It’s All in the Package: the Littoral Combat Ship’s Mission Modules
Sept 30/14: UISS. AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, MD wins a $33.9 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for the purchase of the Unmanned Influence Sweep System to counter magnetic and acoustic mines. $4.75 million in FY 2014 US Navy RDT&E funds is committed immediately, and existing options could bring the contract’s cumulative value to $118.1 million.
The UISS prototype prototype performed well in tests during summer 2011, but the current system is actually the CUSV’s 4th generation. It includes improvements to the hull form, and a new propulsion system, less pitch and roll movement, and a larger payload bay that can accomodate 4 tested payloads: UISS mine neutralization, side-scan sonar, ISR, and nonlethal weapons. AAI already provides UAV control systems, and this system is similarly compliant with NATO STANAG 4586 and the USA’s Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) standards. Textron now has 2 years to finalize UISS’ development before the planned 2017 test.
Work will be performed in Hunt Valley, Maryland (72%); Slidell, Louisiana (24%); Hauppauge, NY (2%); Columbia, MD (1%); and Lemont Furnace, PA (1%), and is expected to be complete by March 2017. This contract was competitively procured via FBO.gov, with 5 offers received by NAVSEA in Washington, DC (N00024-14-C-6322). See also Defense Update, “LCS to get unmanned mine-sweeping boats, drones” | USNI, “Textron Division Wins $34 Million Contract For LCS Unmanned Minesweeper”.
Textron for UISS USV
Sept 16/14: MH-53Es. Internal U.S. Navy documents show that the US Navy is negotiating to acquire Japan’s retired fleet of MH-53E Sea Dragon heavy naval helicopters, harvesting them for parts in order to keep their own fleet flying until 2025. They might even need to fly some, as the US Navy has lost 3 MH-53Es over the last 18 months, cutting the fleet to 28 and forcing fleet-wide replacement of wiring bundles and fuel lines.
The MH-53E Sea Dragon fleet of heavy helicopters is used for mine-clearing from existing ships, using various equipment including the Mk.103 towed sled. The problem is that LCS MCM equipment delays and performance problems are forcing the Navy to keep them flying for a longer period of time. Meanwhile, spares are becoming a problem, because a lack of clear demand from the Navy caused many suppliers to cease production.
Japan sees mine clearing as a very important role, but they bought new MCH-101 variants of the AW101 to do it and retired the Sea Dragons. Remaining issues holding up the transfer reportedly include the need for high-level approval at the Pentagon, and the risk that Japan’s MH-53Es were exposed to radiological contamination in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Sources: Virginia-Pilot, “Navy wants to harvest retired Japanese helos for parts”.
What makes the USA’s Littoral Combat Ship designs truly different? They’re built with minimal fixed equipment and large empty spaces for modular gear, instead of a set array of weapons and mission electronics. Otherwise, they’re almost the size of Britain’s Type 23 frigates, and might well be classified as frigates, were it not for their shallow water design and equipment choices.
LCS is a great concept that has been marred by poor execution, and design decisions that have robbed it of flexibility in the one area where the ship is weakest. The US Navy is buying quite a few of them anyway, and so the capabilities of the ship’s mission packages will determine what kind of contribution they can make.
LCS = Standard Equipment + Mission Packages…
The Concept: Packages & Boxes
For whatever reason, high speed has also been identified as an important ship characteristic. As such, both the GD/Austal trimaran and Lockheed’s racing-derived monohull offer potential top speeds of 40-50 knots over short distances. That speed is very unusual in a vessel their size, but it isn’t the LCS’ most distinctive feature.
The terms have changed over time, but the US Navy has downgraded the term “mission modules” to mean individual components plus their support equipment. They’re generally containerized in fully outfitted ISO 20′ containers that include power and other connections built in per LCS specs. Integrated arrays of weapons, sensors, robotic vehicles, and manned platforms that can be switched in and out depending on the ship’s mission are now called “mission packages.” They include all task-related mission modules, onboard aircraft, and their corresponding crew detachments.
The original concept was to have these packages switch in and out of ships in under 72 hours. Wargaming simulations showed that even then, a clever enemy could yank the US Navy’s chain by switching the threat, and keeping the LCS ships in transit to ports for refits rather than on the front lines. In reality, recent GAO reports acknowledge that the required tools, need for specialized personnel, and other factors will make switch-outs a 3-week affair.
Mission packages still offer long-term fleet flexibility, therefore, but switch-outs aren’t realistic as a tactical option.
Each mission package will be fielded in at least 4 increments, stretching from 2014 – 2019. The base ships are:
Fixed equipment is minimal, but still present.
No matter which mission modules are loaded, American Littoral Combat Ships will carry a BAE Systems Mk.110 57mm naval gun with a firing rate of up to 220 rounds/minute, using Mk.295 ammunition whose fuzing makes it effective against aerial, naval, or ground threats.
Raytheon’s RIM-116 RAM Rolling Airframe Missile. RAM is designed to handle anti-ship missiles, aircraft, UAVs, helicopters, and even small boats, but its range of just 9 km/ 5 nm will only protect its own ship. Unlike larger missiles such as the RIM-162 ESSM, RAM systems cannot perform fleet defense.
Like all modern naval vessels, LCS ships will have onboard helicopters, in a mix of medium-sized MH-60 helicopters and/or MQ-8B/C Fire Scout helicopter UAVs. Other robotic vehicles will include a variety of Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUV) and Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV), which form the backbone of the mission packages.
The ships’ first and most important mission package isn’t officially listed. It consists of a small but very cross-trained crew. LCSs were intended to operate with a core crew of 40 sailors, plus a mission module detachment of 15 and an aviation detachment of 25. Each ship has a pair of 40-person crews (Blue and Gold), which will shift to 3 crews over time that can deploy in 4-month rotations.
There are concerns that this is a design weakness, leaving the LCS crew at the edge of its capabilities to just run the ship, with insufficient on-board maintenance capabilities, and too little left over for contingencies such as boarding and search, damage control, illnesses, etc. USS Freedom’s addition of 20 more bunks before her 1st Asian deployment, and the Navy’s decision to add or retrofit that extra capacity to every LCS, validated the point.
Beyond the human element, the LCS program will initially draw upon packages for Mine Warfare (MIW: 24 planned), Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW: 16 planned) and Surface Warfare (SUW: 24 planned). The LCS Mission Modules Program Office (PMS 420) packages a variety of technologies to these ends, many of which are produced by other program offices and delivered as elements of a particular mission module. Costs per module have gone down over time, but that hasn’t been from any genius in planning and fielding. Rather, it results from a high program failure rate of individual components, and their replacement in the program by less expensive items.
A 2014 report from the US CRS placed the cost of common installed equipment required by all packages at $14.9 million.
ASW Package: Sub-Hunter
The Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) module has experienced a lot of turbulence, and after early testing went poorly, the Navy is re-thinking this entire module.
In: A new General Dynamics USV, and acoustic sensors such as Lockheed’s SQR-20 multifunction towed array. The towed array will be accompanied by a ship-towed variable-depth sonar, and a towed torpedo countermeasure device. While the components themselves are mature, integration and testing will take a while. Fielding of the entire revised module is now slated for 2016.
Out: The Advanced Deployable System (ADS) had been at the heart of the ASW anti-submarine module. It was intended to be a fast-deploying underwater sensor net developed by Lockheed Martin under the Maritime Surveillance Systems program office (PMS 485). The Navy soon concluded that it needed a moving capability, rather than a barrier approach, and that was that for ADS.
The next ASW mainstay was expected to be Lockheed’s WLD-1 sub-surface USV towing the AN/AQS-20A, but it was relegated to mine warfare only in late 2009.
So far, the ability to carry a pair of MH-60R anti-submarine helicopters is the only thing that distinguishes an ASW-equipped LCS from a small corvette, and even there, LCS performance is likely to suffer by comparison. The towed sonars have depth limitations that may prevent their use in shallow water, and the LCS waterjets are so noisy that unlike an ASW corvette, a bow sonar isn’t really an option. In deeper water, GAO is concerned that the ship’s lack of defensive capabilities don’t make it survivable enough to act as an ASW escort beyond any initial attacks. Meanwhile, the lack of torpedo tubes or vertical launch cells remains a weakness, removing the ability to take fast shots at discovered submarines unless a helicopter is in the air already.
A 2014 report from the US CRS estimated the cost of the ASW Package at $20.9 million, with the caveat that it’s still in initial development.
MCM/MIW Package: Mine Detection & Clearance
The LCS’ Mine Counter-Measures package addresses a significant and growing threat around the world’s maritime chokepoints, even as proven assets with service life still remaining are being removed from the US Navy. To that end, the MIW is trying to integrate a number of systems developed by the Mine Warfare program office (PMS 495).
Initial equipment includes the AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting (RMS) UUV System towing an AQS-20A sonar, and a specialized MH-60S helicopter with the somewhat iffy Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (AES-1 ALMDS), and an Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) UUV. Even that won’t be available until late 2014.
The helicopter-based AMCM systems will eventually be supplemented by robotic partners in the air, on the surface, and underwater. In the air, UAVs will carry the COBRA system.
On the surface, RMS will be joined by the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) consists of an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), towing the Sweep Power Subsystem for combined acoustic and magnetic minesweeping.
Underwater, the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (SMCM) UUV includes 2 of Bluefin Robotics’ large Bluefin-21 UUVs and an advanced sonar payload developed by GD-AIS.
A number of current and previous MIW systems have failed outright or performed poorly in tests. Despite more than 6 years of development, the US Navy is still fielding older minesweeping systems and ad-hoc UUV/USV options like Seafox and Remus 600/ Kingfish to confront a serious mine threat around the Strait of Hormuz. Worse, weight and space limitations mean that MCM mission commanders will have either UISS and the unmanned surface vehicle that tows it, or the SMCM Knifefish – but not both systems.
A 2014 report from the US CRS estimated the cost of the MCM Package at $97.7 million.
See DID’s in-depth “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development” feature for more program details and updates, including current issues with each of the system’s components.
SUW: Surface Attack, So Under-Whelming
The Surface Warfare (SUW) attack module makes use of 4 weapon stations. In addition to the 57mm naval gun, firepower would include the same Mk.46 30mm cannon system used in the Marines’ canceled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. That level of armament would make the LCS a $550 million coast guard cutter in littoral regions filled with missile-armed fast attack craft, as well as motorboats with torpedoes.
Unfortunately, plans for the rest of this module have fallen apart.
In: The Navy was leaning toward a smaller, very short-range laser/GPS-guided missile called the AGM-176 Griffin B, but ended up choosing the radar-guided, fire and forget AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow missile instead. Range is about 3.5 miles, which is less than 1/6th of the Raytheon NLOS-LS PAM’s planned 25 mile range. This severe range cut, coupled with the warhead’s size, sharply limits LCS ranged engagement options. Hellfires are suitable for engaging maneuvering targets like enemy speedboats, but can’t function as naval fire support for ground forces, or engage Fast Attack Craft or larger vessels.
