Sunday, July 15, 2012

LCS - Looking for a Few Good Missions, Part II

All right, I can see I was wrong.  I thought the Defense News article linked in the preceeding post about the Navy's pessimistic self-assessment of the LCS was self-expanatory and self-evident.  Hence, I didn't comment much on it.  I thought people would read it and come to the, by now, incredibly obvious conclusion that this program is fatally flawed.  I was wrong.  Unbelievably, a few people not only continue to blindly support the program but, against all logic, saw that article as good news in some twisted realm of reasoning.  So, I'll have to provide some additional analysis. 

Consider the following quote from the article (underlining and bold emphasis is my addition),

"... the new assessments conclude the ships are not equal to today’s frigates or mine countermeasures ships, and they are too large to operate as patrol boats.

The LCS, according to the assessments, is not able to fulfill most of the fleet missions required by the Navy’s primary strategy document, the “Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” and included in a 2011 revision of the LCS CONOPS document.

Equipped with a surface warfare or maritime security mission package, the ships were judged capable of carrying out theater security cooperation and deterrence missions, and maritime security operations, such as anti-piracy.

But the LCS vessels cannot successfully perform three other core missions envisioned for them — forward presence, sea control or power projection missions — and they can provide only limited humanitarian assistance or disaster relief operations, sources said.

The shortcomings are well known in the fleet, prompting a perception that service leaders are looking for missions to fit LCS, rather than the other way around."
Let me repeat and summarize the highlighted sentences:  the Navy has concluded that the LCS cannot perform its missions.  How much more analysis is needed?  The program is a total failure.

Having said that, here's what's actually going to happen.  The Navy is too heavily invested in this program from both a monetary and, more importantly, credibility standpoint to back out now.  They have quite literally sworn to Congress that the LCS was absolutely vital to our ability to operate in the littorals and, further, that the LCS would dominate the littorals.  To turn around now and admit that all of that was wrong would cost the Navy what little credibility they still have.  Instead, they will look desperately for alternative missions and suggest that that was the plan all along.  Sadly, the types of missions that the LCS can perform are the very low end, peacetime presence and patrol missions that a Coast Guard cutter does. 

LCS - Straight to the Bottom?

Unfortunately, this leaves the Navy with two glaring gaps in capability.  One is the mine counter-measures mission (MCM) and the other is shallow water anti-submarine warfare (ASW).  The Navy bet "all in" on the MCM module and lost, leaving us with only a dozen Avenger class MCM vessels that have been so badly neglected that many of them can't even get underway.  The shallow water ASW module is virtually non-existent and what technology it has is just a re-hash of existing technology.  Worse, the ASW has moved from being an off-board system of remote, unmanned sensors and weapons to a traditional on-board approach but it's on a ship that isn't optimized for ASW.  The LCS has no internal engine and hull quieting, Prairie/Masker type of silencing, or any other ASW optimization.  In short, it's going to be the hunted not the hunter.  No wonder the LCS was deemed unable to fulfill the mission!

While there has been speculation that the program will be terminated after 24 seaframes, I'm not at all certain that that will happen.  This may be the program that the Navy rides right to the bottom.  Potentially, this could mean that a quarter of our future battle fleet will consist of a ship that the Navy, itself, has deemed unable to fulfill its missions.

And yet, some people still support this thing?!

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