Home » News & Analysis » Littoral Combat Ship Program Vastly Different a Year Into Major Organizational, Operational Overhaul

Littoral Combat Ship Program Vastly Different a Year Into Major Organizational, Operational Overhaul

Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) transits the Bohol Sea on June 17, 2017. US NAvy Photo

This article is the first in a three-part series on the changes occurring in the Littoral Combat Ship community as the fleet rapidly grows, moves to a new crewing and organizational construct and prepares for multi-ship forward operations.

SAN DIEGO -– The Littoral Combat Ship fleet has spent the last year in the midst of a reorganization and preparing for a new way of doing business following recommendations from a 2016 LCS Review that pointed the Navy towards injecting simplicity, stability and ownership into the unusual program.

A year into implementing those recommendations, the LCS fleet looks vastly different than originally envisioned – and to the benefit of both the program office, the sailors and operational commanders, several officers told USNI News.

Organizational Overhaul

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) transits alongside USS Anchorage (LPD 23) off the coast of Southern California on Feb. 19, 2017. US Navy photo.

LCS ships will now fall under one of two squadrons: LCSRON-1 in San Diego or LCSRON-2 in Mayport, Fla. LCSRON-1 will eventually have four divisions: a test division, consisting of the first four ships in the class that will focus solely on testing hardware, software and concepts of operations to support bringing new mission module equipment into the fleet; a surface warfare division; a mine countermeasures division; and an anti-submarine division. LCSRON-2 will have three divisions, one for each warfare area. For additional simplicity, aside from the four test division ships, all Austal-built Independence-variant ships will be located in San Diego, and all Lockheed Martin-built Freedom-variant ships will be located in Mayport.

Each division will contain one training ship and three operating ships. For example, LCSRON-1’s surface warfare-focused Division 11, which will be the first warfare-focused division to stand up, will include USS Jackson (LCS-6) as the training ship, and USS Montgomery (LCS-8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) and USS Omaha (LCS-12) as the ships that will operate forward as surface warfare assets.

Compared to a complex old crewing model – where three crews would support two ships, one of which would be operating forward – the test ships and training ships will now be single-crewed, and deployable ships will rotate blue and gold crews.

For the training ships, “what we’re going to do is build a more senior crew with a little more resident LCS expertise so they are able to train and certify the three ships that will each be blue and gold, six crews,” LCSRON-1 commodore Capt. Jordy Harrison told USNI News in a recent visit to Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

Unlike a destroyer squadron commander, Harrison and the LCSRON-1 staff would not deploy to combat as a warfare commander. Rather, his sole job is to make sure crews and ships are ready to deploy, overseeing training, maintenance, manning and certification to deploy.

“We are there to support and assess to make sure the crews are ready to go, the ships are ready to go,” he said.

Maximizing Readiness

Cmdr. Keith Woodley (far right), commanding officer of the littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), discusses ship maneuvers with the bridge team as the ship transits San Diego Bay to arrive at the ship’s homeport of Naval Base San Diego on July 5, 2017. US Navy Photo

Capt. Tom Workman, the LCS Implementation Team leader responsible for putting into practice the ideas that came out of last year’s review, said all the changes being made to the fleet go to support one major priority: increasing operational availability of the ships to fleet commanders around the globe.

“There are many things that were somewhat revolutionary for the Navy in the LCS program as it previously stood: simultaneously we were embarking on a ship class that had two hull variants, interchangeable mission modules, rotational crews, a minimal manning construct, a unique maintenance strategy whereby there was a significant dependence on the materiel and logistics capabilities of the contractors; all of which were somewhat revolutionary at the time combined,” Workman said in an interview at his office at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado.
“One of the things that the review did was to define, among those, what is the number-one priority as we move forward? And clearly the number-one priority was the forward Ao (operational availability) to the operational commander. How can we set the program up to optimize that forward operational availability to the operational commander? And hence, the construct known as blue-gold-plus was born, whereby we have test ships dedicated solely to the [initial operational test and evaluation] requirement of the class from a hardware, software, armament capability, over the life of the class; we have training ships and mission-specific divisions set up on the East Coast and the West Coast … with a training ship in each division dedicated to training the blue and gold teams under that division commander’s cognizance. … And why set up that way? Because that produces the highest Ao forward to the operational commander.”

Workman noted that the new LCS organization focuses on force generation but also allows for a surge if global events required it. Though the scope and time of a cross-training effort hasn’t been determined yet, a ship from the mine countermeasures division could get trained up and deploy as a surface warfare asset to support a major global contingency, he said. Though the ships and crews will be assigned a warfare mission area, the ships will still retain the modularity they were built with, and the mission modules could be swapped out to respond to a crisis. In a real emergency, he added, the division’s training ships could deploy, though it would come at the expense of training follow-on ships, and the test ships could deploy at the expense of testing to support mission package developmental progress.

