Friday, December 15, 2017

LCS Service Without A Module

The LCS program has many problems.  One of the major ones is that there are no combat-useful modules available despite years of development effort.  Without a module, the LCS is just a large patrol boat.

Here’s a table showing the commissioned LCS vessels and the number of years that they have, thus far, served without a module.  Recalling that the target service life span of the LCS is 25 years and noting that almost no Navy vessel has made it to their full life span in recent decades, we’re seeing LCS’s that are expending significant portions of their service lives without any useful capability whatsoever.

Ship      Commissioned   Years Without a Module

LCS-1         2008               9
LCS-2         2010               7
LCS-3         2012               5
LCS-4         2014               3
LCS-5         2015               2
LCS-6         2015               2
LCS-7         2016               1
LCS-8         2016               1
LCS-10        2017               0

The troubling aspect to this is that there is no readily discernible end to the module development in sight.  The Navy claims that each module is just a few years from operation but they’ve been claiming that for the last decade.

This is the equivalent of a battleship being built, commissioned, and serving for years without its main battery.

If a war starts tonight, what can the commissioned LCS’s contribute?  Nothing.

That’s what 9 of our commissioned warships bring to the combat table.  Nothing.


  1. Battleship with out ammo, USS Zumwalt ?

  2. I'd like to know how many real world patrols the LCS ships have conducted. I bet I can count them all on my 10 fingers and 10 toes.

    1. You can save most of your fingers and toes. Off the top of my head, there have been three deployments to Singapore and that's it.

  3. The only thing the LCS is ever good for is AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM.

    1. How many deployments have they completed to AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM?

      Any evidence that their massive logistical tail can be "deployed" anywhere other than an first-world city (including Singapore in that cohort)?

      Hint: no, there's not.

    2. "Any evidence that their massive logistical tail can be "deployed" anywhere other than an first-world city"

      You bring up a great point about the logistics-deployment link but not everyone may understand exactly what you're referring to. Why don't you explain this in more detail?

    3. I view the range of the LCS a serious drawback, so therefore combat presence would be determined by how many refueling rendezvous the ship would need to make.

    4. The point I thought you were making is the LCS uses a shore-side maintenance concept as opposed to on-board maintenance like other ships. Therefore, the LCS has to put into port every two weeks for maintenance and once ever 6-8 weeks for more extensive maintenance. Thus, the ship can't deploy very far from a well-equipped LCS base and we don't have any of those in the areas you mention.

      Combine that need to stay near a maintenance hub/base with the inherent short range and you have a very restricted ship in terms of where it can deploy without a major base.

    5. 12/16@4:35 Anonymous back in response to your question. I wasn't the "Guest" poster

      Here's one document that characterizes the LCS forward maintenance concept

      See page 26, para 2 "two types of routine availabilities"

      PMAVs - once each 25 days, lasting 5 days
      CMAVs - once each 117 days lasting 14 days

      Both PMAV and CMAV require contractor and shore support b/c the ship is neither manned nor skilled to handle the repairs.

      As page 27 notes,

      "Much of the preventative and corrective maintenance traditionally performed by the ship’s force, some of it without the CHENG’s awareness, must be performed by civilians and contractors in port"

      So every three weeks you have to fly a small army of contractors, palletized equipment, and material to meet the ship. On the 117th day refit, the scope of work and contractors can be massive. You may also need a dry dock capable of a 100ft beam vessel.

      Its describing Tender-level maintenance without a tender.

      Does this all require C-5 class heavy airlift?

      The Navy has been completely non-responsive to GAO and DOT&E about the costs of frequent flyer program for tools, people, and replacement gear.

      But what we do know is its all taking place in Singapore. Which is the most advanced sea and air facility in Asia (apologies to HK).

      Its probably all bullsh*t in the sense that it doesn't actually happen.

      My guess is there's no magic here. Hop on a plane and you'd find a tender's worth of fixed and immobile machine shops and logistic arrangements with contractors pierside in Singapore which couldn't be moved to a spartan location for all the gold and heavy lift in Christendom.

      Which is why you won't see deployments to SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM. In that sense, its akin to your criticism of the F-35. Spartan concept coupled with resource-devouring equipment.

      The only class of port LCS can base out of are places with extensive civilian maintenance & repair facilities *including marine gas turbine repair* and a cooperative host government.

      And LCS will be tethered to that port.

