LCS Versus the Danish Strawman

nils juel 2Many critics have assailed the Littoral Combatant Ship (LCS) program for its high cost in comparison with foreign, supposedly better armed and equipped equivalents. The Danish Iver Huitfeldt and Absalon class frigates are often cited as examples of cheaper, more capable small combatants in comparison with LCS. These claims are not well researched and are based on isolated points of data rather than any systemic analysis. Other nations may be able to build relatively cheap warships, but hidden factors not discussed by critics, rather than U.S. shipbuilding and general acquisition deficiencies make this possible. The Danish Navy, in conjunction with corporate giant A.P. Moeller have produced an outstanding series of warships, but a direct comparison between them with the LCS is one of apples verses oranges. It’s time to stop using this inaccurate strawman argument against LCS.

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The direct comparison of the Danish frigates to LCS is highly misleading due to significant differences in Danish shipbuilding practice and financial accounting. The Danish “StanFlex” system of “plug and play” weapons, sensors and equipment (including cranes!) officially separates these components from the advertised cost of the ship. A 2006 RAND report on the rise in warship costs specifically identified such systems as the principal drivers of warship cost inflation. The Danish concept of separating these more costly systems from their hull gives the appearance of a much less expensive warship. The ships were often accepted by the Danish Navy in an incomplete condition. The Danish Nils Juel, for example, was delivered in 2014 with 76mm guns scavenged from decommissioned ships. Danish figures suggest that the Iver Huitfeldt program used $209 million in reused equipment from scrapped vessels. Reuse, however, could not meet all system requirements. The planned 127mm (5 inch) gun system was deemed too expensive at $50 million a copy. The ship’s close-in weapon system mount was actually a dummy, wooden weapon due to a lack of certification. While equipped with a MK 41 vertical launch missile system (VLS), the ship deployed to the fall 2014 U.S. Bold Alligator exercise without the system certified for use or weapons purchased for eventual outfitting. That same reporting indicated that the ship was delivered with its damage control system incomplete and lacking a secondary steering control center. Much of the ship is built to merchant ship standards which are not as robust as those traditionally provided to warships. In addition, the Danish ship was forced to take on nearly 20 extra crew members when the lean 100 person complement was found insufficient for operational needs.

The Absalon class is more akin to a heavily armed, limited load amphibious ship rather than a surface combatant. It combines a number of warfare and expeditionary capabilities on a single hull, but excels at none of them. It is also significantly slower (at 24 knots maximum speed) than most other surface combatants. Both Absalon and her sister Esbern Snare were also delivered without their full installation of weapons and sensors. In the case of Absalon, this process took over three years. The Danish Navy has been open in regards to these conditions. U.S. advocates of adopting the Absalon or Iver Huitfeldt classes almost always overlook them.

The LCS, by contrast is delivered with significant systems such as its 57mm gun and point defense missile system incorporated into the overall cost. Scavenging of weapons from previous U.S. ships is extremely difficult due to a constant process of upgrades over time. Weapon systems, like ships also have service lives and U.S. ships being decommissioned often have equally aged weapons and supporting electrical, hydraulic and mechanical systems that make a re-installation not cost effective. Unlike the Absalon class which is not equipped to master any one warfare area in any of its configurations, the LCS can be exclusively equipped to master one such discipline. It is purposely designed to operate in tailored flotillas designed to mitigate the risks incurred by one ship like Absalon. Critics often fail to note that both Iver Huitfeldt and Absalon are nearly twice the size of LCS.  Neither has the speed requirements that drove initial LCS design considerations. The size difference alone may explain the Danish ships’ much longer endurance. These differences in Danish and U.S. practices make comparisons difficult at best.

Finally, the Danish Navy contracted the building of both the Iver Huitfeldt and Absalon classes to a single firm, the A.P. Moeller Corporation. This multinational giant derives the vast bulk of its earnings from the more stable commercial market and its warship business is not dependent on government orders, which causes instability and cost overruns in its production process. By contrast, U.S. LCS shipbuilders Lockheed Martin and Austal serve government interests much more than private ones and are more dependent on government contracts to maintain stability in their operations. The 2006 RAND report also identified this process of divided warship construction as another factor in the increased cost of surface combatants.

The LCS program has been beset with a number of technological and systemic problems since its inception that have slowed the program’s progress and likely contributed to some cost overruns. On the surface, the Iver Huitfeldt and Absalon class frigates would appear to be cost effective alternatives to the LCS. Deeper investigation, however, reveals how the Danes achieved these substantially lower figures by separating higher cost equipment from that of the platform, scavenging weapons from decommissioned ships, accepting incomplete warships for service, and purchasing these vessels from a single, robust commercial shipbuilder not dependent on or affected by unstable government ship acquisition processes. In summary, these classes meet Denmark’s needs, but are an unsuitable substitute for U.S. Navy small combatants. LCS critics, however, should not use the Danish ships as strawman LCS substitutes. It is a most unequal comparison.

Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941. 

