Navys Ships of the Future, Sunk

The Littoral Combat Ship was supposed to represent the future of small, fast, and flexible warships. Instead it was beset by significant flaws and questions of reliability.

After years of work costing billions of dollars, the U.S. Navy is scaling back its controversial effort to build a fleet of small, speedy, flexible warships for near-shore patrolsa fleet plagued by design flaws, mismanagement and technical malfunctions.

But the Navys not cutting the fleet by choiceand not everyone is happy with the change. The decision to reduce the Littoral Combat Ship program from 52 ships to 40, while also building them all at one shipyard, reflects an ongoing conflict inside the Pentagon over Americas military strategy.

On one side are the advocates of what defense planners call presencethat is, stationing lots of inexpensive troops, planes and ships near potential hotspots in order to reassure Americas allies and ward off its enemies, theoretically preventing war without anyone firing a shot.

On the opposite side are capability proponents who prefer concentrating smaller numbers of more sophisticated, and thus more expensive, forces in the United States and at Americas main overseas bases, holding back these troops and weapons until an actual shooting war breaks out and the U.S. military must decisively intervene.

The ship cut is a win for the capabilities crowdand signals a continued shift in U.S. strategy away from long-term, large-scale military deployments toward a more reserved, arguably more cautious approach to warfare.

The order to reduce the Littoral Combat Ship program came from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, a champion of capability, in a Dec. 14 memo to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, a presence advocate.

Carter told Mabus that the sailing branch wont be getting all of the Littoral Combat Ships it wants. This plan reduces, somewhat, the number of LCS available for presence operations, Carter wrote.

Instead, the Pentagon boss directed the Navy chief to take some of the roughly $5 billion the extra dozen ships would have cost and spend it on fighter jets, missiles and dronesweaponry that Carter argued would have the necessary capabilities and posture to defeat even our most advanced potential adversaries.

The Navy had been counting on the full 52-ship production run of small, nimble and fast Littoral Combat Ships, each crewed by a relatively small contingent of just 75 sailors, to boost the fleets ability to sail in shallow coastal waters, save on manpower costs and grow the fleet from todays 282 frontline warships to a goal of more than 300 ships starting in 2019. Cutting some Littoral Combat Ships will slightly reduce the fleets rate of growth.

In any event, changes to the program have been a long time coming. Conceived in the 1990s, a decade of extraordinarysome would say foolishtechnological ambition among military planners, the Littoral Combat Ship initiative has suffered more than its share of scandal, failure, and embarrassment.

Early on, the per-ship price doubled to around $500 million. Designing the warships took years longer than planners had predicted. And rather than selecting just one shipbuilder to actually manufacture the vessels, the Pentagon tapped twoLockheed Martin and Austal, each producing its own, unique version of the Littoral Combat Ship. This dual construction strategy resulted in two totally different ship types each requiring their own supply chains and crew-training programs, an arguably wasteful redundancy.

Worse, when the roughly 400-foot-long ships finally began entering service in 2008, the Navy discovered serious technical shortfalls. The early ships rusted too quickly. Their main guns vibrated so much that they couldnt shoot straight. The Navy wanted to build a bunch of plug-and-play module kits including different combinations of sensors and weapons, each tailored for different kinds of combat against submarines, undersea mines or other ships. But seven years after LCS 1, the Lockheed-built USS Freedom arrived at her home base in San Diego without any war-ready modules.

And even with the modules, the Littoral Combat Ships are lightly armed, each with a single 57-millimeter gun and a few short-range missiles. This spring the Navy rolled out a plan to add more missiles to some Littoral Combat Ships, but theyll still be toothless compared to the Navys larger destroyers and cruisers, all of which boast a 127-millimeter gun and around a hundred long-range missiles.

The new warships are also unreliable. Today the Navy has six Littoral Combat Ships in commission. But between them, the vessels have completed just two overseas deployments in seven years. Based on recent averages, six Navy warships of any other class should, as a group, be able to complete a dozen deployments in that span of time.

The latest embarrassment occurred on Dec. 11 when USS Milwaukee, the brand-new LCS 6, broke down while sailing from Lockheeds Wisconsin shipyard to Florida. A tugboat hauled the powerless vessel to a Navy base in Virginia for potentially weeks of repairs.

