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Admiral Blasts Littoral Combat Ship

February 1, 2009

Once a supporter of the only USN warship program for less than a billion dollars, we have become a critic of the LCS Freedom class, as had retired Admiral James Lyons in the Washington Times:

The LCS as originally conceived was to be stealthy; have a 50-knot speed capability; be operable by a small crew; and permit reconfiguration for different type of missions by changing onboard modules, including modules for detecting and countering mines. The costs of any of these modules are yet to be determined.

The overall costs of the LCS are largely driven by the speed requirement of 50 knots. It can be safely assumed that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the current hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E) costs are directly attributed to the speed requirement. It is not transparently clear what a 50 knot capability (as opposed to 30 knots) confers in the threat today of Mach 1-plus air and surface launched guided-stealthy missiles plus 70-plus-knot torpedoes. Furthermore, in any type of seaway, the ship will not operate at 50 knots nor will it operate at 50 knots in 20 feet of water unless the intention is to dig a trench in the seabed.

Despite the stated requirement for stealth, it is not optimized in either of the LCS prototypes. Both ships display relatively large radar targets. The mono-hull (Lockheed) is derived from a fast yacht hull form and unsurprisingly, stealth was not an important consideration. The trimaran variant (General Dynamics) provides a radar “tunnel” to amplify the radar return from the ship when observed from certain aspects.

Sadly, Admiral Lyons’ answer seems to be more Big Ships like the Norwegian F-100 frigate, which is a less capable version of the Burke Aegis destroyers. So many battleships, so few peer enemies.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 2, 2009 7:47 am

    It all stems from the Lehman years and a bias against small ships. What the admiral fails to grasp is that ALL ships are vulnerable to an extent, and the more you have to replace losses the better. Some forgotten lessons from the Guadalcanal campaign.

    Concerning the speed of LCS, I could go either way. It is true that a few knots extra speed makes no difference to a supersonic cruise missile.

  2. leesea permalink
    February 1, 2009 10:47 pm

    I think the Admiral reflects blue water sailor disdain for all advanced marine vessels. His concerns are well taken but he apparenty does not have a good grasp of HSV details not suprisingly.

    The central question which must be asked again and re-thought is why is the 50 kts high speed necessary, is it just to get an LCS to the objecitve area? Because certainly that speed is not needed for most littoral missions Speed on the order of 30 kts as he suggests is what the objecive rqmt should have been.

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