Wednesday, January 18, 2017

LCS Alternative Uses

For better or worse, the LCS is in the fleet and, with 40-52 planned, it will make up a major portion of our combat fleet.  Now, including a toothless vessel in a count of the combat fleet is delusional but the Navy is, numerically, replacing frigates and Aegis cruisers with LCS so we need to deal with it.  Sure, for many of us the preferred solution is to terminate the LCS and move on but the reality is that the Navy is committed to the LCS.  Recognizing that, let’s ask ourselves, are there combat or combat related uses that the LCS could be put to, with suitable modifications, so that we can get some value from the class?  I’ve looked at this in previous posts but it’s worth a fresh look.  Here’s some possibilities.  Note that in most (all?) of the cases, the LCS would have to be modified to greatly increase its at-sea endurance in order to be useful – this in addition to whatever specific possibility is being discussed.  Note, also, that I’m ignoring the “frigate” version of the LCS since we have so little concrete information about it, as yet.

SigInt – The Navy had a dedicated signals intelligence aviation platform in the EP-3 and, later, the ES-3A Shadow (an S-3 Viking variant) but those have been retired without replacement.  The Navy also has a history of operating various intelligence gathering ships.   Unfortunately, there has also been a history of intelligence gathering ships and aircraft being attacked – Pueblo, Liberty, EP-3.  An armed LCS, fitted with a comprehensive suite of electronic intelligence gathering equipment and supplemented by UAVs, might be able to fill the role and provide its own protection against the kind of attacks and seizures that have happened in the past.

UAV Carrier – I’ve often talked about the need for large numbers of relatively small and cheap UAVs to conduct surveillance and targeting.  An LCS with its module space converted to hangar and UAV storage space and a large flight deck for UAV launch and recovery operations would make a suitable UAV carrier.  One such LCS UAV carrier with each surface/carrier/amphibious group might prove useful

Company Landing Team – The Marines have been experimenting with smaller, Company sized landing teams (referred to as CoLT, at one time) and the LCS might be a suitable platform for the hosting of such a unit.  For a variety of reasons, I don’t view this as a good idea but it is a potential use for the ship if the Marines are determined to pursue a bad idea.

Fire Support – Amphibious assault (and general ground support) naval fire support is a glaring gap in the Navy’s ground warfare support capability.  The Navy has made it clear that they will not risk operating Burkes close enough to shore to provide naval gunfire support.  The LCS could be modified to operate navalized rocket systems (MLRS/ATACMS).  The combination of standard rockets and long range ATACMS would actually offer greater strike range than the Zumwalt’s now non-existent LRLAP rounds.  By utilizing the flight deck space, several launchers could be mounted.  Making them reloadable along the lines of the Mk 112 ASROC launcher would offer a substantial capability with an extensive magazine.  Several LCS, each with several launchers, would provide a potent naval firepower support capability.  Adding a few extra SeaRAM AAW self-defense units to each ship would provide the ability to operate in close to shore with a reasonable chance at survival.

Riverine/PC Mother Ship – An LCS might make a suitable mother ship to a group of riverine or PC (Cyclone class) vessels.  The extensive modular storage spaces of the LCS could be converted to maintenance shops and food/fuel/munitions storage.  This would allow the smaller vessels to operate farther from bases and for a longer period of time.

Torpedo Ship – This option is less of a dedicated ship type than a specialized function that could prove useful.  One of the tasks in any war and a possible (though not preferred by ComNavOps!) specific strategy is blockade and the need to destroy enemy merchant shipping.  The LCS could be used around the world as a commerce raider of sorts except that it lacks a ship killing weapon.  Even the addition of a handful of Harpoon-ish weapons won’t sink large tankers and cargo ships.  Adding a bank of standard 533 mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes would go a long way to providing a ship sinking capability for relatively close range encounters.

At the higher end of this concept, what weapon is the Navy most afraid of?  Well, there’s a few possible answers but the large Russian wake homing torpedoes are certainly one of them.  If the Navy would develop their own version, it could be mounted on a torpedo-LCS and offer a potent anti-ship capability.  The Russian Type 65 torpedo is reported to have a range of 30-60 miles depending on speed.  That’s approaching Harpoon anti-ship missile range!

SURTASS – The Navy currently operates the USNS Victorious class T-AGOS SURTASS ships which stream very long towed arrays and are used for very long distance detection of targets.  These ships are not active combat ships and their role in war would be peripheral, if at all.  A suitably modified LCS might be able to provide a degree of SURTASS capability to combat surface groups and/or provide detection capabilities to amphibious groups conducting assaults.  This is a questionable use.  The LCS itself might be too loud to effectively operate a SURTASS array or the presence of surrounding ships might provide too much noise interference.  I just don’t know enough about the T-AGOS function to say.  Still, it’s a possibility.

Consider these as just conceptual ramblings.  Any or all might prove infeasible.  On the other hand, any or all might prove to be feasible and allow us to gain some value from an otherwise currently useless ship.

How about it?  Got any ideas of your own for the LCS?


  1. How about an unmanned 40kt minesweeper?

    1. I was thinking along similar lines. They would be great for building up underwater reefs.

  2. How about building mission specific barges that get towed to the conflict zone. They would have their own power generation, but would be hooked via cable to the manned ship for command and control. The LCS could tow these packages behind them.

    For endurance missions, these barges could carry additional fuel/supplies.

    The barges themselves would be standardized like shipping containers and optimized for towing at "cruise" speeds.

    Everyone complains about how adding capabilities to the LCS butts up against weight limits, power limits, deck space, etc. This would solve that.

    Imagine an aegis ship pulling a barge full of vls tubes.

    Sorry to go off tangent, but this just popped into my head.

  3. How does the LCS compare to USCG high endurance cutters? Never mind.. They are inferior in range and endurance. WTF?

  4. How about scrap metal?

    Or a museum ship as to why concurrency and poorly planned concepts dominated by the defense industry are a really bad idea?

