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Results of New LCS Review is Departure from Original Vision

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) participates in a combined formation of U.S. and Bangladesh naval ships during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh 2015 in the Bay of Bengal on Oct. 1, 2015. US Navy photo.

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) participates in a combined formation of U.S. and Bangladesh naval ships during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Bangladesh 2015 in the Bay of Bengal on Oct. 1, 2015. US Navy photo.

THE PENTAGON – A recently completed review of how the Navy intends to man, train and equip the two variants of its Littoral Combat Ships is a departure from the more than decade-old original vision of the class.

Gone is the emphasis on modular systems and crewing, a complicated manning arrangement that would have three crews rotate between two hulls and mixing the two different types of hulls in East and West coast homeports.

Instead, the Navy will divide 24 planned LCS into six divisions of four ships each – three divisions of Freedom-class ships based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. and three divisions of Independence-class LCS based at Naval Station San Diego, Calif. – commander, Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Rowden told reporters on Thursday.

Each of the divisions will be tasked, crewed and equipped with a specific LCS mission – mine countermeasures (MCM), surface warfare (SuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Each hull will be manned by two crews – blue and gold – like the service’s nuclear ballistic and guided missile submarines.

Additionally, the first two ships in each class will be assigned as training ships.

“You take the first four ships out of the rotation and you single crew them with senior experienced Littoral Combat Ship sailors and you focus those four ships – Independence, Freedom, Coronado and Fort Worth – on testing,” Rowden said.

The remaining ships will then cycle to forward deployed locations with the two crews swapping roles every four to five months.

The new crew arrangement will have a core crew of 70 sailors that will be trained to conduct one of the three warfare missions and a 23 person air detachment for a total of 93 sailors aboard.

Previous to the new results, the ships were crewed with a hull specific crew of about 40 with a fly-on crew to man the various mission packages plus the air detachment.

The crew size for the 3,000-ton hulls is close to the maximum each design can berth – 98 – according to a 2013 Navy LCS manning study.

Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6). Austal USA Photo

Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6). Austal USA Photo

Rowden said the ships could be forward stationed as long as 24 months at a time as a “stretch goal” which will be determined as the service learns the tolerances of the two classes as the ships continue to deploy.

“For those deployable ships, they will be deployed a greater amount of time then they will be in refit,” Rowden said.

Maximizing operational time for LCS was the reviewers’ “North Star,” according to documents the Navy used to brief internally and to other agencies, several sources told USNI News.

Unlike a traditional destroyer or cruiser designed to operate forward about 20 percent of the time between maintenance periods, the less complex LCS was planned to be operationally available for up to 50 percent of the ship’s life.

While the review is complete, lingering questions for both Flight 0 LCS classes remain, including how many mission packages the Navy will ultimately buy – the program of record is 64 – and if all of the ships in each division will feature an over-the-horizon missile. Rowden said the details on each issue were still being worked out.

Also not part of the review is how to deploy, man and equip the coming class of 11 frigates that will be upgunned versions of either the Freedom or Independence class.

  • DaSaint

    Good recommendations, and about time they simplified to 2 crews per ship. Not sure I would have specific missions for each ship as opposed to making them multi-mission each, but it’s progress. I’d rather see all equipped with SSMs, VL Hellfire, and SeaRAM. Hope the frigate versions have at least VL ESSMs in addition.

    • delta9991

      Frigate will not have any VLS cells, so no ESSM’s. SeaRAM will be on every Independence Class and Freedom Class after LCS 17 in addition to the frigate. I think we’ll definitely see a quad or octuple NSM installation on every LCS, as they are just so undergunned in comparison to anything in their class.

  • vincedc

    Wow, this actually makes a lot of sense. I’m impressed.

    • Curtis Conway

      Parking them makes more sense. Would you want to be on any of LCS Class on a “Presence Mission” anywhere on the planet away from a friendly port?

  • Ed L

    Mayport 12.Freedom class. Looks like the 4th fleet might get to have some ships too use. 12 Indy class out of San Diego too. It does make sense. Did someone get fired or grow a pair? Now they just need a support ship like the old Destroyer tenders, converted cargo/liner vessel. I remember down at the D&S piers. Tenders with destroyers alongside and over across on another pier Submarines

    • Curtis Conway

      SOUTHCOM, here they come!

