Home » Foreign Forces » Marines Begin Wargaming, Refining ‘Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment’ Concept

Marines Begin Wargaming, Refining ‘Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment’ Concept

USS TRENTON, At Sea – USS Trenton Sailors assist two young American citizens departing Lebanon in 2006. US Navy Photo

When the Navy and Marine Corps began to plan and execute an evacuation of American citizens in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, it may have seemed like a generic non-combatant evacuation operation they train for before any Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit deploy.

But when Hezbollah launched a Noor anti-ship missile at an Israeli corvette operating nearby, that NEO took on new risks and got a lot of military planners thinking.

John Berry, the concepts director at the Marine Corps’ Futures Directorate, told USNI News that that operation, in which 15,000 American citizens were evacuated in two weeks amid a missile threat from a non-state actor, was a “watershed moment” for amphibious operations planners.

“You’ve got a non-state actor using an [anti-access/area-denial] weapon, so now you have to think about how do we do what we would consider a benign operation – we’re there for humanitarian reasons – when you have non-state actors who are capable of causing serious serious damage, if not outright sinking ships,” he said in an interview last month from his office at Marine Corps Base Quantico.
“So we waited until we got a couple destroyers in there to provide air defense and we pulled off the operation, it was all a success, but that was kind of a harbinger of things to come.”

Marines in an amphibious assault vehicle make their way to shore after departing USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) during exercise Spring Storm 2017 March 18. US Marine Corps Photo

In the post-Cold War years, the Navy and Marine Corps conducted four or five amphibious operations a year – about twice the pace as during the Cold War – but grew accustomed to operating in a permissive environment, Berry said. Doctrinally, amphibious operations can be conducted in a permissive, an uncertain or a hostile environment, and the Lebanon NEO highlighted the need for new plans for an increasingly dangerous world, where the “uncertain” environment may be the most likely operating scenario.

“The uncertain environment in some ways is more problematic than the openly hostile environment because the time-honored maxim of naval combat is he who fires first effectively wins,” Berry said.
“So if you’re in there, even for a benign reason, and you’re under threat of either state or non-state actor with significant capability, in an uncertain environment very often you’re ceding the initiative to the potential adversary – you’re not even sure if he is an adversary – so you have to do some things to prepare yourself for that.”

Hence the need for the Marine Corps’ new Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment concept.

LOCE Origins

USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) sits off the coast of Capu Midia training grounds, Romania on March 19, 2017 during exercise Spring Storm 2017. US Marine Corps Photo

At the June 2015 Navy-Marine Corps Warfighter Talks event, about four hours of a six-hour discussion was devoted to this very topic. Leaders wanted to consider not just amphibious operations – Marines moving from the sea to the shore – but broader littoral operations, in which the Marines may also find themselves fighting at sea to gain and maintain sea control. Berry said he and then-Cmdr. Mark Coffman, now the chief of the Navy Warfare Development Command’s Concepts Division, were tasked with creating a resource- and force structure-unconstrained concept that identified what capabilities the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps would need to succeed in littoral operations, what capability and capacity allies and partners – and potential adversaries – would bring to this type of warfighting scenario, and how the Navy and Marine Corps would need to organize themselves for littoral operations in a contested environment.

The concept is classified, but Berry said his office is working on writing an unclassified version. The version today outlines how the Navy and Marine Corps would approach two scenarios: crisis response in uncertain environment, and a larger contingency in a hostile environment, though he said the concept stops short of major theater war.

At its essence, LOCE (pronounced low-key) seeks to “take away the seam between land and sea” and address the maritime domain as “an indivisible entity, a single battlespace,” Berry said.

A Landing Craft, Air Cushion with Navy Assault Craft Unit 5 approaches the well deck of the USS San Diego (LPD-22) during PHIBRON-MEU Integration, April 8, 2017. US Marine Corps Photo

To do that, fleet commanders and joint force maritime component commanders need more organizational options so they can assemble the right set of capabilities for any given situation, he said, and those staffs need to include more Marines.

“If you want to employ Marines more cohesively as part of the fleet, then we need to put more Marines at the fleet JFMCC staffs so they understand our capabilities, our limitations and our support requirements,” he said.