    1. Turn them over to the coast guard.

    2. I've got a post coming on that.

    3. a long time ago (90's usenet days) I suggested they do that with the FFG-7's instead of selling them to other countries. I was told the CG has very specific needs and wants for its ships, and that the FFG's didn't meet those needs.

      I think some of it had to do with the fact that the FFG's were single screw, and that they didn't have the endurance the CG wanted, but I can't remember.

    4. Coast Guard ships need to be reliable, which the LCS is surely not.

  5. To serve in the other roles as suggested, the LCS would need to demonstrate the capability to remain at sea for a few months at a time before having to return to port. As far as I know, the LCS hasn't demonstrated that capability yet.

    1. Walter, you are reading the posts before commenting, right? If so, you saw this statement,

      "Note that in most (all?) of the cases, the LCS would have to be modified to greatly increase its at-sea endurance in order to be useful ..."

    2. Doesn't the even class have better range? For the odd class could you load fuel cells in the mission bays?

      I realize that doesn't do alot for survivability....

    3. CNO, I was trying to agree with you. And, giving the LCS longer sea legs should be as high a priority as anything else. But, I doubt that will ever happen.

  6. I think the best uses for the LCS's are the roles they are performing now - show the flag and basic anti-piracy. The only other key hole in USN abilities is mine-warfare, which dove tail in with a UAV/USV carrier role proposed here.

    If I had my way, to salvage these hulls, I would scrap all module development excepting the Mine Warfare Module. I would also cancel all sub-programs with unique and/or troubled equipment.

    - eliminate the Mk.110 57mm
    - eliminate Mk.46 30mm
    - eliminate SeaRAM
    - eliminate Hellfire
    - add 2x Mk.49 RAM to current CIWS position, and on the forward hull
    - add 3x Mk.38 25mm to each side and forward
    - add ASW torpedo tubes on the flight deck just aft of the deck house (you are already carrying the rounds for the helos anyway)
    - add a basic 3d radar, ECM, Nulka, SUBROC, some basic hull sonar/detection system, possibly a modular towed array etc

    This gives you 42 missile rounds with basic point defense AAW, and anti-surface roles. I ditched SeaRAM in favor of more rounds over the stand alone ability, because these ships are done once they take a single hit. For low end anti-piracy roles, the 25mm is sufficient. Bring up the sensors/ECM to a basic standard, such as those on the NSCs.

    They could be deployed with a Expeditionary Seabase Ship as a tender for the low end anti-piracy roles, mine clearance, or as stand alone units with the battle group as a UAV/USV carrier.

    They could easily support SoF or maybe a platoon Marines, but there is no way you would fit a Company Landing Team on one. The USMC Company Landing Team concept is ballooning up to a 300-450 man unit.

    On the idea for fire support, I agree, but fire support will so rarely be used, is there really any issue just parking a bunch of HIMARS in the mission bay, driving them on deck when needed and firing? Once the forces land, debark the HIMARS. Why spend developmental money making naval mounts and reload systems?

    1. I like the Idea and the concept. What about using off the shelf and stuff that can be bolted on

    2. "show the flag and basic anti-piracy."

      Nothing wrong with that except that a half billion dollar vessel is a huge overkill for those missions. We could be cheap commercial designs for a fraction of the cost that could do those.

      For the reason, the post was about combat related uses. Any thoughts along that line?

    3. I wonder if we can get a Frigate in this configuration
      Displacement: 6,000 tons
      Length: 150 m
      Complement: 142
      Radar: Sea Giraffe Secondary Self-Defense Radar
      AN/SPY-3 X-band Multi-Function Radar
      Sonar: AN/SQS-60 Medium Frequency hull mounted array
      AN/SQS-61 high frequency hull mounted array
      AN/SQR-20 towed array
      Weapons: 1 x Mk110 57mm gun (or the MK 75 - 76MM/62 Caliber gun)
      8 x Mk57 PVLS modules* (32-cells)
      1 x Mk49 GMLS (21-cell RIM-116 RAM missiles)
      6 x Mk 32 324mm Torpedo tubes
      * Typical Missile Load: 8 VL-ASROC, 12 SM-6, 16 ESSM, 8 LRASM
      Aircraft: 1 x SH-60 Seahawk helicopter
      Propulsion: Turbo-Electric Drive
      1 x General Electric LM6000 turbine generator 40 kWe
      2 x GE38 gas turbine generators, 10.4 kWe (total)
      1 x DRS 36.5MW Permanent Magnet Motor
      1 x Rolls-Royce Kamewa SL Pumpjet (50,000 shp)
      1 x Bow Lateral Thruster (500 shp)_
      Maximum Speed: 30 knots
      Range: 4,500 nm @ 20 knots

    4. RE: Combat Related uses:

      Really the only viable full scale war use I see is as an auxiliary in the aforementioned mine warfare and UAV/USV carrier role. Depending on furture tech developments, this could prove to be valuable fleet unit - until a better purpose designed UAV/USV is designed and fielded.

      It is basically a muti-role pick up truck - to use the Navy's parlance.... On a battlefield with Main Battle Tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Its suitability in high intensity combat is questionable at best. But we already built, what, 14 at this point and probably at least 20 if the program where canceled tomorrow? We might as well use them for something.

      RE: Frigate
      I favor the NSC as a Frigate basis, but honestly I am not sold on the modern frigate concept. Are 20 new frigates worth more than 13 new Burke IIA's? I mean for the low end missions, as we have noted, will already have these fast auxiliary LCS hulls, so for high end combat and high risk single ship missions - why not more Burkes?

      It boils down to I just cannot trust the government to get it right, thus, keep building the least messed up program (Burkes) and possibly (NSC) and utilize the sunk/wasted cost of the LCS hulls produced.

