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How would you manage your capital budget and fleet replacement plan?


Army.ca Legend
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Australia's AAW programme - 4 vessels for 6 Bn Australian Dollars (Current)

CPFs IIRC were about 12-15 Bn dollars in "then" dollars for the dozen once all project costs were included.

Meanwhile the US is proceeding with the LCS programme.

Even though Lockheed-Martin seems to be having trouble with their Fincantieri high-speed monohull, General Dynamics seems to have its Austal Trimaran in hand.  A production track record helps in these things.

These vessels are exceedingly fast, 40 kts,  although of limited range, 3500 nm or km?.  They don't carry a lot of missiles and guns, enough to protect themselves, unless you include batteries of NLOS-LS missiles.  They don't have large crews (15-50 range) BUT they are launch platforms for troops, helicopters (MH-60s), boats (RHIBs), UAVs (Fire Scout), USVs (Scout Spartan or Protector), UUVs (semi-submersibles like the AN/WLD-1) and AUVs (Autonomous submersibles).  They are also C&C nodes and Radio Relay Nodes.

They are expected to cost around 250 MUSD each (12 BUSD for 50-60 units to Build - not operate and maintain)

Additionally, the USN is embarking on a redesign of its attack subs to produce a smaller Nuke that costs around 1 Bn to build, or the ballpark price of an AAW frigate.

So here's the question for you - You know that your fleet will last another 10-20 years, 25 years at a long stretch for some of your gear.  You don't know what the world is going to look like at the end of that time.  You do know that their are gaps in what your fleet can currently do.  You know that new technologies are coming online.  Some of them promising.  Some of them solving problems that will never appear.  Some of them that are the right answers but technically hard to meet in the near term.

Or look at it this way - cast your mind back to the 1850s.  You have a fleet of Sail Powered, wooden walled battleships that are rotting in harbour.  Too expensive to maintain, and no crews to crew them.  Do you invest in building new wooden ships - there is still some utility in them?  Or do you invest in some of these newfangled little steam powered gun-boats.  Maybe even try out a large steam battleship?

Where am I heading?

Suppose, rather than looking at the fleets of the past you look at the possibilities of the fleets of the future.

What could you do with a Task Force built around a JSS (known price - its in the system) acting as a mothership to a swarm of 6-8 LCS craft (each with their own unmanned Helicopters, unmanned Patrol RHIBs and unmanned submersibles - also supplying landing pads for helicopters - at about the same price as and manning as a pair of CPFs or new generation frigates), a pair of AAW frigates with a large VLS system for variable missile loads (at 1-2 Bn apiece)?

Or how about building something like the Danish Patrol Frigates with troop carrying capacity and a floodable deck?

Or how about buying some of those new, smaller American submarines?

Or how about buying some Ice Capable patrol ships like the Norwegian Svalbard complete with LCVPs, Hovercraft, Helicopters and snowmobiles?

Or maybe buying some floating warehouses with landing platforms rather than assault ships?

How would you manage your capital expenditure budget? 

Would you do the easy thing and plan to replace what you have on a one for one basis?  Or would you start making plans against unproven technologies for unknown scenarios? Or do you just stand pat, knowing that delivery time on the traditional solution is 10-15 years whereas some of the other solutions have delivery times measured in 2-3 years?

This isn't a question of what vessels do you select but how do you plan and manage?

I can think of many ways to spend whatever money is available - and some of them might even be right. 

Sometimes the right answer is just to stand pat until you have better data.