By AMY KLAMPER, Seapower Correspondent
With the keel laid and construction begun on the
first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the Navy is intently focused
on training the new vessel’s 40 crew members, a process that
is setting a precedent for a future where far smaller crews will
man new ships.
The USS Freedom is scheduled for delivery in late
2006. It will be the first of two different LCS seaframes designed
for littoral or coastal missions that require maneuverability,
agility and speed.
The LCS class will act as a platform for launch
and recovery of manned and unmanned vehicles. Its modular design
will support interchangeable mission packages, allowing the ship
to be reconfigured for antisubmarine warfare, mine warfare or surface
warfare missions on an as-needed basis.
But with a core crew of only 40, the Navy faces
the daunting task of training fewer sailors to do jobs currently
performed by as many as 450 people on larger surface combatants.
To accomplish this goal, the Navy is identifying
a set of standard skill sets that will allow individual sailors
to train for a variety of functions on the ship, according to Gregory
L. Maxwell, deputy commander for human systems integration at Naval
Sea Systems Command. He is working to ensure the Navy understands
each of LCS’s 40 positions and the expectations that go beyond
their primary function.
“Capturing work load, not just the principal
or tertiary things, but below that, is critically important,” Maxwell
said, adding there are some skills common to all sailors that are
going to have to be spread across crew members aboard LCS.
“It is absolutely critical that we clearly,
precisely, identify every skill for the position that person is
being assigned to,” he said. “This is a big cultural
The idea, Maxwell said, is to tailor an individual
crew member’s training to a specific set of skills with no
onboard qualification training. In contrast to past practices,
crew members have “to show up ready to perform,” he
said. “It is an enormous challenge.”
In the past, Maxwell said, sailors were trained
at the same pace through classroom instruction before easing into
on-the-job training. But under the Navy’s new approach, training
will be self-paced through computer and distance learning, and
those with prior knowledge and specific skills may be able skip
some training segments entirely.
Maxwell said one of the greatest challenges in
training sailors for missions aboard LCS is mitigating the potential
for losing a sailor — and the several key functions he or
she performs — while operating at sea.
“One of the comforts of going to sea with
a ship of 320 people when you get in trouble is you turn to your
buddy on the right and say ‘help me out,’” Maxwell
said. “Well, there may not be anybody to turn to on LCS,
so we’ve got to get it right.”
Thus, the training systems the Navy develops “are
going to have to augment and maintain [sailors’] proficiency
at a very precise level.”
In the meantime, the Navy has mapped out all of
the skills necessary for LCS, “down to taking the trash out,” said
Navy Cmdr. Curt Renshaw, Naval Surface Force, Pacific Fleet, adding
that the service will need to find the right sailors to perform
these specific functions. The first step, he said, “is to
find somebody that’s got a majority of those skill sets and
tailor their training to meet the rest of them — all the
way up to their watch standing.”
For example, a number of positions on the LCS
can be filled by sailors skilled in information technology (IT),
fire control or electronics technician (ET) ratings that “share
the same technical knowledge base,” Renshaw said. “So
a sailor who is an IT already on some ships is performing some
functions that technically belong to the ET rating.”
While the Navy is relying on some existing training
methods, much of the old approach will not apply to LCS. For years,
he said, the Navy has developed its training in support of new
platforms — an “almost impossible model” for
going to sea with the small number of crew members on LCS.
“We have, at the expense of sailors, quite
often introduced new capabilities and then said we’ll figure
out how to train later,” Maxwell said. “On a ship of
40 people you’re not going to be able to do that.”
Instead, he said, LCS is designed to provide operators
with the technological ability to perform multiple functions. “We’re
saying now, you’re going to put a multitask operator here,
so we have to design that way and then build your training to support
that,” he said.
Further complicating LCS training is the modularity
factor inherent in LCS, Maxwell said. In addition to its crew of
40, LCS will boast 20 crew members in an aviation detachment plus
15 sailors in the mission package — specific interchangeable
modules that include antisubmarine, mine and surface warfare. “This
is going to add complexity to the ship, not take it away,” he
Renshaw said the Navy will have to train these
sailors separately before incorporating them into the larger crew.
LCS does not permit the luxury of training a sailor for six months
onboard ship, so learning how to train sailors to come prepared
to join a team could prove challenging.
“You can sit in the classroom and watch
movies and get lectured, but you have to have someplace to go and
do some hands-on simulation — high-fidelity simulation,” he
said, adding that budget constraints could hinder efforts to find
the best simulator for the best price.
Paul Lemmo, business development director at Lockheed
Martin, which is leading an industry team in the development and
construction of the first LCS, said the company is working with
vendors for all of the ship’s major systems, and that many
have training for their products.
Many training courses will be offered at vendors’ factories,
Lemmo said. “Sailors will actually go to the factory sites
for those elements and take their [operational equipment manufacturing]
The classes will vary in length from a week to
several weeks, he said, adding that most of the training that has
occurred thus far has involved familiarization with the onboard
“They’ve come to Lockheed Martin in
Moorestown, N.J., for the lab-based integration testing facility,” he
said. “They work on the computer consoles they would have
on the ship and operate the combat system software.”
Beginning in January, LCS crew members will begin
attending the factory-based courses, he said.
“They’ll go, for example, to EADS
in Germany and take a course over there on the TRS-3D Radar,” Lemmo