LCS Alternative Weekly
A sailor onboard the USS Freedom LCS-1 gives us an apt description of the soon-to-be deployed warship:
“We’re a sports car out here amongst a bunch of family sedans, to be honest,” notes OS2 Joshua Merrill.
In other words, a Ferrari instead of a Ford, being sent to combat the world’s most impoverished, but still surprisingly effective navies, the Somali pirates.
Iran Hearts Small Warships
I understand one of the lessons from Operation Preying Mantis in the 1980s, the USN versus Iran, that small boats are pretty much “prey” to large destroyers and frigates. America has accepted this as a rule, but Tehran still refuses to play the game, according to DoD Buzz:
The Islamic Republic uses its naval forces, including a growing fleet of lethal small boats, in pursuit of its naval doctrine of “access denial.” Based on lessons learned from past encounters with the U.S. Navy in the Gulf during the 1980s (when Iran lost two corvettes) and U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran’s naval strategy has embraced the familiar asymmetric warrior’s approach: don’t take the massive U.S. military on in stand up fight. Instead, exploit U.S. military vulnerabilities on the lower end of the conflict spectrum.
Iranian naval doctrine suggests they will employ “asymmetric and highly irregular tactics that exploit the constricted geographic character of the Gulf,” said strategist Frank Hoffman, now with the Office of the Navy Secretary, in a September conference at the Naval War College. “This doctrine applies a hybrid combination of conventional and irregular tactics and weapons to posit a significant anti-access threat to both military and commercial shipping,” using “swarming” tactics employing a combination of heavily armed fast attack craft and low signature boats along with shore launched anti-ship missiles.
Hope we have enough littoral ships to go around in the next conflict. But we seem to forget, Iran didn’t invent this type of warfare:
Guards Corps small boat tactics should be familiar to anybody who has read accounts of U.S. PT boats or German E-Boat tactics during World War II…
LCS Hits Bottom
CDR Salamander listed 5 critiques on what happened to the once promising littoral combat program, in a post titled LCS’s “Bottom 5”. Here is rock bottom:
5. The attitudes of the people in charge of the program.
How many times have blind optimism and this idea that ‘all change is good’ created an unsafe standard in this program? The LCS program keeps pressing the different organizations to change their standards in regard to LCS due to the small crew and ‘new-design’ of the ship. Sometimes these standards feel like they are being changed just for change sake. [REDACTED], and to be honest I hope the ship never comes in harms way – because the only real systems that it has to defend itself are the CSW mounts. At least I know the GMs on board are good shots.
You get the impression that the Navy was trying to reinvent the wheel when it came to littoral combat, as if we haven’t “been there, done that” before. Building a Navy isn’t rocket science. Just give us good enough hulls, and plenty of them.
Sea Fighter on the Sidelines
Speaking of small ships, we have been hearing more from the ONR’s Sea Fighter, the so-called Fast Sea Frame. While it appears the Navy only wants to keep the unique catamaran as a technology demonstrator (big surprise right?), Galrahn at Information Dissemination has some points he’d like to make:
Does being a catamaran mean a ship is not designed a fully operational, all-weather platform? Are small ships incapable of being operationally deployable vessels? Are smaller ships nothing more than technology demonstrators? Is $3 million really a valid cost issue to refuse to install weapons? Is the civilian crew a critical component of Sea Fighter that cannot be filled by naval personnel? Are Congressional mandates selective, in other words, we can use the money for “this but not that?”
I have it on good authority that the FSF-1 has suffered major hull damage from high winds while at her moorings, which is why she isn’t headed toward Panama City yet. If the damage is substantial enough, the Navy probably will balk at further repairs on a vessel seen by some as a rival to its multi-billion dollar LCS program.
Desperately Seeking the Sea Slice
Speaking of X-craft, anyone recall the Lockheed Martin Sea Slice? Solomon at the SNAFU blog does, and is wondering:
Remember the Lockheed Martin Sea Slice? You remember those days…back when the Navy was actually doing experiments to determine which type ship would best serve in the littoral zone? Back in the early 2000’s when the thought of actually using mission modules to carry weapons like the now canceled net fires were popular and the “in thing”. Well I do and since the Sea Fighter got a Congressional lease on life, it got me wondering…where is this most promising of Navy experimental ships????
Wikipedia also remembers:
HSV Sea Slice is an experimental United States Navy vessel, built by Lockheed Martin. Based on a variant of the SWATH hull design known as “SLICE”, the Sea Slice is characterized by four teardrop-shaped submerged hulls, double the number seen on most previous designs. According to the US Navy, the design reduces waves and drag, which allows a SWATH vessel to “…operate at higher speeds while retaining their characteristic low motions in a seaway”. Designed for operation in the same area as, and mount similar armament to, a LCS-type corvette, current weapon options include the Millennium Gun and the NetFires System, intended to launch Lockheed’s (now canceled) Loitering Attack Munition.
LCS versus Corvettes
New Wars often insists that the corvettes of today should not be confused with the FACs the Navy tackled so easily in the Gulf Wars against Iran and Iraq. The USS Freedom and her sisterships are a mediocre response to the small boat problem, concerning armament, not as well armed as European and Asian corvettes which are now getting into the hands of Third World powers. What will happen when the LCS meets a near-peer or better vessel at sea rather than the small boat swarm she expects, we wonder, as does poster xtvpry at the Warships1 Forum:
It seems that the design is mostly predicated on the perceived need to counter Iranian ‘speedboat’ swarms, but what happens when the Iranians acquire some Russian or Chinese or European or indigenously developed corvette, even a stealthy corvette? Why do the USN think that they will always face 3rd or 4th rate opponents? What happens if the LCS on the spot does not have the right modules fitted?
I suppose what she can’t fight she can run away from. Yet when the same strategy was tried in decades past, it didn’t work out so well. Concerning the earlier mentioned PT boats, their light and sensible design allowed for large numbers to be built, meaning you had numbers to swarm larger adversaries. The 3000 ton, $700 million each LCS won’t be so lucky.