Monday, October 3, 2016

Forgotten LCS Capabilities - The LCS Air Group

The LCS program garners much criticism which makes it easy to forget that that the class possesses potentially useful inherent capabilities.  We are honored today to have guest author Steven Wills (aka Lazarus) to remind us of one of those capabilities and offer some much needed balance to the LCS discussion.  Please enjoy this post and give it your serious consideration.  Check out Mr. Will's bio at the end of the post.

Regarding comments, LCS discussions too often degenerate into positive and negative platitudes and this will not be allowed.  Comments must be specific and supported with facts and logic.  As always, politeness and respect are mandatory.


Forgotten LCS Capabilities
The LCS Air Group

One of the significant capabilities of the littoral combat ship (LCS) that is often overlooked in discussion is the ship’s extensive aviation facilities. Both LCS variants have large flight decks and helicopter hangars. Their modular spaces also support the storage of ordnance and aviation maintenance gear in support of extended rotary wing operations. The three ship deployed LCS squadron can theoretically support six MH 60R helicopters and Firescout unmanned rotary-wing vehicles (1), or a combination of those assets. The LCS air group can perform a number of warfare and surveillance roles in support of a naval component commander’s campaign effort.

Both LCS variants boast the most expansive helicopter operating limits in terms of wind speeds due to their expansive flight decks. At 7300 square feet in size (2), the LCS-2 (Independence) variant has the largest flight deck of any surface combatant in the fleet. The LCS-1 (Freedom) variant has a smaller flight deck at 5200 square feet, but can land a helicopter in the face of 45 knot relative winds (3). The LCS sea frames also carry more aviation fuel (JP-5) (75-80 metric tons (4)) than the preceding Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates (64 metric tons (5)). While neither LCS variant has the traditional RAST (Recovery, Assist, Secure, Traverse (6)) system to aid in landing and deck movement, helicopter operations are supported by the British-made MacTaggart Scott Trigon (7) cable recovery and traversing system. The Trigon system has not been used in past U.S. ship classes, but has been a staple of Commonwealth navies (8) for the last 40 years. It was pioneered by the British Royal Navy for use with small flight decks and smaller deck crews than larger ships. It uses a system of deck-mounted cables to secure a helicopter to a ship’s flight deck and move it to/from the vessel’s helicopter hangar (9).

USS Freedom and FireScout UAV

The MH-60R helicopter (10) is capable of a wide range of missions to include reconnaissance, antisubmarine warfare and surface warfare. It can mount up to 3 MK54 lightweight antisubmarine (ASW) torpedoes or 4 AGM 114 Hellfire air to surface missiles. The MQ-8B Firescout unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) (11) also carries the Hellfire missile as well as the small (1 kg) GBU 144 Viper Strike laser guided bomb (LGB). The MK54 is the standard U.S. ASW torpedo while the Hellfire has an air to surface range of 4.5 nautical miles. The AGM 119 Penguin antiship missile with a range of 18 nautical miles might also be carried on LCS-based MH-60R’s.

Trigon Helo Handling System

An LCS air wing of multiple assets operating in conjunction with other weapons and capabilities based on the LCS sea frames such as the Harpoon and Naval Strike missiles constitutes a significant surface warfare capability. Operating in a distributive configuration but linked using air and surface equipment, an LCS squadron might launch coordinated strikes from air and surface assets. The high speed of the LCS sea frames allows them to rapidly re-position away from aircraft launch and recovery sites (12), thus increasing an opponent’s area of uncertainty in planning a counter-strike. The distributive employment of LCS at maximum distance forces an opponent to contemplate a much wider battle space in locating and striking at LCS sea frames. Unlike one or two conventional frigates that might support 12-16 antiship cruise missiles, the loss of one LCS only degrades the formation’s strike capacity rather than halving or entirely losing it.

The LCS’ sea frame capabilities are available today and do not need an associative mission module to contribute to the surface and subsurface battle. Potential LCS aviation assets provide the maritime component commander with a medium surface strike capability. Utilization of the emerging distributive lethality concept allows for an integrated strike capability from both sea frames and aircraft while maximizing their survivability through dispersion. The LCS air group is not waiting on a certification from the Department of Defense Director of Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), or funding stalled in Congress, but is ready whenever and wherever the sea frames can be assembled.


