Terror of the High Seas Great Lakes

The Navy’s latest target surface ship, the much awaited Littoral Combat Ship FREEDOM is making her way around the Great Lakes.

Lots of coverage in Navy Times. My favorite is the new article about the “new culture” aboard FREEDOM.

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“Everything about the Freedom is a major departure for the surface Navy, from the novel combined diesel-and-gas power plant below decks to the thin, light aluminum superstructure. And everything about the way its “hybrid” crew members work, live and manage their careers is a galaxy away from standard operating procedure in the surface force.

No one tells you, ‘No, you can’t do that job because you’re a boatswain’s mate,’Ÿ” Chief Boatswain’s Mate (SW/AW) Trevor Davis said. “On this ship, you make that your job.”

Welcome to the Submarine Force folks. Fun, isn’t it?

I can walk onto any other ship in the Navy and point to six people and honestly say, ‘I could do all your jobs’” Davis said.

Come on. Not hard when most surface ships have 20 guys fresh out of boot waxing decks 24-7. We’ve seen “CARRIER” on PBS. We know what’s up.

The Freedom is designed with an unprecedented level of automation for a surface warship to enable a total complement of only 75 crew members — the ship’s core crew, plus 15 mission-package sailors and 20 from an aviation detachment. The engine room is designed to run unmanned. If everything is going smoothly, a standard watch bill can include nine sailors. On an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, 30 to 40 sailors can be standing watch at any one time.

Does this worry anyone else? Yes, the ship can run with 9 people on watch. But SHOULD it? When you’re tooling around in the littorals with an aluminum hull, I think I want to have a few more people up and ready for damage control than sleeping in what are apparently the best racks this side of Disney Cruise Lines.

And automation? Yeah, the Navy tends to do AWESOME with technological advances. NMCI went off without a hitch, and that was shore based. I’m sure nothing onboard will ever crash. At least, nothing that the nine people awake can’t handle.

and speaking of those mission package sailors….

The ship hasn’t fired its 57mm gun or its Rolling Airframe Missile launcher. It hasn’t launched or recovered any of the unmanned vehicles it would take on a real-world deployment, nor has it even opened the stern doors through which they’ll launch. The sailors don’t know how fast the ship can sail and still safely launch and recover its vehicles, nor how many people those jobs will take. Although the Navy has finished work on all three of the ship’s mission modules, many sailors have never seen them.

I sure hope they’re planning to test those soon. I understand not firing the gun or the RAM launcher, but opening the doors? Since the ship went on Sea Trials in July, I’m kind of wondering what sort of test plan they used. Probably one that was slightly revised to keep the ship from being delivered much more than a year late.

Meh. I’m sure it’s all good, being the first of a new class.

Trailblazing and all that.

Nice sheets.  Now put down the magazine and get qualified.

Nice sheets. Now put down the magazine and get qualified.

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2 Responses to Terror of the High Seas Great Lakes

  1. Sandy Salt says:

    I did some of the spiral work on the LCS and the manufacture had some wacky idea that one sonar guy could do the job off and entire shack. The same for all of those other watchstanders, so they will be busier than a one legged man at a…. The Navy is trying to go on the cheap and really reduce the number of people through automation, but machines don’t always work and what happens then?

  2. fastnav says:

    Exactly my point. If you’ve only got “just enough” manning, what happens when everything breaks? Who operates the work-around (if there is one) while someone else fixes things?

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