For a guy that doesn’t use salty nautical terms like “port”, “starboard”, “ladder”, “hatch”, or “abaft” in everyday conversation, XBRADTC has an exceptional grasp of Navy stuff.

His post over at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid, on the LCS(L), Landing Craft, Support, Large (The “Mighty Midgets”) highlights the ingenuity and adaptability that allowed the US Navy to fight and win the Second World War across the world’s great oceans.

As we turn our defense focus to the Pacific from our current and recent wars, many of the same challenges and lessons from the Second World War in the Pacific are as applicable today as they were from 1941-45. One of the sentences that jumps off the page of Brad’s post is this one:

What was needed was close in fire support for the last stretch of the run in to the beach. The Navy had actually foreseen the problem, but had totally underestimated the scale of fire support that was needed.

Seems there is not much new under the sun. Among the most misunderstood aspects of the massive amphibious effort in the Pacific War was that commanders has few qualms about landing on a fortified beach. While Tarawa and Iwo Jima tend to be the images in the mind’s eye of that war and that time, those were by far the exception rather than the rule, and then almost always by sheer and grim necessity. The vast majority of the landings conducted in the Southwest Pacific Area by MacArthur’s forces in New Guinea and New Britiain and the Admiralties, and a large majority of those in Nimitz’s Central Pacific, aimed at landing in lightly defended or undefended places to project power ashore.

Today, we look at the Pacific, and see the same expanse of water, the same limited basing available, similar issues and problems as were facing planners in the 1930s. There are many who dismiss entirely the need to project power across a beach as a means of theater entry, or who believe such can be conducted by seizing a port or an airfield, or by administrative means (JLOTS), apparently without any enemy resistance, or ability to impact our efforts. The US Navy has been rather intransigent in its belief that no such projection capability is required, or is in fact, feasible. Hence, the statement from CNO Admiral Greenert, making an interesting juxtaposition with Brad’s observations, above:

The third factor favoring a focus on payloads is the changing nature of war. Precision-guided munitions have reduced the number and size of weapons needed to achieve the same effect. At the same time, concerns for collateral damage have significantly lowered the number of targets that can be safely attacked in a given engagement. The net effect is fewer weapons are needed in today’s conflicts.

While empirically true regarding accuracy and effects, the cost of those precision munitions and the lack of redundancy of the platforms and systems to launch them, point once again to there being a far greater need in the actual practice of combat for such weapons than the Navy seems to believe (or admit to) in peacetime. (That we would jeopardize success of a major military operation for failing to prosecute high-value targets adequately out of fear of collateral damage, is much more our own folly of “lawfare” than any inherent requirements for fire support.) As for the ever-predicted change in the nature of war, that chimera will once again be disproved in the next war, as it has been in every war past.

Brad’s post should be instructive to those who would wish to continue building Littoral Combat Ships that are not intended to survive combat in the littorals. We had it right once, when the lessons were front and center in our collective military experiences. How far we have wandered.

h/t Brad and Sal




Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Foreign Policy, Hard Power, History, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy, Uncategorized


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  • http://xbradtc.wordpress.com XBradTC

    One minor quibble, URR. While I mentioned the LCS(S), the focus was on the LCS(L). I just realized I typed LCS(S) throughout my post due to a neural vapor lock, and will correct that.

  • Byron

    Brad, next thing you know, you’ll start yelling, “GO NAVY!” at the Army-Navy game :)

    Good stuff, Brad, thanks!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Brad,

    Double vapor lock. I saw that, and knew it, and typed (S) anyway. As mister Sal would say, me fixie.

  • Sperrwaffe

    XBradTC,
    Nice post and interesting history.

