The Parallel Demise of the Royal and US Navy

A Post from Keith Campbell

One of the problems in considering British defence issues is that, while reliable information on the British armed forces is quite easy to come by, the same is not the case for the contemporary state of the armed forces of other countries. Wikipedia might be accurate but then, again, it might not. The number of truly credible sources is very small indeed and, as a result, they have been able to maintain tight control of their information, even in the internet age. Whether in book form or online, you still have to pay to access the publications in the Janes series or by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, to give just two examples. And access to such sources is not cheap. As a result, many people interested in defence unconsciously compare the strength of today’s UK armed forces with memories of the armed forces of other countries of years ago (even decades ago – time flies!).

So, I decided to give some scale to the debate. I decided to draw up a table of countries that operated surface combatants (or escorts, as the Royal Navy [RN] tends to call them) with a full load displacement of 4 000 tons or more, and give the size of their forces of such ships. I chose these vessels because they represent the high end of modern naval escorts, ships with long range, high endurance, high seaworthiness and able to engage in high intensity three-dimensional warfare – anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine wafare (AAW, AsuW and ASW respectively). While they may be divided into specialist ASW and AAW units, they have (or have the capacity to be fitted with) important capabilities in all three domains. Thus, ASW ships with local area, and not just point defence, air defence capability (such as RN Type 23 frigates with extended range Seawolf and, in due course, Sea Ceptor). And AAW shipes with local area (and not just self-defence) ASW capability, like RN Type 45 destroyers with bow-mounted medium-freqency sonars and Lynx or Wildcat helicopters (of which two will most likely be deployed on each ship in a combat operation) – since the Westland Wasp first entered service in 1963/64, the primary ASW weapon of British escorts has been the shipboard helicopter.

A key point about these large vessels is not that they carry more weapons than smaller ships – you can cram a lot of surface-to-surface missiles into a small corvette, in you want or need to (like the Taiwanese Navy’s new Tuo Jiang-class)but their great superiority over the smaller vessels in C4ISTAR (Command, Contol, Comunications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance). The larger ships can carry more, and more powerful (or, if you prefer, more sensitive), more complex sensors and can carry them higher because they have taller masts (look at a picture of a Type 45), pushing their line-of-sight horizon further out than that for smaller ships. When considering naval operations, the curvature of the Earth must never be forgotten. This is the fundamental fact that has always given bigger ships almost always the advantage over smaller ones. With more power and greater internal volume, the larger vessels can also carry more computers and consequently have significantly greater processing power. They can thus resolve targets that, for a smaller craft, would be lost in clutter. You can only use your weapons, no matter how powerful or long-ranged they are, if you have a good idea where the enemy is. Knowledge is, indeed, power. And this superior processing power also gives larger ships an advantage when operating closer to shore. Futhermore, large ships have superior aviation capabilities, being able to carry more and/or larger helicopters.

But what about ships in the 3 000 t to 3 999 t full load displacement range? These include ships that were the top-of-the-range surface combatants/escorts of the previous generation, often updated and still quite capable, as well as modern light frigates (like the South African Navy’s Valour-class) which again, are quite capable, even if both of these categories are not in the same league as the larger ships. So I have included a column listing these vessels as well.

Finally, my source for the numbers. Traditionally, in the Western world, there were three authoritative reference books on global naval strengths – one in each of the English, French and German languages. The English one is, of course, Jane’s Fighting Ships (originally Jane’s All the World’s Fighting Ships); the French one is Flottes de Combat and the German one is Weyers Flotten Taschenbuch. Fortunately, the French work has been available in English for 30-40 years now as Combat Fleets of the World and Weyers has long been bilingual, its English title (more accurately, subtitle) being Warships of the World Fleet Handbook. My source is the latest (2013/2015) edition of Weyers (because I can afford to buy it!). Of course, the book gives a snapshot, correct when it was closed for press, and some things have changed since. But it still gives a good idea of fleet  sizes. There are a couple of notes at the end of the table.


Country 4 000 t and greater escorts 3 000 t to 3 999 t escorts
Argentina 0 4
Australia 4 8
Bahrein 0 1
Belgium 0 2
Brazil 3 6
Canada 15 0
Chile 4 4
China 42 10
Denmark 3 + 2* 4**
Egypt 2 4
France 13 5
Germany 7 5
Greece 0 13
India 18 8
Italy 5 8
Japan 38 0
Korea (South) 9 9
Morocco 1 0
Mexico 0 7
New Zealand 0 2
Netherlands 4*** 2
Nigeria 0 3****
Pakistan 1 10
Peru 1 0
Philippines 0 2#
Poland 0 2
Portugal 0 5
Romania 3 0
Russia 24 2
Saudi Arabia 3 0
Singapore 0 6
Spain 5 6
South Africa 0 4
Taiwan 20 12
Thailand 2 2
Turkey 0 12
Ukraine 0 1
United States 84 18##


* The +2 are the Absolon-class multirole ships, with frigate armament but L pennant superior.
** These are the Thetis-class: effectively coastguard patrol ships, with little combat capability.
***This figure excludes the four Holland-class patrol ships, or sloops, whose top speed is only 22kts, making them a bit slow for a surface combatant but meaning they are capable of serving in an escort role in certain circumstances – for example, of amphibious or auxiliary vessels. But they are not three dimensional warfare ships.
**** Two of these vessels are ex-US Coast Guard (USCG) high endurance cutters, with limited armament.
# Both of these vessels are ex-USCG high endurance cutters, sisters to the Nigerian ships, but the Philippines Navy is seriously considering upgrading them to frigate armament and status, which can be done (the USCG did it once itself, near the end of the Cold War).
## Four of these are littoral combat ships (LCS). These, despite their size are not, in my opinion, three dimensional warfare vessels; they are rather oversized corvettes or over fast sloops.


Just to remind everyone, the RN now has 19 surface combatants/escorts, all of them displacing more than 4 000 t full load.

Some observations from this list.

There are only 40 countries in the world (including the UK) with surface combatants that exceed 3 000 t in displacement. Only 26 have surface combatants that exceed 4 000 t in displacement. Only 19 have fleets of eight or more 3 000 t + displacement surface combatants. A mere ten have fleets of eight or more 4 000 t + surface combatants. So, while there may be lots of one- and two-dimensonal warfare surface combatants (or, in other words, missile boats and corvettes) around, three dimensional warfare surface combatants are not that common. For most of the countries that possess them, they are clearly their fleets’ “capital ships”. Only six navies have more 3 000 t surface combatants than the RN (perhaps the most surprising one is the Republic of China – or Taiwan – Navy). Only five navies have more 4 000 t + ships than the RN. (Feel free to check that I have counted correctly!)

For me, the two big surprises – nay, shocks – that this exercise gave to me were the (mainland) Chinese Navy (which is now its official name in English), whose ocean-going surface combatant fleet, at 52 vessels, is much bigger than I thought, and the US Navy (USN), whose surface combatant force (98 + 4 LCS) is much smaller than I thought. One of the reasons for this surprise is that the Americans tend to talk about their “deployable battle force” which, this year, totals 291 vessels.

