Pentagon buries evidence of $125 billion in bureaucratic waste
The end of the tank? The Army says it doesn’t need it, but industry wants to keep building it.
By Marjorie Censer, Published: January 31
YORK, PA. — When an armored vehicle pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein in an iconic moment of the Iraq War, it triggered a wave of pride here at the BAE Systems plant where that rig was built. The Marines who rolled to glory in it even showed up to pay their regards to the factory workers.
That bond between the machinists and tradesmen supporting the war effort at home and those fighting on the front lines has held tight for generations — as long as the tank has served as a symbol of military might.
Now that representation of U.S. power is rolling into another sort of morass: the emotional debates playing out as Congress, the military and the defense industry adapt to stark new realities in modern warfare and in the nation’s finances.
As its orders dwindle, the BAE Systems plant is shrinking, too. The company is slowly trimming workers and closing buildings.
In York, there’s “sadness that somebody that has worked here 35 years and is close to retirement is getting laid off,” said Alice Conner, a manufacturing executive at the factory. “There’s also some frustration from management and my engineering staff as we see the skills erode, because we know one day we’re going to be asked to bring these back, and it’s going to be very difficult.”
The manufacturing of tanks — powerful but cumbersome — is no longer essential, the military says. In modern warfare, forces must deploy quickly and “project power over great distances.” Submarines and long-range bombers are needed. Weapons such as drones — nimble and tactical — are the future.
Tanks are something of a relic.
The Army has about 5,000 of them sitting idle or awaiting an upgrade. For the BAE Systems employees in York, keeping the armored vehicle in service means keeping a job. And jobs, after all, are what their representatives in Congress are working to protect in their home districts.
The Army is just one party to this decision. While the military sets its strategic priorities, it’s Congress that allocates money for any purchases. And the defense industry, which ultimately produces the weapons, seeks to influence both the military and Congress.
“The Army’s responsibility is to do what’s best for the taxpayer,” said Heidi Shyu, the top Army buying official. “The CEO of the corporation[’s responsibility] is to do what’s best in terms of shareholders.”
The Army is pushing ahead on a path that could result in at least partial closure of the two U.S. facilities producing these vehicles — buoyed by a new study on the state of the combat vehicle industry due for release next month.
But its plans could be derailed by a Congress unwilling to yield and an industry with a powerful lobby. They argue that letting these lines idle or close would mean letting skills and technology honed over decades go to waste.
The Pentagon has “really made a turn in that they are now trying to solve million-dollar problems without billion-dollar solutions, but Congress keeps redirecting them,” said Brett Lambert, who oversaw the Pentagon’s industrial base policy until last year. “This is a zero-sum game. For every dollar the Pentagon spends on something we don’t need . . . it is a dollar we can’t spend on something we do need.”
A boom, then decline
For decades, BAE Systems’s facility in York has cranked out the Hercules, the Paladin and — most notably and most recently — the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a 75,000-pound mainstay of the military’s traditional weapons, a kind of armored vehicle that can hold up to 10 men, move at nearly 40 miles per hour and fire a cannon, machine gun and missiles.
(Although the Bradley looks like a tank, it is not technically considered one by the military.)
The factory got its start in the early 1960s, when Bowen McLaughlin York bought a local farm. The construction contractor’s new business was military vehicle overhaul.
Business boomed for a time — but slowed in the mid-1980s. Eventually, BMY combined with another defense outfit to form United Defense, which consolidated its business into the York site. In 1997, private-equity firm the Carlyle Group bought United Defense and eventually took it public. In 2005, the company was sold to BAE for just shy of $4 billion.
In recent years, the contractor hasn’t built new Bradleys but is running old versions through a refurbishment program. In 2008, 2,500 BAE workers at the York plant were pushing out about seven upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicles a day.
Mel Nace Jr., operations manager at the plant, grew up in its shadow. In the 1970s, he rode his minibike around the BAE Systems factory, at one point even jumping the fence to take a spin on the test track used to put the Army vehicles through their paces.
After vocational school, he got a job at the factory in 1979 working in the machine shop. With tuition help, he went to college and received his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees as well as an MBA — all while working full-time and raising two sons with his wife.
In 2008, Nace was promoted to plant manager. That year was one of the site’s busiest as it moved to refurbish vehicles that were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and returned pummeled, sometimes with coffee cups welded to the roof.
“We basically had to hire 600 touch labor employees in a 12-month period,” he said. “We had to recruit, hire, train and acclimate all of those people.”
Not only was the plant rolling out Bradley vehicles, but it was planning production of the next generation of fighting vehicle. BAE had been tasked with building some of the combat vehicles included in the Army’s expansive Future Combat Systems program, envisioned as a sprawling arsenal of drones, vehicles and robots all connected by a powerful network.
The York facility was readying for the boost, even installing — at an $8 million price tag — a hulking high-speed, high-precision machine able to mill, cut and thread almost any material, from steel to aluminum to alloys. The company had hired younger employees, bringing the age of its average plant employee down to 44, seeking to build a workforce to take over once older employees retired.
BAE — and the York facility — suffered a major blow when the Army canceled the Future Combat Systems program. The vehicles portion of the program, which was to be shared between BAE and General Dynamics, would have cost more than $87 billion, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Since then, the military has backed off vehicle refurbishment, too. The York operation has cut about half of its employees, the average age of plant workers has surged to 54 and lines are sitting idle at the facility, tucked into a swath of farmland. In December, BAE started another round of layoffs.
