When you played Little League or sandlot pickup baseball games, what position did the worst player play? Right field, of course! It was the position least likely to see action. You could hide the least capable player out there. I know, this offends the sensibilities of today’s “we’re all equal and everyone’s a winner” crowd but we’re not all equal and we’re not all winners so toughen up and deal with it. Moving on …
It appears the Navy must have once played baseball because they’ve opted to send the LCS to right field to hide its lack of capability. Right field, in this case, is doing drug smuggling interdiction. That’s about the farthest thing from combat you can get.
A Littoral Combat Ship, with an embarked Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, will hunt for drug runners in U.S. Southern Command later this year …
Faller [Adm. Craig Faller, SOUTHCOM commander] told the committee that illegal narcotics were “at the heart” of the security concerns of the region and are the driving force as to why so many Central Americans keep heading northward for a better life. (1)
Now, I have no objection to drug interdiction and focusing on South/Central America. Indeed, I just recently wrote a post advocating exactly that type of heightened focus and engagement (see, “The Daily Threat”). However, the use of the LCS is both illuminating and disappointing. This tells me that the Navy sees no capability in the LCS, either. In fact, given the incredibly urgent need for mine countermeasures (MCM) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) in the fleet and, despite the fact that those are two of the LCS’ three core missions, the assignment of the LCS to drug patrols rather than combat MCM/ASW training is quite telling. It’s telling me that, despite their public pronouncements of the wonders of the miracle warfighting machine called the LCS, the Navy internally, in the darkest, most secret recesses of their heart, acknowledge that the LCS is fit for nothing related to combat. In other words, the Navy is acknowledging that the LCS is not a warship.
While I’m fully supportive of more engagement in South/Central America, including drug interdiction, this also illustrates another of my proposals: the need for a peace/war two tier force structure. It makes absolutely no sense to send a several hundred million dollar LCS on a drug interdiction mission that can be equally well executed by a simple commercial-based vessel for a tiny fraction of the cost. As a point of comparison, the Cyclone class cost $20M and could do the job quite well.
This is also telling me that the MCM and ASW modules are nowhere near ready despite the Navy’s never ending claims that the modules are almost ready. If they were almost ready, the LCS’es would be training intensely for them … but they’re not.
We have thirty some LCS built or building that have, literally, nothing to do. They have no capabilities and, therefore, nothing combat-related that they can do. The Navy is looking for some way to keep them busy while the decades long wait for modules drags on. With nothing productive to do, the Navy is sending the LCS to right field.
(1)USNI News website, “Littoral Combat Ships Headed to SOUTHCOM for Drug Interdiction Patrols This Year”, John Grady, 7-Feb-2019,https://news.usni.org/2019/02/07/littoral-combat-ships-headed-southcom-drug-interdiction-patrols-year