Thursday, June 12, 2008
All 12 ships in both the Whidbey Island (LSD-41) and Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) classes will undergo a major gutting of their obsolete steam boiler and electrical systems, as well as other upgrades and capability additions to meet mission requirements through 2038, according to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). One ship will undergo modernization this year beginning in July, two ships will follow each year in fiscal year 2009 through FY-13, and the last ship will be finished in the first quarter of FY-14.Some of the improvements are described in the article.
The ships will also get an overhaul to their electrical systems, with a new generator and digital-control system.A couple of things caught our attention in the article. First on the modernization itself, this is much needed. The lack of bandwidth on the LSDs is a big problem and a complaint we have heard more than a few times. The condition of the LSDs has been described as poor, and the use of these platforms has increased under the Bush administration from the heavy use during the Clinton administration. Many experts believe these platforms will require more than one major overhaul to actually serve until 2038 as described.
New capabilities for the ship will include DEXTER, a technology from Military Sealift Command that provides sophisticated and predictive monitoring of the diesel engine, and Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle integration. Requirements for the latter are still being determined, Walker said.
The more-than-$660 million program will alternate ship overhauls between Norfolk, VA, and San Diego, CA.
We love the LSD-41s, and believe they would make a great platform for large motherships. In noting the Marine Corp requirements, we believe the best way to meet the 11 / 11 / 11 requirement of the Marines is to build 9 more LPD-17s instead of 5 more DDG-1000s, which would ultimately create a force of 8 LHDs, 3 LHA(R)s, 18 LPD-17s, and 4 LSD-41s for the Marines, and shift all 8 LSD-41s for mothership operations.
This could be done in a straight swap based on CBO funding estimates, 1 in FY09, 2 in FY10, 2 in FY11, 2 in FY12, and 2 in FY13 using the money currently allocated to the DDG-1000. According to the Navy budget, this could not be done in a straight trade in terms of spending, but we think the Navy cost estimate for the DDG-1000 is broken.
In retaining their amphibious operational capability, the 8 LSD-41s become reserve forces for any future Marine amphibious requirement, enabling a potential amphibious force of 41 amphibious ships instead of 33. Daily operation would have the LSD-41 utilized for Navy roles including Global Fleet Stations, Afloat Forward Operating Bases, and motherships, or said another way, the same way the Navy uses the LSD-41s today.