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Patrol Frigate (PF) - Concept

Confronted with declining budgets on the one hand and cost escalation in warship construction on the other, Zumwalt scrapped most of the obsolete escorts in the Reserve Fleetwhich dropped from 267 ships to 70 to free up money for new procurement. Even with these measures, the Navy still could not replace the old escorts with new Spruances on a one-for-one basis.

Without a cheaper design, escort force levels were projected to fall to 160 in 1980, at a time when the minimum requirement was expected to exceed 200 escorts. The solution was the Patrol Frigate (PF) program.

On 9 September 1970, as one of the many reforms coming out of Project Sixty, Zumwalt initiated a feasibility study for fifty new patrol frigates. The designed mission for the PF was [T]o provide self-defense and effectively supplement planned and existing escorts in the protection of underway replenishment groups, amphibious forces, and military and mercantile shipping against sub-surface, air, and surface threats; and to conduct ASW operations in conjunction with other sea control forces tasked to ensure our use of essential sea lines of communications. Given the budgetary constraints inherent in the domestically oriented Nixon Doctrine (announced in February 1970), the frigates equipment needed to be relatively simple, and complex hardware/software systems were avoided. By using previously established equipment, it was thought unit cost could be kept under $50 million, and the escort could be rapidly delivered to the fleet.

On 1 June 1971, after almost nine months of concept exploration, the CNO approved moving into the design phase. After a briefing detailing cost-reduction alternatives on 14 October, Zumwalt decided on the following design constraints. Hull size was limited to 3,400 tons full-load displacement, crew size was held to 185, and follow-on unit costs could not exceed $45.7 million (in FY 1973 dollars). These parameters were unusual in that they set restrictions on the initial concept, thus making the PF the first design-to-cost procurement ever attempted by the Navy.

Ship acquisition is an extremely complex process involving many highly interrelated individual operations, each critical to the completion of the final product. A central issue was the design, test, and evaluation of ship combat systems.

As part of the design process, several steps were taken to limit cost growth. First, the future characteristics change margina legacy of World War II building programswas deleted. Any major equipment addition to the ship would have to be compensated by removing some other item. While a useful limit on the designers, this restriction led to an overly small allocation of space for the crew and supplies, which led to metacentric height problems later. Second, emphasis was placed on using or adapting existing equipment rather than designing new and perhaps uncertain technology. In a sense, this approach was an early version of government-off-the-shelf (GOTS) procurement policies. Third, the propulsion and weapons systems were to be tested at land-based sites early in the shipbuilding cycle.

A shift toward prototyping in NAVSHIPS came through the Patrol Frigate (PF) Program of the early 1970s, in which an industry/Navy team effort will go into the detailed design and engineering effort, and a lead ship will be built. At a later point in time, separate contracts were to be awarded for construction of groups of these ships. This was a quite different approach than that used for the DD 963 Program, where one contractor was developing, engineering and producing a whole program's worth of ships.

This fly-before-you-buy approach theoretically would work out many of usual shakedown problems associated with new designs and prevent rip-outs of faulty equipment. Finally, contracts were structured so that the Navy would not be committed to a block purchase of ships until any cost, schedule, or technical problems were overcome. On 12 April 1972, two cost-plus-fixed-fee contracts were awarded to support this Ship System Design Support program: one for the designated lead yard at Bath Iron Works; and the second, to Todd Shipyards Corp., a potential follow-on builder.

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Page last modified: 16-11-2017 18:44:36 ZULU