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64 thoughts on “LCS Versus the Danish Strawman”

  1. I agree. The comparison of the Danish frigates to LCS is quite unfair. The Danish frigates are real lethal and survivable frigates. The LCS, even “up gunned” is not. Yes, the Danes actually separated payloads from platforms and used it to their advantage. The Stanflex systems come reconditioned from a maintenance pool and greatly reduce maintenance, repair and modernization costs over the life of the ships, as do the extra margins in space, weight, cooling and power. It would be interesting to compare their total ownership costs to LCS. The examples of incomplete systems were taken from the Cavas article on Niels Juel. That was the last ship of the class and pushed out early to cover missions left open due to her sisters extended counter piracy deployments. Those systems have been accounted for in total program costs. The MK 41 is empty awaiting the Danish political decision to participate in BMD. Yes LCS will never carry a mix of SM-2 or Tomahawk so that comparison isn’t fair either. The commercial standards used did not make a less survivable ship. When there was a question then modifications were made to mitigate any concerns. The ships have CPS zones, CMWDd, and 36 watertight zones. They have passed actual NATO STANAG shock tests. They are big ships with the speed and endurance consistent with real frigates. As for the “advantage” of building the ships in Odense Steel Shipbuilding that is not the case. OSS did design and build the platform, but had little to do with the combat systems. The advantage was that the RDN did almost all its own combat systems integration and did not use an LSI. NAVSEA will evidently try this role for the SSC/FF. By the way, although OSS did make a profit on the frigate programs, they were closed due to the inability to compete commercially with the Koreans. However, there is no reason their high productivity could not be replicated in a US shipyard.

    1. The U.S. does not need a mid range warship like the Iver Huitfeld. The ship is the Danish equivalent of the DDG 51. As to replicating such a ship in US yards, Lockheed and Austal are much more dependent on defense contracts than AP Moeller. The Danish giant can absorb cost overruns and changes much better than the US yards due to their large commercial business. Furthermore, the very close alignment between Moeller and the Danish govt. is not likely reproducible in the US.

      1. I believe SECDEF made it clear that the US needs a small surface combatant consistent with the qualities of a frigate. That is why the SSCTF was formed and why the LCS is receiving upgrades to its lethality and survivability. The Danes would never say their frigates are DDG-51 equivalents. They are not. They are frigates, between a corvette and a destroyer. Maersk built the frigates on a fixed price contract. They lost money on the first Iver Huitfeldt, broke even on the next, and made a significant profit on the third. They are a public owned company that must answer to their board and shareholders. They are not in business to lose money and did no favors to the government. To that point, in the end, they had to close the yard due to foreign commercial competition. I disagree that US shipyards cannot build affordable ships. Nothing that the Danes did could not be reproduced in the US.

      2. IMHO At some point in time the USN will buy a true expeditionary frigate. Buy a design, hire the engineers who did it, modify it for US shipyards to bid on, own the design and the products that result. Going one step further ASSIGN the construction to specific yards. (You can BET congressional critters will scream. Stand up for what one thinks is the right COA~)
        Fact is the DDG-51 are big, expensive warships whose hullforms are at their maximum.
        Buying more DDG-51 hulls is like the next-gen LCS, a COA based on what is supposedly doable rather than what is right.

    2. no CPS zones or any sort of citadel protection for the crews onboard the production LCS corvettes. Nope, the small crew will never (wink, wink) encounter any biohazard or chemical or fallout while operating all over the world near land masses. No need for any sort of CPS to protect the US Navy crew on any of our LCS. No sir. Note that the US Coast Guard, which also operates their largest frigate sized cutters all over the world and inside Littorals, provides a very robust, large, highly capable CPS protection for their Coasties. Another fine job by the LCS program “managers” in Washington D.C. Can we get our LCS $$$ refunded ?

  2. I agree it is very difficult to make cost comparisons between shipbuilding programs using different accounting systems.

    The Danes actually had some structural modules built in Eastern Europe which would be like a US shipbuilder having some modules built in Mexico before assembly and outfitting in the US. Perhaps we ought to consider that.

    The endurance question is not one of size. There are several ships of the same size as the LCS or smaller, with far greater range and endurance.

    I do think the great sacrifices required to achieve the speeds associated with the LCS should be reexamined.

    Unfortunately the LCS hulls designs have sacrificed both sea kindliness and endurance for the sake of extreme speed that is probably relatively unimportant over the life of the ships.

    1. Indeed, the reason for the LCS’s 40-knot speed requirement has never been revealed, yet it adds considerable expense to the taxpayers, and a far more complex power plant into the sea-frames.

      1. CNO wanted fast. At the time, it fit the “vision” of a close in Streetfighter- the vision changed several times as has been well documented… Somehow the speed requirement remained and may make sense for the first 32 PC/MCM replacements – not so much for the 20 “frigates” if they are intended to perform traditional frigate missions, largely escort in nature. It’s all very confused because the catalyst was just trying to meet numbers in the 30 year shipbuilding plan due to Congress. Navy knows this very well and has been in backpedal mode ever since they stuck 52 LCS into the plan.

        1. Propulsion is the heart of the problem. The Navy’s in-house designers did not work the design of this vessel out in advance. They just formulated a set of requirements for an rfp, with speed topping the list.

          The 45 kt speed requirement as you all know is exceptional. It pushes the limit of what large-sized warships can do. (Yes, there are limits to performance.) Extraordinary steps were made to achieve it, and this meant that other design features were constrained. The most glaring, and irremedial, if you ask me, is the fuel efficiency, and consequently, range. It just is plain unsatisfactory for a deep water warship. And the other unsatisfactory aspect is cost. The LCS, in both forms, is a program warranting cancellation because it failed to meet its initial cost objective, and has continued to do so with every reprieve. It was originally supposed to be a $250K ship. Now it is heading north of three times that, with no end in sight.

          This speed requirement required in one case an innovative hull, and in the other a novel form of propulsion that to my knowledge has never before been used for a ship of this size. Perhaps these requirements could have been successfully met if the program had remained faithful to the Streetfighter concept, and kept the size of the ship down, the price, and consequently, the expectations. But all naval shipbuilding programs are the objects of envy, jealousy, competition, and controversy. The Streetfighter could never have been the building block for the fleet of the future. And with nothing else in the to replace minesweepers and retiring frigates, the LCS program has simply become too many things to too many people.

