Home » Budget Industry » Opinion: LCS Ready Today to Support Tomorrow’s Automated Warfare Systems


Opinion: LCS Ready Today to Support Tomorrow’s Automated Warfare Systems

Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package Detachment 2 prepare to be hoisted out of the water by the littoral combat ship USS Coronado's (LCS 4) twin-boom-extensible crane following a visit, board, search and seizure training exercise on Aug. 15, 2015. US Navy photo.

Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package Detachment 2 prepare to be hoisted out of the water by the littoral combat ship USS Coronado’s (LCS 4) twin-boom-extensible crane following a visit, board, search and seizure training exercise on Aug. 15, 2015. US Navy photo.

The path to a 350-ship fleet supported by President-elect Donald Trump will not be any easy one in the face of continued sequestration.

Part of that effort will need to come from completion or increased orders of ship classes already under construction. A proposed 350-ship Navy must also support emerging unmanned systems that will form an integral part of future naval combat operations. Completion of the full LCS program is one positive step in the direction of that larger and more capable fleet.

The littoral combat ship (LCS) is the first ship designed and built from the keel up to support multiple, unmanned systems. The LCS’s modularity interfaces allow for the inclusion of the latest technology aboard as systems evolve. Unmanned systems are also the key to success in the LCS mine warfare (MiW) and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) mission modules. Departement of Defense scientists seem to agree. The June 2016 Defense Science Board (DSB) summer study on autonomy agreed and recommended that the Navy Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ships (PEO-LCS) should conduct a user operational evaluation system (UOES) program run by PEO-LCS in partnership with the Office of Naval Research (ONR.) DSB specifically suggested evaluation of existing unmanned underwater vehicles for both ASW and MiW applications. The PEO LCS/ONR partnership is the first step toward a much wider application of unmanned systems aboard littoral combat ships. Unlike other warships, LCS is the ideal platform for the employment of a number of automated ASW and MiW systems.

Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. Textron photo.

Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. Textron photo.

Extensive use of unmanned, autonomous systems allows U.S. naval forces to fight “at machine speed,” a vital requirement in the face-paced world of modern antisubmarine and mine warfare. Unmanned platforms reduce risk to human life, and bring improved situational awareness, survivability, and lethality to ASW and MiW. LCS is equipped and ready to support several unammned platforms in support of the DSB recommendations. These include the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) with multiple capabilities; the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (SMCM UUV); and the proposed large displacement and extra large unmanned undersea vehicles (LDUUV and XLUUV). The Sea Hunter medium displacement unmanned surface vehicle (USV) might also operate in conjunction with LCS in a variety of warfare and surveillance missions.

MQ-8C Fire Scout returns from a test mission on the Point Mugu Sea Range in Point Mugu, Calif. US Navy Photo

MQ-8C Fire Scout returns from a test mission on the Point Mugu Sea Range in Point Mugu, Calif. US Navy Photo

These unmanned vehicles take ASW and MiW from their current 1980s vintage ship-based capabilities to 21st century network-based applications. Traditional ship-based ASW capabilities such as both hull mounted and towed array sonars limit the areas of the water column where subs can be detected, tracked, prosecuted and destroyed. Ship-based mine warfare systems like tethered unmanned vehicles still force a ship to closely approach mined waters in order to eleminate underwater weapon threats. While the interim LCS ASW mission package supports some of these traditional capabilities, they expose the ship to greater threat by making it the primary search and prosecution asset. Unmanned, untethered systems allow the ship to push out the engagement zone much farther and lessen the susceptibility of the host vessel to attack. Longer-range, ship-based assets such manned and unmanned rotary wing aircraft can network with unmanned surface and subsurface platforms for improved warfare effectiveness.

It is vital that Congress and the Defense Department support extensive testing and experimental deployment of unmanned systems for all warfare disciplines aboard the LCS sea frames. Unmanned systems have greater efficiency, allow greater search area coverage and improve the survivability of their host platforms as opposed to tradition ship-based capabilities. Unmanned systems represent the way ahead in both antisubmarine and mine warfare, and the LCS is the right ship to carry them forward into operational employment at sea.

 

  • John Locke

    LOL!!

  • NavySubNuke

    I suppose the fact that all of them are currently welded to the pier and unable to get underway helps with that readiness as well — lots of time to install upgrades when you can’t go to sea anyway without your engines eating themselves or the hull spontaneously cracking.

    • Lazarus

      Being welded to the pier means being “forbidden” to get underway. Perhaps Jackson and Milwaukee who are undergoing post shock trial availabilities. Other members of the class are not “welded” to the pier.

      • Deplorable Jon

        That’s a difference without a distinction.

        The decision point when the LCS will no longer leave port is coming soon.

        • Lazarus

          Doubtful, as at least 32 LCS will be commissioned.

          • Aubrey

            None will work, but they’ll be commissioned.

            We’ve gone way beyond form and function, and into reality follows propaganda.

          • Lazarus

            Coronado is deployed now. Fort Worth is in post-deployment upkeep, Independence is a test vehicle for modular equipment and Freedom is in CONUS waters. The other LCS units are in the delivery to PSA window with Milwaukee and Jackson completing post shock trial assessments.

          • Deplorable Jon

            That’s what they said about the Zumwalts too. How’d that end up?

          • David Teer

            you can build about 8 lcs for the price of one zumwalt. with DT about to take office expect an increase in ship building funds

          • Curtis Conway

            That’s 32 platforms of two distinctly different types with their unique logistical support trains. Lack of reliability, and survivability to date, although that MAY change with the US Navy now performing traditional and proven manning and training models that do not treat people like interchangeable robots. Unique and expensive logistical support trains. Inappropriate for Blue Water operations. Too small a crew to fight the ship and perform damage control, in a ship not built to US Navy Regulation Survivability Standards. AND all filling slots meant for REAL Surface Combatants, for that was what was removed, and LCS will be counted that way. False hope prospects?! Not a good prospect for the future in my estimation. These are throw away platforms in a War At Sea.

  • Ctrot

    In all fairness I suppose the LCS would be useful as drone launchers, as long as they can be refueled regularly and the engines hold up. But I would think that half a billion dollars is a bit much to pay for a “drone launcher”.