(1)Defense Industry Daily website, “LCS: The USA’s Littoral Combat Ships”,

(2)National Defense website, “Builders of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship Pull Out All The Stops”, Grace V. Jean, March 2010,

(3) website,  COMLCSRON ONE Newsletter, “USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) Commissioned In Galveston”,  MC2 (SW/AW) Garcia, SURFPAC Public Affairs,  October 2012, Volume 2, Issue 4,

(4)GAO, “Littoral Combat Ship - Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further Investments”, July 2014, GAO-14-749,

(5)“The Continuation of a Damage Control Stability Module for the FFG-7”, Charles Arthur Bush, B.S.N.A., United States Naval Academy, Submitted to the Department of Ocean Engineering in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degrees of Ocean Engineer and Master of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June 1984

(6)Curtiss-Wright website, products/naval systems/helicopter securing & traversing/RAST, 30-Sep-2016,

(7)DocSlide, 30-Sep-2016,

(8)MacTaggart Scott website, defense products/surface ship systems/helicopter handling, 30-Sep-2016,

(9)YouTube, “MacTaggart Trigon helicopter recovery and handling system”, jimbarc, published 15-Sep-2014,

(10)Lockheed Martin website, products/naval systems/mh 60 seahawk helicopters,

(11)Naval Air Systems Command website, aircraft and weapons/uas/firescout,

(12)Aviation Week website, “Seahawk Helicopters Provide Punch For LCS Operations”, Michael Babey, 23-Sep-2013,


Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer who spent most of his sea going career in small combatants including two frigates, a mine countermeasures ship (MCM) and a patrol coastal (PC). He is currently a PhD Candidate in Military History at Ohio University. His areas of expertise are Cold War naval history and the history of British sea power from 1889-1941. He posts on a number of sites under the pen name of "Lazarus."


  1. Good post with a lot of good information.

    Yes platforms with that much flight deck space offer huge amounts of flexibility and capability for organic air assets.

    However, the basic ship design and development negates all of that. These ships are overweight, can't get or stay underway, and in the case of LCS 2 there are serious questions about having enough fire fighting capability to protect the aluminum deck/hull.

    So yes having ships with large flight deck/hangers offer huge tactical advantages, but the ships have to be designed and built to be operational of the air assets can only do local port patrols.

  2. Nice article thanks.

    On the face of things this seems OK, and as far as ASW is concerned I think valid.

    However without a decent deck gun or land attack asset I think the utility of Firescout is limited.

    And as the USN has yet to consider with any seriousness a decent helicopter bourn ASM I think it’s a stretch to label the SH60 as a ASuW asset. Hellfire is going to do very little. You will be lucky to get a SeaHawk within 18nm never mind 4.5nm of a serious surface combatant.

    I like the concept.

    I think on the whole we all originally bought into the LCS concept.

    I would have to say the best bet for a salvageable LCS is probably maximising the air groups potential. It would be the cheapest, fasted and most flexible way to extract utility from this sea frame.


  3. What about other helo types? How many AH-1Z could operate from LCS? They could give a LCS squadron a deep in-land strike capability.

    Aviation potential is much more than SH-60 and Fire Scout.

  4. Wouldn't the launching and recovering of helicopters mitigate any stealth the ship processes? Also, how would targeting data be forwarded to them mid-air without alerting, I persume, enemy ship?

    1. As with a carrier, launch and recovery would happen well over the horizon.

      Then the helo. asset IS the one who would spot the Target first. Both in ASW and ASuW.

      There would be no need for it to necessarily give away the position of the LCS \ LCS group at all.

  5. I would like to thank COMNAVOPS for graciously hosting this article on the site. Great comments so far. I would add these quick points:
    1) The LCS sea frames are packed with equipment and there is almost no room for further weight additions. That said, the kind of changes that other ships have installed outright are to be "managed" through changes in the ships' modular outfitting. If one looks at weight additions for LCS this way, one can see that the ships are not "overweight."
    2) I'm not sure how many AH-1Z's might overate from LCS. That's a good question. I know that LCS supports rotary wing vehicles up to the size of the MH-60R. LCS does not (sadly) support the larger CH 53 helicopter.
    3) LCS was never intended to be very "stealthy" beyond what past US ships (like the DDG 51) have been. The MH-60R helo and Firescout can both datalink information back to their LCS parent ship. An LCS might remain in EMCON conditions while allowing a helo or UAV to scout and provide targeting data. That was a standard Cold War tactic as well. The use of Firescout avoids risking a human aircrew.

    While LCS is not anything resembling a light carrier, it can make use of embarked aircraft to do a great many things in low to medium threat environments. Such a combo would have been very useful in counter-piracy operations off Somalia (that I used to be a scheduler for when I worked at NATO.)
    Thanks again for the comments.

  6. With respect to weight the GAO Report 14-749 Table 7 clearly shows that only LCS 3 & 5 meet the required service life weight allowance. This was met by adding to the length of the hull for more displacement.

    Further the Full load estimates are based on Mission Package weight estimates. We already know that the latest ASW Mission Module is too heavy and is being redesigned. That fact makes the Full Load allowances suspect.

