Tomorrow afternoon at 5pm EDT, I'll be chatting with Cdr Salamander and Eagle One on Midrats about Grounded. Highly recommended. Also, tomorrow morning you might be able to catch my interview with Rachel Martin on Weekend Edition, which is supposed to drop at about 815am in most markets.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Friday, March 7, 2014
Prototype No. 2011 of the J-20 project had its maiden flight last weekend. As previously discussed, No. 2011 has significant changes to the previous J-20 prototypes that we've seen in flight testing (No. 2001 and No. 2002). There were probably 2 more prototypes similar to 2001/2002 for the purpose of static and RCS testing. It seems like 2001/2002 are more like the demonstrator prototypes whereas 2011 is the first pre-production prototype. It's likely that the production version of J-20 will not see any major differences unless major problems are found in testing. The pictures below show prototype 2001 vs prototype 2011 from different view point with Chinese labels on parts that changed in the first 2 pictures.
Generally speaking, CAC appears to have taken much greater care for the LO properties of No. 2011 compared to 2001/2002. Quite a bit of type elapsed from 2002 to 2011 and it looks like they really tried to address a lot of issues from RCS testing. The workmanship and fit/finishing of 2011 all appear to be better. Some of the more obvious changes include
- Clipped corners on canard/v-tails
- Redesign slender intakes with bump larger or protruding more
- F-22-style light-grey colour scheme
- Larger weapon bay and smaller wing actuators
- Straightened leading edge
- Inner canopy frame like F-35
- Redesigned front landing gear door
- New EOTS-like sensor and holographic HUD display
- Redesigned rear fuselage around the engines and nozzles moved further in with longer tail sting.
Here is a good side view of the front part of the prototype.
Comparing to other 5th generation projects, I think PLAAF had a higher LO design requirement for J-20 than PAK-FA, while still trailing F-22/35. Compared to PAK-FA, it looks like everything conform to the body a lot better leaving fewer gaps and deflecting surfaces all around. Compared to F-22, it still has some areas like engine nozzle (which is covered by thrust vectoring plates on F-22) that are just not as well shielded even after the treatments. This is all from my extremely untrained eyes, so feel free to give me insights.
Project 310, China's other next-gen project, at this point still has not received official PLAAF designation. It looks to be in the flight demonstration stage and would probably need to become an offical PLAAF program before proceeding further to where J-20 is right now.
Posted by Feng at 1:17 PM
Thursday, March 6, 2014
In 1914, concerned about the High Seas Fleet and worried that Turkey would join the Central Powers, the British government seized Sultan Osman I and Resadiye, a pair of dreadnoughts under construction in British yards. These battleships would become HMS Agincourt and HMS Erin, serving in the Grand Fleet until the end of World War I.
And so this is certainly convenient timing:
A French-built helicopter carrier Vladivostok has set sail from the French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire on its first sea trial. The warship is part of a 1.2-billion-euro deal ($1.6-billion) that marked the biggest-ever sale of NATO weaponry to Moscow. The Vladivostok is on track to be delivered by the last quarter of this year, said spokesman Emmanuel Gaudez of DCNS, a state-backed naval shipbuilder manufacturing the warships along with South Korean-controlled shipbuilder STX. A sister ship, the Sevastopol is scheduled to be delivered about a year later.
The two carriers will be delivered to the Russian Pacific Fleet in 2015 and 2016. Under the contract, France shall build each Mistral ship within 36 months. The first of them, the Vladivostok, is to arrive in St. Petersburg from Saint-Nazaire, France, in December 2014. The vessel will receive its additional Russian systems at the Severnaya Verf shipyard in St. Petersburg, and then be handed over to Russia’s Pacific Fleet in November 2014.For various reasons, a suspension of delivery is unlikely to happen. The French are committed economically to the deal, which has supported French shipbuilding. However, as the first ship is nearly complete and the second well under way, some of the French stakeholders (primarily labor)have already been appeased. With the recent displays of Franco-US friendship, and of Franco-US cooperation in Africa, I have to wonder whether the French could be convinced to delay or suspend delivery as a response to the Russian conquest of Crimea. And especially given that the second ship is named Sevastopol, the optics of transferring LHAs to the Russian Navy right now are genuinely terrible.
Posted by Robert Farley at 7:18 AM
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
We've got a new website up at The Hudson Institute, and here is the link to the Hudson Center for American Seapower's Page.
