Apparently, the Navy quietly declared the LCS MCM Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) system operational during the summer as just reported in a USNI News website article (1). COBRA is an aerial mine detection system that has been under development for many years.
Before we go any further, does anyone believe the Navy’s declaration of operational capability? How many systems have we see declared operational and nothing short of magnificent only to find out the reality, as actually measured by DOT&E, falls far short? To put it bluntly, I don’t believe the Navy and I don’t believe the COBRA system is operational.
Setting that aside, something else caught my eye in the article. Apparently, the Navy plans to purchase a total of 30 COBRA systems.
“… the Navy bought two systems in Fiscal Year 2017 and will continue to buy more as quickly as budgets allow. … the plan is to buy 24 additional COBRAs, for a total of 30.” (1)
Now, you’ll recall that after the recent reorganization of the LCS fleet, there will be three functional squadrons of four ships each on each coast, one squadron for each type of module/function: ASW, MCM, and ASuW (see, “Navy Surrenders”).
Thus, there will be a total of 8 MCM type LCS vessels. Therefore, 30 COBRA systems is way beyond the minimum required. For one system per ship, only 8 are needed. Even with two, the maximum possible per ship, only 16 are needed. Throw in a few for backups or maintenance unavailabilities and that still leaves a bunch extra. Is the Navy planning for combat attrition? That would be wise and very unlike the Navy.
|MQ-8 Fire Scout|
Recall that the COBRA system is intended to search for mines along the shore. The host platform for the COBRA is the MQ-8B/C Fire Scout unmanned helo. In an opposed scenario which, by definition, any mined shore would be, a large, slow, non-stealthy, hovering helo is going to have a very short life expectancy. Additional COBRA systems will be required, for sure! However, I’m unaware that the Navy is planning to procure additional UAVs so having extra COBRA systems would be pointless.
I’m a little puzzled by this. Could the Navy be planning to mount the COBRA systems on some other platform in addition to the LCS/Fire Scout? Alternatively, does the Navy already know that the reliability is such that 30 units will be required to keep 8 in service?
I’ll have to continue looking into this.
(1)USNI News website, “Navy Declares COBRA Coastal Mine Detection System Operational After Successful Test”, Megan Eckstein,