      Basically the LCS is the mothballed 4 piper destroyer at the beginning of WW2. Yea the float and move, and that is about it as far as major combat is concerned. Yet those ships proved useful to both the USN and RN.

      Maybe we could pack them full of Marines and Ram them ashore for a one time use as an assault ship ala Saint Nazaire Raid!

  7. I like the Torpedo idea very much. It should be cheap, it adds value if you want to use it as a commerce raider/presence ship. In both situations it could find itself well within torp range, and if so it now has a killing weapon.

    Question though; are you thinking of the mk 32 launcher or making a new one? The Mk32 only seems to launch lightweight ASW torps. I'm not sure how those would work on a surface ship.

    Is there a surface ship launcher for the Mk48?

    1. New launcher. Essentially, a submarine torpedo tube. Probably located just above the waterline or even below.

    2. I'll have to disagree with under water torpedo tubes, I remember reading that they were multiple issues, You don't see them past WW1 designs.

      I would suggest replacing the Main gun with a torp launcher and removing some of the forward bow for launch clearance.

    3. That's interesting about underwater launched torpedoes. Given that every sub in the world does it routinely, what issues are there?

    4. WWI (and a few interwar) capital ships had underwater torpedo tubes. They had several problems. They had been intended for use in full-scale battle, but battle ranges rapidly increased to the point that hitting with the dumb torpedoes of the period became very hard. They also tended to require large compartments below the waterline that endangered the ship if they flooded: the loss of SMS Lützow at Jutland was partly due to this. Cruisers and destroyers of the period had above-water torpedo tubes because they lacked the space below the waterline.

      Submarines are usually lost if they take a significant hit. Capital ships have to survive a few hits, but torpedoes made them more vulnerable and weren't really useful.

      Fitting underwater tubes into a 2,300 or 3,500 ton ship that wasn't designed for them sounds hard.

    5. "battle ranges rapidly increased"

      Today's torpedoes are capable of 30-60 mile ranges so that's not an issue.

      "compartments below the waterline that endangered the ship if they flooded:"

      A ship has many compartments below the waterline that, if flooded, will endanger the ship. That's not an issue. The torpedo compartment in a sub is not particularly large. There's no reason a torpedo compartment on a surface ship would need to be overly large.

      "Fitting underwater tubes into a 2,300 or 3,500 ton ship that wasn't designed for them sounds hard."

      No, it doesn't. We drastically alter ships during refits all the time.

    6. Why are we discussing whether torpedoes are located above or below the waterline?

      I threw out a below the waterline possibility but, hey, I have nothing against torpedo tubes being located above the waterline although I'm unsure that we can deck-launch them safely. I assume we can since we drop torpedoes from aircraft but we don't, currently, have a deck-launch mechanism whereas we do have built in launch tubes on subs so we know that would work.

      The point is the use of a heavy torpedo on a ship. Whether above or below the waterline is the kind of pedantic argument that I detest. I don't mind discussing the issue from an informative, minor, sidelight, historical interest perspective but as a point of contention, it's worthless. The concept is heavy torpedoes on the LCS to try to make it useful. Where, exactly, the torpedoes are located is an issue for a naval architect or engineer to figure out and is of no more than passing interest.

      I don't mean to come down on you, but I get tired of people arguing minor points when there are large and important topics presented that are worthy of discussion. I expect better of readers than to get bogged down on minor points.

      Instead of torpedo location, why don't you tell me what you think of the general concept? Are heavy surface ship torpedoes a worthwhile armament. Can we use heavy, long range torpedoes in a tactically beneficial way against surface ships? Could we use them in an autonomous, almost "blind fire" mode towards a suspected location? If we don't use heavy torps, how can we sink large tankers/cargo ships in a blockade scenario since missiles generally won't do it? Can heavy torps be useful in an ASW scenario? Do heavy torps on a surface ship change the need for, or role of, ASW helos? Does the US Navy need a large, heavy, long range, wake-homing torp?

      You see what I mean about there being so many good aspects of this to discuss and explore? Why get bogged down in minor, irrelevant points? I'm talking to everyone who reads this post, not any specific person. Let's up our discussion game.

    7. Western navies currently have deck launchers for 12.75" lightweight torpedoes, but not 21" heavy torpedoes, AFAIK. The deck launchers for 21" torpedoes of the WWII era weren't especially complicated, and modern ones would be simpler, as there's no longer any need for the launchers to be pointable independently of the ship's heading.

      The reload and magazine arrangements for torpedoes would take a bit of work, since Mk 48s are similar in size, weight and danger to SM-3 Block II missiles.

      As usual for modern weapon systems, finding the target before it finds you is the problem, and Mk 48s are optimised for use from very stealthy platforms that find targets by sonar. The LCS is rather different, and will probably need help from aircraft or UAVs to locate targets.

      I can't speak to all of the tactical questions, but heavy torpedoes on a non-stealthy surface ship aren't that much use against nuclear submarines. The torpedo isn't a whole lot faster than the sub, and since it will usually be launched from considerable range, the submarine can usually escape, at the cost of making itself easy to detect while fleeing. Heavy surface ship torpedoes might well be more useful against SSKs, provided you can detect them.

      The Soviet/Russian wake-homing torpedoes were for the fairly specific mission of killing US carriers that the submarines didn't dare go close to. They aren't very useful in target-rich environments, since they'll just go for the first large ship whose wake they cross.

      Heavy torpedoes are a good way of sinking large ships in general (although tankers are very hard to sink). Using them in a near-blind-fire way is a lot more likely to work with better sensors on the torpedo and a fibre-optic control cable, which can carry a lot more data than guidance wires. Having a really good look at the German DM2A4 torpedo would be beneficial, that's quite sophisticated.

    8. "The reload and magazine arrangements for torpedoes would take a bit of work"

      Why would we even make the tubes reloadable? They won't be used often so why not just make them encapsulated, like missiles in VLS cells? When you've launched your 4 (or however many) torps, you're done. You return to port and reload. This is an LCS we're talking about, not a battleship that's going to stand and fight for hours or days on end. The LCS will be lucky to get one shot off. So, no magazines and no reload machinery!

