I often encounter people who concede that the LCS has problems but that they like the module concept and see it as the wave of the future.
With that in mind, recall that we previously looked at the LCS’s mission module status. Now, let’s examine the module concept, itself.
Right up front, there is an obvious penalty to having a warship based on a modular approach and it’s that the warship can only have one capability active at a time. If the tactical circumstances happen to match the installed module then the warship is well positioned to succeed. On the other hand, if the tactical circumstances don’t match the installed module then the warship is, at best, ill suited to the tactical scenario or, even worse, a liability requiring protection from other ships or aviation assets.
Yes, but isn’t that the whole point of modules that they can be rapidly switched to match the tactical situation? That modules provide tactical flexibility? In theory, yes. In practice, no.
Let’s consider whether a modular ship can actually achieve tactical flexibility. As an example, an LCS(ASuW module) receives a report of a sub heading for its area of operation and due to arrive within 24 hours. If the LCS can't swap its ASuW module for an ASW module in 24 hours, then it's not tactically flexible. The reality is that module swaps require 2-3 days pierside plus whatever travel time to and from the LCS’s area of operation and the module warehouse location. In the interim, the enemy is able to do as they wish. And, of course, the farther the module warehouse location is from the area of interest, the longer the LCS has to abandon the area. The point being that tactical requirments change in a shorter cycle than module swapping.
Strategic flexibility remains a potentially valid claim. Swapping an LCS to ASuW for the next several months because you're going to escort ships through waters threatened by small craft is not a problem. The several days it will take to make the swap are not critical compared to the several month time frame of the operation. So, I can see that the module concept offers a potential strategic flexibility but not a tactical flexibility.
Still, though, there’s no getting around the inherent desirability of a multi-purpose ship. The only way the single purpose module makes sense is if the module offers a capability so far beyond the multi-purpose ship’s corresponding capability that the loss of other functions becomes worth it. If the LCS modules were the transformational, littoral-dominating, generationally advanced examples of technology that the Navy promised then the modular concept might be advantageous. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no sign of that on the horizon.
Another overlooked aspect of modules is that they become a single point of failure. Since the modules can't be changed at sea, they must be warehoused at the installation sites. The problem with that is that it makes for a single point of failure. Take the
Middle East, for instance, if wanted to cripple the LCS effectiveness, all they'd have to do is destroy the Iran (the proposed warehouse site for the Mid East) installation site cranes or warehouses and the LCSs can't acquire the needed modules. I assume Bahrain has their own equivalent of SEALs or other SOF. It would be an ideal SOF type mission. Iran
Also, remember that the module consists of equipment and specialized crew. Without the specialists, the module is useless. This raises the logistical issue of what to do with the specialists while their particular module is in storage. Assembling the specialists (assuming we don't warehouse them, too!), when needed, from around the world will be a time consuming exercise. And, of course, the specialists themselves offer a tempting target.
I'm not sure the Navy thought all this out very well prior to embarking on the LCS program.
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