Of course, the real power of the USN is vested in its carriers and nuclear attack (SSN) and ballistic missile (SSBN) submarines. The USN has ten carriers and (Weyer’s figures), 57 SSNs and 14 SSBNs. Add these to the surface combatants (excluding the LCS) and you get a total of 179 vessels.The remaining 112 are composed of LCS, amphibious ships, minecountermeasures vessels, combat logistics ships, coastal patrol vessels and, incredibly, two hospital ships. (Hospital ships are strictly forbidden, under the Geneva Conventions, from undertaking any military activities at all: if I remember correctly they are not even allowed to report the presence of hostile forces. This is why the RFA Argus is a “primary casualty reception ship” – as such, she can be armed, painted grey, and undertake not only military but combat roles.) If Britain used such a concept, we would probably be talking about an RN “battle force” of about 83 vessels!

Now, I happen to have a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships 1962-63, so I can compare the size of the USN surface combatant force today to what it was then. In 1962-63, the USN had 718 destroyer escorts, destroyers and cruisers. If I read the notes correctly, 499 of these were in the active fleet and 219 in reserve. Of those in reserve, however, 109 were destroyer escorts that were clearly totally obsolete and of little or no combat value. So the credible mobilised fleet would have come to 609. (Interestingly, this edition of Jane’s doesn’t list the battleships that would later be recommissioned into USN service.) So, today’s force of 98 USN surface combatants amounts to 19.6% of the active surface combatant force in 1962-63 and 16% of the credible mobilisable fleet. (Feel free to check my calculations!)

How does the RN compare? In 1962-63 its surface combatant force comprised 101 ships (cruisers, destroyers and frigates) of which only one was in reserve. So today’s force is clearly 19% of that 51 years ago. But, of that force of 101 ships, 12 were the Type 14 ASW utility frigates, one dimensional warfare ships that were already becoming obsolete even then and which spent their lives operating as offshore patrol vessels. Exclude them, and today’s force becomes 21% of the 1962-63 force.

In 1962-63, the RN surface combatant force (including the Type 14s) was equivalent to 20% of the USN’s active surface combatant force and to 16.6% of the credible mobilisation force. Today, the RN surface combatant force is equivalent to 19.4% of its USN counterpart (excluding the LCS). There has been no significant change in the ratio.

This brings us to the rather startling conclusion that the USN and RN surface combatant forces have declined by the same degree over the past half-century.

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October 1, 2014 10:34 am

@ Keith – let me be the first to congratulate you on an excellent post.

In terms of measuring the USN vs the RN I suppose one thing to look at is that RN ships like T23 and T45 tend to be more specialised than their us counterparts like the Arleigh Burke that tend to be far more all round capable ships but probably not as good in the specific field of AAW (T45) or ASW (T 23).

October 1, 2014 10:40 am

Sorry but this post is complete hogwash.

Your Jane’s figures from 62/63 hide all manner of evils. First, the reserve fleet number for the RN is just completely wrong- it was much higher than that. Secondly, even what the RN termed active fleet included all manner of platforms including vessels dedicated to fisheries patrol and other such non war-fighting tasks. The real operational fleet was closer to 50 (interestingly, roughly where it stayed until 1990).

That time frame is not especially useful either as both the USN and RN were then exiting a period where they were preparing for mass-mobilisation to re-fight the battle of the Atlantic and entering the posture that would take them to the 90s that was based on a standing force. If you want to do a fair comparison you should use the figures from the 80s. Then the USN was on course for 100 SSN’s and the RN 18, which had been 20 prior to 1981, (+8-12 SSKs) which their methodology worked out as 24 SSNs. Today the USN has over 50 whereas the RN has just 7. I will let you do the percentage maths yourself. Not dissimilar effects will be seen in the surface fleets.

You have also used an arbitrary tonnage methodology that hides the glaring gaps in ship capability; try putting a T26 alongside a Flight III Burke; the latter can shoot down satellites or strike hardened strategic land targets using missiles from one of its 96 strike length VLS cells- the former can not. Excluding LCS is also ridiculous.

October 1, 2014 10:43 am


A Burke Flight III, now not that far away in ship terms, with ESSM, SM-6 and SM-3 will be a better AAW platform than a T45 and just as good an ASW platform as a T23.

October 1, 2014 11:09 am

Hohum, do you have the more precise figures breakdown? It’s easy to say “Wrong!!” from general impression, but there are cases where governments do use misdirection to inflate or under-report their forces. A specific breakdown would be helpful in asserting the validity of your claims.

I have to side with Keith on the LCS though, it doesn’t carry enough to be classed as a front line combatant.

The Other Monty
The Other Monty
October 1, 2014 11:10 am

Hohum, it would be useful if you could cite sources.

Given Keith introduced the post by pointing out the perils of relying on memory over data, the ensuing debate will probably proceed more constructively if data is countered with additional data – I’m not sure that personal recollections or suppositions will help us so much.

October 1, 2014 11:21 am

Observer & TOM,

Yes I do have the precise data, from memorandums supplied to the cabinet defence committee (aside from a full cabinet the highest defence decision making body in the UK at the time) in the late 1950s that clearly lay out the fleet structure plan following the Sandys review in 1957.

October 1, 2014 11:21 am

On the other hand, even if Hohum is right, it’s like the old Chinese proverb of “50 steps laughing at 100 steps”. Background to that is a retreat where a soldier was laughing at someone running away faster than him. The context of that is “Yes, he may be running away faster than you, but you’re not doing so hot either!”. :)

Comparing % cuts is like comparing a race to the bottom, neither case is actually good! Though unfortunately, post Cold-War, it really is hard to justify such a large force or such a large investment in military tech.

Edit: Wonderful! Can you slap it up here? Helps a lot in seeing the real comparison vs what is publicly announced to the media.

October 1, 2014 11:35 am

Another more useful comparison: Post Sandys the RN fleet plan was for 5 RN big carriers of which 4 would be in the active fleet and there would be 3 air groups, today it has one big carrier that also has to be its LPH.

At roughly the same time, circa 1959, according to Friedman the USN thought it needed 12 attack carriers- today it temporarily has 10 and will probably maintain 11 in the medium term. And it has an entirely separate amphibious fleet.

Peter Elliott
October 1, 2014 11:39 am

Other question is what were the RN and the USN as a % of the total world fleet in 1962 and in 2014? It may turn out that the balance of power had not declined so much after all.

Also worth considering how many RN ships in 1962 were re-heated WW2 hulls. A double edged legacy of ‘free’ ships that actually ate up refit money and could never be fully optimised for their roles. The RN today is the product of at least 2 full cycles of peacetime renewal so more accurately reflects the nation’s wealth and priorities. Smaller in scale but greater in flexibility and capability.

October 1, 2014 11:44 am

@ Keith

Good article, lot of useful info.

Peter Elliott
October 1, 2014 11:48 am

Its arguable whether the USN will succeed in maintaining 10 supercarriers in the future. Ultimately I think budget will force them into the same compromises as everyone else: flexible aviation ships that can support both Amphibious and strike missions.

If I had to guess I’d say 5 Ford class and 5 QEC style conventional power STOVL carriers. The struggle to fit meaningful airgroups of newer bigger Amphib Birds into the America class leaves the writing on the wall for me.

