Carronade The Yankee Sailor Carronade

The Sea is a choosy mistress. She takes the men that come to her and weighs them and measures them. The ones she adores, she keeps; the ones she hates, she destroys. The rest she casts back to land. I count myself among the adored, for I am Her willing Captive.

I've relocated to a new Yankee Sailor.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Shipbuilding Defense Orders Flank Speed

There were two high-profile counterbattery shot fired on the 14th over criticisms of the rising costs of DD(X) and other shipbuilding initiatives. From Defense Today:
Those who focus solely on the increasing price of a future DD(X) destroyer unfairly ignore the vast operating savings the ships would provide over decades, Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations (CNO), said.
As far as the DD(X) destroyer, Clark said cost caps such as a $1.7 billion limit that some lawmakers wish to impose on the DD(X) merely reflect an "expression of their frustration over spiraling cost" of the ship. While the Navy once estimated the DD(X) might cost $1.2 billion to $1.4 billion each, recent estimates put the cost at $3.3 billion each, while private projections see costs of $4 billion to $5 billion or more per vessel.
"If it's going to cost less to operate over the course of the next 30 years, doesn't it kind of make sense [to perform] all that design and engineering?so that you can operate for less" money? he asked. "That [DD(X)] ship is going to cost dramatically less to operate," he said. It would have a crew of 150 or less, compared to 300 to 350 on the veteran DDG 51 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers.
Yes, it does make sense, if you actually have the money to buy them now and buy enough of them to make a difference. Recent talk has suggested the Navy may not be able to afford more than 5 DD(X)s, which, no matter how great their capabilities, are severly limited on where they can be deployed. This program is looking more and more like the Seawolf program every day. In a later discussion on the LHA(R), Adm. Clark makes my point for me:

"Our strategy is about a more distributive force," he said. "We've got to have more forces capable of more dispersed operations so you can be in more places, not this massive force" with few ships in few places."
How's that going to work if we can only afford five? With respect to the LHA(R), Clark had the following to say:

...the Navy may deploy minicarriers, essentially LHA(R) amphibious ships with decks containing up to 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft of the Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing, or STOVL, type. For LHA(R), "we intend for it to be a spiral [development] program," he said.
I wonder how the aviation world will react to this, particularly when you consider that aviators don't command all the big decks.

In a second article from Defense News, John J. Young Jr., assistant secretary of
the U.S. Navy for research, development and acquisition, offers some hard facts on DD(X): takes five to seven years or more to design and build a ship. Discussions about ship cost must consider the time value of money. For example, the lead DDG-51 was purchased in 1985 for $1.2 billion. In fiscal 2007 dollars, that ship cost $2.4 billion.
The Navy will continually work to lower the cost of DD(X), but $3.3 billion for this lead ship vs. the $2.4 billion lead DDG is not outrageous.
With DDG deliveries through 2010, the surface fleet will grow from today’s 102 ships to 110. During the years that follow, the Navy will shift mine-hunting, maritime interdiction and other littoral missions to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), reserving highly capable CGs and DDGs for air defense, missile defense and strike missions. In 2020, the Navy is projected to have 145 surface combatants, including 52 LCS.
The value of DD(X) extends beyond a single ship type. Its combat system investment leads to an open architecture system that is integral to DDG-51 modernization and longterm supportability, is the core of the CVN-21 carrier and the LHA(R) amphibious assault ship, and is closely coupled to the LPD-17 amphibious transport docks.
This article is, without a doubt, the best explanation and defense of the DD(X) project I have seen to date. I still have reservations about the size of the ship and the costs, but Big Navy has a fair case to keep DD(X) on track. The rest of both of these stories are worth reading.