          In the final analysis, the speed requirement made no sense. No naval ship will ever be fast enough to outrun a bullet or a missile. Frigates need speed, but not that much. They also need fuel efficiency for range. And in so far as in-shore patrol situations are concerned, with the likely possibility of being overwhelmed by high-speed patrol craft, what is needed is a highly durable ship that is loaded with proven short range weapons: a ship that take it and dish it out; a ship that can stand and fight, not a ship that can make 45 kts.

          The LCS is a horse designed by committee, and a lame one, at that. What is needed is a new small ship-of-the-line of general utility designed by a small group of engineer duty officers with a shared vision of what the Navy needs, as informed by evolving mission statements and doctrines.

  3. I don’t think it matters how the LCS compares to a Danish design, I think it matters how the LCS compares to the needs of the US Navy, and I haven’t seen a good explanation of that.

    The LCS was designed on a blue-water, ocean-crossing hull, but with the firepower of a light gunboat or coastal combatant. If we were serious about LCS flotillas, they would be heavily armed and relatively short ranged, but supported by tenders to get them into theater.

    I don’t think the Navy has a clear mission for the LCS beyond padding our numbers.

  4. “…significant systems such as its 57mm gun and point defense missile system”? Seriously??? As opposed to a 3″ gun, 8+ ASCMs, torpedoes, and a SAM battery?

  5. The Absalon has been in service for a decade. In that time not one Navy outside of Denmark has bought them or copied them. Surely if they were as effective for their cost as some insist, someone somewhere would be buying them.

    The Iver Huitfeldts have had less time to prove themselves, but yet again little to no interest from the world’s Navies.

    Could the market place be so wrong, and the frigate fantasists be so right?

    1. Interesting and worth pointing out, but not dispositive. It is hardly a free market economy nor one which produces the best results. That is the point the critics of the LCS are getting at when they draw comparisons: Yes, Virginia, the market could be so wrong.

    2. The Iver Huitfeldt is the leading contender for the Canadian Single Class Surface Combatant program to replace its frigates and destroyers. That is over the Dutch, German, British and French offerings. Not even an American horse in the race. Its massive range, ASW capabilities, good firepower, modularity and best in class fire control and sensors make it ideal for any Navy looking to beef up their blue water fleet.

    3. Short answer… Yes, the market place can be so wrong…

      The navies around the world are very traditionalists/conservative in mindset, they see the word commercial, and 4/5s of them have dropped out… Add to that, Denmark, despite being something of great power when it comes to merchant navies, have a small professional navy, compared with Britain, France, Italy, Spain or the US, and Denmarks two designs of 5 ships suddenly isn’t looking like much… Add to that national interest in ones own designs, and you have a way for the market to overlook one of the most interesting ships out there.

      And as of the past week, Britain looks to adopt the design of the Iver Huitfeldts for their type 31… Showing that the design is solid.

    4. Awakening this thread. The UK Babcock Arrowhead 140 – Type 31e – selection finished a couple of days ago. Guess what: Based on the Ivar Huitfelt/Absalon design. So … yeah …

    5. Both the British Navy and the Indonesian Navy are procuring frigates based on procuring frigates based on the Iver Huitfeldt.

  6. Steve Wills makes some good points about the problems of the ABSALON Class and the limitations of the design – as well as the problems of funding that the Danish Navy has had to face. However, I don’t think that he has addressed the main point, which is whether a different approach to what is now the LCS, with less focus on very high speed and more on other factors, such as high internal volume, multi-role capabilities and greater endurance, would have provided a better ship for USN requirements. I believe that it would and that the LCS is a curious melange of Vice Admiral Cebrowski’s ideas with competing operational imperatives.
    Contrary to the comments about other navies not following up on these ideas, it is clear that at least the British Type 26, the ‘Global Combat Ship’ is intended to have substantial carrying capacity. Not buying a particular design is not the same thing as not being influenced by it.

    1. Thanks for your comments Admiral. I agree the high speed requirement is a holdover from VADM Cebrowski’s streetfighter concept. Secretary Work’s NWC history paper on the LCS’ development suggests that LCS grew from streetfighter into the LCS over time, mostly in response to USN needs for a larger, more deployable platform. The speed requirement remained and now is perhaps more a detriment than an asset. The USN budget is also such that making a substantial change to the LCS’ design to limit speed in favor fuel/armament, is just too expensive and/or would slow the ship’s entry into service. The Type 26 appears to be an excellent design.

      Very respectfully,
      Steve Wills

      1. Steve
        I think we are in agreement and, yes, the USN is rather ‘stuck’ with the LCS so far as it can be sensibly modified, which I note is the new plan.
        The history of LCS’ evolution is certainly as I understood it when watching from the Australian sidelines and in occasional interactions with VADM Cebrowski. I have long felt that the tragedy was, particularly when he was at Newport, that too few people were willing to engage in a robust debate with him over his volleys (which is the best word I can find) of ideas.