Harrison praised the new organization as promoting specialized and consistent training standards. With a single crew from a division’s training ship training and certifying all six remaining crews in the divisions, the capabilities of those crews will be much more closely aligned, and lessons brought back from one crew’s deployment can be quickly shared amongst the other crews, he said.

The commodore also noted that the LCS community, both due to the new organization and the rapidly growing number of ships in the fleet, can finally focus on “operational primacy” of the crews. Whereas two years ago there were only four ships that had to balance mission package testing needs and conducting forward deployments to Singapore to prove out the forward operating concept – with little time left over to focus on the proficiency of the new crews being churned out by the Navy – this new organization carves out dedicated test assets to focus on the programmatic milestones, while the rest of the fleet can focus on producing well trained crews that can begin deploying abroad in numbers.

Implementation Obstacles

USS Freedom (LCS 1) sits pierside in San Diego, Calif. on May 4, 2017. US Navy Photo

Though the surface warfare community widely agrees these changes are for the better, they come with a cost. The former crewing model would have called for six crews per four ships, whereas this new model requires seven. The new model also includes additional personnel on the squadron staff to assist ship crews in their quest to take on more maintenance themselves.

Some changes are beginning to take place on the waterfront today, but the funding for the wholesale reorganization won’t come until Fiscal Year 2019, if the surface navy can successfully make their case to the Pentagon and to Congress.

“What’s that program going to look like in its end state, when all of the ships are delivered, all of the mission packages are delivered, all the crews are delivered?” Workman said is driving question in ongoing Program Objective Memorandum (POM) 2019 discussion.
“The ultimate approval of those POM issues, the ultimate deliberations on those and the ultimate delivery of what’s approved, there’s a time lag. So how do we proceed with the program during that intermediate period? What are the bridging strategies that we put in place to start achieving that goal of forward Ao before that extra manpower shows up? That’s what we’re doing now. Things like setting up the missions, functions and tasks that those divisions will adhere to as they stand up. Starting to rewrite the LCS training manual to accommodate that new architecture and that new strategy relative to how we had the training manual set up previously. With a blue and gold construct, with maximizing operational availability forward as the number-one goal, we will re-look at how we train, how we certify and how we sustain in each of the LCS warfare mission areas, and we’ll do it on a blue/gold basis. When that blue crew is deployed, what is that gold crew doing to sustain the proficiency in the areas in which they’re already certified? I think there’s a couple of distinct benefits to that for the operational commander. Not only does the operational commander get the platform forward for an extended period of time and get rotational crews, but within those rotational crews essentially the same crew that was there five to six months ago comes back and brings their familiarity with that operating area back to the tactical benefit of the operational commander, and they come back certified. That renders a level of LCS readiness that we don’t have in any of our other ship classes. Getting ourselves as best toward that construct as we can, even in advance of that manpower arriving from the POM issue.”

Workman said the surface warfare directorate at the Pentagon has been very supporting of finding the money needed to take early steps towards that vision now, ahead of the 2019 funding.

He cautioned, “as the POM ‘19 process unfolds at the Navy-wide level, at the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] level, we will like any other program, we will need to defend those issues. But I think those issues compete very well against the other Navy priorities and then ultimately against the other DoD priorities.”

  • El Kabong

    Cue Duane in 3…2…1…

    • Desplanes

      You just made me laugh out loud !

    • ElmCityAle

      More accurately (and fairly), cue the defenders and opponents and let the match begin… as usual, with little to no new information.

      • El Kabong

        Sure, to a point, but Duane is the USNI’s version of a village idjit.

        What credible information are you bringing to the conversation?

  • kye154

    So funny! Although the Navy is touting the LCS’s as vastly different than originally planned, none of them have been combat tested yet. The one computer simulation of a combat test in the South China Sea came in 2013, they did very poorly against the Chinese navy. They were no match! (That computer simulation was the cause of opening a subsequent congressional investigation on the design and adequacy of the LCS), . Now he navy is saying that the LCSs are in someway better than before, but aren’t able to demonstrate anything tangible. From what I have seen of the LCS weapons platforms, comparable Chinese ships still out-gun, out-range, and out-run the LCSs significantly, and they are certainly no faster, or carry any better armament. Until the Navy shows the actual ability and worth of these ships, the LCSs are nothing more than expensive floating coffins.

  • PolicyWonk

    Crew size of 40: FAIL.
    Change out mission packages in a few days: FAIL
    Crewing plans: FAIL
    Deliver value to the taxpayers: FAIL

    The major advantages of the so-called “littoral combat ship” simply don’t exist, and the price per sea frame (sans any mission package) is about $560M, for an overpriced utility ship that goes really fast so it can apparently run away from trouble.

