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