    9. "the submarine can usually escape, at the cost of making itself easy to detect while fleeing"

      You almost got all the way to a tactical thought! There is no need for a weapon to have a 100% kill certainty in order to be beneficial. How many depth charges did we drop in WWII for relatively few kills? How many depth charges did we drop that didn't even have an actual sub in the area? How many depth charges maybe changed a sub's mind about where to go - we'll never know?

      As I suggested, blind firing torps across a wide expanse of area (say, where you want to sail your ships) might be a good way to "flush out" waiting subs.

      Also, subs are trying to get closer to their targets. When we find one, being able to launch heavy torps from multiple ships and multiple bearings might greatly complicate and limit a sub's escape options, making it easier to find and kill as it does so.

      It's possible that a heavy torp, used tactically, could be of immense benefit even if it never scored a kill !

      Stop thinking about why a weapon can't work and start thinking tactically about ways to make it useful !

    10. "They aren't very useful in target-rich environments, since they'll just go for the first large ship"

      I'm sorry, where's the problem in sinking the first large ship it can? How is sinking any large enemy ship a bad thing? Don't we want to sink ALL enemy ships, large or small? If the LCS can contribute a large enemy ship kill, isn't that a good thing?????

      My goodness, you're being negative about this!

    11. "better sensors on the torpedo and a fibre-optic control cable, "

      That's better!

    12. "quite sophisticated."

      Sophisticated is the enemy of reliable. There's a fine balance there. In war, reliable generally reigns supreme.

    13. "I'm sorry, where's the problem in sinking the first large ship it can?"

      You're assuming that all ships in an area belong to the enemy. That's not a reliable assumption in the early part of a war.

      I'm not deliberately being negative, but this proposal has obvious potential problems. As an engineer, I can't help spotting some of them. It isn't desperately surprising that there are some, given that none of the world's navies have put large torpedoes on surface ships for decades.

      The motive for this idea seems to be trying to get some use out of an ill-conceived ship design. The reason that there will be a lot of those ships is a refusal to face reality by the US Navy and the politicians that set its agenda. The politicians seem to be motivated by the amount of money that their corporate patrons get from the deal, and the USN by an unwillingness to lose face.

    14. ""better sensors on the torpedo and a fibre-optic control cable,""

      "That's better!"

      ""quite sophisticated.""

      "Sophisticated is the enemy of reliable. There's a fine balance there. In war, reliable generally reigns supreme."

      However, the DM2A4 is a torpedo with sensors and a fibre-optic control cable, which is in service with an allied navy that is fairly professional. Taking a look at it seems like a good way to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

    15. Did not several of the cold war era escort classes have submarine torpedo tubes, usually in their stern, as designed.

      That fad fell off after about a decade or two, I wonder why? ASROC development?

      I believe the idea was to give them a larger longer range ASW torpedo for self defense.

      To think outside the box - if we are commerce raiding - why not an air dropped naval mine, or RHIB deployed mine/explosive charge? Might be cheaper than developing all new launchers/variants of ASW torps?

    16. The Saudi version of the La Fayette class has 4 aft mounted 21 inch torpedo tubes for F17 torpedoes.

  8. The Navy's most immediate need for LCS is as a component of the Distributed Lethality concept of operations. A flotilla of 3 LCS armed with 4 surface to surface cruise missiles is less vulnerable to attack than is a single, larger frigate with 8 such weapons.

    1. As we've discussed, the LCS is non-survivable in that role unless escorted by a Burke in which case there is no need for it. Also, the lack of endurance almost rules out any distributed lethality operations due to the very short time on station. Finally, the lack of OTH detection and targeting makes the concept a challenge. In a war under enemy airspace, this seems like a one-way suicide mission.

    2. Lazarus:

      How does the LCS use an OTH missile? Its sensors are limited to ~24 miles, correct? Is it expecting to get coordinates from other ships?

      Also, has anyone done any war gaming with LCS flotillas armed with OTH missiles?

      I'm not Navy, and it might sound silly, but it seems like a decent way to at least ballpark a concept before you start bolting things on hulls.

    3. Few months late but, the problem I do believe against underwater tubes on surface ships was mostly time period specific. (limited angles of fire, complexity, and compromising hull integrity.)

      Another possible reason however, which I have no source for and should be accepted as such, is the fluxation of water pressure made it necessary to replace parts more frequently then desired, particularly swallow draft designs. But as I said, no source to back up my opinions.

    4. "compromising hull integrity. ... fluxation of water pressure made it necessary to replace parts more frequently ..."

      I would note that hull integrity issues and water pressure issues associated with tubes were solved decades ago. Submarines have operated with intact hulls at pressures many times greater than at the surface. Submarines have no particular parts failure issues related to their tubes that I'm aware of.

      Further, all surface ships have numerous underwater hull openings for cooling water circulation and have no hull integrity issues.

      You acknowledge that you have no data to support your opinion but in this case I think it's because there is no data!

    5. Not current data, and the last one was something I remembered from an old Jane's, which one I don't remember.

      Personally, we should revisit one concepts from time to time to see if their viable with new techniques. Maybe instead of an actual torpedo tube, maybe some sort of bolt on
      blister that houses a single or pair of torpedoes. Just replace the blister after use.

    6. And that's why I come read this blog, to learn new things and when I'm wrong.

    7. "blister that houses a single or pair of torpedoes"

      Now, that's interesting. One of the options for mounting ESSM missiles is in a blister pack on the side of superstructures. I forget the launcher Mk # at the moment. Anyway, blisters are completely plausible. An underwater blister might negatively impact ship's speed and noise but something just above the waterline could work.

      Good thought!