      Its also never deployed out of Yokosuka. If the Rolls Royce brand gas turbines broke, could you contractually repair them in a Navy facility or are you violating terms of a contract? Can the Navy repair Rolls Royce engines? Who knows. The answer exists, its not being shared.

    6. Its frustrating because this program is the most retrograde and regressive development in marine and systems engineering in the last century.

      It was never going to work, and it will never work. You can't couple low MTBF components with no onboard maintenance. You can't couple no onboard maintenance without mobile facilites, like tenders. You can't couple all three together and expect anything different that what you have now.

      And that's without a single module consuming operational resources. Katy bar the door once those abominations hit the fleet.

      So frustratingly predictable.

    7. "12/16@4:35 Anonymous back in response to your question. I wasn't the "Guest" poster"

      My apologies. I assumed you and Guest were the same. This is why I encourage at least signing a name to a comment so I can keep track of all the anon comments!

  4. I can think of a use for the LCS, but it's not one of it's intended uses. The USN could quietly load LRASM's into the cargo bay inside cargo containers, and then station the LCS amoungst islands. Wheel the missiles out onto the flight deck and it becomes a small missile battery. Unlike the Harpoon, the LRASM targets enemy ships by locking onto their radar emissions, so it only needs to be launched in the general direction of the enemy ships.

    Similarly, perhaps it's possible to load more SeaRAM's via cargo containers for more point defense?


    1. "Wheel the missiles out onto the flight deck"

      What kind of launcher did you have in mind that can be "wheeled out"?

      How would the missile get targeting data?

      How do you quickly launch a volley of missiles if you have to wheel them out one at a time?

      I'm not sure you'll get many volunteers to serve on an already survivability-challenged ship when you then go and load tons of explosives in an unprotected bay! I refer you to the Enterprise/Forrestal conflagrations.

      I'm not sure you've completely thought this through.

    2. A few years ago, the Russians had a concept of using a standard shipping container as a transporter-erector-launcher for 4 Club-K anti-ship missiles. We could probably do the same with LRASM or Harpoon with the LCS carrying 3 to 4 containers in her mission bay. Targeting data could come from satellite or from another ship or aircraft.

    3. Those Club-K missiles are around 4400 lbs each. Four of them would be around 18,000 lbs. The launcher/container would weigh another 2000(?) lbs. So, a 20,000 lb container of missiles. Not exactly a "wheel" it out scenario! Trying to control a 20,000 lb container on a pitching, rolling deck would be a challenge.

      As I recall, the Russian concept would have had fixed containers on deck that would stay where they were and simply open to launch.

      For targeting, I was referring to actual targeting data transmission from the LCS to the missile. That's not a trivial matter. It would require hard wired cable connections which would interfere with "wheeling out" or wireless comms which would require specific antenna transmitters to be added to the ship. Certainly doable but not a trivial matter.

      On a closely related note, the Navy's first attempts at module swapping on Freedom revealed that the ship was exceeding its incline limits as they moved the module containers. In order to complete the task, they had to carefully calculate and counterbalance the ship. That's one of the reasons why they found module swapping required a few to several days effort. Again, "wheeling out" a 20,000 lb container /launcher may not be as simple and straightforward as you think!

      This is somewhat analogous to trying to bring a helo out the hangar and launch it. There's a reason why you don't see that happening in 30 seconds or less! It takes a fair amount of time. If you're looking at using these missiles in active combat scenarios, I would think you'd want a 30 sec or less reaction time!

    4. Ideally, you would have the canisters on the deck ready to go before launch. Yes, it would disrupt helicopter operations, but I see this as a one-off event.

      You could also just mount a bunch of angled canisters on the deck. Again, a one-off situation. I'll guess a ground-launched LRASM is about 3500 lbs between the missile, booster and canister. Spread out, I'd guess the deck could handle 12 to 16 canisters, more with Harpoon.

    5. I would expect the LRASM to be moved from stoarage area to the flight deck in a similar manner as the test firing of the NSM in 2014.Of course, it will take some time to move it into position.

      As for targeting data, I chose the LRASM as the missile because it doesn't rely on targeting data as intensively as the harpoon does.

      " LRASM uses a passive sensor to sniff out and home in. LRASM doesn’t emit any electromagnetic signals that would allow the enemy to detect it ahead of time. Instead, the missile turns the tables by homing in on enemy shipboard radars."


    6. "You could also just mount a bunch of angled canisters on the deck."

      16 launcher/missiles at 3500 lbs each = 56,000 lbs (28 tons). The LCS is already overweight, has zero weight growth margins, and suffers from instability. Installing those launchers would be quite an engineering challenge!