    • Lazarus

      It launches air, surface and subsurface drones. It has a large helicopter flight deck and lots of excess storage capacity. Is that so bad for $479m a copy? Not sure the Navy could build anything cheaper.

      • sid

        The Navy very certainly could by building ships that are not designed to go 40 plus knots.

        A speed that offers virtually no operational benefit and has only made both LCS variants expensive boondoggles.

        • Lazarus

          Speed has a number of advantages. It allows a ship to sprint away from an ASCM launch point and widen an opponent’s area of uncertainty in counter-targeting. It can also allow a ship to sprint to a helicopter recovery point if needed.

          • Tired_Libertarian

            Speed and stealth makes targeting hard.

          • Aubrey

            Stealth? The LCS?

            That thing has a wake visible from Neptune…and its radar signature makes Alpha Centaurians shake their heads in shame.

          • Lazarus

            Nearly all warships can be detected via satellite if so specifically targeted. Also, any search asset close enough to see a wake will detect with other sensors long before visual. All ships create significant disturbance at higher speed.

          • RedStatePatriot

            I am not aware of any “wake” homing ASM. Besides anyone close enough to see a wake can already see the ship, so whats your point?

          • Aubrey

            Hmmm…and an ASM is the only threat? Dammit, I hate it when I miss memos that “everything is different! Rawr!”

          • Jffourquet

            Are you suggesting a ship moving at 40-45 knots can out run an ASCM moving anywhere from 500MPH to 2times the speed of sound?

          • Lazarus

            No. I am saying that a ship capable of 40+ knots forces an opponent to search/contend with a wider target area. Being able to travel 40+ knots for 3 hrs means a wider search area for an opppnent to cover vice looking for a ship traveling 25 kts at best.

          • Jffourquet

            At 3000 tons it will be found and it will be sunk by an ASCM. Once targeted by an ASCM speed makes no difference.

          • Curtis Conway

            Thank you . . . a person living in the 21st Century, and gives the enemy its due. If you had an intel brief you would probably find it is MUCH worse than that!

          • James B.

            I understand the theory of expanding circle error, but does the math actually work?

            ASCM time-of-flight is going to be short, likely less than 10 minutes. That will only get an LCS 6-8 NM off the aimpoint when the seeker goes active. If the enemy is smarter or luckier, that goes down to a mile or two. I wouldn’t bet my ship on either of those scenarios.

            If you want to defend yourself against an enemy searching for you, being able to effectively shoot back is going to do a lot more than a vain attempt to run away.

          • Lazarus

            The idea is to force an enemy into examining a wider area from the start and get them to make a mistake in targeting. I agree that 40 kts does not allow much of a re-position time/distance if an opponent is ready to launch an immediate return strike. That said, an opponent may not be in that position immediately and 40 kts creates a much larger area of uncertainty with which to contend than 28.

          • James B.

            We clearly have different conceptions of what the enemy is going to be searching with. Increasing the time-distance error ellipse could be effective against slow-moving searchers or short-range sensors, particularly if the LCS has it’s own over-the-horizon cuing to know where to evade to.

            However, against radar-equipped aircraft it won’t help much. Given the short range of the LCS’s air defense suite, it’s just a matter of time before the threat aircraft gain positive identification (via ELINT, EO/IR, SAR, or eyeballs) and initiate a missile attack.

          • Curtis Conway

            I bet Laz never took a fam flight in an E-2, forget P-3 or AWACS.

          • Curtis Conway

            Auto-pilot with a national asset update? The enemy systems are not that stupid, and the Chinese have Hyper-sonic missiles they can now draw upon. One must build for tomorrow, not yesterday.

          • Curtis Conway

            James, doesn’t it comfort you to know that numerous jobs on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River have been preserved while we pour huge amounts of budget into a Combat Vessel that does not work, nor can it work in the environment in which it will be required to function, but will provide alternate targets for the ASCMs to find when they (the ASCMS) seek the High Value Units, and all made possible with re-election funds given to the congressmen and Senators just trying to help their constituents? If it wasn’t so sad it would be laughable.

          • Curtis Conway

            This ass/u/mes that national assets aren’t available. We had the Chinese showing us aircraft hatches and smaller junk floating in the South China Sea with better than 1 meter(squared) quality photography. Keep smoking that pipe.

          • RedStatePatriot

            No he is saying if the ship can move even a few miles in any direction greatly opens the uncertainty envelope of any ASM tracking in on the ship’s last known position.

            Look at it this way, if speed is of no value then why don’t we build ships that only do 1 knot? Wouldn’t they be cheaper?

          • Jffourquet

            Be even cheaper not to built any more of these 3000 ships designed to fight speed boats. You may open up the targeting and search area, but it will be found and an ASCM will destroy it.

            What is implied in this article the original LCS concept failed and now the navy thinks they have a mission the LCS can perform.

          • RedStatePatriot

            Well, I am not aware of any plan to build 3000 LCS’s. Also, it is obvious you are clueless when it comes to the ships mission, and capabilities.

            You guys make it sound like the LCS in a war footing would be the sole US ship, or asset in theater, and it would be the 1 LCS versus the entire enemies’ navy.

          • Curtis Conway

            If only it was so simple . . . and it is not.

          • RedStatePatriot

            Care to elaborate?

          • Curtis Conway

            Read the comments up and down the page and the picture is revealed. China can target ANYONE ANYWHERE in the South China Sea. If they can see and show us a picture of a 1 meter square hatch floating in the middle of nowhere, do you think they can find a 300′ ship ? then target that ship and update the ASCM’s autopilot on its way out to the target? The answer is obvious, then we must look at this so called Combat Vessel’s ability to defend itself! The farm is bet upon the capability of the SeaRAM Missile with its MASSIVE 25lb blast fragmentation warhead, and if this is a Supersonic Sea Skimming Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (flying at 50′ or less, probably based upon sea state), you get ONE (yes you guessed it . . . ONE!) shot.

            does that answer your question?