Just three days later Carter canceled a dozen of the ships and warned that either Lockheed or Austal would be removed from the programalthough, to be fair, the defense secretarys decision was months in the making and wasnt a specific reaction to Milwaukees stranding. Carters memo sparked a fresh round of debate between the Pentagons capabilities crowd and their presence rivals.

Shocking is how retired Navy captain Jerry Hendrix, now an analyst with the Center for a New American Security think tank in Washington, D.C., described Carters memo. Hendrixs articles in professional journals over the years have helped advance the presence cause.

Cutting Littoral Combat Ships relegates the maritime mission to the back seat, Hendrix told The Daily Beast, adding that the reduction is very much in line with Ash Carters technological approach to defensethat science is now going to come forward and magically change defense and we wont need ships to service forward presence.

But Norman Polmar, an author and naval expert who has been aboard two Littoral Combat Ships, said the changes to the troubled program are good for America and the Navy. Numbers are important, Polmar said, but you also have to have hardcore combat capability.

Having canceled a dozen Littoral Combat Ships and freed up potentially billions of dollars and hundreds of sailors, the Navy should hurry up and design a tougher, more heavily-armed and more reliable small warship, Polmar said. That memo should have been written five years ago.

Read more:

Two US Navy Ships Carrying 10 Soldiers Are Being Held By The Iranian Government

Two US Navy boats carrying 1o American soldiers were seized in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday after possibly drifting into Iranian waters, NBC reports. The boats, and the soldiers, are being detained at Farsi Island by Iranian military troops.

According to reports, the soldiers were training at sea when one of the boats may have experienced mechanical failure. It’s believed both vessels could havedrifted into Iranian territory, where they were seized by the nations coast guard.

Though the nine male soldiers and one female soldier are currently being detained, Iranian authorities have confirmed they are safe. They will be released into American custody soon, though officials have not specified when.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters,

We have been in contact with Iran and have received assurances that the crew and the vessels will be returned promptly.

Some, including retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, are criticizing the seizure as a failure on the part of the American government. In an interview, he said,

We simply cant allow ground, air or naval units to be seized by a foreign hostile power This is an affront to our military presence in the Gulf and will unsettle our allies in the region.

Insiders say officials first lost contact with the boats around noon as they were passing between Kuwait and Bahrain. Contact was not re-established prior to the soldiers capture.

Subscribe to Elite Dailys official newsletter, The Edge, for more stories you don’t want to miss.

Read more:

The Force Of Waves On The High Seas Will Literally Bend Container Ships

Container ships are a lot tougher than you might give them credit for. The boats are the engine for a large percentage of the world’s economy and they can take an impressive beating from the sea. As evidence, I present to you the following video of one cargo ship literally being bent by the rough seas, yet still coming out in one piece.

Watch for it. The movement is very subtle, but it’s there. Watch the hallway.

Here’s the same ship during the same waves, but with a view from the captain’s deck.

And finally, here are just some giant ships in even bigger storms to further drive home my point.

Isn’t modern engineering wonderful? Now just try not to have any nightmares about an angry ocean rising up and swallowing you whole…

Read more:

When Music Pirates Used Pirate Ships

Renegade radio stations in the 60s challenged government control of the airwaves from international waters and helped launch the rock revolution.”>

Music pirates are boring nowadays. The pirates den is a bedroom in moms flat. Or maybe thats a pirate using the free wi-fi at Dunkin Donuts.

That wasnt always the case. Music pirates once had their own ships, just like their skull-and-crossbones predecessors in the Caribbean. The deejays didnt wear eye-patches or talk like Jack Sparrow, but before they were done reinventing radio rules, they helped shape the musical tastes during the rise of rock and even changed international maritime law.

Long before Napster and torrents, the pirate radio stations of the 60s found a home on the high seas. These renegade outfits operated from a host of different ships that circumvented government restrictions by broadcasting from international waters. At their peak, these stations attracted millions of listeners, who grooved to rock n roll tunes ignored by the state-controlled radio outlets.

On Aug. 2, 1958, Radio Mercur became Europes first offshore pirate music station, operating from a converted fishing boat stationed in international waters between Copenhagen and Landskrona. Retailers in consumer electronics backed the venture, with the hope of selling more radios if a wider range of programming were available.

Their bet paid off: The station eventually attracted 5 million listeners, and one advertiser, a German seller of nylons and stockings, boasted that a radio campaign on the station generated increased sales of 3 million units in just two months. Sales of transistor radios skyrocketed across Europe, with teens seizing the opportunity to listen to their own music in their own room, freed from the controland out-of-date song preferencesof their parents.

