SURFACE COMBATANT FORCE REQUIREMENT STUDY
The Surface Combatant Force Requirement Study (SCFRS) was
commissioned in November 1986 to determine the force structure for
surface combatants in the year 2010. This force structure is one
that will both meet the threat postulated for the year 2010 and
also fulfill the projected missions required of the surface
The study developed four major findings:
Capability is the Key: The study determined that capable,
multi-mission ships will be required to meet the threat of the year
224 Battle Force Capable ships: A force structure of 224 surface
combatants with a certain level of capability is the minimum force
structure goal. This force is broken down into 120 combatants to
fulfill the Battle Force (BFC) mission and 104 to provide
Protection of Shipping (POS) as in a convoy.
Steady State Construction 5-6 per year: To reach this goal a
steady state building rate of five to six surface combatants per
year is required in order to have capable surface combatants to
fulfill our battle group role in the year 2010. This stable
building plan will not only allow us to reach our force objective,
of which we are well short now, but also eliminate the block
obsolescence problems we have in the combatant Navy.
Implement Flexible Transition: The historical method of
procuring surface ships will not work. It will be too expensive.
A new concept called Flexible Transition will be used to reach this
force structure objective. Flexible Transition is a creative
concept that draws on lessons learned from other programs. It is
both an achievable plan and the most affordable.
When SCFRS was conducted the following basic guidelines were
The key to developing any force structure for the year 2010 is
what the threat will be. This study is based on the approved
threat for the year 2010 as promulgated in the National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
The United States capabilities used were only those that could
be reasonably in place by the year 2010.
The scenarios used were compatible with the maritime component
of the National Security Strategy.
Historical fiscal realities and affordability were considered.
A campaign analysis of four scenarios involving surface
combatant forces, was the basis for the study's findings. The
scenarios were not based on actual war plans, rather they were
designed to stress Battle Force Capability.
A three carrier force and Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile (TASM)
strike in the North Atlantic was a scenario intended to depict an
operation of a short duration with surface forces performing in a
multi-mission battle force environment.
A four carrier force and Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM)
strike in the Northern Pacific scenario similar to the three
carrier scenario. This scenario differed by depicting operations
of extended duration which were intended to test resupply through
A Surface Action Group (SAG) strike in Southeast#Southwest
Asia scenario, depicted operations of surface combatants only,
without the support of an aircraft carrier's embarked airwing.
A Protection of Shipping scenario, depicted surface combatants
protecting a convoy crossing the Atlantic to resupply Europe.
The process used to determine the force structure required was
designed to ensure that the entire picture was looked at. For each
case examined, the Chief of Naval Operations' approved 1981 force
levels and composition was used as a baseline.
Each warfare area was examined as part of the total force
structure. In other words, weapons expended during the
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) phase were not available during an
enemy air attack and vice versa. Likewise if a ship was lost due
to missile or torpedo attack, then it was not available for
The total range of systems and threat capability was examined
through looking at a range of options or parameters. This ensures
that the study did not make the enemy "10 feet tall" or over/under
estimate the capability of U.S. Navy systems. In fact there were
over 3.5 million possible combinations.
In summary, the study examined tradeoffs in capabilities,
service life and force levels to determine the optimum force level
SCFRS was based on the broad surface combatant missions, the
primary divisions of Battle Force Capability (BFC) and Protection
of Shipping (POS):
Battle Force Capability: defines ships capable of power projection
in a carrier battle force and as units of a Surface Action Group
without the support of the carrier.
Protection of Shipping: defines ships intended to protect
traditional convoys, underway replenishment groups and amphibious
The 1981 Minimum Surface Combatant Force Level Objectives called for a combined surface force of 238
warships to counter the threat expected in 1995. The study dealt
with single mission combatants or combatants with a strong primary
mission capability and a limited secondary mission capability.
Under the 1981 study, 137 cruisers and destroyers and 101 frigates
were required to meet the 1995 threat. It should be noted that the
Navy actually only reached 208 of the required 238 surface
combatants. This 1981 study was used as a baseline and point of
departure for SCFRS.
Initially SCRFS examined how the forces recommended in the
1981 study would perform against the postulated threat for 2010.
The results showed that a force level of more than 416 of the 1981
ships would be required to meet the 2010 threat. While the
addition of 15 DDG-51's offered significant enhancement, the major
factor involved is that the Navy's present frigates, even if
upgraded, simply will not be able to counter the advanced submarine
threat in 2010. SCFRS determined we cannot achieve an effective
force level from our present force structure.
Once the determination had been made, SCFRS departed from the
current mix of forces and postulated the effects of force wide
improvement in capability.
