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Littoral Combat Ship moving closer to reality: Navy keeps options open, could end up buying two different LCS hullforms.

For the U.S. Army, transformation is about a family of vehicles called "Future Combat System." For the Navy, it's about a fleet of small fighting vessels named "Littoral Combat Ships."

The Navy envisions LCS operating close to enemy shores, clearing mines, chasing diesel submarines and potential terrorists, and ferrying special-operations forces. It will travel at speeds of up to 50 knots. At least two helicopters or unmanned aircraft will operate from the LCS deck.

Contractor proposals for LCS are due April 14. By August or September, the Navy plans to select up to three industry teams, each of whom will receive a $10 million contract for a seven-month design phase.

The program is on a fast-track schedule. The Navy wants a ship in the water by 2007, a goal that some observers believe is unrealistic. Whoever wins the design competition will have to deliver two Flight 0 ships--one by fiscal year 2005 and the other by 2006, said Jim Heller, the LCS program manager. Those two ships may not be of the same hullform, he said.

Beyond Flight 0, the picture gets murky. Even though the chief of naval operations Adm. Vernon Clark has said the Navy could buy up to 60 ships, industry sources expressed concern about an acquisition strategy that calls for the award of only two ships, without specifying whether the winner of Flight 0 will be guaranteed any subsequent orders for Flight 1, for example.

The Defense Department's budget has $4 billion for LCS between 2004 and 2009--one ship in 2005, one in 2006, three in 2008 and four in 2009.

Each LCS hull must cost no more than $220 million, in 2005 dollars. The "objective cost," the price the Navy wishes for, is $150 million.

That cost estimate, however, may be premature, said Cynthia L. Brown, president of the American Shipbuilding Association. "It's too early to know the exact cost until the Navy identifies all the requirements," she said. "They put the number out as a target," but the price could change, once the specifications are refined further.

Navy officials have described the LCS as a member of a futuristic family of ships that includes the DDX land-attack destroyer and the CGX next-generation guided-missile cruiser. They stressed that by no means should the LCS be considered a replacement for the DDX, as critics have speculated. "The operational concepts for DDX and LCS, although complementary; are fairly different," said Rear Adm. Charles Hamilton, program executive officer for Navy ships. The DDX, equipped with heavy 6-inch guns, is for "precision volume fire to ranges in excess of any system we have currently in the fleer," Hamilton said in an interview. Meanwhile, "LCS has to take a variety of mission packages, integrate them at much higher speeds, in a smaller hull. You cannot simultaneously solve the speed equation and get a big gun."

The size of the LCS is expected to be about 3,000 tons--compared to 12,000 tons for a destroyer. The crew on the LCS would not exceed 40 sailors. A destroyer operates with a crew of at least 300.

The industry's powerhouses already have lined up teams for the LCS competition, although corporate alliances still may shift before the program reaches the next phase.

The LCS contractor teams include some of the same firms currently participating in the DDX program.

So far, the following competitors have announced they will submit proposals:

* Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems heads a team that includes Gibbs & Cox, Bollinger Shipyards and Marinette Marine. Lockheed originally had proposed a catamaran hullform, but later announced that the team was keeping its options open.

* General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is teamed with Austal USA, the Boeing Co., BAE Systems and Maritime Applied Physics Corp. The GD ream is proposing a trimaran (3-hull) design.

* John J. McMullen Associates leads a ream that is offering a fast missile patrol boat, the Skjold (a Norwegian word that means "shield"), developed by Umoe Mandal. Other firms in this group include Raytheon Co., Delex and Atlantic Marine. The Skjold is a surface-effects ship, combining the features of hovercraft and catamaran hull designs.

* Northrop Grumman heads the only ream proposing a monohull ship, the Visby, designed by Kockums, a Swedish firm. The Visby is made of advanced composite materials and features an angular designed that reduces the radar signature, according to Northrop Grumman.

Another potential competitor is Textron Systems Marine and Land, makers of the Marine Corps landing craft air cushion (LCAC).

LCS contenders such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman plan to capitalize on their experience in the DDX program, officials said. Raytheon, for example, may apply to LCS the integrated undersea warfare system and the command-and-control technologies it developed for DDX and the amphibious assault ship LPD-17, said Jack Cronin, Raytheon vice president for DDX.

A John J. McMullen official who did nor want to be quoted by name said that any technology transfer from DDX will focus on manning, survivability, weapons and electronics.

