11 September 2016

LCS is Raison d'Etre Abandoned, Ships Will Still Be Bought

At the core of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) design was the idea that they would have combat modules that could be swapped out to convert the ships between surface warefare (SuW), mine counter-measures (MCM), and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) versions on the fly.

This was why the US Navy bought them, even though there were much larger, and more expensive, but no more heavily armed than existing corvettes.

In fact, they are the size of frigates, about 3000 tons, but carry a 57mm gun equivalent to the armament of a corvette, which typically displaces around 1500 tons.

There were a number of problems with this, among them the fact that there was no way to make the logistics work without the ship having to return to the United States to make the swap.

So you ended up with a bloated and overpriced ship, and now the USN has admitted that swapping mission modules is never going to happen, but (surprise) they will continue to buy more of these warships:
When the first Littoral Combat Ship launched a decade ago this month, the U.S. Navy expected it to herald a new class of inexpensive, agile fighting ships with a radically new “modular” design — allowing them to swap out bundles of weapons, sensors and crews for different missions.

So if the LCS needed to fight other warships, hunt submarines or search for mines, sailors could quickly install distinct modules for each mission, although only one at a time. Don’t worry, the Navy promised, it’ll work.

It didn’t.

On Sept. 8, the Navy announced that it is effectively abandoning the LCS’ modular concept for 24 of the ships in both the Freedom and Independence-class variants. The initial four ships — which are already in service — will become testing vessels.


That means these new, multi-purpose vessels will become … single-purpose vessels.


In reality, costs ballooned to more than $500 million per ship — twice the original estimate. They are fast. However, the modules don’t work. Instead of taking a few days at most to replace them, it takes weeks without extremely precise planning. That’s far from assured in peacetime, let alone during a major war.

The 3,000-ton LCS is heavier than first planned — and it’s poorly armed and vulnerable to anti-ship missiles. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing and evaluation, described the LCS in 2013 as “not expected to be survivable” in combat.
But the Navy is still going to buy as many as 40 of theses ships.

Your tax dollars at work.


Post a Comment