LCS Alternative Weekly
Lockheed in the Lead
It’s coming down to the wire for the much-touted littoral combat ship competition, and before the summer is over we will likely see the winner. Will it be the yacht-like USS Freedom built by Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine, or the “Klingon Bird of Prey” appearing USS Independence, designed by the team of General Dynamics and Austal USA? Dan Murtaugh, at the Alabama Press-Register gives us the following scoop:
The Press-Register interviewed three Washington D.C.-based naval analysts about the contract. All three said that the Navy has been keeping its cards close to its chest during the decision-making process, but two said they believe Lockheed has the edge because the Navy will be more comfortable with a more conventional ship design.
“The Navy is looking for something affordable,” said Loren Thompson, of the Lexington Institute. “It’s going to be easier to convince the service that the Marinette ship is going to be cheaper in serial production.”
Some aren’t so sure about the outcome:
Jay Korman, a naval analyst with the Avascent Group, said that he believes the two shipyards are neck-and-neck right now.
“The folks I talk to had a sense earlier on that Austal’s chances were slimmer, that Lockheed was leading,” he said. “Now when I talk to people, I get a mix. I’m at a loss. I wouldn’t put my money on an outcome at this point.”
How the French Define Overkill
The French Navy deploys one of its most powerful surface vessels to contend with the rag-tag buccaneers of Somalia. Sigh:
The French air defence destroyer JEAN BART has joined the EU NAVFOR Task Force for the period 20th to 31st July. She is the second of the air defence destroyer class Cassard, with a displacement of 4500 tonnes, a length of 139 meters and a beam of 14 meters…
As well as her various weapon systems (100mm gun, SM1 and Mistral air defence missiles and Exocet anti-ship missiles) JEAN BART is fitted with one Panther (Eurocopter Dolphin class) helicopter and one Boarding Team.
The question is–do you really need a 4500 ton missile destroyer to carry a small helicopter and a few Marines? And while the European frigates give the impression of great strength, they are actually very limited in what they can do, with very minor factors getting in the way, according to this separate EU NAVFOR post:
Although increasingly effective at preventing pirate attacks EUNAVFOR warships are limited in their ability to intervene after a vessel has been hijacked for fear of harming the hostages. When the ships are hijacked and anchored we also stop communicating with them in order not to interfere with the communication between the owner of the ship and the pirates.
Despite the fact that we passed the ships at an appropriate distance the pirates aboard the hijacked vessels reacted strongly to our presence. The hijackers did not want us getting closer. They warned us, by radio, and demanded that CARLSKRONA leave the area.
While New Wars doesn’t pretend to have all the answers to the piracy problem, it is obvious only using the high tech platforms of the Cold War isn’t working, and some other solutions are viable. A dramatic increase in presence, perhaps some patrol craft deployed off the shelf, plus lessons learned by the recent success of the Dutch Johan De Witt acting as a mothership for her own embedded “patrol ships” should hold lessons and a template for the defeat of the pirates. Worth a try at least instead of waiting for a bad problem to get worse, and wasting our most powerful battleships in a function they weren’t designed for.
Not LCS but LSV!
This is such a good mothership proposal from Proceedings, via Craig Hooper, that I wished I’d thought of. Using the Army’s 8 General Frank S. Besson Class logistics support vessels as patrol ships among other roles:
Think what you will about that strategic goal, but, as far as the platform goes, an LSV–with its slow speed, tiny draft, mid-sized crew (a core of about 30) and long legs (5,000 miles) would be a perfect “presence” tool for Africa and the Pacific Islands. Capable of carrying the equivalent of 28 Abrams M1A tanks, the LSV can bring a lot of stuff to a lot of places. But that’s not all.
For low-threat presence and long-standing, watch-oriented pirate/anti-smuggler missions, the LSV is a cost-effective way to get modest capabilities to the field. But…why aren’t these cheap assets being used?
Good question! Because they don’t cost a billion dollars or more, which seems to be the Navy’s only answer for every problem of seapower. Then the enemies we fight are ever so frugal and impoverished, though quite effective for their poverty. Just look at North Korea, Iran, and of course the Somali pirates.
Let’s get these humble platforms out into the field, and perhaps, after giving them a chance, the experience might start getting us to think a little harder about how a handful of cheap, specialized LSVs (read up on the helicopter, semi submersible and troop carrying variants) might contribute to U.S. security.
Helicopters and troops? Maybe France should buy some. Here are the specs:
- Displacement-6000+ tons full
- Length-83 meters
- Width-18 meters
- Draft-3.7 meters
- Speed-12.5 knots or 11.5 knots loaded
- Range-6500 nm loaded
The price for all this frugality? $32 million. This is a fraction of the cost of a $700 million LCS, which is really just a small mothership. It apppears there is not much an LCS can do that the LSV can’t, except to run away REALLY, REALLY FAST. But we need some ships to hang around for the fight. At his own site, Craig adds:
For low-threat regions, the $32 million dollar LSV is a great platform. We should be using it for presence missions, and planning to see how it could support influence squadrons or work in support of a JHSV or LCS. They are simple to make, so we should be handing out contracts to make variants of these things, get ‘em into the fleet and then hand ‘em out to our friends. They’d be perfect for Africa and the South Pacific–but we’ll have more on that later.
The Naval-Technology website also details variants. There’s your modular warships!
- LSV – HELICOPTER CAPABLE-In service with the Philippine Navy. “Attack helicopters are concealed below a modular flight deck while patrol boats and intercept craft are behind the stern ramp. The configuration presents the appearance of a logistic supply ship without the obvious display of force” Thats cool!
- LSV – SEMI-SUBMERSIBLE VARIANT-Here’s your future mothership for small boats. “The hull semi-submerges, the bow ramp lowers and the LSV takes on large floating cargo, patrol boats, etc. for transport and launch, or at-sea dry-dock and repair.” Midget subs? UUVs or USVs?
- LSV – TROOP CARRIER-Very practical. “The ship has capacity for 144 troops and six officers plus supplies and equipment.” OK Marines-this and the JHSV is your future. Get to it!