    Again I agree with the flexibility offered by an air capable platform, but it has to be able to carry all of the air package AND get underway. This is a terrible platform.

    Use this post to strengthen the argument for the next platform having organic air capability.

    1. As that table shows in the notes LCS 2,3,4 could use fuel weight to compensate for the weight shortfall. What it does not state is the extent to which this could be done.

      The weight requirement is set at full load displacement. It makes no allowance for offsetting with other weights in the ship. At FLD with tanks full LCS-4 has tested out at over 5400nm range. The threshold requirement is 3500nm with the objective being 4300nm. If LCS 2,4,6 were to be measured at a fuel load equal to 4300 nm range they would have a weight margin of as much as 100 tons over the requirements, and at the 3500nm range as much as 200 tons.

      There is no weight problem on the Independance class that cannot be remedied simply by adjusting the reporting to meet the actual real world condition instead of the arbitrary set of rules set for measuring requirements compliance.

    2. To add to my above comment, I should have said more than 5300nm. Here is the exact info from DOTE:

      Per DOTE page 236.
      Endurance at transit speed. LCS 4 demonstrated that
      the Independence variant seaframe’s fuel endurance at a
      transit speed of 14 knots exceeds the Navy requirement.
      Assuming that all of the ship’s “burnable” F-76 fuel
      could actually be consumed, LCS 4 demonstrated a
      fuel endurance of 5,345 nautical miles at 14 knots
      based on an hourly consumption rate of 421 gallons
      during a 6-hour trial. In reality, no ship would ever
      plan to consume all of its fuel during a transit because
      of the need to maintain a reserve for contingencies. If
      a 20 percent of fuel buffer were maintained, the ship’s
      endurance would be 4,242 nautical miles.

    3. Okay, one more question:

      "1) The LCS sea frames are packed with equipment and there is almost no room for further weight additions.

      I've read that, but... how? These are 3000-3500 ton ships with 1 57mm cannon and some sensors if you aren't including the mission modules. What is taking up all the weight?

      For comparison, a Sumner class was 3500 tons full load, but they were built of high grade steel, and had 3 dual mk 38 mounts, VDS, Torpedoes, and a DASH copter after they went through FRAM. And the Freedom class is longer and beamier than the Sumner.

      I'm not doing a 1:1 comparison in terms of mission, just in terms of ship size. You'd think that without the mission modules these things would be full of empty space.

  7. GAO does not like that LCS does not follow the standard, post World War 2 long service life, space, weight and stability margin for modernization plan for medium-sized and larger surface combatants. LCS is not designed for a long service life, manages weight growth within modules vice additions to the sea frames and used more of its free weight than past designs in the pursuit of high speed. GAO is free to disagree, but they should at least acknowledge that LCS comes from a different concept rather than just condemn the platform outright because they don't agree.

    A number of earlier mission package gear items (NLOS, RMS, the MH-60R helo-towed minesweeping sled, etc) did not work as planned and were dropped from module consideration. These changes significantly slowed module development.

    Every ship class has issues that must be worked out in the first years after commissioning. As the first two LCS were hung up in testing and a complete program restart (2007-2009) that level of fleet testing never occurred until now.

  8. Can Harriers fly from LCS platforms?
    A mix of LCSs, some with Harriers and some with Ospreys and Cobras might be a good platform for the TRAP or crisis response due to their speed and air component

    1. harriers have virtually no capability in vertical takeoff mode, it could land in an emergency

    2. I honestly do not know. Weight on the flight deck seems the driving concern. An MH-60R helo weighs in at about 17K lbs at full load on takeoff. Some Harrier variants weigh less than that at some conditions of operation. An LCS might land a Harrier in an emergency, but I would not know how to launch such an aircraft from a helicopter deck. Good question anyway.

    3. Harrier did operate in VTOL air defence mode from freighter decks in the Falklands war.

      Improvided "hangers" were made using ISO containers.

      But there is a big difference between emergency\temporary light air defence "lilly padding" and fully operating a fix wing asset.

      If this is what your asking ?

  9. In practice, Coronado (LCS 4) left San Diego in June with an aviation detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Twenty-three (HSC-23) consisting 1 Sea Hawk and 1 Fire Scout. And, as we all know, Coronado experienced an engineering casualty 2 months later forcing her to return to Pearl Harbor.

    But, given the LCS lacks a medium range AAW system like ESSM, operating a group of LCS's on their own is a risky proposition. But, it would be interesting to wargame that scenario.

  10. Anon, I removed your elk theory comment for being disrespectful. The gist of your comment seemed to revolve around mechanical reliability of the hull. You're welcome to discuss that if you stick to facts and logic and forego the sarcasm. Feel free to repost if you can keep your comment factual, logical, and respectful.