We're just stating out but look to post a lot of relevant content there.
UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who has passed along the news that our website is being blocked by DoD systems (and others that mimic DoD). We are looking into how we can rectify this.
UPDATE TO UPDATE: We are in a bit of a Catch-22 here, so I could use some help from those on the "inside". When you are denied access, there is a message that comes up suggesting that you contact someone to suggest that it shouldn't be blocked. PLEASE DO THIS. Our discussion with CYBERCOMMAND is that this "a helpdesk issue, we don't respond to requests from the outside". If you could post any correspondence between you and your helpdesk or summarize it, in the comments of this post, I would be grateful. Pls ensure you take whatever privacy steps you feel necessary.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 10:59 PM
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
The most frustrating thing about watching events unfold in the Ukraine is the realization that the United States apparently learned nothing from the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. If you recall the invasion of Georgia in 2008 by Russia, you will also recall it took place right in the middle of an American election. It would appear that timing favored Russia, because lessons were apparently not learned, indeed there is scant evidence the issue was truly studied.
Today, in nearly every avenue of action, tactical options are being discussed on how to 'react' to Russia's occupation of Crimea. For the last 5+ years, time has been lost that could have been used developing a policy that included strategic options for how to deal with aggressive Russian military behavior. Many of those options are finally being explored (like working the region towards energy independence from Russia) but they are years away from being employed, and lack value in dealing with the current crisis.
In 2007 the United States Navy developed the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower in which the strategic object of preventing war was elevated to a primary mission statement of the US Navy. There was some hope that the DoD would adopt this stance as part of it's lexicon of capabilities provided. In rhetoric, the DoD demonstrated some appreciation for the concept of preventing war, but there is scant evidence the strategic object has been developed into an actual capability. Planning and rhetoric aside, the United States right now needs to prevent a war in the Ukraine. Yes, Russia has invaded the Crimea, and is using military power - but this is not a war, yet. Should the shooting start inside the Ukraine, the distinction between the non-violent occupation by the Russian military and an all out shooting war will be made evident, so no need to parse definitions.
As of Tuesday March 4, 2014, success for President Obama's soft power diplomacy policy depends entirely on preventing a war inside the Ukraine. I have been observing two starting assumptions represented in the mainstream assumptions of many "experts." I guess I am naïve to reject the prevailing wisdom of experts, time will tell.
First, I do not underestimate Putin, and I believe too many important people in this process are underestimating Russia right now. I have seen a number of media and political folks who talk to the White House regularly speak as if they believe Putin is acting from a position of weakness, and that Putin has somehow lost control of the situation and is improvising. Please stop. The EU is who lost control of the situation, and everyone has been scrambling ever since as Russia has set the parameters for the conditions inside the Ukraine to date. This administration has a history of underestimating Putin right up to the point where they get kicked sideways and told what the end game is - which seem to always favor Russia and leaves the US in a poker game holding a pair of twos trying to save face. This Rice/Kerry/Hagel team has yet to win on the field of play in foreign policy has no business underestimating this or any opponent, and has every reason to continuously expect the unexpected. The US must shape conditions favorably when given any opportunity, and right now I do not see the United States taking this kind of full court press approach to suggest we are in it to win it.
Second, I believe we are overestimating our ability to shape the outcome. Today NATO met and started discussing the situation, and tomorrow the EU will meet and start discussing their options. The US really needs the assistance of both NATO and the EU to prevent a war and shape the outcome favorably to our interests, but I am unsure the US will ultimately get much assistance from either the EU or NATO. It didn't even take 24 hours for both Germany and Great Britain to fold on economic and trade sanctions as a form of diplomatic coercion, and with the constant reinforcement in rhetoric by Senior US officials that there are no military options, I think it is absolutely clear that the study of strategy is completely dead in the DoD today. The effectiveness of the President's preferred soft power approach to crisis resolution depends on a single condition - that war inside the Ukraine is prevented. I am unclear how the US or Europe can guarantee that war is prevented inside the Ukraine without deterring the further use of Russian military power, and even though the situation might not escalate into a war, diplomatic success depends on the guarantee that war is prevented.
The US needs to shape conditions towards a favorable diplomatic solution, and I am not convinced the US is doing this today.
