LCS Alternative Wednesday
Last week, the Navy and the LCS builder General Dynamics celebrated the fact that the vessel “hit a top speed of 45 knots and kept a sustained speed of 44 knots“. But what is the point of the high speed? It was for the purpose of combating the small boat threat in littoral waters. But why have a helicopter hanger if you have the speed to catch an elusive small-boat foe, seeing as the chopper has the advantage? As I understand it, the need for high speed has greatly raised the price of these ships.
LCS began life earlier this decade for a less than $200 million corvette called Streetfighter (very similar to the Swedish Visby above) for returning reasonably priced but still capable warships to the fleet. What gave us the 3000 ton $700 million USS Freedom here at the turn of the next decade? Part of the problems was the high tech engines, according to this 2007 post from CDR Salamander:
Where did we go wrong? First, the 45+ knot requirement made the cost spike and required a lot of engineering work that costs lots of money and tradeoffs in other areas. 35 knots is more than fine. Then we forgot multi-mission and went modular. We went from a “nice to have but not must have” CEC (Combined Engagement Capability” into the fuzzy “distributed and networked.” Then we went from onboard to offboard weapons. It all cascaded from there.
The navy doesn’t understand littoral warfare, so it can’t grasp the concept of a focused mission ship needed to operate there. Nothing to celebrate here. Move long…move along…
Israel’s souped up littoral ships
Hoping for a souped up version of the LCS, Israel has asked the German government to fund their plans for MEKO corvettes equipped with the American Aegis System. From Germany’s The Local:
Sources within the German government told the paper that Israel wants the Berlin to finance the MEKO corvettes, a sum that would reportedly reach hundreds of millions of euros. The paper reported that the government has not yet reacted to Israel’s request. But “influential politicians from northern Germany,” where the shipbuilding industry is suffering from the global economic downturn, are apparently supportive in the interest of keeping German shipyards in business.
The shipbuilding contract would go to Hamburg company Blohm + Voss, the paper said. But the internal weapons system would come from the United States, with the end result being a missile defence system on water.
I have a feeling these vessels with their high powered anti-missile suite will price the same, in hundreds of millions, as the much-underarmed LCS.
Some breaking news from the Debka file on this story:
The order placed during Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi’s three-day visit to Berlin this week as guest of the German high command surprised the defense ministry. Germany is contributing 500 million euros toward the two Dolphin submarines already on order for the Israeli Navy. The new order is worth several million more. German sources report that the Israeli request has been referred to Chancellor Angela Merkel for her to decide.
The German corvette is a 2,200-tonner, 91 meters long and 13.4 meters wide. It carries a crew of 94, a medium-sized helicopter on its deck and 24 weapons systems – 16 sea-to-shore and 8 ship-to-ship launchers adapted to US-made missiles, as well as missile defenses and automatic cannons. It has a range of 7,400 kilometers and maximum speed of 30 knots.
Here is the interesting part:
Also taken note of was the new clause inserted in the new Merkel government’s coalition agreement: promising to phase out the Germany fleet operating off Lebanese shores as part of the UN peacekeeping mission: “Within the scope of the United Nations we will work towards a phased reduction of our German contribution to the Maritime Task Force of UNIFIL with the aim to terminate it.”
Because the fleet to be phased out includes two corvettes, the possibility of transferring them directly to Israel instead of sending them back to home base in Germany is under consideration in view of the troublesome vibes besetting in the region.
An intriguing turn of events. Stay tuned.
Fractured LCS Acronyms
Your LCS acronym alternatives! Please keep them coming within the comments!
Leveraged Cost Ship
Listing Capital Sink
Littoral Combat Gyp
Luxury Cruise Ship
Less Capable Service
Lickity Cwick Ship
Low on Combat Systems
Well done and thanks to Graham, Eric, D.E., New Alex, Heretic, and William!
The Navy plans to send the LCS Freedom overseas much earlier than planned, by early next year, some 2 years ahead of schedule. Though this may be good news, many questions remain. From Navy Times:
“Deploying LCS now is a big step forward in getting this ship where it needs to be – operating in the increasingly important littoral regions,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said in the statement. “We must deliver this critical capability to the warfighter now.”
Question is, what specifically are these capabilities and why did the Navy need to “reinvent the wheel” for the purpose of fighting terrorists, smugglers, and pirates? The LCS is a very complicated vessel, with mission modules, advanced engines, designed to counter many various threats, but its enemies are old and numerous.
By deploying Freedom early, officials hope to fill littoral gaps “not previously seen in the modern cruiser or destroyer fleet,” officials said in the announcement.
All good, though we still wonder if we need a slightly less pricey ship to replace extremely expensive warships, and is it too much to ask for the Navy to be able to expand quickly in a crisis as in decades past? The point being that COIN warfare at sea isn’t easy, but neither is it rocket science.