There are plans to use an improved missile, but reports indicate that the Navy may have to push any replacement missile back to 2020.
Out: Initial plans wanted to add a version of the US Army’s Non Line-of-Sight – Launch System (NLOS-LS), aka. NETFIRES. Each of 3 on-board weapon stations were sized to carry a Netfire “missile in a box” modules with 15 cells, for 45 missiles total. These precision attack missiles (PAM) roughly duplicated the effects of a 155mm shell, and had a range of up to 40 km/ 24 miles. Cost and development issues led to an Army pullout from the joint program in 2010, followed by Navy cancellation.
Note that even this system would have been badly outclassed by common anti-ship missiles mounted on enemy boats and ships, which offer ranges of 100 – 300 miles, and warheads packing 200 or more pounds of explosives. Successful 2014 test-firings of Kongsberg’s stealthy NSM anti-ship missile from the LCS-2 class are a step n this direction, but may be aimed at a derivative frigate design rather than LCS. What’s certain is that until the US Navy fields a capable SuW set, LCS’ surface attack module will remain a gaping weakness by comparison to any other naval combat vessel.
A 2014 report from the US CRS estimated the cost of the SUW Package at $32.6 million.
Think Inside the Box: Other Options
The LCS’s mission bays can also be adapted for other purposes. Indeed, one of the key benefits of the entire concept is that new mission modules can give ships new capabilities, in response to emerging needs over its lifetime, without creating massive refitting costs. Some ideas that have been floated include:
Housing: The Danish Absalon Class multi-mission frigates have already shown that reconfigurable bays can be adapted to carry troops and vehicles, in a manner reminiscent of the 1930s-era APDs adapted from World War 1 destroyers. Special Forces modules, Coast Guard/VBSS boarding team modules, and troop transport for Marines are obvious options, given the ships’ low draught, high speeds, flexible mission spaces, advanced communication systems, and ability to launch ancillary craft.
Medical: With military medical facilities already shifting toward ISO containers for deployment, they’re an obvious fit for LCS. EADS’ TransHospital is one of the most mature designs on the market, but not the only one.
NFS? The Marines were reportedly interested in a Naval Fire Support module, employing a variant of the Army/Marine Corps’ 227mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). That system might fix some of the LCS’ lackluster firepower at sea as well, especially given emerging MLRS guidance options. Their lack of recoil also poses fewer engineering problems than artillery-at-sea programs like Germany’s MONARC 155mm howitzer, or Britain’s naval Braveheart.
At present, there are no firm plans for an MLRS mission module, and developments elsewhere are beginning offer 5″/ 127mm naval guns ultra long-range (LRLAP 5″, Vulcano) GPS-guided shells with a 55+ mile reach. LCS can’t use those weapons, which means the task has to be taken up by $2+ billion ships capable of ballistic missile defense.
Surveying: Ocean environment data can be extremely relevant to missions like submarine hunting. The prototype PLUS (Persistent Littoral Undersea Surveillance) system creates an undersea network with 6 Kongsberg Marine Remus 600 UUVs, and 5 slow but silent University of Washington Sea Glider UUVs that dive to pick up and relay Remus data. PEO LCS is managing development, but LCS hasn’t been picked as the platform yet.
ISR/Strike. Under DARPA’s TERN (Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node) program, the USA is trying to come up with a UAV that can take off and land from the LCS 2 Independence Class, LSD/LPD amphibious ships, JHSV ships, or even DDG-51 destroyers. It would carry a 600 pound ISR/strike payload on missions up to 900 nmi from the ship, and carry a maximum ISR/strike payload of 1,000 pounds. DARPA will accept a threshold 500 pound/ 4kW ISR payload, with an operating radius of 600 nmi, which can operate only from the LCS 2 Independence Class.
If DARPA succeeds, TERN could become an important carrier for some mission module payloads (COBRA), partially replace the surface scan volume coverage once provided by now-retired S-3 Viking sea control jets, and provide the LCS Surface Warfare module package with its 1st truly useful capability: a persistent ISR/strike option that doesn’t exist yet in the US Navy.
The larger question, if and when TERN is handed off to the Navy or USMC, is why the LCS? The Navy’s ultimate goal of deploying TERN aboard DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers would offer a big step forward for US Navy capabilities as a whole, while diluting the LCS’ uniqueness beyond LCS-2’s huge deck size and storage volume. Would the Navy even want to pay to switch out or supplement its beloved MH-60R ASW helicopters aboard a destroyer? Deployment as a partner asset for the US Marine Corps aboard LPD/LSD amphibious ships might be a more natural fit all around. In a tight budget environment, however, even that might have to compete with more capable fixed-wing UAVs that could deploy from a flat-top LHA/LHD amphibious air support ship.
Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, all contracts are issued by the USA’s Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC.
Some items are covered separately. Mine countermeasures technologies covered in full at “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development“, but notes and link entries may also appear here for some events, in order to provide an integrated timeline perspective or reference specific ships. The same is true for Raytheon’s RAM air defense and surface attack missile, and its Griffin missile.
Note that the structure of weapon contracts like the RAM, Mk-46 gun, Mk-110 gun, etc. may not announce all systems, or connect all systems to a specific ship. Inclusions here should be considered illustrative, rather than comprehensive.
MQ-8Bs deploying in mixed UAV/H-60 squadrons; RMS testing.
Sept 23/14: SuW? The US Navy confirms a successful live fire test of Kongsberg’s stealthy Naval Strike Missile from USS Coronado [LCS 4], via a launcher mounted on the flight deck. The Navy is noncommittal about issuing a requirement that would lead to NSM integration with LCS, beyond deployment as part of any SSC derivatives. Sources: US Navy, “Navy Successfully Tests Norwegian Missile from LCS 4″ | Kongsberg, “Successful test firing of KONGSBERG’S Naval Strike Missile from US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship” | USNI, “Norwegian Missile Test On Littoral Combat Ship Successful.”
Sept 22/14: TERN Phase II. DARPA/ONR follow up with contract modifications to Phase II for the long-range TERN ISR/Strike naval V/STOUAV (q.v. Aug 26/13). Phase II narrows the field to 2 contenders and will conclude with sub-scale flight demonstrations by Sept 30/15. Carter Aviation’s slowed-rotor compound helicopter appears to be out, along with MAPC’s design. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, VA manages the contracts (HR0011-13-C-0099, PO 0002), and the winners were:
AeroVironment Inc. in Monrovia, CA receives a $19 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, for a cumulative total of $21.4 million so far. $5.75 million in FY 2014 DARPA RDT&E funds is committed immediately. Work will be performed in Monrovia, CA (80%); Tucson, AZ (5%); Fort Worth, TX (10%); and Sparks, NV (5%).
Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, CA, receives a $19.3 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, for a cumulative total of $22.1 million so far. Work will be performed in El Segundo, CA (48%), San Diego, CA (30%), Cincinnati, Ohio (5%); Benbrook, TX (15%); and Mojave, CA (2%).
In FY 2016, a single contractor will be picked to build the Phase III full scale demonstrator. Note that in May 2014 DARPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) that turned TERN into a joint program with the US Navy. ONR staffed Gil Graff as their deputy program manager, under DARPA PM Daniel Patt. Patt hopes that this early partnership with a service could become a template for DARPA. Sources: DARPA, “Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN)” | DARPA, “DARPA’s New TERN Program Aims for Eyes in the Sky from the Sea ” | FBO | AeroVironment, “DARPA Awards AeroVironment Phase II Tern Contract to Develop New Class of Maritime Unmanned Aircraft” | Northrop Grumman, “Northrop Grumman Advances Unmanned Systems Capabilities for Maritime Missions”.
TERN UAV Phase II
July 30/14: GAO weighs in. The US GAO releases another LCS-related report, which looks at overall ship weight and addresses ship mission packages. The LCS-2 Independence Class in particular lacks weight flexibility, maxing out at just 3,188.0 tons for its Naval Architectural Limit (NAL). The LCS-1 Freedom Class has a better weight margin and 3,550 ton NAL, but far less internal space. Meanwhile, a proposed move to shift both classes to a common SeaRAM air defense system up top would add extra weight to the LCS-1 class, and may create sea-keeping issues. In terms of the mission packages, it means that the 105 ton limit is likely to be a hard ceiling, which could make full exploitation and modernization more difficult and more costly. It’s already hitting the MIW/MCM package:
“Navy weight estimates for increment 4 of the MCM mission package, however, do not reflect all the systems being acquired for that package. Space and weight constraints have required the Navy to modify how it intends to outfit increment 4 of the MCM mission package. Although the Navy plans to acquire all the systems planned for that increment, space and weight limitations will not allow LCS seaframes to carry all of these systems at one time. According to LCS program officials, MCM mission commanders will have either (1) the Unmanned Influence Sweep System and the unmanned surface vehicle that tows it, or (2) the minehunting Surface Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle—called Knifefish – available – but not both systems. As a result, LCS seaframes outfitted with the increment 4 MCM package may have decreased minesweeping or mine detection capability.”
Mission system related recommendations from the front-lines include replacing the LCS-1 variant’s “unreliable and poorly performing” WBR-2000 electronic warfare system from Argon ST, storing sonobuoys on board even if the ASW package isn’t loaded so that the ship has some ability to react, and developing an ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) mission package to augment existing capabilities. Of course, sonobuoys on board add weight, and an ISR module that might otherwise take advantage of the LCS-2 Independence Class’ spacious mission package area may not be usable alongside other modules if the result is too much weight. Sources: GAO-14-749, “Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments.”
July 17/14: SuW. Navy Recognition interviews a US Navy representative re: the Surface to Surface Mission Module aboard LCS, which will sit above the helicopter hangar on the Freedom Class, and behind the 57mm gun on the Independence Class. Key excerpts:
“Longbow Hellfire is the selected missile to help meet the LCS Surface Warfare Mission Package’s (SUW MP) engagement requirement per the LCS Capabilities Description Document (Flight 0+). Currently, no new requirement exists to warrant acquisition of a new engagement capability…. An LCS variant can only receive one SUW mission package. This will have one Surface-to-surface Missile Module (SSMM), which will utilize one launcher structure that holds 24 Longbow Hellfire missiles…. There currently is no requirement for at-sea reloads.Therefore, the current SSMM design does not support at-sea reloads… It utilizes an existing Army M299 launcher mounted within a gas containment system.”
Looks like Raytheon’s SeaGriffin has lost its shot, despite tripling its previously-comparable range and adding comparable fire-and-forget capability in its latest iteration. Sources: Navy Recognition, “Q & A with the US Navy on Lockheed Martin Hellfire missiles for Littoral Combat Ships”.