I believe Russia's primary objective is to take Crimea without using violent military force. Russia believes they can play a long game, wait out the Ukrainian military forces still inside Crimea, and eject those forces from the region. I am not one of those who believes Russia will simply annex Crimea, rather Russia will establish an autonomous state like they did in Georgia with South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Just like in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia is the only country that wins that arrangement. The US needs to be thinking right now how to handle this outcome - because this is the best case outcome right now and we know it. History shows US policy over time does nothing but punish the people inside those regions, not Russia, so the US clearly needs to start the hard work of developing a new policy that addresses the situation more realistically.
I believe President Obama and the United States could potentially soon be standing alone against Russia on the issue of the occupation of Crimea in the Ukraine. I am not convinced the US can apply sanctions unilaterally without serious blowback by Russia, but maybe we can? It seems to me the US needs to define exactly what our national interest is in the Ukraine before we apply sanctions, because there are ways that Russia can put pressure on other, well defined, national interests in a game of diplomatic warfare against one another. I have no idea if President Obama sees the Ukraine situation as a national interest to the US, because I am yet to hear him articulate his argument why the crisis in Ukraine unfolding is a national interest of the US.
If we assume the occupation of Crimea represents a threat to our national interests, and I do believe it is, the US must guarantee that we do everything possible to prevent escalation of hostilities. To do so, the US must deter Russia from taking any further territory with military force. I am of the opinion that if 1) Russia starts facing a violent confrontation in any form, including insurgency, or 2) if our diplomatic warfare activities actually hurt Russia, that Russia will seek to occupy more territory in the Ukraine with hard military power, and will not hesitate to create a refugee problem with hard power. Ukrainian authorities continue to observe, every day, that Russia is massing more troops on the Russian border side of the Kharkov, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. If things start to go unfavorably for Russia, as of today nothing exists that will stop Putin from drawing a line from Kharkov to Odessa and occupying all points East. I don't think Putin is interested in a prolonged occupation, but that territory would given Russia several key advantages in diplomatic negotiations - including not just the territories, but a forced relocation refugee problem that would make everything inside the Ukraine considerably more complicated for any nation attempting to support the Ukraine with economic packages.
Obama has several military options to prevent a war. First, NATO could establish a air defense zone over Ukraine. If NATO is conducting the anti-air defense of Ukraine, the Russian military is not going to find success advancing in the Ukraine while being bombed from the air by the Ukrainian Air Force while also fighting the Ukrainian Army on the ground. NATO support for the Ukraine towards Air Superiority over the Ukraine would add significant assurance to the situation on the ground inside the Ukraine that Russia would not further advance militarily. I do not understand why the US DoD hasn't already been out front with this military option, diplomacy depends on the prevention of further hostilities, and the US is often quick to discuss setting up no-fly zones over enemy states, but is somehow slow in providing the same level of support to people we call friends?
NATO should also start mobilizing MIW capabilities just outside the Black Sea in case they are needed, because if the port in Odessa gets blocked by Russia, logistics is going to get very difficult for the Ukraine quickly. The railroads in the region are not that great, and cannot support Ukraine if - for any reason - access to the port of Odessa becomes restricted. Bryan discussed the need for more US seapower, but in my analysis of the kind of seapower the US would use in a situation like this given the various treaty obligations and operational challenges, the US Navy doesn't really field the kind of naval capabilities most needed for this type of conflict prevention strategic objective with the exception of the Littoral Combat Ship. The capabilities at sea needed are those for operating in the littoral, functional for electronic warfare and ISR, and capable of MIW. A CVN in the Eastern Med could sink the entire Black Sea Fleet in a day if it came to that, but this is about sea control without hostilities - soft power at-sea capabilities, not hard power like aircraft carriers. I'm not convinced even the LCS is a good fit for this crisis, but a combat capable corvette certainly would be. Other NATO nations have that capability, so perhaps US Navy logistics is the best capability for the US Navy to bring to this type of war prevention engagement.
Finally, NATO should commit some special units for military training and Ukrainian Army readiness inside the Ukraine - and do it starting today. The presence needs not be large, but the need to prevent war demands reassurance to the Ukrainian military to reinforce professionalism and maintain preparations towards the prevention of escalation of conflict with Russia. Sending ground forces in gives the US and EU escalation control, and does not represent escalation of tensions in and of itself - in fact it stabilizes tensions. The cost of these type of engagement activities in prevention of war pales in comparison to the costs of a refugee crisis on the border of yet another NATO nation, and one look at the refugee crisis coming from Syria should be a reminder that preventing a war before it starts is an excellent investment by NATO compared to reacting to the conditions of war after the the shooting starts.
