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Report: Pentagon Made Hasty LCS Fleet Cut to 32

by Kris Osborn on August 13, 2014

This is LCS.

A new Congressional report suggests the Pentagon may face further scrutiny over its direction to issue no new contracts for the controversial Littoral Combat Ship program beyond 32 ships.

The August report questions whether the Pentagon did the proper analysis before making the decision to truncate the Navy’s planned buy of 52 ships down to 32.

The LCS vessels are currently being procured under a 2010, 10-ship deal with each of the two contractors — the Lockheed design is a steel semi-planing monohull and the General Dynamics/Austal USA design is an all-aluminum trimaran hull.

Designed for shallow-water multi-mission assignments such as countermine warfare, surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare, the LCS has been criticized for not being sufficiently survivable to meet current and future threats.

Advocates have countered that the ships high-tech “mission-packages” or groups of technologies and 40-knot speed will enable it so succeed in a variety of high-threat scenarios.  Furthermore, officials maintain that the ship is not intended to function like an open water or deep water destroyer in terms of survivability but rather serve in littoral areas with different kinds of near-shore threats.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced this past February that the Pentagon would offer no new contracts for the LCS platform beyond 32 ships. The report seems to ask for analytical justification for this decision.

“Has DOD conducted a formal analysis to show that the Navy now needs only 32 LCSs to provide sufficient capacity for fully addressing the fleet’s requirements in these three mission areas? What are the potential operational implications of attempting to perform these missions with a Navy that includes 32 rather than 52 LCSs?” the report asks.

In response to Hagel’s directive, the Navy has formed a special Small Surface Combatant Task Force designed to examine the needed requirements and available technologies sufficient for a new ship to replace the last 20-planned LCS vessels.  Navy officials said the task force has completed the first segment of its work but has yet to announce any findings regarding what their deliberations might mean for the development of a new ship.

In addition, the report mentions Hagel’s announcement directing the Navy to examine potential alternatives for a new small surface combatant generally consistent with the characteristics of a frigate.  The report asks about whether there is an existing requirement for such a ship in light of anticipated mission needs.

“Has DOD performed a new analysis of mission needs to identify what capability gaps the Navy might need to address through a new shipbuilding program? If not, then how can DOD know that it needs a new ship generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate? Where is the properly validated requirement for such a ship?” the report asks.

The report questions the rationale informing why the Pentagon said the new ship would need to be generally consistent with a Frigate and wonders if there is sufficient analysis to inform the decision.

Overall, the report says that the LCS program could have benefitted from more rigorous analysis on specific mission needs at its inception prior to 2001 and highlights a handful of strengths and weaknesses of the platform.

The report criticizes the cost growth of the LCS sea frames, saying they have turned out to be much more expensive to procure than the original target of $220 million each in constant

fiscal year 2005 dollars. Some of the LCS missions could be successfully performed in a more cost-effective manner by other platforms such as Joint High Speed Vessels, amphibious ships, cruisers, destroyers and attack submarines, the report says.

“There are alternative and potentially more cost effective ways to perform the LCSs’ three primary missions of countering mines, small boats, and diesel-electric submarines, particularly in littoral waters,” the report states. “Possibilities include extending the service lives of existing mine warfare ships and mine warfare helicopters, equipping cruisers and destroyers — and their embarked helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles — with small anti-ship weapons for countering small boats and using anti-submarine aircraft as well as attack submarines.”

The report also echoes some of the survivability concerns expressed by critics of the LCS platform, claiming that the LCS does not compare well against frigate and corvette designs used by other navies.

While the report does say the LCS anti-submarine warfare package is potentially well-suited to counter diesel-electric submarines far from shore and in littoral waters, it criticizes the platform for not being optimized to address Chinese maritime threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles and larger surface ships.

The high-speed surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the LCS mission packages’ technology could prove effective, to some extent, against Iran’s small boat, mine and submarine threat, the report adds.  The LCS is also likely to be effective in anti-piracy operations, the report claims.