Rocket Banana
October 1, 2014 12:25 pm

Based on national GDP a 2:13 ratio is pretty reasonable.
Based on actual defence expenditure a 1:10 ratio would be pretty reasonable.
You’d then expect total tonnage to be at about the 1:10 ratio – which it is.
Does this mean anything?
I doubt it ;-)

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
October 1, 2014 12:32 pm

@ Hohum

The flight III’s are 9 years away still, so the first will be coming into service just after the first Type 26, and by that time the Type 45’s will be 12 years old, and probably starting to look at mid-life refits. So yes I would expect a flight III to be better at AAW but then I would expect a T45 to catch up or overtake within a decade and then the flight III’s to overtake again at their mid-life refit. ASW on the other hand I would expect the T26 to have a slight advantage, purely as it is a dedicated ASW vessel.

You also need to remember a flight III is 30% bigger and has 50% more crew, than a Type 45. Also can a vessel do both ASW and AAW at the ie if you are off chasing subs are you in the right position to defend a carrier from air attack, so in reality there is no real benefit to having them capable to do both as you will be only using half the kit at any one time.

The big advantage the flight III’s will have is that they will have a much larger VLS capacity, and are TLAM capable. BMD on the other hand could well be fitted to T45 as well if needed.

October 1, 2014 12:49 pm


9 years in ship terms is not that long. AEGIS is already an incredibly powerful system. You also do not know how USN ship upgrades go, AEGIS revives upgrades relatively frequently, there is not really any such thing as a mid-life upgrade. The rest of your post just repeats my point, the RN can not deploy a single ship as capable as an AB of which the USN has 62 and is planning at least another 13. As fo your ASW/AAW point, I can confirm its nonsense.

October 1, 2014 12:59 pm

“A Burke Flight III, now not that far away in ship terms”

Not that far away ? ..They are years away from even beginning construction and are not meant to achieve IOC in another 8-10 at least…and a lot can happen in that time frame (cancelling for instance)
And anyway, comparing a real present day vessel with a possible future design that only exists on paper , is hardly fair

Besides , even if the Flight III’s do get built sometime in the 2020’s , by the time they hit the water in any numbers , the Darings will already be “old” ships , approaching the time for a refit/MLU, where they might recieve new radars, weapons and other capabilities.

October 1, 2014 1:08 pm

@ Hohum

I do not doubt the Flight III Burkes capability in the AAW role. If I wanted to shoot down a satellite I would opt for the Burke. if I wanted to shoot down a sea skimming missile I would go for the T45. Both designs are optimised to do different things but I would say that as a pure AAW escort the missiles and radar on the T45 are a better fit as I am far more likely to be concerned by sea skimming missiles sinking my carrier than satellites.

again though that’s likely to be a different equation for the USN worrying about facing the DF21 than it is for the RN.

Its worth noting that the author is not trying to big up the RN but show that both services have undergone a similar level of cuts. I am sure many USN ships in the 1960’s were more generally capable than their RN counterparts.

October 1, 2014 1:12 pm

Hohum, I do believe the USN do have mid life upgrades, specifically for their carriers, not sure about their escorts. They call it RCOH I think.

PE, the USN has no choice but to maintain that amount of carriers or slightly less (+/- 8), they got SLOC through 2 oceans to keep open and fleets allocated to Eastern and Western seaboard can’t support each other unless they go the long way around or pull an Arctic bypass.

And not all Burkes are capable of BM defence, that’s the problem of a big fleet, takes a long time for upgrades to get around.

BTW, Hohum, manners.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 1, 2014 1:48 pm


You are quite short with other posters so I will be short with you. A flight 3 AB with noisy gas turbines, CPP props and a non specialist outlook combined with the rotational training of theUSN Officers will be inferior to a T26 at ASW. Simple facr that even my USN friends agree on.

The Other Chris
October 1, 2014 1:59 pm

I personally think it would be an error to proceed with Flight III. The US needs a new platform to accommodate the future. Certainly a higher mast as demonstrated successfully by the T45 should be a consideration. Take advantage of the weight reductions in active arrays to build on top of what SAMPSON started.

Regards which is actually the better AAW platform, it’s a good job we’re both working together and can fill in for each other when we each have a refresh dip, eh?

It’s also significantly advantageous for an alliance to have two demonstrably world-class systems working for the same side: Should one system be countered the other is likely to remain effective.

On the topic of refreshes and updates, T45 isn’t standing still either:

Work has progressed successfully in adding a separate BMD mode to the AAW mode, next step is to run the modes simultaneously.

Aster 30 Block 1NT is set to nearly double interception range with no VLS cell change required allowing us to stick to the A50’s. Block 2 would introduce full BMD capability, again expected to not require a shift from A50 cells.

Should Block 20 require an A70 cell, 12 VLS cells are ripe for fitting and to carry whatever you want. Quad packed CAMM(M)? LRASM? Vertical launched MBDA SPEAR? Maybe even a switch to SM-3/6.

There’s always scope to replace the existing A50’s as well.

I still don’t get the Harpoon fitting, but hey the space is there and the kit is available to weld to the deck. I expect a switch to NSM box launchers during mid-life!

October 1, 2014 2:06 pm

In the 1980’s President Reagan’s “600 Ship Navy” not only brought back seriously updated IOWA-class battleships, but resulted in the rapid increase in the construction rate of NIMITZ-class supercarriers, LOS ANGELES-class submarines, and the AEGIS radar systems being fitted to the TICONDEROGA-class cruisers, among others. Keeping older ships in service longer, SLEPs for older carriers, and the new ships coming on line, seriously stressed the Soviet Navy at the time, especially because the IOWA-class battleships were much more “resistant” to anti-ship missiles than anything else in world. Covered by land or sea-based aircraft and their own surface action group escorts, the IOWA-class ships with HARPOON and TOMAHAWK missiles added to their 5 and 16 inch guns were serious threats to the rise of Soviet sea power.

One cannot discount less capable ships because a potential enemy must account for them, too. While DEs in the 1960’s couldn’t truly fill the “surface combatant” role with the battlegroups, they could still have been effective in their designed roles of escorts for the amphibious fleets of the day. Even today, the later WW2 destroyers such as the SUMNER-class could be capable of serving with the fleet with minor fire-control and communications upgrades, especially in light of the increasing danger from swarm attacks by fast boats. They could also replace more capable ships on secondary duties like “pirate patrol” off Somalia. With the capability of operating helicopters (GEARING-class and later), these older ships could be much more capable than ships one cannot afford to build these days. And, scrapping newer ships, like the TICONDEROGA-class ships is inexcusable, IMHO.

With a resurgent Russian fleet, a rapidly growing Red Chinese fleet, and small-boat enemies rapidly proliferating throughout the world, we should not be shrinking our navies to depend on fewer very highly capable ships that through their scarcity will all be high value targets.

We still won’t have any ships capable of serious naval gunfire support for troops or MARINES ashore, even when the THREE (3) ZUMWALT-class ships enter service.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 1, 2014 2:06 pm


Huge fan of the Sampson and PAAMS combon but love the number of cells a DD51 has and the missiles they have to fill them.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
October 1, 2014 2:07 pm


There is a new platform in concept as of this year but they are looking at 2030’s for first of class. So if they need more hulls it isn’t an option, and hopefully flight III will give them the time to get a finished design, before they go into build. Nothing worse than proceding with a project to meet cut steel dates when the design needs more work, so maybe they could, if they need to delay their cut steel, keep tagging on extra flight III’s until it is time to switch to the new design. Also this could mean that if the design is finished early they should be able to cut flight III’s and switch to building the new design in their place.