It is incredible to me that the DoD has offices like Air-Sea Battle and the Office of Strategic Landpower and yet the DoD seems incapable of offering what I see as obvious military options that help deter Russia from further conflict. My biggest concern is that these military options have been presented to the President, and the Obama Administration (Susan Rice?) rejected these options, because I believe rejecting such options would represent nothing short of faith based foreign policy absent the serious substance necessary to control conditions in the real world; a political decision that, in my opinion, would justify every criticism related to weakness and incompetence of the administration and the people in it made to date.
As of today there are no obvious efforts being made towards preventing escalation of the crisis in the Ukraine by Russia if they choose to do so, even though US diplomatic activities will - by intent and presumably by effect if effective - escalate the crisis by imposing costs on Russia. Hard power in the form of forward deployed military presence represents the deterrence capability necessary to empower the effectiveness of diplomatic solutions by the Obama administration, and has the capacity to contain crisis through the stabilization of conditions that work favorably for our diplomatic soft power.
If the US is unwilling to set conditions for US diplomacy to work, expect the conditions to be changed by Russia in a way that works unfavorably against our diplomatic activity.
Posted by Robert Farley at 7:03 AM
Monday, March 3, 2014
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 9:55 AM
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Vladomirovich Putin (KGB) Ret., who managed to create great warmth in the hearts of both George Bush and Barack Obama in his post-service employment, has moved on after his Sochi 2014 triumph to a well-timed
invasion intervention in Crimea, a humanitarian mission by all lights designed to protect the lives of Russian speaking Crimeans (Ukrainians), and a page taken from the playbook that once gave us a similar incursion into "The Sudetenland".
Putin's move is driven by a number of factors, not the least of which is the continued ownership of a naval base at Sevastopol, his desire to rebuild a non-communist inheritor of the greatness of the Soviet Union, and his desire to secure Russia's "near abroad". I am no expert in matters of Russian History or European realpolitik, and so my analysis cannot go much deeper than reading and understanding the thinking of others who are. Twitter is aflame with their opinions, some of which make sense.
I find myself generally in agreement with those who lament that we do not have many military options in this matter, though I do believe we have some diplomatic cards to play, and it sounds as if the Administration is largely playing that hand well. That said, my reading of history leads me to believe that diplomacy becomes more effective when there is military power available to supplement it.
Were I a Joint Staff Officer I would be busy with contingency planning, but since I am not, I will restrict my musings to the subject of how we got here.
Simply put, we got here because V.V. Putin made a calculation that the price he would pay for his actions in Ukraine was less than the benefit he could accrue. Some may try to make it more than that, but they would be wrong. This is a straightforward calculation of strength and weakness, and in Putin's mind, the West is weak, or at least not strong enough to make a difference.
Logical contributors to Putin's mindset must surely be the geographic insularity of the region by land, and while proximate to the sea, the paucity of any available naval strength to contend with his adventurism. So while the West may recall Ambassadors and cancel meetings (these are not unserious moves), Putin calculates that he will quickly consolidate his gains and a new normal will prevail. He is likely correct in this assumption.
He is correct because Russian forces WILL quickly consolidate their gains--because there is nothing to get in the way.
We got here because the United States vacated the Mediterranean as a hub for forward deployed naval combat power in the 1990's, and Europe's navies responded to the vacuum by getting even smaller. While some may wonder whether military action would have been in our interest here, it is an academic discussion. There is little we could do. I make no claims about land or land-based air power, but from the perspective of what seapower can accomplish, the key to it accomplishing anything worthy at all is to be there, or close by. Where we choose to "be" these days is in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean/Arabian Gulf, and these are good decisions, though the diminishing size of our Fleet will make posturing force in even these two areas more problematic.
Seapower is about options and options become more limited where it is not employed. Here is where the false choice between capacity and capability arises, one heard a great deal in these days of defense budget cuts and strategy-making. We are led to believe that faced with declining resources, it is best to choose capability over capacity, that we can and should assume additional near and mid-term risk while we protect long range advances and technology. This is the argument for cutting an aircraft carrier and its related argument, reducing the number of air wings. This is the argument for cutting the fleet size, and for regrettable (but innovative) necessities like subjecting ships to inactive modernization periods. But options--the kind of options that the world's most important nation (I believe) still (I believe) wishes to to consider--are a function of capacity. Already unable to provide the combat power required in the two hubs mentioned due to insufficient capacity (Fleet size), we find ourselves with the growing realization that we can longer ignore the Mediterranean and its related waters. Libya and Benghazi, Syria and now Ukraine--each situations in which the options available to the President were limited by the capacity of the force at his disposal. There is not enough naval power to deter and dissuade, and to provide forceful backup to our diplomacy. And so the Mediterranean--once a center of our national security interest--becomes a conservation of force theater.