          • RedStatePatriot

            Really, China can take a picture of a hatch…. wow, good for them. And how did they take this picture, with a satellite, reconnaissance aircraft, guy in a fishing boat with a Polaroid, not sure wtf your talking about really I don’t know anything about a hatch. You also seem to be of the belief that the LCS will be expected to just sail right up to the shores of China in a war setting…. first ship in… tip of the spear. If we were at war with China, I doubt that any U.S. ship would be sailing the Litorials near China’s coast for a long while.

            As far as updating targeting information, where will this update come from? Please don’t be stupid enough to say satellite. I am always amazed that you guys think China is so superior to the U.S. in war fighting capability, and naval operations.

          • Curtis Conway

            Do a Google search on “chinese satellite coverage mh370”. The Chinese, in an interest of trying to be supportive in the search for the missing airliner, revealed the pictures within days of the disappearance. Defense Analyst around the planet were estimating that the real resolution of their capability (as significant as it was) was not fully revealed. Wake up and smell the coffee. Revelations is REAL, and the Dragon has revealed himself!

          • RedStatePatriot

            Well the fact that China did not find MH370 or find any hatch seems to prove nothing about their capability… you do realize satellites move right…. a satellite could not find a ship in the SCS in the narrow field of resolution and provide anything more than a potential contact spot. Do you really think they can real time image and classify the entire SCS in one pass of a satellite? You are not helping your argument.

            Even if they could spot a ship with a satellite, they still have to classify the target, feed targeting to a weapons platform, launch a weapon. Now the satellite has moved off the horizon…. so how can it be used to update targeting… you are totally clueless on this. See this is why I told you NOT to say satellite.

          • Curtis Conway

            You are not helping your argument, and you obviously understand the metrics of the argument. So . . . keep on miss-informing and gambling with our sailors lives. Better safe than sorry and NEVER underestimate the adversary, particularly by deluding yourself into thinking you know better than the enemy knows.

          • RedStatePatriot

            Yeah, and you should keep believing that China is way more advanced than the U.S. in satellite imaging and tracking of ships. You probably also believe the DF21 is a carrier killer right?

          • Curtis Conway

            I never said they were more advanced. You act like they have no capability at all. That is worse than unwise. The Chinese have several weapons that we do not have, and can not at present simulate.

          • Curtis Conway

            In order to give the title of “Surface Combatant” to the LCS the US Navy had to redefine several standards by which all Surface Combatants are measured. ‘Survivability’, which is defined in US Navy Regulations concerns watertight integrity, and compartmentalization, and was Redefined as the ability of the ship to employ its weapons systems in combat. Then the LCS was poorly equipped. Its most capable anti-air weapon is the SeaRAM with 11 missiles that have a range of about 5 miles on the outside, and a 25lb blast fragmentation warhead. A WWII frigate was more able to defend itself with its multiple 40 mm Bofors guns putting up a flack cloud.

            The superior speed makes the vessel easier to find when so traveling, thus countering the contention that it increases safety and survivability of the crew with its speed. No, the current batch of thinkers who keep telling us about their superior ideas have sold us down the river, fed some industrialist with some jobs, and manufactured ships out of aluminum, which does not stand up well in combat, then equipped the ship to be just dangerous enough to get the enemies attention, but not capable enough to survive. From someone who has been there and done that, that is the truth.

          • RedStatePatriot

            Good job totally changing the subject…. so I guess your previous post aS just BS right.

          • John Locke

            Uh, it’s an LCS………”littoral” being the operative word. A lot of eyes in the littorals.

          • Lazarus

            Don’t assume that everything in a littoral space will be quickly located and identified.

          • Curtis Conway

            When conducting PASEXes with the PHM Squadron at Key West, we could tell EXACTLY who the PHM was as soon as he went up on the step. Fishing boats don’t go that fast, and Standard Missiles made them quick work.

          • Lazarus

            You assume that LCS will be driving around at 40+ kts the whole time? A hydrofoil’s signature likely changes when “on step”. Your experience was also in a peacetime environment and you were sitting right off the PHM’s home port with an unobstructed view.

          • Curtis Conway

            Artificiality accepted, the point is, in surface craft (combatants) in the modern battle space, Speed Is Not Life, unless you are running from a torpedo. Everyone throwing rocks at this assumption are assuming that the most likely adversary in the Western Pacific does not have intel and targeting capabilities, that it has had for far longer than most (in their ignorance or otherwise) are willing to admit. Plan for the worse, and hope for the best, or you are just murdering our sailors by sending them to sea to get killed in. THAT is NEVER supposed to be our design rule or intention. THAT is EXACTLY what the LCS is.

          • RedStatePatriot

            Do you really think that the “eyes” of every fishing vessel is connected to the guidance system and kill chain of an enemy launched ASM?

          • Curtis Conway

            SOF support vessel!

          • Guest

            It can make an opponent’s counter-targeting as easy as pie. Even the most risk-averse ASCM shooter can’t help but pick out the one and only thing on the ocean going 40 knots. After that, .9mach will have no problem catching up.

          • Lazarus

            An opponent has to see the ship first. Agree that any located ship is a good target, but LCS’ speed can expand the area of uncertainty with which an opponent must contend in targeting the ship.

          • Guest

            So, as long as the ship can stay COMPLETELY OFF the other guy’s scope (40+mi) in the LITTORALS, it’s . . . invincible!

          • Lazarus

            LCS’s higher speed forces an opponent to consider a wider area of uncertainty in targeting. It forces an opponent to consider a wider search area from the start. That’s an advantage.

          • Curtis Conway

            Does Laz sound like an Operator in a War At Sea environment?

      • jaxtotenn

        I don’t think that is a bad price in today dollars. My view is more ships is actually a better thing. The surface navy is going to get its butt handed to them in a conventional sea control war (I just invented that term, and not sure it is useful but only to me). At some point numbers will count (same argument for submarines) I am not sure however that the operational capabilities envisioned for this ship shall materialize. LCS does remind me however of the “low mix” concepts which gave us the FFG 7. Thank God we never went to war with that ship…..

        • Curtis Conway

          In this case “low” means throw away. Don’t tell the crew.