May 30/14: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $20.9 million contract modification to provide integration services for LCS mission packages, as part of ongoing development and changes.
All funds are committed immediately, using a combination of Fy 2014 and 2015 budgets. Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (44%); Oxnard, CA (16%); Washington, DC (14%); Panama City, FL (10%); Dahlgren, VA (8%); San Diego, CA (4%); Hollywood, MD (2%); Andover, MA (1%); and Middletown, RI (1%), and is expected to be complete by January 2015. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-06-C-6311).
April 9/14: SUW – Hellfire. The US Navy confirms that they have picked the AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow radar-guided missile as the SUW Package’s initial missile. Its fire and forget guidance, salvo capability, and ability to use the ship’s radar tipped the balance.
Lockheed Martin’s Hellfire wouldn’t have any more range than Raytheon’s Griffin (~3.5 nmi), but the radar seeker allows the ship’s radar to perform targeting, while allowing salvos of multiple fire-and-forget missiles against incoming swarms. In contrast, the Griffin’s laser designation must target one boat at a time, from a position that’s almost certain to have a more restricted field of view.
Lockheed Martin says that the missile has had 3 successful test firings in vertical launch mode, and there are plans to test-fire the missile from LCS in 2014, using a new vertical launcher. Navy AGM-114L missiles would be drawn from existing US Army stocks, which will have shelf life expiry issues anyway. That’s one reason the Army intends to begin buying JAGM laser/radar guided Hellfire derivatives around FY 2017. Sources: DoD Buzz, “Navy Adds Hellfire Missiles to LCS” | USNI News, “Navy Axes Griffin Missile In Favor of Longbow Hellfire for LCS”.
Hellfire in for SUW, Griffin out
March 31/14: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2013, plus time to compile and publish. With respect to the mission modules, The Navy isn’t happy with the GAO’s comparison of the program against the FY 2008 baseline, as it doesn’t reflect the total acquisition. GAO responds that:
“In comparing the 2007 estimate with the acquisition program baseline, we used the Navy’s 2007 data, which included full procurement costs but only five years of development cost. The Navy has acquired eight packages [4 MCM, 4 SUW, will add 2 MCMs in FY 2014] without proving capability through operational testing…”
Which GAO sees as a bad idea. GAO program totals are reflected in this article’s charts, and their comments regarding the readiness level and timing of the “LCS Packages Program” have been discussed in detail by DOT&E and by other GAO reports.
Feb 25/14: CRS Report. The US Congressional Research Service revises their Background and Issues for Congress report. While the report includes useful information about the program’s history, and details some of the current problems with both seaframes, the report’s pricing for mission packages is very useful. According to an Aug 26/13 Navy document
- Common equipment for all sets = $14.9 million
- MCM Package = $97.7 (TL $112.6) million
- SUW Package = $32.6 (TL $47.4) million
- ASW Package is $20.9 (TL $35.8) million, though it hasn’t been fielded yet.
On the other hand, given that the MCM package has been cut down sharply and continues to report problems, key mission packages like ASW haven’t been fielded yet, and that some aspects like waterjet propulsion are ill-suited to the ASW mission, it’s hard to see the basis for saying:
“When assessed in terms of ability to perform the LCS program’s three primary missions [Mines, Small boats, and Submarines in shallow waters], the LCS fares well in terms of weaponry and other ship features in comparisons with frigate and corvette designs operated by other navies.”
Sources: US CRS, “Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background and Issues for Congress”.
Feb 24/14: LCS cut. The Pentagon’s FY 2015 pre-budget briefing on the LCS seems to say that the number of ships will drop to 32, which would have implications for the number of mission modules:
“Regarding the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, I am concerned that the Navy is relying too heavily on the LCS to achieve its long-term goals for ship numbers. Therefore, no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward. With this decision, the LCS line will continue beyond our five-year budget plan with no interruptions.
The LCS was designed to perform certain missions – such as mine sweeping and anti-submarine warfare – in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the protection and firepower to survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific. If we were to build out the LCS program to 52 ships, as previously planned, it would represent one-sixth of our future 300-ship Navy. Given continued fiscal constraints, we must direct shipbuilding resources toward platforms that can operate in every region and along the full spectrum of conflict.”
They haven’t actually terminated the program at 32, and they can negotiate for up to 8 ships beyond the current block buy that ends in FY 2015. Even so, the Mission Module program is likely due for an adjustment. Sources: US DoD, “Remarks By Secretary Of Defense Chuck Hagel FY 2015 Budget Preview Pentagon Press Briefing Room Monday, February 24, 2014″ | Bloomberg, “Hagel Expands on Reservations’ About Littoral Combat Ship”.
Just 32 LCS
Jan 14/14: SUW – Hellfire? At the Surface Navy Association 2014 Symposium, PMS 420 (LCS Mission Modules) head Rear Adm. John Ailes says that the Navy is very strongly considering the AGM-114L Hellfire Longbow radar-guided missile as the ship’s initial SUW surface-strike missile. Sources: IHS Jane’s “Surface Navy 2014: USN weighing Longbow Hellfire against Griffin missile for LCS” | USNI News, “SNA 2014: Navy Won’t Rule Out Army Longbow Hellfire for LCS”.
Dec 9/13: MIW – WLD-1. The RMS (remote minehunting system: WLD-1 USV + AQS-20A sonar) completes developmental testing, to see if it can finally meet reliability, suitability and effectiveness requirements. The tests ran from Oct 22/13 – Dec 9/13, and the US Navy says that the system achieved its test objectives.
RMS operational assessment is scheduled for January 2014, off the coast of Palm Beach, FL. The complete LCS mine countermeasures mission package will undergo developmental testing in summer 2014, but initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) is scheduled for 2015. Sources: USN, “LCS Remote Minehunting System Completes Developmental Testing”.
Nov 15/13: MQ-8B. USS Fort Worth [LCS 3] spends Nov 5-13/13 conducting testing with the MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV in the Point Mugu Test Range, CA. USS Fort Worth is scheduled to deploy in 2014 with “The Mad Hatters” of HSM-35, Detachment 1. The Navy’s first “composite” Air Detachment will include both a manned SH-60R helicopter and smaller MQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAVs. Sources: USN, “USS Fort Worth Launches First UAV, Demonstrates LCS Capability”.
Nov 7/13: SUW. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Surface Warfare Mission package, which is to say its 57mm and 30mm guns, successfully complete Phase 2 of developmental testing aboard USS Fort Worth [LCS 3] at Point Mugu, CA. You’d hope a ship worth half-a billion dollars would be able to defend itself from a motorboat while at sea. Now, what about the rest of its missions? Sources: USN, “LCS Surface Warfare Package Completes Live-Fire Test” | Defense Tech, “LCS Defends Against Swarm Boats in Live Fire Tests”.
GAO report highlights the shaky state of the mission modules; Mine module becoming an urgent need; DARPA’s TERN UAV.
Sept 3/13: MCM. With over $50 billion in cuts coming, the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s ALT POM reportedly proposed to end LCS buys with the current contract, at just 24 ships. The Navy is pushing to buy at least 32.
On the other hand, OSD is reportedly insisting that the Navy place a top priority on fielding the mine countermeasures (MCM) module, in light of challenges around the Strait of Hormuz and elsewhere. One would think this would have been obvious years ago. Sources: Defenseworld, “U.S. To Limit Littoral Combat Ship Purchase”.
Aug 26/13: TERN. Initial DARPA awards for Phase 1 development of TERN UAVs (q.v. March 26/13), which would offer vertical or near-vertical takeoff, coupled with the weapon/ISR payload and endurance class of a Predator fixed-wing UAV. Proposals were due by May 10/13, and awards included:
- AeroVironment in Monrovia, CA: $2.3 million. UAV innovator for over 20 years. Sierra Nevada Corporation will subcontract to AeroVironment for ship integration.
- Carter Aviation in Wichita Falls, TX: $2.23 million. Their key design is a slowed-rotor compound helicopter that has solved several key technical issues faced by 1950s-era SR/C concepts, and can break the Mu-1 barrier.
- Maritime Applied Physics Corp. (MAPC) in Baltimore, MD: $2.2 million. Their work in robotics has been focused on surface vehicles and control systems, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
- Northrop Grumman Systems in San Diego, CA: $2.86 million. Manufacturer of the Bell 407-derived MQ-8C Fire Scout VTUAV.
While TERN is very promising in several areas, and the LCS-2 Independence Class are its focus ships, it can’t become part of a Mission Package until and unless the Navy or USMC adopts DARPA’s result as a program of record. Sources: FBO.gov | Aerovironment release, Nov 4/13 | Carter Aviation release, Sept 26/13 [PDF] | sUAS News, “AeroVironment joins DARPA program to develop long-range UAVs for launch from small ships”.
Aug 15/13: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $25.3 million contract modification to provide 3 (unspecified) mission modules, support containers, and engineering and production planning services for LCS mission packages. All funds are committed immediately.
Work will be performed in Huntsville, AL (48%); Portsmouth, VA (30%); Bethpage, NY (18%); Manchester, NH (2%); and Hollywood, MD (2%), and is expected to be complete by September 2015 (N00024-06-C-6311).
July 25/13: PLUS. Ocean environment data can be extremely relevant to missions like submarine hunting. The prototype PLUS (Persistent Littoral Undersea Surveillance) system creates an undersea network with 5 slow but silent University of Washington Sea Glider UUVs, and 6 faster and larger Kongsberg Marine Remus 600 UUVs. The Remuses act as deep sea sensors. The Sea Gliders dive underwater to collect data, then return to the surface to transmit that data to a collection and processing station; Iridium connections can call the data in to any location on the globe.
US Naval Sea Systems Command explain the system, and announce initial training and trials in Sea Glider’s UUV. Testing will continue until early 2015, when the Navy plans to deploy the system for overseas operations as a user operational evaluation. Depending on how things go, PLUS may become a go on to wider fielding.
It’s being fielded by PEO LCS, but the LCS hasn’t been picked as its platform yet. PLUS is designed to easily deploy from any ship with a winch and crane and sufficient storage capacity. They’re probably looking at at least 3 containers worth of space, which makes things a bit tight on an LCS, though the Independence Class’ large mission module space may make it a decent candidate. PLUS could also deploy on higher capacity ships like JHSVs or amphibious assault vessels. US NAVSEA.