The home to the fighting vehicle has been a low, squat building — with tools in their places and signs reminding those on the floor to don hearing protection. A large “Partnering for the Soldier” banner was on display. Much of the Bradley equipment is being moved into another building as BAE consolidates.
“The reality of it is we’ve already started shutting down,” Conner, the manufacturing executive, said.
If BAE does not get any new Bradley funding — or win new work from commercial firms or foreign governments, it will close the line in 2015.
General Dynamics, which runs its tank-building program out of small-town Lima, Ohio, is facing a similar dilemma.
Just like the Bradley plant, the Abrams factory bustled over the past decade. At its peak in early 2009, the plant, which is owned by the government but operated by General Dynamics, was pushing 21 / 2 refurbished tanks out the door each day.
For the first time in its history, it diversified, producing not just upgraded Abrams tanks but also Stryker vehicles and a prototype of an expeditionary fighting vehicle (able to travel by sea and by land), which was built for the Marine Corps but later canceled.
In 2004, the plant started spending millions to upgrade its systems, bracing to build not only the Marine Corps vehicle but also the ones planned for the Army’s Future Combat Systems effort.
The factory added a $15.5 million machining line — replacing a system installed in the 1980s — that essentially cuts steel and aluminum hulls so that they are ready to be pieced together, much like a person would expect an Ikea desk to be ready for assembly.
But today the facility is down to about 500 employees from a peak of 1,220. Following union rules, it has laid off the newest employees and has worked its way back to those hired in 2005, said Keith Deters, director of plant operations.
Military officials say they’ve given careful thought to their strategy and they simply can’t afford to pay for more upgraded tanks.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, made its case before Congress in 2012.
“We don’t need the tanks,” he said. “Our tank fleet is 21 / 2 years old average now. We’re in good shape, and these are additional tanks that we don’t need.”
The Army has been emboldened by the new study, which considered whether suppliers who are key to building combat vehicles could be replaced.
The study, which was run by consulting firm A.T. Kearney and took more than five months, found only a small number of companies that are vulnerable to closure and could not easily be replaced.
Shyu, the Army acquisition official, said the military expects that vehicle makers and suppliers will look to other customers and kinds of work.
“There’s obviously difficult decisions that every single service has to make somewhere along the line,” Shyu said. “We have to figure out what’s good enough.”
But the Army has run up against congressional opposition. To keep these lines running, Congress has allocated well more than the Army requested for the programs — an extra $181 million for Abrams in fiscal 2013 and about $140 million more for Bradley.
Legislators say they don’t want the money they’ve invested in building up the country’s vehicle-making capability to go to waste. The several hundred million dollars it would cost seems to them a small amount relative to the billions spent on defense annually.
The industry, too, has pushed Congress to support its work. Last year, BAE convened its suppliers — it has 586 across 44 states — in Washington to storm the Hill, chatting up representatives about the jobs they provide and pushing for Congress to help the Bradley program.
Critics say the companies are trying to fight off what should be inevitable: a wind-down of a product that the country doesn’t need.
“It looks like they’re protecting profits and using scare tactics about jobs,” said Angela Canterbury of the Project on Government Oversight. “It is really making us less safe when we’re throwing money that’s hard to come by at programs that don’t meet what should be our current national security strategy.”
2/1/2014 12:46 PM EST
If only someone had warned the country about the entity known as the Military Industrial Complex say as early as 1961.It would have been helpful if that person had been an important member of the Military with a strong Defense background.Too bad no one did.
2/2/2014 2:16 AM EST
Unfortunately that goes over the head of 90% of readers.
2/2/2014 8:51 AM EST
Someone did. His name is Dwight David Eisenhower, and he had somewhat of a notable military career.
Will Bergmann wrote:
8:46 PM EST
We have all the tanks we will ever need. What we need are modern warriors with forward thinking leaders. We are weakening ourselves daily squandering resources on tanks and aircraft carriers. That money should be spent on developing the next generation of weapons that will be useful in the future. Tanks and aircraft carriers were a waste even in Viet Nam. We can’t afford to provide welfare for the military/industrial moochers any more.
8:13 PM EST
Mixed feelings about this. Tanks are pretty amazing to see in person. Differences in tank production ended World War I. The British and French manufactured thousands, but the Germans built only 20. I’ve always found that bizarre. Germans, of course, learned their lesson and built thousands for the next world war.
5:26 PM EST
LET’S BUILD MORE PEACE
James Leno wrote:
3:44 PM EST
The question is not whether we need tanks or not. The question is whether we need all of the tanks we have right now in mothballs, plus the ones that are about to be manufactured too. And the only way to increase our need for tanks is, literally, to start a war…or two.
12:13 PM EST
A colonel at the US Army War College wrote in his research paper that tanks were becoming obsolete. This was written in 1972! Shades of Billy Mitchell? Look up (Google) the paper: “The Aerial Vehicle: A Technological Threat to Armored Warfare.”
1:15 AM EST
The tank is far from dead. Just ask the Canadians. Just before we went into Afghanistan we retired all our Leopards 2′s. Sold some of them to people as toys. Then, after a few months, when it became abundantly clear that only heavy armour was going to save our guys out there, we actually called a farmer who had bought one of the Leopards and said, you know that tank you have in your barn? Can we have it back? And bought a bunch from Holland as well.
