Thursday, October 10, 2013

LCS Support

We recently examined LCS Operating Costs and one of the issues identified was the shore-based component of the crew.  The difficulty in trying to assess that component was that nothing was known about its size.  Co-incidentally, Defense News website just recently published an article offering a glimpse at the Navy’s first attempt at sizing the shore based component (1).

“One sensitivity has been the number of US people supporting the LCS effort — a footprint the Singaporeans would like to keep small.

The current team of about 10 Navy people supporting Freedom has been about right, Taylor said, although one or two positions might be added as the LCS force builds up.

‘We’re not trying to build up a great big organization,’ Taylor said. ‘We’re trying to maintain a small footprint here in Singapore, and still reach out to a very large area.’

The shore support also includes nine contractors from Lockheed Martin, seven for the ship and two for the mission package, said Capt. Dan Brintzinghoffer, the LCS fleet introduction program manager at Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington. At least one contractor, and at times as many as three more, is embarked on Freedom to handle maintenance issues.”

Adding up the numbers from above we see 10 Navy personnel and 9 contractors plus 1-3 more contractors aboard ship.  So, for the original LCS embarked crew size of 40, the shore-based component increases the effective crew size by 25% and with the contractors figured in, the effective crew size increases from 40 to 60-63, a 50% or greater increase.

Of course, the shore-based component seems unlikely to increase linearly as additional ships are added.  Presumably, the shore-based component will be able to service multiple ships with only small incremental increases in support crew size.  On the other hand, Freedom’s experience so far indicates that the level of maintenance support required may exceed the anticipated support crew’s capacity.  We’ll keep an eye on this to see how it plays out.


  1. One thing I would like to add to my previous point about the high level of training needed for LCS crew. That is with such high levels of training you will also need higher pay to keep these people and that means either higher then normal rank or a bonus system to get them to stay. From photos of the LCS it appear that they have the higher ranks since they show 1st class and Chiefs turning wrenches in the engine rooms.

    The same applies to the contractors, to get them to stay overseas and have enough experience for one to three of them to handle the maintenance on the LCS is going to mean having to pay them more.

    I also question the number of contractors, are these experienced personnel going to be the ones busting rust and painting the waterline? I doubt it, so they are probably also going to have to hire sub contractors to do that work, whether they will be American or locals I don’t know. If Americans you will have to fly them out and pay their high wage or if local they might be cheaper but the security concerns will be higher

    There is no free lunch, cut one place and you will have to add at least some of it back elsewhere. Cut personnel and you need to replace it with either more complicated equipment or higher more costly personnel or some combination of both.

    Its not to say that you should not try but its more complicated then just counting personnel

  2. Not a Navy guy so don't know how the system works plus LCS is new but will servicemen want the jobs? Will it be seen as a good posting or not? Sure the sailors will do as told and do their duties but will they want to stay on LCS or try as hard as possible to transfer out? My example would be how USAF is having a hard time finding and keeping UAV pilots, it also isn't seen as "glamorous" and with small potential for advancement.

    LCS isn't a carrier or a SSN, that's for sure.

  3. NICO brings up a good point but we are on the outside looking in. There will be many that see serving on the LCS as a bonus. It will be sold to sailors as the opportunity to be part of a smaller "elite" team and the higher ranks aboard show that already. For all we know, the LCS might be a comfortable, rewarding duty station for those aboard. On the other hand, it might be a maintenance nightmare for such a small crew as the ocean's effects on hulls and equipment are a constant across all fleets. Perhaps someone with direct knowledge would care to comment.
    The tactical and strategic (and economic and political) issues are what we debate here as taxpayers and concerned citizens, and it seems that the LCS is loaded with unintended, or at least deliberately minimized, consequences.
    I wonder how the LCS is stacking up against the National Security Cutter that is being built for the Coast Guard? It has had a bit of problems itself but with a larger crew embarked, I wonder if the Coasties are able to keep it ship-shape in house. I still think the Patrol Frigate version would have been the better buy for our "Pivot to Asia" even if the initial per unit cost is more.

  4. NICO and WJ bring up good points and their comments prompt another thought along that same line. If the Navy follows through with 50+ LCS and they wind up making up a third of the combat fleet, someday our future leaders will drawn, in part, from the ranks of LCS officers. I'd hate to think of a crop of future naval leaders who think the LCS is what a combat vessel is. We're being led, currently, by a CNO who is almost exclusively focused on the peacetime naval activities. How much worse will it be when we have leaders who think the LCS is what combat is?


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