  9. Just a follow up thought (with Westpac theater as background, not Persian gulf or elsewhere)

    1. It is pretty much given, that PLAN is engaging in 'win-without-war' strategic/propagada/psychOp war, and as is (A2AD, anti-A2AD), PLAN can't win a kinetic war, and will suffer the disastrous result of greater consequence (i.e. destroyed PLAN, dashed dream, and cement its status as permanent hard enemy of the US.)

    2. Therefore, the USN should think about how to fight where the fight is (i.e. the non-kinetic arena.)

    3. Given that the USN already had a bucket of lemons- how should the lemonade be made? One way is to make it more lethal (as your piece suggested), but IMO, that's like tricking up an already well tuned muscle car (i.e. USN); when as is, it already left everyone else eating dust; and any upgrade will go over PLAN's head anyway without much psych effect.

    4. OTOH, China is working on its power-projection appearance (i.e. showboating its single carrier around to impress/intimidate its lessor neighbors). If I use basketball terminology; it's a JV team showing up the opposing audience, and 'badmouthing' the opposing varsity team. Now imaging this- in the pre-game ritual announcing the starters: PLAN is going to announce its starter lineup, and the USN is going to start its eye candy cheerleader and sits its varsity squad for 3 quarters. As is, LCS are sleek fast looking and eye candy; it can outrun, outdance, outloop anything PLAN has. 'LCS' can be spelled 'disrespect'. The more PLAN trying to 'pump muscle' its JV team, 'LCS' should look to get slicker 'boob and tush'and keep taunting. Real muscle is only a bench away.

    1. "LCS are sleek fast looking and eye candy; it can outrun, outdance, outloop anything PLAN has."

      Tim, you need to do some research before you comment. As one example of the inaccuracy of your statement, the Chinese have a class of 80+ stealth catamaran missile boats with a speed of 36+ kts (max Independence speed is 37.9 kts - I'll be posting that shortly) and 8x C-80x anti-ship missiles plus CIWS. China is also building some very nice stealth corvettes that are far superior to the LCS.

      You have a valid thought about the non-kinetic fight. Now bring the rest of your comment up to that same level.

  10. The LCS as a UAV carrier seems like the most viable choice. Their flight decks are large and as I understand it, most drones are small enough to use the existing elevator. That is a big deal, because it means larger numbers of drones can operate from each LCS ship (since storing them wouldn’t be limited to only the upper hangar).

    I would suggest the carrier concept be expanded further to include larger manned aircraft. Specifically, I am thinking of the F-35B, V-22, and Sea Stallion. This would require strengthening the flight deck and protecting it from the increased heat. Ideally, it would also include a larger elevator installed to link the lower storage bays to the upper flight deck for these larger aircraft. Doing so would increase the number of aircraft that can be stored on each ship (just like for the UAVs).

    These changes would allow LCS ships to operate as mini-carriers. Even without the extra larger elevator, strengthening the flight deck would allow them to act as Lilly pads for aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing. In times of war, these ships could dash into operating areas while still staying hundreds of miles offshore. There, they could act as Lilly pads aircraft could come to refuel and rearm.

    Honestly, I see this less as a helpful possibility and more of a necessity. Larger ships like the San Antonio and America Class that operate VTOL aircraft are unable (or at least unwilling) to move close enough to the shores of peer competitors to even use their aircraft effectively. This would at least create operating flexibility without risking these larger ships.

    1. "thinking of the F-35B, V-22, and Sea Stallion. This would require strengthening the flight deck"

      That's probably not possible, at least for the Freedom variant. While strengthening the flight deck can be done, the class is at or beyond its weight limits and has little or no margin. DOT&E has documented this and the Navy, by way of evidence, is frantically trying to reduce the weight of the MCM module. Right now, it's a case of every pound added has to be balanced by a pound subtracted. Thus, the additional structural strengthening would greatly exceed the weight margins and require a like amount of weight removed and, as with any ship, there are no large excess weights sitting around that don't do anything and can be removed without affecting ship's performance.

      You're thinking creatively. I like that. Keep thinking!

    2. F-35B is not VTOL, it is STOVL, stort take off vertical landing.

    3. Well, not exactly Paveway. The F35B is perfectly capable of taking off vertically, it just has to make weight compromises to do so.

    4. To clarify, the F-35 cannot take off vertically with a useful fuel and ordinance load.

  11. According to wiki, both freedom and Independence classes displaced about 3000+ tons and max.speed at about 45kn. Wiki also shows Type-022 missile at 230 ton and 36 kn. Even if mfg. oversold its spec (or if LCS way under armed), it will only matter if there is a shooting war, and China has more/faster to lose if war breaks out. In that context, IMO the 'non-kinetic' fight has stolen the gravity, if not the spot light, of today's contest. Or, as you put it "China has so far prevailed with a calculating mind game". (for that matter, so is Putin, inside the DC beltway mindset).

    I know you guys are all about: spec, weapon, and budget for future hot war and current cold peace. But, what about Naval aspect of psych.warfare (or expounding psych.warfare into naval facet of it, besides FON in SCS) under current global situation?

    1. The LCS speeds are well under 40 kts. I have a post coming out on Friday that documents this. Always take Wiki with a huge dose of skepticism! Also, keep firmly in mind the Chinese corvettes and frigates. They have some very modern, and capable ones and far outclass us in that regard.

      As I said, your comment about non-kinetic conflict is quite relevant. However, history assures that, sooner or later, war will come and at that point kinetic is the only thing that matters. China is building towards that point and we're not.

      Do you have any Navy-specific suggestions for non-kinetic actions? Freedom of Nav ops have been a dismal failure! What else do you suggest?