      • Freddy

        there are no surface or subsurface drones for LCS to launch. the RMMV was a failure and is cancelled. after 10 years the LCS cheerleaders are still claiming the ships will have capability in the future. the trifecta of failure, over budget, behind schedule and no capability, that is the lcs motto.

    • Tired_Libertarian

      I’ve always said that the LCS-2 class seemed to be more in line with future UAS operations. You have a huge flight deck and a large deck area underneath it. It could be quite the UAS mothership if they could get all of the kinks ironed out.

      • Aubrey

        “…if they could get all of the kinks ironed out”

        Kinks like…you know…making it actually WORK.

    • jaxtotenn

      The entire Defense Acquisition Program is fundamentally flawed. The LCS, as an example is supposed to be a modular warship. A system here, a system there, and Voila, we have the same hull with new capabilities. That was also the idea behind the Spruance Class ship. It never materialised, because for ships the modular concept is not as easy to apply as it appears on paper. Sometimes I think the entire military industrial concept has only learned one thing in the last 50 years……how to charge more and get the Gubnent to pay more. It is so very sad in my view because we have some really fine people working tough issues and their efforts can be watered down by the bureaucracy of the government, and the profit margin needed by the defense industry.

      • Curtis Conway

        “That was also the idea behind the Spruance Class ship. It never materialised…”

        Hey now WAIT A MINUTE. The USS Ticonderoga Class Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser IS a Spruance hull with an extra 3,000 tons on it, and they are the Crown Jewel of the fleet, and BMD capable. The fact that the US Navy and Congress decided to make razor blades out of the force instead of rebuilding and refurbishing those into cruisers is another argument. However, the Tico Class is the MOST capable platform on the planet at present.

  • J_kies

    Perhaps LCS has a future as a ‘fire ship’, all we need is the remote drive kit and a harbor stuffed full of enemy vessels. Viola’ problem solved.

    • Deplorable Jon

      It might be worth it if the ships could reach the target ports without breaking down

      • Lazarus

        LCS gets reported on for engineering issues that many Navy ships have, but never make the press. Only one LCS “broke down” while at sea and had to be towed back to port (USS Milwaukee). That ship had a software casualty, that caused a mechanical one.

        • Aubrey

          There is just no way even YOU had a straight face when you typed that!

          • Lazarus

            I absolutely say so and challenge you to show where any other LCS has “broken down” other than the examples I have listed!

  • sid

    It will be -YEARS- before the autonomous systems you tout progress beyond the wishful Powerpoint stage they are currently in.

    And the impediment to any progress is because the attempt to shoehorn these still far from operational systems into the severely weight constrained LCS variants have added years and $$$billions to their development.

    • Tired_Libertarian

      There are a number of UAS systems currently operating off of ships. Build a ship with the capability to carry such systems and then fill it with the systems that are available. You can’t design a system and then say “OK, we’ve built the widget. Now lets design a ship to carry it”. That is bassackwards.

    • Lazarus

      So the whole ‘third offset” effort is a waste of time? I don’t think so. People said the same things about surface to air missiles, PGM’s and other systems that today are taken for granted.

  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    I would imagine that James Mattis – if appointed as the Secretary of Defense – will likely cancel or curtail LCS.

    LCS reflects the EXACT sort of Pentagon foolishness that he has railed against.
    A PowerPoint deep concept of warfare which is totally different disconnected from reality.

    The general is not known to suffer foolish ideas gladly. I’d love to be in the CNOs in-chop brief to the new SECDEF on this boondoggle.

    • Lazarus

      I don’t think any of us knows what General Mattis might want as a SECDEF. He’s a maneuver-warfare Marine. Any speculation at this point is well, speculative.

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        It’s certainly speculative. Much in the same manner you speculate on the capabilities LCS may some day deliver.

        One point however is that Gen. Mattis has served as a COCOM. So he probably knows a little about naval force requirements. He almoat certainly knows more about warfare than most SWOs.

  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    Ironic title since LCS is not ready today to do much of anything.

  • Tony4

    Please do not use the terms “LCS” and “ideal platform” in the same sentence – please.

  • Curtis Conway

    “Completion of the full LCS program is one positive step in the direction of that larger and more capable fleet.” Says who?!
    ‘Larger Fleet’, yes . . . more capable fleet ? . . UNLESS these so called ‘Combat Ships’ have Star Trek like weapons . . . someone is smoking something. An LCS is going to have a hard time defending itself from a determined attack of supersonic ASCMs. Too short range, not enough weapons (as currently equipped), and not even enough weapons capability of significant range to protect an escorted vessel, forget itself.

    The assumption that the LCS is our most capable ASW and MiW application for this platform is dubious at best. For the LCS to be of any value as an ASW platform in a Blue Water Operations environment it must have much longer range and independent steaming capability than is even possible for the LCS platform. The LCS does not even have an organic ASW weapon. The MiW mission may be possible given maturation of the current envisioned systems, and that is yet to be experienced, except in some engineer’s minds, and war-games. THAT does not count in a War At SEA. It’s too late to start another MiW program, so that mission for the LCS I wholeheartedly support. Supporting the use of LCS for SOF operations is also a good idea, particularly in an expanding Marine Corps Expeditionary environment which the new administration is planning. That new environment with expanded use of USS America (LHA-6 Class) aviation centric platforms in numbers, also makes sense, so alternating production over the next ten (10) units, or competing two yards in each type (with & with-out well-deck) is a good idea having a minimum impact of overall multi-year expenditures, yet expanding capability and versatility of forces. What is needed here is a VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C platform for the LHA-6 Class.

    ” Extensive use of unmanned, autonomous systems allows U.S. naval forces to fight “at machine speed,” a vital requirement in the face [fast?]-paced world of modern antisubmarine and mine warfare.” Those mines sure do travel fast don’t they ? . . . who writes this stuff?

