in the fiscal year 2013 and 2014 National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). The 2013 NDAA prohibits the Navy from down selecting to a single contractor until a preliminary design review is complete.
Meanwhile, the 2014 NDAA adds the mandate that the service may not acquire more than six UCLASS air vehicles prior to gaining Milestone B approval to enter into a formal Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase. The Navy’s original plan was to build about four air wings worth of UCLASS aircraft in the program’s Technology Development phase.
“All of this presents a dilemma for the Navy,” the industry source said.
Still, the service seems committed to a high-end capability for UCLASS.
“It will be a warfighting machine,” wrote Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in an editorial posted on the War on the Rocks blog on Tuesday.
“The end state is an autonomous aircraft capable of precision strike in a contested environment, and it is expected to grow and expand its missions so that it is capable of extended range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, tanking, and maritime domain awareness.”
At least some within industry believe that the Navy should consider taking a “time-out” to re-plan the program.
The Navy is still wrestling with the problem.
“We are finalizing the requirements that will lead to a design for the UCLASS,” wrote Mabus.
“We aren’t building them yet. We want to ensure we get the requirements and design set right before we start production in order to avoid the mistakes and cost overruns which have plagued some past programs.”