More closely integrating Navy and Marine Corps staffs will mean the two services finally have to agree on organizational structures and doctrine, Berry added – something the services haven’t quite done for years.

Lance Cpl. Seth Dewey mans a 50-caliber machine gun during a small craft assessment team (SCAT) drill aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5). US Navy Photo

“We need to have a common doctrine for how we’re going to do these operations because for years the Navy’s had a composite warfare commander (CWC) … for operations at sea, and meanwhile the Navy/Marine Corps together have had [their own] doctrine for power projection from the sea. For years we’ve kind of scratched our heads and said well how do these two meet, how do they mesh?” Berry explained.
“There have been some folks going back almost three decades, some Marines who said, hey we need to figure out should we be playing in CWC or not? And we never really pursued that. … What we sent along was that we would experiment with CWC as that common doctrine. So we’ve established notionally this idea of an expeditionary warfare commander, on par with the strike warfare commander and the surface warfare commander. All those principal guys who work for the CWC. So we were playing with that.”

The Naval War College began experimenting with this setup earlier this spring, and Berry said there would be a significant amount of wargaming, experimenting and exercising to refine the common doctrine.

Refining and Implementing LOCE

An assault amphibious vehicle maneuvers its way across a beach during an amphibious assault exercise March 15, 2017 aboard Kushi Crossing, Okinawa, Japan. Waves of AAVs loaded with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines disembarked the USS Bonhomme Richard and stormed the beach during the exercise. US Marine Corps Photo

The Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment concept was signed by Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller on Feb. 27, but the sea services’ work is far from over. The group that wrote LOCE compiled an action plan with 18 tasks, including the development of the Navy’s half of Expeditionary Advance Base Operations, a supporting concept that the Marine Corps has already embraced and begun experimenting. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) will help with that nine-month effort.

While the bulk of LOCE focuses on Marines fighting at and from the sea, Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO) adds the component of fighting from the land to the sea – what Berry called “key maritime terrain.”

U.S. Marines with Kilo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, patrol through an urban environment in 2015. US Marine Corps Photo

“It gets us thinking more in terms of overall campaign structure. Inside the Beltway people tend to think in terms of system versus system; we worry about what to buy. If you’re thinking maritime terrain and campaign design, it gets you towards thinking about how do you defeat an adversary’s strategy, rather than how do you defeat his capabilities?”

In addition to developing a naval EABO strategy, the action list includes a lot of experimentation and learning.

Berry described a Littoral Combat Group, commanded by a flag officer, that would combine a traditional Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit with surface combatants, an Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures Company and various other capabilities to create a formation that can defend itself and continue pursuing a mission in a contested environment.

Marine Corps Cpl. Martin Lawrence observes as an MH-60S Seahawk from Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 26 (HSC-26) brings cargo aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) in 2016. US Navy Photo

For the Littoral Combat Group and other aspects of LOCE, Berry said a slew of wargames would be coming up, primarily run through the Naval War College, with live exercises to follow. Navy and Marine Corps operators will be busy writing tactical memos and pre-doctrinal handbooks for these exercises – for example, the Marines don’t use the composite warfare commander organization and therefore would need to write a handbook so units participating in an exercise would know what to do.

LOCE may also keep the acquisition community busy. Generally, despite being resource-unconstrained, “we never approached this thing with a shopping list – it was quite the opposite, it was, how do we take what we have now and perhaps maybe use it in different ways? And if we need new capabilities, it was really about what are the things on the edges, the enhancers, the enablers we need, to use something differently or better?” Berry said.
“I think we were always cognizant of the fact that the existing fleet will be with us for some time to come. Ships have long lives, and very often during those lives they get repurposed, they get modified, they get enhanced in different ways.”

Sailors qualify with the M4 assault rifle during a live fire exercise aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5). US Navy Photo

Still, Berry said, the key to task organizing is common doctrine and good communications. The common doctrine is being handled, but the good communications could use some work, he said, noting that the LOCE writers recommended developing some communication enablers.