The report also questions the Navy’s fiscal year 2015 budget decision to purchase three ships for the year instead of four.

On this question, the report wonders how will the Navy decide which of the two contractors’ respective designs – Lockheed or General Dynamics/Austal USA – to use for a two-ship buy instead of sticking with the previous plan to purchase two ships of each model in the year 2015.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

LPF August 13, 2014 at 8:53 am

Jesus just junk the LCS program, and buy an off the shelf frigate design and stop feeding pork to defence contractors!

Is Frigate a swear word in the USN now?

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xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 10:05 am

You'll have to show me that mine hunting frigate at some point.

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Rob C. August 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm

You could do it with helos with floating pull sled.

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xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm

If you think that minehunting has anything to do with a sled then you don't have a clue what mine hunting is. Quick lesson in Minehunting:

Search – Below the surface, this is your AQS-20A They are towable by helo's but it's not preferred because it destroys the airframe. So this thing called an RMS does it now. WIth floating or tethered mines, it's the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) from a Helo.

Detect/Classify – Mines aren't detected in real time. You have to process all that sonar and laser data back on the ship with a human in the loop. Best of luck. After you detect a Mine Like Object (MLO) you have to classify it. Is it a mine or is it just an oil drum that fell off of a ship?

Relocate – Next you have to relocate every single last potential mine (not easy to do subsurface, no such thing a underwater GPS), and visually confirm it's a mine. This again is done with the AQS-20A or similar towed system, but now with an Electro-Optical head instead of a sonar one.

Neutralize – Now let's say you've confirmed a mine's location. Now you've got to get rid of it. Enter the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (ALMNS). It takes the same spot on the helo that ALMDS had. You fly over the location, drop it in, locate the mine, and BOOM! No more mine.

This is technically the end of the mine hunting phase, but I'll go a step further to include mineSWEEPING because that's what people (yourself included) associate with the task of getting rid of mines.

Sweep – You did your minehunting, but you're not convinced you got them all. So you're going to try and detonate any that you may have missed. This WAS the sled you were thinking of. It produces a magnetic field and generates noise in an attempt to seem like a ship. Hopefully the mine is "tricked" into detonating.

Why sweeping doesn't work.
Mines are now very smart in countless ways. For example some have counters so that the mine doesn't detonate on the first ship, but perhaps the 4th of 10th ship. How many times to do you sweep? Some have remote on/off. You adversary sees you dragging a 5 ton sled with a massive helo, assuming he doesn't decide to blow the helo out of the sky, he turns them off until you leave.

That's why the motto of the MCM Avenger ships is
"Hunt if you can sweep if you must".

No one wants to be on the first ship through a channel that's ONLY been swept.

Additionally, with all the equipment mentioned above, where would you suggest that frigate or even a DDG store it? Not to mention the number of units needed to effectively clear an area for safe passage. You'd need have the DDGs conducting MCM missions. What a GREAT use for a 9,000 ton warship.

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USMarine4 August 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Always wondered how it was done today. Thanks for the summary.

rtsy August 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

That was quick?

Nadnerbus August 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm

He would probably amend his post to "just buy a frigate… and a separate mine hunting ship." The jack of all trades approach just doesn't seem like a good idea when it comes to mission sets as widely separated as mine warfare, sub hunting, and surface warfare. I think the LCS sought to gain efficiencies of scale where there just weren't any to be had.

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xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 5:36 pm

The problem is that the Frigate died because it's mission died. ASW systems are getting smaller and towed because hull mounted systems don't work well against diesel electrics in the littorals. Ultimately a frigate doesn't gain you anything here and if anything limits you because it can't carry nearly as many systems as an LCS.

As for SUW, it's not the SUW the DDGs and CGs are concerned with. It's swarms of small boats. It's a threat that the larger ships have trouble countering. It's where the LCS size came from in the first place. You want more ships to distribute the capability across. That way you don't have a single point of failure for a Carrier group's defense circles.

