Officers defend price compensation in cruise ship retirement plans

Congressmen continued to oppose the Navy’s plans to retire seven Ticonderoga-Class cruisers on cost concerns, including two ships added to the plan this year, while officials outlined the cost offsetting and maintenance issues.

The Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) Asked what the Navy thought about the decommissioning of these ships and how to fix the loss of Vertical Launching System (VLS) missile tubes on the ships Can make up during a hearing on June 17th.

“Short answer: We are not creating a gap for the function of the commander of the air force defense. We have looked at it and mapped it and will further accelerate the arrival of continue [Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyers]who will take this responsibility for our attack groups based on their capabilities, ”replied Vice Admiral James Kilby, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Capabilities (OPNAV N9).

A Mk 41 VLS launches an SM-6 from the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

He added, “For me it’s more than just VLS cells, it’s the sensor a ship brings, what capabilities this combat system has and what confidence we have in the reliability of this hull to get going.”

Kilby illustrated the perspective of serving cruisers by capturing his 2017 experience as Combat Group Commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Assault Group. His command ship for air and missile defense at the time was the USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), but it missed about a third of its deployment due to maintenance issues.

“Not because her radar was down, not because her combat system wasn’t up to it, not because she didn’t have a full magazine. But she had tears in her tank top that required her to fix it and be safe on the way, ”Kilby said.

He also noticed the USS Gulf of Vella (CG-72) has missed a month of its previous deployment and already two and a half months of its current deployment.

“So I think all of that has to go into the mix when we consider the availability and reliability of these ships. These rocket tubes will only count when they are on the move next to the carrier. “

The Navy’s budget proposal for the ’22 financial year provides Shutdown the USS City of Hue (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-68) and notes that cruiser modernization costs have increased 200 percent higher than the initial programming effort. These two cruise ship retirements are set to save $ 369 million through divestitures (Defense daily, 28th of May).

Kilby added, although he does not want to estimate the value of an Aegis cruiser with 122 missile cells, “our average age of our cruisers is 32 years. They were built for 30 years. Four of our ships are over 34 years old. So I’m really trying to find the most valuable ship we can fund, the most valuable program within our budget to make our armed forces equal in all functions – air, surface and subsurface – to target threats as we see them . “

Courtney asked what the cost would be if Congress decided to keep the cruisers and stop decommissioning.

“If we kept the seven cruisers that are budgeted for decommissioning in ’22, that would be five from the previous budget and City of Hue and Anzio in that budget – it would be about $ 5 billion [five-year Future Years Defense Programs plan]. If we kept these ships for two years, all seven ships, that would be about $ 2.78 billion. The cost of upgrading City of Hue and Anzio alone is about $ 1.5 billion. “

Independently of this, the senior member of the subcommittee, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Also pushed for cruisers and their 122 VLS cells. He and Kilby agreed that if all seven cruisers and their VLS cells were taken out of service, that would add up to about 910 VLS cells in total.

In his opening speech, Wittman emphasized that the seven retired cruisers have more VLS capacity than the entire British Royal Navy.

Kilby admitted that the cruisers make up a “large percentage” of the total US Navy surface fire service.

In contrast, Wittman asked how many large unmanned surface ships (LUSVs) that the Navy would ultimately like to have VLS cells fitted out would replace this attack capability.

“I would roughly estimate that the number of large unmanned surface ships in our current instantiation will be doubled because they will have 64 cells, so it would be twice as many.”

However, Kilby admitted that the schedule for these ships and missile cells to join the fleet has not yet been set as the Navy will need to conduct confidence building measures with LUSVs in order to deploy the capability, including land-based testing.

“So it won’t be on the timeline that these cruisers could serve,” Kilby said.

Wittman said he believes, at best, it could take up to 15 years for all of the LUSVs to be deployed.

Kilby also stated that “a considerable amount of money” has been invested in the cruisers over the past five years and they continue to cost more than the service initially expected.

“So in the beginning it was $ 2.4 billion, but we’re adding a lot of money for that, sir.”

Last month, the Commander of Naval Sea Systems Outlined Command Vice Adm. William Galini’s major Challenges in the current round of cruiser modernization. While the service during the modernization has improved from one ship to the next, “we have our challenges with the first three ships that have come in” (Defense daily, May 13).

Galinis said the biggest problems with cruisers over 30 years old are infrastructure – that is, the hull and mechanical systems – which have resulted in fuel leaks due to hulls flexing over the life of a ship. “So they are without a doubt our most difficult class of ships to maintain,” he said.

Regardless, at Wittman’s request, the Navy’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Research, Development, and Acquisitions, Jay Stefany, reiterated that the DoD had instructed the Navy not to provide the entire five-year FYDP this year and that it would do so in the FY ‘ 23 provide budget request, which is expected to be published in February 2022.

As for the annual 30-year shipbuilding plan, Stefany said the service plans to deliver it within days.

“In my opinion, the finishing touches were yesterday and my hope is tomorrow, maybe you get this plan by Monday at the latest, sir.”

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