Additionally, he said, presumptive maritime superiority after the Cold War led the Navy to optimize their force for forward presence – meaning big, multi-purpose ships.

“We need to field some smaller assets that can operate in the littoral without risk of losing a high-value unit. So what might they be? I think time will tell,” Berry said.

He added that fighting to gain or maintain sea control requires different and, often, smaller ships, pointing to Cold War-era frigates and tank landing ships (LSTs) as examples.

USS Thach (FFG 43) returns to San Diego after completing a six-month deployment in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility in April, 2013. US Navy Photo

Another impact of developing and using the Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment is a culture shift. Though some Marines will say the service is getting back to its naval roots after 15 years of land wars, and other Marines will say the service never left the sea, Berry described a return to a World War II-era naval mission that hasn’t been seen in recent years.

Berry noted that the Marines primarily fought in the Pacific, while the Army primarily fought in the Atlantic. This is because the Atlantic required sea control in support of power projection – the Navy fought off German U-boats in order to deliver the Army ashore in Europe – whereas the Pacific required power projection in support of sea control – Marines taking islands so they could secure free passage for the Navy throughout the Pacific. Even when the Marines have been at sea in recent years, they haven’t done much to support sea control, and Berry said today’s contested maritime environment requires that Marines begin to do that again.

“I think what it does is reemphasizes, within the Marine Corps, this idea that we have a role in the sea control fight,” Berry said.

  • BlueSky47

    But we have the Littoral COMBAT ship, that can take to the enemy, sink their ships, wipe out shore batteries, sink enemy subs, take out mines, land marines and their gear, serve as a mini aircraft carriers, It’s perfect for this type of littoral WARfare, I’m sure the Corp would be delight to know that the LCS has their backs 😛

    • Duane

      The LCS is the world’s most capable littoral combat ship. But this is about far more than naval surface warfare, ASW, and mine countermeasures. It’s about integrating all the forces, on ships, on the ground, and in the air to produce successful littoral warfare outcomes. It’s a very complex system, and it is gratifying to know that our warfighters and planners are tackling this challenge with forethought.

      This is what separates US forces from any other. The Chinese and Russians, and the NORKs and Iranians, can perform provocative acts, use bluster, and otherwise try to act like powerful players. But in the end, none of those nations and their national military forces have any, zip, zilch, nada successful experience at actual littoral warfare and amphibious invasions and related operations.

      Our whole military since World War One and the Marines engaged at Belleau Wood has been built around a strong core of expeditionary, naval-borne warfighting, in many wars both large and small for the last century. We’ve done far more of it, and far better, than any other nation on earth. Even when the Army gets involved, or even takes the lead in a particular theater (as in Europe in WW Two) it is not without depending hugely upon our naval support to put them in theater with all the equipment and supplies, and overhead air support they need in order to prevail. The Army doesn’t like to admit that, but it’s true.

      Littoral combat and integrated naval, land, and air forces is the “sweet spot” position of greatest strength of our US military capability. We should never forget that.

      • Curtis Conway

        You know Duane I can hear the music in the backgound and your words ring poetic . . . unfortunately the LCS cannot defend itself from a coordinated ASuW attack by a determined enemy. It must have help, and with 20% of the future surface combatant force slated to be LCS platforms, within our current context being the smallest surface fleet since WWII, and the fact that a ship can only be in one place at a time, we will be sending LCS to perform ISE missions and big brother will not be there to cover. Will you be involved in writing the letters to all the families that will be wondering why their loved ones were sent into a hopeless situation without the power to pull it off?

        • Duane

          Tell me why the LCS is less able to defend itself from a SuW attack than any other ship in our warship fleet?

          It has the same offensive weapons – Harpoons, NSM, and within 2 years the LRASM… the exact same weapons our other larger DDGs and CGs use. It has exactly the same defensive weapons against ASCMs that our other, larger warships use – the SEARAM.

          Really, the only difference is size and number of weapons carried.