    Well . . . if one can be guaranteed to ‘not take damage’ at any time requiring a damage control team, then you MAY have a point. However, surviving at sea where NOTHING is guaranteed, and is never taken out of the War At Sea equation . . . put that in your little wargame. Only arrogant men would think otherwise, so unless G-d in His wisdom has blessed PEO-LCS, ONR & DSB with some special foresight and ability to guarantee success, I suggest you hedge your bets on the future with some solid engineering and MULTI-WARFARE Combat Vessels of all sizes, but most particularly a decent frigate.

    The suggestion in the recent past has been to make everyone a shooter in this greater FORCEnet-21 environment (including Amphibs), and that may work until someone ionizes the atmosphere. No amount of ionization of the atmosphere can impede acoustics, so ASW can still be accomplished, and with emphasis on Passive systems, perhaps we can still fight effectively given the ionization. Plan for the worse and hope for the best.

    Let the dreamers go practice their Black Arts somewhere else. They are already counting on a perfect pipe-dream. We have had enough fantasy over the last decade plus. Not all ships have a non-rotating 3D AESA radar providing perfect tracking (or passive systems with similar capability) that can enable a near perfect defense with Directed Energy Weapons. However, that inevitability is right around the corner, so let us make sure we build things that can support that eventuality.

    Just my 2ȼ

    • Lazarus

      Your 2 cents seems hopelessly trapped in the 1980’s. Time and technology Marchetta in.

      • Curtis Conway

        Your assessment of risk vs advancement, with little or no fall-back casualty capability, will get people killed in combat. THAT reveals your true feelings in the matter. One school of thought is trying to employ force while keeping our people as safe as possible. The other school burns people up like cord wood while advancing a pet project or cause. I wonder of which G-d is most proud?

        • Lazarus

          There are many ways to, “keep people safe,” including smaller crews, more automation and dispersed operations for small ships.

          • Curtis Conway

            What has become CLEAR in the LCS Program is the small crew provides ‘less casualties’ with the loss of the platform, NOT a more survivable platform.

          • Lazarus

            What you and many are asking for in terms of another FFG 7 clone is neither affordable nor really that survivable in the ASCM threat environment. Dispersal rather than active defense is the best survivability tactics for a small surface combatant. A 1980’s style ship like an FFG clone with 32 or less VLS cells is too expensive for the limited capability it brings and not survivable against missile salvos of any size.

          • Curtis Conway

            There may be some asking for an ‘FFG-7 Clone’, and your use of the term is my FIRST exposure to it, and that is NOT what I am asking for, for your assessment of an FFG-7 Clone’s ability to survive in the modern ASCM environment is correct. The LCS is even LESS SO! Argue that point otherwise. You can’t.
            What I propose is a new platform based upon the NSC hull, with LM2500s in place of the diesels, and a Permanent Magnet Motor (PMM) in place of the current LM2500 location. Two Ships Service Gas Turbine Generator (SSGTG) will replace the diesel generators. This will be an ‘ice-hardened’ all-ocean hull, which the NSC mostly is anyway. This will enable presence in the Arctic where SQS-53 Sonar equipped ships dare not go for fear of damaging the rubber window for much of the year. The new 4160v IPS is installed providing redundant power down both sides of the ship connected to the PMMs and SSGTGs for redundant generation and drive capability (appropriately), automatically controlled for propulsion use, or electrical energy for the combat system. The weaponry starts with a 5” gun forward (guided projectiles), and four Directed Energy Weapons on the deck directly below the four array faces of the non-rotating 3D AESA radar. Hopefully that radar will be a 9-RMA (Radar Module Assembly) AN/SPY-6(V), but a four array-face 3D TRS-4D is also acceptable, and will grow over the next decade into most of what a SPY-6 is already, and it will just have an additional logistics train. Not smart in my opinion, but will save procurement dollars right up front, which you will pay for down years in maintenance and upgrade work, which would already be factored into the scalable SPY-6 configuration upgrade path. The combat system is primarily Multi-spectral Passive in nature, in all quadrants across the photonic spectrum (mostly IR & UV), from negative azimuth to zenith. Detection, tracking, and engagement is via all passive sensors with a track stores and management system like a B/L-9 Aegis combat system. Much of the [GFE] code and processing will transfer directly over into the new Photonic RSC processor, which will support the Active 3D sensor when it is on line. If you consult the Aegis Guided Missile Frigate Facebook page, most of the details of the rest of the platform is laid out. Need 50 minimum split between an ASW-centric version, and an AAW-centric version.
            THAT is what I am asking for.
            Growing the Amphib fleet will support what the new administration wants to do with the Marine Corps growth, and that will also be supported by alternating well-deck/non-well-deck LHA platforms for the next ten (10) units. To top off that construct we only need a VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C aircraft (EV-22 Osprey AEW&C Aircraft Facebook page), hopefully built upon the V-22 Osprey platform, and yes I have heard ALL the reasons why it can’t be done. Take all those reasons and put them in your pipe and smoke it, while you take a long walk off a short pier.
            The best job for the LCS platforms is the Mine Countermeasures Mission. They can also excel in SOF support provided their reliability improves. SOF stuff MUST WORK, or it can’t be involved in the process due to the elevated RISK involved in their missions.
            Couple these items with the increased presence of 737 based airframe combat systems across the board (Boeing 737 Special Mission Aircraft Facebook page) and we will save all kinds of logistical support money in the future, particularly if the new JSTARS has external stores capability and a bomb bay (P-8A Poseidon Facebook page). Launching unmanned probes and perhaps even carrying self-defense weaponry would be possible increasing capability exponentially and synergistically and sharing that info with the net.

            How about those Icebreakers (US Coast Guard Needs New Icebreakers Facebook page) discusses development of a multi-mission ship (Icebreaking, command ship, BMD, aviation platform), that also functions in our new more important domain in the Arctic, which most of the DoD is ignoring . . . until the shooting starts. So much for Proactivity.

            We could discuss the CAS mission and why ALL CAS aircraft should have two engines when flying low & slow near ground fire (Textron Scorpion Facebook page). That lesson goes all the way back to WWI & WWII, but the USAF has already forgotten that lesson, and are trying to vet the A-29 Super Tucano & AT-6C Wolverine who both have a single engine, instead of an OV-10G Bronco, Textron Scorpion, or perhaps even an updated 0-2 “Oscar Deuce”.

