Thursday, April 12, 2018

LCS Module Update

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) in Mayport, FL to ensure high operational
    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) in San Diego, CA to outfit the test ships (LCS l-4) and provide additional spare capacity for training ships and deployers

  • 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 U.S. 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.

Does anyone really believe that’s adequate?  China, Russia, Iran, 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.

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, 3-Apr-2018,
Full document:


  1. How many MCM ships do we need? The navy has been talking about distributing MCM just like lethality. No new MCM ship is in the works, but if there was how many Avenger 2.0s would we need?

    1. That's a very difficult question to answer. Here's some tidbits to offer some perspective:

      -The LCS form of mine clearance has a clearance rate of around 1-2 mines per hour.

      -China, Russia, NKorea, and Iran are all reported to have hundreds of thousands of mines each.

      -The D-Day Normandy invasion used 255 minesweepers to clear the approaches to the assault area.

      -We currently have no combat (meaning, under fire in a contested zone) mine clearance capability unless you consider the two dozen aging MH-53E helos to be combat mine clearers - which I don't.

      Are you seeing where this is going as relates to your question?

    2. Yes, it is going where I feared. Unless we get an unrealistic lead up time to a conflict, we won't be able to really dent the mine problem.
      Ideally we get a reasonable priced and capable MCM ship, say a 100, and have 20 or so active, and the rest in reserve fleet. Even then, getting them out of reserve and manning them up would take time. Maybe too much.

    3. "have 20 or so active, and the rest in reserve fleet."

      I don't really think that's practical or necessary. The cost of maintaining ships in ready reserve is significant - cheaper than operating them but still costly.

      Note that we won't need extensive mine clearing until the later stages of a major war when we're, hopefully, approaching an enemy's home waters - that's where the bulk of mines will be. To get to that point in time will take a while - probably a couple or few years so we will have time to build up the forces we'll need.

      That said, I think we do need to keep at least a couple dozen MCM vessels active to maintain expertise, develop clearance methods and tactics, develop new technologies, etc.

      Honestly, I'm more concerned about the MH-53E MCM helos that are being retired without replacement. That's going to create a major capability gap.

      I'm also concerned that we don't have a combat mine clearance capability and I'd like to see us design a dedicated combat MCM vessel, not the useless LCS which has a clearance rate of a couple mines per hour and has to essentially stop to load/unload unmanned vehicles - not a good idea in a combat scenario.

    4. It had always struck me that mine warfare is one of those things that you want people to really have a good feel for, and specialised equipment to do it. You'd also want multiple ways of coming at the problem so that the enemy has more variables to cope with when using mines.

      This implies the need for dedicated vessel(s) or aircraft that is optimised for the mission, run by a dedicated warfighting community who specialises in MCM. It is attempting to counter "sneaky" things that an enemy might try to disrupt our forces. To counter these things requires people who are well versed in the ways mines can be used, and how they can be adapted to different conditions/geography. The equipment is only part of it well trained personnel are also needed.

      Those 20 potential MCM vessels need to be well equipped enough, well trained and experienced enough that they can become the massed training force as soon as it hits the fan, so that a year or two down the track we are ready with a large MCM force to enable all our ships to maneuver in the enemies waters.

    5. "-The LCS form of mine clearance has a clearance rate of around 1-2 mines per hour."

      Where'd you get this number?

    6. "Where'd you get this number?"

      From an unpublished Navy presentation that I have and from the description of the mine clearance procedure. The future change that could increase the rate somewhat is if/when influence sweeping is added as a capability.

      Currently, in simplified form, a UUV scans the area at a travel rate of about 5 kts, the UUV returns to the ship and the data is downloaded for analysis, when the analysis is complete a second pass is made to ID potential mines, then a neutralizer is dispatched.

      Each step takes considerable time and the time needed to launch and recover vehicles is part of the overall rate and launch/recovery takes significant time.

      The same general process applies to helo operations when they're feasible.

    7. There are multiple search/clearance systems in the module, not just a UUV and helo.

      The Knifefish UUV will only search for bottom and buried mines. I can imagine its search rate is slow. The obvious solution is to just add more Knifefish to the package and operate them in parallel.

      Right now, the MH-60S only has ALMDS. CUSV will operate AQS-20/24 as well as UISS.

      Any chance you can share the presentation on your site?

    8. "Any chance you can share the presentation on your site?"

      Sorry, no. It's not classified or anything but it was not intended for public dissemination. Someone was kind enough to forward it to me as background information. The best I can do is offer occasional tidbits that can be found via other means in the public domain.

      I wish I could share it as it vividly demonstrates the inadequacy of the LCS in the MCM role in terms of clearance rates. The LCS clearance rate is significantly less than the legacy Avengers!

    9. "There are multiple search/clearance systems in the module, not just a UUV and helo."

      Yes, I noted them and their specific functions in the post.