          And your comment makes the same fallacious argument as the other anti-LCS critics and trolls make, which is that an enemy is somehow going to concentrate all its will, all its attention, all its warships, and all its ASMs on one, little warship, while ignoring our much larger fleet of much larger and higher value vessels including our CVNs, CGs, and DDGs. Only idiots would do that. Maybe someone like Kim Jong Un would be that dumb .. but certainly not the Russians, Chinese, or Iranians.

          That makes absolutely no sense at all to claim that LCS are going to be the primo target of enemy forces.

          And finally, LCS ARE going to have help, lots of help, from our command of the skies and our airborne ISR and attack forces, all networked together. That’s how 21st century warfare goes down – not some romantic 20th century or 19th century notion of mano-a-mano, one ship faces off in the middle of the ocean against another ship, all alone, not in communication with own forces.

          • draeger24

            Duane – not sure what your background is, but you seem to be operating from some type of Power Point mentality. First, the LCS has few offensive and defensive weapons – it was meant as a high speed delivery platform for Counter-mine warfare, special warfare, and other missions which require “packages” for each mission – and you have to pick and choose which mission. The “AsuW mission” requires that 30mm cannon; however, it is not very effectual if one looks at the real-world testing. They have begun to “bolt on” some additional weapons like HELLFIRES/GRIFFINS (one cell) and two HARPOONS. Also, the LCS concept of ops was IPB in the maritime environment, which means being far out ahead of any fleet response, hence it’s speed. It is -perfect for NEO callouts as it can get a platoon of SEALs, FORECON, or a Marine FAST company there ASAP, which is what you and I were arguing about with the lack of armament for the Ex Fast Ships. LCS’s are not supposed to be part of a CVBG steaming in formation -that is what the FFG’s were for – they were picket ships for the fleet. LCS was supposed to operate on it’s own, and with potentially little to no airborne support other than it’s embarked helo(s) and perhaps a long range UAV.
            Lastly, you said “only idiots (would simply take out) an LCS instead of a larger platform”…Really? Do you know the information operational advantage of an adversary using the phrase “we sunk an America warship” – doesn’t matter if it is a DDG or and LCS.
            I am a fan of the speed of the LCS having worked on Patrol Coastals off Haiti – we could be from GITMO to Port au Prince in about 3 hours….BUT, we need to get real about arming the LCS and getting real about what it can and should do. Get rid of the monohull, stick with the tri-maran, ensure it can carry two helos. Find weight to jettison and add fuel capacity so it can make sustained sprints. More later. This is a good discussion.

          • BlueSky47

            I hear rumors that they are going to rename the LCS the ‘Sir Robin’ battle frigate LOL

          • Curtis Conway

            He doesn’t understand, has never been afloat, participated in a real surface MISSILEX, and is building his house on sand.

          • Duane

            My understanding has nothing to do with Powerpoints, which is a really dumb argument to make .. really … I stick to actual facts, not spin or propaganda which you seem to rely upon here in this comment.

            The SuW is not a “bolt on” gadget or an afterthought – it is a fully integrated Surface Warfare module designed specifically for the LCS.

            The SuW weps are the world’s finest collection of anti-small craft (both surface and air) close in defenses in one single ship .. no other ship in the world has all the tools available to the LCS for that mission. In addition, in accordance with the Navy’s “distributed lethality” strategy and program that is applicable to all ships in the warship fleet, has already been fully fitted, tested, qualified and ready for angled deck launch of any purpose-built ASM that our Navy possesses. Today, that would include the Harpoon, our oldest and most widely used ASCM, and also the newly qualified Naval Strike Missile (NSM), which is the world’s most advanced ASCM bar none, with capabilities no other ASCM on earth possesess in terms of its multi-mode seeker and its built in ability to sense and dodge incoming defensive counter fire. Additionally, the LRASM is being developed by the Navy now for use on both aircraft, where it is already tested, and by surface ships … it can be launched now from any standard VLS in our fleet, and the Navy is now underway with development of an advanced angled deck launcher to fire the LRASM from the LCS, along with the Harpoon and NSM.

            The LCS also features the Navy’s most advanced anti-ASCM defense system, the SEARAM, that it is now putting on its most advanced and most valuable warships, including the Ford class CVNs and the Arleigh Burke Flight IIs and the eventual Flight IIIs. This is the world’s most advanced anti-ASCM in existence.

