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WASHINGTON – Good Evening, Drifters

Two things I like a lot: warships and old heavy metal.

So today I’ve decided to go with both at the same time. I’ve cued up Metallica’s shredtastic debut album Kill ‘Em All in my earbuds and take you on a quick tour of U.S. warships and programs under construction and in development. I hope that by the time The Four Horsemen get to the end of Metal Militia, I’ll have finished weaving my weekly tale here at The Drift.

I’ve had the annual pleasure of joining my surface Navy brethren at the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium in Crystal City this week. And one of the best opportunities you get for your time at SNA is getting a chance to hear presentations from all the major program managers from Naval Sea Systems Command at the NAVSEA booth on the floor.

For this week’s Drift we are going to Hit the Slides and give you all the high points of the presentations, both from the PowerPoint slides and the Q&A afterwards. It will give you an update on where some of the most important surface Navy programs stand heading into 2019. Good stuff!

I’ll also wrap up some of the great coverage my esteemed colleagues in the naval press corps put together, and shamelessly plug my own stuff.

Let’s jump in the fire,



Program Updates (More Exciting than it Sounds)

DDG 1000

The message from NAVSESA this year was that DDG 1000 is getting water under the keel, is conducting operations and moving toward its future slowly but surely.

The road ahead:

  • The Zumwalt is coming to the end of its combat system activation in San Diego, and then it goes into Initial Operational Test and Evaluation
  • After IOT&E, there will be an analysis phase
  • The program should declare Initial Operational Capability by the end of 2020
  • Michael Monsoor will commission January 26 in Coronado
  • She will be at BAE for her combat system activation phase by this spring but preparations will start in the coming weeks

Over at Bath Iron Works, the third and final ship, the Lyndon B. Johnson, is about 82 percent complete and it will be scheduled for initial delivery in March 2020, then will head to San Diego for its combat system install.


The biggest thing that came out of the briefing is that follow-on ships are getting cheaper, with NAVSEA thinking it’s going to get close to $800 million per unit. There was some eye-brow raising at the cost estimate form last year, which was closer to $950 million. The cost of the first ship will be revealed in the budget when it rolls out (ideally) next month.

About 1/3 of the cost of FFG(X) will be government furnished equipment – the sensors, computer hardware, software and weapons systems that will go on it.

The program is on track, NAVSEA says.


  • Conceptual design phase ends in June followed by a draft RFI
  • A wide-open (not just the five initial design awards) competition for detailed design and construction kicks off in the fourth quarter in 2019
  • Awarded in the fourth quarter of 2020


The message from NAVSEA on LPD 17 is that Congress loves it, added two more to the first batch of 10 (now known as Flight I) and that the next batch, Flight II, is on track.

They are using LPD 28 (38 percent complete) and 29 (five percent complete) to buy down risk on all new additions destined for Flight II – the big ones being a move away from an enclosed mast to a DDG-style mast, an improved electrical distribution system and the Enterprise Air Search Radar. LPD 29 will be the first of the LPD-17 class to have the EASR.

By the time they get to LPD 30, the first of Flight II, they will be ready to finish the integration of the rest of the new stuff.  


Get this: there are 66 DDGs in the fleet and another 22 are on contract. Flight III, which integrates the Spy-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar is on track, according to NAVSEA. SPY-6 development, the biggest schedule risk for the program, is going well. Raytheon’s radar should be heading soon to Lockheed Martin’s Cruiser in a Cornfield facility in Moorestown, New Jersey to integrate with AEGIS.

Unmanned Surface Systems

The future of the surface fleet is unmanned, and the Navy is starting to imagine this future and put some thought in the development. I wrote a story about this on Tuesday, so check that out here:

US Navy moves toward unleashing killer robot ships on the world’s oceans

The NAVSEA presentation put forward a few more details on the unmanned surface systems they are working on.

  • A large USV that can distribute large sensors and fires
  • Medium sized USVs that can distribute sensors and
  • Small USVs that can tow mine hunting equipment, as well as work to relay communications to their human overload back on manned surface combatants
  • Even smaller USVs that can work as communications relays and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms

What NAVSEA needs to improve on:

  • Safety, reliability and autonomous navigation
  • The ability to launch and recover offboard sensors such as mine hunting drones from USVs
  • Integrating USVs with manned host platforms that control them from a distance

LCS Mission Modules

Here’s the latest on the LCS mission modules, the Navy’s never-ending  story, albeit one that does not have a giant flying dog.

Good news? It’s coming to an end soon.

Surface Mission Module:

  • Will IOC in the second quarter of 2019
  • Looking to deploy in 2019
  • It will go into production in 2019 and deliver in 2021

Minesweeping module:

  • Testing ongoing
  • Development testing on the LCS Fort Worth in the fourth quarter of 2019
  • IOC in 2020

And that’s it, those are all my high points! On to the hotwash!

The Hotwash


One of the Navy’s highest-ranking SWOs, Adm. Chris Grady, came into SNA with some real talk in his presentation today, telling the audience that it’s all well and good to get pumped about new ships but maintaining the current ships is just as important.

The Quote: “Seventy five percent of the fighting force today will be what we fight with in 2030,” Grady said. “We must sustain what we have now to defend our interests in the future.”

Highly recommend reading up on the rest of it at USNI:

Navy And Industry Must Balance New Construction With Maintaining Existing Platforms

Marines with Missiles

Interesting read over a at Breaking Defense with my friend Paul McCleary reporting that the Marines are moving quickly to find anti-ship missiles that they can fire from shore, part of a move to make the Marines more relevant in a Pacific fight.

Excerpt: Dubbed the Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System — that’s NEMSIS to you — the program has completed its design phase. For the missile itself, Marines are looking at

  • Lockheed Martin’s new Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), with stealthy features to penetrate enemy missile defenses, a 1,000-pound warhead, and a range disclosed only as “over 200 miles”;
  • Raytheon’s Naval Strike Missile (NSM) already chosen as an upgrade for Navy Littoral Combat Ships, with a 264-lb warhead and a 115-mile range;
  • and Boeing’s venerable Harpoon, whose variants have a 500-lb warhead and ranges between 70 and 150 miles.

Definitely read the rest here:

Marines Want Missiles To Sink Ships From Shores, And They Want Them Fast

More Reading

SECNAV to the Navy: You got the money so fix yourselves. Fast.

Worse than you thought: inside the secret Fitzgerald probe the Navy doesn’t want you to read

The Navy Is Gearing Up for 'Leaner, Agile' Operations in Arctic, North Atlantic

Raytheon’s AESA Radar Selected For US Marine Corps Hornet Fleet Upgrade

OK, shameless plug time: I worked really hard on this story over a few months and I’m pretty proud of the final product. Check it out if you haven’t:

The future of the US surface fleet: One combat system to rule them all

Well, that’s The Drift for this week. I didn’t even get close to finishing by the end of Kill ‘Em All. As we speak, I’m wrapping up at the end of the final track of their 2nd album, Ride the Lightening. Ah well.

Be excellent to one another,


David B. Larter

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