    2. @Lazarus
      There is no T26 design yet, that’s the problem… 🙂

      @James Goldrick
      The RN has its own rather weird priorities – it’s one of the few navies that has a standing task that is explicitly for long-distance HA/DR, the summer hurricane season in the Caribbean territories. Lately Bay class LSDs have tended to take that tour after the Haiti earthquake proved their worth, they’ve even used a RFA tanker when ships got pulled off-station for Libya. There’s also a requirement to support special forces at range, which is why even the Type 45s have substantial hotel accommodation, unlike most AAW ships. Absalon does have flexible space, but the CONOPS is more about vehicles, it’s more about having a part-time amphibious capability whereas the T26 is more likely to use its space for RHIBS, UUVs and UAVs as adjuncts to being a frigate. A closer comparison to Absalon would be Singapore’s Endurance mini-LPDs.

      The whole trimaran frigate thing was about getting more deck space and began with student projects at UCL in 1990; by 1995 it was looking like the Future Escort would be a trimaran, hence the MoD commissioning RV Triton (which in turn gave rise to the BMT-designed Sea Fighter for the USN). FE eventually became Type 26, so it’s more a question of British influence on LCS than vice versa!

      Before SSC Bob Work was explicitly hinting that he’d like to see an LCS follow-on that was slower and bigger, it looks like they never got the budget/time to design a new class.

      1. Absalon is not just about vehicles. The flex deck is serviced by a RORO deck and ramp, but the Danes have several modular inserts such as a hospital, prison, staff support, Intel and special forces. It’s about flexibility. Vehicles are just one option.

        1. Oh I know it’s not just about vehicles, but there’s a balance of probable uses, Absalon is more tilted towards applications that the RN would use its proper amphibious ships for.

        1. You mean the CGI? There’s been a lot of that, for sure. Can’t build a ship from it though.

          The design for T26 should have been signed off ages ago, the limiting factor was meant to be the result of the Scottish referendum. As soon as that uncertainty was out of the way, they were meant to place the main order for (likely) 8 + 5 options before the election in May 2015 and the strategic defence review that will follow it. Instead we’ve got more messing about with a new assessment phase to disguise the fact that MoD and BAE haven’t agreed a design yet. It’ll happen, but let’s just say that the big picture was a little immature and didn’t meet certain important standards when people rushed to start doing detailed design.

          It’s a general problem for all Western navies at the moment, there’s just not enough of that early-stage, big picture design going on and it’s a very perishable skill. Turning LCS into FF or Burke IIa into Flight III exercises skills in detailed design but less so the big picture. It’s all very well running the Burke design on for decades but the problems with Zumwalt shows what happens as those clean-sheet design skills atrophy. We had a particularly bad case of it in submarines between the V-boats and Astute (exacerbated by all sorts of other factors), but I do fear a bit for the Future Surface Combatant that will replace CRUDES in the 2030s, the industrial base will be seriously out of practice. On those grounds alone there was a good case for creating a new FF hull to wrap around the existing expensive bits from LCS/Burkes, but I understand why that didn’t happen. After all, T26 is essentially just a new wrapper for the systems in a late-model T23, and it’s turned out to be rather harder than first thought.

          1. El Sid,
            Thanks. A delay due to the Scottish referendum is understandable. As to the design, I would guess that the RN has a requirements process (like the USN) that generates what capabilities the Global Combat ship is meant to carry. Allowing the warship production process to run down is bad as you suggest, especially when the politicians expect everyone to just crack on, even after a long pause in the design process. DK Brown discusses that as an issue for the RN when it wanted to start building capital ships again in the 1930’s.

            US platforms such as Zumwalt and LCS have also been the victims of immature technologies that were introduced into the design before they were ready (or tested) for sea.

          2. Yes, well, in that case, the LCS has been the victim that seems to thrive on abuse, whereas the DDG 1000 has suffered from it.

            You couch your quasi-apology, quasi-criticism in quasi generous terms. We are not talking about wayward children who have not growed up yet. We are talking about something that is supposed to a ship of the line. Now. Not five years from now. Not something that is a design project in progress.

            I have nothing bad to say about the USS Zumwalt class. It has yet to be tested, and its main flaw appears to be cost. But the LCS/SSC/FF? program is a glaring example of a construction project that has proceeded without a detailed and settled design. Nothing like a warship should be built in this fashion.

            At the present time, there is still a design competition underway, and construction of both entries is proceeding, while revisions have been ordered. If that sounds like idiocy, it is because it is. How many of these ships are going to be built before the Navy makes up its mind which one it wants ?

            If it chooses not to call an end to this circus, my guess is that the design competition will go on as long there is money in the program, for it is hard to lose a design competition that never ends.


            P.S. Moving forward, I offer this proposal for consideration. That the smallest Navy warship be the largest Coast Guard vessel, with alterations.

  7. Wasn’t the LCS mission concept to deal with small, fast patrol vessels and other surface “fast movers”? If that’s the case, speed is important while heavy armaments are not. As a coastal patrol craft it would be a good fit. Maybe the Navy isn’t the right place for it. Coast Guard possibly? Lord knows the Coast Guard is not tasked with much in the area of war fighting and they should in my opinion. Especially when you consider the idea of pushing the fleet assets that operate closer to US shores out into more far-flung theaters of operation. They could then be a true asset by freeing up the “heavier” assets.

    1. Speed is also useful for the USS Pueblo-type incidents where you are trying to avoid starting a war – Chinese behaviour in the SCS is a good example of where speed is your best “weapon” as it doesn’t escalate the situation.

      The other reason for LCS speed was trying to cover a certain length of coastline with the fewest number of ships – deploying at 40kts rather than 25kts means you need fewer ships to cover a coastline.

    2. If the Navy (or Coast Guard) needs to chase down a high-speed boat, an MH-60 does it much better than an LCS. At this point an MH-60 with Hellfire missiles packs as much punch as an LCS, too.

