The original LCS program called for 55 LCS and 62 (if I recall correctly) mission modules. As the program was whittled down, the number and type of modules was left in limbo. Now that the LCS program is down to around 32 ships, here’s the latest on the number of modules that will be procured, courtesy of a USNI summary of a government report (1).
- 10 SUW
- 10 ASW
- 24 MCM
This gives a total of 44 deployable mission modules. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of where/how the modules will be assigned and used:
- 24 modules (8 SUW, 8 ASW, 8 MCM) to outfit the focused mission LCS ships that make up the LCS divisions of 3 deployable ships and l training ship
- 3 modules (1 SUW, l ASW, l MCM)
to ensure high operational Mayport, FL
availability (Ao) of the training systems for the training ships in the LCS divisions
and to provide spare systems for each focused mission area
- 4 modules (1 SUW, l ASW, 2 MCM)
to outfit the test ships (LCS l-4) and provide additional spare capacity for training ships and deployers San Diego, CA
- 4 modules (4 MCM) to outfit LCS 29-32 to mitigate warfighting capability needs across the MCM mission area
- 9 MCM modules for use on other Vessels of Opportunity (VOOs) to meet the warfighting capability requirements and account for MCM maintenance cycles
There are a few interesting observations from this.
Note the 9 MCM modules that are for “Vessels of Opportunity”. The Navy doesn’t actually need or want these modules and has no ships to use them but are required by law to procure 24 MCM modules. From the article,
“An overall total of 24 MCM [modules] are required to comply with Section 1046 of the FY 2018 NDAA which prohibits the retirement of legacy MCM forces until the Navy has identified replacement capability and procured a quantity of such systems to meet combatant MCM operational requirements that are currently being met by legacy forces.”
Thus, the actual total of “wanted” modules is 35 for the 32 LCS seaframes. This is the final, official nail in the coffin of swappable modules.
Further, setting aside the 9 MCM modules that will be set aside on the Island of Misfit Weapons and discounting the MCM modules that are dedicated to the training ships, the total operationally deployable LCS mine countermeasure modules is 8 plus, potentially, 4 for LCS 29-32.
Let’s say that again because it’s incredibly important. The total LCS MCM capability is 8 ships with an ultimate potential of 12. That’s our total future
military mine countermeasures
capabiity. We’re replacing 14 Avenger
class minesweepers and two squadrons of MH-53E MCM helos (total inventory is 28
helos) with 8-12 LCS. U.S.
Does anyone really believe that’s adequate?
, China , Russia , and NKorea each have hundreds of
thousands of mines and we think 8-12 LCS are adequate to deal with that threat? There goes any hope of conducting an
amphibious assault. On a larger scale,
our Navy is going to be paralyzed by mine threats it can’t deal with. Iran
I trust I’ve made my point about the inadequacy of our MCM force?
Moving on …
ASuW Module. This module is currently a joke and consists of a couple of 30 mm machine guns and a helo. The anticipated Longbow Hellfire missile which will provide some actual, though short ranged, firepower is scheduled for operation in 2019-20.
Hellfire testing to date has demonstrated 83% success rate (1, full doc p.6) from 24 tests. That’s surprisingly low given the scripted, simplistic, “designed to succeed” nature of such tests. Real world performance is likely to be half that.
Current projected module purchase cost for the 30 mm guns, Hellfire, and RHIBs is $23.1M per module (1, full doc p.6). The helo costs are not included. It is not clear whether those are the individual equipment costs or the complete, packaged, installed costs. It seems likely that they are just the individual component costs since the report also categorizes “common” costs as a separate item.
The ASuW performance is underwhelming, to say the least. The Navy has established two levels of performance for the Key Performance Parameters (KPP): a minimum threshold and a better, desired objective. The ASuW module, even with the Hellfire missiles, will only barely meet the threshold requirements and will not even be remotely near the objective requirements. The Navy’s graphic depiction of the actual and projected performance versus threshold and objective is so bad that they didn’t even include scales with actual values (1, full doc p.7). Further, you know that the Navy’s projected performance is overly optimistic so the performance versus threshold/objective will be even worse than depicted.
ASW Module. This module currently consists of,
- Continuously Active Variable Depth Sonar (VDS)
- Multi-Function Towed Array (MFTA)
- Light Weight Tow Torpedo Defense (LWT)
- MH-60R Helo
- MQ-8 UAV
There is no realistic scheduled operational date for the module although the Navy is suggesting sometime around 2020-21. As always, that will be delayed.
Current projected module purchase cost for the VDS, MFTA, and LWT is $19.8M per module (1, full doc p.14). The helo/UAV costs are not included. It is not clear whether those are the individual equipment costs or the complete, packaged, installed costs. It seems likely that they are just the individual component costs since the report also categorizes “common” costs as a separate item.
As with the ASuW module, the performance when compared to the KPP threshold and objective requirements is barely adequate. Further, the DOT&E testing demonstrates that the Navy’s reporting on performance results is “optimistic”, to put it politely.
The MFTA is the only individual component that has achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC). Overall module IOC is scheduled for late 2019. It is certain that will slip.
MCM Module. This module uses a cobbled together collection of components that seem to change daily. Current components include,
- Knifefish UUV for buried or bottom mine detection
- AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) for near surface (top 30 ft) mine detection
- AQS-20 Sonar for suspended mine (volume) detection
- ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS)
- Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) – acoustic and magnetic
- DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) for beach and surf zone mine detection
- MH-60S helo
- MQ-8 Firescout
- EX64 Archerfish neutralizer
Additional components are being developed such as an unmanned surface tow drone for sonar and sweep components and the Barracuda system for near surface mine neutralization.
The various capabilities are expected to trickle in over the next several years.
The various module subsystems are not meeting their performance requirements and many are not even close (1, full doc p.22-23).
Current projected module purchase cost for the various non-helo components is $87M per module (1, full doc p.22). The helo/UAV costs are not included. It is not clear whether those are the individual equipment costs or the complete, packaged, installed costs. It seems likely that they are just the individual component costs since the report also categorizes “common” costs as a separate item.
The Annual Report lists module development costs as totaling $2.6B (1, full doc p.28). Of course, those costs will increase well beyond that before all development is complete!
The report lists total anticipated module procurement costs, including the separate “common” category as (1, full doc p.29),
Module Qty Tot Cost Mod Cost
ASuW 10 $319M $ 32M
ASW 10 $267M $ 27M
MCM 24 $2.5B $100M
Common 44 $576M $ 13M
Total 44 $3.6B $ 82M
The key column is the Mod Cost which is the unit cost for each module of the indicated type. Note that the costs don’t agree with the individual component costs described above. The costs listed here are likely to be more accurate.
It is worth noting that the modules have been under development since sometime around 2003/4. Now, some 14 years later, not a single module exists in an operationally useful form. Operational modules are not expected for another few to several years and then another few years will be required to actually manufacture the modules. We are burning through LCS seaframe life spans without any modules to equip them. It is possible, indeed likely, that some LCS vessels will retire without ever having had a functional, useful module equipped!
LCS module development has been an embarrassment of staggering proportions and the fiasco continues.
(1)USNI News website, “Littoral Combat Ship Mission Package Annual Report”, February 2018 Annual Report to Congress for the Littoral Combat Ship Mission Modules Program,