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MSH-1 CARDINAL Minesweeper Hunter (MSH)

In FY 1984 the Navy embarked upon a program to construct 17 Minesweeper Hunters (MSH -- not Mine Sweeper, Hover). Competition for this program was won by Bell Aerospace Textron (now Textron Marine Systems) which proposed to utilize surface-effect-ship technology and glass-reinforced plastic structure based on proven Swedish technology. This class is designed to supplement the "Avenger" class and together with it will form the US Mine Warfare Force of the future. But the planned minesweeper hunter (MSH) class was a failure, and the program was halted by the Navy on 25 August 1986. That program had envisioned 17 air-cushion minehunters of some 470 tons displacement.

In 1972, the Navy proposed that a new ship be acquired to support the ocean mine countermeasures mission. In February 1980, the Naval Sea Systems Command was directed by the Chief of Naval Operations to initiate cost and feasibility studies to meet the current mine countermeasure coastal requirement. This project was made part of an existing program office with two other ship projects. US and foreign shipbuilders were requested to submit proposals to design and build the new class of Minesweeper Hunter ships. The primary mission was locating and sweeping or neutralizing mines-whether they be acoustic, magnetic, or contact mines-in the coastal waters, harbors and bays of the United States. They may operate in conjunction with both airborne mine countermeasure helicopters and mine countermeasure ships m coastal waters. Additional contingency mission tasks include route surveys, channel conditioning, underwater search, search and rescue, and collection of hydrographic and oceanographic data.

Design studies culmmated in a March 1980 Chief of Naval Operations decision to build a wood hull ship based on an updated version of a 15-year old minesweeper design that was never put into production. Along with these plans, the Navy investigated mineehunters of varying capability tailored for the coastal mission and at lower cost. The first concepts of the Minesweeper Hunter evolved from what was called the MCM 85-90 Concepts Study.

A Chief of Naval Operations Executive Hoard decision m December 1974 approved a program to procure a new class of ships dedicated to countermine warfare at sea. In January 1980, the mine countermeasure effort from which the Minesweeper Hunter program evolved, was transferred from the Combatant, Service and Amphibious Craft Acquisition Project to the Hydrofoil Patrol Craft Acquisition Project. The first program manager of the Amphibious Craft project had an extensive background m systems acquisition and design as well as a master's degree in naval architecture. He had been the program manager on two other Navy programs, had over 9 years of related naval engineering experience, and received 20 weeks of formal military acquisition training. According to the program manager, the Minesweeper Hunter program office received contract support assistance from a pool of contracting officers until August 1982 when a contractmg officer was assigned specifically to the program.

In December 1981, the Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command convened a Ship Acquisition Improvement Panel to discuss results of the concept design. The first program manager stated that the estimated cost for each ship was over $100 million. However, this figure was considered too high by top Navy officials, who had determined that the ship should not cost more than about $75 million. The first program manager stated that it was more a question of what was affordable at the highest Navy levels than a deliberate effort to set a price cap. The as a result of the April 1982 meeting with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Shipbuildmg and Logistics), the original acquisition plan was rejected and the concept design phase was extended to accommodate a new strategy.

The first program manager explained that the strategy was changed because the program office was having difficulty m meeting cost objectives He stated that as a result of cost cutting efforts, five different design alternatives were developed, with estimated prices for both wood and glass-reinforced plastic. The program manager stated these proposals were also evaluated as too costly.

The overall approach of the new strategy was to have the shipbuilders design the ship so that it did not exceed the cost ceiling. To meet the cost obJectives, requirements were tailored and general specifications for surface ships were selectively waived. Specifically, the ships' operational requirements and performance capability were tailored in the areas of depth, speed, mission duration, and admuustrative/maintenance support to meet the coastal mission.

The strategy used a competitive elimmation approach, in which every qualified shipbuilder was welcome to compete at the onset, using their own design, a foreign design, a previous Naval Sea Systems Command feasibility design, or any combination thereof. Contractors were to be progressively ehmmated in a three-phase process.

Navy guidance required lead ship acquisition in fiscal year 1984 at a ceiling price of $65 million, of which $31 million was allocated for the shipbuilder's detailed design and construction. The cost for government-furnished equipment, escalation, Navy management support and change orders were not included in the $31 million for design and construction The lead ship award also contained an option for four other ships in fiscal year 1986 and four in fiscal year 1987. Two additional groups of four ships each were scheduled to be competitively awarded m fiscal years 1988 and 1989 to meet the approved planning goal of 17 ships.

On December 7, 1982, a ship design request for proposal was issued by the Naval Sea Systems Command to industry with notice of procurement appearing in the Commerce Business Daily. The request for proposal was subsequently provided to all shipbuilders or design agents (foreign or domestic) who requested it four $250,000 fixed price contracts for phase I preliminary design were signed April 15, 1983, with the following selected offerors:

  • Bell Aerospace Textron,
  • Marinette Marme Corporation,
  • Peterson Builders, Incorporated, and
  • van der Giessen de Noord.