The Battle Force Capable (BFC) ship was
developed using the improved systems built on the DDG-51 family of
technologies. Essentially, a BFC would require the following
minimum capabilities to counter the 2010 threat:
Phased Array Radar: AEGIS or AEGIS follow-on system Vertical
Launching System: with AAW, ASW, ASUW and long range
strike missile capability
Advanced Surface to Air missile
Improved Sonar System
Two Embarked LAMPS MK III Helicopters: or an equivalent
SCFRS then considered the capabilities needed by a Protection
of Shipping (POS) ship in order to carry out its mission against
the threat of 2010. The POS ship will require the following
Improved AAW system
Improved Sonar System
Two LAMPS MK III Helicopters
A Shipboard ASW Stand-off Weapon
Using a force comprised of ships with these capabilities, a
force of 224 multi-mission, highly capable warships: 120 BFC and
104 POS, would be required to meet the threat in 2010. Though this
force objective has lower ship numbers than the 1981 force
objective of 238 ships, it is much more capable. These 224 ships
are more affordable, much more capable and better able to pace the
2010 threat than the ships required using today's mix.
SCFRS next considered an affordable means of reaching the
force structure goal of 224 ships. To reach 224 using the
traditional means of construction and ship retirement (based on a
30 year ship service life) the Navy would have to build ships at a
rate of eight per year. Based on historical surface combatant
funding levels, this would be unaffordable.
Therefore, SCFRS recommended a two-part revolutionary concept
called Flexible Transition as the optimum means of reaching the
goal of 224 multi-mission capable surface combatants. The basics
of Flexible Transition require:
A steady state construction rate of five to six Battle Force
Combatants per year commencing in 1990. Thus the Navy will reach
the BFC goal by the year 2010 and the total force structure goal by
And, secondly, the transition of older BFC's to the POS role
at the half-way point in their service lives.
Flexible Transition matches a ship's capabilities to the
expected threat, enabling the ship to more fully meet its assigned
mission across a greater part of its service life. Flexible
Transition also has the added benefit of extending a ship's service
life from the present 30 years to 40 years. The process is able to
accomplish this extension because as the threat advances and
technology improves, older ships are assigned missions where their
capabilities are in symmetry with the expected threat.
The concept of Flexible Transition is based on the ability of
a surface combatant to meet its assigned mission. When built, a
ship's ability to fulfill its assigned mission is at a maximum. As
time passes and the ship grows older, a ship reaches a point where
its capabilities against the ever increasing high-tech threat, are
asymmetrical enough to pose unacceptable risk. Instead of sending
the ships through a difficult and extremely expensive modernization
(one and a half to two times the cost of building in systems) to
keep pace with the threat, SCFRS recommends reassigning the ship to
a less demanding mission at the half-way point in a BFC's service
life to the Protection of Shipping mission. This process of
Flexible Transition will begin in about the year 2000 with the
SPRUANCE (DD 963) class ships becoming the first BFC-like ships to
transition to the POS role.
There are numerous benefits from the Flexible Transition
including steady state construction and standardization.
Steady State Construction: solidifies the industrial base by
insuring shipbuilders that there will be follow-on ships. Steady
state construction techniques in the CG-47, DD-963 and FFG-7
classes have proven the cost savings attainable with this
construction method. Additionally, steady state construction
reduces individual ships costs by building ships in construction
"flights" or groups with the same technological capability.
Construction in flights also precludes the possibility of "block
obsolescence" when an entire class of ships (all built at nearly
the same time) becomes obsolescence, thus removing an entire
"block" of surface combatants from the force. The DDG-2 and DDG-37
classes are an example.
Forward Fitting by Flights: allows technological advances to
be incorporated into a group of ships when the technology reaches
the operational stage. Thus all ships will have the same basic
systems and capabilities. As technological improvements are ready
for incorporation in operating forces, a decision is made and
modifications are made by starting a new flight which incorporates
the new technology. This saves dollars because ships no longer
require extensive modernization (instead their mission will shift)
and ship operational availability will increase because ships will
no longer be laid up in overhaul for extended periods to receive
the extensive modernization packages.
Standardization: Building a single class of warships will
standardize training, because all personnel will be trained on the
same basic kind of ship. This will eliminate the need for many
schools teaching an individual about a specific ship. Personnel
will be able to transfer from ship to ship with minimum additional
training. Standardization will improve parts support. Supply
systems will no longer have to maintain individual parts for dozens
of classes of surface combatants. A single class of ships will
require the same basic parts throughout the class.
In short, Flexible Transition changes the way the Navy's
surface forces do business by taking advantages of lessons learned
in the aviation and submarine communities; using economies of
scale, block upgrades and common training. It is the most
achievable method to build the 224 ship force structure required to
meet the threat.
In August 1988, recognizing that capability is the key to
meeting the threat, the Chief of Naval Operations signed out a
memorandum directing the following with regard to SCFRS:
The Surface Combatant Force Level Goal of 224 was approved A
Procurement rate of five to six DDG-51's per year to reach
the BFC level by 2010 was approved.
And, CNO directed the development of a Flexible Transition
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Sources and Resources
Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Sunday, April 19, 1998 4:53:33 PM