Does anyone else think the Navy caved a bit too easily on the LCS termination issue? Now, there could be several reasons for this such as a desire by the Navy to move on to a bigger LCS or a dawning recognition within the Navy that the LCS is an ineffective dead end in its current form. Remember, though, that the Navy bet “all-in” on the LCS as its only surface mine countermeasures (MCM) platform. The Avenger class MCM vessels were allowed to rot, literally, in anticipation of the LCS. The Navy has scrambled to restore the Avengers but they clearly see them only as a stopgap measure. So far, though, the LCS and its MCM module have failed miserably with the MCM module components largely failing to meet their specifications despite years of development. Regardless, if the LCS is the only viable MCM platform why would the Navy tamely agree to ending the current LCS production run at 32 (or less, if Congress opts not to fund even those)?
Well, here’s a bit of pure speculation, unsupported by any definitive facts (yeah, just the kind of post I like!)…
Recall that the USS Ponce was saved from retirement and converted to an Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB). Among
’s capabilities and uses is the ability to act as an MCM mothership. As an AFSB, the ship operates MH-53 helos and Kingfish remote unmanned mine search vehicles among other platforms and capabilities. Ponce has participated in two major international MCM exercises, IMCMEX 2012 and IMCMEX 2013, with great success, according to the Navy press releases. To be fair, everything succeeds wonderfully according to Navy press releases so that may not be a fair assessment. Nevertheless, it’s noteworthy that the Navy’s dedicated MCM platform, the LCS, did not participate in either exercise. Ponce
|Ponce - The Future of MCM?|
Could it be that the AFSB MCM mothership concept has proven so successful that the LCS has been relegated to secondary status as far as the future of Navy MCM efforts? Most serious discussions of MCM efforts acknowledge that effective MCM operations will require large numbers of various types of MCM platforms including helos, remote underwater vehicles, remote surface vehicles, dedicated Avenger type vessels, etc. What better platform to support those operations and various platforms than a converted amphibious ship?
As I said, this is just speculation but it makes a lot of sense to me.