Tuesday, May 8, 2012

LCS - Crippling the Future Fleet

Everyone has an opinion, whether good or bad, about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and a lot of writing has been generated about it.  Let's set aside the debate about the number of weapons, cost, problems, etc., for the moment.  The LCS is here and, barring an unexpected change in Navy philosophy, will make up a significant portion of the fleet, in terms of numbers of hulls in the water.  What does that mean, though, in terms of impact on the future fleet? 

LCS-1, USS Freedom - Taking Over the Fleet?
For the sake of this discussion, let's assume that the Navy goes ahead with the full 55 ship construction run.  As of this writing, the official Naval Vessel Register (NVR) website lists the current fleet size as 283 ships which, at the moment, includes destroyers, carriers, cruisers, subs, amphibious ships, and some support and logistics vessels.  Of the total, 209 are actual combat vessels.  Consider, now, the impact of the LCS construction program on the combat capability of the future fleet.  If the number of combat vessels stays the same but the composition is adjusted to include 55 LCS, that means that a quarter of the fleet will be ships that have very limited weapons fits and are deemed non-survivable in a hostile enviroment (combat!) by the Navy's own admission.  Sure, we may still be able to claim to have a 300 ship fleet but 25% of it will be toothless compared to now. 

Of course, if budget concerns force continued early retirements so that the fleet shrinks even further then the proportion of LCS goes up and further decreases the fleet's combat capability.

This is the real problem posed by the LCS - it dilutes the combat capability of the fleet while allowing politicians and Navy leadership to claim that we have a 300 ship fleet.

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