I am not the only one seeing a possible opportunity for commonality between the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and the Navy’s projected Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) replacement. Here is a comment from Tim Colton’s Maritime Memos.
“The LCS program having proved unaffordable, largely thanks to the Navy’s idiotic passion for bells and whistles, they are now looking for suggestions for what they call a small surface combatant, or SSC. Read the announcement on FedBizOpps… The key words in the RFI are right up front: Small surface combatants enable the Navy to implement the Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG) imperative to develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives.
“It sounds as though we now have a potential overlap between the Navy’s SSC and the Coast Guard’s OPC, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it would be nice if, for a change, the Navy could manage to build some affordable ships. I know, shades of Gary Hart, but I think this is what we need, not more SSNs at $1.8 billion a pop. May Day, 2014.”
There is more information on the solicitation here.
Quoting from the solicitation, “This type of ship provides Combatant and Fleet Commanders a uniquely suitable asset for Theater Security Cooperation tasking and select sea control missions. These small surface combatants build and strengthen maritime relationships by operating with partners and allies in various theaters of operation.”
They are “asking for existing and mature design concepts.” The eight shipyards that bid on the OPC, and particularly the three that were selected, should be in a particularly good position to meet the demands of the solicitation.
We know they want more survivability and range, but they also want low cost and small footprint. To me that means a ship of similar size to the existing LCS but without the requirement for extreme speed that has made them high strung, crowded, and fragile. A slightly lengthened OPC can meet the requirements. Replace the 57mm with a larger gun and the Mk38 mod2 with CIWS/RAM/SeaRAM. Install CAPTAS (active/passive variable depth/towed array sonar) aft and use the extra length to add VLS and a second CIWS/RAM/SeaRAM, and you have a very viable, long ranged Small Surface Combatant.
If the Navy and Coast Guard could share a common Small Surface Combatant, they could probably be made in very economically.