2/2/2014 10:03 PM EST
Well, this is the stupidest article I’ve seen in a while. And that’s saying something. FYI – the things that kill tanks today have been around in one form or another for 50 years or more. There is nothing fundamentally new out there there – just a bit.better. Drones may fascinate the journalists, but they don’t do anything an F16 can’t do. Also – the failed and failing procurement programs? They fail because the Army doesn’t know how
2/2/2014 10:00 PM EST
I read this and can only think, What a waste. The plant’s tooling gets serious investment. We have trained, experienced machinists and engineers but what is missing is smart/useful management. All Congress and BEA can conceive of is yet more useless armored vehicles. Ike was right. What fuels the F35, BEA’s product line, and the new gigantic carriers is business “sense” as dull as a box of rocks and the fear of anything other than the status quo. The Army’s wet dream of “battle field network” etc. would cost $78B and do nothing but sit in a boneyard next to the tanks etc. the Army has already idled while we can’t seem to find $69B for high speed rail in Calif. (or anywhere else for that matter). How much better it would be if that idled plant could be put to use making train parts or any of the other precision transportation machines and infrastructure we *really* need. How about if we kick BEA management and “investors” to the curb and get someone who knows how to run a company that manufacturers useful things to take over. Those machine centers can build anything. How about 200mph+ traction motors for intercity rail or ???.
The first two Littoral Combat Ships: the USS Freedom, rear, and the USS Independence, off the California coast. The ships primarily are designed to engage in combat close to shore.
The Navy’s New Class of Warships: Big Bucks, Little Bang
By John Sayen Oct. 05, 2012
The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is not only staggeringly overpriced and chronically unreliable but — even if it were to work perfectly — cannot match the combat power of similar sized foreign warships costing only a fraction as much. Let’s take a deep dive and try to figure out why.
The story so far:
– Congress has funded the LCS program since February 2002. Its publically stated purpose was to create a new generation of surface combatants able to operate in dangerous shallow water and near-shore environments.
–By December 2009 the Navy had built two radically dissimilar prototypes, the mono-hulled USS Freedom (LCS-1) and the trimaran-hulled USS Independence (LSC-2).
– A year later it adopted both designs and decided to award block buy construction contracts for five more ships of each type.
– Since neither design had yet proven either its usefulness or functionality it seems that the Navy’s object was to make the LCS program “too big to fail” as soon as possible.
– It may be working: the 55-ship fleet is slated to cost more than $40 billion, giving each vessel a price tag north of $700 million, roughly double the original estimated cost.
Both LCS designs were supposed to be small (about 3,000 tons displacement), shallow-draft coastal warships that relied on simplicity, numbers and new technology to stay affordable and capable throughout their service lives.
The new technology was mainly robotics (unmanned air, surface and underwater vehicles) and modular weapons and sensors. The modular systems were a series of Standard Flex” series of weapon modules had in particular grabbed the U.S. Navy’s attention.
Each LCS also has a flight deck and hangar able to accommodate up to two H-60 helicopters or up to four MQ-8B helicopter drones (one helicopter and two to three drones would be a typical mix). In addition, an LCS can carry and operate surface and sub-surface drones. Current modules in development are for mine warfare (MIW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASUW).
The MIW and ASW modules are mostly sensors with only drone or helicopter launched weapons. The ASUW module is focused mainly on defeating speedboats and offers only two Griffin missiles. None of these modules will even be testable until well into FY13 and none will be operational before FY16.
Outside of the modules an LCS has a permanent armament of a 57mm MK-110 automatic gun, some 0.50-caliber machine guns and a close defense missile system ( Steregushchy- class frigate, for example, is (at 2,200 tons) about 30% smaller than an LCS and cost only 20-25% as much. Yet, it carries a 100mm automatic gun, 14.5-mm machineguns, close-in defense “Gatling gun” systems (AK-630), medium range surface to air missiles (S400 series), SS-N-25 anti-ship missiles (sub-sonic and shorter ranged than the US Harpoon but far more capable than the Griffin), 533-mm (21”) torpedoes, 324mm anti-submarine torpedoes and a helicopter. The ship is not only in production for the Russian Navy but also for the navies of Algeria and Indonesia. A version is also being built for China.
The Swedish Houbei-class fast-attack boats in service. Each costs only $40 million to build and displaces only 220 tons (one-fifteenth as much as an LCS). Yet they carry C-801 series anti-ship missiles that greatly outrange any weapon the LCS has.
About the only threat the LCS might handle is the “swarms” of Iranian machinegun and RPG-carrying speedboats in the Persian Gulf. Apart from the fact that the Iranian crisis will have been resolved for better or worse before most of the LCS fleet can be built, these Iranian small craft lack weapons big enough to menace any serious warship.
Navy photo / MCS 2nd Class Rosalie Garcia
However the LCS itself may be more vulnerable to these speedboats than the ships it is protecting from them. This is because the ballooning LCS construction costs caused the Navy to try to save money by ordering that future ships be built to commercial standards.
This will reduce their
survivability level (protection of ship, crew, and vital systems) to (or below) the lowest level (of three) the Navy recognizes. Survivability testing has been cancelled, as it would cause too much damage to the test ship. Instead, the LCS is rated as not survivable in a “hostile combat environment.”