    10. "The obvious solution is to just add more Knifefish to the package and operate them in parallel."

      And that may be done however a previous study to add an additional Remote Minehunting System (or RMMV) found that there was insufficient room. That seems strange given the supposedly voluminous missions bays but that's what was found.

  2. "Current projected module purchase cost for the 30 mm guns, Hellfire, and RHIBs is $23.1M "

    23 mil $ for a couple of guns and a hellfire launcher, thats insane .

    That aside, why don't they get rid of that "module" concept and just orient the LCS towards surface combat, i mean thanks to its speed it could be a big missile corvette, just bolt on a few quad packs of missiles and thats it, no MCM no ASW.

  3. "-The D-Day Normandy invasion used 255 minesweepers to clear the approaches to the assault area."

    Not arguing, but just saying, we all know what the mines of that era where and what modern mines are.

    Just one example, the Manta mine

    And thats not the latest tech, in the future MCM has to move toward the unmanned spectrum and advanced AI .
    You cannot counter modern mines with traditional methods.

    1. "You cannot counter modern mines with traditional methods."

      Who proposed that we should?

  4. My understanding on LCS ships (12 MCM, 8 ASW, 8 SUW for total 28 operational/training ships plus 4 test ships) from reading the Littoral Combat Ship Mission Package Annual Report, saw no mention of the EX64 Archerfish neutralizer?

    MCM MM equipment is not a single entity, Navy speak system of systems, and no associated Common Equipment MM available so very much doubt if any vessels of opportunity, VOO, will be able to use MCM MM in future unless Navy budgets for additional CE MM's, Navy also saying 9 VOO sets may be used as spares for the 14 LCS MCM ships, including two LCS test ships. The MCM MP is not expected meet its performance objectives for the Deep Volume Focused Minehunting Area Coverage Rate Sustained KPP in LCS Flight 0+ in CDD. Complete integration and IOT&E on Independence and then Freedom planned for FY21/22.

    USV for towing the sonar and sweeper integration, planned IOC FY21 (Textron USV/CUSV fitted with Raytheon AN/AQS-20 sonar in water at SAS2018)
    Remote Minehunting Module, RMH, AN/AQS-20 sonar for rapid volume sea search and identify sea bottom mines, towed by the USV, two per ship (problems with ship crane/handling caused increased spending on Minehunting Deploy and Retrieve Rig)
    Unmanned Mine Sweeping module, UMS, Unmanned Influence Sweep System, UISS, used when sonar mine hunting impracticable to sweep acoustic and magnetic mines, towed by the USV.
    Understand LCS unable to carry both RMH & UMS due to limited dhip payload.
    Buried Minehunting module, BMH, Knifefish UUV detects and identifies buried mines in cluttered sea bottom environment with low frequency broadband sonar, can be used on VOO
    Barracuda - neutralizes near surface mines, EMD FY18, IOC FY24.

    AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System, ALMDS (Near Surface Detection module, NSD), detects to 30 feet, ALMDS IOC Nov. 2016
    AN/ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System, AMNS, two per set(Airborne Mine Neutralization module, AMN), identify mines in sea and then neutralize in volume or bottom (Barracuda neutralizes near surface), IOC Nov. 2016.

    Coastal Mine Reconnaissance Module, CMR, for amphibious support IOC planned for 4th qtr FY18, COBRA 1 & 2, Costal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis, beach 1, IOC July 2017, surf zone 2, Block II FY27.

    Hardware & software for designing Mission Package Computing Environment (MPCE), common software support functions, Multi Vehicle Communication System (MVCS), Mission Package Portable Control Stations (MP-PCS), data mission payload and associated training systems, technical data & logistics, design & development of containers for the mission packages and its program management, integration and testing

  5. Now comes word that not one that's right 0 LCS will be deployed this year it would be nice if something or anything would go right with this stupid idea of a ship but it's looking like it's just not meant to be and we are stuck with the bill sounds more and more familiar just like the F35 the Zumwalt class and a host of other systems

    1. Mr. Lewis would you want to go in harms way aboard a LCS ?
      To whomever had to fall on their sword for this decision, thanks.
      Now if the useless things could accidentally catch fire during maintenance, progress will have been made.

    2. "To whomever had to fall on their sword for this decision, thanks."

      If you read the relevant articles about the likely absence of 2018 deployments, no one made a decision to not deploy - the "decision" was mandated by unavailability of the vessels due to a myriad of repairs, testing, etc.

      We have 11 (if I have my count right) commissioned LCS and none are available for deployment. That's quite a statement! I think that was Delmar Lewis' point.

  6. Other LCS news USNI reporting from SAS 2018 "Navy May Not Deploy Any Littoral Combat Ships This Year"

    Originally planned to deploy one to the Middle East and two to Singapore in 2018, eleven LCS ships commissioned to date.
    First four hulls were re-classified as test ships for MMs based in San Diego, three are in maintenance, fourth ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) is available to conduct some Coastal Mine Reconnaissance testing this spring with MQ-8 and MCM MP testing this summer.