          1. Helicopters still need somewhere to land.

            And the real problem is not when you have to chase a Boghammar, it’s when it is chasing you. If you have speed, then you can hold the distance which in turn gives you time to deal with a swarm of aggressors, or to outrun them altogether. I refer again to the USS Pueblo incident.

            Speed is also helpful for sprint and drift operations – the speed of a battlegroup is limited by the speed at which ASW and MCM can happen.

          2. Running is a valid plan, unless the LCS is tasked with defending a ship or fixed position, or gets boxed in. If the LCS ever had to stand and fight, its performance would probably be disappointing.

      1. Air power is not a panacea. On-station time is greater for a ship and LCS is capable of carrying a helo, extending the area of coverage for the helo. Picket duty is much more practical with a ship.

        There is a certain flexibility afforded by having a ship on station. Cost is a concern as you say, but the presence value of a ship is undeniable. Carriers are *really* big proof of this. (tongue firmly in cheek)

        Think of it as the naval version of “boots on the ground.” Once the air assets do their mission, who holds the ground we just got control of? The Army Infantry have this as a primary mission.

        I may be biased however…”Surface Line, might fine.”

        1. Having floating presence is definitely important, but the LCS is painfully expensive for a helicopter carrier. As an aviator, I feel for SWOs, because they have been cursed with a terrible force mix to do their mission; everything the Surface Navy has is too expensive to risk.

  8. Wills got it all wrong on his article. The LCS to Absalon comparison is a very good one. For example, nearly everything in the following paragraphs applies to LCS. In fact, you could almost do a wholesale replacement of “Absalon” with “LCS” and be completely accurate.


    “The Danish “StanFlex” system of “plug and play” weapons, sensors and equipment (including cranes!) officially separates these components from the advertised cost of the ship.”
    -LCS does exactly the same. LCS 1 hull cost $650M. Mission Package: $100-200M.

    “A 2006 RAND report on the rise in warship costs specifically identified such systems as the principal drivers of warship cost inflation. The Danish*(LCS)* concept of separating these more costly systems from their hull gives the appearance of a much less expensive warship.”

    ” The ships were often accepted by the Danish Navy in an incomplete condition. The Danish Nils Juel, for example, was delivered in 2014 with 76mm guns scavenged from decommissioned ships.”
    – Every LCS is delivered incomplete.

    “Danish figures suggest that the Iver Huitfeldt program used $209 million in reused equipment from scrapped vessels. Reuse, however, could not meet all system requirements. The planned 127mm (5 inch) gun system was deemed too expensive at $50 million a copy. The ship’s close-in weapon system mount was actually a dummy, wooden weapon due to a lack of certification. ”
    – LCS has borrowed guns and other equipment from other ship classes.

    “While equipped with a MK 41 vertical launch missile system (VLS), the ship deployed to the fall 2014 U.S. Bold Alligator exercise without the system certified for use or weapons purchased for eventual outfitting.”
    – LCS was supposed to have a VLS system, the NLOS, but that program failed. Now LCS has no missile system (RAM excluded).

    ” That same reporting indicated that the ship was delivered with its damage control system incomplete and lacking a secondary steering control center.”
    – LCS’s TSCE ship and weapons control network didn’t (and still doesn’t) work fully at delivery.

    “Much of the ship is built to merchant ship standards which are not as robust as those traditionally provided to warships.”
    – AKA LCS

    “In addition, the Danish ship was forced to take on nearly 20 extra crew members when the lean 100 person complement was found insufficient for operational needs.”
    – 20 racks and 13 crew were added to LCS crews last year for the same reason.

    “The Absalon class is more akin to a heavily armed, limited load amphibious ship rather than a surface combatant.”
    – AKA LCS

    “It combines a number of warfare and expeditionary capabilities on a single hull, but excels at none of them.”
    -AKA LCS

    “It is also significantly slower (at 24 knots maximum speed) than most other surface combatants.”
    – LCS can sprint to 40 kts but cruises at much slower speeds (LCS 1: 10kts, LCS 2: 18, Newer hulls slightly faster)

    “Both Absalon and her sister Esbern Snare were also delivered without their full installation of weapons and sensors. In the case of Absalon, this process took over three years. ”
    – AKA LCS. LCS 1 was commissioned in 2008 and just got her SUW MP certified last year. Other MP’s are still not ready.

    “The Danish Navy has been open in regards to these conditions. U.S. advocates of adopting the Absalon or Iver Huitfeldt classes almost always overlook them.”

    1. Your criticisms revolve primarily around the LCS mission modules rather than the baseline ship. I agree the LCS mission modules have delayed implementation of the concept, but unlike the Danish ships, they are not integral to the baseline hull. Most importantly, with a large number of very capable DDG 51’s and amphibious ships, the US has no need for a medium strength combatant like the Iver Huitfeldt or a pseudo amphib like the Absalon.

      1. Ok, then it’s interesting that there is a NAVSEA and OPNAV effort underway to consider a future surface combatant in the range of 6000 tons. Sounds kind of frigate like to me. The OHP class was useful in that it could stand in as a CSG asset for escort duties. LCS will have a hard time in that role due to the speed and range requirements. Gunning around over 24 kts will have them screaming for gas every day. I do not believe we have enough DDGs for all of our possible escort requirements.

    2. dB, Thank you for saving me the time to say basically what you pointed out. I am surprised this was the only comment that addressed the hypocrisy of the article.

      There are some things I do like about the LCS, but it falls short in so many other ways.

          1. Tyler, the real name is Dan, but since I am not in the position to actually affect change to the LCS program I am acknowledging my limitation with the name of “Armchair Admiral”. Besides, I have not lost a chair overboard yet.