    URR,
    Good to bring that to attention.
    However: Survive combat in the littorals?…how dare you to mention that. You should go and wash your hands after typing that… ;)
    I don’t want to open that box…but…damn, can’t resist…here we go again:
    Kick the LCS a** with some mines from the 80′s? check
    Kick the LCS a** with an old 206A? check
    Kick the LCS a** with an attack by two 143A or else? check
    Kick the LCS a** with an attack by a Tornado Squadron armed with Kormoran II? check
    Thank you very much, coach!

    But why look so far back? Besides the understandable pride, of course!!!
    You just need to have a look at Navies whose home is the Baltic Sea for instance. And then you see what can be done. Ideal for Littorals. Small(!), fast(!)but not overdone, manoeuverable, weapons and sensor suites etc….Of course specialists. But that is what you need in the Littorals. Systems and Soldiers(!) who are able to fight within their Warfare Area. And excuse me, when you are able to do ASW, ASuw, AAW, MW, EW then you can fight without any problem this bloody Asmmetric BS. It just does not sound that sexy, when it’s not called Asymmetric. A submarine and naval mines are by definition asymmetric assets, because that’s how they are used. They where that in WWI and WWII, and they still are.
    You do not need what we call a “Eier-legende-Woll-Milch-Sau”(Egg laying Wool and Milk Pig, so to say…).

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Sperrwaffe, wilkommen!

    I reached that far back to prove that the US Navy, even in the midst of a two-ocean war, had the presence of mind and know-how to adapt existing platforms for fire support requirements that had been underestimated. They did so with the LCI hullform, and the result was an invaluable vessel.

    We have the potential now to do the very same thing. But we lack the vision and the understanding of combat, and the requirements of fighting a war such as the one that may await us in the Pacific against an adversary bent on regional dominance. Which is nearly precisely the same scenario we faced seventy years ago.

    Your point is a very good one, in that the idea of “asymmetric warfare” is not a new one, not even to modern navies. As is your point about ASW, ASuW, AAW, MW, and EW. A couple of those areas of late which have been dangerously neglected.

    You are also right in that there are suitable platforms extant, but the US Navy were preeminent in building those for themselves not so long ago.

  • ShawnP

    Went to the old LST in Evansville last year. It is on the location of the old LST shipyard. It was awe inspiring to think this old gal had been in World War II.

  • Mike B

    My uncle served aboard the LCS(L)(3)-10 during the war. I’ve read his diaries and others who served on these 10 day wonders (each ship was built in ten days), and frankly, what they accomplished in the littorals was amazing. Low cost and expendable was the concept. Unlike the current LCS that is unbelievably over priced (and as such we’re not even sure we want to send them out to sea for fear of loss.)

    This old WWII type of ship is what we need to build (to current standards of course) and press into service. I’ve been saying that since the current LCS projects got started. The Mighty Midgets had far more “mission platforms” available to them and could serve blue water as well as the intricate channels of the Philippines, having a 5’9″ draft. These ships played a pivitol role in the Pacific island assault landings and in the US supported guerrilla operations. They served the fleet as radar pickets and fireboats.

    Guess we need to make sure the history of US Navy ship design should be the starting focal point of any new ship concept.

  • USNVO

    URR,

    Of course to be fair,
    - The LCIs were available to be converted to gunboat because they were such lousy landing craft.

    - there was a need for gunboats because the PT Boat proved to be equally bad at attacking Japanese barges as the LCI was at landing troops, largely because they were designed to go fast. But they did have great PR agents while the slower ships just got the job done.

    - As demonstrated by the first Gulf War, a missile armed helo could destroy either type with impunity. For all its faults, an LCS carries an armed helo.

  • Paul P

    Then there is the biggest problem with procurement today– the reason why ships like the LCS make it through the system is because Congress and defense contractors are telling the Navy what they need instead of the opposite. I am sure they’re well meaning (to be polite) but they reflect the priorities of each party then the priorities of who they’re building for.

    Sometimes it takes a war to get innovation going. The Cullin cutter comes to mind. If that was done in peacetime it’d would’ve taken six years to put out bids, evaluate different bidders ideas, eliminate foreign ideas, have hearings, debate about the size, go back to the drawing boards, try different metals, have a safety review when a cow got skewered (and cooked) in testing and then finally, by 1950 they’d have been in service.