If anything with the rise of the anti ship ballistic missile you want smaller ships to ensure the survivability of a capability. Stop the fallacy that your modern DDG or CG is going to take a hit from a DF-21 and keep on fighting. These are WWII armored ships. Just look what happened to that CG that accidentally got hit by a dummy tomahawk!

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LPF August 14, 2014 at 5:32 am

The UK has tons of mine hunters so does most countries, its not exactly the hardest ship to design!

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Tiger August 14, 2014 at 6:13 am

Well we seem to be able to f up things with ease…..

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hmmm August 13, 2014 at 10:20 am

How does this article neglect to mention the source (although I assume it is CRS) or name of the report it describes?

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Dfens August 13, 2014 at 10:28 am

What an amazing story. They spent a fortune designing these tubs, more than it cost to design an Iowa Class battleship, the first few of these pieces of crap cost more than a battleship each and by the time all of the "modules" are designed and produced probably all of the ships will cost more than a battleship, and then when the high cost and poor quality of these pieces of garbage is "exposed" then we are THANKFUL the program gets cancelled after producing only a few "ships". We are thankful even though this basically plays right into the game plan of the defense contractors who would much rather design ships than build them anyway, because the profit margins are higher that way.

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Ed_ August 15, 2014 at 5:10 am

True I suppose – but there should be a way for these contractors to feel the consequence of their failures, right?

Perhaps the US should consider buying European or Korean next time, if their own companies keep screwing up like this… If the project would go twice over budget otherwise anyway, you save a whole lot of money that could go into, say, stimulating the creation of jobs. Because to be frank, that seems to be the main purpose of these ships…

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DBM August 15, 2014 at 8:44 am

Ed, I am a Defense Contractor (sevices not material provider) and I can tell you that although the material builders are going to maximize profits, if you did a little deeper you will see that most of the gov't people in this program are incompitent. The people who know what they are doing are frequently block out and marginalized. Additional requirements are added at odd times greatly increasing the costs for redesign and intergration. These same idiots often waive critical requirements because they have no idea of the impact to the system and the contractor said it would be hard to meet it. I've had to unscrew the pooch on many programs and I have been villified because of it. Oh and while the gov't folks are constaintly changing requirements the contractor is going to happily take the money.

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Dfens August 15, 2014 at 11:34 am

BS! Let's see just one of the requirements that raised the cost of these tubs. You can't even produce one and associate a dollar value to it or you would have already.

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DBM August 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Dfens,
Did I say I worked on this program? No I didnt however I have worked in various PM shops for over 20 years and I have seen this same crap more times than I could count. I'll bet the navy has lost track of the contract mods they have submitted to change system requirements. Every mod costs big bucks and adds a few FU's that have to be corrected. More $$$ More often than not the failure of a program is the gov'ts fault. Remember I don't work as a material provider I am support services so I don't make a dime more than my paycheck off a program whether it succeeds or fails.

Big-Dean August 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

The Navy, it it recent wisdom, because of all of the unjust critique and unfounded rumors, has decided that a fresh start is called for therefore they have decided to rename the LCS the

BATTLE FAST FRIGATE or BFF for short

The motto of the BFF is:
what we cannot outfight we can outrun
what we find we will outrun
what we cannot see we will outrun
what we cannot outrun we will shout "like, OMG, we're really to die, like for sure, where's my cell phone, I need to get a selfie and tweet about this…"

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InstaKill August 13, 2014 at 11:42 am

at some point in your life someone told you that you are funny. i hope that person gets ran over by a LCS.

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Tiger August 14, 2014 at 6:16 am

Does make a well armed Marlin fishing boat. Just add chairs aft….

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Joe August 13, 2014 at 12:56 pm

32 more of these useless ships than we need

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pukin dog August 22, 2014 at 10:57 am

probably some congresscritter got mad because his district lost the funding for these junkers.

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Joe August 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Stealthy frigate. think 21st century Knox. Box missle launchers. helo deck. asroc. done.

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xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm

What about MCM, small boat SUW, and diesel sub ASW did you not understand?