  11. Agree that even a whole LCS squadron lacks anything beyond point defense AAW capability. Keeping them in a distributed pattern but still networked may reduce their susceptibility to air/missile attack.

  12. Regarding aviation operations on LCS, both classes apparently have an elevator or at least a hatch connecting the flight deck and the mission bay.
    How big are those elevators/hatches?
    Could them be used for moving helicopters weapons (torpedoes) stored in the mission bay to the flight deck, freeing space in the hangar?

    If those elevators/hatches are big enough, LCS could embark in the mission bay drones like the BQM-34, which being launched from the flight deck could perform a vast array of missions (recce, jamming, decoys). There was even an armed version armed whith AGM-65 missiles.

    The USAF used HH-3 choppers to retrieve those drones, avoiding a hard landing or getting wet. I don't know if an HH-60 could also perform such mission.

    Maybe a LCS squadron could perform a deception mission launching several drones simulating a carrier based "alpha strike".

    1. It should be possible in the future to launch decoys out of VLS cells. There are development programs for using cruise missiles to simulate aircraft. The LRASM program is a variant of the AGM-158 which is also being modified to serve as a decoy.

  13. "The three ship deployed LCS squadron can theoretically support six MH 60R helicopters and Firescout unmanned rotary-wing vehicles (1), or a combination of those assets."

    Would this not be true of a 3 ship squadron of Perry's, or a 3 ship squadron of Burkes? All are capable of supporting two helo's per ship. This is not a new an novel capability only present with the LCS.

    Further, it ought to be clear at this point, the LCS is never going to deploy in this mythical squadron. At this point we are going to get three deployable ships per mission type per coast.

    Even with Blue/Gold crewing, you are never going to have all three forward deployed at a given time. And it will need a replenishment ship attached just to get the "squadron" into the AOR to begin with!

    1. Lots of "nevers" there. I had hoped that the Navy would give 3-2-1 a chance, but the 3 ship LCS squadron is still a good employment method (in my opinion.) The problems with the LCS-2 variant seem localized to a flexible coupling that will need to be replaced. LCS-1 variant problems include a software bug (that I am led to believe has been fixed,) and some training issues. I believe (again opinion) that the surface navy can work out these engineering issues and make the ships operational as planned. I appreciate your pessimism, however, given recent events.

  14. The aviation assets to me are the LCS's biggest positive.

    I admit the recent mechanical failures have really made the doubt bug bite hard, but I'll leave that aside and just assume that they will figure that out for now. I have three questions that mainly about operations. I'll start with a caveat that I'm not Navy, nor even military. So if these questions are simplistic I apologize in advance.

    A) Does the lack of a ship borne torpedo hamper LCS at all in doing ASW? Most other ASW ships I see have torpedoes based on the ship. LCS doesn't (at least from what I've read) in its ASW mission module

    B) The older ASW ships I've read about have something like prarie/masker that they use to hide/disguise their signature. LCS uses water jets. I have no experience with large water jets, but the ones I do have experience with (small boats) are louder than hell. Is that a problem in ASW operations?

    C) The 57mm canon on the LCS is optically guided. Why? Again, I have no Navy experience but it seems that trying to shoot at something using an optical system, when both myself and my target are moving, is going to be ridiculously hard.

    1. The "doubt bug"? Is that like a mosquito?

    2. Given the current state of our acquisition, more of a horsefly. With Zika.

    3. Jim Whall, I have experience with optically aimed weapons systems. 57mm undoubtedly if a fully stabilized gun, consisting of vertical, horizontal, and presumably aim point tracking. The optic sight will be slaved to the aim point of the weapon. As long as the zero is good, it should be able to land hits quickly. With the 57mm ballistics and short range, it would a waste of space for larger systems.

    4. I'm not sure any test agency has reported on how "loud" the LCS is, but I could be mistaken. ASW torpedoes on surface ships are more of a last-ditch system designed to interrupt enemy targeting rather than an effective weapon against submarines.

    5. Andrew: That's interesting. You can do this even in rough seas? Is that a concern?

      Lazarus: Sorry, I think I'm not being clear. I guess wha tI'm really asking is that I haven't read anything about any signature reduction for the LCS. Spruance had extensive quieting, IIRC. The FFG's I thought had prarie/masker. Both had them for the purpose of making it harder for subs to find or target them.

      I haven't read that LCS has anything like that, and it sounds like it may well be hunting diesel electric subs.

      What I'm wondering is if it makes a difference, or if operational experience recently suggests that they don't need it.

      I'm worried about ASW because, while we aren't facing hordes of Soviet subs like we did back in the day, we are likely to face very capable subs in or approaching the littorals; and our experience in some exercises where AIP subs seemingly run circles around us is an issue.

