ComNavOps came across an old Proceedings article describing a littoral combatant vessel (1) and the proffered ship’s characteristics are fascinating to compare to the actual LCS that came out of the littoral combatant effort. The littoral vessel was referred to as a Guerrilla Warfare Ship (GWS) and it had the following characteristics.
- Semi-submersible to minimize radar and thermal signatures; when submerged, only sensor arrays, guns, comms, and air intake louvers would be exposed
- Subsurface exhausts to reduce thermal signature
- Anechoic coating
- Low speed propulsion pods for station keeping
- Narrow beam UAV comm and satellite links
- 60+ kt speed
- Automatic launch of small UAVs from stowage cells (no flight deck)
- Medium range (60 mile) anti-surface missiles
- No exterior safety nets, lifelines, railings, masts, ladders, or hatch mechanisms to reduce radar signatures
- Navigation aids for very near shore navigation and station keeping
- Thermal, IR, and enhanced light optics for night operations
- 105 mm low profile, stabilized main gun
- 25-30 mm secondary gun(s)
- Rocket launched depth charges to counter mini-subs and swimmers
- 21 day endurance with vertical replenishment
- 200 ft length, 47 ft beam, 600 tons
- Built in sound dampening for acoustic signature reduction
- Crew size = 20
- Fit in an amphibious ship well deck (for transoceanic transport?)
While not explicitly spelled out, the concept of operations (CONOPS) for this vessel seemed to be one of loitering in key areas conducting very close surveillance in a semi-submerged, electromagnetically silent mode and then rising up to attack and run to the next location. I like that the weapons and characteristics support the CONOPS rather than being a random collection of items that do not tie into the ship’s mission or are sub-optimal for the mission as is the case with the LCS and JSF.
|Cover Illustration of Guerrilla Warfare Ship|
It’s interesting to compare the ship’s characteristics to the LCS which is five times the displacement and almost 200 ft longer. The GWS would have been an effective surveillance vessel and a nasty ambusher. In fact, the GWS specs put the much larger LCS to shame.
The idea of a small vessel without a flight deck but still capable of aerial surveillance operations via the encapsulated UAVs is fascinating. ComNavOps believes that the Navy has gone too far in insisting on placing helos, flight decks, and hangars on every vessel larger than a rowboat. The GWS offers an interesting and viable alternative although the recovery method for the UAVs is not spelled out.
This is one path the LCS could have gone and it would have been a much more effective one and useful one. To be fair, though, almost any alternative to the LCS would have been more effective. Still, what might have been … …
(1) USNI Proceedings, “A Combatant for the Littorals”, LCdr. Dave Weeks, USN(R), Nov 1999, p. 26