"Box missile launchers." Name a missile that can cost effectively counter a FAC? Remember there's at least 10 in the swarm of FAC you're countering. The FIRST wave.

"ASROC" What are you going to do when that quiet diesel pops up within the ASROC's minimum range, or better yet how are you detecting it? Hull mounted sonar?! Good luck with that in the littorals. ASROC wasn't designed for sub hunting. It was designed for sub scaring. By the time you launch one the sub's had you in it's sights for quite some time. Air dropped mk54s from helos and P-8 are how you sub hunt.

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Tiger August 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm

You could go back to the MK 32 ASW torp launcher.

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xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm

There's a reason the US Navy stopped putting those on ships. They don't work worth a damn.

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Dfens August 13, 2014 at 6:39 pm

And the LCS does nothing. Hmm, notice a theme?

Joe August 14, 2014 at 10:43 am

1. box missile launcher – get the guys that made the dragon spear system to come up with something comperable.

2. The swarm thing is a 'hypothetical' possible maybe thing. so we have to build an entire ship class around it? best thing to deal with it? modified 105 or similar cannon with laser guided GPS rounds. 25mm gun shooting those killer army rounds for close in.

3. as for sub hunting. I concur P-8, MH-60, and virginia class sub are the best weapons.

LCS addresses nothing.

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Rob C August 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I think their going to be challenging situation given US Navy can barely get anything of a brand new design produced without it getting clogged up in the government bureaucracy of trying keep one state from making money while other is trying show it making jobs.

A ship with frigate capacities will not necessary be able to do what original framers of the LCS had needed to do. Be a modular vessel, capacity of doing light combatant tasks while not necessary confronting enemy head on.

They should do two ships Classes, one a traditional escort type frigate and other a Corvette, that does anti-mine warfare, anti-pirate patrols, have ability to armed with usual package of Harpoon II style anti-ship missiles like those of ship you'll encounter in a close to shore situation the LCS were meant for, but didn't get design to be setup for.

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USNVET August 20, 2014 at 7:55 pm

USAF is firng guys with almost 12 years in to avoid paying pensions . I know three E-5 getting the ax

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Rob C. August 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm

LCS may not been what people were expecting it to be. I remember the Street Fighter project, which I believe this design concept was suppose to be part of and the DD-1000, there was a middle-size ship suppose to be doing "Frigate" style missions, while the LCS did that light combatant stuff like the MCM, ocean mapping, etc.

Too many times the leadership has changed what they want long-term project to be. That's what I think why LCS is not cutting the mustered. LCS will need be used in place of the MCMs we have left in service. I wish they had built them from better materials, non-steel ships are big time hazard to their crews if they have a fire, no matter how good your halon gas is.

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xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm

The Avenger Class MCM ships aren't steel either (Wood with Fiberglass over it). Furthermore only the Independence Class ships are Aluminum. The Freedom Class are all Steel.

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Nadnerbus August 13, 2014 at 5:18 pm

From what I know, they are made from wood and fiberglass exactly because they are mine hunters. Wood won't trip a magnetic detector.

Just the price of doing business.

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lance August 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Congress who gets money off this is still having temper tantrums over the cut.

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TonyC. August 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

Give the LCS to the GATOR navy and buy a real frigate should be the next step.
The Perry class frigates lost their air defense capability, with it they would still be relevant.

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Tiger August 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm

What are Amphib forces going to use them for? Pass the buck sounds nice.

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PolicyWonk August 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm

The original concept for LCS was fine: it was good enough to have several allied navies interested. It was what LCS turned into that killed it for the other navies: a large, oversized speed boat of extreme expense that couldn't deliver a punch, defend itself, or take a hit. Every independent auditing agency (including the Navy's own inspectors) investigating LCS scorched it. Every other allied nation initially interested walked away, saying it was far too much money for too little benefit.

Too expensive, too big for the littorals, not really big enough for blue water operations: LCS became a sure loser. The LCS design should've started with the PC class (very heavily armed for their size, at approx 600 tons) and worked its way up from there – maybe 1500-2000 tons (max), a modular design, and built to the Navy's level-2 standard.

