Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Electronic LCS

I keep looking for missions or roles that the LCS can perform since it’s having trouble with its intended ones.  Well, here’s a possibility – an electronic surveillance and intelligence gathering platform. 

In the past we’ve performed this role using a variety of platforms.  Do you remember the Pueblo, captured by the N.Koreans?  Or, how about the powerful but relatively short-lived ES-3A Shadow which was a modified S-3A Viking?  Submarines have always been a popular choice.  Many other platforms have performed various facets of the electronic intelligence gathering mission, as well.

We’ve got LCS’s that are literally going to be sailing around with nothing worthwhile to do while they wait for useful modules to be developed over the next decade or so.  Why not outfit a few as electronic intelligence gatherers?  Consider the advantages: huge amounts of space to mount antennas, unlimited power (on a relative basis), huge amounts of space to install the computers and signal processing equipment, and plenty of room for specialist personnel.  All of the required equipment already exists so it ought to be a fairly quick process to put together a package.

Another advantage is that the LCS has defensive capabilities, at least compared to previous intel platforms.  While the RAM and 57 mm gun are laughable for combat, they represent a fairly potent capability for self-defense during peacetime harassment incidents.  It would be difficult for an enemy to pull off another Pueblo event.  Heck, if all else fails, the LCS has plenty of speed to run away.

A handful of electronic surveillance LCS’s off N.Korea, Iran, certain areas in Africa, and prowling the South/East China Seas might prove beneficial.

Of course, the biggest drawbacks to such a proposal are the same ones that make the LCS a poor choice for sustained deployment anywhere.  The ship has limited range and very limited endurance.  Still, a group of a few ships could provide sustained coverage of an area via a rotation. 

Hey, this may not be a perfect idea but I’m trying to come up with something useful for the LCS to do!  If not this or something similar, we’ll see an endless string of Singapore-type PR deployments that aren’t worth the fuel they use.

14 comments:

  1. This is why the LCS should be armed like a Corvette and Arm them in the same fashion as a Corvette that is commonly sailed in Europe and Asia.

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  2. I believe that such electronic intelligences has been discussed in early LCS papers.

    I will point out there are missions the LCSs can preform today. These include police actions, bout near and far from the US. Screening for small craft, and the many other no wartime roles they are intended for.

    The idea that all LCS mission will require complicated mission modules is untrue.

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    1. GLof, I'm trying to find a mission that justifies the LCS' cost. Of course, the LCS can perform myriad "garbage" missions but they don't require or justify the cost of the LCS. A $20M Cyclone can perform those jobs just as well and for a fraction of the cost.

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    2. Not unless you grow the PC by a fact of ten, and add a helicopter deck and hanger.

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    3. Helo deck and spacious hangar are one of LCS few redeeming features. I don't think ComNavOps gets how important aviation is to nearly every mission set - both high and low end.

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  3. Unless you get rid of the helo pad, I don't think either LCS design has a lot of space to mount antennas. Also, they may have a lot of power, but it's all tied up in the propulsion plant and not available on the grid. Lastly, they really don't have much space for additional personnel, beyond the core and mission module crew. They tried using container-based accommodations in the mission bay, but this apparently didn't go well.

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    1. B.Smitty, since the ship wouldn't be doing ASW or MCM, absolutely the flight deck could be used for mounting antennas, if needed.

      Antennas don't need much power, on a relative basis. Hence, there should be "unlimited" power. If there are specific intel gathering electronics that require large amounts of power, let me know, as I'm unaware of them. If power were an issue, a dedicated generator could always be added.

      The entire hangar and mission bay areas could be converted to berthing and crew comfort.

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    2. Would be an interesting option for the next gen T-AGOS ships, but I have a feeling your point about lack of endurance and range would kill it. It's be nice to be able to run away from Chinese harassment though.

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    3. Isn't this why we are buying P-8, Triton and Fire Scout? You can suck in an awful lot more electrons from 20k ft than from sea level!

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    4. And you can mount an awful lot more/bigger antennas on a ship than a plane along with all the signal processing computers and manpower to do on-the-spot real time analysis.

      That said, a Fire Scout on an electronic LCS would be a great idea if it could add capability (I'm dubious - a Fire Scout can't carry much but, hey, who knows?).

      Have you looked at pictures of all the electronic "stuff" we mount on the various intel ships we've used in the past? That stuff has to be there for a reason. Planes can't carry all that!

      No one is arguing that we get rid of every other monitoring platform in favor of an electronic LCS. I'm just suggesting a way to get some value out of the LCS.

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    5. Some random thoughts:

      I think collecting electronic intel with surface ships has been found by the Navy to be a path of diminishing returns. You just can't suck in enough signals from an altitude of 30 ft - at least not without getting really close to the enemy's shores.

      EP-3 Aires has been doing the bulk of the navy's ELINT collection for about 40 yrs. Take a look at all the antennas mounted on it.

      The MQ-8C Fire Scout has about double the payload and endurance of the MQ-8B - could be a fairly effective collector if properly equipped.

      And you don't necessarily need to have the analysts physically collocated with the collecting platform. Unmanned collection vehicles (BAMS, Fire Scout, etc.) can devote more SWAP to antennas, while keeping crew out of harms way.

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  4. Just how many people do you think are required for an intel run. If you have no helicopter, and no other mission modules, you have room for forty techs to maintain all the recievers.Add if addition power is required there room on the flex deck for mobil generator.

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  5. Has the Coast Guard expressed interest in the LCS? It seems like this ship would be able to meet some of their missions' needs. For example, anti-drug smuggling, rescue, buoy maintenance in remote areas, ...

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    1. The Coast Guard doesn't want them. Too expensive to buy, way too expensive to sustain, and poor endurance and range.

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