Well, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Gilday seems to have suddenly remembered the LCS and wants to see them deployed a few more times. Of course, what they would usefully do on deployment, he didn’t say and I can’t imagine but at least it might give the crew some sea time.
We’ve known the LCS has had major reliability and maintenance problems, all along, despite the Navy’s constant glowing affirmations about the miracle of the LCS maintenance model – you know, the model that involves no at sea maintenance and requires excessively costly dock side maintenance every couple of weeks. Well, CNO Gilday now acknowledges the problems.
We know enough about that platform [ed. the LCS] and the problems that we have that plague us with regard to reliability and sustainability, and I need them resolved.” (1)
LCS reliability problems have impacted deployments with some stunning failures and the specter of systemic propulsion problems looms large for future deployments.
“The propulsion architecture’s unreliability means you are going to have to come up with a different way to deploy the ship that doesn’t require every deployment to be transoceanic,” Clark [Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.] said. “By the time the ship gets to Singapore, it needs a lot of work done to it and your deployment time is cut down by the fact that you have to repair the ship once it arrives. (1)
What does this systemic inability to transit tell us about the Navy’s fantasy vision of distributed lethality operations deep inside enemy waters? It tells us that it’s pure fantasy. If we can’t even transit from one port to the next, how can the LCS operate for extended periods in combat? Oh wait, we can’t because even if we can get to the operating area without breaking down, we have to return to port every two weeks for dock side maintenance. Seriously, who came up with this maintenance model and then what genius ignored the model and decided it made the LCS ideal for distributed lethality?
Reliability and maintenance aside, there’s also the matter of the non-existent modules. The only module that exists in any semi-functional form is the anti-surface warfare (ASuW) module and it’s only semi-functional because the original specifications and requirements have been downgraded so completely. The anti-submarine (ASW) and mine countermeasure (MCM) modules have been in development for decades and show no signs of being ready in our lifetimes.
CNO Gilday acknowledges the modules failures.
“I have to deliver ... both the mine and ASW modules.” (1)
Good luck, CNO! You’re running out of time. Four of the ships are being immediately retired, never having seen a module, and the rest are rapidly running through their lifespans, again without any functional modules. We’re going to see more LCS retiring without ever having carried a useful, functional module. That’s just embarrassing.
Just Park It Off To The Side Somewhere
And We'll Dispose Of It When We Get Some Time
Without modules, the LCS is barely a Coast Guard cutter. Gilday acknowledges this,
The Navy deployed the LCS Detroit to South America — the 4th Fleet area of operations — last year on a counternarcotics mission, and it returned earlier this month. Those are the kinds of missions for which the LCS is perfectly suited, Gilday said.
“I can deploy these things with a [law enforcement detachment] and a signals intelligence capability, and I can do that on LCS with carry-on gear,” Gilday said. “It’s the right kind of platform for that. (1)
So, CNO Gilday acknowledges that the Navy built a supposed warship whose only suitable purpose is low end, Coast Guard type missions. Nicely done, Navy.
One of the major problems for the LCS is that it no longer offers anything unique. For example, the new frigate will offer superior ASW capability – that actually works when the ship is delivered, one hopes! That said, why would the Navy continue to pour money into the LCS and ASW module when the LCS is only marginally deployable and will begin retiring soon? It is not hard to foresee the Navy deciding to suspend LCS ASW funding.
Similarly, the LCS ASuW module offers nothing that the new frigate doesn’t offer ten times over.
The LCS MCM capability would be useful since there is no alternative but it’s still years away and, again, the ships are going to begin retiring before the modules start showing up!
Gilday sums his LCS objective up, thusly,
“LCS for me is something, on my watch, I’ve got to get right.” (1)
Seriously, the opportunity for the LCS to ‘get right’ was before the program started, when it was still a concept. That was the time to develop a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and understand what you would and would not get from such a ship. The opportunity for the LCS to ‘get right’ was before you committed to using non-existent technology. The opportunity for the LCS to ‘get right’ was before you conceived an idiotic no-maintenance-at-sea concept.
I’m sorry, CNO Gilday but the opportunity for the LCS to ‘get right’ ended on day one of the program when the Navy committed to 55 ships with no CONOPS, non-existent technology, and an idiotic maintenance plan. There’s nothing left to ‘get right’. The best thing that can be done, at this point, is to stop kidding yourself that this class has anything to offer, retire the entire class, and move on to more pressing matters. Stop pouring money into an acquisition money pit and acknowledge what all the rest of us could see from day one – that the program was an ill-conceived, dismal failure – and take your lumps and move on.
(1)Defense News website, “US Navy prepares major surge of littoral combat ship deployments”, David B. Larter, 1-Aug-2020,https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2020/07/31/the-us-navy-is-preparing-a-major-surge-of-lcs-deployments/