The Other Chris
October 1, 2014 2:08 pm


Completely agree.

The Other Chris
October 1, 2014 2:12 pm

Is my understanding correct that the “new frigate” coming along appears to be steering more towards a stretched LCS-1 concept than a traditional mono-hull in the vein of T26?

October 1, 2014 2:26 pm


everything I have seen about the US small surface combatant suggest it will be a stretched mono hull version of the Lockheed Freedom class.

October 1, 2014 2:32 pm

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

@APATS, if it is number of cells, you’ll love what the Koreans did to it. :) Just wiki up “Korean Burke Destroyer”. Pity it was only a fairly limited run of 3 ships.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
October 1, 2014 2:35 pm

As I understand it there are no plans for a future frigate in the USN they are instead going for the LCS and a upgraded LCS. Whilst the future destroyer is still at the rough capability stage and they haven’t even started looking at what it will look like.

October 1, 2014 2:40 pm

I took a look at the US Future Surface Ship proposal and it scares me. It’s trying to be so experimentally cutting edge that it’s seriously out on the long end of a limb. Laser defence weapons? New technology? WTF happened to risk management and “old but reliable”? What happens if lasers don’t pan out? Hanger Queens? It seriously sounds like someone in the Navy management needs to get his head checked, the Navy is not a lab to play around with techy concepts, they have a job to do and they need ships that do the job, not toys. I fear it is going to end up like another Zumwalt or LCS. Interesting ships but not the best they could be if they simply KISS instead of getting fancy.

ET I actually heard the opposite but it is just rumours, they cut the LCS order for a possible new conventional frigate design.

October 1, 2014 2:59 pm

@Observer – Missiles and other PGWs can be “spoofed.” Lasers can be degraded by weather or other countermeasures. Projectiles, whether launched by conventional means or railguns, and whether explosive or KE, are going to follow the laws of ballistics and aerodynamics. Reducing or removing GUNS from equation is just stupid.

IOW, I agree with you.

October 1, 2014 3:34 pm

Kent, I’m more worried if it can actually work. What is the range of laser based anti-missile systems?

As for the guns, I would love to keep them but CIWS is getting countered by speed. Their opponent missiles are going so fast that even the debris from a shot down missile by a CIWS is going to be a threat, hence the move to missile based defences like the SeaRAM so they can keep the crap further away. A middle ground is the push towards 76mm+ guns used in the air defence role, but there doesn’t seem to be many takers on that route. The STRALES is rather famous for being designed in that role.

October 1, 2014 3:43 pm

” It’s trying to be so experimentally cutting edge that it’s seriously out on the long end of a limb. Laser defence weapons? New technology? ”

Sounds like a defence contractors wet dream ….and a taxpayers worst nightmare ;-)

One should not forget that these decades long research and development programs, is what funds a large part of the american defence industry. And that they spend an awful lot of money on political support to make sure it stays that way .

El Sid
El Sid
October 1, 2014 3:55 pm

You’re both sort of right. The LCS was cut from 52 to 32 on budget grounds without any real thought of what came next other than a vague desire for something more fighty. This became the Small Surface Combatant (or “new frigatey thing” as I’ve called it in the past) – the requirements were deliberately quite lax but the timetable tight, so it pretty much had to be a variation on an existing design. The US laws on building warships domestically meant that although the likes of Navantia were invited to submit proposals for licence-builds, it was realistically going to be one of the fighty export versions of LCS-1, LCS-2 or NSC.

So it now looks like “LCS-33” will be a stretched version of LCS-1 (the monohull Freedom class), with Austal getting some extra JHSVs as compensation, although there’s not been an announcement yet. There’s still a bit of a question over LCS-25/32 as they could end up as an “orphaned” fleet-within-fleet, the hope is that the monohulls at least will be closer to LCS-33 than LCS-23 but that probably involves spending money that doesn’t exist.

As for lasers and rail guns on the CG/DDG replacement – they’re already at the prototype stage, the hope is that the Zumwalt will be able to deploy both long before the future CG/DDG happens in 2028 or so.

Don’t forget the US has a legal requirement for 11 carriers, although there are grown-ups suggesting that they can afford at most 9 and would probably have a better-balanced fleet if they only had 7-8. The America class would provide legal cover – it’s the same size as the de Gaulle but the very idea of counting it as a carrier is heresy in some quarters.

@Keith Campbell
The RN has gone away from using “escort” of late, mostly because there’s few major units to escort and most frigates/destroyers are deployed on their own.

October 1, 2014 4:10 pm

Ow… getting old. I really forgot about the legal requirement on the carriers.

And I really do think the US has gone insane on lasers. Their next-gen tacair and future surface combatant all rely on it heavily, but it really has yet to be shown to be effective in practice. What happens if it does not work out? Defanged next-gen equipment? “Order of 3”? It’s insane! They are playing around with “next generation” stuff that might end up totally useless and are hinging major equipment buys on it. MKP is right, defence contractor’s wet dream, taxpayer’s nightmare. And military-industrial complex gouging the government.

The US needs a “Future Practical Surface Combatant” rather than a “Future Surface Combatant”. Gun, SeaRAM, 1-2 CIWS for warning shots, VLS, good radar, good sonar. That is a ship that is workable and usable with low risk. Remember what happened to the LCS when the NLOS didn’t work out?

America. The land of the insane technologists. I don’t mind practical technologists, but they have gone all Buck Rogers.

October 1, 2014 4:21 pm

Proposal for a “littoral combat fire support ship”: Shallow draft, beamy ship with two or three 8″/55 MK 71 gun mounts, four 57mm/70 MK 110 mounts and lots of VLS cells for anti-air, anti-missile, anti-ship, and land attack missiles, and maybe room for a platoon of Marine attack helicopters.. The hull could be a catamaran or a trimaran (reinforce an INDEPENDENCE- class hull to take the stresses) that could support the tall mast required to really reach out with electro-optical and other electronic sensors. Don’t try to make it into a multi-purpose landing support ship that carries a bunch of Marines and their gear; don’t try to make it an “all things to all people” littoral combat ship. With three MK 71 mounts, in one minute it could provide thirty-six 260 pound 8″ projectiles on target out to 27 klicks without fuss or emptying the ready service magazines.

The Other Chris
October 1, 2014 4:29 pm

Laser undergoing tests on the rear of an Arleigh Burke. Note generators and colling for the second laser used as a control:

Close up:!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_804/image.jpg

USS Millinocket (JHSV-3) with BAE Railgun on rear flight deck:

And picture of the GA Railgun fitted later alongside on the same flight deck:

There’s a picture circulating of the USS Millinocket leaving port where you can see both weapons side by side, however I can’t locate it at the moment.

