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LCS Alternative-USCG Cutter Bertholf?

February 7, 2009


First off, this is not a proposal from yours truly, but was recently put forth as an alternative to the littoral combat ship by Democrat Rep. Gene Taylor, among other such advice to the USN’s faltering ship programs.  From Information Dissemination we get Congressman Taylor’s press statement:

Build a frigate on the common hull of the Coast Guard National Security Cutter. This is an affordable ship (without Navy making wholesale changes in the design) which is exactly the type of vessel necessary for 80% of the Navy’s core missions, including anti-piracy and homeland defense.

While Taylor doesn’t exactly say we should replace LCS with the Bertholf class, it is given knowledge that the frigate sized USS Freedom is a replacement for the antique Perry class.

Not sure we could consider the $640 million cutter as any more affordable than the $600 million USS Freedom. Pretty much apples and oranges, since we still consider the frigate concept as obsolete in modern warfare. The Navy must have as well, since the fall of the Iron Curtain we have only seen orders of giant Burke battleships for surface escort duties.

Frigates these days are mainly used for patrol duties in littoral areas, something that a corvette or patrol ship can do equally well without putting a 1/2 billion warship at risk. This proposal from Gene Taylor is not a helpful one in restoring ship numbers.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. B.Smitty permalink
    February 9, 2009 4:54 pm

    Theoretical range, perhaps. Subs have to have off-board targeting to make use of that. Take a bad shot and the helo will pounce on you.

    A general purpose warships approaching $1 billion is 40% of what we’re paying now.

    The Navy has used the term “frigate” do describe the LCS a number of times recently. And they plan to use it in traditional frigate roles such as ASW. Give me AEGIS/SPY-1F, 32 ESSMs, a modern sonar suite, and quieting over 40kts, TRS-3D, and SeaRAM any day.

    Norway is paying around $600 million for each Nansen – or about the same one LCS. Who is getting a better deal?

  2. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 9, 2009 2:44 pm

    “Multi-mission capability is very valuable.” Also very costly these days. A general purpose warship apporaching $1 billion means one small Navy.

    Also notice the service is only buying the LCS “frigate” for its hide speed and shallow water capability, not really a traditional frigate’s job description.

    Can we compare a ASW helicopter’s range and speed to a sub-launched cruise missile? Less than 200 mph to supersonic? 400 miles to less than half in range? No contest. And ASROC is little better.

  3. B.Smitty permalink
    February 9, 2009 12:39 pm

    The world’s greatest Navy still operates such ships, and wants to build more (though they have confused the LCS for a real frigate).

    Frigates are useless in ASW? They still carry helos, which out-range heavyweight torpedos. Plus, we are far more likely to face SSKs in the littorals than SSNs in the Atlantic.

    What offensive capabilities are you expecting them to carry? The purpose of this thread is to examine LCS alternatives. The LCS offensive capability is its MIW , ASW and ASuW modules, along with whatever modest capability the seaframe brings. The offensive capability of a frigate is at least as good, if not far better.

    A properly configured frigate can be just as much of a modular mothership as an LCS, but have real AAW and ASuW capabilities to back it up, and can be built to warship survivability standards. A Nansen, even with “only” SPY-1F and 32 ESSMs can act as an AAW escort for a high-value asset (albeit of limited capacity). An LCS or patrol boat can’t.

    A Nansen could be configured with a 5″ gun for NGFS, and Harpoons for ASuW, or even VL TLAMS (though it would need more than 8 cells). Patrol boats and the LCS (in its current incarnation) can’t.

    The Falklands conflict is instructive in this regard. It showed that any combatant may be called upon to perform any role, even if it’s not the vessel’s specialty (witness HMS Alacrity’s unenviable “MIW by presence” mission in Falkland Sound). (I just finished Adm Woodwards book. It’s a good read, I recommend it)

    Flexibility is key. Multi-mission capability is very valuable.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 9, 2009 8:44 am

    Well, considering that the world’s greatest Navy no longer builds ship such is some proof, and maybe in foreign service they still might be relevant. The frigate hull is an economical means of building an anti-air vessels and I do admire some of the foreign designs. The problem here is AAW is a defensive mission, not offensive.

    In its traditional role of ASW, the frigate is mostly useless, the problem being you have such a tiny warcraft supposed to combat nuclear subs that are bigger, faster, and possess weapons of longer range than the hunter. In the future Battle of the Atlantic, the traditional frigate will be woefully outmatched. Plus you have a very expensive platform, some about half that of missile destroyers, that is a fairly mediocre platform. So will little offensive capability, what you have is another expensive warship that needs be escorted.

  5. B.Smitty permalink
    February 8, 2009 1:34 pm


    I don’t how you can consider the frigate concept obsolete in modern warfare. It seems as relevant as ever, and most of the rest of the world appears to agree. It embodies the smallest ship one can build with enough range, endurance and well-rounded combat suite to take on any task.

    If we are going to look to a non-Navy design, we might as well include foreign designs like the AFCOM Nansen and F-100. We at least have experience integrating our combat systems with them.

    I, personally, would like to see an aviation-capable, commercial-spec OPV added to the USN – smaller and less expensive than the USCG NSC or OPC. It would fill the role of ocean-going patrol boat (rather than frigate-lite).

    There are a bunch of 85-100m designs on the market, ranging from $60-100+ million, depending on size and systems installed.

    This is a cheap and easy way to bulk up our “presence” around the world without the logistics and seakeeping challenges of smaller or more exotic vessels like the Cyclone or FSF-1.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink
    February 7, 2009 8:00 pm

    Continuing my theory that in the future every ship will me a mothership, would it not seem more important the weapons she carries, specifically unmanned systems, which would make up for any inadequacies in the design. NOT THAT I APPROVE OF THIS PARTICULAR VESSEL, but should we discount all USCG cutters for navy service, or working alongside them in an emergency?

  7. leesea permalink
    February 7, 2009 7:43 pm

    Like I said over on Galrahn’s site, a cutter is not a warship. Trying to modify the NCS into any kind of frigate will just be wrong. Two reasons, they are not built to warships standards – different ships different long splices. The NCS has been built at a shipyard in the congress man’s district which has a shaky reputation for construction quality. Any contract change would result in that yard getting paid too much for a new design and iffy workmanship.

    Those who have not built ships just don’t know.

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