Worse, the Navy has admitted that, unlike the foreign systems they were modeled on, LCS modules will not be swappable within day or two as originally envisaged. Instead, the process can take weeks. Practical and political limitations on storing modules and supporting them overseas are likely to make module swapping possible only in U.S. shipyards. An LCS entering a combat theater will have to be in a single “come as you are” configuration that cannot adapt to mission changes.
The LCS does lead its foreign competitors when it comes to speed. At the Navy’s insistence, each LCS carries a set of diesels for cruising. It also has a suite of gas turbines that can at least for short spurts propel it at speeds as high as 50 knots.
By contrast the LCS’ foreign competitors rarely exceed 35 knots (the heavily-armed Steregushchy is only good for 26). However, speed at sea is a terribly expensive capability. Except for large nuclear-powered ships, very high speeds are only possible for limited times and in good weather. Incremental speed increases require geometric horsepower increases. Gas turbines generating more than 100,000 horsepower and their associated fuel tanks must leave the LCS little space for armor, weapons, sensors or crew accommodations. Though the Navy has not said so, it is likely that these gas turbines have been the source of many of the LCS’ mechanical problems.
Why is high speed so important? Even high-speed minesweeping does not require more than 25 knots or so. For chasing small boats the LCS’s size advantage will let it catch nominally faster craft if any kind of sea is running. If this is not enough, the LCS has its helicopters and drones. The LCS may need speed to deploy quickly over long distances but is unlikely to need it for tactical maneuver. Without its gas turbines the LCS could be small (and cheaper), like the Visby, or powerfully-armed, like the Steregushchy. Instead, it is neither.
When asked why the LCS has sacrificed so much for speed, Navy spokesmen tend to become vague. In a recent interview, Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden, the Navy’s chief of surface warfare, could only explain the LCS’ speed requirement with clichés such as “speed is life” (is the LCS really an airplane? Does it outrun cruise missiles?) or “more is better” (more speed but less of everything else?). He even quoted John Paul Jones asking for a fast ship to go “in harm’s way.” Such fatuous statements might satisfy a fourth-grade civics class but this contemptuous dismissal of legitimate taxpayer concerns speaks volumes about what the Navy thinks of the people who ultimately pay its bills.
The surface-warfare chief went on to say that the Navy had yet to settle LCS issues regarding missions, tactics and the design features to support them. In a sane world, such issues would have been ironed out before any ships were built. Once they are settled, the results will have to be applied to existing ships (to the extent that is possible) at enormous cost. Such are the effects of a “build first, design later” shipbuilding policy.
The level of incompetence the Navy has displayed with the LCS is truly breathtaking.
The LCS was supposed to be small and cheap, able to relieve larger more expensive ships of secondary tasks and to dominate coastal “brown water” environments. Yet, it is not cheap. Construction costs have foreign ships one-fifth the size. Its RIM-116 lacks the range to protect other ships. Its 57mm gun is short-ranged and cannot support troops ashore.
Taxpayers – and Navy personnel, past and present — may better appreciate the scope of the LCS disaster when reminded that current plans call for these pseudo-warships to comprise more than a third of the Navy’s surface combatants by 2020.
Nevertheless, the Navy is not worried. Congress will bail them out and ensure the LCS program yields some sort of product, even if it is a terribly overpriced and only marginally meets program requirements.
Meanwhile, foreign — not necessarily friendly — navies are building better and cheaper ships.
John Sayen retired from the Marine Corps in 2002 as a lieutenant colonel. He currently works in the defense industry and occasionally writes on current and historical military and naval issues.
Palladium Dec 1, 2013
I’m not even going to ask why a 60 ton tank from every other nation on this planet outguns this 3000 ton piece of joke.
dcacklam Nov 13, 2013The old Perry class ships (nicknamed ‘Hellen Keller’ because of poor radar/sonar capabilities) were more capable than these things…
The Israelis, the Danes, and the Germans all produce better corvette-class ships that actually can dish it out in a fight…
LCS is the Navy’s equivalent of the Army’s Stryker: It can get ‘there’ quickly, but can’t do anything beyond move around & show the flag once it arrives…
Armed like a Coast Guard cutter & scores more expensive… Sorry, skip it….
matthew.east.1989 Nov 23, 2013
@dcacklam What is not taken into account is that the construction costs have actually being decreased with each follow on vessel so the $700m a ship is misleading. While there are corvette class ships out there with more bang none of them have the speed that is needed because one of there role is against small fast attack craft where speed is key.
Fatesrider Oct 27, 2012
In today’s money, the USS Iowa (A BATTLESHIP displacing 65,000 tons with the largest surface guns ever mounted on a U.S. man-o-war) cost about 1.2-1.3 billion dollars to build. Based on the armament of the LCS, the Iowa could take them ALL on and never break much of a sweat. Even at close range, the Iowa’s twin 5 inch batteries are bigger than anything the LCS’s can fire off at them. And if the LCS isn’t configured for surface action, well, guess it’s out of luck in hitting back with anything like effective fire.
Take the 40 billion earmarked for the LCS’s construction and build a few more battleships. At least then we’d get some REAL bang for our buck.
matthew.east.1989 Nov 18, 2013
@Fatesrider That is a little wrong. While allowing for inflation would mean the money would equal a little over a billion, You don’t take into account cost of material increasing more then inflation, wages going up more then inflation etc etc so in reality the cost would be north of $4b minimum.
