An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 01 November 2006  

The world’s navies are building ships for multi purpose operations, which the Indian Navy has done for the last 10 years as the Type 17, the Krivacks and the Corvettes are just that. We posts below an article on the US Navy’s latest philosophy.

New Missions for Littoral Ships?

The Navy may produce new kinds of mission modules for the Littoral Combat Ship program within the next decade, according to Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, deputy director of the sea service’s surface warfare division (N86). Currently, the Navy is procuring a mine warfare module, an anti-submarine warfare module and a surface warfare module for LCS. Over the past few months, Navy acquisition executive Dolores Etter and the program manager for LCS modules, Capt. Walt Wright, have said the Navy is conducting conceptual development work on modules for maritime interdiction operations, special operations and humanitarian aid.

“By 2015, we may well have other mission modules in production,” Buzby said Oct. 25 in a presentation at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual expeditionary warfare conference. “Our creative minds will take [LCS] far over the horizon.”

However, Buzby cautioned that the cost of the current mission modules slated for LCS “will be a challenge” to control. The admiral noted that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Mullen has issued direct guidance to keep costs from increasing. “We must work within the boundaries,” Buzby said.

“We will provide the maximum capability for the cost,” he added.

Vice Adm. Terrance Etnyre, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said in another presentation here that there is discussion about creating new kinds of mission modules, but he said the sea service is still determining what it wants.

Buzby noted the first LCS, Freedom (LCS-1), which is set to deploy in December, will not have the full mine warfare module. While the first mine warfare module is scheduled for delivery in 2007, one system that is not planned to be available with the rest of the package is the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System. RAMICS is a combination of a detection system and a 30-millimeter supercavitating gun that is intended to give the LCS more options for seeking and destroying enemy mines.

Buzby also said the Navy is still mulling the acquisition strategy for the next phase of the LCS program. For the current phase, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics are building separate versions of the ship based on different designs.

“We are in very heavy discussion as to what exactly the next hull strategy is going to be,” Buzby said. “There’s all sorts of different directions: keep two hulls, go to one hull or go to a different design, a third design, take the best of both worlds. There are a whole lot of variables here that we’re looking at. We work very closely with [program executive office] ships, work closely with Naval Sea Systems Command for future ship design and . . . to see if there’s a good business case for one direction to go.”

The Navy expects to learn lessons from LCS deployments in the next couple years, Buzby noted.

“We need to get both ships out there, let them operate, see what they can do, see if one emerges as particularly superior to the other,” he said.

“There is high interest at all levels to make sure we do this right,” Buzby continued. “I, for one, am holding my final decision until I see both damn things go through the water, fulfill all the requirements, see what the radars look like and what the weapons can do, and how easy it is to get a boat on board and off board before I make my recommendation.”

Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton, program executive officer for ships, said here Oct. 25 that the heads of the Australian, Canadian and Swedish navies met with him early last week to discuss LCS “in particular.”

As international partners “consider buying these hulls from us, our overhead costs will come down,” Hamilton said.

Last year, Inside the Navy reported Israel and Saudi Arabia were studying LCS capabilities for their navies.

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