    7. "As for targeting data, I chose the LRASM as the missile because it doesn't rely on targeting data as intensively as the harpoon does."

      Yes, it does. It does not require terminal guidance but it certainly needs initial targeting even if it's only a bearing to search down. Yes, we could blind fire missiles down every bearing but that quickly becomes cost prohibitive and a single missile isn't going to accomplish an effective attack. You need to volley launch missiles to overwhelm the defenders defenses. Thus, wheeling out missiles one at a time won't give you the volley that you need for an effective attack.

    8. "On a closely related note, the Navy's first attempts at module swapping on Freedom revealed that the ship was exceeding its incline limits as they moved the module containers. In order to complete the task, they had to carefully calculate and counterbalance the ship. That's one of the reasons why they found module swapping required a few to several days effort."


      That was the whole damned point of the boat and they didn't think of that in the design?

      Can we at least waterski behind it?

    9. "they didn't think of that in the design?"

      You're really asking that? This is the program that neglected to add galvanic corrosion protection, forgot to put bridge wings on the ship, and didn't think to check whether the MH-60 helo could actually safely tow the MCM equipment before they developed the equipment, and ... Well, I could go on but you get the idea. There was no engineering oversight on this program.

      This is what happens when you turn your warship design responsibilities over to two companies that had never built warships before. You know it won't turn out well. That was bad but then the Navy compounded the problem by failing to exert any engineering oversight during design and construction. The result as a steaming pile of LCS.

  5. OT, CNO why don't you run a post on recent Chinese artificial island developments, here's a article with a lot of pics

    1. I've run several posts on the topic. Check the archives. What particular aspect did you have in mind?

  6. Right now I agree. What a mess. The only thing the ship is good for is peace time presence with allies and partner nations. A glorified cutter.
    Sadly, we have such a shortage of hulls that the Navy need two LCS on station all the time just to work with our allies in the SCS. If we can get all the LCS on line as glorified cutters it would help. But as you so rightly point out, it will help in peace time only. In war time we will need more MCM ships. But I suspect we won't need 28 of them. Again, what a mess.

  7. Look, it seem to me most of you forget that not all the missions intended for the LCSs. If it takes a few years to finish the specialize equipment for ASW, and mine countermeasures, we wills still shave vessels with their AShM and Hellfires , plus 11M boats and helicopters that can handle those mission fast craft such as handled in earlier years. Remember, we only have a few such vessels available today, and they will wear out soon.

    1. The LCS was designed and intended to perform three missions: ASW, ASuW, and MCM. Currently, it can perform none of those. The first fully functional module is still a few years away, at best. After that, it will be some years before the Navy purchases enough modules to equip all the ships. Realistically, we're looking at ten more years to get a fully functional module in each LCS - and that's the best case outlook! Many, or most/all, LCS ships will wind up spending significant portions of the service lives without a fully functioning module - the point of the post.

      The Navy is attempting to apply public relations (fraud) to this deplorable situation by redefining what a module is and how it will be delivered. For example, the ASuW module which was supposed to have a 20+ mile NLOS weapon system is now defined as being delivered in "increments" with the first increment being a couple 30 mm machine guns (useless), a RHIB (not an ASuW weapon in any sense), and a helo (a marginally useful asset due to its limited availability). What a pathetic attempt to deceive us. They may as well call a sailor standing on deck with a pistol the ASuW module - he'd be just about as effective. Using this extremely dumbed down definition, the Navy claims that they have a functioning ASuW module. That's pure fraud.

      Hellfire is NOT a part of the module yet. It may or may not ever be. I don't need to list all the weapons that seemed locked in and then failed to depoly (how about the Zumwalt's AGS with no ammo!!!). If and when the Hellfire actually is installed, we'll revisit the ASuW module. Also, you might want to compare the range of the Hellfire versus the original ASuW module range spec of 20+ miles. The Hellfire is a poor substitute.

      The situation is even worse for the ASW and MCM modules.

    2. "If it takes a few years to finish the specialize equipment"

      That's hilarious! The modules were supposed to be ready when the first ship launched back in 2006. Here we are 11 years later still without functional modules and you're suggesting continued patience for a few more years??!

      At what point would you begin to feel the first stirrings of impatience with module development? They're already 11 years overdue. Would you begin to become impatient after 20 years? 40 years?

      Way to hold the Navy to [absolutely no] standards of performance!