As I lamented the other day, I believe our system to be horribly broken, and it is that system upon which we must rely to reach the conclusion that I have--that we need a larger Navy, more widely fielded, and assuming a larger share of the national security burden. Until that day comes, we must be more prepared for events to occur that we find distasteful, but for which we have no answer and no capacity to mitigate in situ. We will lodge protests, issue stern condemnations, recall diplomats and cancel summits. But we will be smaller and we will less consequential. And we will have chosen that path.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 2:25 PM
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
I recorded a podcast at Ace Of Spades HQ last night about the Defense Budget and some of the issues splitting the GOP.
WARNING: This is a good dose of politics here. Please don't listen if that bothers you. Don't even click the link.
It's about thirty minutes long.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 7:33 PM
|Photo by: Jacquelyn Martin|
As everyone knows, I have been and remain a very strong supporter of the Littoral Combat Ship program. My argument since late 2008, when I spent 3 nights aboard USS Freedom walking through the ship with very smart folks thinking about what the Navy is doing with the Littoral Combat Ship program, has been that the naval warfare theories found in the concept of LCS will heavily influence surface warfare in the 21st century. I still believe that to be true.
To date, USS Freedom has yet to do anything that can be described as anything other than an activity designed for domestic political purposes. Whether it was the tour of ports across the US prior to being commissioned, the short patrol off the US southern coast, the deployment to Singapore, and even the response to the recent tsunami in the Philippines - USS Freedom has basically proven to be an operational lemon and a political flop.
But that doesn't surprise anyone paying attention to the LCS program, because all LCS observers have seen how the Navy has had to slap on one change after another to put the ship to sea, only to frequently see the ship limp back to port. It is a first in class lemon paid for by R&D funding, forced into operation too quickly for purposes of being tested by fire only to see the Navy burned every time. So the first ship, redesigned after construction begun, is a lemon. No shipbuilder - even those at Lockheed Martin - are surprised by that reality. The only real surprise with LCS to date is that USS Independence - the Austal version first in class - apparently isn't a lemon also.
But the Navy put their lemon out there, tried to make lemonade, and so far it looks more like dog urine. Worth a try? Maybe? I honestly don't know, time will tell. The question is, does anyone honestly believe the rest of the Lockheed Martin LCS class is going to be a lemon too? I don't. It is also important to contrast all the publicity of USS Freedom with the complete absence of publicity for USS Independence. I do not mean to imply the LCS will be some great class of ship by itself, rather I do strongly believe the impact that LCS will have on surface warfare is going to be very positive for that community long term.
Despite all the news you may be reading right now, to me I am thinking 2014 is the turning point for the entire Littoral Combat Ship program, and thanks to John McCain's circus in the Senate, people might finally realize it as new events start unfolding. The conversation has, almost entirely, been what the ship presumably can't do. The conversation, very soon, will transition into what the Littoral Combat Ship is doing. For the past 15 ship classes (mentioned below), that simple transition has made a lot of difference in how people looked at ships that couldn't meet early cost estimates.
When Talking Points Fail
John McCain is one of the best in Washington, DC when it comes to complaining as loud as possible about unpopular defense programs. Unfortunately he complains so much about what he is against, no one knows what he is actually for anymore when it comes to defense. Today the Senator made a big scene, and as long as no one actually fact checks what he said, he might not take a hit for the magnitude by which he was completely wrong today... again, and again, and again. This is what I like to call terrible preparation and staff work by a Senator and his office.
John McCain: Mr. Work, as a former Navy Undersecretary you wrote a very candid paper about the Littoral Combat Ship program. I have a memorandum from Secretary Hagel to the Chief of Naval Operations, I don't know if you are aware of it or not, he says "Therefore no new contract negotiations beyond 32 ships will go forward" talking about the Littoral Combat Ship. Do you agree with that assessment?Two things here. First, LCS is not being cancelled like Senator McCain is suggesting, rather the Senator's staff isn't smart enough to realize this is what down-select for the LCS looks like. Hagel is basically reintroducing competition back into the LCS program while building upon lessons learned from the first Block 0+ ships. Yeah, someone is going to offer up some incredibly expensive FFG in the analysis of alternatives, but don't bite the hook, rather expect the winner to be a Block I LCS based on one of the two designs, but the Block I will add firepower while keeping to some of the core concepts of the original LCS... that's where this is really heading.