Another program tied to LCS is the Coast Guard Deepwater, an umbrella modernization effort that will replace aging cutters, patrol vessels and aircraft. Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are teamed as prime contractors for Deepwater. Both Navy and Coast Guard officials have stressed that the LCS and the Deepwater program were intrinsically tied, because the Coast Guard could not afford to develop its own ships and would rather piggyback on the Navy investment.

Lockheed Martin officials, meanwhile, are trying to distance their LCS proposal from Deepwater. Industry sources said the obvious reason for that is that Lockheed's Deepwater partner, Northrop Grumman, also is its most formidable rival in the LCS program.

During a news conference, Lockheed Martin NE&SS President Fred Moosally, said he is "not sure what the tie is" between LCS and Deepwater. Commonality could be found in the command-and-control networks or the unmanned vehicles operating off the ships, he said. But Moosally said he did not "see a match" when it comes to the ship hulls.

Navy turns USS Radford into DDX test ship.

The 32-year-old USS Radford last month left active service and became a technology test platform for the Navy's next-generation surface combatant, the DDX.

The Spruance-class Radford destroyer was decommissioned in Norfolk, Va., and subsequently towed to the Navy's inactive ships maintenance office. It soon will be heading south, to the Northrop Grumman Ingalls shipyard, in Pascagoula, Miss., where it will be converted into a so-called "DDX testbed."

Those plans may change, however, if it turns out that the Radford is in worse condition than anticipated, said a Navy spokesman. "As other DD 963-class ships are decommissioned prior to towing Radford to Northrop Grumman Ship System Ingalls, the Navy may elect to designate a different ship as the DDX test ship, depending on the ship's material conditions or other cost factors," said the spokesman.

Concerns about the condition of the Radford are warranted, given the extensive damage the ship suffered in 1999, when it collided with a 30,000-ton container ship off the cost of Virginia Beach. A pie-shaped gash, penetrating into the centerline of the Radford, left a hole from the deck to the waterline, toppled its 5-inch 54-caliber gun and damaged Tomahawk cruise missile tubes. The repairs cost nearly $33 million.

The contractor responsible for the DDX design, Northrop Grumman Corp., proposed the notion of having a real ship as a testbed for DDX, to give the Navy an opportunity to see advanced technologies perform at sea, rather than the laboratory.

Among the technologies to be tested aboard the Radford is an integrated power system, a composite deckhouse with apertures and a dualband radar. The power system could involve significant engineering work A turbo-electric propulsion system will replace the gear reduction equipment

It will take at least a year to convert the Radford into a test ship, the Navy said. At-sea testing will take place in the Gulf of Mexico and Virginia Gapes operating areas. Among the organizations expected to participate in the testing are the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center Range, based in the Bahamas; Lambert's Point Range, in Norfolk, Va., and Wallops Island Range, on the eastern Virginia shore.

The DD-968 was named after Admiral Arthur W. Radford, who served in World War I, World War II and the Korean War; and was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1953 to 1957.

This will not be the first time the Radford was used as a test ship. Since 1998, the destroyer served as the testbed for the Navy's advanced enclosed mast sensor system, or AEMS. This was the Navy's first-ever advanced hybrid composite structure.

The AEMS is a 93-foot high, hexagonal structure, 35 feet in diameter, enclosing radar, major antennas and other sensitive equipment to protect them from the weather, The Navy was trying to demonstrate that the mast can help lessen maintenance and repairs on the ship, as well as reduce the radar signature.

The DDX design will not be completed until 2005, at the earliest. The ship will have a 6-inch gun that will fire satellite-guided projectiles out to 100 nautical miles inland.

In a highly contested competition two years ago, Northrop Grumman--partnered with the Raytheon Co.--beat an industry team led by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.

Even though it was on the losing team, Lockheed Martin recently joined the DDX program for the system design phase, as a subcontractor to Raytheon. A Lockheed Martin spokesman said the company will participate in areas such as "total ship systems rngineering command and control, integrated undersea warfare and phased array rader."

Specifically, Lockheed Martin will become the "system engineering deputy and integrated undersea warfare deputy to Raytheon," said the spokesman. The company will provide mine warfare arrays, will held design displays and networks. In the area of phased-array radar, Lockheed Martin will supply the L-band volume search radar antenna.
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Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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