Wednesday, September 21, 2016

LCS Readiness

Over at his blog, Cdr. Salamander poses the question

“If we had to go to war, exactly what would the LCS we've commissioned over the last eight years be able to contribute?”

I don’t like repeating someone else’s blog post but this is simply too good to pass up.  I’ve kept you apprised of the mechanical failings of the LCS but when you see it summarized, it’s breathtaking (1).

  • USS FREEDOM (LCS 1): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from Jul 16.
  • USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2): Available.
  • USS FORT WORTH (LCS 3): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from Jan 16.
  • USS CORONADO (LCS 4): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from Aug 16.
  • USS MILWAUKEE (LCS 5): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from Dec 15.
  • USS JACKSON (LCS 6): Unavailable due to post-shock test repairs.
  • USS MONTGOMERY (LCS 8): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from Sep 16.

LCS-7, PCU Detroit, is built but won’t be commissioned until 22-Oct.

That’s impressive, isn’t it?  We’ve commissioned 7 LCS warships and only one is available for combat and it’s been designated a non-combatant training and test ship!

The good amphibian posed the question about the LCS and war but only provided an immediate, snapshot picture by way of an answer.  Let’s examine the question and answer a bit deeper and see if we can’t expand and expound on the Commander’s post.

A commissioned warship is supposed to be ready for war.  We’ve commissioned 7 LCS so we should have 7 LCS warships ready for war.  Setting aside their mechanical unreliability and unavailability, what do we have in the way of combat capability from our 7 LCS?

Currently, there is no functional mine countermeasures (MCM) module or anti-submarine (ASW) module.  That leaves only the anti-surface warfare (ASuW) module which consists of two 30 mm machine guns a rubber boat and a helo.  Not exactly an impressive combat capability, is it?  Worse, as best I can tell, only a few ASuW modules have been purchased and are available so only a few ships can even carry a module.

So, here we are with 7 commissioned LCS and all they can contribute to a peer war is the ability to shoot small boats?  The problem is that it’s not going to get better, to any appreciable extent, with time.

The LCS was intended to replace,

  • 55 Perry class frigates
  • 12 Avenger class MCM
  • 14 Cyclone class PC

According to the Navy’s latest LCS plan, we’re going to wind up with,

  • 8 LCS-ASuW
  • 8 LCS-MCM
  • 8 LCS-ASW

Further down the road, we may acquire an additional several LCS “frigates” to get to a total build of 40.

MCM vessels, while vital, are not part of the combat fleet.  They are auxiliaries.  That leaves us with a total of 16 LCS-ASuW/ASW that might, using a very relaxed definition, be construed as frigates with an additional 8 or so possible in the future.  We retired 55 true frigates and we’re going to get 16-24 pseudo-frigates to replace them and none of those will be even remotely close to a true frigate in terms of capability.

Similarly, we’re going to retire 12 Avenger MCM ships and get 8 replacements (assuming a workable MCM module is ever developed).

Let’s circle back to Cdr. Salamander’s question about what the LCS’s can contribute to war?  The answer is, next to nothing.

Worryingly, the Navy considers (and counts) the LCS as part of the combat fleet and is betting our future naval combat capability on these floating piles.  You do not want to be an LCS sailor if war comes!


(1)cdr salamander website, “LCS - Annus Horribilus”, 20-Sep-2016,


  1. CNOps: based on these alarming data, I have to conclude that very possibly you are right and I was wrong. The USN does not have a cunning plan to avoid a catastrophic war with China by failing to provide assets that would be useful in such a war. I would have liked to believe that, as preferable to the alternative: the USN chooses, for whatever reason, to provide itself with assets that will be of no plausible use in any war at all. I suppose, not wishing to accuse the USN leadership of total incompetence, one might suppose that they had intended to go along the no-use-in-a-war-against China route and gone far beyond their objective, but really I find that unlikely.

    Only consolation from the US point of view is that the Atlantic is wide, and the Pacific far wider. From the point of view of US allies on the far sides of those oceans, not much consolation.

    1. " ... I have to conclude that very possibly you are right and I was wrong."

      Congratulations. You are now a member of a very large and distinguished group that has seen the light!

      Heh, heh. :)

  2. I suppose if we are lucky an enemy missile or torpedo will hit an LCS instead of something valuable.

    1. They have to be able to deploy to even act as a missile sponge.

      I think most of the LCS sailors will be the safest in the fleet in case of a general war. They'll be at the pier side bar while their ship is getting fixed.

    2. "... safest in the fleet ..."

      Excellent point!

  3. """we may acquire an additional several LCS “frigates”"""

    So a ship which for the last ten years the Navy has sworn up and down was not a frigate might be turned into a frigate by getting rid of the removable modules and instead welding the sensors and weapons in place.

