LCS Alternative Weekly
Designing Canada’s Influence Squadron
Interesting post was pointed out to me in the Canadian Naval Review, which was titled “‘Influence Squadrons’ for Canada?” by J. Matthew Gillis. The author likes the idea of the Influence Squadron as designed by American Capt. Henry “Jerry” Hendricks (Buy Fords, Not Ferraris) a while back, which also inspired numerous New Wars posts, and is seeking to fit the revolutionary concept into the needs of the Great White North:
Firstly, $1.35 billion is a princely sum north of the border, particularly when some additional convincing might be necessary to break out of a like-for-like fleet replacement cycle. Secondly, personnel demands are steep in Hendrix’s suggested squadron. As proposed above, the squadron would likely require a complement in excess of 500 personnel. Given present recruitment and retention woes in the Canadian navy, such a demand is problematic.
Problem is easily solved, since the cost for each IF is less than half the price of $3 billion the Navy is spending to modernize its expensive-to-operate Halifax frigates. Concerning manpower, this amounts to only a little more the complement of 2 frigates, or less than 2 Iroquois class destroyers. Still, the proposals for a Canadian Squadron remains intriguing:
- A riverine detachment as above ($40 million);
- Replacing the T-AKE ‘mother ship’ with something resembling the RFA Bay-class landing ship docks. This sacrifices absolute cargo capacity in favour of lower cost, lower complement, shallower draft, and added options for amphibious/sealift capability. Smaller craft incapable of traversing open ocean could possibly be contained within the well deck, which might also be reconfigured for landing craft as required. One unit costs approximately $230 million;
- Deletion of the joint high-speed vessel. Though Hendrix argues for the HSV as the “critical logistics link” of the influence squadron, this capacity might be filled by smaller, less-expensive landing craft; and
- The most room for creativity is in deciding between 150’ patrol craft and 295’ MRVs. My admittedly amateur impression is that existing frigates could possibly stand in when needed in place of an MRV. Alternatively, acquiring 150’ patrol craft edges into the turf of the Kingston-class MCDVs. An in-between option such as the Australian 186’ Armidale-class patrol boat might be ideal, at around $30 million per unit. Acquire, say, four, for $120 million.
Looks good, and such a force is the perfect fit for medium/small navies, as well as superpowers! Git ‘er done.
Canada’s Capable Kingston
While we are on the subject of the Canadian Navy, some interesting comments turned up in the post titled “Questioning Canada’s Naval Policy” the other day, concerning planned cuts in the Navy’s patrol forces. Immediately dismissed in the Media as not very capable, the Kingston class of of 12 coastal defence vessels (MCDV) were the first considered for the chopping block, but wiser heads and public outrage prevailed. Anyway, commenter JollyTar gave us the scoop on the supposedly “less capable” patrol ships:
The midlife refit was canceled several years ago, although systems continue to be upgraded, new radars, new ops room fit etc. The design life for these platforms was 25 years, and the oldest hull being 15 years. To upgrade the ship’s, you not talking a lot of money. To send a CPF to do a job a MCDV can do is say $100000 dollars a day compared to $10000 a day for a MCDV. MCDV’s for the past 15 years have saved the navy millions of dollars, often taking on less glamorous missions the regular force don’t want to do…
Did you know the MCDV’s have trialled and are capable of launching and recovering a UAV?, not to mention other mission fits. The strength of the MCDV is versatility. Often a “product ” will come along for the navy and the MCDV will get the job trialling it, for instance a remote control .50 cal weapon system. Generally the public doesn’t know what the ship’s actually do. I speak from experience, dollar for dollar they have been a success story for the navy.
The MCDV’s are more suited toward coastal waters, however deployed to Europe 3 times and to Pearl Harbor on the West Coast. They have been in storms with up to 15 meter seas with no problems. The MCDV are MARLANT asset, crewed mainly by reservists. The original model for the ship’s was to operate with part time reservist’s like the old gate vessel class, when the ships came out they become operational assets for MARLANT and have operated that way ever since.
The idea of small warships is often passed around they are “less capable”. While this may be true when compared with a high end missile frigate or destroyer, less capable might also mean economical, easier to maintain, eaiser to man, cost effective, spending less time in drydock, which are also dire requirements for operating a Navy. Maintaining presence is essential, even more than capability, especially for peacetime, but this is often an impossibility for a prestige fleet of big ships, which many times go to sea lacking adequate armament, when they are not tied up in port for repairs or lack of funds.
All factors then should be considered when planning the future fleet, not just having the kind of ships you want but also what is most imminently needed, and what you can afford. The idea being that a patrol ship on the scene is better than 2-3 battleships tied up in port.
Where are the Destroyers?