    At present the seven operational ships and their respective training ships are all undergoing their initial Post Shakedown Availabilities (PSAs).

    Reasons/excuses claimed for extended PSA of the follow on ships to the four test ships.

    1) These are different [Implication being that the original four ships will never be operationally viable]
    2) New capabilities to be backfit into them during PSA [So Navy commissioning ships that were incomplete] 
    3) Navy is being more diligent to ensure best possible material condition of ships coming out of maintenance [New ships needing maintenance while in PSA need checking for material defects?] and additional quality assurance [New build, so Navy saying they were accepted from builders without thorough quality assurance checks?]
    4) Independence trimaran ships require a drydock for virtually any kind of maintenance, drydocks are in short supply.

  7. robots2005 AI32080April 13, 2018 at 7:25 AM

    I see the Pacific as being of more importance soon. REE have been found 6km deep. Nuclear is detectable in the future so I see batteries being made at floating towns surrounded by plastic wave power modules. Garbage will be an issue and identifying plastic polluters will be a Navy task. With desalination there will be a lot of people living on such cities. Here, McLuhan-ism will set NASA up nicely for providing holographic displays of good settings. The residents can easily leave whereas whoever is mining a NEO or manufacturing/staffing a space laser will go insane without an aesthetic environment. In some environment WMDs are easier to enforce against and in some administrations it is easier to surveil WMD against. With sensors the dataset for new environments: plastic island cities, space operations; will be able to be analyzed by the future, from day one.

  8. It seems to me that these modules for MCM need to be deployed in larger numbers. There is a ship with huge amounts of unused vo9lume available with few weaknesses of the LCS- the Afloat Forward Staging Base USNS Lewis B. Puller (see Navy Matters article a few days ago).


    1. That's fine except that it's only one more ship (three are planned, in total) so that doesn't really increase numbers much. Plus, that's a huge ship to host just a few unmanned vehicles, essentially - not very efficient.

  9. One argument:

    “The total LCS MCM capability is 8 ships with an ultimate potential of 12.”

    I disagree: A “training” ship and three “deployable” ships will form each “division”. So, the 2 MCM divisions will be able to deploy just 6 ships combined.

    Plus, LCS 29-32 you get an ultimate potential of 10 MCM ships.

    Some comments:

    I think it was a huge mistake building the same number of Freedom class LCS as Independence class. Both hulls are not equal. Each of them has advantages and disadvantages. The US Navy should have identified in a better way which one she needed the most.

    In my opinion, the Independence class is best suited for MCM work. And that is critical for the US Navy. With 24 MCM modules and just 16 Independence class LCS, I think every such ship should embark a MCM module.

    The 16 Freedom class should embark all the 10 Surface Warfare modules, reinforced with some SSM, as someone suggested, for procuring some kind of missile and fast boats.

    The remaining 6 Freedom class ships should embark 6 of the remaining MCM modules. And the last 2 MCM modules should provide additional spare capacity for training ships and deployers.

    As LCS are poor ASW ships, none of ASW module should embark on them. I would give the 10 ASW modules to the Coast Guard for embarking them on the 10 National Security Cutters.

    Finally, one question:

    What are the dimensions of the mission module spaces on board every LCS?

    1. Understand its not the mission module space that's the limiting factor but max. payload of 105 tons, neither class can embark the USV with sonar and sweeper, its one or the other due to weight limitations. That's why lightweight winches had to be developed for the LCS ASW MM VDS.

      The Freedom class based on east coast due to very short range, adequate for the Gulf, whilst the longer range Independence based on west cost. Independence class crane for launching and recovering USV sonar and sweeper has had problems, so until fixed not suitable for MCM.

      Think Navy should use one of the test ships - LCS Freedom, for SINKEX 2018, currently allocated one of last OHPs built, it would either confirm or deny Lockheed's claims about its survivability compared to the OHP :)

  10. What about designing the MCM module to fit on an oil field service ship. Seems we could have then hundreds of potential vessels available during time of war?

    1. Possible. I don't know anything about those ships. Do they have the room to accommodate a module and the handling to move the containers around?

      They would need enhanced communications suites.

    2. Lengths from 150 - 300 feet, with a large work deck and often equipped with a variety of cranes.

      Seems like an MCM module could work, plus enhanced communications, and maybe a bit of armament.

      I’m thinking buy or lease 20 of them, and train 100 crews rotating on the variety of boats for a surge capacity.

    3. Well, certainly worth at least an engineering feasibility study. Maybe someone in the Navy will read this and look into it!

      Good thought!

  11. IMHO the person that suggested the freedom be sunk as a target I would suggest the whole class because that exactly what will happen if they actually have to see combat against China Russia or other peer type navy bout their only hope is to try to outrun them but you can't out run a ASHM or gun round for that matter


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