            These are not, I repeat not “bolt on” pretend weapons. They are integrated into the ships’s defensive and offensive weapons control systems.

            These are all absolutely established facts that guys like you seem to want to ignore. They’not from Powerpoint slide shows – they are the result of years of work developing new and improved weapons and the Navy’s determination to put them on the LCS as well as other ships.

            If the LCS has fewer of these weapons than a DDG, then so what? It’s a much smaller ship, about 1/3 the displacement of a new DDG. That’s not a drawback .. it means that any enemy who takes on a LCS is taking on a very small ship with a very big bite – capable of disabling any size warship in the world, up to an aircraft carrier. And then defending itself from any threat from an enemy ship, no matter how big it is.

          • draeger24

            ah Duane….there are certain “packages” that are designed for the LCS, and the 30mm was one of those “packages” and not one that remained as a part of the ship’s defenses. I might have dated info, but I was asked during my last billet at NAVSEA (PMS 399 – SOF Undersea mobility – 2005-6) about the SPECWAR mission setup which was not a “permanent part” of the ship but one of these “packages”.
            You can’t be serious about an LCS going up against a ship with a 5-inch .54. The LCS would go down by sheer numbers, and, it was not designed to go “toe-to-toe” with a large combatant – you are thinking battle at sea ops – it is designed to go in, prep the battle space with “packages” that have to be configured in port, like the mine warfare “package”, and get out quickly if need be.
            Again, I think the LCS in the trimaran configuration could be a worthwhile effort as it’s speed is its most desirable characteristic to get to the op area quickly. One should also remember that if it can be utilized as the “Advanced Force Ship” of an ARG for a NEO or getting troops ashore, it must be better armed – it would then be operating as the PCS, or “Point Control Ship” for an amphib operation close ashore, a job usually reserved for the ARG LPD, but the LPD is sloooow in comparison. It would be many miles from the ARG doing this job. The LCS has the air radar for this as well. The helo configuration should be a two helo detachment that can perform many of the armed escort, SPECWAR insert/extraction, and armed recon missions as well as getting the VIP’s left in an Embassy out – that has always been problematic, and one of my friends flew a USAF MH-53 all the way to Liberia from the UK and Rota to evacuate the Ambassador – craziness. An LCS being able to sprint there would have had many advantages, but, it would be doing it with perhaps only an AC- or MC-130 as air cover in loiter. If Benghazi taught us anything, it is the need for speed, but, an LCS in response would need to armed, well, as the environment there was completely uncertain, hence, asymmetric. Thinking of an LCS as simply as small destroyer is out of the concept of operations for it’s original design. Also, as the mine warfare packages are further miniaturized, and, more room for other “packages” operating equipment, it may reach it’s original CONOP. Until then, we need to make some modifications for fuel capacity and equip them for asymmetric environments.

          • Duane

            The 30mm is fully qualified, two on each ship, for the basic weapons package of every LCS, not just the SuW modules. Ditto with the 57mm rapid fire precision guided gun, and ditto with the quad 50 cals. The added weaps for the SuW include the 24-cell Hellfire launcher (originally was to be Griffins, but with the large surplus of Hellfires in storage, the Navy elected to save the taxpayer some dollars by using what we have, which is better than the Griffin anyway.

            And yes, I would expect the LCS to beat the crap out of a vessel with a 5-in gun (13 nm range), or a 6.1 inch gun, or any other gun on any warship in the world … because the Harpoon (67 nm range) and the NSM (110nm range) vastly outrange any naval gun in the world except for the AGS on the DDG-1000s. Ships no longer do short range gun battles – that went out decades ago with the arrival of far longer range and far more powerful ASCMs. The Harpoon packs nearly 500 pounds of HEX in its warhead, an order of magnitude more explosive power than a 5-in shell. And the seekers on modern ASCMs can guarantee accuracy on target to within 1 meter – no dumb cannon round can deliver that.

            The fact is guns are obsolete in warship-to-warship battles, and have been for decades.