            All of these topics we discuss in this comment area are NOT just singular and isolated in the combat realm, but can have a helpful synergistic effect to the Joint Force, or donate little except to that single mission, and the manufacturer of the product.

            THAT was probably more than 2ȼ More like $1.98 worth.

          • Lazarus

            The ship you suggest is just too expensive for the limited capability it brings. If the USN wanted a DDG-light, it would have bought one.

          • Curtis Conway

            Under Sequestration you could Barely afford LCS, and some would contend you could not.

          • Paul

            Has the final decision for the frigate sea frame been made yet? Will there be a bidding competition? From my searching it seems like the competition will be only between the LCS options, but I might not he casting my net wide enough.

            I’m not an LCS hater, but I like the idea of the using the NSC hull for the frigate.

          • Curtis Conway

            The advent of this new administration, and the directions it CAN take, make anything is possible. The current administration and its policies, and the establishment policies that existed before and today in DoD procurement, along with the system to determine what we need in the future (near and far) has been so ‘far afield’, and ‘off target’, that the entire system needs huge reform. We spent the better part of two decades and a huge budget to replace the frigates with something that cannot do the same thing (or even the few things it was designed to do), and at this point in HiStory, with the level of technology that exist today, something the same size should have had ‘far more capability’ than what an LCS has (either flavor). No . . . anything is possible now. We need REAL frigates, Icebreakers, same number of Legend Class High Endurance Cutters in the USCG as Hamilton Class that were retired (perhaps more), VSTOL/STOVL AEW&C aircraft for the Expeditionary Strike Groups possessing Lightening Carriers, More Lightening Carriers (or reprogram for every other one to not have a well-deck), advanced passive systems for ALL surface combatants, new multi-engine CAS aircraft (OA-X & A-X), retrofit of avionics-engines-props for a huge fleet of Legacy C-130Hs (Guard & Reserve) to support the States particularly during Disaster Operations, and retrofit all the M1A Abrams Tanks with the LV 100-5 engine, just to mention a few.

            Leadership is the key with a vision and plan for the future, for the budget will come with the growing economy just like it did during the Reagan administration. All of this ‘Crystal Ball Black Magic’ of the past two decades has failed so completely and miserably, that this system that has shown itself to be ineffective, and requires reform. AND time is short.

      • Curtis Conway

        Good thing DDG-1000 is not in combat today. It would be on the bottom.

  • KellyJ

    Unfortunately by the time tomorrows Automated Warfare Systems will be ready for regular deployment, the LCS will be nearing the end of its life, The first 4 of the LCS program are already being downrated to non-deployable training ships because of the stresses and damage caused by their single deployments. And the rest of the class is slated to have whatever systems are developed installed as a permament fixture per hull…which eliminates the entire modular concept the program was sold on.

  • James B.

    If you want a vessel to host manned and unmanned modular systems, that can fight and survive in the littoral environment, you don’t want an LCS, you want an LPD. Everything the LCS can carry one of, a San Antonio-class LPD can carry half a dozen of, and there are plenty of mission-essential systems the LCS simply can’t fit, but an amphib can. We’d only be able to afford one for every four LCS canceled, but that one will still be more useful in reality than the four LCS even are on paper.

    • Lazarus

      An LPD is too slow, too large and is not built to support modular capabilities. A well deck can support some, but it is not an ideal choice.

      • James B.

        What makes an LCS uniquely able to support modular capabilities? If San Antonios don’t already have the modular magic, the LX(R) follow-on (on a San Antonio-type hull) to replace the LSDs definitely can have said modular magic if the Navy asks for it.

        How vital is the excessive speed of the LCS? San Antonios aren’t quite CRUDES/CVN fast, but neither are most of the threats they would need to fight, or the ships they would need to protect from littoral threats.

        I can see LCS being somewhat useful to carry MH-60s for fleet ASW, but that isn’t littoral, or really combat. For littoral surface combat it will be minimally capable, but at a high price, and for MCM it will be useless.

        • Lazarus

          LCS is built from the keel up as an open architecture system. LX-R is designed to USMC requirements and not Navy ones (modular or not). Speed has value in getting to a required location and LPD 17 does not have that high transit speed. MCM is now all about automated systems. Deploying manned ships like the MCM to physically sweep mines is no longer practical given the threat.

          • James B.

            USS San Antonio (LPD 17) is only two years older than USS Freedom (LCS 1), so I find it hard to believe that there is a cosmic technology difference. LX(R) Hull 1 will probably commission about 2022, so if that ship doesn’t have open technology architecture, the Navy has bigger shipbuilding problems than the LCS!

            I’m all about using stand-off methods to clear minefields, but the LCS is a comparatively lousy mothership for unmanned vehicles. An LCS can’t carry an MH-53E, and the smaller MH-60 can’t tow a mine sled. The surface and subsurface UVs–when they finally work–will be carried in ones or twos by the LCS. An LPD or other amphib can carry MH-53s, can carry lots of whatever autonomous MCM vehicles eventually reach service, and if they don’t, it can probably carry whatever eventually does work.

            A thousand-mile sprint at 40+ knots sounds impressive, but that 20-24hr transit would result in empty fuel tanks and a day waiting for the AOE to catch up. An LPD or similar ship would take two days to do 1000NM, but wouldn’t drain its tanks or overrun its supply train doing it. How important is that one day?

            Bottom line, using LPDs for MCM is an inelegant solution to a complex problem, but the possible outcomes range from acceptable to outstanding. The LCS is a much more precise solution, but the potential for catastrophic mission failure is unacceptably high at this point.

          • Lazarus

            Is LCS a “lousy” mothership for a ship of its size? An LCS can actually land an MH 53 if needed, but the deck is not certified for long-term use of such helos. The MH-60 tow system does work, but the aviation community shot down the concept because the 60 has only one motor and they (aviators) don’t think that an airframe without a backup motor *it has two rather than three as does the CH 53)is unsafe for towing. An LPD or similar amphib would need an escort in order to venture into low/medium threat environments where an LCS would not. LPD’s are really slow and the speed component of LCS was designed partially as a way to get MiW assets to where they are needed at speeds better than 12 or 15 kts. LCS was never intended to carry out much in the way of sweep work and US Navy doctrine calls for helos to do area clearance. Surface ships at best hunt mines. yes, the MCM’s are equipped as sweeps, but from personal experience as an MCM ENG and XO, the sweep mission requires the whole crew and cannot be maintained with real effectiveness for more than about 48 hrs before exhaustion begins to affect performance.