The piracy movement quickly spread from country to country. In 1960, Radio Veronica shook up the heavily regulated Dutch broadcasting business when it started operations in a converted German lightship anchored off the coast. The next year Radio Nord, backed by Texas money, took on the Swedish radio establishment from the Bon Jour in the Baltic Sea. In 1962, Radio Antwerpen began transmitting off the Belgian coast.

Britain, then at the forefront of commercial music world, would not long remain immune from the pirates. English rock was shaking up the world, but fans in the United Kingdom only enjoyed a few hours per week of this exciting new music on stuffy BBC radio. Radio Caroline, with its cooler vibe, now changed all that.

In February 1964, at the very moment when the Beatles were setting off the British rock invasion with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, a different kind of musical assault was underway back in the U.K. The instigator, Irish businessman Ronan ORahilly, came from a family of rebelshis grandfather had been a leader in in the 1916 Easter rebellion and died in an attack on British machine gunners. Now at this critical juncture in music history, ORahilly acquired a 188-foot ferry ship named the Frederica. This would serve as his pirate ship, and he also had an Easter rebellion in mind.

The Frederica was soon converted into a floating radio station, and renamed the Caroline. It started broadcasting on Easter Sunday, and didnt stop. Back in those days, most radio stations didnt operate after midnight, but Caroline kept going round-the-clock.

Yet pirates are dangerous characters, even in the music business. In June 1966, Smedley killed fellow pirate Reg Calvert, owner of Radio City, as the result of contentious merger discussions between the two stations.

No one was forced to walk the plank, but an actual pirate raid had taken place two days earlier, when thugs working for Smedley launched a surprise attack on Radio Citys fort. Alan Clark, a disc jockey for Radio City on board at the time, recalled the details of the raid in a 1997 interview: There was a dispute between Reg Calvert and Oliver Smedley and this dispute took place at the time of a seamens strike It climaxed in Major Smedley recruiting some striking seamen to sail out to the fort in a tug and take the place over.

I was there at the time, along with a number of other people, and we were quite surprised to peer out of a porthole to see this tug nearby and lots of men rowing towards us in their boat. Then of course they came on board, took over the place, ripped the studio apart, placed it out of bounds. There was no violence. They didnt hurt us or anything like that but they certainly kept us off the air for a few days.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!
By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the TermsofUse and PrivacyPolicy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason

This incident led to Calvert confronting Smedley in his home a few hours later. Oliver Smedley wasnt the man to take threats lightly. He had been a paratrooper in World War II, and earned a Military Cross during the battle of Normandy. As soon as Calvert arrived, Smedley retreated to his bedroom and loaded his shotgun. Without giving his adversary pirate any warning, Smedley shot Calvert. At the subsequent trial, Smedley convinced a jury that he acted instinctively and in self-defense, and was acquitted.

For a brief spell, it looked as if pirate radio would enter the mainstream of the music business. Radio 390, launched in 1965, was the most ambitious pirate operation of them all, with a strong signal and a full range of programs, including music, dramas, weather, and news. Like Radio City, this station operated from abandoned military towers. But a court eventually ruled that its facility, located on a sandbar off the north coast of Kent, was located in British territorial waters and the station disappeared from the airwaves in 1967.

But by then, the British government had grown tired of pirates. The Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, enacted on Aug. 14, 1967, made it illegal for anyone in the U.K. to advertise on the pirate stations or supply their ships.

Radio Caroline survived this change by supplying its operation from the Netherlands, but it would continue to face legal and nautical challenges in subsequent years. Meanwhile, most of its pirate competitors shut down. For better or worse, the golden age of pirate radio was coming to an end.

Other countries enacted their own regulations, and one by one these alternative sources of music gradually disappeared from the airwaves. At the height of activity during the mid-60s, more than a dozen stations were broadcasting from the North Sea, but by 1970 only two were leftRadio Veronica and Radio North Sea International.

Even so, the age of piracy had a lasting impact on British music. Six weeks after the passage of the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, the BBC launched an expanded pop-rock format, modeled on Radio London, and even hired a number of former pirate disc jockeys.

Yet the music pirates of the 60s anticipated the future in other ways as well. In the digital age, radio broadcasts cross all borders and boundaries via the Web. Except for a few totalitarian regimes, nations no longer expect to control the musical tastes of the citizenry. Songs can reach anyone in any jurisdiction nowadays, and dont require a pirate ship to do so.

