LCS Alternative Weekly
Fractured LCS Acronyms
Only one this week from a very special “guest”. Here is Rep. Gene Taylor, as quote in Defense Daily (subscr. only) with his own version of what LCS stand for :
Late, Costly, and Subject to protest
That’s pretty good! Keep sending them in.
Big Ships Helpless Before the Swarm
Combat Fleet of the World posts a couple videos of US Naval and Coast ships failing to defeat small craft in an exercise. One of the videos is here for your consideration:
The first shows the USCG Cutter “Bertholf” engaging a “fast small drone target craft” with here CIWS 20mm Phalanx gun during weapons testing in 2009. Have seen that 6 salvos of 20mm, fired by a CIWS Phalanx (Each salvo lasts +/- 1or 2 second, with dozens and dozens of 20mm shells), were unable to stop a fast small craft…
The second (even much more amazing) shows the US destroyer Howard (DDG 83) facing several small fast drone target craft during weapons testing in 2005. And despite numerous shots of 12,7mm, 20mm, some 25mm and even some 127mm rounds, he can not destroy them … (at best … only small near miss…).
Which is why we continue to urge that the best defense against small warships is another small warship.
007 and the War on Terror
One of our readers earlier in the comments pointed to a 100 mph James Bond-style naval fast attack boat, the XSR military interceptor, similar to the Strand Craft 122 featured earlier this week. The British has good reason for looking into the small boat threat, according to this Sep. 2009 article from Thomas Harding at the Telegraph:
In an era where potential adversaries such as Iran use the “swarm” tactic of multiple fast boats attacking a single big target, the XSR can operate as a counter to the threat.
During the Cornwall incident in 2007 the 14 Royal Navy personnel were taken prisoner by the Iranians partly because their small boats were outgunned and slower than their Iranian captors.
Part of the reason New Wars advocates that established navies utilize these light but fast and lethal craft in their arsenals, is for the fact they are especially geared for operations in littoral waters. Though some large ships can sail in shallow seas, such as Blue Water frigates, their lack of maneuverability is a problem, as their large bulk makes them very noticeable targets, in an environment teaming with light and lethal threats. So small warships, while usually being cheaper, and available in numbers is particular suited for the Green/Brown Water environment.
Corvettes versus LCS
Within the recent proposals by Rep. Barney Frank and others concerning dramatic cuts in US Defense Spending (Debt, Deficits, & Defense A Way Forward) was the following modest approach:
Build and operate fewer Littoral Combat Ships. Save $11 billion from 2011–2020. Scale back the LCS program and consider investing in a less expensive class of frigates or corvettes to better suit the strategic needs of the Navy. In the meantime, refurbish a reduced frigate fleet (14 by 2020) at a cost of about $100 million each. Besides the four LCSs already (or nearly) completed, the Navy plans to build about 24 in the next 10 years, at an average cost of $550 million each. Forgoing these vessels would thus save $13.2 billion
over the next 10 years, plus $3.1 billion in associated O&M costs. Accounting for the costs of refurbishing
and retaining the frigates would result in net savings of $12.3 billion over ten years. Net personnel costs would be $1.6 billion.
It might be expedient to stop this under-armed and overpriced boondoggle while it still in its early stages, before more precious funding goes toward this patrol-boat-in-all-but-name. More than the cost and armament, is the false notion that large traditional type warships can operate safely and effectively in a littoral environment teeming with many threats. Here is a dangerous idea that must die quickly before we lose hulls and precious crew needlessly in such waters.
Israel Seeks Pocket Battleships
Last month a few articles cropped up concerning the Israeli search for a new guided missile corvette, to replace its on fleet of very potent Sa’ar warships. At first the American littoral combat ship was considered, but this was considered too underarmed, and probably too expensive for the small navy’s needs. From Israel National News we get details on a powerful German vessel which may suite her needs:
The Israel Navy is hoping to acquire the Meko A-100, built by Blohm and Voss, a division of Germany’s Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS) Group. Aviation Week is predicting that Israel will purchase the latest stealth version of the vessel, known as the Meko CSL, “which can be adapted to meet Israeli requirements for versatility sensors and deck space.”…
It is expected that Israel will arm the vessels with the Barak 8 extended-range air-defense system from Israel Aerospace Industries. In addition, it will carry more missiles than the current Saar 5 class, and will be able to mount the Elta MF-Star 360-degree phased-array radar system, anti-submarine weapons and a helicopter.
Via Defence Guide, here is the specs for the MEKO® CSL corvette:
- Length-108.8 m
- Beam-21 m
- Draft-3.9 m
- Displacement-2,250 tons light
- Speed-40 kts
- Range-3500 nm @ 15 kts
Not a bad little ship, and note again the heavy armament planned by the Israelis. I don’t especially see the CSL as an LCS alternative, at least not for the USN. It is fairly large and probably expensive, placing it closer in firepower to larger frigates, though it is probably more economical than those vessels. For a small fleet, it is perfect, and should be considered a capital vessel in East Med, Western Indian Ocean areas. For building up fleet numbers, say for the UK and US, something a little more spartan and smaller is all that is required, since these navies already deploy powerful air defense ships.
Stand by for a barrage of “it’s first-in-class” arguments and “first ships are hard” excuses. Certainly, it’s normal for problems to emerge a shakedown cruise. New fancy stuff is getting put on the vessel. That’s all to be expected.
But the Navy may be underestimating just how critical robustness and reliability actually will be in the overall “valuation” of the two LCS platforms. If operated according to theory, the LCS will be operating on a far tighter timetable than virtually all the Navy’s other major combat vessels.
I like this last comment:
If we plan to run these ships, then the ships must be built to run.