October 1, 2014 4:36 pm

@Observer – I understand the limitations of CIWS and am not suggesting that we not have RAM, SeaRAM, or ESS missiles to shoot other missiles. The 57mm/70 MK 110 gun system has numerous fusing options that may help back up the missile systems. A problem with a laser system that has adequate range and power to stop a missile or any other threat is that there’s no way to limit it’s range to just the incoming threat. With the proposed US Navy Laser Weapon System, you’re looking at a 2-3 mile range. If your laser comes off the target and sweeps a nearby friendly vessel, you could be looking at significant damage.

El Sid
El Sid
October 1, 2014 4:47 pm

@TOC – beat me to it! Sequestration is playing havoc with the railgun programme, think the open ocean tests aren’t due until 2016.

Here’s DDG-105 destroying a drone with laser in 2012 : – Ponce tests are due in the next few weeks.

Think you’re overestimating the plans for lasers – they’re going to be just one layer of the onion, not the whole onion. The way to defeat the USN is to get them to shoot off their limited stock of missiles and then they’re stuffed – and with their missiles costing anything up to $10m, even they can’t afford that game for too long. So they need a “low-end” capability, cheap and cheerful that can take car of many threats at $1/shot, without needing reloads. If lasers can cope with 70% of inbounds, that means they can cope with attacks that are 3x the size.

Remember what happened to the LCS when the NLOS didn’t work out?

It was a brief disruption but they soon repurposed some old Hellfires, and the platform is flexible enough to accommodate NSM, Brimstone, whatever. The NLOS problem was this huge deal at the time, people will have forgotten about it within a couple of years.

Gun, SeaRAM, 1-2 CIWS for warning shots, VLS, good radar, good sonar. That is a ship that is workable and usable with low risk.

So something like a Nansen. They know they could build a Nansen, but that’s not what they wanted. Trouble is that’s way, way over the budget for the original LCS, and misses the point that the LCS is mainly intended to replace minesweepers and patrol ships (even the Perrys are little more than fancy OPVs these days). Everyone wanted LCS to be a frigate from the start, ignoring the fact that the USN had a specific requirement for something closer to MHPC (with a whole load of USN Gucci gold-plating) than Type 26.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 1, 2014 4:51 pm

The Small Surface Combatant Task Force report does not reflect a design per se, but rather the art of the possible within certain budget and other constraints. Like AB Flt III, it is caught in a dilemma between low-risk platforms and high-tech weapon systems. Trouble is, while they deliberate on this, the people in NAVSEA who actually have any experience of designing surface combatants are getting fewer and fewer. Complicating the picture is the anticipated onset of autonomous systems which at one end of the spectrum are seen as the answer to everything and at the other a problem in every aspect.

What that means is that they’re going to gte caught in a continual morass, unable to get a small enough design that meets the expectations of pollies on “cost” or if they do, it will appear to carry so little that the advocates of “fightiness” will be tearing their hair out.

Much of which is driven by hidden factors such as accommodation standards, stability policy, escape and evacuation policies etc, which make the “same” ship of 20 or 30 years ago seem much better value (ie smaller) because you’re not comparing like with like. It also leads to far more drawn-out arguments over cost, leading to longer gestation and build times, which in turn drive costs ever higher and numbers ever smaller. Which in turn means the overall overhead of the shipbuilding enterprise is spread over fewer ships and has a further disproportionate effect.

And don’t get hung up on mast height. There is a specific reason the T45 has a substantially higher mast than previous ships and it’s to do with the specific requirements of that weapons system and what it is designed to counter. There are otherways of cracking that nut……

The Other Chris
October 1, 2014 5:21 pm

Is that where CEC et al come in?

October 1, 2014 5:38 pm

Ouch Sid, not sure if you noticed what was wrong with the tech.

Time to burn through was 11-12 sec, combine with Kent’s figure of a 5km range, remember what we talked about for the high speed anti-ship missiles? 1km in 1 sec, so by the time you get a burn through, the missile would have reached the ship and gone 6km past as well. Might work for sub-sonic missiles though, but look at the possible opposition, unless you want to go to war with a Western country, most of your possible opponents are using high speed missiles.

It’s starting to look like a laser based CIWS. And the problem is, CIWS systems have designed countermeasures against them already.

I really hope they are not relying totally on lasers Sid, it’s not looking so hot. But that’s hard kill. I suspect APATS and NaB are going to tell me that soft kill is probably the key defence in ship protection and I suspect they’ll be right. Just that the hard kill isn’t looking too good. Laser CIWS when CIWS has been countered is a losing deal. OTOH, maybe blinding the sensors might work, like what was shown in the clip.

October 1, 2014 6:30 pm

@Observer – A laser can blind an IR or optical sensor, but I imagine it would have little effect on a millimeter length radar unless it could “cook” the electronics.

El Sid
El Sid
October 1, 2014 6:43 pm

I think you mistake my view on death rays – I’d say I’m a mild sceptic. But I think you are way too down on what is effectively the Wright Flyer of military lasers. That 2012 test was with a 33kW version of LaWS using a couple of COTS welding lasers, and represents a major achievement in all the “boring” stuff like making a system rugged enough for ship use, even if it’s bringing down the target in seconds. Noone’s pretending that it’s a full-scale system though – general thinking is that you need 100kW to really go round zapping things. Get up to 1MW and you can cut through 7 metres of steel in a second – but you probably need free-electron lasers for that, which will be the next generation (or next-but-one) of technology and give you ranges of 5-20km and capability against supersonic missiles. But for now they’ll be happy to develop the Wright Flyer into the Sopwith Camel – the current near-term target is a 100kW laser that can sit on a Phalanx mount and cost around $17m. Enough to be militarily useful without making too many demands on the ship or the budget. Laser power has been following something approaching Moore’s Law in the last decade, so betting that a laser isn’t powerful enough isn’t a great bet historically.

As ever, Ron O’Rourke is up with events :

October 1, 2014 7:21 pm

@Observer; @El Sid – “Raytheon’s LADS is intended to provide a short range point defence weapon as a replacement for the Phalanx CIWS, utilising existing Phalanx hardware and systems. Cite:

‘Raytheon has completed a series of activities that culminated in an early demonstration of LADS. The LADS unit consisted of an Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) 20-kilowatt IPG Photonics fiber laser and a bench-mounted beam director secured to the top of a Phalanx mount. AFRL testing verified the ability to propagate the laser beam and achieve the desired effect for a 60 mm mortar in a real-world environment. Sandia National Laboratories provided explosive test chambers, targets and an outdoor range for live-fire testing of LADS against operational mortars. This series of tests was analyzed by AFRLs Directed Energy Directorate, which substantiated predictions that a mortar could be destroyed at ranges greater than 550 meters. The laboratory and field testing anchored the high-fidelity directed energy weapon system effectiveness model.'”

Tested against a 60mm mortar round (slow-pitch softball). Nothing about a sea-skimming, maneuvering, perhaps supersonic cruise missile (baseball’s sinker pitch). To be fair, it was only a 20 Kw laser.

The Other Chris
October 1, 2014 7:46 pm

The USS Dewey test was effective at 33kW. Three times the output at three times the distance for the initial release to service are easy maths to demonstrate to decision makers. This is classed as the prototype of a 1st Generation naval laser weapon system.

October 1, 2014 8:41 pm

@El Sid

‘Everyone wanted LCS to be a frigate from the start, ignoring the fact that the USN had a specific requirement for something closer to MHPC (with a whole load of USN Gucci gold-plating) than Type 26’

Absolutely, completely agree!