      Can you imagine bobbing around in this thing in the GIUK GAP?

      • Ed L

        No but cruising the Bahama Channel is possible.

        • Curtis Conway

          Amen, get a good suntan.

  • RobM1981

    It is irritating to see it come to this, particularly since this was oh-so-avoidable.

    Yes, this is progress, for sure. Yes, the Navy is finally making weak lemonade out of a batch of bad lemons.

    But they should never have bought these lemons in the first place.

    Modular ships… brilliant. Because we all know that an enemy gives you a lot of warning before they strike. “Hold on, I’m not armed for this threat… let me get my ASW modules installed. I’ll be back in 90 days…”

    “Glass jawed, feather puncher” has never been the recipe for success.

    We already have the Cyclone’s. We don’t need another set of gunships, which is arguably what this thing has turned into. “Corvette,” if you are charitable and factor in the Helicopter.

    Nice to see the navy finally doing something with them. Now here’s another idea: stop building them. Don’t throw good money after bad.

    • Tim Dolan

      Just feel the need to point out that modular ships are not there to survive the initial punch from an enemy, but to allow us to quickly (in terms of a war) to get that capability back much faster than building a whole new hull from scratch. Nothing I read in the above says we won’t still have that ability (at least with the older ships of the class), except it indicates we won’t have the modules available. If nothing else they will still be able to be reconfigured faster than building from scratch. The role of MCM is the one most likely to require replacements in a war and they have never been well armed, so that role is well suited to the LCS class as designed. In the meantime we won’t have to have them in the unglamorous, but very important role of minesweeper until they are needed. Yes, it will likely take several months under the new architecture to change the mission, but that is still faster than building a new ship.

      The crews on the other hand will be in far better shape and quality under the new system, so it was a good decision.

      • RobM1981

        Hi Tim,

        Agreed, but it’s not as if “expandability” is new. The Perry’s, if memory serves, had space reserved to allow additional capabilities to be quickly added as needed.

        Our shipbuilders have always been pretty good at shoe-horning in critical capabilities when needed. Granted, sometimes at the cost of stability, but still… 🙂

        It’s hard to see how a hull this size could ever successfully deploy a serious ASW, AAW, or ASuW punch, even with modules. The helicopter has always been the LCS’s best asset, particularly for ASW. What was the module going to bring to the table, even if it had worked? Was there going to be a towed array (I don’t think so, am too lazy to google, but I could be wrong…) The AAW module never was going to put Standards onboard, was it? Or a sensor package that would really provide serious AAW capabilities.

        As deployed, the LCS is really a low-end corvette or a high-end gunboat, and it’s sad to see the USN try to sell it as something more. This isn’t a hull that should be consuming a lot of money. Like the Cyclone’s it should be relatively cheap and simple. Any sane person could tell that the attempt to force-fit destroyer capabilities into such a small hull was never going to work. They very soon stopped even trying.

        The Pegasus shipped 8 Harpoon’s and a larger rifle. Sure, we all know that it wasn’t designed for blue-water work, etc., but even so. What was the USN thinking when it poured money into two different hulls to meet a poorly defined mission?

        Plenty of people here know the answer to that question, and it’s very frustrating.

      • Secundius

        I Use to Own an 1981 Ford Aerostar Minivan, ALL the Parts Came from OTHER Ford Car Lines. It was a Technical NIGHTMARE! Thirteen Recall Notices in the First Year Alone. That What the LCS’s are. WIP’s, Something That’s NEVER Been Tried Before. Until THEY (the US Navy) Resolve the Problem. Let’s NOT Forget the OTHER “WIP” USS Gerald Ford, 27.5 Times Bigger…

    • Curtis Conway

      Yeah . . . and how much did that irritation cost us? This is G-d’s judgement for those who decided that NAVREGs written in blood meant nothing! We could have had 10 multi-warfare National Patrol Frigates in the water by now competing two yards with a surface combatant ship-count today at or over 300.

  • tpharwell

    A case of bowing to the inevitable. Since there are no mission modules, it does no harm to declare you will not swap them.

    The story here is two-fold. First, Navy is saying that it plans to park four of the last six ships built because they are worth nothing to the fleet. Secondly, it is saying, contrary to the directive received from the SECDEF in December of 2014, that the frigate version of the LCS will not come along until another 24 or so baseline LCS are built. That should take ten years or so, and means that Navy leaders will not have to take a bow for that at this time.