    Its crews are all acutely aware that they are hugely out-gunned/protected by any potential naval adversary, and both classes lack the room for growth to significantly upgrade either firepower or protection.

    Rapidly growing fleet? Of “slip-queens”? Awesome!

    The USN needs frigates – not admirals water-skiing barges. $36B will be spent, only to be left without a littoral combat platform.

    The USN would’ve been better off building a slower, simpler ship to the level-2 standard, completely unarmed. Then at least they’d have a decent platform to build on, and arm when thing got testy.

    in short: corporate welfare at its best.

    • Lazarus

      Remember that Bob Work said that the LCS concept would evolve when the warfighters took full possession of the ship. I think we are seeing that change. The whole point of having a modular hull with lots of I/O points in which to plug/play systems is to have flexibility. Saying that LCS modules, crewing and mission package change out is not the same as 2003 constitute failure is one interpretation of the outcome. The other is that LCS, unlike other platforms, has the ability to evolve over time. The “frigate” the Navy has said it needs is not the FFG 7 air defense variety of the past, but rather a general purpose warship capable of some basic missions.

      • PolicyWonk

        If only they’d bothered to build a warship, instead of a sea-frame that wasn’t intended “to engage in combat” (according to former CNO Jonathan Greenert).

        Some of the ideas from the LCS program were pretty good: its the execution and results that remains highly problematic. LCS can do all kinds of stuff, providing it can be done within the weight restrictions – but getting into a serious fight will never be one of them, unless of course we’re willing to sacrifice the lives of the crew.

        These hyper-expensive ships, according to the analysis published on Breaking Defense, simply don’t have the room for growth to make more than marginal improvements to armament and/or protection.

        • Lazarus

          $479 to $576m per ship is cheap by US standards. LCS has 180 tons of mission module space in which to support growth over its life as opposed to the Perry class’ 50 tons.

          • Mr. Ed

            Paraphrasing Oddball, “Very pretty, Colonel, but can they fight?” LOL

          • PolicyWonk

            But it isn’t cheap when one considers how little value LCS delivers to the fleet and taxpayer.

          • Lazarus

            How do you define value in a small surface combatant? What are your metrics? Repeating program metrics from 2003 and one off statements from former CNO’s is not a metric.

          • James B.

            For an ASW combatant, the ability to carry and efficiently employ MH-60R and other ASW assets is valuable. The LCS can do this decently well, so it’d actually be a passable ASW frigate.

            For an ASuW combatant, the ability to carry and efficiently employ antiship weapons is valuable. The LCS has limited ability to carry Harpoon/NSM, and no capability for anything VLS-launched. Nothing about the LCS is efficient for ASuW, so value is limited.

            For an MCM ship, the ability to carry and efficiently employ MCM assets is valuable. Today, the LCS has limited ability to carry capable MCM aircraft, UUVs, and USVs. What it can carry, it can’t carry much of, and launching/recovering is not quick or simple. Neither efficient or capable, so not valuable.

            The LCS might be valuable for one mission set (ASW), but it isn’t for the rest and probably never will be. That isn’t just me, that’s reality.

          • PolicyWonk

            Value is clearly subjective – and I’m acutely aware of your definition of “value”because you worked on this corporate welfare program and therefore are emotionally involved. This is akin to an attorney representing him/herself.

            When an LCS is required to have a Burke in near proximity for protection against a similar sized (or even much smaller) peer, this is not delivering value. If the ship cannot be expected to protect itself against a similar sized naval opponent, its not much of an asset. If it cannot take a punch and be expected to survive (or have a fighting chance of surviving), its not much of an asset and recklessly endangers the lives of the crew.

            If it lacks room for growth and cannot be modified to add armament and/or protection of significance, this is not representing value. This nation would’ve been vastly better off to build sea-frames, leaving them unarmed, at the Level 2 standard with conventional propulsion systems. Then they could’ve been armed if things got dicey and therefore are more worthwhile in the long run. The problem with LCS is the lousy foundation – lousy sea frames built to slightly better than commercial standards are NOT warships no matter how many times the same lies are repeated.

            While reliability and other factors of these hyper-expensive admirals barges have been being improved upon (after a long list of embarrassing flaws have been reported in the press), these fail to address the lousy construction. They continue to fail (miserably) to deliver on the small crew size which is now 75% more than was sold to the nation (initially 40, due to the “high level of automation”, is now at 70).

            That “one off statement” was reviewed in detail in the article on Breaking Defense, and NOTHING has been done since to remedy the core problems with these failed classes.

            You defense of the indefensible is simply sad. There is no defense for the deliberate defrauding of the taxpayers, or your callous/cavalier attitude w/r/t the lives of the crews that are ordered to serve on this ships (who frankly deserve better).

          • Lazarus

            I do not now nor have ever been employed by any maker of LCS.