That being said sure the have more guns but would they be of any use against small fast attack boats or submarines? Not in the slightest. In fact they would not be able to operate in the littoral waters because there draft is too deep, 36ft. So the ship they want to fill that role would not be a battleship.
glof Oct 8, 2012I am sure Northrup-Gruman and Lockheed Martin will be happy to learn they will receive 700 million when they signed a fix-price contracted to build LCS for about 430 million. And of course that their worker will be pleased to work for the same wage as Russian ship builder get. And etc.
Those who want to compare US built ship too foriegn ships on price never remind people that it is much more expensive to build ships in the US, which is why we don’t build that many.
Let also remember the LCS is not a frigate, and was never intended to be a major surface combat ship. It is intended as a support ships, like WWII patrol ship, minesweepers, subcasers, and gunboats. They are not ment to fight larger warships.
Should the LCS be better arm? I wish they were equipt with Harpoon missile and a second RAM launcher, but the USN does not even have enough Harpoons to provide all their destroyer with these missile, let alone providing any to other ships, and the RAM launcher are also in short supply.
As for other of their short commings, remember we only have two prototypes to work with until recently. They won’t know what they can do until the first production LCS join the fleet in mid decade.
obbop Oct 8, 2012
No cost is too great to ensure corporate USA maintains the wealth flow from overseas into its coffers.
Defend the USA?
Yeah, right…. (as many-millions of unlawful invaders across our wide-open borders scamper throughout society)
aka_mythos Oct 8, 2012
The author refers to several ships used by other nations… the Houbei-class, the Steregushchy-class, and the Visby-class… The LCS has accomplished the feat of being as large as the largest and as fast as the fastest. The LCS has greater range and endurance than any of those ships as well. It maybe fair to say those assets aren’t tangible enough and come at too high a cost, but it should be acknowleged as a technical achievement
I believe its unfair to compare the price of the Steregushchy-class and LCS, the author is cherry-picking his figures taking the manufacturing cost of the Steregushchy-class and comparing it to the program unit cost of the LCS. The difference is that the Steregushchy-class’ cost doesn’t include Ramp;D expenses as the Russian’s utilize a means of book-keeping where by Ramp;D costs are more rapidly absorbed as sunk cost. An example of this is how they’re already moving onto the Gremyashchy class which is 99% the same ship, but allows them to isolate the higher costs. If the US were treating the LCS the same way it’d be the some how more proudly touted $460M per ship. Still higher, but less hyperbolic.
The problem was that the LCS orginally wasn’t intended as the type of ship it’s become. It was envisioned as something physically smaller and as ship only replacing a number of smaller ships but then it was sold as a cost effective means of replacing larger ships, something it was never inteded to be. That change stole critical developement money away from the things that mattered. The LCS was originally intended to replace 2 wooden hulled ships that each only had a pair of .50cal machineguns while also allowing for the transport and recovery of small boats and helicopters; for something of this original size the crew complement, the minimal armament, and the emphasis on speed makes sense. With what its become these things are more liabilities.
The LCS is indicative of a problem critics and even the author fail to recognize. The LCS is the end result of decades of over emphasis on surface warfare capabilites, like the Arleigh Burke-class, that has left the Navy few resources to deal with all the threats of the other sorts. Little or no ability to provide fire support close to shore; little ability to deal with mine threats; no ability to operate a small fast autonomous response; no surface ability to support fleet operation with submarine detection… The end result is LCS where the Navy painted itself into a corner and forcing it into going all-in on a program to do it all with a ship that costs more than a number of specialized classes. The need imposes a time sensitivity that won’t allow for new programs and thats why this program won’t die. At the current price of the contracts, they can build 2 LCS’ for every Arleigh Burke-class… and with the newest higher bid for the next batch of Arliegh Burke-class the Navy can build at least 3 LCS. Between the numbers game of congressional mandates on the shear number of ships and the requirements from treaty obligations for ship presence, they’ll keep making the LCS even if it isn’t what it was suppose to be.
Ziv Bnd Oct 13, 2012
The Mk 110′s on both the LCS-2 and LCS-4 have an effective range of 8.5 km and a maximum range of 17 km, but the Griffin mounted on the LCS-2 has a whopping range of 20 km or 12.5 miles, but LCS-4 doesn’t have the Griffin so that must not be working out too well. Plus LCS-2 has two bushmaster 30 mm guns. So yeah, the offensive punch sucks. But they are being built to replace mine warfare ships and to also function like an ASW corvette not a frigate. And now that the price for the new flight of Burkes has gone up, the Navy can get 3 LCS for the price of one Burke. 3 LCS would never stand a chance against a Burke but that isn’t what they are for. With a 13 foot draft they can go places no Burke can, and with a 15,000 sq ft mission bay and a huge flight deck large enough for a CH-53 to land on, these ships are going to be able to do things that a corvette simply couldn’t do.
And the LCS-4 has a 4300 nm range at 20 knots, which isn’t half bad, especially compared to the boats/ships listed in the article above.