    2. I go over to and read their post and comments(from their hardcore Yesterday, they posted a slide show of a cookout (sausage links and steaks) on
      DDG-51 that's patrolling in SCS- if not for the background pic of VLS hatches and sailor cloth, you'd think it's a BBQ in a park (sodas, guitar..everything). Half of the comments were, of course, 'get out of SCS, that's Chinese water'. But the other half is interesting. You see, the first slide was an overall shot of the cooks (about 12, 3 whites, 3 Asian, 3 blacks, and couple Hispanics). The 3 comments jumped out at me: 'why so many Asians(or Chinese, they presume)', 'why so much meat, and too burned for their taste', 'why are you messing up the air from the cookout, Chinese air is polluted already'. I can just read the background questions in their mind, and none of them is about military matter, and I was so tempted to sign up the site and reply to them about 'life in Americana'(maybe, I'll try and see how long before they boot me off the site). You see, talking to them disarmingly genuine without disarming their sense of, well, personal and true.

      Reach out and touch someone.

    3. IMHO there are some used for LCS in its current form 1. Replace the hydtofoils in carribean inter spring drug smugglers or searh/rescue 2. Minesweepers we more than likely will need a few for that 3. Modern day PT boat not a bad idea practice this idea the LCS in its current form can be used as a fire support/ shire bombardment is out there a little as most likely the launch areas would have to be hardened to withstand the heat from the missiles take off 5.if and only if LCS can get improved range and reduced maintenance requirement then pirate chaser becomes an option 6. Notice no one has mentioned one of the primary reasons for LCS in the first place anti swarm boat defence again refer to pirate chaser because to me they are pretty close in relation to each other

  12. Improve the radar and use them for picket ships

  13. What I would do is cap the LCS at 20 and split them between the MCM and PC fleet. LCS-1's would go to the PC Fleet and LCS-2 would go to the MCM fleet. After that, start work on a viable frigate based off the US Coast Guard's NSC Cutter hull or make a Deal with South Korea on the Incheon class Frigate Batch 2, Uk with the Type 26 Frigate, France with the French version of the FREMM Frigate or Germany with the F-125 Frigate.

    1. Those are all decent frigates but the US has discovered about foreign arms sales what the rest of the world knows about US arms sales - you don't get the details and intellectual property that you need. The US is dropping the LCS-1 radar because they can't get the data to model its performance. If the US were to buy a foreign ship we wouldn't get the unlimited data we need. It's a problem. What do you think?

    2. Like I said, I think the only viable option is that the US Navy seriously takes a look and an upgunned NSC patrol Frigate Even HII is pitching to the US Navy on an upgunned NSC frigate;

      Even War is Boring published an article that agrees with me that the US Navy really needs to replace the LCS with the NSC frigate called FF4923. Here's the article to the link;

      Sometimes, You Just Need a Really Tough Frigate

    3. The proposed HII frigate—which the company is primarily gearing toward the export market—is a 4,675 metric ton design that is 418-feet long and a beam of 54-feet. The vessel would have a crew size of 121 sailors and would have a range of more than 8,000 nautical miles or more than 60 days. Power would come from a pair of 9,655shp diesels and 30,565shp gas turbine—giving the ship a top speed of just above 28 knots. HII says it could increase the speed to more than 30 knots, but suggested that an incrementally greater sprint speed is not worth the additional cost—especially for the patrol mission.

      In terms of sensors and weapons, the HII FF4923 would be well furnished. It would include a 3D rotating phased array radar, an EO/IR sensor, passive ECM, hull-mounted sonar and towed-array or variable depth sonar. It would be armed with a Mk-41 vertical launch system with 16 cells capable of carrying the Standard SM-2 and RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missile. It would also be equipped with ASROC anti-submarine rockets, eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a single triple torpedo launcher and a 76mm gun. HII officials said that their frigate design could be a directly replacement for the now retired Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate that was mainstay of the Navy’s fleet for decades.

      For ship self-defense, the FF4923 would be equipped with the Raytheon SeaRAM close in defense systems as well as two remotely controlled and four manually operated .50 caliber machine guns. It would also be equipped with anti-missile and anti-torpedo defenses. In addition to the ship’s own capabilities, the FF4923 would have the ability to carry a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and two unmanned aerial vehicles. It would also be able to launch and recover a 7m rigid-hull inflatable boat.

    4. Here are my thoughts on the 4923:

      How survivable is it? Given its derivation from the NSC, that is an open question.

      How quiet it is, can it be made to be?

      To be a true Perry replacement, it should have a second helicopter, and the tankage to support continuous flight ops for an extended period.

      The single torpedo launcher makes me think the design is maxed out. wouldn't want to have to do a 180 to take a snap shot at at a sub that had gotten in close.

      It will be the least stealthy warship built in the 21st century.

      I agree that it is the best American design available, but not sure that is a good enough reason to build it.

      Of the available foreign designs, the Spanish F-110 seems to me to offer the best option to replace the full Perry capability. Given that Navantia has a clear preference for working with American systems, I don't see there being huge intellectual property issues.

  14. Senator McCain's white paper for the navy

  15. For me your UAV platform is probably going to be the most flexible and useful going into the future.

    If we think of the aircraft carrier as the Swiss army knife of the naval world. The ability to get usage from the LCS hull is maximised if we consider a flexible “air wing” associated with them. Rather than just what bits we can bolt to the ship.

    Naval Gunfire targeting, picket ships, Anphib landing support and even sea control support. Never mind lower end SAR and patrol duties.

    It’s got a lot of legs. And will maximise the usage of a hull that can’t usefully do much in traditional terms.

    It could find itself as a significant force magnifier, especially as UAV technology rockets forward in the coming decade.


    1. The riverine mother ship is an interesting concept. I wonder if the coast guard could use some of these LCS ships as well.

    2. I could see the LCS as a good special forces platform for situations in which a submarine is unnecessary or unavailable. Stealthy, quick approach and getaway, lots of empty space. I wonder if it could be modified to launch some of the bigger special ops boats like the SOC-R. It can probably accommodate the stealth helicopters the special forces are rumored to be using. Sort of a smaller scale version of the company landing team proposed above.

