Will We Start Seeing LCS in SOUTHCOM?

USS Independence (LCS-2)

Are we going to see any Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) joining the Coast Guard in interdicting drugs? They seem to be saying yes, but the level of effort, and when it will start, is still not clear. In April DefenseNews reported, “The Pentagon is poised to send the LCS to thwart narcos.,” but then the first line said they were “poised to decide,” which is not really the same thing.

The report indicated that four ships would deploy in 2019 (“The Navy has been piecing together a strategy to get at least four ships back down to SOUTHCOM to perform counter-drug ops.), and that 24 LCS deployments are planned between 2019 and 2024.

August 22 we had another DefenseNews report, “Newly reorganized littoral combat ship program faces its first big test in 2019,” that reported , “Four littoral combat ships are on track to be available to deploy in 2019,” but it is still unknown when that will be, for how long, and even what kind of deployment.

SOUTHCOM and others are pushing for additional assets from the Navy, but it is unclear what, if any, additional support he will be given.

Both articles had the same quote from Secretary of Defense Mattis,

“Is it primarily law enforcement? Do they need to have people with badges, which would mean Coast Guard cutters were going to have to shift and go to the Department of Homeland Security? Or is it LCSs, because of the nature of an evolving threat?” Mattis said. “We don’t have the answer yet, sir, but we’re working it.”
I find that statement a bit troubling. It looks like SecDef does not know how the ships are used. There certainly seems to be no urgency. So when will we see them? Given the current lack of commitment, probably not until mid to late 2019 at best, and even then we are unlikely to see all four committed to SOUTHCOM. The Navy will probably want to send at least one to IndoPacific Command (INDOPACOM) and one to Central Command (CENTCOM).
Ships expected to be deployed in 2019 are two of the trimaran Independence class,
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) and USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), both based in San Diego, and two mono-hull Freedom-class, USS Detroit (LCS-7) and USS Little Rock (LCS-9), both based in Mayport. One of these, USS Detroit is now expected to deploy with Naval Strike Missile installed. I can’t believe they have accelerated integration of this anti-ship cruise missile so that they could go chase drug runner. Detroit is likely to go to INDOPACOM, although it might pass through SOTHCOM AOR in transit.
There are potentially a couple of interesting things to watch if they do deploy.
  • How long can they deploy given their apparent strong dependence on contractor support and the short cruising range of particularly the mono-hull Freedom class? Hopefully deployment will be more than a photo-op.
  • If they bring an MQ-8 Fire Scout, particularly the larger “C” model which the Coast Guard has not had a chance to try, it will be interesting to see how useful it is for a Coast Guard mission.

MQ-8C Fire Scout Ground Turns and Telemetry Testing onboard USS Montgomery (LCS 8)

Photo: MQ-8C seen in the hangar of USS Montgomery (LCS-8)


23 thoughts on “Will We Start Seeing LCS in SOUTHCOM?

  1. All good comments. I don’t understand SECDEF reluctance to say clearly that the LCS with or without LEDETs are needed in 4th Fleet AOR?
    2 issues: the Detroit is supposed to get new missiles in 2019, and I am pretty sure the Charlies will be used based on those coming from the new UAV squadron pipeline.

  2. It is finally happening. USS Detroit (LCS-7) is deploying to SouthCom.

    “USS Detroit will also demonstrate her operational capabilities and allow the U.S. Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. (Does that mean they will be deployed long enough to require a crew swap, or are they just doing it as a test?) Detroit is manned by her Gold crew of more than 90 Sailors, which will include surface warfare mission package personnel, U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, and an aviation detachment to operate an embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and two MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles.”


    • Doesn’t the Navy need to get that combining gear problem sorted out before the ship deploys to a less benign theater?

      What speed is the Freedom class limited to before the combining gear issue is fixed?

      • Apparently, the Freedom class LCSs can run on OK on the Gas Turbine alone OK. That should give them over 30 knots. Apparently, they cannot use the full power of their diesels so gas turbines are used at lower speeds than they had planned. That cuts into their already too short range and endurance.

        The combining gear fix has been found but it is going to take time and last I have heard the contractor and the government have not agreed on how much each is paying for the fix. I know my feeling is that the whole cost should be paid by the contractor.

      • Or how much funding is still left in the original 2003 Defense Appropriations Budget for the LCS Program! The 2003 LCS Program was for 55 Ships, and reduced to 32 Ships in 2014! So how much money is still left in the original funding budget of offset repair costs?/! Keep in mind the the LCS and Gerald Ford were all funded in the same year, and by a 416 to 0 Super Majority Vote (i.e. Executive Order Proof). It would take 3/4 House or Senate Vote to kill the program and/or reduce their funding, which isn’t likely to happen given recent years of infighting in both the US House and US Senate. And the “Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Act” is only applicable should the entire As Is intact program exceeds ~49% of its budget! Reducing the number of ships while still retaining it original budget, means that the original budget hasn’t been exceeded…

      • @Secundius, It does not work that way. They do not appropriate all the money for the whole program, they just appropriate what they expect to spend in the budget year.

      • And what of Maintenance and Repair expenditure of maintaining the fleet, is that included within a Class Appropriations Budget for that class or a seperate cost issue…

      • IF an existing ship goes into drydock to be fitted out with a new Hybrid-Electric Propulsion System replacement, how does that differ from a LCS getting an upgrade in new Combining Gearing fix?/! Sounds like both modifications have the same meaning, Time and Cost of being out of service…

        On Wed, Jan 19, 2022 at 2:29 PM Chuck Hill’s CG Blog wrote:

        > Chuck Hill commented: “@Secundius, no the Navy’s Operations and > Maintenance budgets are not tied to individual ships or ship classes or > types.” >

      • Wait Time! I suspect there will be the exact same Wait Time inconvenience in delayed funding of a Hybrid Electric Drive System as there is and/or will be in Combining Gearage…

      • I never implied that the US Navy was going to Hybrized the LCS classes, only using the Hybrid Electric Drive as a simile in obtaining funding of New Combining Gearing…

      • Most hybrid diesel electric power plants are built into the ship during construction. In the case of the new FFG, it will be the primary propulsion for cruising. In the case of the Offshore Patrol Cutters it is just two small 450 HP motor attached to the reduction gear assemblies and will provide only enough power for about 9 knots, but that is also part of the initial construction not a separate funding or additional time.

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