July 22/13: GAO Report. The US GAO releases GAO-13-530, “Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost”. The entire report is a long chronicle of the Littoral Combat Ship program’s history of falling short and unresolved issues, including a number of issues with the mission modules. GAO’s recommendation: slow buys to the very minimum until technical and testing issues are sorted out. Some unclassified issues were already noted in the 2013 Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs (q.v. March 28/13), but new information includes…
ASW: The new towed-array sonar, towed variable depth sonar, and towed torpedo countermeasures are mature technologies, but they’ll take a while to integrate into LCS, hence 2016. Outside observers beyond GAO have noted that waterjet propulsion systems are pretty noisy (q.v. May 5/13), and GAO agrees that towing sonars off of a much quieter research vessel during early testing may not be a useful guide to the challenges they’ll face aboard LCS. In addition:
“DOD Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation officials have raised concerns about the new ASW configuration’s deepwater escort capabilities, stating that LCS is not designed to be survivable enough to stay and defend the escorted ship if potential adversaries attack. Further, OPNAV officials told us that with this new configuration the LCS will still be able to conduct littoral ASW, but that the water depths in which the LCS could operate may be limited because of the depths required to support deploying the towed arrays.”
MCM: Specific components are dealt with in a dedicated article. Unfortunately:
“…the concept of employment for the MCM mission package currently does not include embarked explosive ordinance disposal teams that are used on the existing mine countermeasures fleet… they are investigating how to integrate this capability…. to not only [eliminate] mines, but… exploit found mines for intelligence value, and OPNAV has identified their absence as a capability gap.”
SUW: Griffin missiles have been deployed on Cyclone Class patrol boats, but they may never be deployed aboard LCS:
“The Navy assessed over 50 potential missile replacements for LCS, and in January 2011 selected the Griffin IIB missile as an interim solution based, in part, on it costing half of [NLOS-LS per missile]. The program now intends to purchase one unit with a total of eight Griffin IIB missiles, to be fielded in 2015, which leave other SUW module equipped ships with a limited ability to counter surface threats. However, Navy officials told us that they may reconsider this plan because of funding cuts related to sequestration. According to OPNAV, funding for Griffin development and testing has been suspended for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. OPNAV and the LCS program office, with LCS Council oversight, plan to investigate using a more cost-effective, government-owned, surface-to-surface missile system that would provide increased capability, including increased range. According to Navy program officials, the deployment of the Increment IV [Griffin successor] missile could also be delayed by over a year [i.e. to 2020] because funding reductions have delayed early engineering work and proposal development for the missile contract.”
General: In dangerous environments, LCS’ specialty function will only be available close to a deployed group. This has long been known, and was accepted in the original LCS vision, but it’s still a notable drawback compared to similarly-expensive ships:
“…since LCS has only a self-defense anti-air warfare capability, it will require protection from a cruiser or destroyer in more advanced anti-air warfare environments, which reduces the LCS’s ability to operate independently and occupies the time of more capable surface combatants that might be better employed elsewhere.”
June 28/13: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $19.4 million contract modification provide ongoing mission LCS module engineering and production planning services. $5.9 million in FY 2013 RDT&E funding is committed immediately.
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (44%); Oxnard, CA (16%); Washington, D.C. (14%); Panama City, FL (10%); Dahlgren, VA (8%); San Diego, CA (4%); Hollywood, MD (2%); Andover, MA (1%); and Middletown, RI (1%); and is expected to be complete by June 2014. US Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington D.C. manages the contract (N00024-06-C-6311).
June 27/13: Kingfish MCM substitute. The US Navy announces that it has deployed MK18 MOD 2 Kingfish mine-detecting UUVs to the “5th Fleet Area of Responsibility” (read: Persian Gulf). The contractor-operated Kingfish isn’t part of AMCM, it’s an independent program based on the commercial REMUS 600, and it’s replacing the in-theater MK18 MOD 1 Swordfish that’s based on Kongsberg Marine’s smaller REMUS 100. The Kingfish’s Small Synthetic Aperture Sonar Module (SSAM) configuration provides wider sonar swath scan, higher resolution imagery, and buried target detection.
While it’s currently contractor-operated, the US Navy does intend to begin operating them in 2015. It probably could be loaded onto a Littoral Combat ship as an interim measure, ahead of the planned 2017 in-service date for Bluefin Robotics’ Knifefish SMCM UUV. US Navy.
May 2/13: New waterjets for LCS-1 class. LCS 5 Milwaukee will be the first Freedom Class ship to try out a set of 4 new waterjets. The technology was developed by Rolls-Royce Naval Marine in Walpole, MA, in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Carderock Division. The joint project under ONR’s Future Naval Capabilities program began in 2007, and the April delivery to Marinette Marine marked its successful completion. The waterjets will be made in the United States, with primary manufacturing at Rolls-Royce facilities in Walpole, MA and Pascagoula, MS.
The new 22MW Axial-Flow Waterjet Mk-1 can reportedly move nearly 500,00 gallons of seawater per minute, providing more thrust per unit than the current commercial waterjets. Researchers believe the smaller, more efficient waterjets will help the LCS avoid excessive maintenance costs and ship component damage associated with cavitation. On the other hand, Information Dissemination points out an issue:
“Here is the problem. Waterjets are incredibly loud, as in they can be so loud that a ship with waterjets is probably going to significantly reduce the effectiveness of a bow sonar…. there is no bow mounted sonar [on LCS] and waterjets is why there never will be…. ONR is going to deliver super waterjets, which may increase the speed of LCS a knot or two, who knows. Here is the problem though – waterjets are still loud like a rock concert, and one of the primary missions of the LCS is to hunt littoral submarines.
When will this program start being about mission and stop being about features?”
Sources: USN, “New Waterjets Could Propel LCS to Greater Speeds” | Rolls Royce, Feb 21/12 release. | Information Dissemination, “More Speed!”
March 28/13: GAO Report. The US GAO tables its “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs“. Which is actually a review for 2012, plus time to compile and publish. The Navy owns 3 MCM (mine, 1st delivery Sept. 2007) and 4 SUW (“surface warfare”, 1st delivery July 2008) mission modules, and has completely re-started the ASW anti-submarine module. Several of the sub-systems in these modules are still experiencing performance problems, many components are still in development, and the Navy has yet to fully integrate these technologies and test them on board an LCS in a realistic environment. In October 2012, DOD delegated future decision authority to the Navy and requested an acquisition program baseline within 60 days – which was not delivered on schedule.
MCM: The Navy plans to accept 1 more in 2013, but it doesn’t meet requirements. The MH-60S helicopter can’t tow the AQS-20A sonar as planned, the WLD-1 USV has performance issues, the ALMDS laser system gets too many false positives from surface reflections, and the RAMICS gun and OASIS decoy are out. Nonetheless, the Navy describes recent MCM tests as “very successful” – a characterization that isn’t backed up by subsequent reports. The Navy plans to conduct developmental testing in FY 2014 and establish initial operational capability with 7 MCM modules in September 2014. Full operational capability isn’t expected until 2018, by which time the Navy is expected to have 21 LCS ships in service, and 28 ordered.
SUW: Does not meet requirements. At the moment it’s just the 57mm gun up front, a pair 30mm guns, a helicopter, and an 11m RHIB small boat for boarding teams. This is about what a coast guard cutter carries, and it still won’t reach initial operational capability before September 2014. Even the Griffin missile with its miniscule 3 nmi range isn’t expected before 2015, and a competition for a missile with a more serious tactical range isn’t expected before 2019.
ASW: Canceled and has been restarted. The Navy plans for initial delivery in 2016, and full operational capability in 2018. The design is stripped down, involving a ship-based variable-depth sonar, towed array, and towed torpedo decoy for defense.
March 26/13: TERN. DARPA issues its Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node RFP. DARPA wants a UAV that can take off and land from the LCS 2 Independence Class, LSD/LPD amphibious ships, JHSV ships, or even DDG-51 destroyers. It would carry a 600 pound ISR/strike payload on missions up to 900 nmi from the ship, and carry a maximum ISR/strike payload of 1,000 pounds. They’ll accept a threshold 500 pound/ 4kW ISR payload, with an operating radius of 600 nmi, which can operate only from the LCS 2 Independence Class.
Either set of specifications are challenging for a conventional helicopter, including Northrop Grumman’s MQ-8C Fire Scout full-size helicopter UAV. Small fixed wing designs like Boeing’s ScanEagle can be launched and recovered to the threshold distances from a conventional warship, but they aren’t big enough to carry much payload. That’s why this is a DARPA project, rather than an off-the-shelf buy. While TERN could fill some useful niches for the ASW, MCM, and SuW modules, it can’t become part of a Mission Package until the Navy or USMC adopts DARPA’s result as a program of record.
Phase I will include concept definition activities (technical feasibility, low-cost demonstration system design, technical plan), with $9 million invested over 4 contenders (it actually totaled $9.6 million, vid. Sept 3-6/13). If TERN is seen as having enough potential, a single design will be picked, with up to $42 million for Phase II/III development, and a planned flight demonstration in summer 2016. Phase II will be a technology maturation phase that will include system preliminary design and risk reduction demonstrations, and Phase III will demonstrate the prototype. DARPA, TERN page | FBO.gov solicitation #DARPA-BAA-13-28.
March 18/13: IOC delays. Jane’s quotes director of navy staff Vice-Admiral Richard Hunt, who says that the Continuing Resolutions have “delayed us probably a year for IOC [initial operational capability] for a couple of those different modules…” The Mine Counter-Measures package is most affected, which makes sense because it has many components that are still in advanced development. The Anti-Submarine Warfare package is least affected, which again is not surprising as there isn’t much there to suffer from funding delays. Sources: IHS Jane’s, “US fiscal challenges delaying LCS mission modules, official says”.
March 15/13: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $28.6 million contract modification to provide engineering and production planning services for LCS mission packages. To date, those efforts haven’t gone very well, with many technologies failed out and no truly ready sets over 7 years after development began.
Work will be performed in Portsmouth, VA (32%); Huntsville, AL (25%); Bethpage, NY (21%); Manchester, NH (11%); Silver Creek, NY (10%); Hollywood, MD (1%), and is expected to be completed by September 2014. All monies are committed immediately, using FY 2012 Navy Operations & Maintenance funding (N00024-06-C-6311).
Jan 17/13: DOT&E Testing Report. The Pentagon releases the FY 2012 Annual Report from its Office of the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E). The LCS mission modules still have a lot of issues. There isn’t anything left to test any more in the ASW anti-submarine module, for instance, so DOT&E didn’t report on it while the Navy considers a re-start.
Mine Warfare: Begin with the MH-60S helicopter, which isn’t powerful enough to safely tow the AQS-20A sonar or OASIS decoy under all of the required conditions. Both are being removed from AMCM, and OASIS is removed from the MIW module. This would seem to be the epitome of a forseeable/ easily testable problem, but it’s being “discovered” 7 years after development began. Why?