            The modern ASCM is to warships of all sizes today what the Colt .45 was to frontiersmen in the latter half of the 19th century USA … “the great equalizer”. The old saying went, “God made man, Samuel Colt made them equal.” Ditto with the ASCM – it made all warships, regardless of size, equal in head to head battle. It only takes a single hit by an ASCM to knock out of action any ship in the world. Just as it took only a little bitty 20 foot skiff to knock the USS Cole, a mighty DDG, out of action .

          • CHENG1087

            Please tell us all a bit about yourself. Did you serve in the United States Navy, and if so, when? What was your rank or rating? What was your specialty or sub-specialty (designator or NEC)? Have you ever been to sea on a combatant, and in what capacity? What ships have you served in, and when? Thanks. I’m just wondering if it is worth expending any additional thought on this subject.

          • Duane

            My experiences really aren’t relevant – I do not hold myself out as an authority. I just comment based on extremely well proven published facts easily available to any who spends some time researching, and point to actual written and verbal statements by the US Navy leadership – who are the most qualified people in the world to comment on what our ships and weapons and service members do.

            I have always been a student of military history, naval and otherwise.

            I am not dodging your question. For whatever it is worth, which isn’t much, I’m a navy vet, six years service in the nuke submarine program, four years as a reactor operator on a SSN during the 70s during the Cold War. And a degreed engineer. At the time I served, I knew next to nothing about any other part of the Navy but the nuke power plant and boat I served on.

          • CHENG1087

            Hello Duane, thank you.
            It appears we were USN contemporaries, but I was one of your “targets,” as I am a retired SWO (late-1960s, 70s, and 80s.) AMPHIB to start, followed by CRUDES (Destroyer School was payback for a one-year “voluntary” in-country VN advisor tour as a young LT.) Virtually my entire seagoing career was spent in PACFLT. No Washington, DC time (thank God!) My subspecialties were ASW and 1200 psi Steam Engineering. My state of the art weapons systems were ASROC, MK-46 torpedoes, LAMPS-II, Harpoon, NSSM, 5″54 gun, and the .45 cal pistol I kept in my safe.
            I have not studied all the PR spin releases that you clearly have, so I concede that I am at a disadvantage in a “compare and contrast” challenge. As an old “Tin Can Sailor,” I am a huge fan of the DDG-51 class (we clearly did something right with that outstanding ship class.) As an outraged American taxpayer, I am disgusted by the DDG-1000 program fiasco. As a professional SWO, I am embarrassed by the LCS, and whatever it appears to be evolving into.
            Spin that sorry ship class any way you please, Duane, but God help the first LCS crew that has to take one of those ships into harm’s way.

          • Duane

            Thank you, sir .. we will have to agree to disagree. The LCS is as well or better defended than any other ship in the fleet. Better than most, actually, because only a handful of the Arleigh Burke Flight IIs have the SEARAM, the most advanced anti-ASCM system in the world. Eventually all the DDGs, CGs, and CVNs will have SEARAM, as do (or shortly will) all LCS in our fleet. I’d feel safer on a LCS than on most other surface combatants in the world. It is actually far better armed against the most common threat to surface ships today – small boat swarms and UAV swarms – than any other ship in the world.

            Don’t forget that the only warship the US has had knocked out of action in several generations, the USS Cole, was taken out by a single small boat. A small boat swarm (unmanned) knocked a Saudi frigate out of action just a couple months ago. DDGs are not nearly as well armed against such swarms as are our LCS.

          • CHENG1087

            Hello Duane,

            A couple points:

            — SEARAM: A marvelous close-in, short range, in extremis, last ditch, shoot-now-or-we’re-dead self-defense AAW weapon. But, if a serious adversary is intent on killing your mighty LCS, he will simply overwhelm you with air-launched, land-launched, and/or ship-launched cruise missiles (or attack aircraft or UAVs). He knows your single CIWS SEARAM launcher has a magazine with just eleven rounds. Even if SEARAM works as advertised, his twelfth cruise missile will kill you.

