You all know that the Navy is going to build the next batch of LCS’s as “frigates”. They aren’t even remotely capable of performing as a frigate but that’s not the point of this post. Instead, consider what the changes mean.
It means that the ships will now carry all the equipment needed to conduct ASuW and ASW simultaneously. OK. So, …?
So, that means a significantly larger crew. Think about it. The ship will carry the equivalent of two modules instead of one. Each module would have had a module specialist crew of 15-30 depending on what the final modules consisted of. Now, they’ll have to carry 30-60 module specialists. There will be more consoles to man, more weapon and electronics maintenance to perform (I haven’t heard whether the Navy will attempt to stick with the no-maintenance concept or not), a larger CIC watchstanding requirement, and so on. Of course, there’s also the more mundane needs. A larger crew will require more cooks and personnel to handle the ship’s hotel services.
So what are we looking at in terms of crew size? Well, assuming a “core” crew of 50 (remember the Navy has already increased the core crew size and added 20 extra berths), plus 30-60 specialists, plus a helo detachment of around 24 and we’re looking at a crew of 104-134. Now, bear in mind, this is just speculation and analysis on my part. The Navy hasn’t shared their idea of crew size with me, yet. Also, remember that if the Navy abandons the no-shipboard-maintenance concept, the crew size will have to increase greatly in order to perform all the maintenance on board the ship. At that point, we’ll be right back to the Perry crew size.
The problem is that the LCS was not sized and designed to accommodate that much crew. The ship does not have the berthing, galley space, food storage, refrigerated storage, water storage, heads, and all the other hotel services required to support that size crew. Given the weight issues the class already faces, trying to add more of all those things will be a challenge. It’s a zero sum game regarding weight. If we add more hotel services, we need to remove something else to compensate. What will be removed? We’ll have to wait and see. We already know that the modules are under weight constraints to the detriment of performance. Calling the LCS a frigate does not suddenly make the LCS a good ship.
The original LCS concept has been pretty much abandoned, hasn’t it?