    • ElmCityAle

      “…both classes lack the room for growth to significantly upgrade either firepower or protection.” – How can that be correct, given the huge, mostly empty space in the mission bays of either ship design? It’s difficult to believe there are size, weight, or tech restrictions involved in any discussion involving increasing the load of weapons systems.

      • PolicyWonk

        Heh – I was just as astonished as you are. But former CNO Adm. Greenert admitted in an article on Break Defense that the “littoral combat ship” was “never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat” (seriously – you can’t make this stuff up).

        A subsequent analysis (also published on Breaking Defense) revealed that neither LCS class can be significantly up-armed or protected – meaning that any improvements in either regard would be marginal at best.

        Hence – they weren’t designed with much room for growth – and the restrictions on weight are there because otherwise LCS will lack the speed to (presumably) run away from a naval opponent.

  • BlueSky47

    Now the Navy is organizing the LCS fleet into warfare specialties LOLOLOLOLOL What ever happened to the “module capability swapout” idea? What ever happened to “The LCS can do everything” idea? What ever happened to “the LCS is the greatest concept ever” idea. I guess all of these ideas sank when it was hit with a broadside of reality. Calling Duane, Duane, anyone, anyone

    • PolicyWonk

      Indeed, reorganization of the operational aspects of the LCS fleet is merely window dressing if you can’t fix the foundational issue: the Ill considered LCS variants themselves the taxpayer was shafted into paying for.

  • airider

    So what we’re saying here is to be even remotely successful, LCS needs a lot more sailors, a dedicated training group and “seaframes” (similar to aviation), and is going to be aligned to support just one primary mission type.

    How is this any better than what we had with MCM’s and other purpose built ships? NAVSEA has gone down the same path as NAVAIR. Giving up better current capabilities in order to get something shiny and new but less capable.

    • El_Sid

      So what we’re saying here is to be even remotely successful, LCS needs a
      lot more sailors, a dedicated training group and “seaframes” (similar
      to aviation),

      Umm – I’d hardly call 17% a “lot” more – and the tradeoff is that the hardware is going to be worked a lot harder than other warships. They won’t quite manage the >300 days/year at sea that the British OPVs achieve, but the USN will be sweating them.

      is going to be ailigned to support just one primary mission type.

      So? If that’s what the threat requires, then that’s not such a bad thing. Anyone with an understanding of how Stanflex works in practice would have been …surprised… at how the short-term swapping of modules was oversold initially. But aside from the primary mission, they have another very useful mission as a helicopter/TERN/UxV lilypad, and I think the main “quick swap” will be to just empty out the mission bay to use it as a intra-theatre transport. You can imagine plenty of campaigns where you need minesweepers, ASuW and ASW forces to sanitise an area initiallly, but thereafter don’t have a lot to do – but there’s an increasing requirement to just shift stuff around.

      And the argument for modularity still works on a longer timescale, in terms of developing new modules and not having to scrap ships like the Perrys because they are so hard to update (qv the pain the Aussies went through modernising their Perrys, and the USN ones that were scrapped or sold within 15 years of commissioning). And being able to change the makeup of a force even over a period of months by building $70m modules still sounds a whole heap more attractive than waiting years and spending $100m’s for a new ship. Plus in times of war, there’s the possibility of putting spare modules on eg JHSVs and requisitioned ships. It’s not perfect, but wars never are.

      How is this any better than what we had?

      What – minesweepers and PCs that can’t deploy across oceans without a three-month wait for a heavy-lift ship? That can’t be used as transports once an area has been sanitised? That can’t be used as lilypads by SOCOM, for SAR, ISR or UxVs? That would be faced like USS Pueblo with a choice of surrender or starting WWIII because they couldn’t use speed to de-escalate confrontations in the Paracels or Gulf? That get scrapped rather than upgraded?

      You can coulda woulda shoulda all you like, but we are where we are. I’m not saying the LCS programme is perfect – far from it – but certainly from a foreign perspective the glass is at least 2/3 full. They will more than earn their keep in the USN.

  • BlueSky47

    Where has Duane gone-the world wonders, the mighty battleship aka the LCS needs YOU! Be sure to bring your tiny little 57mm power point, your often broken 30mm power point, and your Griffin in your wet dreams power points docs with you so you can inform us lowy people of your wisdom LOL

    • El Kabong

      He took the bait I laid.

      Just like AIDS and old luggage, you can’t get rid of him.

  • D. Jones

    For Pete’s sake end this debacle.

    The littoral combat target is a disaster that has failed all program targets.

    End it, and fire every last one of the lobbyists that sold congress on this mess. Spend precious funds on systems that are survivable and systems that work.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      No matter what your opinion is of the LCS, we’re going to end up commissioning 32 or so of them, so we’d better find some way to leverage that to serve the fleet.