            — Survivability of the LCS: Non-traditional shipbuilding methods, crammed with “hardened AND non-hardened” systems and equipment. In addition to the various slick NAVSEA and vendor-supplied PR packages, I recommend you also read the transcripts of the formal Navy testimony that tried to explain why the shock testing of both the FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE variants (LCS-5 and LCS-6) was of significantly reduced “severity,” and was then suspended before completion of all the scheduled underwater blasts. There was a USNI News article on the LCS shock trials back on December 2, 2016. It is definitely worth reading.

            — USS COLE: I’m not sure of your definition of a “generation,” but please don’t forget USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) — hit by two EXOCET missiles in 1987, and USS STARK (FFG-31) — mined in 1988. USS COLE was tied to a pier in Aden, Yemen taking on fuel, while her crew was lined up in the chow line. A single small boat came close alongside with a 400-700 lb. shaped charge (CIA estimate) which was detonated by two suicide bombers. The hole at the waterline was a gaping 40′ X 60′. Ignoring the question of rules of engagement, and the ensuing recrimination debate, what would have been the fate of one of our LCS ships if she were the target, rather than USS COLE? Effective damage control, by a whole bunch of dedicated, genuinely heroic sailors, saved COLE (a common denominator with both SAMUEL B. ROBERTS and STARK, by the way.) Sadly, COLE had 56 of her crew effectively sidelined by the blast (17 dead and 39 injured, or about 17 percent of her crew.) Had this been an LCS, I have no doubt the damage to the less-robust LCS hull would have been considerably worse than COLE’s. But more importantly, the loss of 56 LCS crewmen would have been catastrophic from a damage control standpoint, as this number represents nearly half her crew. Bean counters in DC love the concept of reduced manning. Seagoing sailors don’t.

          • Duane

            You make the same logical error that other LCS critics make – you neglect the fact that the LCS is a very small, relatively minor warship … consequently it will not draw large numbers of ASCMs or any ASBMs at all in a ridiculous mass attack on a little ship. ASCMs are multi million dollar missiles, and ASBMs are multi tens of millions each … our potential enemies are not rich we outspend them all by vast quantities, and that will continue to be true for the foreseeable future (our defense spending is 10 times that of Russia, and more than 3 times that of China, for example). Our enemies cannot afford to direct tens of ASCMs or any ASBMs at a little ole LCS – they will reserve their concentrated attacks for our CVNs, and the much larger DDGs and CGs that protect the CVNs.

            A SEARAM provides 11 shots, all single shot to kill supersonic anti-ASCMs. That is plenty for any conceivable (i.e., economically feasible) attack on an LCS.

            Plus the LCS does not operate alone, in a vacuum. It is part of the NIFCCA system that the Navy has developed, a vast digital encrypted high speed two-way data network, with hundreds if not thousands of nodes .. from all of our E-2Cs, AWACS, P8s, various drones (like the Globalhawk and newer ones coming on line every year), and our vast fleets of attack aircraft with advanced sensors, including our newest F-35s, Super Hornets, upgraded F-15s and F-16s, B1Bs, B2s, and even now upgraded ISR versions of our B-52s as arsenal aircraft … and of course our eyes real high in the sky – our ISR satellite network. All of these nodes are equipped with ISR capabilities and most also have offensive capabilities.

            The truth is, most ASCMs are going to end up being shot down at long range from their targets by look down-shoot down attack aircraft shooting AAMs at the ASCMs, along with DDG-fired SM series anti-ASCMs, from dozens or hundreds of miles away from their intended targets.

            The silly notion that each ship is like an 18th century warship, totally on its own with no support for months at a time, is long passe.

          • CHENG1087

            Duane, do you honestly equate “conceivable” with “economically feasible” in a tactical (“attack”) scenario? Perhaps that’s how the bean counters think in the procurement and program offices at NAVSEA. But “economically feasible” arguments are left outside the door of CIC in the real world — either ours or our enemy’s. Do you think “economically feasible” was high on the list of considerations when our mission planners told PORTER and ROSS to launch SIXTY (60!!) Tomahawks at that Syrian airfield? (By the way, one Tomahawk missile (TLAM-C) costs just about as much as one SEARAM missile.)

