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LCS Alternative Weekly

June 2, 2010

An Italian Navy visit, board, search and seizure team returns to the Italian Navy offshore patrol vessel ITS Comandante Foscari (P-493).

All Hopes on NLOS

Still trying to fit their last century shipbuilding practices into a modern era, the Navy pays the price for trying to reinvent the wheel to tackle small warship threats. The Year in Defense’s Scott R. Gourley posts on the recently canceled NLOS program and its impending revival by the Navy:

Specifically, NLOS-LS had been identified as a major component of the LCS Surface Warfare (SUW) mission package. Specifically designed to defeat fast in-shore attack craft, the SUW Mission Package included NLOS-LS as well as 30 mm gun modules. The NLOS-LS medium range surface-to-surface missile module had been scheduled to begin at-sea testing in 2012.
Asked about the impact of the Army cancellation on the Navy plans, a spokesman for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition responded, “The Navy is assessing a number of alternatives for the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System (NLOS).  Some alternatives under consideration include proceeding with NLOS without Army participation, utilizing a combination of existing capabilities with surface to surface capability, other medium range surface to surface missile systems and increased airborne armaments.”
“All alternatives will be evaluated for capability, cost, ship impact, ability to meet schedule and benefits or drawbacks to other mission areas,” he stated, adding, “The Navy expects completion of this evaluation late summer 2010.”

I can only provide an answer in terms of historical experience. When the Navy was faced with small boats swarm at the end of the 20th century they devised the modern destroyer. The new warships were just a little larger, a little better armed than the torpedo boats of the era, since they also had to sail with the battlefleet. Today’s navy with their love of exquisite large warships, wants a Cold War era frigate design, which was meant to fight deep-diving nuclear subs, and transform it into a littoral  fast attack craft destroyer. Problem with the frigate hull is it also comes with a frigate price.


Sucking Jobs From Down South

This is good and hat tip to Hawaii Superferry Unofficial Blog. From the Alabama Press-Register staff:

Don’t look for shipbuilding executive Richard McCreary to book any summer vacation plans along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

McCreary is president of Wisconsin’s Marinette Marine, which is competing with Mobile’s Austal USA for a lucrative contract to build Littoral Combat Ships for the U.S. Navy.

McCreary told a business luncheon in Madison, Wis., last week that the contract could bring thousands of jobs to northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“If we win this contract, the giant sucking sound you hear will be people (who work in shipyards) leaving the Gulf Coast to come up here,” said McCreary, according to


Fractured LCS Acronyms

A few hilarious takes on the Navy’s new budget cow, the littoral combat ship:

  • Last Century Strategy
  • Likely Causes Surrender
  • Leaky, Creaky Scow
  • Luxury Cash Siphoner
  • Lacking a Corvette’s Survivability

Thanks to D.E., Heretic, and Joe!


Reserves to the Rescue

In contrast to large frigate-types, small warships with their smaller range and reduced crews might be just right for taking advantage of reduced manning requirements. As one of our Canadian readers pointed out to us, the Kingston class are at least partly manned by naval reservists. Sparse economic times should not foretell doom for a navy, but a time for ingenuity. This is just what the Canadian Navy aspired to do during the lean years of the last century. The following exert is from a post by David Obee at the Times Colonist and concerns Rear Admiral Walter Hose, who helped shape the navy during its early days:

HMCS Rainbow remained the only naval vessel on the Pacific coast, and Hose could do nothing but watch as crew members gave up on their naval careers. By 1913, Rainbow could no longer leave her home port. She did not have enough crew members. Hose tried to persuade the government that a reserve force could be raised. After his initial efforts were rebuffed, he won approval from the new minister, Douglas Hazen, in 1913.

Given the green light, Hose quickly rounded up volunteers from Esquimalt and Victoria, and Canada’s first naval reserve was officially born on May 14, 1914. The men did not have uniforms or official status, and they were not paid. That did not curb their enthusiasm — a good thing, considering that they were put to work within a matter of weeks.

