Naval News website has some fascinating tidbits on the LCS. Let’s take a look.
More Studies. The LCS must lead the league in Admiral-chaired studies. The Navy regularly forms groups to study the LCS with results that accomplish … nothing useful. Changes are made but none are worthwhile. For example, one study group recommended changing from 3 crews for 2 ships to a Blue/Gold (2 crews per ship) scheme. Okay, one can debate the merits of each approach but, in the final analysis, the change accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t make the LCS better or more effective. It just changes the crewing construct. It’s just churn.
Unbelievably, the Navy has now formed yet another study group with the catchy name, LCS Strike Team, to analyze the maintenance, reliability, and lethality issues regarding these small warships.(1) Maybe this team will recommend switching up and forward to down and aft … you know, something meaningless.
The “LCS Strike Team” is also in charge of a few studies, such as a “2016 LCS Study” addressing LCS issues with the crew, maintenance, and training. This study is set to conclude soon while another study will address the lethality of the LCS. (1)
So, studies that study studies? Sounds productive.
Maintenance. This one is interesting. Everyone except the Navy has known from day one that eliminating a crew’s ability to conduct maintenance and repairs aboard ship was an idiotic decision. Maybe that will change …
RDML Casey Moton, USN, envisions giving more self-sufficiency to the LCS crews to make their own repairs and hopes to make quick progress addressing these maintenance issues. In addition, the U.S. Navy announced late last year that it would test Spearhead-Class EPF USNS Burlington as a maintenance and repair vessel for Littoral Combat Ships.(1)
Of course you want more maintenance and repair self-sufficiency onboard ship, Admiral. It should take all of ten seconds to come to that conclusion although it took you and the Navy a decade and a half. The problem is that you’ve painted yourself into a corner with the mandated design requirement of minimal manning. More onboard maintenance and repair means bigger crews, more parts storage, and fabrication shops and the LCS design has no more personnel berthing and hotel services capacity for additional crew and no room for shops unless you start cutting into module space and weight margins. Face it, you concocted a bad design and now the consequences are coming home to roost. There’s just not much that can be done to fix the LCS because the original design was so flawed.
The interesting aspect of this maintenance tidbit was the mention of a potential tender in the form of the Joint High Speed Vessel (now EPF in one of the Navy's ridiculous renaming ventures). The LCS has cried out for a tender from the start and this could make deployment of the LCS more viable (neglecting the inherent lack of LCS capabilities, of course). We should get rid of the LCS but, failing that, this would be a significant step forward in getting whatever use we can out of the LCS.
Mission. How many years in and the Navy still doesn’t know what mission(s) the LCS can perform???
Nonetheless, the Vice-Admiral did state that the U.S. Navy has to determine what missions the LCSs are suitable for to accomplish. (1)
This is what happens when you design and build without a CONOPS. A decade and a half into the class’ service life and you still don’t know what mission it can perform. Here’s a hint: it can’t perform any mission!
MCM. Mine Countermeasures was always an idiotic idea for the LCS. In the MCM role, the ship is far too large, far too expensive, has useless speed for the slowest task in the Navy, and has limited unmanned vehicle handling and storage capacity and the situation is made worse by the fact that none of the MCM components work.
Stunningly, none of those things are the worst problem with the LCS MCM concept. The worst thing is that even if everything worked perfectly, the concept is too slow to be useful. The Avenger minesweeper, which the LCS is trying to replace, is several times faster and it is too slow to be useful. We’ve documented in several posts the problems with the LCS MCM concept but now the Navy is finally, publicly, admitting it.
Compare the LCS to the MCM Avengers. If the Avenger acquires a mine via sonar, it can do a run to detonate the mine. With an LCS using unmanned systems, the LCS sends out the drone, gathers the data, analyzes it, and if questionable, sends out the drone again, do a different pattern to gather more data and then analyzes it again, and then send out a system to neutralize the mine. So, for an Avenger that can detect and destroy a mine in four hours, it might take the LCS an entire day and that is because the LCS cannot do a single sortie to detect and engage and relies on unmanned systems. So, it’s like comparing apples to oranges when you look at the LCS and the Avenger. But looking forward, I think that the LCS, when compared to the LCS itself, the LCS [of today] can clear [mines] faster [than an LCS five years ago with immature and untested MCM packages].” (1)
The LCS MCM process involves, at minimum, a three pass process to eliminate a single mine. You don’t have to be a MCM expert to understand why taking three passes at a mine takes longer than a single pass and why such a process would be absolutely useless in combat.
Well, there you have it. The Navy is finally catching up to where we’ve been since day one. Yes, it took the Navy a decade and half but they’re slowly realizing just how bad this ship is. While I applaud the Navy, ever so slightly, for trying to fix the problems and improve the class, the reality is that the original design is so badly flawed that no significant improvement is possible. Weight margins are gone, berthing is max’ed out, the ship’s structure is weak, stability (Freedom class) is an issue, and so on. There’s nothing to work with and no significant improvement is possible due to the inherent design flaws. Tragically, the only logical thing to do is retire the entire class and cut our losses.
Even more tragic is that the entire debacle could have been avoided if the Navy had listened to … well … absolutely anyone outside the Navy because absolutely everyone outside the Navy could see the problems with the LCS right from the start. The tragedy of the LCS was that it was entirely avoidable and that’s the real tragedy.
(1)Naval News website, “Update on the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship Program”, Peter Ong, 4-Feb-2021,