Monday, April 3, 2017

LCS - Can't Give 'Em Away

We’ve beaten the dead horse of an LCS program for years.  It’s almost gotten to the point where it’s not even fun anymore.  That said, people have lately suggested several things we should do with the LCS’s ranging from serious to tongue-in-cheek and from SinkEx’ing them to giving them to the Coast Guard.

I thought I’d take a moment to look at a couple of semi-serious alternative uses.

The “give ‘em to the Coast Guard” is the most popular semi-serious proposal.  Unfortunately, the LCS offers no capabilities that the Coast Guard needs.  The CG’s National Security Cutter is, arguably, a better warship so they gain nothing from that.  The LCS was designed with very limited at-sea endurance which doesn’t help the CG any.  The LCS is way too expensive to operate.  Given the designed-in land-based maintenance requirement, the CG would have to set up multiple dedicated service centers for the LCS with extensive shore-side maintenance facilities and a significant number of dedicated maintenance personnel and that’s just way more infrastructure than the CG can afford.  The Navy is learning that the required shore-side personnel are 2-3x what they had originally, if stupidly, estimated. 

Even if the CG wanted to scrap the minimal manning and give the LCS a full crew, the LCS doesn’t have the capacity for more crew.  It lacks food storage, cold storage, water storage, berthing, showers, heads, galley space, etc. to accommodate more crew.  While it might be possible to add berthing in the previous modular spaces, there is just no realistic way to increase galley space, food storage, cold storage, etc.  The LCS was designed around the two week deployment model and any increase in personnel further reduces that deployed time. 

Related to the short deployment model, the LCS range is only around a few thousand miles.  Compare that to the CG’s National Security Cutter which Wiki credits with a range of 12,000 nm (speed unspecified).  The LCS range does not meet CG needs.

In short, the LCS offers nothing to the CG in terms of capability and is far too expensive to operate.

Sell ‘em to other countries, is another popular refrain.  Unfortunately, the LCS has been proposed to numerous countries as a sale item and no one has yet bought one.  Even at vastly reduced prices just to unload them, the same problems as outlined for the CG apply to other countries.  The limited combat capability and extremely limited endurance combined with the need for an extensive land-based maintenance infrastructure make the LCS undesirable even at giveaway prices.

LCS?  Can’t even give ‘em away!

16 comments:

  1. I propose we help to halt the importation of drugs by giving them to the drug cartels.

    What's in it for the cartels:
    They are fast, flashy, have enough range to make the run, and have a crap ton of cargo carrying capacity. Minimal manning and range aren't issues because the runs are so short. Berthing is arguably better than a cigarette boat or a narco sub. And it would make a decent yacht in the off drug running season. Money to operate them isn't an issue because the illicit drug profit margin is already so huge. Great flight deck for your Helo and/or parties!

    What's in it for the CG/United States:
    We know they'll break down mid route. We'll be able to track drug runs by where the maintenance contractors go. The noise of these things should be able to be trackable, so that after they break down the CG can move in and make a nice big score. Just stand off and board with small RHIB's that the 57mm gun has a hard time shooting at. And with the size of the mission bays, stopping just one is a major bust!

    Sorry. I'll take my tongue out of my cheek now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's pretty good. Full marks on that one!

      Delete
  2. I don't know much about the Coast Guard's force structure, but is there another, shorter range niche they could fill? Clearly they can't replace the NSC, but maybe they could fill a different role?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are many shorter range roles but they're filled by much smaller boats. The LCS would be hugely overexpensive for those roles.

      Delete
    2. Curtain AOR's in the USCG, the LCS would be a perfect fit for them. I could see curtain USCG Sectors getting the LCS such as Sector Guam, Sector Galveston, TX and Sector San Juan PR

      Delete
    3. Coast Guard wants to replace their medium endurance cutters with the Offshore patrol cutter.
      https://news.usni.org/2016/09/15/offshore-patrol-cutter-award-bests-biw-bollinger
      I think the logistics train would be a problem for the LCS in Coast Guard use.