      • Deplorable Jon

        Artificial reefs

      • PolicyWonk

        This is a most unfortunate fact – but the only way any vessel in the LCS fleet can be legally commissioned is via a legal waiver because it is against US law to commission a ship into the navy that doesn’t conform to naval construction and survivability standards (i.e., Level 1, 2, or 3).

        LCS is built to “commercial plus”, whereas even the lowly fleet oiler (a non combatant) is built to the Level 2 standard.

        Hence – to prevent this kind of acquisition malpractice from ever occurring again:
        1. Christen, or re-christen half of them them as USNS, reclassify them for what they are (HEBUS) for Hyper-Expensive Basic Utility Ships (which is all they are), and remove any weapons they’ve been equipped with. The remainders might be used for MCM, because the USN has neglected this mission as well. The USCG could be offered some of these ships and might find a use for them – but they shouldn’t have these things dumped on them because they got it right when they purchased Legend-class national security cutters from HII. If the CG accepted any of them, all of the budget allocated to the USN for each of these taxpayer ripoffs should be transferred to the USCG as well, for as long as they are in service.
        2. Prosecute the denizens of the LCS program office for defrauding the taxpayers, demote them, and then either drum them out of the service, or assign them to maintenance duties on the USS Freedom (the worst of them all), while forbidding them any employment whatsoever in the MIC (or any of their subsidiaries) for life, for the duration of their careers or working lives.
        3. Stop all orders of LCS that are not underway.
        4. Modify the remaining ships to either perform resupply/cargo carrying assignments, perform disaster relief missions, or create a mission package that permits them to do missile tracking/targeting duty, and/or other non-combatant assignments as they arise. If any of these sea-frames are to retain any weapons for any reason, then they should be only manned by volunteers who are granted hazardous duty pay. As an alternative, these ships could be offered and/or leased to other federal agencies.

        This would limit the waste, while seeing to it the perpetrators didn’t get away with this blatant corporate welfare program and/or defrauding of the taxpayers.

  • Duane

    Excellent review of the progress in crewing and logistical management of this, the first new ship class of the 21st century.

    The US Navy had submarines for over 42 years before they finally figured out how to use them, and fight them effectively. Many the old timers from the sub service proved to be practically useless in the opening days World War Two, when a new generation of young sub officers and crew finally overcame their predecessors’ warped and cramped notions of submarine warfare. The old timers simply didn’t understand the capabilities of their platform, and opted for very passive, even timid tactics. The old timers at the top of the sub service provided defective weapons, and always chose to blame “too aggressive” sub skippers for “wasting torpedoes” when only one perfectly performing torpedo – they all were, doncha know – was necessary to send a ship to the bottom.

    The sub skippers of the late 30s had to be replaced by the likes of Mush Morton and Richard O’Kane before the Navy could finally learn use the submarine as an aggressive offensive weapons system. By the end of the war, American subs turned out to be the most deadly and most productive weapons system of the entire Navy. 2% of our naval forces on submarines sank and damaged more enemy shipping than the the rest of the Navy combined, including battleships, destroyers, cruisers, carriers and their aircraft, etc..

    The old diehards who oppose the LCS as if it were the spawn of h*ll only sound all the more foolish when they resist entering the 21st century, because it does not resemble what they did decades ago in what is now an obsoleted naval world. In another 30 years, there will be additional revolutions amply evident in naval warfare that would further infuriate and confuse the 20th century diehards even more, if they are still around. And they’ll continue to shout “Get off my lawn!” at all the young whippersnappers who don’t do it their way.

    • BlueSky47

      That’s a very silly analogy Duane-y. What you’re saying is that it simply takes a different CO to make a warship a warship, in your analogy an “existing” weapon system, i.e. submarine, into an effective strategy. The new CO’s didn’t change the submarine-it was already designed and built as a weapon systems, they simply learned how to use it. News flash, no many how many CO’s an LCS has it’ll never be a warship because it’s not designed and built to be a weapon system.

    • El Kabong

      What colour are your pom-poms?


  • RobM1981

    I’ve never had a problem with the LCS as an experiment. My problem is deploying it, and pretending that it can fill the gap left by the Perry’s.

    • El_Sid

      Don’t forget they’re mostly replacing Avengers, Ospreys and Cyclones, but even the Perrys weren’t filling the gap left by the Perrys. The Perrys weren’t the ships of the 1980s, designed around the REFORGER mission – they’d lost their SAMs and were effectively glorified patrol ships. In the early 90s there was an explicit decision made to split the “old” Perry mission between older Burkes and something that was closer to a French aviso.

      But also there’s that evolution between generations. One could say that a Nimitz is no replacement for an Iowa as a capital ship. A Nimitz is hugely inferior in both weaponry and armour whilst being more expensive – but that’s because it’s more of a “truck” for off-board systems. That gives it huge flexibility, but if you just look at it in terms of a ship then a Nimitz looks rather lacking. LCS is an attempt to take that kind of thinking to small ships. You can debate the extent to which it succeeds, but that’s the intention.