Bob Work: As I understand it, what the assessment is saying is we will stop building the Flight 0+ LCS at 32 ships and we will consider follow-on ships - small combatants - a modified LCS could be one of the options, a domestic or foreign design could be one of the options, so I think this is very normal with Navy shipbuilding. We build Flights...
John McCain: You think it's normal? You think it's normal that the cost overruns associated with this ship? The fact that we don't even know what the mission is, that there has not been a, this whole idea of moving different modules off and on? You disagree with the Government Accountability Office statement about the cost overruns? This is normal Mr. Work?
Second, did Senator McCain really ask if cost overruns are "normal" three times?
Of the nine first in class ships previous to LCS, four had overruns of greater than 100% (Avenger class, Osprey class, Arleigh Burke class, San Antonio class), three had overruns between 40-60% (Oliver Hazard Perry class, Ticonderoga class, Whidbey Island class). Only two had overruns less than 20% (Wasp class and Virginia class). NONE came in lower than expected. Now, if we also count the Seawolf class, the America class, the Zumwalt class, the Ford class, and throw in Independence and Freedom as unique classes of ships...
The last 15 classes of US Navy ships have started out with cost overrun problems. For the entire career of John McCain as a Senator, this has been normal by any definition of the word. John McCain is either the most remarkably ignorant Senator on Navy shipbuilding issues in US history, or he's intentionally acting like a clown. I'll let you decide.
Bob Work: Well sir, up until 2007, 2008, 2009 when the program almost imploded there were significant cost overruns. When Secretary Mabus, Secretary Stackley, and I arrived in the Department of the Navy in 2009 - I believe since then the program has met it's cost targets. In 2001 the guidance to the Department of the Navy was to be able to build 3 LCS's for the price of one Arleigh Burke. The Department of the Navy is doing that, today. So I think you have to look at the performance of...How many folks involved in the Littoral Combat Ship program from 2005 - 2008 have been nominated and approved by Senator McCain to become a Flag Officer? The only person in this conversation who was legitimately in a position to hold people accountable for failures in the LCS program was Senator John McCain. The only person in this conversation whose record reflects a positive contribution to the Littoral Combat Ship program problems is Bob Work.
John McCain: So it makes it hard to understand why Secretary Hagel would, when the original plans as presented to Congress for their approval was 52 ships. And by the way, was anyone ever held responsible for these failures 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010?
Bob Work: Those happened in the administration prior to ours so I don't know what...
Senator McCain, your music is playing.
John McCain: So everything has been fine under this administration as far as the LCS is concerned?Like Bob Work, I was guilty of not reading the full US Government Accountability Office study of the Littoral Combat Ship from July of 2013. I read the highlight page back when it was released, then shrugged and went on to do more important things. No matter how John McCain tries to spin it, the GAO report isn't in direct contradiction of anything Bob Work said, indeed the report highlight page starts by saying:
Bob Work: I believe that the program is on solid ground and is meeting its cost targets, yes sir.
John McCain: You do believe that?
Bob Work: Yes sir.
John McCain: So you are in direct contradiction of the Government Accountability Office study of 2013.
Bob Work: I haven't read that particular uh....
John McCain: You haven't read it?
Bob Work: No sir.
GAO found that the Navy has made progress in addressing some of the early design and construction problems on the LCS 1 and LCS 2 seaframes, and quality defects and unit costs are declining, now that the seaframes are in steady production. Based on projected learning curves, shipyard performance can be expected to continue to improve over time.I went ahead and read the entire GAO report because Senator McCain made it sound like the report says something incredibly important, but I could never could find where the report contradicts what Bob Work said, indeed it basically answers Senator McCain's question by suggesting that the Littoral Combat Ship is doing much better under the current administration.
John McCain: Wow... uhm... I'm stunned that you haven't. But the fact is that the ship has still not, uh, had a clear, uh, mission. The modules that were supposed to be moving back and forth have not, uh, we have not persued the fly before you buy, uh, uh, policy. And, uhm.. Do you remember the original cost estimate for the LCS?Senator McCain, no one outside the DoD has the real cost of LCS sir, because the cost of the modules has not been released publicly. Why would Bob Work know the cost of LCS considering he hasn't been in government service for almost a year?