The AQS-20A will now depend on the WLD-1 RMMV snorkeling USV, which is trying to correct its reliability and performance issues by 2015. RMMV v4.1 is showing some improvements in limited testing, but the ships themselves need to make changes to launch and recover it while underway. The AQS-20A sonar has its own problems with contact depth calculations in all modes, and with false contacts in 2 of 3 search modes. The Navy hopes to find AQS-20 engineering fixes. Meanwhile, in order to reduce those errors, the Navy will have to slow its scan methods and reduce the area covered.
The AES-1 ALMDS laser mine-detection system doesn’t meet Navy requirements for False Classification Density or reliability, and the DOT&E expects to issue a formal test report in Q2 FY2013. The Navy hopes to find engineering fixes. Meanwhile, in order to reduce those errors, the Navy will have to slow its scan methods and reduce the area covered. Some reports suggest that ALMDS will be cut entirely, but the raft of other MCM system casualties may force the Navy to keep it.
Surface Warfare: Still useless against anything but a lightly-armed motorboat, but that’s beyond GAO’s purview. What they do say is that the Navy hasn’t not finalized any tactical idea of how the ships will be used with the SUW mission module. Even within this limited set, the MK46 “30 mm guns and associated combat system exhibit reliability problems,” and the Freedom Class has performance deficiencies with its COMBATSS-21 combat system and TRS-3D radar that affect tracking and engagement of contacts.
Dec 28/12: RMS. Lockheed Martin in Riviera Beach, FL receives a $12.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee delivery order to perform Remote Minehunting System/WLD-1 USV maintenance, testing and integration with the with Littoral Combat Ship. The WLD-1 is currently working on improving its reliability and performance, after falling short in these areas.
Work will be performed in Palm Beach, FL (87%), and Syracuse, NY (13%), and is expected to be complete by May 2013. $5.3 million is committed immediately, and $295,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract (N00024-10-G-6306).
Dec 20/12: AMNS. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems in Portsmouth, RI receives a $7.9 million contract modification, covering AMNS’ Critical Design Review.
Work will be performed in Portsmouth, RI, and is expected to be complete by July 2013. All contract funds are committed immediately, and $4.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/13. US NAVSEA in Washington DC in is the contracting activity (N00024-10-C-6307).
FY 2011 – 2012
NLOS-LS missile cancelled; Griffin very short range strike missile for SUW instead?; SMCM Bluefin-21 UUV for mines; UISS from USV for mines; RAMICS in trouble.
Feb 15/12: Support. Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives an $18.7 million contract modification to provide LCS Mission Module engineering and production planning services. “Mission package capabilities are currently focused on primary mission areas of mine warfare emphasizing mine countermeasures, littoral anti-submarine warfare, and littoral surface warfare operations, including prosecution of small boats.”
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (45%); Washington, DC (20%); Panama City, FL (20%); Ventura County, CA (10%); and Dahlgren, VA (5%), and is expected to be completed by December 2012. US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC manages the contract.
Feb 10/12: Armed USVs. US Navy expeditionary warfare division branch chief Capt. Evin Thompson says that they are looking to arm their MUSCL (Modular Unmanned Surface Craft Littoral) USV unmanned boats with RAFAEL’s Spike anti-tank missile. Navy officials initially tested the weapon’s performance during the Trident Warrior exercise, aboard a USV originally designed as part of the LCS anti-submarine warfare package.
RAFAEL’s Spike packs roughly equivalent range and punch to the LCS’ Griffin missiles, with some variants having longer reach. MUSCL does look a bit light for it, but could certainly carry DRS/NAWCAD’s Spike missile. At this point, despite the involvement of the LCS PEO, there are no plans to deploy a USV/missile combination on LCS. AOL Defense.
Dec 19/11: MIW – WLD-1. Lockheed Martin announces the end of the 1st of 3 planned development and testing cycles, involving 500 hours of reliability testing on the U.S. Navy’s WLD-1 RMMV. These efforts are aimed at improving the Remote Minehunting System’s reliability and operational availability, which have been a serious problem for the sonar-towing snorkeling USV. A recent $52.7 million contract will continue the program to improve its reliability until 2013. Read “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development” for more.
Nov 7/11: Griffin replacement? Inside the Navy reports [subscription] that the Griffin missile will be part of LCS’ initial surface warfare module, but a competition will begin in 2012, and:
“The program executive office for the Littoral Combat Ship has already identified capabilities that could replace the Griffin missile…”
IAI’s Jumper (vid. May 16/11 entry) comes to mind, and there appear to be others.
Sept 30/11: SMCM UUV. General Dynamics AIS in McLeansville, NC wins a $48.6 million contract with cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and firm-fixed-price line items for the engineering, manufacturing and development of the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (SMCM UUV, aka. “Knifefish”).
This will be a new part of the Littoral Combat Ship’s Mine Counter-Measures package, and includes 2 of Bluefin Robotics’ large Bluefin-21 UUVs, launch and recovery equipment, a support container, spare parts and support equipment, and an advanced sonar payload developed by GD-AIS. Read “LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development” for more.
Aug 25/11: A not-to-exceed $161 million contract modification to previously awarded contract for MK15 Mod 31 SeaRAM missile systems to equip the Independence Class ships LCS 6 Jackson and LCS 8 Montgomery, and Japan’s “DDH 2405 helicopter destroyer”; as well as Phalanx CIWS Block 1B class “A” overhauls, and land-based Phalanx Weapon System class “A” overhauls. See the linked article for further details.
Aug 1/11: RAM. A $7.4 million contract modification for 3 refurbished and upgraded RAM MK 49 Mod 3 Guided Missile Launch Systems with associated hardware, for use on LHA 7 (unnamed, America Class escort carrier, 2 systems) and LCS 5 Milwaukee (Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship, 1 system).
Work will be performed in Tucson, AZ, and is expected to be complete by March 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year (N00024-11-C-5448). Note that the structure of RAM contracts may not announce all systems, or connect all systems to a specific ship.
July 21/11: MIW – UISS. The US Navy announces the successful completion of shore-based and at-sea integrated system tests on the prototype Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) USV and payload in Panama City, FL. UISS is designed for the LCS as part of the mine countermeasures mission package, supplementing the helicopter-based AMCM system. The system consists of an unmanned surface craft that carries and tows the combined acoustic and magnetic minesweeping payload.
The Phase 1 Sweep Operational Checkout was very basic, testing that UISS can be deployed and retrieved from Textron’s s Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV), and that it tows the acoustic and magnetic Sweep Power Subsystem properly. The first phase of testing was completed on July 1/11; Phase II is currently ongoing, and the summer test program will include a full signature test and full mission profile that demonstrate minesweeping capability. US Navy | Textron Systems.
May 16/11: SUW. An Israeli answer for LCS missiles? Israel Aerospace Industries’ MLM Division announces that they’ll present a new maritime application for their Jumper missiles-in-a-box system at IMDEX Asia 2011, the Singapore International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference. Like Raytheon’s cancelled NLOS-LS, the Jumper missiles are launched from an 8-round Vertical Launcher Hive (VLH) mounted on a ship’s deck, a truck, or on the ground. The missiles then use GPS/INS and optional Laser guidance to hit targets at ranges of up to 50 km/ 30 miles, using fragmentation or penetration warheads.
Jumper had been showcased beginning in 2009, but as a land weapon. Its naval capability and good range is likely to draw interest from several quarters, but to play on the LCS, IAI would have to offer a lower-cost solution than Raytheon’s NLOS-LS PAM. IAI release | UPI | IAI’s Jumper page.
May 12/11: SUW – Griffin. Inside the Navy reports:
“The Navy may not have settled on the Griffin missile to replace the canceled Non-Line-Of-Sight missile on the Littoral Combat Ship, despite the service’s announcement in January that it planned to use the missile for both a short-term and long-term solution to the capability gap, officials told Inside the Navy last week…”
May 2/11: Alion Science and Technology announces a 3-year, $4.6 million contract from the US Naval Air Warfare Center Training System Division, to develop a PC-based training system for LCS-2 Independence Class Readiness Control Officers.
Alion will be developing the system based on its LCS-1 Freedom Class LCS RCO solution, but a number of changes are necessary because it’s a different ship design. It is intended that the LCS-2 RCO will ultimately integrate with the LCS Shore Based Training Facility in San Diego, CA.
April 13/11: Mk-110. BAE Systems announces a contract from Austal to supply various communications systems and its 57mm Mk 110 gun system, for use in the Independence Class as orders come in.
General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems has had BAE Systems as a major partner for LCS communications systems since 2004. The Mk110 gun is used in both LCS classes, along with its accompanying Mk 295 pre-fragmented, 6-mode programmable, and proximity-fused (3P) ammunition that makes it useful against aerial or surface targets. A corresponding January 2011 contract covered gun systems for Lockheed Martin’s Freedom Class.
Feb 14/11: Sub-contractors. Northrop Grumman will assemble LCS mission packages at Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, CA. The mission module supplier team will comprise:
- Earl Industries in Portsmouth, VA (ISO TEU 20′ containers; Electrical systems)
- Excelco in Silver Creek, NY (WLD-1 RMMV capture spine)
- Granite State in Manchester, NH (RMMV cradles)
- Smith Brothers in Shelby Township, MI (Maintenance stand assemblies mission module hardware)
- Teledyne Brown, Huntsville, AL (gun mission modules).
The end items from each of those companies will be shipped to Port Hueneme, where a Northrop Grumman-Navy team will complete the assembly of each package.
Jan 24/11: MIW – RAMICS. Gannett’s Navy Times reports that the RAMICS supercavitating 30mm cannon for killing shallow mines may be next on the chopping block, after performing poorly in testing. It would be replaced by the AMNS system, which would do double duty against both shallow and deep water mines using Archerfish towed kill vehicles, packing 4 shaped charges each.
The tradeoff would be one of greater performance certainty, cost certainty, timely delivery, and commonalty with AMNS; vs. the ability to engage more shallow water mines in far less time by using a RAMICS system that worked.
Jan 11/11: SUW – Griffin. Media report that the U.S. Navy is moving towards selecting Raytheon’s Griffin missile as the replacement for the cancelled NLOS-LS, instead of taking over that program’s development now that the Army has pulled out. USN surface warfare division director Rear Adm. Frank Pandolfe told a Surface Navy Association convention audience in Arlington, VA that a 6-month review had settled on this Raytheon product, as something that can hit targets at “acceptable” ranges and cost.
That recommendation must be endorsed by the Navy before anything comes of this; if they do, the service would field the existing very short range Griffin by 2015, and try to develop a longer range version later. See “Raytheon’s Griffin Mini-Missiles” for in-depth coverage.
Jan 7/11: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a an $18.3 million contract modification to provide engineering and production planning services for LCS mission modules.
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (47%); Washington, DC (26%); Panama City, FL (20%); Ventura, CA (6%); and Dahlgren, VA (1%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. $1,51 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11 (N00024-06-C-6311).
