Commenters (and ComNavOps!) have often stated the desire for motherships in various roles. Most people view a mothership as a vessel that provides fuel, munitions, maintenance, and supplies for a group of otherwise short-legged vessels thereby allowing the smaller vessels to operate at greater distance from ports or operate for longer periods of time without returning to port. For example, a common suggestion is for a mothership to support squadrons of LCSs. Another example is a mothership to support small MCM assets.
The mothership concept can be further extended. Not only can the mothership provide sustainment support for smaller vessels but it can also provide active combat capabilities that support and enhance the capabilities of the ships it’s supporting.
For example, an ASW mothership and a group of ASW configured LCSs (assuming they ever get a functional ASW module!) can complement each other while acting as an ASW hunter-killer group. The mothership, presumably a small amphib type, could provide more capable radar and sensors and host several ASW helos to augment the LCS’ limited aviation capabilities. The LCSs, in turn, could provide expanded reach for the mothership allowing longer range prosecutions at no risk to the mothership. In addition, a modified LCS could provide more robust, layered AAW protection for the mothership. Thus, in addition to providing sustainment support, the mothership and its group can complement each others combat capabilities.
Another interesting example might be an LCS, suitably modified for extended range, better sensors, and medium range AAW, acting as a mothership to a group of Cyclone type patrol vessels. The patrol vessels act as the hands of the LCS and conduct extended range patrols and boarding activities while the LCS provides a small degree of aviation support and superior sensor awareness to guide the smaller vessel’s operations.
I’ll leave it to you to imagine other mothership combinations that could prove useful.
Without getting into specific design concepts, motherships operating in the type of role outlined here would generally take the form of small ampibs, like the old LSDs and whatnot, and would mount enhanced AAW, sensors, and whatever else makes sense for their specific role.
The point is that motherships can perform more than just simple resupply and the Navy should begin to think of them as force multipliers.