      I think we badly need something like LCS to perform an ASW role. But if it is loud, and it is an operational concern, its use would seem to be limited. If its not loud, or we've learned that the noise generated by the ASW ship doesn't matter so much, that's good.

    6. My experience is with the army, but if an abrams or bradley can engage tartgets at speed over rough terrain, the LCS should be able to as well.

    7. LCS was designed (according to Bob Work's 2013 Naval War College paper on LCS) with only limited signature reduction. Work said the design was on par with the DDG 51's signature in that it was not bad (like the Spruance's were) but not superior or improved. Cost seemed to be a driving issue here.

      I agree that LCS as a surface ship ASW platform may not be ideal (if noise is an issue,) but if it can manage a towed array and support helo-based LCS Ops it will be useful. The feedback I have received from current/former LCS CO's and others assigned suggests that the 57mm optical sight gun mount has performed as advertised. The 76mm Oto-Melara gun is prone to jams at hight rates of fire. I have not heard similar complaints about the 57mm. The Canadians and the Swedes have used the 57mm for decades. They might have some data on accuracy/reliability.

    8. Spruances were bad? Or were not bad? I had always read they were excellent in terms of noise reduction.

      I re-read my post earlier. It was horribly written and not very clear. Sorry.

      So what, in your opinion, will be best, most useful role of the LCS? ASW? 3 ship squadrons doing ASuW? Mine warfare? Presence/patrol missions?

      It seems with the Navy going to mainly 1 ship 1 role, and not using the modularity as it was originally envisioned, that there will have to be some decisions made as to what numbers of LCS will go to each role.

  15. Just a few random notes on the LCS which was originally envisaged as boghammer street fighter for the Iranian high speed patrol boats in the Persian Gulf.
    LCS requirements finally specified
    4,300nm @ 16 knots, later watered down to 3,500nm @ 14 knots
    40 knot sprint speed
    20' draft
    50mt service life weight allowance, Navy standard for surface combatants is 10%, which for Freedom would be 350mt, Independence 315 mt
    0.15 meter service life allowance for stability, Navy standard for surface combatants 0.3 meters

    The LM Freedom class hull was based on the 406 mt 60,000 hp fuel tank the Destriero 60 knot semi-planing speedboat which took the Atlantic Blue Ribbon record in 1992. A naval architect stated that at normal speeds a semi-planing hull incurs a penalty of up to 280% higher resistance than a standard displacement hull and this is borne out in the LCS-3 (LCS-3 was a lengthened version of the LCS-1 Freedom to incorporate an additional 12.6% / 50mt of fuel bunkerage, total 450 mt?) fuel consumption data was collected during testing at 14.4 knots where max. operating range is estimated to be approx. 1,961 nautical miles. The follow on LCS-5 at FL 3,483mt incorporates new waterjets 10% more efficient (funded by Navy R&D budget not the LCS program) and the Navy are now claiming they can make the 3,500 mn range though they do not specify a speed, mention has been made of 10 knots.
    The Austal Independence class trimaran is an all aluminium lighter ship, the LCS-6 is FL of 3,157mt, has a more efficient hull and substantially more bunkerage, one third? larger than Freedom and this is reflected in a reported max. range of 5,345nm at 14 knots. Navy talks of reducing bunkerage by 100mt to allow higher mission package weight.

    Neither ship was designed to navy survivability standards and have had to be substantially modified to meet the full ship shock trials, as a result the first two of each class have been relegated to test and training. Austal had to take a $115 million hit in their accounts in July to write off costs incurred for design and build mods necessary to meet the FSST for LCS-6 this year. The design did not stipulate vertical and longitudinal separation of equipment required to reduce the likelihood that a single hit will result in loss of propulsion, combat capability and the ability to control damage and restore system operation as in the previous FFG 7 Oliver Hazard Perry class.

    Fail to understand what operational use the Freedom class can be, current Navy thinking seems to as an ASW ship, though with short range and noisy hull does not make sense to me. Navy will be using the LM TB-37/U MFTA and a version the Thales CAPTAS VDS, though not a MOTS as spending more money to reduce weight due to limited payload on Freedom and yet more money so as it can be modified to be towed at high speed, 40+ knots?

    If you have time read read the DOT&E FY2015 Annual Report issued in Jan 2016, expect the FY2016 report will make more depressing reading next January after all the current year engine "casualties".

    1. DOT&E might note engine failures as a lack of operational capability. One has to see past such reports and look at what actually went wrong. In the case of the LCS-2 variant, a flexible coupling unit connecting engines to pump jets seems to be failure prone. That part can be replaced with a more reliable one. The Navy has frequently had to make such changes in ships over the past decades. LCS just gets a lot more press as it is "bad" news which always sells.

      Surface ship ASW has been much more about helicopter rather than surface ship capabilities for many years. No towed array will get towed at 40 kts.