          • Duane

            In a real war, the beans matter a great deal. Every ASCM directed at a little ole non-strategic asset like a LCS is an ASCM not available to shoot at a CVN or DDG or CG. These are very expensive missiles – the best ones more than two million a copy .. and the ASBMs are an order of magnitude more expensive than an ASCM.

            Numbers always matter a great deal in battle. It does come down to dollars or rubles. That’s precisely how we won the Cold War – we simply vastly out-produced the Soviets and drove them to implode. We now vastly out-produce the Russians, and the Chinese too. That’s not going to change.

          • BlueSky47

            From the way you talk Duane, I don’t think you’ve ever taken a single step onto a Navy warship

          • Duane

            You say that because?

            Because it is not true. I am a Navy veteran of SSNs.

          • draeger24

            any DDS-equipped boats? I’m glad they built the VA class from the start for SPECWAR ops – putting the DDS on a 688 was not a good thing, but it filled the gap.

          • Duane

            My boat was a 637 class SSN, equipped with all the usual weps of that class (Mk 37s and Mk 48 ADCAPs, and SubRoc). By the time my tour ended, my boat did the initial sea qualification/certification testing on the Harpoons (late 70s). We also carried and did months of qualification testing on DSRV. During my tour we did one WestPac, a polar ice cap run, various SpecOps in places I can’t talk about, and a refueling overhaul … a little bit of everything. We were a pretty accomplished boat, in terms of awards (MUC, NUC, several Battle Es and Engineering Es) – both of the skippers I served under made flag rank, pretty sharp guys. Spent a lot of time tracking Rooskies at a time when all out nuclear war was a real threat. Few people today seem to remember what that was like.

          • draeger24

            If, as you say, the 30mm has two on each ship and not just the SuW “package”, then that is a good start…excellent – that was not the original concept but I will take your word for it. However, one reason I have advocated for a 5-in is for NGFS in areas suppression in-land, and the Marines have been rightly screaming for that for years. The new rocket-assisted rounds would be beneficial; that said, there would be trade-off in weight, storage, etc. My “druthers” would be a 54mm on each beam and a 5-in forward – 54mm has the flexibility in round types (air burst, etc) and I would get rid of the 30mm. I have not been impressed with the tests on the shipboard 30mm, although I love the A-10 – the great equalizer for CAS. HARPOONS and HELLIFIRES are great, but let’s remember HELLFIRES are 100k apiece and are for point targets. We still need the flexibility that the 5-in gives in not only area suppression inland but smoke and illum missions. Again, there is a tradeoff (potentially) with speed unless mission parameters are scaled back. Good discussion!

          • Curtis Conway

            “It has the same offensive weapons” . . . we are talking about DEFENSE here !!! One launcher spitting 25 lb blast fragmentation warheads at any supersonic telephone pole coming at me at Mach 3+ and possessing a huge warhead . . . does not impress me. Look up “ship struck by target drone after successful CIWS engagement” and a BQM-34 is subsonic.

      • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

        Yet LCS wasn’t mentioned once by the concept author.

    • draeger24


  • Ed L

    i think i am going to be sick

  • Bubblehead

    LCS is a death trap if it ever entered combat. The best thing going for the sailors that man it, is the fact it will prob never see combat because it cannot even get out of port without breaking down. And when it does manage to get out of port it has to swiftly return because it’s range is so limited.

    The LCS was created because the Navy was desperate for hulls because of the Obama sequester and no funds available to maintain the current Burkes. The Navy just wanted the cheapest ship it could get to provide forward presence and to show the flag. Showing the flag while sitting in a foreign port is the one thing it excels at.

  • b2

    What would the Joint Staff order in such a contingency? Should the US Army/USAF be involved? Would they? Just asking.
    I detect HQ USMC brainstorming their roles and missions with “US Navy commanded” transportation and firepower assets…Sorry to be such a party pooper.

  • the_artist_formerly_known_as_m

    An entire concept about projecting power in the Littoral and not one mention of the Littoral Combat Ship? Hmm.

  • rlrapp

    So whats their concept in a major war? The article states this isn’t it.