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Posted by John Keller

I can't help myself; I just love it when sanity rears its ugly head. Such was the case yesterday when a key member of Congress finally ... FINALLY, recommended the obvious -- that the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard think about combining at least parts of two remarkably similar surface warship programs.

The key congressman is U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., who is proposing a merger of the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the Coast Guard's National Security Cutter. Taylor's recommendation was reported on, and you can read the story here.

I've often wondered, and used to ask a lot of questions, why the Navy and Coast Guard were pursuing two very expensive but eerily similar major surface ship programs. The answers I generally received amounted to something like 'don't worry your pretty little head about this; the Navy and Coast Guard have such vastly different missions that no one conceivable ship design could ever come close to meeting their diverse requirements. Besides, the Navy is part of the Defense Department and Coast Guard is part of Homeland Security. Simply asking why shows how little you understand the issues.'

Hey, I'm willing -- eager, in fact -- to leave weighty problems like warship design to the experts. My pondering had to be not just naive, but silly. I admitted such and moved forward.

Still, it kept nagging at me ever since I started learning about the Littoral Combat Ship and the National Security Cutter, also known as the Maritime Security Cutter. In my ill-informed, non-nautical thinking, it seemed to me that the National Security Cutter was a super-cutter -- not quite a frigate, but something close.

On the other hand, the Littoral Combat Ship, it seemed, was trying to be something like a baby frigate -- something smaller, and optimized for operations close-in to shore, rather than for blue-water operations escorting carrier battle groups and the like.

Super-cutter, baby frigate. It always sounded like the same thing to me, but approached from opposite directions. Maybe it could save a lot of money at least to use the same hull, I thought.

But no matter. I stopped worrying my pretty little head about this a long time ago. It's satisfying, however, to see that members of Congress have started wrangling with it, for a change.

Post a Comment

Blogger Lou Covey said...

This has been an ongoing discussion in recent US military history and most of it has to do with competition between the various branches of military. The Marines, Navy and Air Force often have very similar aircraft, but each wants their own version because, well, they are different branches. The Coast Guard and Navy do have very different missions, even though they often do similar things.
Yes, it makes a whole lot of sense to make one version and learn to use it in different ways, but you aren't considering male ego.
You are also not considering the fact that the industry making the stuff can make have more contracts, which looks better for the bottom line.
It's not just the military either. Boeing and Airbus make different planes for different countries.
Think of the last time you may have bought a car. You wanted a certain type of car with a certain type of propulsion, wheels, paint, interior, etc. Even though your lifestyle is similar to many other people, all of whom are driving different cars.
It really doesn't make sense to do it that way, it's just the way it is.
Friday, December 21, 2007 1:16:00 PM EST  

Blogger Douglas Karr said...
I believe there are some opportunities to do this, much like the country is doing with fighters. However, there are substantial differences needed for design for a short range vessel and long range vessel.

I would think that Coast Guard vessels need to be faster (at the cost of fuel efficiency) and require less storage for supplies since they are, in fact, coastal vessels.

Navy ships must have the storage for long deployment as well as the fuel efficiency.

I don't disagree with you, but I'm not sure that a ship builder and designer that specializes in one will be able to handle both. The issues may be more on the supply side than the demand side.
Saturday, December 22, 2007 11:40:00 AM EST  

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.