After the Great War, with peacetime frugality the new rage, the Navy again was faced with massive cuts, but again a little clear thinking saved the day:

Hose was confirmed as the director of the naval service on Jan. 1, 1922, possibly the worst time to take the position. The government cut the navy’s budget to $1.5 million, 40 per cent below the $2.5 million promised by the defeated government. Hose had to reduce the naval fleet to six ships and lose the naval college, which had been moved to Esquimalt in 1918. Personnel dropped to about 400.

His answer was again to build up the reserves, with units in cities across Canada. Many of the men who joined the new Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve had never even seen the sea. The reserve was set up on Jan. 31, 1923, with 1,000 officers and men. It had divisions in 15 cities.

Naturally, for long, overseas deployments, you would need permanent crews. However, if the Canadians are serious with their “Canada First” strategy, a force of reserve crewman to man small warships guarding the nations spacious coastline wold be an economical, effective, and as we see here proven historical answer to mounting threats in a time of reduced funds.

The greater use of naval reserves might also help other navies suffering through economic troubles, like the US and UK, also concerned about illegal immigration, terrorism, and drug smuggling off their coasts.


Save the Earth, and the Royal Navy

Here is an interesting take on why the Royal Navy needs more ships. Story is from the UK Express and John Ingham:

Dr Lovelock, who in the 1960s invented the Gaia theory that the Earth is a self-regulating entity, said mass migration was already under way. At the Hay Festival of Literature in Herefordshire he said: “Do you know that Italy now has a larger navy than we do and it is to keep immigrants from Africa out?

“We are a bit of a liferaft but there is only a ­limited number of people that this island can support.” Dr Lovelock, a pat­ron of the Optimum Population Trust which campaigns for a gradual global population decrease, said that with 60 million people Britain may already be at its optimum size.

“So what are we going to do?” he said. “The people who are going to come here are going to starve and so are we – a larger Navy may be the answer.”

Correct me if I’m wrong but the good doctor here is probably not advocating for a new carrier, a couple more Type 45 destroyers, or another high tech Astute attack submarine, which is all you could afford even if you added tens of billions pounds to the navy budget. More likely you would need a great number patrol vessels, costing in the millions to protect Britain’s coastline from sailing dhows and coastal freighters jammed with illegals.


Industry’s Flawed Weapons Advocate

The following from Bill Totten’s Weblog concern the conservative Lexington Institute:

Then there is Lockheed’s $500 million-per-craft Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), designed for use in submarine, mine, and “asymmetric” warfare. A Pentagon study found that the LCS might not “be survivable in a hostile combat environment” and could “sink sooner than expected”. Lexington’s draft report on the vessel, however, was markedly more upbeat, stating only that the “future of US mine warfare” was dependent on the continued “evolution” of the ship.

Also there is this astounding comment:

Lexington’s free-market pabulum, then, is underwritten by an industry that is beholden to government planning, direction, and money, and that operates entirely outside the constraints of supply and demand.

The conservative philosophy maintains that massive overspending is destroying our economy, and that increased government outlays is breeding widespread corruption, except when it comes to defense spending. I am of the opinion that large budgets is hurting not helping our security, by keeping obsolete weapons in service long past their prime, and we are not alone in this mindset.


11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2014 8:43 pm

    Very soon this site will be famous among all blogging and site-building viewers, due to it’s fastidious articles

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 3, 2010 11:46 am

    Juramentado wrote-“In all the talk about alternatives to LCS, why doesn’t anyone want to consider buying another design that’s already been proven, even if it’s foreign-made?”

    I agree, since you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to fight the likes of pirates in dhows or rising speedboat navies. If its advanced technology you need, even these are readily available commercially with HSVs and SWATH designs.

  3. Juramentado permalink
    June 3, 2010 8:46 am

    In all the talk about alternatives to LCS, why doesn’t anyone want to consider buying another design that’s already been proven, even if it’s foreign-made?

