In 2006, the RAND corporation found that from 1965-2005 the US Navy had 7-11% annual inflation for its ships which is worse than the inflation for US college tuition and US healthcare. This was before the Zumwalt destroyers (aka DDX) came in at $7.5 billion each compared to the previous destroyer at $1-2 billion each. Only 3 Zumwalts will be built and they have loads of technical and operational problems. Those were the high function and high cost end of the high-low mix of ships planned in 2006.
High costs and massive technical flaws and under-performance
The low-end was the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship). The LCS will be a $20+ billion failure. The inexpensive ships are coming at over $600 million each. They can barely operate 30 days before a major systems failure.
The LCS has aluminum hulls and are lightly armed with virtually no useful weapons. One LCS tested a Harpoon anti-ship missile, but wider use among the LCS will probably not happen. The ships are armed with Hellfire missiles that don’t have enough range or a large enough warhead to win battles. The Navy was going to build 52 LCS and now will build 40.
The LCS was going to deliver special operation forces for anti-terrorism. It would then change a mission module and hunt for mines or submarines. The modules were a huge disappointment. The LCS was supposed to be more automated and have smaller crews. Crew sizes have been increased because the automation was a disappointment. The GAO also found that both designs were overweight and under performing.
Both the high-end and low-end ships did not work and ended up costing double already high costs.
The US Navy will try to start building twenty new guided missile frigates starting in 2020. The Navy wants to keep costs below $950 million each. Two of the bidders are the US companies (Lockheed and Austal) behind two versions of the LCS. The first ship is to be delivered in 2020 and then two per year from 2021-2030. There will be no new technology in the FFX ships.
Chinese ships are about 5 times lower cost than comparable US ships
China is building about 32 Type 054A or Type 054A+ frigates. China is claiming a cost of about $200 million each, but The Diplomat estimates the cost at $348 million.
The follow up Chinese frigate will be the Type 054B and it will have a full electric propulsion system.
Navy talks about lacking numbers of ships but cannot fix their cost disaster
Other European countries can build ships at 2-5 times lower cost than the US is able. Those European ships have modern electronics, systems and weapons.
The Navy procurement has been badly broken for decades but it has become a farce in the last 15 years. It is also a tragedy for the American taxpayer.
We have talked by the Air Force, Navy and Marine F35 problem before and will again as that $1-2 trillion joke continues.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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