    • Curtis Conway

      Continued Coporporate Welfare.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Good to see an acknowledgement that their modular concept was a failure.
    Next step is to actually make the mission modules work.

    Now, get on with doing what should have been done before and cancel the Freedom class, tell Lockheed to get stuffed & try to make something from the independence class.

  • Curtis Conway

    “Also not part of the review is how to deploy, man and equip the coming class of 11 frigates that will be upgunned versions of either the Freedom or Independence class.” HUHH ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    The United States Navy NEEDS 50+ very efficient (Hybrid Electric Drive), ice-hardened hulled Arctic capable, MULTI-Warfare frigates, that have similar capabilities to the cruisers & destroyers, that are just less capable (less range, smaller weapons load (except for Directed Energy), smaller in size), particularly for presence missions for the Unified Commanders around the globe.

    The current mindset is to create toothless wonders that are very fast. Well . . . speed on the water makes you easier to target with ASCMs.

    However, everything I have seen with the changes, are at least going in the right direction!

    • old guy

      Well stated. I take umbrage with only one contention. Hydrofoil ships are sufficiently elusive to defeat subsonic and supersonic ASMs. Too bad we aint got none, no more.

  • Stephen

    Paint the Freedoms white, apologize to the USCG. Pick a function for the Independence, add CIWS & anti-ship function. Call it a Corvette.

    • Curtis Conway

      Cost too much to operate. That is why the USCG is buying NSCs with longer legs, greater persistence on-station, Arctic capable, and lots of room for growth.

      • Stephen

        The NSC was a much better decision. To be radical; the Freedoms could augment the YPs at the USNA..

        • Curtis Conway

          If the LCS is not to come out of service, I would give them to the amphibious and/or NECC communities, and NECC won’t like them because a Cyclone Class is better armed for it size (dangerous/pound of displacement).

          However, 3rd & 4th Fleet AORs are where more safe ports are located if they have trouble, and we need the speed to help the USCG.

  • old guy

    Don’t worry, all you die hard HUNK-A-JUNK advocates, politics triumphs over necessity. My 1994 memo stated that the deviation from the SEAMOD design ground rules, would condemn the designs to single use ships (e.g. ASW SQR-19 tows). However, at 89 my crystal ball grows dim. Good luck NAVY.

    • old guy

      I TAKE IT BACK. These are now the NEW class, MTRS (Maintenance Training and Retrieval Ships).

  • Lazarus

    Bob Work always said the LCS would be always be experimental to a degree. VADM Rowden’s plan for LCS going forward maximizes the deployability of the bulk of the ships.

    • Rick

      Source and proof on Bob Work. Please? And NO crap from Dmitry Filipoff and Sidney Freedberg jr..

    • Rick

      OMFG: CIMSEC has a Force Structure gathering beginning Oct. 3. LCS critical writers need NOT apply.

  • GHynson

    Lol,
    “Unlike a traditional destroyer or cruiser designed to operate forward about 20 percent of the time between maintenance periods, the less complex LCS was planned to be operationally available for up to 50 percent of the ship’s life.”

    There’d be a lot of kids walking to school if we built school bus’es with this mentality.

  • 11 frigates? Shouldn’t that be 12 to bring total to 40, 28 LCS and 12 frigates?

  • Scoobs

    Fitting photo – seems there’s been a dark cloud hovering over the LCS program from Day One.

  • omegatalon

    Keep It Simple Stupid is something that all defense contractors need to remember because most of the technicians who will be servicing the weapon systems they are developing did not graduate with a degree in engineering.

    • Western

      Visualizing the 18 year old airman under an F-35, looking at a PDF of the maintenance manual on his IPAD, his mission to add air to the tires.

  • Western

    Give them to the Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, and Navy Academies for training ships.

  • old guy

    VISION? I call it MYOPIA!

  • Stephen

    ASW in the littorals doesn’t sound like a mission for a ship. P-8 or helicopter would be much more effective. With the propulsion issues, these might become “lighthouse-ships” or radar-pickets.

  • old guy

    Do you mean that they will tell the TRUTH?

    • Secundius

      “Don’t Hold Your Breath”…