        1. The hypocrisy is represented in the strawman claims when the same points can be made against the LCS. dB did a great job illuminating the double standards presented in the article point by point. The hypocrisy is not that the author favors the LCS at all, it is that the same points can be made against the LCS. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that I do like about the LCS design.
          The comparison between the LCS and these two Danish classes is actually the best! Can you think of a better pair of ships that most closely mirror the capabilities of the LCS? I cannot.

          1. In terms of flexibility there are some comparisons, but in terms of lethality and survivability … not so much.

          2. Yes, I bloody well can. I suggest we compare the two competing models of the “LCS” that have been made by two different companies in two different yards according to two radically different sets of plans that were originally intended to satisfy one set of US Navy requirements.

            One ship has a steel hull.
            The other is aluminum.
            One is a trimaran hull; the other is not.
            One costs X. The other costs Y.

            One is ready for service. MAYBE. The other is not, may be. One can possibly be fashioned in to a frigate. The other, maybe not.

            Et cetera and so forth.

            Two each of these vessels have been built and commissioned and put to sea by the Navy. Two more are under construction at an estimated price tag that is 2/3rs of an Arleigh Burke Destroyer, and climbing. Upon information and belief, none of these ships together with their intended weapons systems have fully completed the regular trials that are meant to qualify them for service.

            If I am wrong about that, then that would be another salient point for comparison.

            The Navy has yet to make up its mind which of these crafts it wants to be the “LCS a/k/a SSC a/k/a FF?”. It seems that it intends to postpone making this decision at least until the next two are built, including “modules”. Perhaps this was all arranged years ago for the sake of “preserving shipbuilding capacity”.

            In light of theses facts, a suggestion that the “LCS” be compared against any other ship would seem at the least speculative.

            I suggest we explore the question of why the Navy has yet to choose which ship it wants to call the “Littoral Combat Ship”. Towards that end, a comparison of the two different existing classes may tell us something.

            The Navy eventually plans to reject one of these models as the basis for future construction. It has not decided which. A fortiori, it retains the right to refuse both.

            Of course, it is never possible to lose a design competition that never ends. Query, what would the Navy do today if it was forced to move ahead with what it has ? Or would that be asking too much ?

      1. LCS is not delivered “incomplete”, but is a finished baseline 0 combatant. It does not recycle weapons/equipment from previous ships. LCS is NOT built to merchant standards. The LCS design changed so that it did not have a VLS/missile capability in its baseline 0 configuration. Iver Huitfeldt is actually fitted with VLS, but did not have any armament for them embarked at the time of the article I referenced. LCS is a reconfigurable surface combatant while Absalon is a hybrid warship nearly 3 times larger than LCS. LCS can be configured to do one mission very well while Absalon can do several missions in a less then US ideal standard. LCS can conduct many low end missions in its baseline 0 configuration, just as the Absalon or Iver Huitfeldt. I agree that both ships have taken on extra crew. The LCS program makes no false claims about what the ships can or can’t do as equipped (without a specific module).

        So, armchair critic, are my points so hypocritical?

        1. Lazarus, first relax we are just discussing things we have no personal control over. (At least I don’t, do you?) So to your points:
          1. The LCS ships are indeed delivered complete. I will give you that. As delivered, the only mission that it would not likely get sunk or get seriously damaged attempting would be a Somali Pirate mission or a friendly port visit. A 57mm gun, 30mm guns and a CIWS are what it really brings to the table. The Absalom Class brings a 5” Mk 45, CIWS guns, two harpoon launchers, VLS for ESSM AAM, and ASW Torpedoes. How was it delivered is not as important as what does it have now. The STANFLEX would allow them to be upgraded easily at a later time.
          2. Yes, the LCS does not cannibalize parts from other ships as part of its outfit, but it does try to leverage weapons research from other programs and ships. If we did have 57mm gun systems that were in good condition and could be refurbished to an as-new condition, I would not be opposed to it. Just about every part can be replaced.
          3. The Independence Class was developed directly from a car ferry design used in Australia, have they upgraded it? Sure, but its lineage is obvious. The Freedom class is more of a fresh design but both are NOT made to warship standards. Both LCS designs are made to be one-and-done:

          “The Navy decided to design the LCS to what it calls a Level 1+ survivability standard, which is greater than the Level I standard to which the Navy’s current patrol craft and mine warfare ships were designed, but less than the Level II standard to which the Navy’s current Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class frigates were designed, ” the report says.
          “Navy surface ships are designed to one of three survivability standards, called Level I (low), Level II (moderate), and Level III (high). Aircraft carriers, cruisers, and destroyers are designed to Level III. Frigates, amphibious ships, and certain underway replenishment (resupply) ships are designed to Level II. Other replenishment ships, as well as mine warfare ships, patrol craft, and support ships are designed to Level I.”