The USN should have tried to rationalize it’s spread of different surface vessels, from mine-hunters to frigates, to destroyers and cruisers into 3 classes and levels of capability, with extra Arleigh Burke’s replacing Ticonderoga’s (i’ll ignore the Zumwalt anomaly for now) and be the fleets sole large ‘escort’ with a lot of offensive firepower packed into their VLS, a cheap and small design similar to our prospective MHPC for mine-hunting and very low-level patrol work and a ASW frigate in between them with a decent defensive suite so it could also act a lone patrol ship and back-up escort as our T23’s do.

Similarly in hindsight i often think the RN could have and perhaps should have decided back in the 90s to plan for a single high-end ‘combat ship’ to replace all of it’s destroyers/frigates, coupled with MHPC to create a simple 2 tier fleet. Although i guess to be fair they didn’t know quite what the future held! (imagine telling the admirals 20 years ago that in 2014 the service would have 19 escorts and 7 SSN’s etc).

Zumwalt’s and LCS’s just ooze all out ambition, innovation and futuristic concepts that completely lost sight of what the vessels were actually for in the first place, and of course have led to the age old quality vs quantity problem really causing the USN some big headaches.

October 1, 2014 9:19 pm

On the tables above what’s the break down by the numbers for properly maintained , manned and exercised vessels in each navy? much more important than just comparing numbers in inventory.

everyone has fewer ships than they had in past fewer still with vessels blue water in nature that are considered hostile.

Think Defence
October 1, 2014 9:31 pm
Reply to  Mark

Might introduce a controversial topic here.

If we think the next x years are going to be characterised by playing whack a mole in the Middle East and Africa against enemies with little in the way of sophisticated naval capabilities, why do we need to maintain such a high end naval capability.

Would a more littoral and logistic support focus give us greater benefit?

Fewer escorts and submarines for example (accepting the real industrial issues that this would cause)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 1, 2014 9:45 pm


If we accept that we abandon a balanced force structure in the hope we forecast the exact requirements for once.

Event then it is only valid if you ignore the fact that TLAM is pretty handy and Carrier Strike plays a large role in your game of “whack a mole”. The Cole and Hanit incidents illustrate that it does not necessarily require ” sophisticated” capabilities to damage assets if they are being slack or unprepared.

So in short no it would not and the timescale required to affect such a change would be greater than the timescale you “guess” it would be useful.

Think Defence
October 1, 2014 9:53 pm

APATS, I do tend to favour keeping a balance in all things, as you know. But as stuff gets more expensive and the defence budget gets smaller I am left wondering if maintaining that balance is possible and some adjustments might be the only sensible thing left to do.

Not convinced either way to be honest, am in the undecided camp at the minute

Although, equally unconvinced about the argument that says if you can do the ‘high end’, you can do the ‘low end’ but not the other way around either

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 1, 2014 10:04 pm


Given the complete lack of interest in putiing “boots on the ground” then even if your “tjreat profile” was correct TLAM from SSNs and T26 as well as Carrier Strike are going to be more useful than whatever your littoral logistic idea was and they do actually come with the added advantage of being able to conduct high end warfare as well.
You can do whatever sort of warfare you are trained and equipped to do. If you are not trained to do it then you will struggle but if you only have kit designed to kill armed pick ups then you are fucked when the OPFOR have proper weapons :)

October 1, 2014 10:09 pm

I’m in favor of reducing the US government’s involvement in things that are none of its concern and using the money saved to perform its primary jobs, national defense and border security. I’m not advocating a withdrawal into isolationism, but I’m getting tired of the US’s military capability being the excuse for other countries to skimp on their national defense needs. I have a tough time believing that even under President Barack Hussein Obama the US is spending more than twice the percentage of GDP as our European allies, yet I know it to be true.

October 1, 2014 11:07 pm

Kent, I don’t think the other countries cut because of US capabilities, think they cut because without the Soviets, it was hard to see anyone that needed to be smacked down with that amount of firepower. Hence, “peace dividend”. Hell, even the US cut when the USSR went down. I mean, in Europe, can you think of anyone looking to invade someone else other than Russia?

El Sid
El Sid
October 2, 2014 12:19 am

If LaWS is the Wright Flyer then LADS was the Montgolfier balloon – you’re talking about tests back in what, 2007? Trust Ausairpower to be up with events… LADS had it easy because it was on dry land, the sea is an incredibly unfavourable environment for lasers and it’s taken a long time to navalise them. On a lighter note :

El Sid
El Sid
October 2, 2014 12:23 am

It sounds like you’re reinventing the battleship-cruiser-flotilla divisions familiar to Corbett and others. (where “cruiser” implies something more akin to the frigates of the Age of Sail rather than a Tico) As an aside – @TD, how about an article on Corbett, the Colombs, that kind of thing rather than kit?

Burkes are already replacing Ticos to a large extent – but they don’t have the C2 space of the Ticos. The USN have been pretty adamant that a T23 equivalent is not what they need – I think their idea of independent ops requires a greater AAW capability which starts pushing up the budget.

As for a unified RN (or indeed European) combat ship – that was what NFR-90 was all about. NATO Frigate Replacement for the 90s says it all – it started in 1985 looking for a convoy escort for a future Battle of the Atlantic. Not surprisingly it didn’t get very far – as usual the USN wanted to go bigger than the Europeans could afford, so they ended up with Burke Flight I, us the Frogs and Italy ended up in one gang designing a Common New Generation Frigate (later Horizon/T45) whilst Spain, Germany and the cloggies were happy to buy in Aegis/Mk41 for F100/Sachsen/DZP. We do have some unique requirements, like needing to make trips to the Falklands, which is why we’ve ended up with Gucci super-efficient engines in the T45. It looks like the T26 and FREMM will both have AAW variants by the time they’re done, the trouble is that AAW kit is expensive and European navies are reluctant to pay for any more sets than they absolutely need, so they’re not keen on a full Tico-style multimission setup. (also compare the Flight I Burkes which in some respects were more specialised than T45).

I’d argue that the USN has ended up getting the Zumwalt about right, they’re taking lessons from the RN of the early 19th century. Keep investing in new technology to make sure you always have a qualitative advantage, but only do short runs of the high tech ships (like coal-powered steam ships) so that your opponents don’t feel threatened that you could wipe them out. That way they don’t feel tempted into an arms race, but you have the capacity to roll out more of the high tech stuff if they do fancy taking you on (like the French in the 1850s). Compare the move to coal with the move to oil – the move to dreadnoughts let Germany think that it could compete with the RN as the new designs effectively reset every navy back to zero, so you got the mother of all arms races. But the nature of creating option value with these high-tech short production runs is that individual ship costs look horrendous.

But look at it this way – in the last 25 years we’ve spent about $4bn on R&D for AAW destroyers which ended up in an all-new design, T45. The USN has spent most of the R&D money it could have spent on the Burkes, on the Zumwalt design (and proportionately less than us). Arguably they’ve ended up in a bad place in the short term as the Burke is still essentially a Cold War hull filled with modern electronics which (like T23) only takes you so far, but longer term they will be able to use the Zumwalt to derisk a whole bunch of stuff that will become mainstream in the 2020s. And at the bleeding edge, some things won’t work out – like the composite deckhouse, but that’s how it goes.

