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!