LCS Alternative Weekly
LCS versus the Swarm
Recently reading an interview over at Defense News with Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, who is leaving his job with developing the Navy’s shipbuilding program to the 10th Fleet, the service’s new Cyber command. Here is his thoughts on the LCS:
First, there are some current critical war-fighting gaps that LCS will fill. There’s anti-mine capability, mine hunting and clearance. There’s shallow water anti-submarine warfare, especially against quiet diesel electric submarines. And there’s a capability against multiple incoming swarming boats, dependent on the intel. Multiple is much greater than 10.
Sounds like its going to be a little crappy busy ship, but it was that last comment which struck me: expecting a single LCS to fight “10” enemy boats at a time? What exactly does it expect to fight the enemy missile and gun boats with, “spitballs”? Or the little 57mm cannon, NETFIRES rockets in a box, or CIWS? I like this quote from CDR Salamander:
Does your PC or LCS or for that matter DDG have the close in small to medium caliber guns (and ammo to feed them for 4 hours) ready for that? Trained? Ready to take 4 hits from a RPG-7? Think you can do everything with CIWS and missiles? If so, you are a fool. Like air to air combat, in the end you have to be prepared to close the enemy and use the gun because that is what works and is available. The enemy will.
The best weapon to deal with small warships is another small warship. Recent clashes off Korea between Northern and Southern patrol boats emphasize this as specialty warfare where Big Ships have little place, according to Raymond Pritchett at Information Dissemination:
Before pointing out that Standard Missiles, ESSMs, or Harpoons would work in this situation, check your chart first, and someone tell me which Admiral, or Captain, is sending a large warship into those waters during periods of potential hostility. South Korea has major naval assets, and you will not find them in those waters. Someone tell me what ship the US Navy would use in waters like these, which are found everywhere around the world. When giving it serious thought, I think we either need a lot more armed USVs, or need to rethink our approach to littoral warfare. This thing was over in 2 minutes, way too late for air support.
Also to misquote Winston Churchill let me add that never in the field of human conflict has so much been expected of so few warships. Good luck to the hapless crew when the swarm comes. They will need it.
UAVs seek home at sea
The Navy’s new MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle is the latest victim of that service’s inability to put practical hulls into commission on time and within budget. But progress waits for no one, as Strategypage reveals:
The most urgent demand is for the navy’s new helicopter UAV, the MQ-8B (formerly the RQ-8) Fire Scout. Already on the fast track, the MQ-8B is being assigned to another class of ships, besides the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) it was first designed for. That’s because the LCS is behind schedule and the Fire Scout isn’t. The first ship to carry this 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. This will give the Fire Scout some real world experience, although not with the fire Hellfire missiles it can carry. Prior to this assignment, the Fire Scout underwent 110 takeoffs and landings on the frigate, and 600 hours of flight testing. But the navy wants to get the MQ-8B on more ships, in every part of the world.
We see the impending deployment of UAVs at sea on a large scale this century as revolutionary as the advent of manned naval airpower in the last century. Concerning this, here is something we wrote not long ago:
The use of UAVs in ongoing Middle East wars have proven that such individual strike planes armed with many of the same PGMs of large manned jets can perform strategic bombing and close air support missions. The continued use of armed drones will further duplicate the role of the giant aircraft carrier in many circumstances, in such a dramatic difference in cost, again as has occurred on land, that the politicians and admirals cannot possibly ignore.
When the unmanned aerial vehicles, often likened to “reusable cruise missiles” go to sea, there will no longer be any valid arguments, because the drones can do all of the above at least cost without putting a pilot and his $100 million aircraft at risk, or a $20 billion strike group as it nears the shore. Then the surface ships will finally be unfettered from the shelter of their giant motherships, where they have been bound for almost 3/4 of a century, now used to their full potential thanks to the power of modern robot weapons.
Where the Navy sees it’s mission is to deploy the best possible hull whatever the cost, their real purpose should be to get these as many of these new weapons to sea as fast as possible. The much maligned small warships, by the use of new technology will be more powerful and versatile than ever. They will possess an ability to do many missions which we now use our most powerful battleships, or the over-engineered and much delayed littoral combat ship for. Smart weapons do not require smart platforms!
Fractured LCS Acronyms
I forgot about this last week. Please keep them coming!
Look! We’re Clueless about the Shallows
OK, thats just terrible, and you can turn it around:
See, we could Care Less.
Light Cruiser? Sure.*(see below)
More on the Speed Issue
You recall those old horse cavalry movies that still come on the classic move channels, where the soldiers always seem to spur their mounts at full gallop through the whole picture? Looks pretty good on film, but not very practical, as your ride will quickly be worn out and useless in no time. Despite early warnings that a similar occurrence might be faced because of the high speed requirements on the littoral combat ships, the plans went ahead nonetheless for huge engines and low fuel stocks. The following info is from Global Security:
A 2003 analysis by David D. Rudko noted that the Navy has stated the Littoral Combat Ship must incorporate endurance, speed, payload capacity, sea-keeping, shallow-draft and mission reconfigurability into a small ship design. However, constraints in current ship design technology make this desired combination of design characteristics in small ships difficult to realize at any cost. Speed, displacement, and significant wave height all result in considerable increases in fuel consumption, and as a result, severely limit Littoral Combat Ship endurance. When operating in a significant wave height of six feet, regardless of the amount of fuel carried, the maximum endurance achieved for a wave-piercing catamaran Littoral Combat Ship outfitted with all modular mission packages is less than seven days. Especially noteworthy is that when restricted to a fuel reserve of 50% and a fuel carrying capacity of Day tanks, the maximum achieved endurance is only 4.8 hours when operating at a maximum speed of 48 knots. The Littoral Combat Ship can achieve high speeds; however, this can only be accomplished at the expense of range and payload capacity. The requirement for the Littoral Combat Ship to go fast (forty-eight knots) requires a seaframe with heavy propulsion systems. The weight of the seaframe, required shipboard systems (weapons, sensors, command and control, and self-defense) and modular mission packages accounts for 84% of the full displacement, and as a result, substantially limits total fuel carrying capacity. Since initial mission profiles required the high-speed capability at most five percent of the time, the end result is a Littoral Combat Ship that has very little endurance and a high-speed capability it will rarely use. Refueling, and potentially rearming, will require the Littoral Combat Ship to leave littoral waters and transit to Combat Logistics Force ships operating outside the littorals for replenishment. Given the low endurance of the Littoral Combat Ship, its time on station is seriously compromised.
Note also that 2003 was 5 whole years before the the first LCS, USS Freedom joined the fleet. Looks like the cavalry ain’t coming.
*LCS Light Cruiser
This interesting LCS analogy comes from Kit Bonner at Sea Classics Magazine (via FindArticles):
The Omaha was at first a destroyer leader at 7500-tons with a main battery of ten 6-in guns. Eventually, the ship was too light and thus required a stronger mast. Next it was top heavy, and had become just a hull crammed with overheated machinery to drive it at 35 kts. The original plans had long been forgotten as new threats presented themselves, and by World War II, the nine ships of this class were almost worthless. Ultimately they were all consigned to the backwaters of combat during the war, quickly broken up at war’s end.
The same could happen to the Littoral Combat Ship which now represents a consortium of every planner’s ideas as well as most senior Naval officers. The result has been a horrendous cost overrun and ships that are obviously unsuitable for the role for which they are intended. The costs of construction have been double the estimate, and the delivery time has been nearly a year late. The original plan was to build 55 of the LCSs; however, the Navy is re-thinking its position.