As for the LCS – I think it’s considerably misunderstood. It’s an ambitious attempt to combine Corbett’s cruisers and the coastal flotilla so people struggle to place it. I’m not saying it’s perfect, again it’s suffered from that bleeding edge problem in places and sloppy management in the early stages in particular. But it seems surrounded by straw men that people are desperate to knock down without really understanding why serious people made certain choices in the first place. Take the speed thing – even the biggest fans of LCS would admit that however much they wanted high speed, in the real world it’s taken too much in terms of cost and design space. And most would probably accept losing 5-10 knots of top speed – but there remain legitimate reasons for wanting speed in theory. Just to take one example, we seem to be in a world where China wants to throw its weight around in the South China Sea without being stoopid enough to engage in “proper” war. Speed is a great “weapon” to neutralise that threat without escalating the situation – compare with how the USS Pueblo in 1968 could not outrun the North Koreans so was faced with a choice of surrender or firing its weapons and starting Korean War II. That situation is not helped by having 8″ guns, but the Pueblo (or Cornwall vs Iran in 2007) is typical of much of the “war” that these vessels are likely to face.

Rocket Banana
October 2, 2014 8:55 am


“If we think the next x years are going to be characterised by playing whack a mole in the Middle East and Africa against enemies with little in the way of sophisticated naval capabilities, why do we need to maintain such a high end naval capability.”

We don’t.

Unfortunately there’s also the unpredictable future to think about rather than just the here and now and it’s not like you can simply go to the shops and buy a frigate, go to the docks to recruit some salty sea dogs, and set sail.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
October 2, 2014 11:03 am

@ Kent
“A problem with a laser system that has adequate range and power to stop a missile or any other threat is that there’s no way to limit it’s range to just the incoming threat. ”

Not actually true.
Lasers collimate (spread out) over distance. This makes them very quickly too diffuse to use as a weapon. To counter this, you need a lens, to focus the light into a spot. This is much more efficient with a laser, because it is single wavelength. At this focal point, it is an effective weapon. Beyond this point, it spreads out according to the inverse-square law, and very quickly becomes ineffective, and not dangerous.
The range then becomes limited by how far away you can focus this spot, which is dependent on the wavelength (shorter is better) and the diameter of the lens (bigger is better).

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
October 2, 2014 11:35 am

Actually, I’d love a new article on the USN’s plans, Arleigh Burke flight III and all that stuff.

Last I read up on it, the flight III proposal was caught up in fundamentally conflicting requirements, and was fundamentally oversold as justification for truncating the Zumwalt production.

Now I might come across as a bit of a fan or electric weapons. Probably because I am. But I think that really misses the point of new ship designs. I hate to use the term, but let’s separate our thinking about the platforms, from the payloads.
I don’t think that future ships “must have” lasers and all that stuff, instead I think they “must be able to be refitted with” electric weapons; so to me the requirement is to replace everything below the deck line of the Arleigh Burke – to create an Arclight Burke if you will.
Also, I think a large AMDR radar is just too big for a 360º high mounted capability on the entire destroyer/cruiser fleet. Attempting to do so ends up sinking virtual hulls by raising their unit cost too high.
– What is the status on plans for AMDR on modified amphib hulls?
– Could you put the AMDR on a turret, and combine it with a separate dedicated 360º horizon scanning radar at the top of the mast, vs. sea-skimmer threats?
– Does the USN have any plans for a dedicated ASW ship, or is the SSN fleet allocated for that role?

October 2, 2014 11:51 am

Compare the move to coal with the move to oil – the move to dreadnoughts let Germany think that it could compete with the RN as the new designs effectively reset every navy back to zero, so you got the mother of all arms races.

A pedant writes: actually almost the entire German battle fleet at Jutland was still coal-fired. The important thing about the dreadnoughts wasn’t that they were oil-fired rather than coal-fired – Dreadnought itself was coal-fired! – it was the combination of all-big-gun armament (rather than “a few big guns and some more medium-sized ones”) and turbine engines.

October 2, 2014 12:24 pm

@Mike Wheatley – You are technically correct. The issue to which I was referring was, given an effective range of 3 miles/5 km for your laser, if you “light up” a closer maneuvering target that is between you and another friendly vessel, odds are you won’t be able to keep the laser on target the whole time. In that event, any energy from a laser capable of CIWS that reaches the friendly vessel can cause damage to electro-optical systems or Mk 1 eyeballs at a bare minimum. If you’re using a laser that can cut through 7 meters of steel, you’re looking at structural damage (more than just burned paint).

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 2, 2014 12:37 pm


I think you’ll find that Zumwalt was truncated because it was ludicrously expensive. AB Flight III was a somewhat desperate “WTF do we do now?” response, rather than a justification per se. The consequences of trying to make the existing hull fit the requirement are now coming to the fore.

Zumwalt itself is the classic example of what happens when you take a particular capability or performance aim (in this case susceptibility and vulnerability) and allow it to drive the design above all else. There may well be some things to admire in the design – automation to get the crew reduction achieved, potentially the AGS, depending on how well it works and some of the trick antennae technology – but a “destroyer” that displaces 16000 tonnes (in large part due to insistence on a particular hullform) is not one of them.

The Other Chris
October 2, 2014 12:52 pm

Are there particular advantages why the “stretched-LCS” leans towards an LCS-1 derivative rather than LCS-2? Thought the larger flight deck and more stable ship would be plus points in the LCS-2 favour, given neither vessel is meant to be particularly quiet.

Other than the cynically possible “it’s easier to placate Austel with JHSV style orders” suggestion over on ID of course!

October 2, 2014 1:53 pm

“Although, equally unconvinced about the argument that says if you can do the ‘high end’, you can do the ‘low end’ but not the other way around either ”

I guess its all about what you will accept as casualties , the Iranians have gone down the only option open to them (possibly learnt from the Persian War when they had to resort to human wave tactics and using child recruits to beat back the Soviet/Western armed Iraqi’s) they have built dozens of mini-subs armed each with a couple of their copies of the VA-111 Shkval torpedoes and hundreds of those explosive laden Kamikaze speed boats who by sheer volume hope to swamp a Western forces ships and cause them unacceptable casualties whilst accepting the sacrifice of their own men. The other extreme is the Israeli policy of no losses are acceptable resulting in the adoption of 70t APC’s and the Dome systems.
I personally like the idea of building up very high capability kit ,although limited in quantity , in peace time with the industrial capacity in the event of a protracted shooting war being able to produce less capable but to cheap to build specialised infill kit(take the £550m order for 3 OPV’s to keep the Scottish yards open until they finalise the naval version of FRES the T26).
I suspect (and would hope) we have some thing akin to the proposed Black Swan class nigh on ready to go albeit a stretched version of the new OPV’s or whatever or the likes of Chris’s Armoured vehicle family ready to be knocked out by the likes of JCB or CAT in a hurry.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 2, 2014 1:55 pm

There’s a relatively small sweet spot for trimarans relative to monuhulls where you get most of the advantage. They may have moved away from that. “Stability” btw is not one of those advantages, unless one is talking in very simplistic terms.