    If they need frigates they need to buy actual frigates, not the LCS (modified)

  4. If I were in charge, I'd cancel and scrap the LCSs, yes even the new ones. Look at new frigate designs for escorts, refurb the Avengers for another 20 years, and buy 24 Ambassador corvettes for coast ops.

    No need or time for eval, the shipyard can start construction again in a year.

    Those small boats will need tenders, so I'll pull the two Yellowstone class tenders out of the reserve force and refurbish them to support all small ships.

    These were retired with half their service life left, but it might be too late since they Navy is ready to scuttle them, one after just 13 years in service.

  5. It needs to be SinkEx'ed or made into a museum ship of how not to design warships.

    This is just plain funny. Tragic, but funny.

    Sadly I wonder if corruption played a role in this ship. Some money behind closed doors that we do not know about.

    1. I'm not a big conspiracy fan. I tend to believe in good old incompetence far more than conspiracy. In the case of a ship building program, many people are involved in bringing a concept to life so many, many people would have to be paid off and I just don't see that happening without any hints leaking out. That said, there comes a point where you can't help but wonder because if there isn't some kind of conspiracy you just can't explain the magnitude of incompetence that's exhibited.

      So, much as I would like to categorically say you're wrong, I can't.

  6. I'm not really contributing to the discussion much but want to say how disappointed I am that the LCS's are literally paperweights. If the engines worked, I believe some use could have been found for them. If nothing else, the Independence Class looks damn fine. But...

    Perhaps an option is:

    If the money to be spent is locked in, then they should pay off the companies- Austal etc, and stop making 3000 ton paperweights, and build 10-20 Offshore Patrol Vessels for anti piracy/patrol work, 10-20 dedicated minehunters, and 20-30 dedicated ASW frigates. Designs for all 3 of these types of ships already exist from Europe.

    The choice is to spend tens of billions for 40 ships which do nothing, or double/triple that amount but get some decent ships.


    1. "Designs for all 3 of these types of ships already exist from Europe."
      I think you are correct but would the US Navy ever consider to scrap the big/new toys and "buy European"?

    2. The Ambassador Mk III ships that VT Halter Marine built for Egypt and the Sa'ar V ships built by Huntington Ingalls Industries for Israel, could be the basis for a new small surface combatant.

    3. You see the problem with small vessels like the Ambassador? They require local basing and in many areas that's hard to come by. For Egypt, that's not a problem. They'll be operating essentially in home waters. For the US, operating in, say, the South China Sea, they become difficult to support. How do you address that?

      By the way, I like the Ambassador!

    4. We don't have many naval bases near the South China Seas, but we just signed a deal with the Phillipines to operate from some of their air bases. Now, if we had access to Subic Bay, we could operate something like an Ambassador, but even then they would probably require some support from tenders.

      We currently operate about 10 Cyclones in the Middle East. It's there and the Mediterranean where the Ambassadors are better suited.

      I like the Ambassador too. It's certainly better armed than the LCS.

    5. Then we have the Patrol Frigate concept derived from the USCG Legend class. Some say that to make this ship a frigate that the cost will be above and beyond that of the LCS / frigate. But what ship would have better capability ?

  7. ComNavOps has certainly been on fire recently with several highly excellent posts. I'd like to know something about the source of these poor decisions, and whether you think it is systemic across the departments.

    1. "the source of these poor decisions"

      You ask the one question that I can't answer. I can clearly see the pattern of decision making. I can predict future, poor decisions. I can offer a few peripheral reasons such as budget pursuit or post-retirement jobs with defense contractors but I can't explain the consistent poor decisions. There are many horrible decisions made that have no readily apparent reasons and make no sense even from the Navy's screwed up perspective. I'm sorry. I have no answer. Fear not, though, the quest for a true answer will continue.

  8. Scrap the lot and get on board with Type 26 and Type 31, then the RN could afford more as well. Win win!

  9. So now we have a definite trend in new ships having major maintenance issues while being introduced in the fleet. First the Ford with the flight deck issues and turbine failures, the zumealt leaking and suffering another maintenance casualty, and the multitude of LCS ship problems.

    How then did the Navy launch so many Virginia class submarines and keep them seaworthy.

    I believe that at this point that we need to fire those in charge and start over. This would not be too drastic a decision. Is there anyone in the design/build/spend decision making team competent?

    If trumps elected maybe a version of his "your fired" should be in order

  10. A minor correction if I may, but of the 55 Perry's commissioned between 1977 and 1989, four were built for the Royal Australian Navy. And, of the 51 operated by the Navy, 21 were decommissioned by 2005. Those 21 had an average serice life of about 16 years.

    1. Yep, I knew that about the Australian FFGs but it slipped my mind at the time of writing. Good catch.

  11. My opinion, screw the LCS, build an ACTUAL Perry-class replacement, get those Ambassador-class boats for littoral ops

    1. As an opinion, that's fine. Now, answer this: why does the Navy even need a frigate?

    2. CNO, have you heard about the HVS2 Swift being destroyed?


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