      As to comparisons between the Perry's and the LCS, the Navy never intended littoral combatants to be new Perry's. If so, the navy would have bought such a ship. A new "perry" would also cost at or more than $1 billion a copy, a pricetag the Navy just cannot afford.

  16. There is one problem with this - the poor reliability of the LCS prevents a large air group. This requires a large fleet of LCS working together, something that is not likely to happen.

    Another problem is that helicopters themselves are notoriously maintenance intensive. They have the tendency to be in the shop when needed the most.

    I am skeptical that this would be a huge advantage.

    1. Those are possible concerns. The SH-60 series helos have been fairly reliable over the years. The Firescout UAV has had some development issues, but seems to be doing well. LCS has plenty of room in modular space for lots of helicopter parts, but could possibly not have enough helo det crew to carry out high intensity helo ops.

  17. Unfortunately LCS has become a Zombie program like the F-111 and the B-1. All started based on new unproven ideas or self aggrandizing concepts for employment. But engineering realities happened and no one could grow enough to kill them off and move on.

    Kill this turkey program before a 1/6th of the Fleet consists of these things. Take the lessons learned and start over NOW.

    1. Can you explain on what "unproven" ideas LCS was based? Many critics suggest that other platforms/payloads might have been used for light surface combat, coastal ASW and MiW. I would agree that armed helicopters or fixed wing aircraft are better at destroying small surface combatants in the littorals than any surface ship of any size.

    2. Basing LCS on commercial or non Navy Standard construction standards, New Crew rotation scheme, Extreme reduced manning, Unproven mission modules, Unproven mission module handling implementation (Hoists didn't work at first) Forward contractor supported basing, CODAG for such a high sprint speed, no concept of operations until AFTER construction.

      Big picture unproven idea we can ignore everything we have learned about building ships and expect to do it cheaper and have it work.

  18. Lazarus "Surface ship ASW has been much more about helicopter rather than surface ship capabilities for many years. No towed array will get towed at 40 kts"

    That would explain why the USN is currently rolling out the installation of the new generation LM TB37/U Multi-Function Towed Array,MFTA, passive /active sonar receiver configured as a long 3-inch-diameter array that to be towed behind surface ships as part of the AN/SQQ-89(V) Undersea Warfare/Anti-Submarine Warfare Combat System,(which also includes a HMS noticeable for it's absence on the LCS ASW and integ. with helicopter's short range sonar/sonobuoys), for the Arleigh Burke's, Ticonderoga's, Zumwalt's and the future LCS ASW.

    The towed arrays are towed at slow speeds to obviate the noise from the ship interfering with the signal reception by the array, that's why LCS is such a bad choice for ASW as it's diesels are not silenced with noise attenuating enclosures or special hull engine mountings so as hull does not act like a bell plus the waterjets are noisy, all contribute to degrading the fragile signal the hydrophone in the array tasked to decipher from the new exceptionally quiet SSK's. The ASW ship with it's towed array will patrol an area at slow speed and then sprint to new area, in the past it had to reel in the towed array and then when in it's new position re-launch the towed array which could be over a mile in length, this can take a considerable time, dead time when not operating, to overcome this the new generation of towed arrays are designed to be towed at high speeds to cut down dead time. This is why the Navy is spending money to re-design the Thales CAPTAS VDS so it can be towed at higher speeds, understand current max. is approx. 24 knots, Navy objective could be 40 knots but presume same as the MFTA.

    1. Where did you get information about tow speeds? I've not heard anything about increased tow speeds.

    2. I have never heard of leaving a towed array behind the ship while sprinting to another location. I suppose it is possible. LCS is capable of low speeds on diesels alone. A towed array at a significant distance from LCS might not be affected much by LCS propulsion "noise." Again, I am not aware of any specific LCS testing by sonar authorities like AUTEC, but I could be mistaken.

    3. Modular Multistatic Sonar System (M2S2) by GD Canada, UEMS and Raytheon Canada for the RCN's Halifax-class frigates Underwater Warfare Suite Upgrade (UWSU).The UEMS,Ultra Electronics, in-line Horizontal Projector
      Array, for sprint & drift operation.
      Operational Features
      1) HPA transmitter does not have drag of tow body
      2) Does not need to be recovered and then redeployed
      3) This saves considerable time in operation
      18 Oct 2015 - Corporations: Thales Naval Systems ... The CAPTAS towed Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) is well suited for ... The towed array sonar can be deployed or recovered within 20 minutes and has a maximum tow speed of 30 knots.

      Busy at moment will check later for USN VDS mods, did not keep source.

    4. That max tow speed just means that the array won't part when the ship maneuvers. It does not mean that anyone is getting bearing data.

