Defense News website (1) reports on a classified memo, “Vision for the 2025 Surface Fleet”, from VAdm. Tom Copeman, Naval Surface Forces, that contains a number of fascinating recommendations. Among them are,
- Discontinue the dual buy LCS at the 24 already built or on order and, instead, select one or the other or, alternatively, an up-gunned version of one or a completely new ship.
- Recommends against building the DDG-51 Flt III in favor of a larger purpose-designed cruiser.
- Recommends increased reliance on mobile landing platforms (MLP) and afloat forward staging bases (AFSB).
- Recommends new amphibious construction scaled down to the size forces more commonly used. Presumably, this is directed towards Company size landing forces.
- Calls for new electronic warfare systems to replace the SLQ-32.
- Calls for more effective ship launched ASW weapons.
- Calls for more effective anti-ship missiles.
A few things are interesting about this. The top surface warfare commander is advocating for an end to the LCS, at least in its current form. He appears to recognize the developmental difficulties facing the modules. If the value of a carrier lies in its air wing, the value of the LCS lies in its modules and those modules are many years away from achieving even a modest level of usefulness. While not offering a specific alternative, the suggestion is that the current incarnation of the LCS is a failure.
While that’s hardly a surprise to the rest of us, it does represent a radical departure from the Navy public relations line and that’s the other interesting aspect to Adm. Copeman’s LCS position. The Navy has been ruthless in ensuring that anyone connected to the Navy has nothing but glowing remarks about the LCS. Either Adm. Copeman is displaying career ending candor in going against the Navy line or he is merely reflecting a growing sense of disappointment within the Navy about the LCS and the sentiment is strong enough that he feels safe to state it publicly. I suspect the latter.
ComNavOps has talked repeatedly about the overabundance of Navy amphibious capability relative to reasonably foreseeable need and has advocated the use of Company size ships and landing forces. Adm. Copeman seems to be echoing this though, again, we’re lacking specifics.
The call for a new electronic warfare system is a recognition that Aegis/Standard is not the only way to deal with incoming missiles. In fact, Aegis/Standard may not even be the most effective way. Regardless, a new, more effective electronic warfare system will provide a means to upgrade the effectiveness of every ship in the fleet. Whether such a system can be developed remains to be seen but it’s at least casting an eye in the right direction.
The call for more effective ship launched ASW weapons is outstanding. The current ship launched torpedos are not really adequate. If we’re going to use the LCS (or Copeman’s successor platform) in an up close and personal ASW role then we definitely need more and better ASW weapons. A modernized version of the Hedgehog system would be a good starting point.
Taken together, Adm. Copeman’s comments paint a vastly different picture of the future of the surface Navy than the official version. We’ll have to wait and see what, if anything, comes of this. Regardless, I applaud Adm. Copeman for his vision and courage in going on the record with it.
By the way, you’ll recall that this is the same Adm. Copeman who I singled out for praise in an earlier post for recognizing that the Navy has been hollowed out and for suggesting a different means of dealing with the sequestration than CNO Greenert is using.
Perhaps Adm. Copeman should be the CNO?