Breaking:LCS Loses Anti-Swarm Missile NLOS-LS
The Navy often stretches itself too thin, not just with warship deployments but also when it comes to weapons acquisition. This is true with aircraft, as it is with missiles like the NLOS-LS. Meant to be a do-it-all answer to the littoral combat ship’s ability to take on small boat swarm, now it is a likelihood the cancellation of the latter will leave the former even more under-armed than critics already consider it. Several stories incoming, the first from Kate Brannen at Army Times:
After completing a review of its precision fires portfolio, the Army is recommending the Defense Department cancel the Non-Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS) program.
Army senior leaders decided on the move at a Thursday meeting, according to sources. Because NLOS-LS is an acquisition category 1 program, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter will have the final say.
Originally part of the Army’s Future Combat Systems program, NLOS-LS is also intended for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.
The weapons are very expensive, which isn’t the problems so much, just that they don’t work. The NLOS-LS Precision Attack Missile failed to hit its target four out of six times during a flight-limited user test at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., between Jan. 26 and Feb. 5. The Army determined that fixing the system’s problems would delay the program more than a year and keep it from being included in the first brigade set of Increment 1 equipment of the Brigade Combat Team-Modernization program, Maj. Gen. Keith Walker, commander of the service’s Future Force Integration Directorate, told reporters in Fort Bliss, Texas, earlier this month.
Price for each missile? $466,000 each! OK. So what does this mean for the world’s most expensive patrol boat, the LCS? Here is more commentary from Colin Clark and Greg Grant at DoD Buzz:
The Army’s cancellation of the program could have serious implications for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program as the NLOS-LS was to provide a substitute for the ship’s lack of vertical launch system cells — which can handle anti-ship, anti-aircraft or land attack missiles — that larger surface ships carry. The only weapon the LCS currently carries is single 57mm rapid-fire cannon that can range out to nine miles…
Analysts have pointed to the LCS’ lack of organic fires as a serious shortcoming that might limit its operational effectiveness. One of LCS’ primary missions is to screen battle fleets and help them fight off fast attack boat “swarms.” That’s where the NLOS-LS was supposed to come in, with a Loitering Attack Missile that could range out to 124 miles.
It was a bad idea. The best counter to a small boat swarm is another swarm, especially as the weapon and tactics of small boat swarms are advancing, while our counter to them, specifically hulls in the water decreases dramatically. The Navy spent so much on the exquisite hull there was very little room for adequate weapons. Had she been kept to the corvette size as originally intended, instead of the Blue Water frigate she is, the weapons might have received priority. In other words, she could have looked something like this:
Note the above 500 ton hull can carry 2×76 mm Oto Melara cannon, twice what LCS carries plus being a heavier gun. Also she possesses Harpoon or Gabriel anti-ship missiles, something LCS has yet to deploy. Apparently there will be plenty of aircraft carriers or destroyers around to escort the escort ship!
You could have afforded lots of them, and naturally with a small ship you think “we’d better arm her well or we’re toast”. No such thought received priority with LCS, whose obsolete frigate hull was intended for long range, sea-keeping, and crew comfort. If I was sailing on LCS, I would be more comforted to know I can manage any threat that comes against me, with enough weapons loaded, if ones goes out the other takes over.