Interesting history from from an older Navy League article on the first American destroyer USS Bainbridge (DD-1) from the early last century, that conjures up surprising modern images:
Commissioned in 1902, the Bainbridge was designed to counter the growing threat posed by the swarms of steam-powered torpedo boats that, taking advantage of their small size and high speed, were able to streak suddenly toward larger capital ships in coastal waters and wreak havoc with their torpedoes. The Bainbridge and her eight sister ships were built as torpedo boat destroyers. The first several classes of destroyers, in fact, resembled larger versions of the torpedo boats that they were designed to sink.
Bringing up the question, where are today’s destroyers? Though there are plenty large warships spouting the most sophisticated weapons available, from missiles, guns, helicopters, and even robots, there are few which are specially geared for tackling small yet lethal threats in shallow waters. Today’s destroyers and frigate are more kin to large cruisers and even battleships from the Bainbridge era, in that they are so expensive only a few can be afforded, centralizing power, and enhancing risk.
Needed are small ships able to follow pirates and smugglers into their shallow water haunts. Also, to contend with enemy swarming tactics which threaten our large warships in coastal waters, ancient tactics revived recently by the navies of China and Iran. Though large warships have been known to tackle torpedo boats on occasion, such few and far between vessels can’t be everywhere at once, but the need for presence and numbers to contend with unknown and known enemies is always vital.
Giving Small Waships a Bad Name
The LCS costs and complications keep making the USN’s $2 billion destroyers look better all the time. Here is Greg Grant:
Navy sources tell DoD Buzz that there is a lot of dissatisfaction on the Navy staff with the LCS. “It’s sucking up money better spent on a real warship,” said one source. It’s way over-engineered for the missions it will conduct, such as counternarcotics and counter-piracy, said another. Those same sources said they’re hearing not altogether encouraging things about progress with the LCS mission modules, particularly the mine sweeping and the anti-submarine warfare modules.
Now here’s a no-shocker which New Wars has been insisting all along, concerning the planned by of 55 Littoral Cash Shockers:
From what we’re hearing, there’s a good chance the final number may end up being much lower.
A safe bet, for sure!
Small Warships Cheaper, Duh
The Navy keeps seeking elaborate tricks to make giant billion dollar warships seem “cost effective”, such as the use of new bio-fuels, reducing manning, etc. A sure-fire way to deploy a less costly fleet without comprimisng numbers and capabilty would be very many small ships. No rocket science required to figure this out. From the Congressinal Budget Office, via the Examiner, we get some comparison on the price to operate various ships:
The Congressional Budget Office recently released a study it conducted at the request of Senator Jeff Sessions which calculates the costs of four classes of Navy combat ships over their entire life-cycle…The analysis focused on the following ship programs (including their annual operating costs in millions $$):
- MCM-1 Avenger class mine countermeasures ships-21
- FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry class guided missile frigates-50
- DG-51 Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers-87
- CG-47 Ticonderoga class guided missile cruisers-115
- LCS-1 Indepedence littoral combat ship-47
Note also our favorite big-budget boondoggle the LCS has a much smaller personell expesne than all of the above, $161 milllion annually compared to $243 mil. for Avenger. This doesn’t mean of course, that the sailors work-load will be any easier, probealy worse, but at least he will be more “cost effective”!
Dutch De Witt Proves Mothership Concept Viable
Though the following article is short on details, (such as how many pirates is the ship blocking, how much of the coastilne is she patrolling etc.), it does give the reader an idea how the mothership concept is a workable alternative to only sending in Cold War era frigates and destroyers to contend with the world’s most minor threats, the pirates. Story is from EU NAVFOR Somalia:
EU NAVFOR HNLMS Johan de Witt has effectively blocked known pirate access on the Somali coast from access to the open sea. As an amphibious ship, HNLMS Johan de Witt is able, from a dock within the ship, to launch a number of smaller vessels, LCVPs (Landing craft for vehicle and personnel transport), that can provide a blockading role on selected known pirate areas of the Somali coast…EU NAVFOR HNLMS Johan de Witt is providing an excellent blocking force and very effectively denying pirate access to the high sea at a time when worsening weather conditions is making pirate operations increasingly more difficult.
An excellent operation and an antidote to the mindset that “piracy can only be defeated on land”. So with the mothership you have a solitary high end vessel, which alone can’t contend with numerous low tech swarming enemies, but tied to several of her own small patrol craft, her influence is greatly extended, and magnified into the littorals. This is how the future Influence Squdron will work. Instead of displacing the navies fleet of Blue Water battleships, it could extend its reach into waters large deepwater vessels dare not tread. Will the established navies ever get it, that its not a matter of a Blue Water or coastal fleet, but a Hybrid Force ready to sail into waters prohibitve to deep draft vessels.