LCS Alternative Weekly
Aegis for LCS
Well, looks like critics might get their wish, with Lockheed proposing to replace the patrol boats armament on the littoral combat with something more lethal, according to Defense News:
Lockheed Martin has presented a concept of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) adapted to carry the Aegis combat system to a number of Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, George Elghossain, international business development director, said Nov. 17. Dubbed Surface Combat Ship, the 3,000 ton LCS vessel would be equipped with the Spy 1 radar and Aegis combat system to add greater surveillance capabilities.
An advanced seaborne radar could be relevant to militaries in the Gulf region because of interest in building an integrated ballistic missile defense system. Adding the Spy 1 sensor to the LCS vessel would provide long range search and track, and cueing of missiles to intercept enemy threats, Elghossain said. “There have been discussions with the UAE Navy on this ship,” he said. The UAE is building the Baynuna class of warship, which is smaller than the LCS.
The Baynuna class is also much better armed. Placing the proven Aegis system on the lackluster LCS would be like trying to make a “silk purse out a of a sows ear”. The vessel now even at 3000 tons has little room to spare, as you will see next, any add-ons can only make cramped conditions worse. The real problem, though, is the drastic elevation in price over the building period, from an estimated $220 million, to $700 million for the LCS-2 Independence. Imagine the vessel with high tech extras loaded, pricing as much as the near-$2 billion Arleigh Burke superdestroyers, though not nearly as capable! Which would you rather have?
Phil Ewing at the Scoop Deck also pondered this:
No word on the price tag for this souped-up “SCS,” but given the cost issues the first two LCSes have had, it could be steep.
LCS Crew to Increase by 20
So they plan to add 20 extra crewmen for the Surface Warfare Module, as the USS Freedom preps for the Gulf? Sounds reasonable to yours truly, but listen to Cmdr. Don Gabrielson, who helped the commission the vessel, now on the Joint Staff we are told (via Navy Times):
“People are going to say, ‘Hey, this is more people than they said they’d need. They’re lying to us!’ ” he said. But just as an LCS will take aboard custom equipment to hunt submarines or mines, so too does it need custom gear — in this case, sailors — for a visit, board, search and seizure team, he said.
“VBSS is a manpower-intensive evolution. I did one deployment to the [northern Persian Gulf] and boarded 400 ships in three months. Sometimes, when you board those ships, you keep them, lock them down for five months at a time, and you need sailors aboard all the time when they’re in that condition.” An LCS can’t spare any of its 75 sailors — 40 multitasking core crew members and 35 sailors from a mission-module and an aviation detachment — so it needs the extra hands.
Methinks he doth protest too much, but we’ll bite since he brought it up, as questions remain. For instance, wasn’t a major selling point for the LCS its automation? Now with all the extra expense and complication put into making this the most high tech frigate ever, they still need extra crew. Why not make allowance for the extra crew in the first place, and reduce the building cost from the beginning? With all the gloss and glitter, high tech and advanced systems adding to the cost, they still need the swabs for the tough jobs.
Raymond Pritchett noticed the touchy CDR as well:
Cmdr. Don Gabrielson gets really defensive here, so much so it stands out as a major section of the news article (fairly or not). The original hype for the Littoral Combat Ship set such high, unrealistic expectations that the blow back from critics has itself matched the hype and intensity of the original supporters. Folks like Cmdr. Don Gabrielson now find themselves in the middle of two extremes and come off as immediately defensive.
The complications further reduces the LCS’ readiness to fight:
Freedom will not take a Fire Scout unmanned helicopter or any of the maritime robots it’s designed to carry, nor will it carry the Non-Line-of-Sight missiles designed to be part of its surface mission package. That weapon, being developed with the Army, is still being tested.
In wartime, we have few luxuries of screwing up with exquisite, hard to build designs. Lets build less-complicated vessels, off the shelf if need be, and get them into the water faster, also more of them. The point being to get as many of the new weapons to sea as possible. But apparently LCS doesn’t need them. Hope their right, for the crews’ sake. CDR Salamander sums things up for us:
So, what do we have here? From the sounds of it – there is no way you could fit a complete Surface Warfare Package in an LCS, as – moment arm concerns aside – I don’t think you could fit the additional people and equipment to support NLOS, Firescout etc. I will give you partial credit though – assume a one for one swap for Seahawk and Firescout – just to make it simple as we go forward on this post. But still …. is this what we mean when we talk “Surface Warfare Mission Module?”
We should probably call this something else – as what they are putting onboard isn’t going to be doing much Surface Warfare. Call this the Maritime Law Enforcement package …. which is a Coast Guard Mission … which makes LCS ….. wait for it …. a very fast, very expensive Patrol Gun Boat with extra space.
Fractured LCS Acronyms
Here’s one for today! More brainstorming out there, please:
LCS–Lavishly Crewed Speedboat
Goodbye to the Fighting Frigates
USS Freedom is currently visiting Mayport, where eventually she will call home, taking the place of the aged frigates on station there. From Jacksonville.com:
Mayport is slated to get eight of the new ships between 2015 and 2019, with additional ones possible in years after that, although that schedule is widely seen as overly optimistic. Those vessels would serve to replace the 13 frigates now home-ported at the naval station, ships that will be phased out over the next five years.
The LCS program has been criticized over the five years it has been in the works, with opponents knocking the escalating cost and some of the strategic assumptions behind the design. The Freedom came in closer to $640 million, rather than the $220 million originally projected.
The Navy is committed to building up the fleet to 313 vessels, yet these are just so many words when you see only 8 ships replacing 13. Then there are the doubts raised whether the actual number is possible, considering that Congress is extremely dubious about the class, only reluctantly going ahead for lack of anything better.
Not Ready for the Marines
Other than mine-sweeper and pirate buster, another mission for the LCS is letting the Marines utilize the shallow water vessel for fast transport (we reported on this a while back). Slow down says the “program manager for the LCS Mission Module Program Office” Capt. Mike Good! Story from Defense Daily (sorry, sub. only):
“The only thing that I caution my Marine Corps friends is, today, NLOS (the Non-Line-Of-Sight launch system), its design and its requirements for the Army and the Navy, don’t include fire-support to the long ranges that the Marine Corps desires.”
“So, if the Marine Corps is more interested in that, we’d happy to continue the dialogue as a partnership between the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Army to look at what the future potential (is),” Good said. “It would require an upgrade to get longer legs on the precision-attack missile.”
But the Marines are still interested in the ship for quick interventions:
When (Marine Commandant Gen. James) Conway recently visited LCS-2, General Dynamics’ [GD] Independence, he talked about the potential for putting vehicles such as Humvees and troops in the littoral vessel’s mission bay. “You’ve got a lot of room to work with and that’s a unique feature of these ships, and the ability to move things rapidly within theater,” Good said.
Here’s a further suggestion, since the $500 million LCS can’t do Marine fire support anyway, for 1/3 the price and much greater cargo space, how about the Joint High Speed Vessel for ferrying around an amphibious assault force? We reported on that a while back too!