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”,