  • D. Jones

    Texting, Farmville & chit-chat can be exhausting. Hope the chairs have heat and massage settings. Naps are important too.

    Note also that forward vision is severely restricted and side vision while sitting is near zero. How many eyes on that bridge can see things like, oh I don’t know, slow-moving tankers? Apparently they don’t show up on radar.

    Maybe they can integrate the $400K F35 helmets, since they can’t see squat. But they’re fast and agile, oops, did I hit something?

    By the way, has OOD info on the Fitz been released? Will we hear bridge traffic audio for the Fitz and McCain as we finally did for the Porter?

  • vincedc

    This actually makes sense. Time to ignore all the professional whiners and get this ship into operations.

    • D. Jones

      Agreed. Deploy every one of them to patrolling NK waters and staff them with their DC cheerleaders.

  • El_Sid

    The UK has finally published its National Shipbuilding Strategy – so this time we’re going to be more organised in the cutbacks…. It’s centred around the Type 31e light frigates, which will be the RN equivalent of the French La Fayettes or their new FTIs. BAE are offering variants of the Khareef and River classes, Steller are offering their new Spartan design, BMT are probably favourites with the latest iteration of their Venator. They’ve also sketched out a Venari-85 as a concept for the Anglo-French minesweeper/hydrographic requirement, which may be of interest to LCS (non-)fans.

    www stellersystems co uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/09/PR63-NA-2-Project-SPARTAN-O-Final-Editable-Version-For-Public-Release.pdf

    www bmtdsl co uk/media/6098065/VENATOR-110%20Technical%20Brief.pdf

    www bmtdsl co uk/media/6889878/BMT-VENARI-85-Technical-Brief.pdf

    www gov uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/642420/NationalShipbuildingStrategy_lowres.pdf

    ( add full-stops as appropriate)

    • ElmCityAle

      Looks like a robust design with a more conventional power plant,yet with much of the flexible space in the LCS designs. VLS for the win – makes all the difference. Is that 8 or 16 cells? Estimated costs?

      • El_Sid

        RN are setting a fixed price of ~US$300m (probably the equivalent of a bit more than that given US shipbuilding costs), so we don’t know how much that will buy of what are at present Powerpoint designs. I imagine that it will eg end up being fitted for but not with a tail for instance, although it looks like the French FTI’s are getting the new compact version of CAPTAS 4.

        Venator basic design will have 2×3 ExLS cells quad-packed with Sea Ceptor (CAMM) or Nulka for a total of 24, there’s room for either a second 2×3 ExLS or 2×4 strike-length Mk41. I’d assume the Mk41 won’t fit the RN budget – and even if they did fit it it would be for ASROC/ASuW rather than SM’s.

        Incidentally, a useful milestone was reached for Sea Ceptor the other day, the first test shot from a ship at sea – HMS Argyll. Significant bit of derisking for Type 26 and Type 31e as well as extra capability for the legacy Type 23 fleet.

  • Ed L

    So the Freedom class LCS are on the San Diego CA and the Independence class LCS are out of Mayport FL. Okay, deploy deploy deploy

  • Curtis Conway

    Understanding that the LCS Program is based upon a forward deployed asset and what is considered to be a more personnel-centric manning system that provides an increased Operational Availability, the following is provided:
    The manning policy for the LCS is supposed to reduce stress on an overseas stationed surface combatant, and make it easier for families of the sailors manning these vessels. That manning is based upon the success in the submarine Blue/Gold crewing concept, resulting in more efficient manning, with less pressure on the crew. All saving money in the long run and increasing readiness. Significant maintenance and support, particularly heavy maintenance, is to be provided by contractors.
    What I see happening is less efficiency in the use of personnel and equipment, and even if the decline in the material condition of readiness is reversed, these vessels will still succumb in combat due to lack of survivability. The builders and support contractors make out like bandits though. The ship’s readiness may be increased in some cases, but ownership of the equipment by the crew, upon which their very lives depend, is diminished. The statement “…in the midst of a reorganization and preparing for a new way of doing business…the LCS fleet looks vastly different than originally envisioned…“ indicates that the same mal-logic that invented this aberrant manning system in the first place, will continue to suffer the same problems, and even if successful in achieving its goals, will ultimately fail in providing an effective surface combatant platform. Preserving and modifying this manning concept based upon its flawed logic, modified or not, is based upon that same concept that has not worked, is still in vogue, and no wonder why.
    Man must own his own destiny, and this manning concept flies in the face of that truth. Otherwise, the truth of the principle of ‘man to survive in the future’, is in question based upon the efforts of others. ‘What is the material condition of MY equipment’ IS SACROSANCT! Every sailor being the steward of the equipment placed in his/her trust is the principle that is being broken, and places doubt in the whole system that destroys trust on a fundamental level.
    These basic human concepts have been so eroded in the manning system of this service that it is beginning to affect the very fabric of our most stable elements . . . naval surface combatants at large. Their saving grace is leadership on a case-by-case basis that can and does transcend the system, and inspire troops to own their equipment, and make sure that the team will survive based upon the trusted efforts of the team members in aggregate.
    As for efficiency of this manning concept, it suffers right out of the gate because no single LCS has one crew (save training and development vessels), therefore the institutional memory and trust of that ephemeral quality that resides in each technician (as they become one with their equipment) is lost, for only so much can be communicated in maintenance records. Every piece of equipment has its own peculiarities, and identical systems can manifest very different operational characteristics. Technicians know this to be true and experience it every day. A pilot in most cases will tell you the side number of aircraft they do not care to fly again out on the ramp. Everyone else throws rocks at this concept, and tries to plan around this truth. How many of them have owned (been responsible for) a piece of equipment for any period of time, hopefully years, and does not understand this truth. The LCS Program will not be successful at any level until they return to a sane manning concept where the fundamental truth of ‘a Ship and Her Crew’ is restored. The very act of a PRECOM Crew ‘Bringing the ship to life’ is violated by this LCS Program manning concept! Social engineering in shipboard manning is more than just unbecoming, it is deadly and final. The manning program originally, and the new manning concept now changed, are so far outside the realm of reality, they have literally convinced themselves that having more people, will save in manpower cost. Does this sound sane to you?