The crux of the matter is, if the Navy is going to send these ships into possible hostilities, they have to find a replacement for the cancelled NLOS missile system. Whether it is a tactical length MK-41 VLS or bringing back the cancelled navy version of the ATACMS, (though that isn’t too likely), they have to find some sort of long range weapon for the LCS classes. But it doesn’t seem like they think their ships are going to need to fight, which is beyond bizarre.
IonOtter Oct 7, 2012
I served aboard the USS Reuben James from 96′ to 2001. She was a kick-butt little ship? FFG-57. Technically, she was classified as a “missile/torpedo sponge”, meaning it was supposed to either take out incoming missiles/torpedos, or just get hit by them in order to protect the carriers.
The thing is, it was *well* designed to do just that. The SM-1 launcher on the front was damn good at taking out incoming missiles, and because it was so good, the Russians had to follow a policy of “MOAR DEKKA” in order to get through. (For those don’t know the lingo, it means ‘fire all five-hundred missiles’) The anti-submarine defenses weren’t spectacular, but against Iran and North Korea, it would more than have sufficed? And it too, carried two SH-60B LAMPS-Mk III helicopters. We were small, but we were *fast* and we could pull in and out of port without any help, thanks to the Retractable Auxiliary Propulsion Units.
We also had 4 Harpoon missiles onboard, and those could sink anything short of a carrier in just one or two shots. Just before I left, we added the Penguin missiles to the torpedo magazine. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention? We could fire the Mk 46 torpedoes, too. And there was the 76mm, the 25mm chain gun and the 20mm CIWS Block II.
We performed rescues in 26′ seas that broke the USS John Young and forced her to turn back. We slipped up into the North Arabian Gulf and played “Ghost in the Graveyard” with Iranian gun boats, in and among the sunken tankers from the Tanker War. Our comms suite wasn’t ultra-modern, but we could talk longer, farther and with *more* foreign naval allies than the newer ships. (We were an HF/VHF/UHF ship, no SHF or UHF.)
In short, the USS Reuben James FFG-57, built in 1985, could WIPE THE SEA FLOOR with this pathetic piece of plastic.
But no. They took off the SM-1 launcher. No more missile killers, no more ship-sinkers. The Russians are all gone, and there’s *coughCHINA* no other threats *coughIRAN*out there for us *coughNORTHKOREA* to be worried about.
And now she’s deploying for one last time. Heading out to the Gulf for…*retch*…”security” detail. *sigh* At least they didn’t take away the 76 and the torpedo launchers. She’s gone from medium-weight to light-weight. At least she’ll still be able to defend herself against the small attack boats, and the 76mm will still mess you up, but that’s all she’s got against missiles. God help her.
God-damned bean-counting, lilly-livered, brown-nosing, limp-wristed, never-been-in-a-fight congresspukes screwin’ with my shipmates, givin’ em’ ships made outta tissue paper.
But wow, they SURE DO LOOK GOOD!
glof Oct 8, 2012
Yes, that SM-1 sure help the USS Stark a whole lot, after two Exocet missiles hit her and killed 37 crewmen.
And I sure US sailor would love to live and work on ships built to Russian naval standards.
And course the only minehunting those foreign ships are good for is by blowing up the first one they sail over.
F-35 production a troubling example of Pentagon spending
By Walter Pincus, Published: December 26
There are 56 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters being assembled at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth. But because only 20 percent of the testing for the most advanced fighter-bomber in U.S. history is completed, each will probably have to get million-dollar-or-more fixes later.
The F-35 is already the most costly U.S. weapons program underway at about $385 billion. But that figure may go higher with overrun of the per-plane contract price for the 56 craft being assembled — along with the future multimillion-dollar fixes likely to be required for them — and the 15 F-35s completed but not yet delivered to the military services.
The plane is being built with the most sophisticated stealth technology, but initial flight tests have turned up hot spots and cracks associated with metal and composites used on most new aircraft. The development of the software controlling the F-35’s major warfighting functions, the most complex ever planned for an airplane, has been delayed so that the last block will not be introduced to the aircraft until at least June 2015.
Earlier this month, Vice Adm. David J. Venlet, executive officer for the F-35 program, said in an interview with the online service AOL that he recommended slowing down current production lines to reduce the replacement costs that will be necessary in aircraft produced before testing is completed.
Production had already been slowed twice. Then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pushed back the building of 122 aircraft in February 2010 as problems became apparent, and again in January as he lowered near-term production for another 124 planes, boosting future production needs.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took the Senate floor on Dec. 15 and described the F-35 fighter program as “a mess.”
What upset the senator was not just that the cost of each plane had risen nearly 100 percent from its original estimate of $69 million to $133 million today, or the fact that testing was only 20 percent complete while more than 90 planes had already been bought, or the fact that software — key to 80 percent of the stealth plane’s warfighting capability — wouldn’t be ready for another four years.
It was, he said, that the Pentagon had “sold this program as a fifth-generation strike fighter that would — more so than any other major defense procurement program — be cost-effectively developed, procured, operated and supported.”
McCain faulted the Pentagon for using what he called “a concurrent development strategy to procure a high-risk weapon system.” Production of the first airplanes began as testing was in its infancy.
McCain said the Pentagon was attempting “generational leaps in capability” but at the same time moving before the underlying design was stable. Developing needed technologies and being able to integrate them remain risky and manufacturing processes are still “immature,” he said.
