LCS Alternative Wednesday
By popular demand (actually it was ScottB and a couple others, but a still good idea!), here is a day set aside for one of the most controversial ship programs in recent history: the over-hyped, much delayed, much-overweight, undergunned, and over-priced littoral combat ship (LCS).
The Indispensable Perry’s Soldier On
Thanks to all of the above mentioned faults of the LCS, the ancient and over-worked remaining Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates continue to perform their essential functions in the fleet. Designed as a low end escort in the 1970s, the 55 Perry’s (many others built for foreign navies) have proved crucial in sundry but important functions of patrol and guarding the sealanes. The Navy apparently is in little hurry to replace these tired warriors in their thankless tasks. From Strategypage we learn more:
The U.S. Navy’s new helicopter UAV, the MQ-8B (formerly the RQ-8) Fire Scout, is being assigned to another class of ships. The RQ-8A was originally developed for use on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), and was due to enter service this year. But the LCS is behind schedule and the Fire Scout isn’t, so the navy is assigning the Fire Scout to other ships. The first ship class to carry helicopter UAV is a Perry class frigate, the USS McInerney (FFG-8). This ship is assigned to the 4th Fleet, and will be operating in the Caribbean, chasing drug smugglers.
For the type of foes the Perry’s contend with in the post-Soviet era, they are much too large and expensive to operate. We continue to advocate low end corvettes and offshore patrol vessels for the role of anti-piracy and counter narcotics instead of overly-large frigates and the $700 million LCS, which are so much over-kill and a drain on stretched thin budgets.
Fractured LCS Acronyms
Here are some acronym alternatives for LCS via the Navy discard pile, I suspect:
Little Crappy Ship
Look for Costs to Soar
Luxury Combat Ship
Looks Cool offShore
Feel free to add your own in the comments and we’ll post them in future articles!
Sea Lance Gets a New Birth
Just as Spain took our 1970s plan for a Sea Control Ship as the basis for their light aircraft carrier, Taiwan borrows a 1990’s Navy idea for a small LCS catamaran dubbed Sea Lance. Information Dissemination translates the report:
According to legislative sources, this new missile-craft will have a 900-ton displacement, will be used for coastal defense, but also have the flavor of larger missile corvettes, and be specifically designed to counter the Type 022. It will have a dual-hull, stealth capability, eight Hsiung Feng III antiship missiles, auto-cannons, with a total length of 40 meters, and a crew complement of 45.
On a hull 1/3 the size of LCS, we have a capable coastal warship with a heavier armament than the frigate-sized American ship. Obviously the Taiwan Navy wasn’t distracted trying to matched Blue Water capability on a ship supposedly geared toward littoral warfare. Also something which the blogger Raymond Pritchett mentions is a bit bizarre concerning the ROC vessel:
Building missile boats to fight missile boats strikes me as an odd approach, as helicopters are obviously the more effective approach.
Mr Pritchett bases his statement here on the lessons of the Gulf Wars, when the poorly handled navies of Iran and Iraq were roughly handled by the superbly trained and equipped Western fleets. The wrong place to establish doctrine, especially considering the corvettes of today are much better armed than the fast attack craft of yesterday.
Corvettes fighting corvettes makes plenty sense when you consider that tanks are best for fighting tanks, jets versus jets, submarines as a counter for enemy submarines. It is rational then that “the best weapon to counter enemy small surface combatants is a force of small surface combatants“, especially considering the naval craft can loiter much longer in its own environment than an aircraft can in the air. Certainly the helicopter enhances the surface vessel’s abilities, but can in no way replace it in terms of persistence. But sink the helo’s mothership and you’ve effectively countered the air threat.
LCS Independence doesn’t like the water
Another strange comment comes from Rear Adm. Bill Landay, the “Navy’s program executive officer for ships” on plans to send the newest littoral combat ship Independence to sea for trials. Here is the admiral via Chris Cavas at Navy Times:
“Every time you go to sea, it’s a disruption to your production. We were going to sea, we were coming back, we were working on issues a couple days, we were going to sea, we were working on issues. We were making progress, but we also were, quite frankly, impacting our production, because there were a lot of other things we still needed to do,” Landay said. “So we made a conscious decision at one point that said we know enough, and there are some things we need to go work, let’s go put the ship back into production for two, three, four weeks to make progress on all the production stuff that we want to do before we go back to sea again.”
I think I see where he is coming from, that the experimental ship had technical issues still to work out in port. But the Navy needs more ships in the water and less in port. With so many setbacks, the entire LCS program appears too complicated and needlessly so considering the really low tech missions required of such vessels, chasing smugglers and pirates. Which is why we insist it a mistake to marry Blue Water abilities in a 3000 ton hull, for a ship meant to be built in sizable numbers and sail in harms way against a treacherous shoreline. They should have stuck to the original streetfighter design with this vessel and suffered fewer headaches.
Ireland’s Littoral Ship Woes
Eire’s own debate over large versus small warships echoes this blogger’s arguments against the large and pricey LCS class. Here is Sunday Independent:
PROPOSALS to equip the Naval Service with up to 20 smaller, faster and cheaper patrol boats to cover the entire coastline, with a new shipbuilding industry to supply them and create jobs, have been rejected by the Department of Defence. Under the submission to Defence Minister Willie O’Dea by the Euro Marine company, offshore P1-65 patrol boats could be supplied at a cost of €5m each, and 10 could be bought for the cost of one offshore patrol vessel (OPV).
The department, which is engaged in a €200m ship replacement programme for Ireland‘s eight-ship navy, and intends to buy two OPV ships for around €100m if it gets Cabinet approval, rejected the plan saying essentially that the boats are too small and were unsuitable. Yesterday Clare-based businessman Bill Rigby refuted the department’s arguments and said in his opinion most of the Irish coastline is unprotected. He said his boats are designed to operate in bluewater sea conditions and in shallow water where 62 metre boats being procured by the Naval Service cannot operate.
“It is beyond our belief that two or three larger boats can be effective, as emergent activities develop, the time of response by these larger, slow-moving ships is less than acceptable as they are rarely in the vicinity unless by chance,” he said.
Concerning the prices in US dollars, that would be $75 million for the OPV’s and $7.5 million for the smaller craft. If only the LCS had come in at $75 million, right? But we understand the argument of Big versus Small, where there would be fewer vessels to cover an extensive shoreline with the Irish OPVs. We can’t imagine what Navy the nation would defend against, other than Britain which could make mincemeat of larger ships. The greater threat would be from smugglers and illegals so the smaller ships make more sense here.
Mr Rigby’s argument then holds true for the gold-plated but shrinking US fleet, that no matter how capable individual vessels are, they can’t be in many places at one. Less ships mean less presence. This is common sense which has somehow escaped our modern-day naval strategists.