Jan 6/11: NLOS-LS canceled. As part of a plan detailing $150 billion in service cuts and cost savings over the next 5 years, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces the proposed cancellation of NLOS-LS, among many other programs. The Army had pulled out by the point, and the Navy considered picking up the program, but apparently decided against it. Full Gates speech and Gates/Mullen Q&A transcript | Pentagon release.
FY 2009 – 2010
GAO mission modules report not positive; NLOS-LS missiles have test problems; WLD-1 snorkeling USV out of ASW; Variable-Depth Sonar for ASW.
Sept 28/10: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY receives a $28.8 million contract modification to provide engineering and production planning services for LCS mission modules. Work will be performed in Huntsville, AL (56%), and Bethpage, NY (44%), and is expected to be complete by September 2012 (N00024-06-C-6311).
Aug 31/10: GAO Report. US GAO report #GAO-10-523 on the LCS program sees problems. “Defense Acquisitions: Navy’s Ability to Overcome Challenges Facing the Littoral Combat Ship Will Determine Eventual Capabilities.” Key excerpts:
“Navy analysis of anti-submarine warfare systems has shown the planned systems do not contribute significantly to the anti-submarine warfare mission… Mission package delays have also disrupted program test schedules – a situation exacerbated by early deployments of initial ships… Further, the Navy has determined that an additional capability will be incorporated into future anti-submarine warfare mission packages. The existing anti-submarine warfare mission package procurement is temporarily suspended, and performance will be assessed during at-sea testing in 2010… To date, most LCS mission systems have not demonstrated the ability to provide required capabilities.”
With respect to USS Freedom’s [LCS 1] Surface Warfare module tests:
“The surface warfare mission package onboard LCS 1 has yet to be fully integrated with the seaframe and lacks key capabilities necessary to defeat surface threats. For example, the 30-millimeter guns have undergone testing with the LCS 1 seaframe, but have yet to be fully integrated with the ship’s combat suite. Also, while the guns provide a close range self-defense capability, Navy officials report LCS 1 is currently unable to automatically transfer tracking data from the ship’s radar to the 30-millimeter guns.”
Current plans involve just 8 partially-capable mission modules delivered by the end of FY 2012, instead of the 2007 plan of 11 partial and 5 fully-capable mission modules. As of August 2010, 5 partially-capable packages have been delivered: 2 Mine Warfare (MIW), 2 Surface Warfare (SuW), and one anti-submarine (ASW). The planned changes by end FY 2012 break down as follows:
MIW: From 3 partial and 1 full capability by FY 2012 to 3 partial.
SuW: From 6 partial and 3 full capability by FY 2012 to 4 partial.
ASW: From 2 planned and 1 full capability by FY 2012 to 1 partial.
One of the rationales behind the LCS mission module approach was precisely this decoupling of onboard payload development with ship fielding and development, so delays in one don’t create delays in the other. At the same time, the Navy now plans to purchase 17 ships and 13 mission packages between FY 2011 – 2015, which would leave the Navy with whose payloads and effectiveness are unproven.
Aug 5/10: SUW – Mk.46. The first MK-46 30mm gun module is installed aboard USS Independence [LCS 2]. US Navy PEO-LMW.
July 2/10: ASW – towed sonar. DRS Sonar Systems, LLC in Gaithersburg, MD received a $9.7 million firm-fixed-price contract to develop a high search rate variable depth sonar (VDS) for installation on the littoral combat ship. This contract includes options which would bring its cumulative value to $12.7 million.
The VDS will include a rugged specialized handling system with an articulating arm and capture mechanism, that can handle a towed body the size and weight of a small car. The towed active subsystem consists of a hydro-dynamically stable tow body, a tow cable, handling and stowage equipment, and acoustic transmit assemblies. The sonar must be able to survive high sea states, work in deep water while being towed at flank speed, and possess enough power to detect submerged submarines.
Work will be performed in Gaithersburg, MD (10%); Panama City, FL (20%); and Stockport, UK (70%), and is expected to be complete by September 2011. This contract was competitively procured, with 3 offers received by the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division in Newport, RI (N66604-10-C-0675).
June 2/10: Mk.46. General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. in Woodbridge, VA receives a $22.3 million firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed fee contract for the MK46 MOD 2 gun weapon systems (GWS) and associated hardware, spares and services.
There are several Mk46s in the US Navy, but this one is a 30mm enclosed turret packing a Mk44 Bushmaster chain gun and advanced sights. It equips the US Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (Mk46, MOD 0), LPD-17 San Antonio Class amphibious ships, and the Littoral Combat Ship surface warfare package. This contract covers both naval platforms, where the turret is operated from a console inside the ship.
Work will be performed in Woodbridge, VA (69%); Tallahassee, FL (12%); Lima, OH (12%); Westminster, MD (4%); Scranton, PA (2%); and Sterling Heights, MI (1%). Work is expected to be complete by May 2013. $812,412 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/10. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command, in Washington, DC (N00024-10-C-5438).
April 2/10: Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation in Bethpage, NY received a $17.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-6311) to provide engineering and production planning services for LCS mission packages and “improve mission capability in identified mission areas.”
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (47%); Washington, DC (26%); Panama City, FL (12%); Hollywood, MD (12%); San Diego, CA (2%); and Dahlgren, VA (1%), and is expected to be complete by March 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $1.7 million will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
April 1/10: ASW – WLD-1 out. The Pentagon releases its April 2010 Selected Acquisitions Report, covering major program changes up to December 2009. One of the changes is to the Remote Minehunting System (WLD-1) in the Mine Warfare suite:
“The PAUC (Program Acquisition Unit Cost) increased 79.5% and the APUC(Average Procurement Unit Cost, no R&D) increased 54.6% to the current and original [baselines] as a result of a reduction in production quantities, the use of an incorrect average unit cost as a basis of estimate in the 2006 program baseline calculation, and an increase in development costs needed to address reliability issues. The Navy re-evaluated the capabilities of the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Mission Package for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and decided to eliminate the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) from the ASW Mission Package. This decision reduced the total number of RMMV production units from the program baseline quantity of 108 to the current quantity of 54. The increase in development costs was needed to address reliability problems, which arose during an operational assessment in 2008.”
This level of overage is a critical breach, a.k.a. Nunn-McCurdy breach for the legislation that forces the Pentagon to certify the program’s fitness to continue, and provides for potential Congressional involvement.
WLD-1 RMMV out of ASW
March 30/10: GAO update. The US GAO issues report #GAO-10-388SP, its 2010 Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. Regarding the LCS’ mission packages, the mine countermeasures package is either yet to be tested in a realistic environment (Surface USV, OASIS towed emitter, RAMICS cannon), or cannot meet system requirements (Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System USV). With respect to other modules:
“The Navy has accepted delivery of partially capable Mine Countermeasures (MCM), Surface Warfare (SUW), and Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) mission packages. Overall, operation of the MCM, SUW, and ASW packages requires a total of 22 critical technologies, including 11 sensors, 6 vehicles, and 5 weapons.
…The Navy accepted delivery of one partially capable SUW(SUrface Warfare) mission package in July 2008. This package included two engineering development models for the 30 mm gun, but did not include the Non-Line-of- Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) launcher or missiles. Integration of the gun with LCS 1 was completed in January 2009… The program expects delivery of the second SUW mission package in March 2010. It will include the 30 mm gun module and the NLOS-LS launcher, but no missiles.
The Navy accepted delivery of one partially capable ASW mission package in September 2008, but plans to reconfigure the content of future packages… recent warfighting analyses showed that the baseline ASW package did not provide sufficient capability to meet the range of threats… The first package underwent end-to-end testing in April 2009 and will undergo developmental testing in fiscal year 2010. During the 2009 end-to-end test, the Navy found that the USV and its associated sensors will require reliability and interface improvements to support sustained undersea warfare.”
See also DefenseTech re: NLOS-LS issue.
Feb 26/10: SUW glitch. The NLOS-LS PAM missile Limited User Test (LUT) run from Jan 26/10 – Feb 5/10 at White Sands Missile Range, NM has 2 direct hits, 2 misses with causes known and corrected, and 2 misses still under investigation. That reportedly makes 23 PAM missiles fired with 14 direct hits so far, though not all firings were designed to hit a target. A Pentagon Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) meeting in March 2010 is expected to discuss this issue, and determine a way forward.
If the missiles cannot be made to work as advertised, the Littoral Combat Ship’s existing problems with poor armament would become far more severe. Since it lacks a built-in Vertical Launch System, such as the Mk.41 VLS with ExLS adapters for NETFIRES missiles, substituting other missiles for the NETFIRES launcher package would require ship redesign and modifications. Aviaiton Week Ares | Defense News | Defense Tech.
Jan 25/10: ASW – VDS. FBO solicitation #N6660410R0675 for a variable-depth towed sonar to equip the LCS:
“The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport has a requirement to develop and field a high search rate tactical Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability in the form of a Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) for installation on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). A major component of the VDS System is the Towed Active Subsystem (TAS) consisting of a hydro-dynamically stable tow body, tow cable, handling and stowage equipment and acoustic transmit assemblies. The TAS shall be an existing product that is modified to meet the LCS integration and installation constraints identified in the performance specifications. The objective of this procurement is to fabricate, install, test and support the TAS and its integration with the VDS system.”
Feb 9/09: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY received a $16.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-6311). They will continue to provide integration services for the ships’ mission module packages.
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (47%), Washington, DC (26%), Panama City, FL (12%), Hollywood, MD (12%), San Diego, CA (2%), and Dahlgren, VA (1%) and is expected to be complete by September 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $3.3 million will expire on Sept 30/09.
FY 2007 – 2008
Mine Warfare has size/personnel issues; ASW module rolled out; SUW module gets go-ahead; Common Launch & Recovery system; GD’s Open Data Model; RMMV WLD-1 contract; ASW USV contract.
Sept 19/08: ASW rollout. The Navy rolls out its new Anti-Submarine Warfare mission module package in a ceremony at Naval Base Point Loma Naval Mine & ASW Command Complex in San Diego, CA. The module would eventually be junked, and completely rethought. US Navy release.
Aug 13/08: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., in Bethpage, NY receives a $16.1 million modification to a previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-6311). This continues funding for mission module integration services, using a spiral development approach of rapid, incremental improvements.
Work will be performed in Bethpage, NY (32%); Washington, DC (26%); Panama City, FL (15%); Hollywood, MD (15%); San Diego, CA (5%); Dahlgren, VA (5%); and Newport, RI (2%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009.