    3. Unless the mission is ISR or "presence" you need the capacity to "reach out and touch somebody". I'm not seeing any capacity to do that in any meaningful reliable way in any of the modules thus far.

      I'm starting to see the LCSs as just oversized patrol boats that can go fast and not much else. Part of me goes, just cut your loses, put them into the CONOPS as patrol boats and stop funding any further development. Go back and build ships that can actually do the ASW ASuW and MCM roles.

    4. "The only thing the ship is good for is peace time presence with allies and partner nations. A glorified cutter. "

      The problem with that is their range is bad, and while technically 'self deployable' they need a home base to effect repairs.

  8. Facts and figures from the December 7 CRS LCS report

    Mission Packages
    Navy had planned to procure 64 LCS mission packages 16 ASW, 24 MCM, and 24 SUW, quantity of mission packages required for LCS is under review in proposed FY2019 budget.

    The initial version of the SUW mission package achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in November 2014 *. An enhanced version of the SUW mission package that will include the Longbow Hellfire missile for countering fast inshore attack craft is scheduled to achieve IOC in FY2018. The ASW mission package is scheduled to achieve IOC in the fourth quarter of FY2019. The MCM mission package is scheduled to achieve IOC in FY2021. Two components of the MCM mission package achieved IOC in the first quarter of FY2017; additional components are scheduled to achieve IOC in FY2017, FY2019, and FY2021, and one more component that will add to the package’s capability is scheduled to achieve IOC in FY2023.

    *The Navy claiming the SUW mission package with the Mark 46 200 rpm 30mm guns, 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats, an MH-60R helicopter armed with Hellfire missiles and a MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle operational November 2014, but contracted NG in March for work on the LCS Mk46 30 mm gun mission module and stated IOC would be in 2018 ??? 
    Does not mention the OTH missile

    Costs R&D plus Procurement $7,349M

    April 2017 Navy reported R&D cost of the LCS mission packages as $2,796M, including
    $791M for the SUW mission package, 
    $471M for the ASW mission package, 
    $388M for the MCM mission package, 
    $1,146M for equipment that is common to all the packages 

    Procurement cost of the 64 LCS mission packages is $4,553M
    $777M for 24 SUW mission packages (an average of about $32.4M each), 
    $356.0 million for 16 ASW mission packages (an average of about $22.3 M each), 
    $2,431M for 24 MCM mission packages (an average of $101.3 M each), 
    $989M for common equipment for all 64 packages (an average of about $15.5M each).
    The report states that the unit costs of the key equipment items in the SUW, ASW, and MIW mission packages are about $22.7M, $18.5M, and $68.4M, respectively.

    No explanation what the common equipment consists of costing $2,135M for R&D plus procurement ???

    PS Though the Navy originally requested one LCS seaframe in FY2018, understand pork barrel Congress has increased it to three for a total of 33 ships

  9. LCS of course is an abbreviation for Lots of Cash Spread around congress.

    They had their priorities wrong from day 1. The modules should have been first. If they worked the platform wouldn’t have mattered. We could have slapped them on anything from a 1000 ton ship to a container ship, or made Burke’s that were pure AAW then slapped on modules as needed. But modules don’t make great optics and pretty boats do, and ship makers can promise lots of jobs to Congressmen that are easy to notice.

    1. You're correct about the LCS program having the wrong priorities.

      Before you go too far overboard with the modular concept, however, what would be an example of a module that could be "slapped" on, say, a container ship and function well?

    2. I know there are competent naval engineering, weapons, and contracting professionals in the Navy, so the modules were capable of being designed and delivered on time.
      This has to be raw institutional decadence and corruption - putting the wants of contractors over the needs of the Navy, I expect.

    3. The Navy abolished BuShips and gave up their in-house naval engineering. Yes, there are pockets of engineering still in the Navy such as nuclear engineering but there is no dedicated, general engineering group that I'm aware of.

      The problem with the modules was that the Navy tried to skip the research and development stages and leap straight into production. Of course, to no one's surprise, that failed miserably.

    4. Well, that explanation is a little reassuring, I think. Too much hard-charging.

  10. Mr.ComNavOps,

    You are the most polite blogger ever.

    "I'm not sure you've completely thought this through."

    Very thoughtful. Best debates ever on your blog.

    Joe From the Bronx

    1. Good to hear from you Joe. What topic would you like to see discussed that would interest you enough to jump into the conversation?

  11. Mr. ComNavOps,

    I am thinking.

    Joe From the Bronx.


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