A Government Accountability Office report from April said the forecast was for “about 10,000 more [engineering design] changes through January 2016.” The GAO added, “We expect this number to go up given new forecasts for additional testing and extension of system development until 2018.”
Sky-high overruns, safety ills plague jet
The fleet of 158 F-22 planes, at $412 million each, has yet to see a single day of combat.
August 07, 2011 | W.J. Hennigan
It’s the most expensive fighter jet ever built. Yet the F-22 Raptor has never seen a day of combat, and its future is clouded by a government safety investigation that has grounded the jet for months.
The fleet of 158 F-22s has been sidelined since May 3, after more than a dozen incidents in which oxygen was cut off to pilots, making them woozy. The malfunction is suspected of contributing to at least one fatal accident.
At an estimated cost of $412 million each, the F-22s amount to about $65 billion sitting on the tarmac. The grounding is the latest dark chapter for an aircraft plagued by problems, and whose need was called into question even before its first test flight.
The sleek, diamond-winged fighter was conceived during the Cold War in the early 1980s to thump a new generation of Soviet fighter jets in dogfights. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Soviet fighters that the U.S. military planners feared never moved beyond development and were never built.
Now, while other U.S. warplanes pummel targets, the F-22 has sat silently throughout battles in Afghanistan. It has gone unused in Iraq. There has been no call for it in the conflict above Libya.
“For all that gigantic cost, you have a system you can’t even use,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, a defense budget specialist and frequent Pentagon critic at the Center for Defense Information. “It’s a fundamental explanation on how the country has gotten itself in the financial mess that it’s in today.”
Designed in Burbank and built in Marietta, Ga., the F-22 won the final go-ahead from Congress in 1991, thanks in part to a lobbying campaign by the plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Corp. — then Lockheed Corp. — and its nearly 1,100 subcontractors in 44 states.
“The Cold War was over, it didn’t make any sense to go forward with the program,” said Thomas Christie, a retired official who worked 50 years at the Pentagon. “But the Air Force built up such a large constituency up on the Hill that it couldn’t be killed.”
The Air Force wanted an engineering marvel with unmatched features. Lockheed Martin delivered.
F-22 engines have thrust-vectoring nozzles that can move up and down, making the plane exceptionally agile. It can reach supersonic speeds without using afterburners, enabling the plane to fly faster and farther. It’s also packed with cutting-edge radar and sensors, allowing the pilot to identify, track and shoot an aircraft before the enemy pilot can detect the F-22.
“The Air Force piled it all on,” said Pierre Sprey, an aeronautical engineer who helped design the F-16 and A-10 jets. “It became a vehicle to carry a laundry list of technologies. The plane is a textbook case on the dangers of complexity.”
As the Air Force saw more opportunities for design changes, the F-22 grew in cost. When it first entered service in 2005, it didn’t take long for problems to arise.
In 2006, an F-22 pilot was stuck in the plane on the ground for five hours because the canopy wouldn’t pop open. Firefighters had to cut the pilot out. A replacement canopy cost about $71,000, the Air Force said.
In 2007, a software error in the navigational systems caused 12 F-22s to turn around from a flight to Okinawa, Japan, from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. Six days later, engineers corrected the error at a cost of between $200,000 and $300,000, the Air Force estimated.
Last year, the fighters were inspected for rust corrosion “due to poorly designed drainage in the cockpit,” according to the House Armed Services Committee. Fourteen F-22s had rusting parts in the cockpit replaced, the Air Force said.
Corrosion has also been an issue with the plane’s radar-evading skin, which, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said, is “difficult to manage and maintain, requiring nearly twice the number of maintenance personnel as anticipated.”
The plane takes about 3,000 people to maintain, the Air Force said. The service calculated that for every hour in the air, the F-22 spends 45 hours undergoing maintenance.
Two decades ago, the U.S. government planned to buy 648 of the fighters for $139 million apiece; the cost has almost tripled since then to $412 million, the Government Accountability Office said.
Recently retired Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ended the purchase in 2009 at 188 planes, only a handful of which are still being built. The $273-million increase per plane translates to $51.3 billion in lost buying power for the F-22 program.
“The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater,” Gates told a congressional panel in 2008.
Air Force officials said the F-22 hadn’t been used in conflicts because its technology wasn’t needed. They added that all aircraft have problems that crop up, and that the F-22 was worth the high price tag because it was the “most advanced fighter aircraft, with unrivaled capabilities.”
“The aircraft was designed for high-threat environments, not what we’ve seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya,” said Lt. Col. E. John Teichert, who until recently commanded the F-22 squadron at Edwards Air Force Base. “If the F-22 prevents a military engagement with another country, it is well worth the money.”
Even though the F-22 has never been sent over a war zone, it has experienced seven major crashes with two casualties — one of which may have been linked to the oxygen malfunction.
Capt. Jeff Haney, 31, was killed in an F-22 after a crash in the Alaskan wilderness in November near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. An Air Force investigation is examining the oxygen system as part of its probe.
The Air Force said the order in May to keep the planes grounded was caused by 14 instances since June 2008 in which pilots experienced sickness related to bad oxygen flow.
The Air Force said its investigation into the accident and oxygen problems “is currently scheduled to be completed and delivered to the secretary of the Air Force this coming fall.”