They may also have run into some of the difficulties in arranging a trimaran internally if the requirement for lots of “modular” payload reduces…..

Equally possibly, they may not really know what they’re doing and are favouring a perceived “low-risk” approach…

The Other Chris
October 2, 2014 1:57 pm

Appreciated, thanks NAB.

El Sid
El Sid
October 2, 2014 2:24 pm

Worth noting that nothing is definite, it’s all rumour at this stage. And the industrial aspect is not to be sniffed at. But look at it in terms of keeping 2 out of 3 – LCS-1, LCS-2 and JHSV. The trimaran LCS and JHSV both offer a big stable platform for UxV use but JHSV is much cheaper, whereas if you want something fighty then the LCS are similar price and similar capability – but the monohull is more manoeuvrable and has a deeper hull for accommodating weapons. So LCS-1 plus JHSV keeps your options open at the lowest cost. Plus LCS-1 has Lockheed’s lobbyists on its side in Washington…

Jeremy M H
October 2, 2014 2:35 pm

I think if anyone really wants to see what they are doing with the AB Flight III’s I would start with this article.

This covers fairly well what the challenges are and what they are trying to do. It honestly makes a fair deal of sense to get a massively advanced and powerful radar to sea on an existing platform and the issues they are trying to solve are more of cost and time basis than a basic knowledge basis. I don’t worry too much about the Flight III program. It will produce a destroyer that is very capable of what it needs to do. Frankly you don’t need to make that many changes once you get AMDR to sea to keep those ships relevant for a long time.

I think the challenge comes in how do you get additional and new capabilities to sea after that. Personally I think that happens with an eventual Ticonderoga replacement that will take the good from the DDG-1000 program (and there is a lot of good knowledge there) and combine that with a much more conventional hull form to produce a cruiser sized replacement for the Ticonderogas. The good news here is that the Flight III ships should have worked the bugs out of AMDR which would be the radar you want to use on the new ships. And since it is a very modular radar system (AMDR is a pretty cool program honestly and I think it will see widening application over time) scaling it up when you have more space and power shouldn’t be too difficult.

I don’t think anywhere on the horizon is an attempt to put the radar up higher and I don’t think you will see much of an effort to do so on future USN combatants. It is not the solution they are looking for in their concept of operation. High up radar pictures are going to come from E-2’s and F-35’s through data links to allow cooperative engagements. They can look down and see far further than any radar regardless of where it is mounted on the ship.

Different fleets, different solutions.

October 2, 2014 2:46 pm

@ TD while I have no doubt that the next decade or so will be spent on Africa and the ME playing wakamole the resources required for this will be minimal. especially when these operations are being spread around across dozens of NATO and allied forces. we can’t even find enough work for one Tornado let alone 6 at the moment.

However at the same time we are seeing an increasingly belligerent Russia and a very assertive china. Both countries have made their contempt for international law quite clear. we must maintain a high war fighting capability to counter any moves by these two countries and that should be the basis of our defence policy and budget going forward. If they are this bad today imagine how bad they will be in 10-20 years. Western defence budgets should not be cut further until both countries join the civilised world and stop using force to get what they want.

The Other Chris
October 2, 2014 2:47 pm

Noted and an interested angle, thanks El Sid.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 2, 2014 3:43 pm

Jeremy – Indeed, an interesting article – shows how much margin the orginal AB design had. However, if he’s having to play V-line games to meet his stability standards, that’s not so clever. I’d also be interested to see how close he’s getting to his structural strength limits, which aren’t mentioned at all.

Upping shipwide distribution to 4.16kV is also non-trivial. It requires a lot more copper in thicker cables, which means more weight, bigger bend radii etc, etc.Which will also impact his stability margin. Plus an entirely new electrical system design.

All doable, but with more emb8ggerance than people tend to realis – and invariably more expensive than it looks to start with..

This is why those who talk about having variants of existing hulls usually underestimate what it actually entails. And the point about knowledge still remains – by the time they design a new hullform, the number of people left in NAVSEA who have done one from scratch for that size and configuration of ship and understand why things end up the way they do will be zero.

The Other Nick
The Other Nick
October 2, 2014 5:48 pm

Re. the LCS, highlights from reading a GAO 14-749 July 2014 report with some actual figures on ‘production’ versions

LCS 5 Freedom / LCS 6 Independence

Naval Architectural Limit 3,550 t / 3,188 t
Full Load 3,482.7 t / 3,256.7 t
Available Service Life Allowance 67.3 t / 31.3 t
– Spec. was 50 tons ( 1.5%,) SLA for growth ( US Navy standard SLA for new surface combatants is 10%)
Range revised down from original spec. of 4,300 nm @ 16 knots to 3,500 nm @ 14 knots in 2009, Freedom has been unable to meet the lower spec. whereas Independence was OK plus 800 nm +.
Speed spec. 40 knots, Freedom OK, Independence max. only 36.5 knots at full load.
Mission Package specified a max. of 180 t, 105 t for hardware and 75 t for fuel. As Independence overweight US Navy will reduce fuel capacity by 100 t, and even then MCM package is having to be split into two so as to keep the weight down.
Basic crew size of 40 has proven unworkable on Fredom’s first deplyment to Singapore, increased to 50 plus contractor teams.

Full 55pp. report

There is another GAO report putting the operating costs per year of the LCS at ‘only’ $79m v. Burke Flight IIa at $88M.

El Sid
El Sid
October 2, 2014 6:00 pm

@Mike Wheatley
There’s some truth in what you say but the USN now have a plan of sorts – in an ideal-but-vaguely realistic world they will very roughly have Flight III (AMDR + SPQ-9B) delivered from 2020, Flight III with AMDR-X from 2026 and Future Surface Combatant from 2033. Obviously those dates are not firm yet, they’re liable to slip right a bit particularly as the new SSBN devours budget in 2025-2034, but that’s the general idea. Cutting AMDR-X from the first 12 Flight III’s has helped to get the budget under control (and it generally seems to be going quite well) – after scare stories that Flight III would cost over $3bn (hence nearly as much as a Zumwalt), the last budget saw the forecast cut from $2.2bn to $1.8bn – “only” 20% more than Flight IIA. In NaB’s terms, I think that suggests Flight III involves a lot less embuggerance than first thought. (or noone doing the estimates has a clue what’s going on)

AMDR is coming in at around $300m a copy. So in the current budget environment, that’s as good as they’re going to get. They seem to have accepted that a 14′ AMDR is all they’re going to get until the 2030s, so any ideas of LPD hulls with 20′ AMDR seems to be off the agenda for now, that’s not to say you might not get an extra Cobra Judy-style radar ship procured in a panic as some Chinese capability emerges in the 2020s!

Does the USN have any plans for a dedicated ASW ship, or is the SSN fleet allocated for that role?

Their conops is much more dependent on multistatic with helicopters etc, the CRUDES with MFTA and LCS with ASW modules (2087-MFTA hybrid). But yep, SSNs are a big part of it too, and it seems likely that the new frigatey thing will have the LCS sonar module built in as a permanent fixture.

Mike wheatley
Mike wheatley
October 3, 2014 11:26 am

Thanks for the links and answers, it gives a very good picture. And the risks.