The Navy is heavily invested in helicopters from a tactical perspective and few people even pause to consider the limits of their applicability. Before I go any further, let me state that I, too, see the obvious capabilities of helos. However, I also see their limitations. Let’s look at bit closer at the use of helos in a littoral combat zone since helos will be a major, or perhaps the major, weapon system of the LCS.
|SAM - Counter to the Helo?|
The above comments also apply in general to littoral ASW. In the ASW role, helos made their reputation, and deservedly so, during the Cold War sub hunting days in the open ocean which did, indeed, constitute a permissive environment. In the littoral zone, as described above, the helo is capable of being targeted multiple ways and may well find itself at high risk. One wonders if this may have been part of the rationale for the original LCS conceptual ASW module consisting of multiple, off-board unmanned underwater and surface vehicles – an attempt to reduce dependence on easily targeted helos.
|Helo - Endangered Species?|
The point of this little thought exercise is that we should not become overly dependent on the helo alone. The LCS (or any ship attempting to fight in the littoral zone) needs a range of options which should include a small ship-launched Griffon/Hellfire-like missile with a range of several miles or more as well as a robust gun arrangement with multiple guns and fields of fire to the stern so that the LCS can use its speed as a tactic to maintain separation. What’s needed for shallow water ASW is a topic for another day.