          The Absalom class is built to the same standards as other European combatants. Is it the same as a US Destroyer? Not likely, but I don’t know. I DO know the LCS is not though.
          4. The lack of VLS on the LCS or the new modified FF design is its biggest issue in my mind. The LCS’s lack of anything above a last ditch self-defense against a cruise missile is nearly criminal in my opinion. What does the Absalom have now in its VLS? Is it certified for AAW missiles now? Could it at least be able to shoot down a helicopter trying to launch a missile attack of its own? The LCS can’t. The Absalom is already outfitted with the radar and directors for both AAW and ASuW. Are they as good as Aegis? Heck no, but they have something that the LCS is not even planning on ever getting to my knowledge. If the LCS ever does get the Naval Strike Missile added it will need to add a long-range fire control system or depend on an off-vessel system.
          5. The LCS will hopefully one day become a reconfigurable surface combatant as well as a minesweeper/hunter, but it is still a long way off for that. The Absalom is a hybrid warship/logistics/Light Amphib, but would still kick the LCS’s butt in a one-on-one face off. The Absalom’s larger size is a detriment how? Too survivable, too long of a range, too much stuff to be able to fit in it and yet still cost less? It has a 20’ draft which is still about 10’ less than a US DDG. That will still get it into just about any port that it would need to visit.
          6. Absalom can do multi-mission fairly well, but it is not great at what any specialized vessel will be able to do. That describes most frigates across all navies. The LCS will hopefully be able to be good at ASW even if it depends on its helicopters to act as its only offensive ability against subs. We just need to make sure that the littoral combat nations agree to only attack the LCS with a threat that the LCS is outfitted to handle at the time…and not use cruise missiles…or aircraft in general.
          7. Yes both the LCS and the Absalom can conduct the very lowest of ship missions, but what warship can’t? Most ocean going corvettes or OPV could.
          8. Both have taken on more crew, but the Absalom has the ability to take on more personnel for even more missions that the US would need an Amphib to accomplish. (The US possibly up-gunning ampibs to be able to operate independently is interesting to me as well)

          I never thought you had any hypocritical comments as I was addressing the article not your specific comments, but I hope I have been able to amicably discuss my opinions and was able to adequately address your points.

          1. One point I would like to make. The Radar and fire-control systems aboard the Iver Huitfeldt are considered superior to the Aegis system used by the US and Spanish Navies.

  9. I understand you to make a narrow point here, to wit: comparisons between Danish ships, shipbuilding practices, costs, and economic conditions and the LCS program are difficult at best, unwarranted, and unhelpful for purposes of assessing the performance of the latter. I can accept your position thus narrowly circumscribed. If I did not know better, however, I might have concluded from it that you believe in the LCS. That you do not is abundantly clear from your prior relevant communiques. Thus it is fortunate that you have chosen your ground carefully, for me as well as for you, seeing that I place such reliance on your judgment.

    Let us all therefore dispense with strawman arguments, and not attempt to judge the LCS program against any model more fitting or more worthy than it in the beginning had pretense to be. Let us not compare it to an oceangoing warship. Let us merely judge it by how well it measures up to its own performance requirements, to the extent that they remain relevant based on current doctrine, and by reference to its usefulness for conducting missions that the US Navy has been tasked to perform. The results are in, and they are as follows:

    1. In-shore patrol duties and combat capability in a less than pier-to-pier threat environment: IRRELEVANT under current naval warfare doctrine and related strategic considerations.

    2. “Distributed lethality” – a long-range, high endurance, high survivability, high capability naval doctrine of force structure and deployment placing an emphasis on sea control and blue water operations. EVERYTHING THE LCS IS NOT.

    3. The particulars:

    i. Range: highly unsatisfactory for fleet maneuvers.

    ii. Survivability ? Unsatisfactory, per your prior analysis, based on size. (Big is beautiful; big like a Danish frigate.)

    iii. Potential for speed: No longer relevant, and hence sacrificed in later models under consideration. A settled matter.

    iv. Lethality: Highly unsatisfactory, with unproven weapons, inadequate on their face.

    v. Cost: Unsatisfactory, with history of overruns and claims yet to come based on future anticipated modifications. (Cf, Arleigh Burke)

    vi. Cradle to grave maintenance and support: Unsatisfactory, involving two different models by different manufacturers, with novel propulsion systems.

    vii. Program Status: Failed. Reasons as follows:

    A. 15 Years; 4 ships. 0 ready for deployment.

    B. Gross design concurrency failure: These vessels are being built, accepted by the Navy, and commissioned, with a design competition underway that has yet to be decided, and hence with complete design uncertainty. When you suggest comparison with an as-built Danish frigate is inappropriate, I ask this question: comparison of what ?

    C. Readiness Status of ships in service: Unsatisfactory. The first of these ships are now 5 years old. They have yet to complete testing, certification and sea trials.

    D. Manning requirements: underestimated and in need of revision.

    E. Moving forward in spite of generally acknowledged fatal deficiencies that have yet to be cured: hence, a project out of control.

    4. Funding ? Jeopardized by cost.

    5. The “Virtue of Necessity” argument ? Patently false. I refuse to accept Adm. Goldrick’s aversion that we are stuck with this lemon. That is tantamount to an acceptance of defeat – at the hands of one’s own people; and I for one will not support putting men to sea in these ships.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Tyler Pierce Harwell, a/k/a TomTugmutton

    New London, NH

  10. A 57 mm gun? The last 57mm gun the U.S. had was an inadequate anti-tank gun that could not counter Panzer Vs or better. We need a new frigate and destroyer class, as well as a gun cruiser with 8 inch or better guns.

  11. “Much of the ship is built to merchant ship standards”

    Sigh !!….not that tired old fallacy again….A claim often thrown around, but never backed up by any credible evidence…because there isn’t any!

    While it cant be denied that both the Absalon and IH classes , utilizes some aspects of commercial shipbuilding practizes and standards, as well as some use of COTS components…. they are all in non-vital areas.

    In all the parameters that makes a warship a warship, such as structural strength, compartmentalization ,shock proofing,armor, fire fighting and damage control , redundancy , signature reduction, CBRN protection etc etc ..both classes of ships are in fact built to full military/naval standards.