    Instead, the good SGT took some old beach obstacles, got busy with a cutter and made it work. Improvise, adapt and overcome

    Too bad our collective leadership isn’t as forthright about this as VADM Connolly with the F-111. I am sure that many of the leaders look at the LCS and realize how expensive it is, how there are other options but don’t speak up directly, clearly and pointedly. My greatest fear is that the weaknesses so adroitly illustrated here in all of the discussions we’ve had will cost some poor sailor’s their lives because the ship was doing something it isn’t prepared to do.

    I suppose the first question for every ship would have to be “How comfortable am I putting this ship, and it’s crew in harms way and be confident that it can handle any threat that could happen?”

  • UltimaRatioReg

    USNVO,

    The armed helo carried by LCS…. is there never lousy weather in the littorals?

    LCS survivability is threatened by a lot more than an armed helicopter. Small arms larger than 7.62 can do frightful, even fatal damage. Certainly enough for a mission kill.

    Federal Cavalry Colonel Devon said of Heth at MacPherson Ridge, “He don’t need his whole division.” Same could be said of an enemy in the littorals. “He don’t need an armed helo.”

  • USNVO

    URR,

    Valid points, but to be fair, if your helo can’t fly (due to weather), in all likelyhood the small boats that everyone fears in the littoral are probably not operating either.

    I am not defending the current LCS. I think it is, primarily, too fast (its other flaws tend to stem from this). As the LCI Gunboat vs PT Boat shows, speed really wasn’t that valuable compared to endurance and firepower. But, and this is the critical part, if (and it is a big if) you can standoff and control the littorals with Helos, VTUAV, UUVs, etc (which presupposes that you can control the air), then you don’t have to close into the littorals in the first place.

    Ask yourself, would a LCS(L) be very useful today given the way we plan to use AAVs, Aircraft, and LCACs for amphibious assault? What would their role be in the whole STOM/OMFTS thing?

    They were great for interdicting Japanese barges and small boat traffic (as well as providing close in direct fire support) but would they be better than a long endurance VTUAV (possibly armed) backed up with a armed Helo for that role?

  • leesea

    cross-posted from XBRADTC’s website:

    I have developed a littoral warship concept based on the actions by Mighty Midgets in WW2 Pacific. Call the new ship PG(E).

    See also this link to the LCS(L) National organization:
    http://www.mightymidgets.org/
    There is an good collection of photos on Navsource.org at:
    http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/05/05idx.htm

  • Sperrwaffe

    USNVO

    No, these small boats (FPB’s are small to USN standards, or not?)would go out!
    And how would you manage to control the littorals underwater threat by using UUV’s? I wonder? As a Minewarfare “Idiot” I say “Good Luck!”

    URR
    I should have added after understandable pride: operational experiences, still existing knowledge and capabilities (to some extend…). But you added that perspective on that one.
    Could you please help me with the platforms which USN was preeminent in building? Which platforms do you have in mind? Perry-Class for instance or the Pegasus FPB?

  • http://xbradtc.wordpress.com XBradTC

    It would be a mistake to too closely compare the LCS(L) of World War II to the LCS of today. The LCS(L) was designed to do one mission- provide close in fire support at the moment of landing. And it was extemporized at that. It went into production primarily because it was quick and easy to shift production from LCI(L) to it. That the platform proved adaptable (but not optimized for) other roles was more a testament to the sailors that manned them than any other.

    But I think if we do look back to 2001 at the original concept of the Streetfighter that ADM Cebrowski and CAPT Hughes proposed, the LCS(L) is closer to the ideal than the current abomination.