  16. One thing any variant of the LCS should do is replace the 57mm with a more useful weapon, including the ones already fielded. Since better air-defense is a must, the MK 48 VLS with ESSM and a better radar, or a SeaRAM using existing systems. Any future builds should be stretched and an 8 to 16 cell full-length MK 41 VLS fitted so that it could launch tomahawks or ASROC in addition to ESSM's.

    One thing in favor a drone carrier would be that you could have pairs of LCS working together; instead of the drone having to return to the launch ship (which reduces the radius of the drone) you could have one launching and another recovering at a different position. So a recon drone with say a 500 mile range could travel a path of 450 miles (with reserves) from one ship to the next instead of 225 miles out and back.

    1. The navy has already rejected fitting a VLS to these designs as unaffordable. Honestly, if you want a big corvette/small frigate, you should build another ship with a conventional hull and conventional propulsion. Much cheaper.

    2. "instead of the drone having to return to the launch ship"

      That's an interesting tactic although I'm not sure it would be all that useful. Generally, we want to scout ahead (meaning, into enemy territory) rather than behind. If we could send an LCS 400-500 miles into enemy territory then we probably don't need to scout in between - the LCS would have scouted the way in on the way in.

      That leaves scouting behind us which is generally already known to be "safe". Subs, of course, would still be a threat but UAVs are not subhunters.

      The tactic is interesting but I'm not seeing the immediate use. I'll have to keep thinking on it.

      To modify your thought a bit, launching UAVs to scout ahead and then having the launch ship sprint after them a ways to shorten the recovery distance might be useful.

    3. I was also thinking of something besides the range:
      If launched from an LCS traveling with a fleet, and the drone is detected then it can be back traced back to its launch or followed to its landing point, thus giving a bearing for the fleet's location. With separate launch and recover ships over a larger geographic range then if detected, the enemy would have to check two separate vectors, one of which is a false location for the fleet, thus complicating enemy's search...or with a tight beam sat link, both could be a false location, thus adding even more to their confusion.
      Now imagine if we had drones carrying a jamming pod, then a drone launched from both LCS on opposite sides of an island we are about to attack--same thing but worse. If a drone is only launched from one vector, then they can guess that the island side being jammed is the probably landing zone and their troops will concentrate there, but if bracketed from both sides either becomes a probable landing zone.

    4. The navy has already rejected fitting a VLS to the LCS, but these doesn’t mean that the RAM is the only SAM available: on both variant, the Sea Ram launcher could be replaced by a Mk-29 box launcher fitted with 8 ESSM. Both launcher have almost the same weight. The Mk-110 gun could also be replaced by a Mk-29 launcher, giving the LCS a total of 16 ESSM. Same SAM number as the Brooke frigate class.

      With 2 Mk-46 30 mm gun, there would be a mission module space available, for installing 2 Mk-141 missile launchers for 8 SSM with land attack capability (Harpoon II or similar).

      Equipped with a decent 3D radar and a complete EW suite, the LCS could be a suitable escort vessel for URG or ARG. In the last case, could also escort the LCACs in the round trip from over the horizon to the shore.

    5. "Mk-29 box launcher fitted with 8 ESSM"

      Very good point about the Mk29 which has the advantage of not requiring the large internal, below deck volume that the VLS does.

    6. hold on there while the Mk29 might seem to require a lot less internal hull volume, there are some hat are easy to miss. The MK29 require space for HPU below deck, control panes, and other system to direct the launchers. There is also above deck space for reloads not needed by the Mk41And finally The Mk29 require several crewman to operate that Mk41 never need Those people alone would require more space then the Mk29 would save.

    7. "deck space for reloads"

      This is for an LCS, not a major combatant. I wouldn't think there would be any need for reloads.

      The point is that the Mk29 requires significantly less internal volume than the VLS.

      Where did you get that the Mk29 requires several people to operate? Document that.

  17. I've read a lot about, and am a fan of, the standard class battleships. The Pennsylvania class used to have torpedo rooms below the water line.

    They were deleted because of the range issues you mention (from 1913 to the refit they expected battle ranges to increase. The elevation of the main battery was also increased to accomodate this). But also because the class needed to incorporate bulges both for torpedo protection and as an offset to the increased weight from their refits.

    We never seemed to have anything like Long Lance in our philosophy, and even if we did by the time of the refits I'm guessing that was considered destroyer duty.

    In this guise, I'd think of the LCS as more of a long range PT or E boat.

    I do think we are missing one thing though. If she is going to be a commerce raider Could she store enough men to house a prize crew?

    1. "store enough men to house a prize crew?"

      Yes, I would think we could fit some additional shelving to store more men. :)

      Seriously, for the cost of putting additional crew on LCS's, it would be cheaper just to build more merchant shipping.

  18. Any idea why the LCS Freedom variant doesn't/can't carry two helos? It seems like there is plenty of room in the hangar area.

    If anyone is interested, there is a virtual tour of the Freedom variant online. It might help stoke the creative coals for possible ideas on alternative uses.

    1. I've been told that the flight deck structure was significantly downsized ("weakened") early in construction/design as a cost and weight saving measure. Thus, the flight deck, while large, is not structurally capable of supporting much weight. Whether that's the reason or whether it's hangar size or whether it's simply a philosophical choice in the push to make everything unmanned, I don't know.

      People come up with a lot of creative aviation ideas (flights of F-35s, large helos, lilypads, etc.) that are just not feasible due to the flight deck structural limitations.

      I've not heard anything about the LCS-2 variant flight deck structure or way or the other.

  19. You have to think of the LCS as a tier 2 ship. It won't be conducting an amphib raid by itself or launching tomahawks. It might be pirate hunting off Somalia on its own, but near Iran or China it will have bigger brothers nearby and fast air from the local CVA so it shouldn't need the ability to sink big stuff.

    It just needs to be cheap with the following: 76mm multipurpose gun, SeaRam CIWS, 12" torpedos and decoys, 1x helo, unmanned scouts (ScanEagle & Remus 600), and 2 x CB90 in the stern.