    I’m all for keeping jobs in the country in this economy, but the reality is that overseas shipmakers are rolling out very effective small combatants at significant savings when compared to the USD700MM it’s cost for each LCS seaframe to date. B&V MEKO, the Dutch Sigma, heck the Swedish Visby. Spain’s Navantia is rapidly becoming the Dell of military naval architecture – four navies now or will have a variant of the Alvaro de Bazan class and they’re pumping out POVZEEs like penny candy.

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    June 3, 2010 4:42 am

    Joe, only yours truly as far as I know, and the price sure is right.

  5. Joe permalink
    June 3, 2010 12:50 am

    Has anyone looked recently at the Sea Figther as an alternative to LCS?

  6. Juramentado permalink
    June 2, 2010 6:40 pm

    No offense, but the Lexington Institute is the home of the Naval Strike Forum. They’re like any other public policy think-tank; they’re trying to make their bones by showing their “group think” is reflected in DoN/DoD. Given that they host the NSF, it would be anathema for them to cast aspersions upon LCS. Nonetheless, the Bill Totten article is a bit too simplistic. If he bothered to read any of the NSF whitepapers about LCS, some of it is on-target, even if it is RAH-RAH for the high-speed ferry. For example, one of their papers points out that the Mission Modularity framework must have design principles and discipline in order to be successful as a method of arming future combatants. Well, guess what, look at how NLOS was forced in as a fixed feature of the seaframe rather than true weapons modularity. That was identified as early as 2002. So you can learn something from the Dark Side…

  7. jkt permalink
    June 2, 2010 3:15 pm

    National defense is a true public good (in the Econ 101 sense) so there’s nothing inconsistent about preferring less government control of private good markets while still advocating a large defense budget.

    Free marketers advocate less government spending in areas where they believe a free market and private decision-making will produce better results. National defense is typically not one of those areas.

    Your argument (as well as the Lexington hit piece you quote) is incoherent and shows a poor understanding of basic economic theory.

    Many free marketers will argue for reduced defense spending — but for different reasons than they would argue for, say, private health insurance markets.

  8. Heretic permalink
    June 2, 2010 2:27 pm

    B.Smitty is right. It’s not a frigate. A frigate would be useful.

    It’s a blue water speed boat that supposedly ought to make an “excellent” Littoral Communications Shack since it won’t have any weapons to defend itself with.

  9. B.Smitty permalink
    June 2, 2010 1:37 pm

    Mike said, “ Today’s navy with their love of exquisite large warships, wants a Cold War era frigate design, which was meant to fight deep-diving nuclear subs, and transform it into a littoral fast attack craft destroyer. Problem with the frigate hull is it also comes with a frigate price.

    How is the LCS even close to a “Cold War era frigate design”?

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, hull size doesn’t determine price.

  10. Juramentado permalink
    June 2, 2010 1:34 pm

    @ D.E. Reddick – hold up there pardner. The deadline for receiving Questions from interested Sources (i.e., Contractor to NavWarSurDalhgren) regarding proposals to the MRSSM Module is 04-June. The actual deadline for submissions appears to be 30-June-2010. Read the right-hand green bar on that RFI page for critical dates. I was a very junior member of a contractor team years ago and I learned some hard lessons about reading *everything* on the page, especially when it comes to the Feds… :)

  11. D. E. Reddick permalink
    June 2, 2010 12:19 pm


    Cdr. Salamander has this concerning the Navy requesting information for alternatives to NLOS. It’s the never-ending story of the Navy seeking a missile system for its little lost LCS…

    Navy punts on NLOS … Sal owed more beer
    LCS – the gift that keeps on giving!

    Here’s the actual RFI from FedBizOps in which they are seeking information about a “surface to surface missile system that can be integrated into the Medium Range Surface to Surface Missile Module (MRSSMM).” Notice that the request was posted on Wednesday, May 26 and a reply is required by Friday, June 4 (with a Memorial Day holiday weekend stuck in the middle of those few, short ten days). One could wonder…

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