Tag Archives: Navy cuts

Navy Drops the Ax on Bonnie Dick, 2 LCS, and 3 PCs

As the fiscal year plays out the Navy has released tentative inactivation dates for eight vessels. One is the battered and economically unsavable USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD-6), which blazed away last year to the point of no return. Perhaps a mothballed LHA can be retrieved from Pearl Harbor’s loch and returned to service for a few years to make up for the shortcoming.

Another hit, laying up the old MSC-controlled fleet tug USNS Sioux (T-ATF 171) is a natural course of action as the Navy is building a new and more capable class of tugs to replace the older vessels.

In a gut punch, the two initial class leaders for the Little Crappy Ships, USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Independence (LCS-2), will be taken out of commission this summer, their apparent beta tests concluded after just 12 years. USS Fort Worth and USS Coronado, ships with even fewer miles, are certain to follow.

USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) will be laid up in April. The 33-year-old Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship will not be needed anymore in a gator fleet that is gaining big hulled 25,000-ton LPDs at the same time that the Marines are shedding all of their tanks and most of their artillery. Notably, she is the first of her class on the block.

Finally, three of the much-maligned 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol craft, USS Zephry (PC-8), USS Shamal (PC-13), and USS Tornado (PC-14) will be deactivated by 2 March 2021, with the first two set to be scrapped and the Tornado placed up for Foreign Military Sales. As class leader Cyclone was given to the Philippines in 2004, you can guess where Tornado will likely wind up.

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2021) Sailors conduct a decommissioning ceremony aboard the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Shamal (PC 13) at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Shamal is one of three Cyclone-class patrol ships being decommissioned at Naval Station Mayport. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Austin G. Collins)

In short, Big Navy never liked the PCs and have repeatedly tried to kill them off over the years, shopping them overseas and to the Coast Guard. However, they have proved very useful in the Persian Gulf– where most are forward deployed– and as the sole assets for the 4th Fleet in the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. With the Coast Guard’s new and more effective 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters reaching 50~ hulls, six of which are set to be deployed to Bahrain, it seems like the Navy is electing to go more Coasty in the Iranian small-boat Cold War.

I happen to know the resting place of Tornado’s sideboard from ger USCG days based at NAVSTA Pascagoula!

As well as Shamals

In related news, it looks like the Navy is also set to scrap their dozen 82-foot Mark IV patrol boats. An ambitious program originally intended to field 48 units in 2012, the wargamers say they will be live bait in a conflict with China. Duh.

And so closes another chapter in the book of how the Navy hates brown water and wants you to hate it to.

It’s official, first four LCSs headed to “Red Lead Row.” Why not Blow Row?

As we have talked about previously, the first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronado) have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use. In a  burst from the CNO last month, the word is now official: all four will be shifted to OCIR status (Out of Commission, In Reserve) on 31 March 2021, with the youngest, Coronado, being just six years old.

Oof.

In a case of bad timing, the Navy’s PAO just released this very well done “A Day in the Life of an LCS” video, filmed on the new Freedom-class USS Indianapolis (LCS 17).

Notably, the three Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft not up to their neck in the Persian Gulf (USS Zephyr PC-8, USS Shamal PC-13, and USS Tornado PC-14) are also to be disposed of on the same date.

MAYPORT, Fla. (Aug. 02, 2016) – The Cyclone-class Patrol Coastal USS Shamal (PC 13) returns to homeport U.S. Naval Station Mayport after a 62-day deployment to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility where they conducted counter illicit trafficking operations in support of Operation Martillo. Operation Martillo is a joint international law enforcement and military operation involving U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targeting illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hendricks/Released)

The other 10 craft has been at Bahrain for most of the past decade while Zephyr, Shamal, and Tornado– two of which were formerly Coast Guard-manned out of Pascagoula’s old NAVSTA– have been based in Mayport under 4th Fleet’s control– just about the only Navy vessels that are regularly outside of ships transiting through or on training evolutions.

This of course begs the question of, why not give the “old” LCSs to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT)? Call em PCs? Get some tax dollars out of them.

Is this where I point out that the lastest 4th Fleet deployments have surged DDGs? Wait, wasn’t the LCS program designed to prevent billion-dollar Aegis ships from being used in constabulary work?

Whomp Whomp.

Cry Havoc, and let slip…the LCS?

The 1911 Treasure Island pirates by Wyeth.

This month’s USNI’s Proceedings has an interesting piece by COL Mark Cancian, USMC, Ret, entitled, “Unleash the Privateers! The United States should issue letters of marque to fight Chinese aggression at sea.”

As the title would suggest, Cancian pitches the concept that modern-day LLCs could outfit ocean-going raiders, legalized by old-school letters of marque and reprisal to cover what would otherwise be acts of international piracy. The targets, in said scenario, would be the 6,000-strong Chinese/Hong Kong merchant/fishing fleet in the event of a hot war with Beijing.

Notes Canican:

Capitalizing on Chinese vulnerabilities requires large numbers of ships, and the private sector could provide them. The ocean is large, and there are thousands of ports to hide in or dash between. While the Navy could not afford to have a multibillion-dollar destroyer sitting outside Rio de Janeiro for weeks waiting for Chinese vessels to leave, a privateer could patiently wait nearby…

My thoughts on the good Colonel’s interesting concept is that it is one possibility, even if it is simply used as a threat. Project the prospect of the boogeyman and the boogeyman becomes very real, even if he isn’t under your bed.