    1. What you say is reasonable, in isolation. What you're overlooking is that the Navy considers the LCS to be a major combatant in that they are numerically replacing both the Perrys and Ticos with the LCS. The LCS, if we build 40-50 of them and continue to shrink the fleet, will make up a third of the combat fleet. A third of our combat fleet can't be a tier 2 ship.

      Recall the original LCS concept. It was supposed to be capable of being the lead ship to head into combat. It was going to be the first-in vessel that would clear the way for other ships. It was going to be able to stand in the littorals and fight and clear the region of threats. That's a major combatant.

      So, you're assessment of the LCS as a tier 2 ship is correct but leaves us with a vastly reduced effective combat fleet so we can't consider it a tier 2. If it can't be a tier 1 then we need to terminate it and acquire something that is a front line combatant.

    2. There is lots of talk of using off board systems. The LCS is a bit like that. If we get into a war where we need to clear the way ahead for a CVA or amphib group then a squadron of 2 LCS and 1 Burke could be quite effective and would be less to risk than 3 tier 1 ships. The CB90s could operate as MCMV and with 4 helos in the group plus fast air on call that is still a lot.
      I see nothing wrong with having 40 or so tier 2 ships providing there is always a CVA in range in a high threat area.

    3. "2 LCS and 1 Burke could be quite effective and would be less to risk than 3 tier 1 ships."

      How are 2 LCS and 1 Burke more effective than 3 Burke? MCM would be the only area and we could acquire a LOT of Avenger MCM's for the cost of one LCS. For anything else, 3 Burkes are far more effective. Sure, it's more risk but it's also many times more capable.

      You're missing the main point and that is that a third of our front line combat fleet can't be tier 2 ships.

    4. If the LCS must be tier 1 then it needs to be tough enough and big enough for 2 helos, have a proper gun and a VLS. In other words a Burke. This article is asking what should we do with the LCS's we have? I say up the gun to 76mm, mod the stern bay to fit 2 CB90s and use them in tier 2 support roles.

      As for having 1/3 as tier 2. Consider this... You don't fight tanks with tanks. You destroy them from the air before you deploy your ground forces which you then support with you own tanks. The same is true for ships. You don't prepare for destroyer vs destroyer, you aim to sink their ships and subs with your subs before you deploy your ships. They can then focus on AAW (use Burkes and CVA) and light ASuW (use an LCS with air support).

      If we can afford an all big ship fleet that's great, but we can't and as long as we have a CVA nearby we don't need to. Lets just not do what the Royal Navy has done which is have tiny numbers of £1bn escorts and nothing else.

    5. You're quite right about the point of the post and your response about modifications is completely valid. My concern is with the idea of accepting that having a third of the COMBAT FLEET be tier 2 is somehow acceptable.

      I have nothing against having a complete combat fleet and THEN INCORPORATING TIER 2 supporting ships. In fact, that's only logical for a host of reasons. What is not logical is to deliberately downsize the combat fleet by replacing frigates and Aegis cruisers, numerically, with tier 2 ships.

  20. Somewhat unrelated, but has any serious thought or discussion gone into a mothership concept attached to a carrier group? I am thinking particularly of a ship optimized to sustain small corvettes that specialize in certain areas (like the Visby or Skjold). What are the largest problems that prevent the Navy from utilizing smaller ships like this?

    Any position papers or think tank research out there on the subject?

    1. The biggest problem with a small vessel mothership is that the Navy, historically and culturally, has no interest in small ships. To be fair, it's arguable that the Navy would benefit from such a small, generic vessel given the Navy's missions and operating areas.

      That said, I've called for small, dedicated ASW vessels that might be corvette-ish. Such a vessel, however, should be fully ocean capable and require no mothership support.

      What do you think the US Navy would use a generic corvette for?

    2. At the very least, I would envision a mothership supporting 6-8 smaller ships engaging in ASW, AAW, ASuW, and ISR.

      Three Visby class ships (or similar) could specialize in ASW for a carrier group. They are capable platforms that disperse the risk of losing your sole ASW ship (in the event it is sunk) and create flexibility in coverage and tactics. The three ships also reduce the need (and costs) of helicopters and make helos more effective when they are used by using the ships as lillypads. The basic hope is to match the strength of a platform with the requirements of that type of warfare. Helicopters offer speed and general invulnerability to submarine counterattack, but it comes at the massive costs of paltry endurance and lots of dollars. While helicopters measure their on-station time in hours, 600 ton ships do it in weeks. While helicopters measure their operating costs per hour in thousands of dollars, 600 tons ships do it in hundreds. You get the idea.

      Next, three Skjold class ships (or similar) to act as ISR/AAW/ASuW/Raider assets. These three ships would be slightly modified to give them AAW capability by either using half of their SSM tubes for ESSM missiles or by replacing the 76mm gun with a Mk29 launcher housing eight ESSM missiles (maybe both). They would act as the outermost fence of a carrier group in concert with fighter and patrol aircraft. 300-600 ton ships focused on AAW is (IMO) a huge potential untapped advantage. A stealthy ship can decimate entire squadrons of unsuspecting aircraft before they are able to identify the ship. It essentially acts as a submarine to the skies – A stealth platform that can go nearly anywhere, seriously disrupt and terrorize the enemy, yet only be countered by a dedicated and coordinated effort. I say the Skjold because it has the added benefit of being fast. The speed effectively neutralizes a torpedo threat and therefore allows it to forgo any ASW sensors and weapons (except for a torpedo warning system).

      The last two ships could depend on specific needs or the area of deployment. Examples would include patrol craft, AIP submarines, mine warfare ships, etc.

      My thoughts anyway. Is there something glaring you think I am missing?

  21. I'm still curious on your up-coming post on the LCS being used for the coast guard. Are you still planning on making one?


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