The oxygen system problems have compelled the government to examine its forthcoming F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is also made by Lockheed. The F-35 is smaller than the F-22 and will be used jointly by the Navy, Marines and Air Force. The Pentagon plans to buy 2,457 F-35s.
John P. Jumper, a retired Air Force general, former Air Force chief of staff to President George W. Bush and fierce backer of the F-22 program, said the F-22 problems need to be resolved soon so the planes and pilots return to service.
“It’s very troublesome,” he said. “This is the sort of thing that deserves a thorough examination so it never can happen again.”
Pentagon trimming ranks of generals, admirals
By Craig Whitlock, Published: December 28
Pentagon officials said they have eliminated 27 jobs for generals and admirals since March, the first time the Defense Department has imposed such a reduction since the aftermath of the Cold War, when the collapse of the Soviet Union prompted the military to downsize.
The cuts are part of a broader plan to shrink the upper ranks by 10 percent over five years, restoring them to the their size when the country was last at peace, before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The changes are projected to save only a modest amount of money, but defense officials said they are symbolically important as the Pentagon adjusts to an era of austerity. The Obama administration proposes to squeeze $450 billion from defense budgets over a decade. An additional $500 billion in cuts will be triggered if Congress cannot agree on a deficit-reduction plan in the next year.
Thinning the ranks of generals and admirals is also necessary to make the military more nimble, said Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
“If 10 years of combat have taught us anything, it’s that flat is faster,” said Gortney, who was appointed last year by then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to review the number of top officers.
In March, Gates approved a plan to reduce the number of authorized billets reserved for generals and admirals from 952 to 850, giving the armed services five years to implement the changes.
In addition, 23 billets will be downgraded in rank; a job previously reserved for a three-star general, for example, will now go to a two-star.
Gortney said the military has eliminated 27 command slots since then — many of them key positions from the war in Iraq — leaving the Pentagon more than a quarter of the way to its goal of cutting 102 jobs.
Other command jobs are falling by the wayside as part of reorganizations that are eliminating the Army’s Accession Command, based at Fort Knox, Ky., and the Navy’s Second Fleet, based in Norfolk.
In ordering the cuts, Gates said the military had succumbed over the years to “brass creep,” by adding a disproportionate number of jobs at the top. The number of four-star generals and admirals today, for instance, is roughly the same as in 1971, during the Vietnam War, even though the number of active-duty troops has shrunk by half.
The Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps are all expected to continue shrinking because of budget cuts, the end of the war in Iraq and the Obama administration’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Leon E. Panetta, the current defense secretary, backs Gates’s plan, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little. “The Secretary supports this initiative, and he is pursuing it in a way that ensures that outstanding leadership remains an indelible hallmark of the U.S. military,” Little said in an e-mail.
Some lawmakers, after years of questioning growth at the top, have praised the Pentagon for committing to a smaller military leadership. “The fact of the matter that you are looking. . . to deal with star creep is a very good thing,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told Defense Department officials at an Armed Services subcommittee hearing in September.
Critics, however, have accused the Pentagon of dragging its feet. Benjamin Freeman, a national security analyst at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight, said the number of generals and admirals on active duty stood at 970 as of Sept. 30. That represented an increase of six active-duty positions from March, when Gates ordered the cuts. (The Pentagon released updated figures this week, showing 966 generals and admirals on active duty as of Oct. 31, the most recent data available.)
“They made a fairly convincing argument that they had the situation under control and that they were moving full speed ahead, so it’s been depressing to see,” Freeman said.
In an interview, Gortney said the figures are misleading because they include several officers who have since retired or are in the process of taking other slots.
He said the armed services have up to two years to phase out a job targeted for elimination. “You need time to work this,” he added. “You can’t just give people their pink slips.”
Gortney said the Pentagon review ordered each branch of the armed services to sort their generals and admirals into four categories: “must have,” “need to have,” “good to have” and “nice to have.”
At least 10 percent had to fall into the “nice to have” category, he said. In the end, many of those were axed. “We mandated that you had to put the low-hanging fruit in there,” Gortney said. “We made them defend every one of their positions.”
Of the 102 positions slated to be cut, nearly half — 47 — are commands from Iraq, Afghanistan or other overseas operations.
The vast majority — 90 slots — have been reserved for one- or two-star generals and admirals.
The only four-star jobs pegged for elimination are the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and the commander of the U.S. Army in Europe.
Military leaders said they are concerned that drastic cuts in the numbers of admirals and generals could make it more difficult to promote and retain promising officers. Those effects are already being acutely felt further down in the ranks.
In the Army, for example, only 36 percent of this year’s regular class of lieutenant colonels seeking promotion were accepted as colonels, the lowest percentage since 1987, according to Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff.
In a Dec. 20 e-mail to officers, Odierno acknowledged that this year’s low promotion rate to colonel “generated significant interest and concern by leaders across the Army.”
Odierno said that the service had an excess of colonels and that this year’s class of promotion-eligible lieutenant colonels was unusually large. In contrast, he noted that five years earlier, at the height of the Iraq war, the same class won promotion from major to lieutenant colonel at a rate of 91 percent.
He said he expected officer promotion rates to return to levels that were common before 2001 — or sink even lower — as the Army prepares to shrink over the next decade.
“Some great officers will not be selected,” he wrote in his e-mail. “This is difficult for those that have served honorably and with distinction during very demanding times for our Army.”
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