    This is all true before we even begin to discuss the ‘survivability’ aspect of any surface combatant in the modern battle-space, and that nemesis threatens every platform with destruction . . . the Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (some supersonic), of which the LCS platform only has one possible effective point-defense weapon, and it must work perfectly EVERY TIME for the crew to survive. Operational Availability (AO) is only relevant if the platform can survive. If a surface combatant cannot survive an engagement everything else is moot.

    I predict that the Operational & Test LCS Vessels, with their single crews will outperform, and be more combat ready, than the Blu/Gold crewed vessels, but that will not solve their primary problem of SURVIVABILITY.

  • Deplorable Jon

    You cannot put enough lipstick on LCS to hide it’s a pig. No matter how much marketing LM and the Navy do it’s not going to change reality.

  • KellyJ

    The “Training Division” was an adhoc creation because the first ships came back from deployment so broken/worn out that, except for a serious wartime emergency, they are considered undeployable.

  • James B.

    The LCSRON construct outlined, with equal divisions for ASW, MCM, and “surface warfare”, is probably a valuable improvement for the crewing and maintaining of the LCS’s, but minimizes any tactical value they will have beyond showpieces and testbeds.

    Six deploying hulls per mission set is completely arbitrary and has no basis in actual requirements. Some will be excess units in search of a mission, and others will be ridiculously insufficient. The ASW hulls will be useful enough in a needed role, but the ASuW hulls will be surplus to any practical requirement, and the task of wartime mine countermeasures is an order of magnitude larger than six LCS hulls can even pretend to accomplish.

    If it were up to me, the LCS name would be stricken from the Navy’s list, all vessels would be redesignated as ASW FFs (definitely not FFGs), and MCM would be addressed completely separately, without any “modular” gimmickry to lump it in with dissimilar missions that will naturally conflict.

    • Al L.

      “Six deploying hulls per mission set is completely arbitrary and has no basis in actual requirements. ”

      Your assumption is that that is the final construct. It is not, it is the construct applied to what was known at the time: that there would definitely be 26 LCS. It is unknown what the final # of LCS will be as Congress, SecDef, and the Navy are still going round in their debate about the final composition of the SSC ships in the fleet. It is certain that there is a need for at least 6 deployable units for each mission, and certain that the Navy needs each mission addressed.

      With the current plan of not buying frigates until 2020 and considering current and planned buys, as well as the need to hold both LCS production lines open until at least 2020 in order to get competition on the frigate buy, it is almost certain there will be no less than 36 LCS. Those next 10+ can be assigned to a mission as needed, to include attaching to a current division (since going to Blue/Gold rather than 3-2-1 crewing no longer restricts the Navy to assigning LCS in pairs) or formed into new divisions.

      Secondly when the frigate is bought and we finally know what the extent and focus of its capabilities actually turn out to be, the modularity of the LCS will enable reassignment of division missions to meet the gap in ASW and ASuW needs that the frigate either does or does not cover to meet the rate it comes into the fleet.

