10 thoughts on “Navy LCS Procurement Decisions

  1. “Philosophically” LCS has never made sense. It breaks too many basic principles and ideas. Ships (escorts, fighting ships, call them what you will) have no business messing around inshore in combat. Especially US ships that are “traditionally” bigger because the USN has had to traverse big oceans to meet the enemy. We live in an age of the “modular” warship where containerised capabilities (missiles, aircraft, now intelligent shells) reach out beyond the ship to bring about effects locally carried into theatre on a platform with great reach and endurance. LCS turns that on its head; the platform is too small to carry enough fire-power just to garner a smidgen of range (ie closer to the shore) and speed; extra speed of what 10 or so knots when missiles and shells are already moving at 1000mph and more . Even the idea of LCS primarily being an information node fails; even though electronics are constantly shrinking there seems to be no end to the need for increase volume required for servers; Google doesn’t operate from a closet their data centres are getting bigger and bigger. Further getting information in or out of the ship requires antennae that have to be spaced out to prevent interference; antennae be they for radio or RADAR aren’t plonked at random they are a major headache so the more space the better. Lastly it seems, and perhaps I am wrong, that small size equates to a small crew which is a falsehood which would be news to the container ship operates. That is to say for us to have a small crew we need a small ship. The LCS crew is too small. In the other article on ship sinking it is shown how a small missile may not sink a ship but it will kill the mission. Look at the Stark look at damage control. Are the USN saying in the age of electric ship they couldn’t design a vessel of 6000t with a crew of 75 (perhaps working in hardened armoured citadels), multiple water tight zones, with capabilities (comms, weapons, DC, prime movers, network, power distribution) with redundancy distributed through out the hull?

    • I agree with much of what you say, but there are times when you have to work in the Littorals, as was done during operation Market time in Vietnam, when it was necessary to sort out a few hostile craft from among a huge number of virtually identical craft. In those cases an LCS would have been seen as too large except perhaps to provide support for smaller craft and unnecessarily fast and sophisticated.

      • Oh yes. But when I say ship I mean ship not boat, something with more than one continuous deck above the water line and above 500t-ish. Well aware of what the USN black berets and the USCG did in the Delta and Vietnamese littorals. But I had never ever thought of LCS being inadequate there too as I always seem to think of it purely from frigate / seaward side of the debate. On occasion I have said that “something” able to carry more than one helicopter would have address the shoals / anti-boat issue better. The RN have trialled flying two Wildcat from a T45’s Merlin sized hangar; the T45 have a huge Chinook capable flight deck. The Danish Absalons have two such hangars in a ship of 6300t with a beam of 64ft. With a smaller rotary UAV smaller than Wildcat (Boeing Hummingbird / MD Little Bird sized) you could have 3 per ship plus one/two conventional helicopters. In GW1 the RN were operating two Lynx from a T42 in the upper Gulf in combat; a much more cramped proposition.

        LCS is a failure of imagination. I bet they will they get cancelled before too many more are built.

      • Re Markettime, In addition to our 82 foot cutters, swift boats, and PBRs, there was an out layer that included minesweepers, DERs, and large Coast Guard cutters 255 to 378 feet in length that approximated the size of the LCSs. The Marines seemed to particularly appreciate the Coast Guard cutters because they had 5″ guns that were useful for shore bombardment while the others were generally armed with 3″ or smaller. Unfortunately neither the LCSs or new Coast Guard cutters seem to have a Naval Surface Fire Support capability.

        The LCSs do have good helicopter facilities, particularly the trimaran Independence class, it is one of their strengths, but of course you don’t need an expensive warship to host helicopters. The National Security Cutters apparently also have very good aviation facilities.

        I have been hoping the Navy and Coast Guard would start to use a common hull after the 24 that are currently complete, contracted, or optioned. In any case it looks like there will be no more than 32, although a projected follow on class of 20 may be derived from one of the LCS designs.

    • Let’s be frank. The LCS was built because:

      – The OHP FFGs were nearing end of lifecycle, and SOMETHING was needed to replace the hull numbers. (Too often, USN pundits [politicians, media, “experts,” and even Navy Admin itself] count hulls rather than capabilities.)
      – Surface ship money was being POURED into the Burke DDG program (both from a number of hulls and a technology upgrade [ABM] perspective).
      – Since the end of the Cold War, Forward From The Sea doctrine has been emphasizing littorals, littorals, littorals.
      – Politically, budgets were being cut, so a cheap, modular vessel which could do mine clearing, escort, and littoral missions was attractive.
      – Lastly, the War on Terror showed the Navy’s littoral mission, while relevant, was not the centerpiece of a sustained operation (something which could have been remembered simply by studying the European Campaign in WWII). This left the counter-piracy mission as the most public/meaningful/relevant mission where the Navy is front-and-center for publicity. (Who doesn’t think the LCS was built just for this? Speed, light gun weaponry, and helo capacity are the only non-modular parts of the ship…)

      For what they are (really big gunboats), they’re actually quite good. The problem is politicians, pundits, and the USN itself is trying to make them do missions they’re just not good for. They may work for the job, but they’ll never be ideal at it.

      This may be the biggest lesson: Know the purpose of the ship and determine how much capability can be compromised before designing the ship.

      The other lesson is ship affordability and politics. DDG-1000, LCS, and probably a couple other examples I’m forgetting, are disasters that everyone should take a lesson from, including/especially Congress. The system is broken.

  2. I know about the outer ring. My thoughts about LCS are centred on it moving into an area where the shore is held by the enemy totally. Out looking in not in looking out as it were!

    As for the lack of a decent gun well that is a real no briner. There are two PGM systems for 5in available available right now. One of the drivers for PGM adoption is reduced round count. One of the advantages of a naval gun is a high rate of fire coupled with the fact that a ship can carry a large amount of rounds. We then have a nexus of precision and if needed weight of fire (using cheaper dumb shells) in a very cheap system. A 5in shell is large in today’s navies but it is small compared to much of the ordinance carried by aircraft. The Small Diameter Bomb’s development was pushed by the USAAF to reduce collateral damage; compare SDB it to a 5in shell. If we look past LCS to Zumwalt we see a system that encapsulates those ideas but is way too expensive. Why couldn’t the USN produce a Oliver Hazard Perry replacement with 5in mount at A and B and can carry two Sea Hawks? I don’t know. I wonder if I am missing something from my land locked armchair that the naval professionals take for granted?

      • If the US can’t make a landing and support it who can? They have the firepower to sweep the ocean, skies, the beach, and immediate littoral hinterland clear before a landing. A couple of OHP replacements with two 5in mounts firing PGM and normal shells providing on call fires supported by AH flying from LHx would be more than most state’s armed forces could counter; never mind additional fire support once USMC arty hits the beach. The trouble with the USMC is that one faction is investing too much in F35b and another wants to rerun a rerun of WW2 Pacific storming heavily defended shores which aren’t there now. The US can land where they want, but they have the mobility not to meet any opposition their just seems to be no faith in how to attain fire support or how to solve the ship-to-shore connector problem (or should that be an unwillingness not to look beyon LCAC and MV22?) As a Brit all I see in the Gator Navy is an embarrassment of riches.

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