Bob Work: It was $220 million for the sea frame Senator, and depending on the number of modules that you would buy the total cost for a missionized LCS, average cost was supposed to be no more than $400 million in FY2005 dollars.
John McCain: And what is it now?
Bob Work: I think, I haven't been briefed on the most recent cost - I'll do that if confirmed and look at it but I know that we are on track...
John McCain: Thank you for doing that, what's the cost now? You don't even know the cost now Mr. Work?
Bob Work: I believe the average cost with modules is about $450 million but not in FY2005 dollars, two thousand five dollars. So if you take a look at the original costing factors, I believe the cost of today's LCS's are very close to the costs that were set back in 2002-2003.
We all have different 'unofficial' estimated numbers for the Littoral Combat Ship seaframe and modules. I have mine, and Bob Work probably has better numbers than mine. To protect my sources I will not detail mine exactly, but generally as of FY2014 I have the Littoral Combat Ship plus the average cost of one mission module costing around $548 million, which is $421 million in FY2005 dollars. Now, without going into too much detail, allow me to provide some insight into those numbers. The primary reason why the average cost of the Littoral Combat Ship is more than $400 million in FY2005 dollars is because the MIW module is incredibly expensive, indeed I believe the very high cost of the MIW module is why the LCS modules are yet to be released in the SAR. Once we see the module numbers in the SAR, we will all have a much better idea of how much LCS really costs.
But here is the rub... even if the LCS went away, the one part of the entire LCS program the Navy will keep under any circumstances is the Mine Warfare Module. It is the most desired piece of the entire program, so that cost is going to exist with or without the LCS.
And yes, if I replace the 24 MIW modules with 12 ASuW and 12 ASW modules based on the numbers I have, and applied the average, the LCS cost in FY2014 dollars is less than $400 million FY2005 dollars. Expect the MIW module to cost in the neighborhood of $70 - $80 million per module when the SAR finally reveals the cost. As we already know, mine warfare is very expensive.
John McCain: Well given that then it is hard to understand why the Secretary of Defense would curtail the production of it by some 24 ships, so Mr. Work every objective study whether it be the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, the Government Accountability Office, every other objective observer the LCS is not anywhere near what it was presented to the Congress by funding and this again makes me wonder about your qualifications because the one thing that we are plagued with is significant cost overruns and lack of capability.John McCain's staff failed him today, because they forgot to update all the old talking points and forced John McCain to say a lot of inaccurate things about LCS in an attempt to stick it to Bob Work, stuff that was very much once true but today is clearly not. The Senator's implication regarding the cost of LCS is wrong, and I'm struggling to find all these objective observers saying otherwise today, because even the GAO in the July 2013 report the Senator claims to be citing concedes the cost of LCS is no longer the programs problem. Now maybe the Senator disagrees, but $421 million in FY2005 dollars appears to me to be pretty close to $400 million in FY2005 dollars, in fact the cost of LCS today is a lot closer to the original estimate than I think every reasonable observer would have ever believed possible back in 2007-2008 when the Navy was ceasing construction of ships in both shipyards.
Senator John McCain today is attempting to publicly slap Bob Work with the LCS program, which makes no sense because every data point suggests Bob Work was part of a team that took a really bad LCS program suffering from enormous cost problems, and clearly turned it around and got it back on track. If the Senator will publicly attack people who do a good job, and the same Senator voted affirmative for promotions to Navy officers who were directly involved in the problems of LCS, the Senator is hardly qualified to pass on judgment regarding qualifications, because the Senator is the one demonstrating clear lack of good judgment.
In hindsight, I find the whole thing sad. Bob Work might legitimately be the nations top civilian strategic thinker on defense issues since the cold war, and John McCain - who some consider to be the nations top defense Senator - has clearly gone off the deep end into the land of crazy nonsense. As soon as Senator John McCain realizes his staff let him down big time today, that the Senator is on the wrong side of the facts he argued, and assuming his ego allows the Senator to concede he made a mistake....
Bob Work will be the next Deputy Secretary of Defense.
As for that whole New Hampshire BRAC thing that happened today... either the Portsmouth Shipyard folks honestly believe they are in trouble keeping the yard open, or that was the Joint Strike Fighter lobby nervous as hell about Bob Work's appointment.
Something to keep an eye on.