      Delete
  3. I honestly don't think so. The mission is too different from what I can tell. I wondered many years ago why the Navy didn't give the Perry's to the CG and was told by some CG guys that they didn't want them due to different ship design philosophies. If that was true for the Perry's, so much more for the LCS I think.

    The CG depends on lots of range and on station time. Fuel economy is much more important to them, as is reliability, durability, and the ability to keep things in service themselves.

    So things that are important with the LCS; huge aviation facilities, huge gas turbines, and minimal manning work against the needs of the Coast Guard.

    But all this is just my conjecture.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is looking highly probable that more LCS & LCS/frigates will be ordered by Congress. Christopher P Cavas, DefenseNews, has an article on the future larger 350/5 fleet, notes the Navy as yet unable to define what its operational requirements are for a new small surface combatant (frigate) so more LCSs. Says the political pressure in Congress will incur strong opposition to any move to eliminate one of the shipyards for the follow on LCS/frigate and resultant cut in frigate shipbuilding build so delaying the aim of increasing fleet numbers.

    " The irony is that the Navy’s best choice to expand its fleet sooner rather than later is to continue building the ships so many opponents want to dump — rightly or wrongly."

    The GAO March 2017 - Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs Report has a line item for the Navy Frigate - LCS/frigate twelve ship class.
    "Navy expects to have a formal estimate in May 2017, and DOD’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation has indicated an independent cost estimate will be completed in fiscal year 2018 // The program office also noted that, while frigate detail design will not be completed before contract award, it has been completed for any areas common with LCS, which total greater than 60 percent for both LCS variants. " Mention has been made the Navy taking out weight, deleting the Freedom stabilizers and reducing the fuel tankage of the Independence.

    GAO current estimate is for a total Program (fiscal years 2016-2025): $8,317.9 million, the cost for the 'improved' seaframe $693 million, unknown what additional mission module/package cost will be. That contradicts Cavas "reality is that, aside from the LCS-derived frigate, any other design, including adapting an existing foreign ship, would take many years to develop and cost far more" which is what being sold to Congress by Navy.

    http://www.defensenews.com/articles/uncharted-waters-us-navy-still-searching-for-path-to-a-bigger-fleet
    https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/683838.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  5. In reality, the if the USN did gave the LCS to the USCG, it would only be used for curtain AOR's that don't require to go out that often and for that long. It would immediately start retiring the 210's that have been in service for 53 years and the reliance class cutters are showing their AGE. The only thing that would make the LCS viable for the USCG is to gut the water jets for an economical diesel engines.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Could a stripped LCS be used as an intra theater high speed transport? Perhaps it could be rigged to sprint to the beach and release Higgen's boats. More point defenses could be added. I'm just brainstorming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love free thinking but serious concepts!

      As a high speed intra-theater transport the LCS suffers from exceedingly short range - possibly less than 1000 nm, depending on speed. Also, depending on what the transport load/weight is, the range could be further reduced. And, the weight margins are zero or negative which precludes much in the way of load! The LCS really is a limited and flawed ship design! Still, with all those caveats, it could work under the right circumstances.

      The Marines are actually looking for a "sprint and release" vessels to convey AAVs close to within a few miles of shore. This could work if they modified the stern to ramp AAVs off quickly. I wonder how many AAVs an LCS could carry? I like this one! Why don't you take it a bit further and check the sizes of the AAV and LCS module space and estimate how many AAVs could be carried and then let us know what you find?

      Excellent comment.

      Delete
    2. The maximum mission module weight is 105 tons and with a stripped down LCS, let's assume that increases to 140 tons. That would be enough to carry 4 on the Marine's new Amphibious Combat vehicles.

      Not that Anonymous, but another one.

      Delete
    3. What about for USSOCOM use. US Special ops could use the LCS for Raids as a platform to launch special operations missions.

      Delete
  7. Hms campbeltown style usage sounds good.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Not related to this posts but do you have comments on the flying instructors refusal to fly in the Navy over safety concerns

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My only comment (due to lack of factual information) is the remarkable similarity in complaints to those noted by F-22 pilots who have experienced identical sounding problems for years. I wonder if it's all the same root problem?

      Delete