What about the LCS?

Alternatively, I think we may have finally found a use for those first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronadothat have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use.

The LCS in its current form is fundamentally a “peace cruiser,” akin to the light cruisers built in the 1920s which were used primarily to show the flag in areas where it would be overkill to send a battleship– which probably wouldn’t fit inside the local harbor anyway.

You know what peace cruisers were also theoretically good for in the event of a war? Commerce raiders operating under Cruiser Rules away from the warzone.

Just saying.

140423-N-VD564-013 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014) The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)

Exorcising the Ghosts of Pearl Harbor (while setting up the next one)

USS OKLAHOMA (BB-37) and USS ARIZONA (BB-39) in better times, side by side in the Pedro Miguel locks of the Panama Canal in January 1921. Ship in distance is USS NEVADA (BB-36). C.F. Rottmann, photographer. Courtesy of the USS OKLAHOMA Association, collection of Elmer S. Sykora, 1979 NH 89443

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly proclaimed his decision to name the next two Virginia-class submarines on Dec. 23, as USS Oklahoma (SSN-802) and the USS Arizona (SSN-803).

This would be the first time the names, formerly used by the Pearl Harbor battleship losses USS Oklahoma (BB-37) and USS Arizona (BB-39), have been on the Navy List in more than 75 years.

191223-N-DM308-002 WASHINGTON (Dec. 23, 2016) A photo illustration of the future Virginia-class attack submarine USS Oklahoma (SSN-802). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paul L. Archer/Released)

191223-N-DM308-001 WASHINGTON (Dec. 23, 2016) A photo illustration of the future Virginia-class attack submarine USS Arizona (SSN 803). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paul L. Archer/Released)

Is it time?

Well, in Modly’s defense, the Navy has often quickly recycled the names of lost warships as an inspiration to crews of new ones– and to show enemies how fast the “Arsenal of Democracy” could renew itself.

For example, during the dark days of 1942 in the Pacific the carriers Lexington, Hornet, Wasp, and Yorktown were all lost in action, along with the cruisers Astoria, Houston (with almost her entire 1,100-man crew either lost or captured), Northampton, Quincy, Vincennes, Atlanta, and Juneau. By 1944 all those names had been issued to new construction of the same type– many of which would continue to serve well into the Cold War. Indeed, the Navy even enlisted 1,000 brand new bluejackets in 1943 under the banner of “Houston Volunteers” to replace those lost in the Sunda Strait.

Going back even further, Battleship No. 10 was christened as USS Maine in 1901 just three years after the first Maine blew up in Havanna harbor, sparking the Spanish-American War. John Paul Jones’s Bonhomme Richard was sunk by HMS Serapis in 1779 and three different warships have gone on to carry the same name. The tragic loss of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 was followed up 35 years later by the name being bestowed to a Los Angeles-class attack submarine.

IMHO, in the case of Oklahoma, which lost over 400 of her 1,400 man crew on December 7, 1941, and whose hull was later raised and sold to the breakers for $40,000, perhaps the time is right to reboot her name.

However, as for Arizona, which lost 1,177 of her crew and whose hull still bleeds heavy fuel oil along Battleship Row today, perhaps her name should be retired or the vessel given a special status such as the one carried by the captured spy ship USS Pueblo or the frigate USS Constitution.

But that is just me.

ASECNAV Modly is a bright guy and I am sure he has his reasons. An Annapolis grad and former Naval Aviator, he went on to pull down a sheepskin from Harvard Business School and an MA from Georgetown before serving as Under Secretary of the Navy for the past two years.

Besides, the states of Arizona and Oklahoma both have powerful Congressional delegations, many of which have already voiced approval of the move– which could be key at budget time. Remember Hyman Rickover’s old adage of changing submarine naming conventions from marine creatures to states and cities explained as, “fish don’t vote.”

On the bright side, the new Arizona and Oklahoma will be the first Block V Virginias, arguably the most capable attack subs in the world.

If other plans afoot in Washington go through, they may be sorely needed to prove that capability.

Cuts, Cuts, and More Cuts

A memo circulating from the White House, apparently with the Navy’s blessing, has the fleet cutting the first four LCS variants (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth and Coronado) although they are still relatively brand new (although cranky “Mod 0” type ships). Along with them could be a cap on further LCS production at 35 hulls, laying up three LSDs (Whidbey Island, Germantown and Gunston Hall) which still have a decade or more life left on their machinery/hulls, and accelerating the retirement of four the oldest remaining Tico-class cruisers (Bunker Hill, Mobile Bay, Antietam, and Leyte Gulf).

Further, new construction would get the ax as well (!) with five of the 12 pending late-flight Burke-class destroyers canceled– one of the few really successful Navy shipbuilding programs.

Instead of the 355-ship Navy promised in 2018, we are looking more at a 287-ship fleet, which would include 31 remaining underarmed LCS hulls, 3 virtually worthless Zumwalt-class pink elephants, and the Fords, which are slipping further and further down the calendar of being deployable.

Sure, Congress could pour on the pork and get more DDGs added, cruisers saved and Gators retained, which is probably what the Navy hopes for. The end result next year will probably be a compromise that no one but the admirals of the PLAN like.

Pass me my scotch, please, and say a prayer for the next generation of U.S. Naval officers and enlisted.