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Doubts About LCS

November 2, 2008

Observing the ongoing sea war between the Sri Lankan Navy and Tamil Tiger rebels, the latter armed with suicide boats of the nautical insurgent, Brian J. Dunn at The Dignified Rant has some second thoughts about the US littoral combat ship:

Close in combat like this make me nervous about the Littoral Combat Ship that we plan to sail in deep water and close to shores to combat enemy forces.

We need a cheaper ship to provide numbers in the fleet. The LCS, despite cost overruns, will be cheaper than our other larger ships and still reasonably capable and flexible because of mission modules that can reorient the ship’s capabilities.

But look at this ship. It is nearly 400 feet long and 3,000 tons. They are larger than our World War II destroyers. This is not a small, coastal combatant. And I have little doubt that these ships will suffer damage and loss if put into coastal waters against masses of cheap enemy ships that will include suicide boats.

Brian goes on to advocate smaller corvette type warships to deal with such individually minor but collectively dangerous craft in shallow seas. By adding new technology such as unmanned surface and air vehicles, we could enhance the fighting qualities of such tiny combatants, he contends.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. charbookguy permalink
    November 3, 2008 1:21 pm

    Stealth is costly, no doubt Smitty, but $8 million is a far cry from $2-$5 billion surface combatants which we are sending against the pirates, or in the case of DDG-1000, plan to. And does stealth necessarily require advanced and costly composites, or would a low-observable hull with minimum deck obstructions, like Stiletto do as well? I often contend that stealth is not something you build but something you do, as the insurgents know well.

    Neither am I married to the Stiletto, but am open to all sorts of alternatives including Sea Fighter, Scandinavian corvettes, off the shelf patrol craft, etc. The beauty of smaller size and low cost is we are not limited to 1 or 2 giant hull designs which must be kept in production for decades, as in the Arleigh Burkes, because the alternative is too expensive and time consuming to bother with.

  2. B.Smitty permalink
    November 3, 2008 12:37 pm

    I wonder how much we should even bother with naval “stealth” for this type of vessel. I would like to see how much this effects, say, the ability of your average ASHM seeker to lock on a target. It will certainly drive up the price of any vessel.

    What are the primary means of target acquisition for likely opponents to use against this type of ship? Radar perhaps for high-end opponents. (at least until we blow them to bits) But for low-end guys, it’s most likely visual. Radar stealth isn’t going to help much there. Acoustic stealth as advantages for sub hunting, obviously. Going with a composite hull might be nice for MIW to lower its magnetic signature.

    So is it really worthwhile to invest a lot on small-ship stealth for a naval HMMWV? Perhaps, if this makes it a much harder target for visually cued, but radar-guided ASHMs. But otherwise, maybe it’s not worth the cost and risk.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of Stiletto. I think it’s too big to be carried in truly large numbers by any vessel, and too small to transit to and from the theater on its own. And you lose a lot of the cost benefits of a small craft when you include the price of the tender/transport.

    I would rather see a vessel that can self-deploy, and support itself for 5 or more days.

  3. charbookguy permalink
    November 3, 2008 9:09 am

    Personally, like you I wonder what good speed would do in a naval environment infested with sub-sonic and super-sonic cruise missiles. Size and stealth would matter more, with the larger ships acting as motherships for short range attack ships like the Stiletto.

  4. B.Smitty permalink
    November 3, 2008 12:47 am

    I go back and forth on Sea Fighter. Do we really need its 50+kts top end?

    Apparently its slow-speed ride quality leaves a lot to be desired. It also has a rather deep draft for a vessel of its size. And navalizing it would definitely drive up the price considerably.

    Also, it’s built to commercial HSC design rules, so who knows how well it will stand up under fire.

    I suppose the high top end would let it run away from some trouble, if it needs to.

    Maybe we just need a boring, conventional, 1000-3000 ton corvette/frigate, built to warship NVRs. Essentially a modern day Fletcher. Don’t try to hit 45 knots. Just seek to mitigate risk and control costs at every step of the way.

  5. charbookguy permalink
    November 2, 2008 5:06 pm

    I with you on the Sea Fighter leesea, with the understanding of what will happen to the price when the Navy gets ahold of it. I would settle for more of those Cyclone patrol boats, or even USCG small cutters with a few extra weapons.

  6. leesea permalink
    November 2, 2008 3:25 pm

    A weaponized SeaFigther would make a good littroal corvette. Fast with spots for helos and/or UAVs. Boat launch system with flexible mission space and room for more sensors topsides. Certainly cheaper and smaller with smaller crew. But by the time NAVSEA got through screwing with it it would cost twice as much and be in the next decade. Now it is loosing its only advocate, Duncan Hunterr too.

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