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Tiger August 14, 2014 at 5:19 am

Step one should Have been a call to Bloom & Voss or the Euro ship makers. Not Lockheed or General Dynamics. They have been a success in small warships since the E- Boat. The Meko ships are a baseline to work from.

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Kdb August 14, 2014 at 3:02 am

As european i think it is too big for littoral missions. This is what the netherlands now has as a lcs like ship (call it Ocean going Patrol Vessel (OPV)) i think the lcs would end up in this file also, good agains anti piracy and drug missions…

http://www.defensie.nl/organisatie/marine/inhoud/materieel/schepen/patrouilleschepen

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rat August 14, 2014 at 7:08 am

These things are nothing more than floating targets and we have to buy 32 of them? I hope the Russians copy it because we'll set them back 40 years!

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DBM August 15, 2014 at 8:52 am

Rat, The average age if the Black Sea Fleet is about 40 years old, A friend of mine was on a ship visiting a Soviet Port years ago and he said all but a few had so much paint on the entire ship it looked like they were dipped in wax. The Russian fleet is vastly over stated and ditto their tank fleets and other systems.

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blight_asdf August 14, 2014 at 9:31 am

Navy Powerpoint: "It must be small, it must be big, it must have long range, it must have high speed"

Manufacturer: "Perfect, we'll strip down the weapons to the bare minimum (we are fighting "small boats", after all, and if anyone asks we mean Boghammars and not Fast Attack Combatants because they're easier to kill), reduce crew berths to free up space, maximize internal bay, then put on maritime diesels for range /and/ gas turbines for speed. Then because we stripped down the crew we'll buy new untested automation systems, and since we don't have to actually learn anything from the Todd Shipyards FSF-1 we'll just do it again and send the navy a cost-plus bill".

Against a swarm of FACs, what are the odds that they'll just fire anti-ship cruise missiles at the LCS before going for the prize? Even after the LCS is killed they need to punch through the screen, so any serious FAC threat will be bringing lots of anti-ship missiles.

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Joe August 14, 2014 at 10:44 am

best weapon against a bog hammer or similar threat is a AH-6 or DAP helo. we do not need an entire ship class dedicated to fighting a hypothetical threat.

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Matt August 14, 2014 at 11:50 am

The questions that are not being asked but should be the first two;

1. What program office reviewed and approved the LCS HM&E designs and why?

2. If the two flights are so wrought with discrepencies and UNSAT equipment, what program office has assessed and is assessing the feasability and what were the justifications?

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DBM August 14, 2014 at 11:55 am

Guess the Navy forgot about the Falklands War and how aluminum burns when hit with HEAT rounds. AND how deadly vaporized aluminum is (one breath and you’re dead) to the sailors of a ship. The military is full of F’n morons.

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Big-Dean August 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Proven method to stop this pig in it's tracks

Make it a requirement that the CO's of the LCS has to be no less then 1-start admirals, the XO needs to be an O-6 and then send them off on 'detached' duty.

You can bet your admiral's stars that they will suddenly develop major mechanical issues and have to return to port

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DBM August 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

I was talking to one of John Kerrys sailors (from Vietnam) last year and he told me how Kerry once shot his boats refrigerators with his .45 so he wouldn't have to go out on a 3 week patrol.

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@varnal1 August 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Is it me or is there a problem with the USN and USCG in obtaining functional ships? With the Coast Guard Cutter problems and the Navy LCS – how much money are we taxpayers losing?

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Charles August 14, 2014 at 8:05 pm

It occurs to me that the authors of this "congressional report" must've been from Lockheed and/or Austal. No one else has had *anything* favorable to say/report/etc. regarding LCS, unless its someone working on the project.

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Rick Bennison August 14, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Little Crappy Sh tbox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Keeper2 August 19, 2014 at 2:55 am
xXTomcatXx August 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm

I was inspired.

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