5 Quick Fixes for LCS
It was supposed to be the birth of a new Navy. The centerpiece of the plan to bring the fleet into the 21st century, to restore its falling numbers and take the war into the littoral regions of the earth. Instead the littoral combat ship has become the poster-child of what is wrong with the modern US Navy, still clinging to old ideas, uncertain of the type of enemy it must face, and dependent on a shipbuilding industry grown fat and uncompetitive after decades of building only the world largest, most expensive, and technically advanced warships.
At 3000 tons, the LCS is too large for shallow water patrolling, yet its main armament, probably adequate for a patrol boat is unsuitable for Blue Water sailing. Neither is its range, also more like a patrol boat enough for keeping up with the battlefleet. While there is potential for upgrading the hull to more survivable standards, its current cost of $700 million, means uparming would give it a destroyer price, at a shadow of the larger warship’s capabilities. Ten years from concept to first deployment, it will likely be another decade before they join the fleet in any numbers.
So what to do? Obviously the Navy needs some type of patrol boat, which itself will take years to get to the fleet. In the meantime, we are likely stuck with at least 15-20 of these very expensive ships. Here are a few proposals of how the LCS program can be fixed to get at least some money back from the taxpayer’s investment:
- New Engines-Obviously the price should be reduced. Some savings could be procured by replacing the powerful and gas guzzling water jets with old fashioned diesels. Speed should be about 30 knots since many experts have agreed the extra speed is useless, for a ship intended to sail in harms way, not run away.
- Fast Transport-With this done, reducing the cost of future vessels, various roles might be envisaged, such as an APD or fast transport. Already the Marines are investigating the idea of using high speed catamarans for this purpose, and New Wars and others have pointed out previously how this might get the Marine closer to where they need to be in modern war, as opposed to their current fleet of also too big and costly amphibs.
- Mothership-Obviously with its puny main armament, the LCS is going to need escorting in shallow waters. Instead of placing a further burden on our over-worked destroyers, the new ship could act as a mothership in benign waters for small craft, such as Stiletto or riverine boats like the CB90, for Special Forces and Marines. It’s helicopter and shallow draft would be an asset to such a force, though lack of space would inhibit it supporting larger warships like corvettes or diesel submarines.
- UAV Carrier-The future Influence Squadrons are going to need air support, obviously. There is increasing interest by the Navy in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, with the Fire Scout intended specifically for the LCS. I still think a catapult and recapture system is a better way to get the more-capable land-based UAVs to sea, and their is plenty of room on the ship forward, aft, and atop the hangar for the positioning of catapults.
- Battery Ship-Resembling somewhat the old monitor CSS Virginia anyway, here’s hoping her lifespan in combat will be longer! One way to prepare her for service in shallow seas would be the addition of armor, not the expensive Kevlar type but with sheet metal placed on in layers, as much as she could manage. Then, place some surplus Army guns, like the venerable 105mm, 30mm, 40mm, Gatling guns, mortars, whatever is on hand, bolted on deck. Then send her to Somalia!
Those are a few ideas to salvage something from this misguided program, which we are getting whether we like it or not. Any ideas of your own to fix the LCS?