The Navy deployed a new ship pairing – a destroyer (DDG-51) and an amphibious transport dock (LPD-17) – to test out a new concept that could supplement amphibious squadrons and surface action groups as a formation in future operations. (1)
Okay, it seems the Navy is serious about this as a combat group (again, are two ships really a group?). What was the immediate goal of the deployment? According to the Navy,
The goal of the LCG-1 deployment was to work out the command and control, which placed a Navy captain as the commodore of two ships … (1)
Is this for real? The Navy has to “work out” how to command and control two ships?????!! Have things gotten that bad that we don’t already know how to command and control two ships?
How complex is command of two ships? Well, apparently, it requires a staff … and not a small one.
LCG-1 was led by Capt. Ken Coleman, the PHIBRON 3 commodore, and included a staff of 30 to 35 on temporary assignment and embarked on Somerset. (1)
It requires a staff of more than 30 people to command and control two ships?????!!
A commodore? Seriously? For two ships? Why not just put an admiral in command – we’ve got enough of them sitting around with nothing productive to do.
Well, since the Navy seems serious about this lunacy, let’s go ahead and analyze the concept.
Combat Power – What combat power does an LPD and a Burke have? An LPD is the smallest of the three ships that typically make up an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and, therefore, carries around a quarter of a MEU and almost no aviation (an LPD has room for a single MV-22 in the hangar). What is a quarter of a MEU going to do in combat? They could deal with an angry Boy Scout troop, I guess but that’s about it. Remember the Somalia (Blackhawk Down) debacle? Small units simply haven’t got the combat power to deal with actual combat. That pretty well limits the “group” to very low end, non-combat scenarios which, of course, is at odds with the word “combat” in the group description.
The Burke, itself, has combat capability, of course, but it has that without the LPD and, in fact, is less capable with the LPD than without because it has to protect the LPD as well as itself, thus diluting the Burke’s combat capability somewhat.
The pair have no more credible combat capability than the Burke alone. This is stupidity on a plate.
Risk – Doctrinally, the Navy won’t risk ships within 25-50 miles of land so how will this pair conduct operations? Again, a quarter of a MEU, with no significant aviation element, can’t transfer power ashore from 25-50 miles out in any peer level combat scenario, even setting aside the ineffectiveness of a quarter of a MEU. Again, that limits the “group” to inshore, non-combat scenarios.
This grouping also puts a rare and valuable amphibious ship in harm’s way for no gain in combat power.
Thus, there seems to be no combat enhancement to this “group” over and above the Burke, itself. So why is the Navy even looking at this? I have no idea. From the article, we see the supposed guidance that the Navy is operating under.
The Navy and Marine Corps are revising their concepts to align with the National Defense Strategy that focuses on warfare against a peer or near-peer adversary. (1)
That makes this all the more baffling. How does a single LPD and a single Burke contribute to warfare against a peer?
Navy leadership needs to be drug tested.
(1)USNI News website, “Navy Tests ‘Littoral Combat Group’ Concept That Pairs DDG, LPD in South America Deployment”, Megan Eckstein, 3-Jan-2019,https://news.usni.org/2019/01/03/navy-tests-littoral-combat-group-concept-that-pairs-ddg-lpd-in-south-america-deployment