For the last several years, it has seemed that the Navy had all but abandoned the drug interdiction effort, and actual US Navy ships in the Fourth Fleet Area of Operations (Latin America) were very rare. That seems to be changing.
USS Detroit (LCS-7) deployed on Oct. 31, 2019 and returned to Mayport for a crew swap on Feb. 2, 2020. She had operated with a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and an aviation detachment including a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and two MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles. She is expected to redeploy to Fourth Fleet after the crew swap and a short maintenance period.
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) departed Mayport, FL, on Feb. 6, for operations with Fourth Fleet. Sounds like Little Rock, unlike Detroit, may try to do a crew swap away from homeport.
“Little Rock will also demonstrate its operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. While in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions, the ship will rotate deployments of two crews, Blue and Gold, who will rotate aboard every four to five months, maintaining consistency and allowing a continuous presence in the region.”
As a side note, the USS Little Rock is equipped with Laser weapon. Military and naval officers from friendly nations ought to find that interesting.
SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller is hoping to do more than just drug enforcement. He hopes to counter Chinese and Russian influence in Latin America. He also plans to exercise small scale Marine operations with these ships, in cooperation with the militaries of friendly nations.
There are some other interesting developments.
“…SOUTHCOM is in line for an Expeditionary Staging Base, the converted commercial tanker design that acts as a lily pad for mine-counter measures and special operations forces in U.S. Central Command. The command also is currently operating a Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), which it is also using for presence, partner-building and counter-trafficking work. SOUTHCOM also claimed successes with the deployment of the Military Sealift Command ship M/V Kellie Chouest. The support ship deployed with a military detachment aboard and an unmanned aerial vehicle to provide additional capacity, to supplement the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters for the interdiction mission….SOUTHCOM is pitching a plan to turn a Spearhead EPF into an LCS tender to keep the ships on station longer rather than going back to shore regularly for maintenance.”
It’s why I think the LCS should stay in SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM. I also think the USCG should take the LCS out for a Test drive and see if we can have a Joint USN/USCG and USMC ship
I think that would be a disservice and distraction to the Coast Guard.
The ship is sailing with a CG detachment. Maybe take another step and be able to interoperate with CG helicopters.
The CG I think would do a better job than the Navy at making use of the vessels (sorry Navy) but the operational costs and logistics associated with those things would bankrupt the CG.
When the Coast Guard was planning the Offshore Patrol Cutter, buying LCSs was considered, but the idea was rejected because they could not operated boats and helicopters in as adverse weather conditions as the Coast Guard said they needed. Also their range is much shorter.
I did suggest at one point that the Navy might loan the Coast Guard LCSs as replacements for WMECs until the Coast Guard built their OPCs and the Navy figured out their mission modules.
I would have loved to seen a common platform for the Coast Guard and Navy. Economies of scale in everything from parts to training to potential wartime upgrades for the CG version.
Unfortunately, the LCS isn’t it.
Solvable, really, considering how many corvette-type ships are made in the USA such as the Swiftships’s 75-meter corvette, or the Ambassador III by VT Halter Marine, or the GHOST by Juliet Marine.
Such corvettes could be used for CONUS littoral defense, Drug War, Arctic, FNOP, Customs Enforcement, Disaster Relief, Embassy Evacuation and Reinforcement, and just Showing the Flag in areas of low threats. The Swifftships’s 75-meter corvette has a 4,000nm range at 15 KTS and I’m sure could be made longer to 80-90m. I pick this corvette because it has torpedo tubes, sonar, towed array, OTH SSM, 76mm, HH-60, and RAM….quite well-rounded with the Israeli Sa’ar 6 corvette being more capable.
I’m not advocating these companies, just the need for corvettes to free up U.S. Navy capital warships for more frontline duty.
The USA should indeed protect its softer underbelly.
The Mission Modules need more innovation and maturity. I’m sure there could be a Counter-Drug Mission Package of remote Go-Fast armed USV in the order of 50-60KTS just like the Iranian speedboats. There could be a small armed and armored Amtrack for the USMC to ride to shore. There could be a UUV to counter semi-submersibles. There could be a Drone Package for land assault on Drug Labs.
In order for the LCS to be more of a success, valuable, and worthwhile, the USN should develop more new Mission Packages. I know, I know, the USN is trying to mature, debug, and pay off for the existing ASW, SUW, and MCM Modules. Nonetheless, the USN is missing the chance of adding new capabilities and parameters to the LCS by sticking with those three Mission Packages.
Innovation in the 4th Fleet. (SOUTHCOM)
Apparently the Army is getting into the act as well. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2020/05/28/army-sfab-troops-will-be-dispatched-to-colombia-next-month/