During the period April 15, 1983, to August 15, 1983, each of the four contractors developed thexr phase I design using the requirements, statement of work, and other guidance included in the contracts.

The source selection authority selected Bell Aerospace and Marinette Marine to perform phase II contract design. On November 2, 1983, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Shipbuilding and Logistics) conducted an informal program review of the selection with representatives from Naval Operations Command and Naval Materiel Command in attendance. On the same day, firm fixed-price options for $1 million each were exercised with the two contractors.

Bell Aerospace's original entry for the design comprised a hybrid design sidewall craft, a cross between a surface effect ship and a conventional monohull design. The designers argued that this design had major shock resistance advantages. The hull was made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic with a rigid polyvinyl chloride foam base.

The competing Marinette's design was a licensed derivative of the Italian Intermarine Lerici class. It also used a fiberglass construction material and incorporated a Voith Schneider vertical axis propeller.

On October 3, 1984, the Advisory Council was reconvened, and an overall summary of proposal strengths and weaknesses was presented The Council found that one design was more fully developed, meeting Navy performance requirements at a lower risk, but at a much higher price The other design presented a higher technical risk at a much lower price. While the latter met minimum performance standards, the Council believed design changes might be required if the design assumptions did not prove correct during detail design. In the final analysis, the Council recommended that the contract be awarded to the lowest bidder, Bell Aerospace Textron, despite possible design risks. It concluded that the technical superiority of the low risk ship design was not worth a difference of $75 million in the total acquisltlon price. The average unit cost of S16.5 million was well within the detailed design and construction $31 million celling. A contract was awarded in November 1984.

The ship design developed by Bell Aerospace Textron in an industry-wide design competition incorporates surface-effect-ship technology and glass-reinforce plastic structure based on proven Swedish technology. The displacement was 450 tons full load, with dimensions: 140-150 ft x 20-25 ft x 9-12 ft. The approved design uses glass-reinforced plastic combined with a surface-effect ship type hull, thus introducing GRP technology to the US Navy. The surface-effect hull, riding on its air cushion should provide advantages in shock, magnetic and acoustic protection for the ship.

The keel for the first of this class was laid down 13 February 1986, with an initial estimated delivery date during FY 1987. The unique features and the mine-warfare-ship requirements of low magnetic permeability, shock hardness, and noise attenuation complicated the design process and resulted in higher shipbuilder's engineering cost and a delay in the construction and delivery of the lead ship. A full sized test section was built and was tested by Bell for noise and shock, as well as to debug and verify the production process. Accordingly, the Cardinal delivery date was delayed seven months beyond the current contract date, and the four option ships scheduled for award by April 1986 would not be awarded until the Navy is thoroughly satisfied with the detail design.

There were various problems, including the Isotta-Fraschini diesel engines, which failed to meet Navy endurance standards during initial tests. And shock tests made on a full-size 103 ton test section revealed that the hull tended to delaminate under the impact of severe shock. Extensive efforts to solve that problem ultimately proved unsuccessful and a decision was made to halt the program on August 25, 1986 and formally cancelled on November 24, 1986.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1987, which passed Senate on 09 August 1986, authorized the Secretary to procure a lead (MSH-X) minesweeper hunter ship and one partially-outfitted hull of such a ship from a foreign ally of the United States. Allocates funds for such purpose. It required certain certifications from the Secretary before such purchases are made. On 09 August 1986 the US Senate adoped an amendment to the fiscal year 1987 military Appropriations bill, proposed by Sen Robert W. Kasten, Jr. [WI], that no funds may be expended for the procurement of a lead minesweeper hunter ship from a foreign country until the Secretary of the Navy has certified to the Congress in writing, (a) that purchase of up to two foreign-built ships responds to an urgent national security requirement, and (b) that no United States shipbuilder has demonstrated the capability to meet that requirement in a timely fashion.

Subsequently, the MHC-51 Osprey Class ships were authorized by Congress. Built by Intermarine USA in Savannah, Ga., the ship's hull is solid, continuous monocoque structure laminated from special fiberglass and resin that is easy to maintain and will flex to absorb the violent shock of an underwater mine explosion. The ships were designed to have a very low magnetic and acoustic signatures, giving them an added margin of safety during operation.

The Coastal Mine Hunter Cardinal (MHC 60) commissioned in Alexandria, Va., during a 10 a.m. (EDT) ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 18, 1997, at the Robinson Terminal Pier. Three previous minesweepers have borne the name Cardinal. The first, AM 6, operated for most of her career along the California coast; the second, AM 67, patrolled the 5th Naval District (Norfolk, Va. area) during World War II; and the third, YMS-179, a wooden-hulled coast minehunter was decommissioned in 1957. Cardinal was the 10th of 12 Osprey Class ships authorized by Congress.



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