Navy Aiming to Award Contract for Large Surface Combatant in 2023

By Connie Lee

Photo: Navy

The Navy is beginning to shape its ideas for a next-generation large surface combatant, a service official said Jan. 15.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has challenged the service to award a contract for the effort in fiscal year 2023, said Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare.

“That’s going to be tough,” Boxall said. “Will we get there? I don’t know.” However, the service is moving "aggressively" on the timeline, he said during remarks at the Surface Navy Association's annual conference in Arlington, Virginia.

The large surface combatant is planned to be part of a future surface combatant family of vessels, which is expected to have an integrated combat system that establishes commonality among the ships. The effort will be part of an overall push from the service to modernize and grow to a 355-ship fleet in the coming decades. The Navy is looking for ways to counter high-tech adversaries such as Russia and China, which the Pentagon has identified as peer competitors.

The Navy is still defining what features it wants for the platform, Boxall said, but the service plans to pursue the effort with an “iterative process” akin to that of the future frigate, or FFG(X), program. During the frigate acquisition process, the service started by examining its predecessor program, the littoral combat ship, and then continued determining its requirements over time, he said. After the Navy begins to develop draft capability development document requirements, it will start releasing formal requests for information, he noted.

For now, Boxall said he is focusing on identifying “trade space” with industry to see what capabilities can realistically be integrated into the future system.

“It’s more important to me to get to the discussion quickly and say, ‘No, that’s off the charts, you’re never going to get that,’ and find out — from what we know already — what we can get better at and then also talk about technological maturity of things we need,” he said.

Whatever design the Navy decides on for the next large surface combatant, it must allow for future improvements in space, weight and power, he noted.

“We know there’s going to be a need for space to grow,” he said. “Do we get more or less value by extending the ship’s life at design, at birth? We’ll see how that goes.”

Topics: Navy News, Shipbuilding

Comments (2)

Re: Navy Aiming to Award Contract for Large Surface Combatant in Fiscal Year 2023

Steel is cheap, it's the systems and people inside that cost money. Both Phalanx / CIWS and SeaRAM were designed to be backwards-compatible with hulls that weren't designed to accept them in the first place. I'd rather see the Navy accept the necessity of modern point-defense systems, such as the UK's Sea Ceptor, in the first place. (If the ESSM has ever been tested against a target capable of Mach 2 - 3 in a sea-skimming prfile, I've missed it.) Some use of armor sounds prudent, if only to avoid mission kills (or worse) from the equivalent of an RPG, and with that in mind, might we please avoid the use of aluminum? No matter how loosely packaged the ship may be, I doubt there will be room for multiple 57mm or 76 mm. turrets, but a 5" system firing time-airburst munitions would be a wonderful thing to have, especially when dealing with multiple small boat attackers. A laser big enough to matter will happen, sooner or later. No doubt that the Navy will reserve space and weight and power for it, and that's fine, but there's one other system I'd like to see tried: a passive radar system, such as Hensoldt has started marketing. These are ships that will be close to land, much of the time, and as long as there are enough signals in the neighborhood, it might permit the ship a stealthy option.

brian mulholland at 7:23 PM
Re: Navy Aiming to Award Contract for Large Surface Combatant in Fiscal Year 2023

From USNI: “After about six months of internal Navy talks between the requirements, acquisition and engineering teams, some things are known, Boxall said: The ship will likely be larger than today’s destroyers, and therefore more expensive. With increased space, weight, power and cooling, it will have the margin available for a larger radar if the Navy were to choose to scale up its AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar in the future. It will have not only Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells but also space for a future long-range missile that would be larger than VLS. And it will have the command and control capability and the space for an air warfare or other domain warfare commander to embark his or her staff on the ship.”
This Large Surface Combatant (LSC) will most likely be a new cruiser class to ride shotgun to the aircraft carriers. It’s a chance to start from a clean fresh sheet of paper in design and technology and I sure hope that the US Navy doesn’t fudge it.
For sure, larger diameter (and more) VLS cells are needed for increased range of missiles. If the Russians claim that their cruise missiles can travel to 3,500KM, then the USN needs to catch up. Hypervelocity missiles are also going to be popular.
Already, commentators on other naval forums are asking for thick armor, propulsion pods, ice-hull strengthening, and a whole list of wishes.
For sure, I hope that the LSC will incorporate more SeaRAM and 20mm Phalanx CIWS than the current destroyers and cruisers which only have one or two. It’s embarrassing when Russian and Chinese jets fly directly overhead and the only defense is a .50cal machine gun because the CIWS is located on the back and missiles and the 5-inch gun are too close or too slow to use. What’s the point of riding “Carrier Shotgun” if your CIWS weapons aren’t facing the proper direction for 360-coverage defense?
Perhaps the addition of cheap Griffin, SPIKE, and Longbow missiles can take care of the “Swarm Boat” problem. Lasers shouldn’t rule the ship as they’re still not proven to replace guns and missiles just yet.
The LSC should have more deck and superstructure space for the incorporation of weapons.
A torpedo room sure beats the triple-torpedo launchers because no crew wants to reload torpedoes on a slippery and undulating deck, and the LSC should definitely have interior torpedo/unmanned underwater vehicle rooms and not count on VLS ASROC and MH-60s as the only ASW defense.
MK38 Mod 2 25mm or 30mm Bushmaster II cannons should also be placed at strategic locations. It’s not so much stealth that should dictate how the ship is designed, but form and functionality. If additional gun stabilization is needed, then add it into the base of these guns.
The 5-inch gun could also use automatic loading and the incorporation of the GPS-guided munitions like Vulcano and others. If going to 155mm turrets, the US Army has a longer barrel that allows for the firing range of 70-80 miles, way better than the 15 miles of the 5-inch. Maybe even adding a third 57mm or 76mm gun in addition to the 5” or 155mm might assist in dealing with Swarm Boats and fast aerial threats with rapid-fire, thus creating a multiple turret cruiser, the likes of which the USN hasn’t seen in decades.

Peter at 11:08 AM
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