Aug 10/08: Northrop Grumman Corporation announces that the NGC/US Navy team has completed the successful installation of the Mission Package computing environment into LCS-1 Freedom in June 2008. Northrop Grumman employees installed and tested the computing environment itself, which comprises 4 racks of processing hardware and the classified and operational software that runs the package. A system check indicated that the computing environment was operating properly, and that communication with the ship’s infrastructure was complete.
Each mission package needs only 15 personnel, plus 23 aviation detachment personnel for the helicopters.
July 21/08: Launch & Recovery. General Dynamics Robotic Systems announces a contract from the USA’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop the LCS’ Common Launch and Recovery System (CLRS) for unmanned boats and other watercraft. The firm is already designing and building the 11m USV that is slated for use as part of the ships’ anti-submarine mission module.
Oct 22/07: Testing. Defense News reports that Lockheed Martin is testing the LCS-1 Independence’s ability to load containerized mission modules and other equipment into the mission bay area. On Oct 10/07, their Moorestown, NJ facility ran a successful test of their COMBATSS-21 combat system’s ability to load the mine warfare mission package software. NAVSEA is continuing work on software for the other 2 initial mission packages: anti-submarine, and anti-surface warfare.
The article also covers Israel’s ongoing interest in the Lockheed Martin LCS design. See “An LCS For Israel?” for more details regarding that spin-off program.
Oct 12/07: MIW – issues. The US GAO audit office has some news re: the mine warfare module, the LCS’ first mission module. It seems some changes will be required:
“…For example, operation of mine countermeasures systems is currently expected to exceed the personnel allowances of the [Littoral Combat] ship, which could affect the ship’s ability to execute this mission. In addition, the Littoral Combat Ship will have only limited capability to conduct corrective maintenance aboard. However, because the Navy recently reduced the numbers of certain mission systems from two to one per ship, operational availability for these systems may decrease below current projections. Moreover, the mine countermeasures mission package currently exceeds its weight limitation, which may require the Navy to accept a reduction in speed and endurance capabilities planned for the Littoral Combat Ship. It is important that the Navy assess these uncertainties and determine whether it can produce the needed mine countermeasures capabilities from the assets it is likely to have and the concepts of operation it can likely execute.”
Sept 26/07: Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, N.Y. receives a $15.4 million cost-plus-award-fee modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-6311) to exercise an option to provide integration services for mission packages that will deploy from and integrate with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This modification supports the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mission Module Program Office (PMS 420), Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare.
Work will be performed in Washington, DC (43%); Bethpage, NY (32%); Panama City, FL (19%); Hollywood, MD (2%); San Diego, CA (2%); and Dahlgren, VA (2%), and is expected to be complete by September 2008. Contract funds in the amount of $113,338, will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
Sept 25/07: SUW Go-ahead. The Navy announces that it is moving forward with development of the LCS Surface Warfare (SUW) Mission Package, which it describes as “designed to combat small, fast boat terrorist threats to the fleet.” The announcement lists the components as:
“…electro-optical/infrared sensors mounted on a vertical take off unmanned air vehicle to provide over-the-horizon detection; 30mm guns to kill close-in targets; four  non-line-of-sight launching system (NLOS-LS/ “NetFires”/ “missile in a box”) container launch units, with each system containing 15 offensive missiles; and the MH-60R armed helicopter for surveillance and attack missions. The SUW mission package has software that interfaces with the LCS command and control system to maintain and share situational awareness and tactical control in a coordinated SUW environment… The first two SUW mission packages assembled for developmental and operational testing use the Mark 46 30mm gun made by General Dynamics Amphibious Systems.”
The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren division is the technical direction agent for the SUW mission package, with NSWC Port Hueneme division providing integrated logistics and testing support. NAVSEA release.
April 2/07: MK-110. BAE Systems in Minneapolis, MN announces its second contract from General Dynamics to supply a 57-mm Mk 110 naval gun system as the main gun fitted to the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship [LCS 4]. The contract is worth $7.2 million, and includes options such as spare parts and training. The gun is scheduled to be delivered in 2008.
The gun’s Mk 295 ammunition allows the system to perform against aerial, surface or ground threats, with a firing rate of up to 220 rounds/minute. The Mk 110 is designed to have minimal deck penetration, and can be operated directly or by remote control. BAE Systems has now received 3 contracts from the LCS program contenders, for a total of 4 gun systems. Note that the structure of MK.110 contracts may not announce all systems, or connect all systems to a specific ship.
Jan 5/07: GD’s Open Data Model. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems has delivered the Littoral Combat Ship Open Data Model to the U.S. Navy for inclusion in the Software Hardware Asset Reuse Enterprise (SHARE) repository, with unrestricted rights for re-use by any other Navy program.
The Open Data Model is a critical open architecture component of the General Dynamics LCS computing environment. By using the Open Data Model, any company’s products can be integrated into the General Dynamics LCS quickly and efficiently, creating ease of integration and upgrade, as well as a continuous competitive environment that improves capabilities, lowers costs, and avoids platform lock-ins.
With this delivery, the SHARE repository now provides a vehicle for any company interested in bringing their technology to the General Dynamics LCS to gain access to the Open Data Model. In addition, the Open Data Model is now available as the basis of a published open architecture solution for any other Navy programs looking to reap the benefits afforded by open architecture, advancing the Navy’s growing focus on open architecture ship systems. EE Times report.
Oct 20/06: MIW – WLD-1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors (MS2) Electronics Park in Syracuse, NY received a $13.2 million cost-plus-fixed-fee, firm-fixed-price modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-6327) for in the development, demonstration and integration of the Remote Mine-hunting Vehicle (RMV) with the anti-submarine warfare systems mission module, and for production of 4 installation and checkout kits with supporting equipment for 4 RMV units. This module will is part of the Littoral Combat Ship ASW mission package, and the RMVs will be incorporated into the DDG 91-96 and LCS Class ships.
The RMV is also known as the WLD-1, a UUV that works with the AQS-20A towed array sonar to scan ahead for mines; with slight adjustments, the system can perform active anti-submarine scans as well. Work will be performed in Syracuse, NY (80%) and Riviera Beach, FL (20%), and is expected to be complete by January 2008. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington in Washington, DC issued the contract.
Oct 19/06: ASW – USVs. a $12.7 million contract for 4 Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), for the Littoral Combat Ship’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Mission Module. General Dynamics Robotic Systems will develop them. This contract follows a similar May 1/05 contract for up to 4 USVs; see below for further details, or just flip to DID’s dedicated coverage – and some of GDRS’ competitors in the USV field.
Oct 13/06: Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation in Bethpage, NY receives a $15.5 million cost-plus-award-fee modification under previously awarded contract (N00024-06-C-6311) to exercise an option to provide integration services for mission packages that will deploy from and integrate with the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The US Navy’s plan is to use spiral development to improve mission capability on an ongoing basis, which is much easier since LCS mission packages can be developed and acquired separately from the ship itself. Work will be performed in Washington, DC (43%); Bethpage, NY (32%); Panama City, FL (19%); Hollywood, MD (2%); San Diego, CA (2%); and Dahlgren, VA (2%), and is expected to be complete by January 2008. See also DID’s Jan 5/06 entry.
FY 2006 and Earlier
Mission Modules integrator picked; Israel investigates integration issues; NLOS-LS missile integration contract; RMMV WLD-1 contract; ASW USV contract; Sea Talon towed array/active source.
Aug 25/06: SUW – NETFIRES. Netfires LLC of Grand Prairie, TX received a cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for $54.8 million as part of an estimated $1.15 billion contract to procure the NLOS-LS Naval Littoral Combat Ship Integration, System Development and Demonstration. Work will be conducted in Tucson, AZ and Baltimore, MD, and will be complete by Aug. 31, 2010. The U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command issued the contract (W31P4Q-04-C-0059). See also Raytheon’s Aug 29/06 release.
Aug 22/06: Engines. Rolls Royce announces that its MT30 gas turbines will power LCS 3, the second Lockheed Martin-designed Littoral Combat Ship. The order also includes 4 of its Kamewa waterjet systems. These systems were also installed in Team Lockheed’s LCS 1 Freedom, so the only surprise would have been a change.
July 31/06: MIW – WLD-1. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors Electronics Park in Syracuse, NY receives $23.4 million as part of the remote minehunting system (RMS) program (N00024-05-C-6237) to service 3 WLD-1 remote minehunting vehicle (RMV) UUVs. As noted above, the WLD-1 is s snorkeling USV that works with the AQS-20A towed array sonar to scan ahead for mines.
The RMVs will be incorporated into the DDG 91 through DDG 96 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers, as well as the LCS.
April 10/06: Israel. Lockheed Martin announces a $5.2 million NAVSEA study studied Team Lockheed’s LCS hull, mechanical, and engineering systems’ ability to accommodate the systems and weapons the Israelis want, while avoiding the need for major redesign of the USA’s basic configuration.
The final answer was that it could, with some obvious modifications to accommodate better radars and vertical launch systems for missiles. See “A Littoral Combat Frigate For Israel?” for more.
April 4/06: SeaRAM for Independence. Raytheon announces that it will install the SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense weapon systemon General Dynamics’ trimaran design for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). SeaRAM combines upgraded Phalanx Block 1B close in weapon system radar & infrared sensors and the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 1A Helicopter, Aircraft, and Surface (HAS) guided missiles. Raytheon will work with General Dynamics to integrate SeaRAM with the LCS combat management system.
Note that the structure of RAM contracts may not announce all systems, or connect all systems to a specific ship. Sources: Raytheon.
April 2006: ASW – Sea Talon. The Navy’s Sea Talon Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) system successfully completes a series of testing milestones offshore from Lockheed Martin’s Riviera Beach, Fla., facility.
Sea Talon is part of the LCS the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission module. Using 2 Remote Minehunting Vehicle (RMV) semi-submersibles developed under the AN/WLD-1 Program, Sea Talon creates an unmanned, distributed, underwater sensor network that uses unmanned vehicles for sensor deployment and sensor data communications. For Sea Talon, the RMVs are being fitted with the Remote Towed Active Source (RTAS) and the Remote Towed Array (RTA). Once fitted with these sensors, Sea Talon rapidly detects, tracks, classifies and localizes quiet diesel submarines in littoral waters, while conducting above-water persistent situational awareness and transmitting real-time data to U.S. Navy ships.
Sea Talon involves no new major technology development, but leverages already developed technologies from the AN/WLD-1 Remote Minehunting System, the AN/SQQ-89A(V)15 surface sonar program, towed array sonar development, and common software baselines. The April tests demonstrated that the RTA and RTAS could be towed at multiple depths, and that the RMV’s stability was not affected during the towing of the active source and passive source receiver at various speeds and depths. July 15/06 PEO-LLMW release.
Jan 5/06: Mission modules integrator: NGC. Northrop-Grumman Systems Corp. in Bethpage, NY is awarded a 10-year, cost-plus award-fee/ award-term contract serve as mission package integrator for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mission Modules program. The contract has a potential dollar figure of $159 million, and the FY 2006 portion of the contract award is $4.5 million.
NGC is the integrator
July 6/05: COMBATSS-21, Flight 0. Lockheed Martin announces that they’ve completed their COMBATSS-21 combat management system’s software. COMBATSS-21 supports the FORCEnet initiative within the USA’s Seapower 21 doctrine, and uses an open architecture system that reuses proven components from Lockheed Martin, the US Navy, domestic industry and international industry. By leveraging off-the-shelf components, Lockheed Martin claims to have achieved greater than 95% software reuse, completing the Flight 0 COMBATSS-21 software well ahead of ship installation and below budget.
Lockheed Martin says they will continually evaluate new components for COMBATSS-21, which they’ll use for the Navy’s LCS, DD (X) Destroyer program, the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program, and other US and international ships.
May 1/05: ASW USVs. GD gets an order for up to 4 ASW USVs. An $8.5 million contract covers the first 2 vehicles, with options for raising that contract to 4 USVs and $11.3 million. The USVs will be used as part of the LCS Anti-Submarine Warfare module, employing towed arrays, dipping sonar sensors and acoustic sources as payloads.
General Dynamics Robotic Systems is a subsidiary of General Dynamics Land Systems. The company plans to adapt its land robotics command and control system for the new USVs; indeed, Scott Myers President Scott Myers cited this expertise as a key reason the Navy chose them.
June 29/04: Combat System – GD. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems announces the open-architecture core mission systems team for the General Dynamics design of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Core mission systems infrastructure is a flexible information technology backbone for operating the ship as a whole that allows “plug and play” integration of custom-designed software modules for specific functions. GD AIS’ focus is on making it easy to integrate new modules by using non-proprietary standards and commercial middleware software as the key interface:
- BAE Systems in Rockville, MD is responsible for the ship’s internal and external communications systems, as well as topside antenna modeling and mission module interface coordination.
- CAE USA Inc. Marine Systems in Leesburg, VA, is responsible for the ship automation and control system. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Baltimore, MD is responsible for the Integrated Combat Management System (ICMS).
- General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products in Charlotte, NC is responsible for “all of the weapons and effectors.”
- General Dynamics Canada in Ottawa, Canada is responsible for the above- and below-water sensors.
Additional Readings & Sources
LCS & Packages: Basic Background
- DID – LCS: The USA’s Littoral Combat Ships
- International Hydrofoil Society (Sept 23/04) – NAVSEA Presentation re: Littoral Combat Ship Program [PDF]. Includes visuals and information related to mission modules, program structure & timelines, and the two competing teams. A lot has changed.
- DefenseLINK (May 28/04) – Special Department of Defense Briefing re: Littoral Combat Ship Program. Good discussion of the program as a whole and procurement approach, as well as how the modules were envisioned to work.
- USN – Sea Power 21. From 2002.
- USN – FORCENet: A Functional Concept for the 21st Century [PDF]. From 2005.
- Anthony G Williams – Naval Armament: The MCG Problem. MCG = medium-caliber gun. There has been a global divergence of views re: what 55mm-155mm naval guns should be for, and therefore which characteristics should be stressed. BAE’s 57mm gun, which will equip the LCS, falls firmly on one side of this debate.
- DID – RAM Missiles: Contracts & Events. Will provide the LCS’ primary defense against aircraft and missiles. After FY 2014, they will be 11-missile SeaRAM systems with their own radars.
- General Dynamics Land Systems – MK46 Naval Platforms. The MK46 MOD 2 is a 30mm stabilized, remotely operated turret.
- DID – The Fire Scout VTUAV Program: By Land and By Sea.
- Seapower Magazine (December 2005) – Navy Custom Tailors Crew Training for Littoral Combat Ship.
- DID (May 18/05) – Spartan USVs for Singapore’s Navy. These sorts of developments helped shape the USN’s thinking.
- C4ISR Journal (July 2004) – Design Work Proceeds on LCS Mission Modules: Suites will allow quick switches for pressing threat. Or, maybe not.
- USN – Littoral Combat Ships – Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Mission Package.
- Lockheed Martin (July 10/06) – Lockheed Martin Sea Talon Program Achieves Key Milestones Toward Deployment As Littoral Combat Ship ASW Mission Module [dead link]. Since abandoned.
- DID (May 4/06) – $8.5M for 2 Littoral Combat Ship Anti-Submarine USVs. Since abandoned.
- DID (Dec 2/05) – Sub-Finding Sensor Nets Get A Step Closer. ADS, or Advanced Deployable System. Abandoned due to technical issues, and realizations that static nets were not the way to go.
- DID (Oct 20/05) – U.S. Navy Exploring New Concepts, Procurement Priorities for ASW. Updated to include a number of related anti-submarine warfare technologies.
- DID – LCS & MH-60S Mine Counter-Measures Continue Development. Covers AMCM and the MIW package. DII Spotlight article.
- USN – Littoral Combat Ships – Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Package.
- DID (Sept 23/05) – Navy Launches Final Development of Bluefin 21 UUV. It would appear in the LCS years later, as the mine warfare module’s “Knifefish”.
“Surface Warfare” Package
- USN – Littoral Combat Ships – Surface Warfare (SUW) Mission Package.
- DID – Raytheon’s Griffin Mini-Missiles. The initial NLOS-LS replacement, with just a 3 nautical mile range. Has already been mounted on some Cyclone Class patrol boats, but swapped out for Hellfire-L radar-guided fire and forget missiles.
- DID – Cheap, Fast, Deadly: The NETFIRES “Missiles in a Box” Program (updated). DII FOCUS on NLOS-LS. Program canceled.
- US DARPA – Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN). See also the Phase I solicitation #DARPA-BAA-13-28. Not a component yet, but could become one for LCS-2 ships after FY 2016.
- Kongsberg Defence – Remus 600. Part of the PLUS surveying system, also the basis for the MK18 MOD2 Kingfish system that’s being used as a gap-filler to find mines.
- Univ. of Washington APL – Sea Glider. Silent, slow UUV.
- Military.com (Nov 1/07) – LCS to Carry Marines?
- USN Undersecretary Robert Work (DRAFT was January 2013) – The Littoral Combat Ship: How We Got Here, and Why. Scribd copy of the early draft.
- GAO (July 30/14, #GAO-14-749) – Littoral Combat Ship: Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments.
- GAO (July 8/14, #GAO-14-447) Deployment of USS Freedom Revealed Risks in Implementing Operational Concepts and Uncertain Costs.
- US Congressional Research Service (Feb 25/14 update, #RL33741) – Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program: Background, Oversight Issues, and Options for Congress.
- House Armed Service Seapower hearings (July 25/13) – Acquisition and Development Challenges Associated with the Littoral Combat Ship, Part 1 and Part 2 [Video].
- US GAO (July 22/13) – Significant Investments in the Littoral Combat Ship Continue Amid Substantial Unknowns about Capabilities, Use, and Cost.
- USN OPNAV (July 2013 release) – “Perez Report”, Executive Summary [PDF].
- Pentagon DOTE – FY2011 Report: LCS [PDF].
- Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (March 3/10) – Littoral Combat Ship: An Examination of its Possible Concepts of Operation” [PDF]. CSBA is one of Washington’s most respected think tanks, and lives up to its non-partisan billing.
- US GAO (#GAO-10-257, Feb 2/10): “Littoral Combat Ship: Actions Needed to Improve Operating Cost Estimates and Mitigate Risks in Implementing New Concepts.”
- US Naval Postgraduate School, John P. Baggett Thesis (March 8/08) – Logistical Analysis of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) operating independently in the Pacific.
- US GAO (#GAO-08-13, Oct 12/07) – Report to the US House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces: Overcoming Challenges Key to Capitalizing on Mine Countermeasures Capabilities” [PDF].
- US GAO (#GAO-07-406SP, March 30/07) – Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs. LCS is one, and this study is an annual release. Here is the March 30/06 version.
News and Views
- Harold Lee Wise – Inside the Danger Zone: the US Military in the Persian Glf, 1987-1988. An excellent book that outlines the kind of situation LCS was supposedly built for. Unfortunately, gaps in the required mine warfare capabilities, low damage tolerance, and station/support capacities leave doubts concerning the LCS’ ability to handle the same situation as well as the less expensive cobbled-together solutions used at the time; esp. the very successful converted barge Hercules.
- Naval Technology – Littoral Combat Ship Runs Aground.” Offers a look at the program workings and assumptions that have led the program to its current state. Written in July 2008.
- Information Dissemination (Sept 9/10) – Red Flags Everywhere.
- Information Dissemination (Sept 3/10) – What the GAO LCS Report Reveals. In his opinion, systemic and serious culutral problems in the Navy.
- Lexington Institute (Sept 7/10) – Littoral Combat Ship: It’s The Mission Packages, Stupid. The point would be stronger if any worked.
- Defense News (Jan 17/10) – Failing the Littoral Challenge: LCS Capabilities, Cost Miss the Boat. By Charles W. Robinson. “To counter these limitations, we urge testing of a littoral mission unit (LMU) by activating a military transport, the Cape Mendocino, which, with minor modifications, could transport four or more Street Fighters to areas of threat. This vessel would also serve as their mother ship.”
- US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine (September 2009) – No Need for High Speed. Contends that over-emphasis on speed has gravely damaged the LCS’ ability to carry out several necessary missions.
- Armed Forces Journal (July 2007) – Think Small. “A force of the new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), when they enter service in the next decade, will not significantly increase the Navy’s capabilities in conducting littoral warfare. This bad situation can be changed by building or acquiring a force composed of multipurpose corvettes and missile combat craft.”
- Information Dissemination (July 10/07) – The US Navy’s PF-109 “Patrol Frigate” Program. Which led to the FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates, as the low end of US surface combatant force structure during the 1970s and 1980s. Says the LCS program isn’t imitating the FFG-7’s successes. Then again, the FFG-7s were scrapped early, because they were too hard to upgrade – a development that spawned the LCS mission module concept.
- Lexington Institute (Nov 28/06) – Modularity, the Littoral Combat Ship and the Future of The United States Navy [PDF]. Washington think-tank offers an in-depth look at the LCS as the Navy’s most transformational program, and the key program challenges that must be overcome in order for the LCS program to be successful.
- The Fourth Rail (April 27/05) – Of Pirates and Terrorists
- US Naval Institute, Proceedings magazine (February 2003) – All Ahead Flank for LCS. But note esp. Vice-Adm. Mustin & Katz’ warnings about the possibility of a failed “high-low” force mix. By 2013, that warning had come true.
- Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey (June – Sept 1992) – The Value of Warship Attributes in Missile Combat.