          • James B.

            In the future, technological advance may make the modular packages work and a lighter mine sled possible, but that isn’t certain or available today, so it shouldn’t be used to justify the full-rate production of a ship today. Based on systems available today, the LCS is nearly worthless for MCM.

            MH-53s are essential for AMCM work because they have an external payload of 16 tons, rather than an MH-60’s 3 tons. Trying to pull the current sled with a -60 is ineffective and very dangerous, so the ability to operate an MH-53 is essential to airborne MCM.

            An LPD will need an escort into contested environments, but so will the LCS, and an amphibious ready group already has escort capability provided for. An LCS alone would have it’s 57mm and little else, but an MCM-tasked LPD would be embedded in the ARG, so it would be supported by destroyers, the MAGTF airwing, and it’s own self-defense systems. A smarter choice would be to tie the LCS to an ARG or CSG, but this would also slow the LCS down to the speed of it’s escort, eliminating the value of “40+ knots.”

            I don’t believe the LCS is a poorly engineered vessel (powerplant issues aside), but it was designed for an unrealistically disparate set of tasks, and promised to do even more, so it will underdeliver and leave serious capability gaps. We can continue to argue whether the LCS will be adequate to any of its promised tasks, but that will still be a poor replacement for ships properly focused on each mission set.

  • The Plague

    “…and the LCS is the right ship to carry them forward into operational employment…” – no matter what, but some mission, any mission, must be invented that the piece of trash called LCS must be good for.

    • John Locke

      Correct, this is all pretty slick …………. if your foe is susceptible to these gee-whiz toys.

      I can just imagine the designers of LCS sitting around the table years ago:

      “This would be cool to have on there and that too!!”

      “Yeah, it’ll be like a video game! Everything remote control and automated!!”

      ……….. cause everybody fights like that in the littorals.

      • The Plague

        Remember, originally it was to be “modular mission packages”. That idea failed, there will be no such thing, now they’re to be single-mission. And now they figure out just what a great vessel for use as a drone-tender. The same gunk that has not been able to absorb ANY mission package successfully so far.

        • Lazarus

          The idea did not fail. LCS can still support rapid mission module change if needed. The Navy decided not to make that part of the CONOPS due to surface warfare cultural issues more than any other.

          • The Plague

            Yeah, right. Particularly if there were any such modules in working order and actually swappable in-and-out of an LCS hull without 6 months in the docks.

          • Lazarus

            Such a swap would be on the order of weeks and not months. The basic surface warfare module can be swapped in less than three days.

          • The Plague

            Have they actually demonstrated such a swap in practice, one package out, the other package in, all checking out and working at sea?

          • James B.

            That would require two mission modules that actually work…

          • Lazarus

            The interim surface package has been added and then removed, and then re-added as a trial maneuver, but given that no other modules are fully available, an actual ‘swap” of different modules has not occurred. LCS module installations have generally been trouble-free, and while parts of modules (like the RMMV vehicle that is part of the RMS system in the MiW module,) have not functioned as planned, the MiW and the test ASW module have connected well with their sea frame support platforms. The connections and interfaces have not been a problem, unlike some of the module components.

          • The Plague

            OK, that may pass for progress in a checkbox-driven project meeting, but in realistic terms, that’s exactly nothing.

    • Ed Lindgren

      The LCS would make a mighty fine target ship. Perhaps the USN can sink a couple of them during next year’s RIMPAC exercise.

  • Over priced, prone to breakdowns, not much commonality between the two classes, undermanned, under armed, and the beat goes on and on. Ships are built to go in harms way. The LCS’s can not. Also is 40knts really required? You can not out run a missile or bullet. A simpler 30knt less expensive system, same engineering plant is both classes, I feel is a better alternative. Sorry Sailor Bob – LCS’s are “Pigs in a Poke”. I will not even write about the modules – still not operational. That crane on the stern of the pictured LRC looks like some LEGO lash-up. How many changes in that arrangement? A cheaper alternative, if you just require a launching platform for things that fly, run on surface, and submerge would be a basic off shore oil rig supply ship. They have large sterns and sea keeping abilities the LRC’s lack. This whole program was conceived as a defense contractor boon-doggle. The really best alternative is to stop the bleeding of ship building funds and build a real go in harms way frigate. Making the LRc’s into a “frigate” is like a pile of crap. The more you pile on all it is a bigger pile and it is still crap.

    • Lazarus

      I would like to know what platform is cheaper than LCS at $479m a unit.

      • Let’s approach the cost as value for dollars spent. What do you get for $479m per ship? Fast yes but: prone to breakdowns, no real ballistic protection, under gunned (57mm vs. 76mm), not designed with any real offensive weapons, Price above will not including additional costs for: Working modules, Larger crew, At least some armor, Some offensive weapons, Upgraded combat systems, Improved damage control, and Changes to propulsion system (reliability), to list a few. Picking one class, good idea and should have been done originally, but the addition of additional weight and maybe length, will increase costs. I venture the real cost will be on the high side of $750m per copy and not one vessel will be operational until at least 2020 when I’ll be resting in Arlington. Just like the Zumwalt’s piss poor leadership and management at NAVSEA and company. The Zummy’s $3b a copy and no bullets for it’s guns.

