LCS, P-8 Are Microcosms of Ongoing Government Failure

© 2013,

The US Navy – as are the rest of the services -- is in freefall and it hurts deeply to watch the disaster unfold.

When I joined the Navy during the Vietnam War, the Navy was in a build-up as only a war can stimulate. After slogging my way through Aviation Officer Candidate School [1] (abandoned in 2007 so the Navy could save money by educating all officer candidates at Naval Station Newport, RI) and after a total of 18 months of training, I landed in my first Fleet squadron and two months later solely navigated my P-3B airplane [2] into Naval Air Facility Cam Rahn Bay, Republic of Vietnam [3].

By the time I left active duty and joined the Reserves I had completed nearly five years of active duty and the Navy had approximately 450 P-3 sub-hunters plus another several dozen or so EP-3E ISR airplanes [4]. The Navy also had approximately 480 tough ships several thousand aircraft, all battle-proven, if aging. The Soviet Union also had a large, rusty Navy that was clearly second-rate when compared to ours (except for its submarine force).

Today the Navy has approximately 85 flyable P-3s and about 250 ships. The P-3 is to be replaced by approximately 108 P-8 aircraft and the fleet is allegedly building perhaps 56 Littoral Combat Ships. The P-8 is late and because of poor planning and faulty engineering, cannot perform anti-submarine warfare, its planned primary mission. It takes an astonishing 15 months to train one crew (it took six months to train a P-3 crew). There is no money to build more than a few dozen, not 108 (down from 156). Because someone insisted upon a fanjet instead of a turboprop, the airplane cannot descend below 20,000 feet for any period of time (too much fuel burn at traditional ASW altitudes of 500 feet up to 10,000 feet), so an entirely new and untried ASW technology has to be developed, involving dropping torpedoes from 20,000 feet and other fantasies. The supporting Triton Broad Area Maritime Surveillance UCAV [5] is years late and may number only in several dozen. The LCS – now informally known within the Navy as “Crappy Little Ships” -- is way late and is a true clusterf—k. It cannot do any of its three defined missions (anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and anti-mine warfare. Its swappable mission modules don’t fit the hull, which is plagued by cracks. The propulsion systems don’t work for longer than several weeks, nor do the power generators. The crew is far too small and the men stagger about on 4-hour snatches of sleep. The ships are under-armed and the thin hulls are vulnerable to small arms fire, let alone naval rifles or torpedoes. It is so fragile that it has to be towed or carried to its mission area. As The Nav Log has chronicled, this is hardly the first time the woeful shortcomings of the P-8 and LCS have been printed:

Lockheed's First Littoral Combat Ship Loses Propulsion at Sea

By Rich Smith

July 24, 2013

The U.S. Navy revealed this week that its first-built littoral combat ship, Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT ) USS Freedom, suffered a temporary loss of propulsion Saturday when first its No. 2 ship service diesel generator shut down, then other generators also had to be shut down as well.

The No. 2 generator was found to have suffered from a turbocharger exhaust leak, and the ship's No. 3 generator was found to have a similar problem. At one point, reports, the ship was having to operate off of just one of its four equipped diesel generators.

Other power-loss problems have been encountered aboard Navy littoral combat ships in the past. For example, the General Dynamics variant of the ship, the USS Independence, lost power briefly on June 21. The Freedom suffered a power loss in 2010 as well…

Note that if the LCS were a child it would by now be entering junior high school without the ability to read, do long division, or run.

These failures cannot be attributed solely to President Obama, though he is currently clearly trying to destroy as much of the military’s combat capabilities as possible, having said in 2009 “that for better or worse, the United States is the world’s remaining super-power.” He has done more than any president since the 19th century to retire fighting generals and admirals and replace them with paper-pushers who are consumed with all manner of politically-correct nonsense and vindictive prosecution of the declining number of true warriors despite the US military’s clear record of being the fairest work environment of all national organizations. Congress has joined this jihad against the military full-bore, with the loudest, shrillest people screaming for blood while our war-fighting capability withers. Our failure to care for our veterans is a scandal far worse than any IRS or NSA outrages. That women are being allowed to compete for most Navy jobs now is a good thing. That their qualification standards are substantially below that for men is a bad thing. Diversity trumps readiness, a recipe for disaster.

President Obama is continuously scolding us for not wanting to be “fair” in our personal and professional dealings so that “we as a community can achieve great things.” Democrats in Congress are too selfish and Republicans are too cowardly to demand action to fix our military and all the good it has embodied for over two hundred years. As the United States follows the path of ancient Rome, will we ‘come aboard’ in time? As John Varley’s “Slow Armagedon” chronicles, it is a very short walk from what we take for granted down into ruin. We can either fix the problems characterized by worthless ships and aircraft or we can see the country fail. The time is late.