    5. CNO "Tow speeds"
      In July 2010 DRS were awarded a $9.7 million contract by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Newport, R.I. for a VDS, variable depth sonar, for installation on the LCS. The VDS was to be capable of working in deep water at combatant flank speeds. Seventy percent of work to be carried out in Stockport, UK which is the home of Thales UK Underwater Systems.
      The Navy's current choice of VDS to equip the LCS appears to be the Thales CAPTAS 4, no mention is made of DRS.

    6. I think there's some kind of misunderstanding, here. A towed array could be designed that could be towed at max speed without ripping loose from the tow ship (although drag increases as the square of speed, if I remember correctly, so that would be an amazing feat of engineering) but speed results in flow noise and I'm unaware of any sonar that can function with excessive flow noise. Hull mounted sonars are susceptible to flow noise, hence the drift portion of sprint and drift.

      CAPTAS might be capable of being towed but it can't function at any significant speed.

    7. Expanding/correcting on previous post. Mid 2015 Navy issued three contracts to reduce the weight of the ASW as it was over the LCS's max. payload of 105mt for mission modules, with aim to reduce weight of the Thales CAPTAS 4 VDS by 15 to 25%. Navy choose AAC,L-3 and Raytheon. AAC, Advanced Acoustics Concepts, is a joint DRS/Thales company. All companies have achieved or bettered target weight reductions and building engineering development models, mention of next phase will be to down select two companies.
      So with the involvement of DRS possibility is that the aim of towing VDS at 'flank speed, 40+ knots for the LCS, is holding.

    8. CNO totally agree that either the towed array or VDS cannot operate effectively at excess 5/6 knots? As mentioned in original post the aim is to limit non-operational time for when ship sprints to new search area. The high tow speeds save time in reeling in the very long arrays/VDS and then having to re-launch them in the new search area.
      The wording of the DRS press release of "working in deep water at combatant flank speeds" is misleading.

  19. Lazarus "As to comparisons between the Perry's and the LCS, the Navy never intended littoral combatants to be new Perry's. If so, the navy would have bought such a ship. A new "perry" would also cost at or more than $1 billion a copy, a pricetag the Navy just cannot afford."

    Navy would has no shortage of funding of it's shipbuilding budget for a $1 billion Perry ASW frigate if it was not so wasteful. Ignoring the LCS program where the first four ships have just been declared non-operational you have the $23 billion and rising for the three Zumwalt destroyers, recently Navy tried to cancel the third but at least program will end.
    Latest example is the Ford CVN class of six, $4.7 billion for R & D and the first of class the Ford $12.9 billion in then year dollars, Navy priced it at $15 billion 2014 dollars, but that's just the starter, for on delivery 367 compartments will be incomplete, correction of deficiencies and installation of mission oriented systems are excluded. Despite all the noise from Capitol Hill this is done with the collusion of Congress as legislation for the Ford excludes the following costs
    1) Inflation
    2) Costs attributable to compliance with changes in federal, state, or local laws
    3) Outfitting and post-delivery costs
    4) Cost changes related to the insertion of new technologies
    5) Cost changes due to non-recurring design and engineering
    6) Costs associated with the correction of deficiencies that would affect the safety of the ship and personnel or otherwise preclude safe ship operation and crew certification.
    7) Changes due to urgent and unforeseen requirements identified during shipboard testing

    So it gives the Navy carte blanc to play shell games with the budgets for the Ford and doubt if even the CBO will ever know total, it may be $20 billion ship if the current technical problems persist.
    Will end up with a ship of problematic operational capabilities that will be too valuable so unlikely to be risked in a real war scenario.

    As they say quantity has a quality all its own, UK RN building two 70,000 ton conventional carriers for approx. $9 billion and though do not have catapults and arresting gear back of the envelope would suggest for the cost of the Ford the Navy could have four conventional carriers.

    1. The first 4 LCS will still be operational warships. They are just being retained in US home waters for testing and according to VADM ROwden's plan can be surged as necessary.

      The Ford, like the LCS, tried to include too many new systems/concepts for both industry and for the US acquisition and test and evaluation system to sustain. There was a similar outcry in 1978 when the 4th Nimitz class carrier was projected to cost $2.2b. $15b is actually a reasonable price for so many new technologies and concepts contained within the Ford class. Inflation alone would cost $8.1b for inflation alone. Add to that the spiraling cost of electronics in warship construction (see a 2006 RAND report on warship costs for a good analysis of this issue) and you are approaching $12b. Add the waste and bureaucracy of the US acquisition and test and evaluation system and the pricetag probably comes out over $15b.