    1. I read all of those references before writing the article. The Danish ships are built to Danish standards and not to US ones. The evidence you present is just what the Danes say are their acceptable standards, not what the US expects. Do you have any specific data?

  12. As i am in possesion of the actual build specifications and blueprints of both classes …then yes. But as this data is, of course ,sensitive in nature, specific data points are classified, so i am neither allowed nor willing to disclose this info online.

    Danish Naval Standards are however , broadly comparable to those used by the Germans and Dutch navies in their Sachsen and De Zeven Provenciën classes. I have no reason to believe , nor have i seen any evidence to support the assertion that US vessels is built to a significantly higher or superior standard.

  13. This debate can lead nowhere. It has gotten seriously off track. We are not here to sit in judgment on the naval shipbuilding program of the Denmark. Rather, the question revolves around the value and merit of the US Naval program known as LCS, a/k/a SSC, a/k/a frigate. Discussions of Danish warships only serve to divert attention away from serious questions that have arisen with respect to the latter. As the author said, somewhat craftily, I think, it is a Strawman: hence his article, a diversionary tactic.

    Most arguments in favor of the LCS at this time seem to come down to nothing more than an apology: to much money has been spent on it already, and it is too late to do anything about it. There is no real attempt to defend it on its merits. Only to say that for better or for worse, it must proceed because there is no other affordable and practical choice.

    I reject this argument, and I suspect it is merely intended to provide cover for a program that is politically impossible to challenge.

    See Dr. Norman Friedman’s comments at the end of this month’s edition of “Proceedings”. We are stuck with it, due to a grossly flawed design process. And yet, the Navy has yet to select which of two ships it will take. This is a farce.

  14. The Royal Danish Navys Absalon class and Iver Huitfeldt class are NOT built to commercial standards – they are built to the military requirements of the Royal Danish Navy and to the military classification standards of the international certification body and classification society ‘Det Norske Veritas’ – the relative low cost is due to several reasons, none of which is commercial standards, COTS was only used when it was suitable.

    They were designed to cost, built by Maersk owned commercial shipyards in Eastern Europe (low wage countries) on a fixed price contract and a flexibel time frame for delivery, with no industrial offsets, no political demand to allot production after constituency, and extensive use of off-the-shelf solutions, extensive use of recycled equipment, fitted out by the Royal Danish Navy, willingness to a flexibel time frame for full operational capability (eg. getting the MK 45 down the road for the Ivers, the Absalons have the 5-inch) all of which led to a low cost – the Royal Danish Navy simply conceived and execured the project well.

  15. They are different ships with different mission solutions – The Royal Danish Navys Absalons are primary command suppport ships – with built-in secondary multi-role capabilities – basically of an humble, but sound multi-role frigate, a oppulente minelayer, a mine-clearing mothership, a light transport and mission sustainment support ship for a modest landing force, eg. maritime special operation forces, or a task group hospital ship.

    And the Absalons has the size to combine several such missions at the same or near same time – by definition the Absalons are more flexible than the LCS – the LCS, in comparison, is more a very big FAC with secondary multi-role capabilities in form of some very modest ASW, MCM, and very, very modest transport and mission sustainment support for SOF et al.

    Less endurance, less firepower, less seakeeping abilities, less survivability, weaker sensor suit, minor payload of UAV’s and UUV’s, less cargo and marine/SOF support capability, less C3I capability, lesser ability for independent actions/patrols, to name but a few, but significantly more speed and agility for a very high cost.

    I see the LCS as an expensive multitool, the Argentum from Leathermann, whilst the Absalons are a inexpensive, well-packed toolbox from Walmart – you’ll just get significantly more bang for the buck with the Absalons, but less bling – IMHO the USN would have been better served with a robust and durable frigate ála a modified National Security Cutter or something like the Absalon class.

    1. I never said that the Iver Huitfeldt or Absalon were not the right ships for the Danish Navy. The US Navy, however, has no requirement for vessels. The USN DDG 51 meets all the surgface combatant missions of the Huitfeldt’s and Absalons. The US also has large number of dedicated amphibious ships that meet other missions. LCS was designed to meet US requirements for limited surface warfare, MiW and ASW. My argument is that LCS meets US requirements and that the USN has no requirement for either Danish design.

      1. That may well be true – the USN have no requirement for such vessels – under the current doctrine.

        I propose that changed – it’s my opinion that the USN should have more ocean-going combatants capable of independent action/patrols – to expand a credible and capable navel presence and to free up cruisers and destroyers.

        An inexpensive – so as to afford sufficient volume – modest multi-role frigate seems preferable to the LCS – the LCS just don’t seems worth the money – it’s either too big with too little armament or too little with a too big a mission profile. That’s just an opinion based on limited knowledge of the LCS’s capabilities and USN’s doctrine, but I can’t see I have missed something about the LCS.

  16. LCS makes a lot of sense for the USN, at the right price point and in the right quantities. Like the JSF, it has become a bloated project that has way over run its original specs. I can see it having use in SOCOM missions and in dealing with swarm attacks, as well as mine operations. It just doesn’t seem to be the right place to put a dedicated ASW platform and that is one of my biggest concerns. That is where a ship like the IH would be better suited. It has the room to accommodate the tools needed to be a true ASW platform. The USN has plenty of Ticos and ABs to handle AAW and ASuW, but they are way too expensive to have hunting subs on a regular basis. I’d like to see the USN keep the LCS and develop a true successor to the OHP figs. The seem like separate needs to me. For a new ffg I’d love to see something akin to MILGEM……

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