In short, we enjoy our music, and dont need to worry about government intrusion into our playlists. We choose our tunes freely, and no one censors our music, or shuts it down at midnight. We take all that for granted, but we ought to thank the pirates who took the plunge into those uncharted waters a half-century ago, and proved how beautiful free-flowing music could be.

Read more:

Cruise Ships In The Arctic Take Titanic Risks

More and more floating pleasure palaces are plying the increasingly ice-choked and unstable waters near the poles. What could possibly go wrong?”>

This year, the new 820-foot-long, 13-deck cruise ship Crystal Serenity will be the first large-scale tourist ship to navigate through the Northwest Passage. And while amenities such as a casino, a movie theater, six restaurants, and a driving range may be what most potential tourists consider first, the safety precautions the cruise line is taking should be most important.

As the ships parent company, Crystal Cruises, notes, Two ice searchlights, a high-resolution radar and other equipment will be installed to allow the vessel to scan the waters ahead looking for underwater obstructions or uncharted rocks. The cruise liner will also carry a helicopter for ice condition reconnaissance, and will be accompanied by an escort ship with damage control equipment.

These precautions constitute the minimum security protocols for the safe travel of large ships in unstable, ice-choked waters. And the very fact that such extreme measures are necessary tells us that large cruise ships shouldnt be in polar waters at all.

Yet, according to a 2009 NOAA STAR report, tourism is the single largest human presence in the Arctic, with the majority of travelers visiting by ship.

Certain forms of Arctic adventure tourism have existed since the early 1800s, from mountaineers to adventure seekers, but today the industry has expandedin regions including Alaska, Canada, Norway, and Icelandto include nature lovers and leisure travelers, in part because of greater access due to melting ice.

Read more:

Artist creates amazing T-shirts for fandom ships from Johnlock to Stormpilot

Fans looking for a unique way to show their love for their fandomshipsneed to look no further than the stylish and clever “Ask Me About My Ship” T-shirt collection created by artist Fox Estacado.

Each shirt displays the words “Ask me about my ship” on the frontsometimes with art that nods to a specific fandomand can be lifted to reveal fanart of a couple from that fandom underneath. There are 11 shirts included in the series so far featuring a range of relationships like Sherlocks Johnlock,The AvengersStucky, and The X-Files‘ Mulder and Scully.

Estacado’s latest release in the collection is a Stormpilot shirt inspired by Star Wars: The Force AwakensFinn and Poe that is now available for preorder on her website. Estacado told the Daily Dot in an email interview that she only recently saw the movie and especially loved the two characters.

“The film was so generous with Finn/Poe momentsPoe giving Finn his name, their excellent teamwork to escape the First Order, Finn keeping Poe’s jacket when he thought he was dead, their triumphant reunion, and ‘Keep it, it suits you.’ I also saw the potential for a fun and playful relationship, and that’s the flavor of the relationship I chose to depict on the shirt,” she said.

She was inspired to create this collection in 2014 when one of her fellow podcasters on the Three Patch Podcast, Shannon Sauro, shared a photo of a shirt with a hidden image underneath. Estacado mentioned that it would be fun if the image was Johnlock and then went on to draw the design and create a few shirts. The shirts gained attention and sold out, and soon after, Estacado was receiving comments from those who didn’t ship Johnlock but liked the idea of the shirt.

“As a multishipper myself with many ships in many fandoms, I thought it would be fun to expand the idea to other ships, too,” she said. “I love the interactive nature of the shirt, and I love that fans can wear their ship and show it off proudly, if they choose to.”

The ships currently in the line are a mix of Estacado’s favorites and requests from friends and followers. Estacado isn’t a full-time artist and works at a nonprofit in Los Angeles so the amount of time it takes to create each shirt varies and can depend on if the ship and fandom is new to her.

“With every ship shirt, it’s important to me to engage with the fandom, and get to know why people love the ship, its flavors, and its fannish lore. For many, shipping is a deeply meaningful experience,” she said. “My approach to fanart always comes from a place of fellowshipa fellow fan sharing my interpretation and love for the characters with fellow fans.”

It certainly gives fans a creative and fun way to answer anyone’s questions about their ships. You can see the entire “Ask Me About My Ship” line on Estacado’s website.

Read more: