NavWeek: Hunt For LCS Survivability

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There’s no greater cheerleader for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) than Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, the Navy director of staff and head of the LCS Council of high-powered admirals navigating this program through rather rough seas.

While LCS operations for many in the Navy remain an exercise in theory, Hunt brings a rich legacy of on-the-job sea experience to his role.

In a recent exclusive interview with Aviation Week, the admiral relied on some of that experience to provide  insight on what’s become a bit of a lighting-rod topic these days: whether the LCS would be survivable or not during the missions the ship is slated for.

In particular, Hunt addresses a point highlighted recently in a Congressional Research Service report –the ship will be going into some areas, like the Middle East, where Navy warships like the USS Stark and USS Samuel B. Roberts suffered combat damage just a few decades ago and had to rely on design features and manning forces – that the LCS lacks – to survive.

Here is what Hunt had to say about improvements made – particularly in the halon fire-extinguishing mixture – since the latter decades of the last century, when he was an officer on the frigate USS Underwood:

When the Stark was hit, I was engineer on the Underwood. As the  engineer officer, you are the damage control officer, I took a look at an awful lot of that stuff and took it very seriously.

As an old-school guy, I love sailors. I love to put hands on a damage-control issue, It really makes an awful lot of difference whether we're patching pipes, or plugging holes or fighting fires. That's important.

Up until Underwood, the halon on (that class of ships) was insufficient to put the fire out and keep it out. (The Navy) manual  called for us to dump halon, knock down the fire and enter the space within five minutes.

Underwood was the first ship where we had the complete halon mods. I went through that whole process of certification that the concentration remained at sufficient levels. Nobody ever had that before. Unlike every FFG before me, where we dumped halon and burst into space, probably getting a flashback, and putting your people at risk, I dumped halon, put my folks out and about, checking for reflash by getting bulkhead temperatures and didn't  go into the space.

Old school was very upset with this. ‘How could you do this unmanned and trust the remote systems?’ Well, 10 years later and a couple of incidents over the years, we found halon was very effective and that was exactly the right way to fight fires. The worst thing you could do was dump the halon and jump right into the space and get a flush of oxygen and get the reflash and you have to fight  it all over.

The automated systems we have on Freedom and Independence are state of the art. That drives us to less manpower-intensive damage control.

So we designed a bunch of these new state-of-the-art systems into this class on firefighting. It's pretty good and it's different. I'm not the water-mist kind of guy. I didn't grow up in that generation.

It allows us to effectively fight without putting people at risk in many of these situations. People have to get used to new technology and figure out how we're doing it.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on May 25, 2014

Samuel B. Roberts took 89 million dollars from an M-08 naval mine that cost 1,500 dollars. It happened in the middle of a channel that had been _cleared_, the day before.

Stark was hit by an AM-39 Exocet or two which are about as old school as you are likely to get in terms of slow-close approach, massive early tells (aircraft rises for the agave picture, talks to the missile via the datalink pod on the centerline, lets the weapon go in a second climb pulse, for all of about 29nm low or 43nm medium) and general easy CMs.

The captain didn't blow SRBOC, didn't bring the CIWS to bear or clear the after radar mount to put Standards in the air.

NONE of which applies today.

Today it's the swarm threat. Today it's a RAM or SeaRAM (radar on mount or not) which has 11 or 22 weapons to push into an anti-surface or terminal-only defense.

Today it's about letting frickin' _speed boats_ get close enough to where MRL and Recoilless technology poses an honest threat to the hull. And there the Chinese CAT-14 boat can bring as many as 4 CS-704 weapons with mixed IR/Radar heads on each micro hull _and_ the Iranians are building the missile, IN COUNTRY!

Here be dwagons.

If you have a 594nm radius F-35C, a 550nm radius F/A-18F and a 1,000nm radius UCLASS, _don't go there_.

If you have half your carrier fleet portsided because of Sequestration, it boggles the mind how you think you are going to top-tier overmatch a 'Near Peer' in their own ICD waters.

Nor why you need to try to do so in the PG bathtub.

Iran starts putting Boghammars and minelayers and subs in position to threaten the oil trade again and you simply use their naval adventurism as the long sought excuse to flatten their own petrochem industry and send them to the poor house.

You cannot fight an inshore war where the enemy has multiple levels of ASST and huge numbers of PCI and FAC-M go fasts. And probably shore launched coastal defense weapons of all sorts besides. You'll be lucky if you can get out of their network tracking arc by hugging the hugging the Arab side of that dirty hoofprint sized, 'sea' space.

Certainly the Hellfire L, Brimstone and Griffin (8, 12 and 4nm respectively) are ALL outclassed by weapons like the CS-701/704 with their 15-20nm ranges, just by themselves.

You want to SAG that kind of threat, you'd better have a decent VLS, a working laser and a VARIOUS or equivalent UCAV to provide VTOL, jetspeed, targeting out to at least 300nm for a high speed LRASM-B capable of doing Mach 5 to 150nm.

In this scenario, the function of LCS becomes (Independence class) that of a mini-CVE doing 'sea control' coordination and targeting for other assets in the greenwater environment. It is missile heavy as standoff biased as compensation for it's own, utter, lack of adequate onboard systems. Arleigh Flt.III VLS and Virginia Payload Modules are the name of the game here and a followon strike cruiser that was more Arsenal Ship than floating gun platform might also find a use.

But only until you get a strategic and operational picture put together from which you decide how to play the next move.

'Cause missile on missile gets to be damned expensive, even before you start counting the costs.

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