      All of this adaptation of lower end fleet construct is enabled by the modularity of LCS. Had the Navy opted back in the early 2000s for a more traditional construct of a frigate and an MCM it would have been locked into the numbers allowable under the restraints of shipyard production capacities, Congressional funding, political will, executive branch changes in focus, etc. The likely result would have been numbers of ships ill matched to the evolving strategic need, with the unsexy and easily kicked MIW can taking the big hit. Instead today we have strategic level options, they are not by any means perfect but they exist, because the Navy, SecDef and Congress are not stuck with a funding choice between MIW, SUW, AsuW, presence, etc.
      The shipyards have the capacity to crank out as many as 5 and perhaps more ships per year to do those missions.

      “If it were up to me, the LCS name would be stricken from the Navy’s list, all vessels would be redesignated as ASW FFs (definitely not FFGs), and MCM would be addressed completely separately, without any “modular” gimmickry to lump it in with dissimilar missions that will naturally conflict.”

      Run for president, make yourself king and it could be up to you. Until then a platform adaptable to the ever changing strategic, political and fiscal turbulence of our current times (LCS) will keep getting built.

      • James B.

        I must strenuously disagree with your suggestion that the LCS is anything but “unsexy and easily kicked MIW can taking the big hit.” The LCS is a (poorly armed) frigate designed for possible secondary use as an MCM ship, but there are a long list of better options that would also give the MCM mission a more solid structure and safer funding.

        As a light frigate, the LCS is capable of ASW support and light ASuW, but there isn’t much growth potential, so the Navy would be better off just changing the name than wasting more money on a much more expensive FFG that will be better armed but not much more capable.

        Either way, they’ll have to fund a separate MCM program, and much bigger. In peacetime the MCM requirement may seem limited, but in wartime I don’t think every LCS in the fleet would be enough MCM capability to clear the kind of minefields our adversaries can lay, and do so fast enough to be useful.

        • Al L.

          Truly would like to hear what those better options are. I am highly skeptical. MIW has been a can kicked down the road for nearly 30 years, even during times of high steady funding for the rest of the fleet. During those 30 years the Navy built exactly 26 dedicated MIW ships, less than 1 per year on average, and retired many of those early. With LCS it has now built or is committed to 29 MIW capable ships in the last 12 years with most likely at least 7 more on the way in the next 5. What sort of solution do you propose that would be better than that?

          • James B.

            The main limiting factors on putting MCM capability on the LCS appears to be size: everything is either too big to be carried at all (MH-53E) or too big to be carried in multiples (most of the UUVs and USVs).

            My basic solution is to use a bigger ship, favoring the San Antonio-class LPDs/LX(R) and/or the Lewis B Puller-class ESB. Both have more space for the buck than the LCS, plus bigger flight decks and well decks. They are slower, but naval mines don’t move very fast.

            If we build extra MCM-capable ampibs/ESBs and kept a higher percentage forward-deployed, modular MCM components could be moved aboard fairly quickly in a crisis, either replacing or just crowding in with Marines already aboard. Luckily, if amphibious assault and MCM capabilities are both needed, I’m betting they’ll be needed in the same place.

  • El_Sid

    Blue / Gold crewing works for the silent service

    …and for British minesweepers, and is being used by the new German F125 frigates.

  • Daniel Lorenz

    I just don’t understand. The Navy needs ships, and what the Navy is now saying is that the first four of these ships are only test ships, and one ship per division is a training ship. That’s 10 of these ships that will be non-deployable. At about $600 million per ship, that’s $6 billion.

    • Curtis Conway

      The OHP FFG New Threat Upgrade would not have cost that much.

  • Curtis Conway

    Amen and Amen. The submarine force is a special group, and a huge force of candidates are canvassed before the few who can qualify are selected. And that force is not perfect, but as close as we can get. They are the best of the best, and the surface force are going to more than struggle if they continue to try to re-engineer literally centuries of HiStorical Wisdom that has resulted in what was US Navy Regulations before they started monkeying with it.

  • BlueSky47

    You all are mis-understanding the LCS, it’s the new trans-self-identified-correct-kinder-gentler-safeplace Navy, therefore we no longer call Navy ships WARships, that’s just scary and might hurt someone’s feelings. We now call them ‘sea-frames’ and we make they go really fast so that if we ‘offend’ anyone with our puny little 57mm pop gun, we can quickly run away to our safeplace called the pier queen berth and when we arrive Duane and his pink pom poms will cheer us on. 😛

  • Eugene Ward

    Lipstick on a pig!

  • El_Sid

    please cite for me another Navy that has global presence such as Ours

    Obviously it’s smaller, but the RN has standing commitments from the Caribbean to the Falklands to the Gulf. I’d guess the average RN sailor spends more time on overseas deployments than their USN equivalent. And the Europeans are mostly using dual-crewing for their overseas deployments – the F125 is designed as a general-purpose forward presence ship, that can be maintained at commercial yards with up to 2 years away from home.

    Sea Swap was a bit different, in that crews were rotating through different ships, so you didn’t have that sense of ownership that is fostered by Blue/Gold crewing.