      Smaller carriers (like those being built by the UK) have consistently proved less cost effective over time, less survivable, more prone to flight accidents, less operable in heavy seas and a host of other issues that preclude the US from adopting them. The Sea Based Air Platform study of 1978 (still classified) pretty much confirmed the large nuclear-power carrier through the 1980's and 1990's. Some of its conclusions appear in former SECNAV John Lehman's book "Aircraft Carriers, the Real Choices." The sinkex of the former USS America (CV 66) a few years ago seems to have further confirmed the survivability and value of larger carriers versus small ones.

  20. I'm going to cut and paste Jim Whall's question here because I also wondered about this and would like it answered before the OP loses interest in this thread:


    Jim Whall October 4, 2016 at 12:05 PM

    Okay, one more question:

    "1) The LCS sea frames are packed with equipment and there is almost no room for further weight additions.

    I've read that, but... how? These are 3000-3500 ton ships with 1 57mm cannon and some sensors if you aren't including the mission modules. What is taking up all the weight?

    For comparison, a Sumner class was 3500 tons full load, but they were built of high grade steel, and had 3 dual mk 38 mounts, VDS, Torpedoes, and a DASH copter after they went through FRAM. And the Freedom class is longer and beamier than the Sumner.

    I'm not doing a 1:1 comparison in terms of mission, just in terms of ship size. You'd think that without the mission modules these things would be full of empty space.

    1. 1. Aviation: they have a lot of aviation capacity for this size ship and aviation capacity eats up a lot of tonnage due to the need for hanger structure, flight deck area, av fuel storage, support facilities etc. In addition, to achieve good aviation capacity all of these things need to be located high on the ship which tends to reduce overall hull dead weight capacity in order to maintain stability.

      2. speed: the Sumners reached the low thirties, LCS had to reach 40+ to meet requirements and the Navy was looking for 50+ (!???) Speed in ocean going hulls comes at a logarithmic cost in plant and fuel.

      3. Those are the driving choices made on these ships, but there is another historical factor that affects all modern ships vs. ships prior to the introduction of electronic processing. Modern ships rely on enormous amounts of data collection, communication and transmission. There is no getting past the fact that the higher on the ship all those dishes , antennas etc are the better they work. So no ship is ever going again to look like a Japanese battleship that relied on just eyeballs way up high for targeting and armor way down low for ballast and protection. Just the amount of space needed up high for the antenna farm on a modern ship extracts a penalty in dead weight capacity as every ton added 50 feet above the waterline adds or negates multiple tons below.

      4. All that being said, the Independence class actually is full of empty space, weight capacity, etc. They are actually quite amazing hulls. They however have achieved this by accepting like never before the strengths and weaknesses of aluminum. Whether or not the US naval community will adopt living in aluminum remains to be seen. So far it looks like not, as the trihull has largely been sidelined in discussions as if only a ship with steel in saltwater can possibly be accepted by the Navy.

    2. I don't think anyone outside the LCS program actually knows the answer but here's a few possible thoughts.

      -LCS has a very large superstructure relative to the Fletcher/Sumner class. Look at pictures of both and the huge LCS superstructure jumps out. All that structure adds weight.

      -The LCS engines and propulsion machinery add huge amounts of weight - all in the pursuit of the top end speed requirement.

      Beyond that, I don't know!

  21. While I appreciate Laz's contribution, the championing of the LCS's air capabilities are underwhelming. It's essentially shipbuilding doctrine at this point that all USN ships will have some sort of air facilities.

    Lets assume that the various modules work; with the recent change in LCS composition it is going to take two hull to accomplish what is currently done in one.

    The selling point of Bob Work's version of LCS was retaining minimum surface ship capability (ASW, SuW) at a reduced cost. If it takes two $500M USD ships to accomplish that goal then IMO the LCS has failed in its objective.

    1. Fair enough. It is important to note that LCS originally started out with zero air capability as the "streetfighter" concept. The original LCS cost ($220m) was admittedly too low and Bob Work admits that in his 2013 Naval War College history of LCS. LCS was designed to perform its missions primarily though its modular, not installed systems. They have been held up by the same pause in the sea frame construction (2007-2009) and by the failures of key systems (NLOS, RMS, MH-60R-based MiW systems)to work as planned or advertised. $500m is actually very very cheap for a ship the size and capability of LCS. Yes, some foreign govt's have built cheaper, but more capable ships, but there are a number of factors contributing to those lower cost that the US cannot emulate. Our ships are built by defense contractors dependent of long production lines for profit, vice civilian shipyards that can rely on civilian orders to maintain viability. Many foreign builder also sub-contract parts of a ship out to cheaper builders (Denmark sub-contracted parts of its Iver Huitfeldt class out to cheap Estonian yards.) Can you imagine the reaction of the US Congress if Austal sub-contracted parts of LCS-2 out to a Mexican shipyard (and caused the loss of US jobs in the process?)


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