I can’t tell you how many comments, texts, and emails ComNavOps has received since the new budget announcement came out that the LCS was dead and a frigate would be pursued. They all start with, “Here’s what I think a new frigate should have,” followed by a list of favorite weapons. Many reference foreign frigate designs. In short, everyone has their idea of what a new frigate should be. And, taken in isolation (meaning divorced from strategic and force structure needs), they’re all fine.
Here, though, is the reality.
The Navy is not going to buy a foreign design. If for no other reason, the Congressional outcry about job loss prohibits that approach. There is a very remote possibility that the Navy could obtain license rights to a foreign design for production in
, I suppose, but, for better or worse, that’s just not how the Navy works. Sure, we’ll buy a foreign radar or something but not a foreign ship. America
The Navy could build a scaled down Burke but there’s one important part of a Burke that would not scale down and that’s the cost. This would be a fiscal non-starter.
The Navy could build a modernized Perry and, to be honest, there’s a lot to be said for this approach. It’s a proven design and would require somewhat less development, one would hope. A modernized (stealth’ed) superstructure and some VLS cells would make for a pretty fair frigate. However, the Navy is never going to take this approach because doing so would be an admission that the Navy was wrong all along about the LCS issue and the Perrys. You’ll recall all the statements from the Navy that the Perrys couldn’t be modernized in any useful manner.
OK, that covers what the Navy won’t do. What will it do?
The Navy is going to build a frigate-ized version of the LCS very similar to the export versions that the LCS manufacturers have proposed. The hull designs already exist, the manufacturers have already done preliminary design work, and the industrial production base already exists.
The Navy is also going to do this because it’s the shortest route to getting hulls in the water. You’ll recall that the original LCS impetus was hulls in the water as fast as possible (the end of the Cold War was threatening the Navy’s budget slice) and the Navy would figure out what to do with them later. Well, the same motivation exists for the new frigate. The Navy desperately wants a major construction program funded so as to ensure future budget slices. If the Navy goes too long without building new, low end ships and the world doesn’t collapse, it may be difficult for the Navy to justify an increase in their slice of the budget pie several years down the road when a new design is finally ready. For that reason, the Navy will go with whatever gets hulls in the water the quickest and will worry about what to do with them later (boy that sentence sounds familiar). Unfortunately, the quickest route is an export LCS.
I say “unfortunate” because the LCS design is fundamentally flawed in so many ways. I’m not going to bother listing them since we’ve covered them repeatedly. Simply adding on a few VLS cells isn’t going to make the LCS a winner.
I could be wrong about this.
I hope I’m wrong about this.
I’m rarely wrong about things like this.