        • Lazarus

          You have not answered my question, but rather listed some capabilities. Only one LCS (Milwaukee) has ever “broken down” at sea. The “punch” of LCS is not in a 57mm gun (nor was the 76mm gun on the FFG 7). The LCS (Coronado anyway) carries the same “offensive” weapons as the FFG 7; 4 harpoon (or other cruise missiles.) LCS’ costs have dropped significantly over construction. Armor? No US ship (other than carriers) has gone to sea with anything more than spalling protection since 1946. A ship’s “armor” now is in its ability to avoid attack and shoot down/decoy weapons that have acquired it. The basic LCS sea frame as delivered is about $479m with GFE installed. It’s basically a large corvette with a big helicopter hangar, but has the potential to support a number of other systems. It’s sked to get the Hellfire missile next year. LCS has space and weight to support multiple unmanned vehicles as the article states. I think you are looking for an FFG 7 “clone” and such a ship is not a requirement in a 21st century world of unmanned systems.

  • RobM1981

    I don’t know what the LCS is as an ASW platform, do you? Have any of them been outfitted with that “module?” Does anyone know if it even works? Before we plow good money after bad (very bad), perhaps we can answer that question?

    As a mine sweeper, sure – why not? There has to be SOMETHING that this hull can be used for, and AMiW seems practical – if they can keep the engineering plant running.

    But “building more” is a non-starter. The hull has proven itself, time and again, to be a boondoggle and a failure. The fact that we have two different hulls for the same class has always been proof-positive of a total boondoggle. Enough.

    We need to do something with the hulls that we have, sure. We can’t use them as targets, not just yet. As an in-shore ASW platform, let’s give them a whirl. Anti Mine, let’s give it a whirl.

    And then let’s discuss an actual Frigate, shall we? A “low” in the high-low mix that isn’t a fiasco.

    • Curtis Conway

      “There has to be SOMETHING that this hull can be used for…”

      LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Artificial Reef . . . CEPTAR?

  • Tony4

    This is just another rationalization for a failed concept, just like the “spirals” of the ASUW mission module, designed to excuse the fact that the ASUW mission module did not actually have the ability to sink another ship. Please note that there are NO complete mission modules today, 8 years after LCS-1 commissioning; that the intial ASUW mission module “spiral” has not progressed beyond the intial spiral; that no one knows when the MCM and ASW mission modules will really be available, having missed every developmental milestone to date; and that the sonar system that will be central to the ASW mission module can’t actual be used in the shallow waters of the littorals.

  • Jon

    Hillarious!

  • Jon

    “LCS Ready Today to Support Tomorrow’s Automated Warfare Systems”

    Counter-opinion: LCS is a fatally flawed concept designed to carry fatally flawed hardware.

    A decade later, the LCS has zero mission capability, the mission modules are still non-existent, they’ve yet to assemble a complete package of off-board remote hardware even vaguely capable of successfully completing any conceivable missions.

    We built a ship to carry Automated Warfare Systems that do not exist. Hardware that may or may not ever exist. Leaving us with $479 million dollar ships with huge empty and useless mission bays, whose only accomplishment is to generate huge operational expenses equivalent to that of a DDG.

    Faced with this, the USN is instead touting the LCS as an actual warfighter. A huge, expensive fast attack craft armed with (a very small number of) missiles. A mission the LCS was not designed, intended, and is totally unsuited to perform.

    Why are we persisting in doing this to ourselves? More importantly, why are we doing this to our sailors?

    • Lazarus

      LCS was designed to specific concepts but has taken longer to develop then planned. Is that such a bad thing? There is no war in progress from which LCS takes vital resources. LCS modules are reaching the final stage of their development, and in the meantime the sea frame can be used as a patrol and presence asset. The operating cost criticism is an estimate at best, as not enough LCS are fully operational in an actual deployment scheme to get a real cost figure.

  • RAS743

    As a citizen who has no service experience, only a deep admiration for all of our services, and many decades of reading military history in general and Naval history in particular, I sure hope the author is right. But from my perspective, the LCS was a dubious idea to begin with and has been bungled in its implementation. The Navy is our most important service because of our geography and world political realities, and right now and for many years it has seemed to me to be in a muddle brought on by poor leadership. And I would love for this opinion to be proved wrong.

    • John Locke

      You would be more accurate to replace “poor leadership”, with “vendor leadership”.

      With LCS the requirements were very vague and met with little oversight over vendor chosen components.

      Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex having too much influence and it has come to fruition.

  • Robert RUDDY

    There are much cheaper platforms to support autonomous systems. With better delivery for surface and subsurface vehicles.

    What these hotrods need is a long range strike missile (LRASM) and medium range SAM (ESSM).

    • Gordan E. Van Hook

      Absolutely – put a flight deck and a moon pool on a container ship, add some C4ISR and voila – perfect Unmanned platform support at a large scale for a reasonable price.

      • Lazarus

        Coasts approaching $1b for a small surface combatant are not a reasonable price.

        • Gordan E. Van Hook

          Not sure where you”re getting $1b for a converted container ship – more like $250k max

          • Lazarus

            Thought you folks were still discussing a surface combatant and not a “merchant cruiser” unmanned vehicle platform. Such a ship would require an escort, unlike LCS which could travel into low/medium threat areas without a separate warship in direct support. A large converted merchant may be a good choice for the “next” unmanned vehicle carrier. I also agree that one LCS may be too small compared to a large converted merchant in terms of vehicle payload.

    • Paul

      A long range strike missile for the surface warfare variants for sure, for the other modules too if they Navy is serious about distributed lethality. It looks like either LRASM or NSM for the LCS will actually happen. I think the ESSM in bolt-on Mk 48 vertical launchers should work well on these ships. The only way to make ships really survivable in a cruise missile shooting match is to give them the capability to shoot the missiles down. ESSM in addition to SeaRAM would go a long way to that end.

  • Sam Culper III

    It must be useful that the first four LCS vessels are so poorly made they will only be used as testing ships. That’s 2 Billion Dollars just so the shipbuilders can get the follow on LCS ships in good enough shape to actually go on deployments. Seems now days the taxpayers are paying a heavy price just so the builders can design and fix their mistakes. Concurrency is the best idea these companies came up with. Let’s design and build and the same time, then any fixes and repairs can be charged to the taxpayers. Ya, I’m talking about the LCS and the F-35. We’ve build over 150 F-35s and pretty much all of them will need repairs to be updated to the final useful configuration.

  • Thomas levac

    This borders delusion.