    I’m not proposing that the Navy should restart the production lines and crank out WWII ships. But the disconnect from a sound concept for a small combatant which clearly had operations in the Straits of Hormuz in mind, to the do-all/be-all “transformational” ship the LCS has become is an interesting study in how the procurement process has become an end to itself, rather than a tool for… well, procuring things.

  • USNVO

    Sperrwaffe,

    I was speaking more of the mythical ‘swarm’ of boats in the 40-50ft and smaller range. FPBs are substantially larger although in most cases, if a FPB can effectively operate, a helo can fly in that weather. And if a helo can fly in the weather, it can kill the FPB every single time. Which was my point in the first place.

    FPBs are great ships if you want to defend something (not really in the US mission mix which was why the PHM class was axed) and you can control or at least contest the air space. Worldwide they are largely being replaced with Corvettes (or larger ships) that have better utility and capability. Witness the fate of the Iraqi ships in the first Gulf War with much less advanced capabilities on armed helos as today. Why would I want to fight them with guns from the surface when I can kill them at a distance?

    As to ‘controlling’ the undersea space. Clearly, since mines don’t move, if I can find them with UUVs or other remote vehicles, then I can either neutralize them with helos or divers or go around them. A WLD-1 or MIW UUV is nothing more than a Klein 5000 or AQS-20/24 without the helo.

    Submarines pose a problem, no question, but they pose a problem for everyone else as well. And ASW Helos certainly are far more effective than hull mounted sonars and over the side torpedoes. Unlike say the K-130 corvettes, at least the current LCS has a helo capability.

    Again, I am not a great fan of the current LCS, but the idea of fighting the littoral battle remotely with armed helos, VTUAV, and what not makes a lot of sense. Why get close to fight them if you don’t have to?

  • Sperrwaffe

    USNVO
    Your point about the “swarm” boats is understood. FPB’s are being replaced, yes. But still when looking at the baltic, Finland and Norway stick to their proven capabilities.
    Slight correction for the K130. It has a capability for a helicopter.It is not organic since the hangar for the Helo is missing. But it can support VTOLUAV and there the space is provided for being organic.

    We are really not so far away. I am just looking at this from another background and experience since I am not USN.

    However, the following remarks have to be made:

    Concerning the UUV’s I have to say, that just because you have some fancy tools now, which support your mission and extend your sonar range, that does not mean you have the answer. That is a mistake often made. They speed up the process. But only to a certain point.
    Mines don’t move. But you still have to find them!
    How will you get the data off the UUV? How long does your post processing take? You have to recover that thing, and it will clearly never reach it’s Mission time in a environment with strong currents. Typical in the littorals. What about bad bottom conditions, also very typical in the littorals? You know how long it takes with EOD-teams, to clear a channel? And RAMICS can not operate very deep. Clearance is the tricky thing. And at that point you will enter the minefield. How do you know where the minefield starts? Diversions are good. But in the littorals or for an assault operation? I would divert you into the next field.
    Sorry, but that stuff is my background.
    Of course there are really good developments, but at some point you will need the bloody minewarfare guy, who is such a pain in the a** right now to get you out of the mess. ;)

  • UltimaRatioReg

    USNVO,

    I am not asserting LCS(L) has a place in modern amphibious operations. It is the concept that existing hulls can and should be adopted for fire support tasks, because the Navy has a long history of underestimating the requirement.

    As for the small boat swarm, that is always a possibility, but the list of weapon systems that can quickly do decisive damage to the current LCS is very long. Far longer than it should be. Because the Littoral Combat Ship is simply not built for combat in the littorals.

    As for the platforms the US Navy was once preeminent in building, we can start with the Sumner-Gearing class. A tough, powerful, survivable warship. They did yeoman work off Korea and Vietnam, and remained in commission decades after their estimated service lives should have ended. Something of similar characteristics, tough and powerful, would do nicely. We have had others that could fill the bill for platforms for NSFS assets. We sank/scrapped the Spruances, decommed and sank four Ticos that could have furnished a Mk 71 fore and aft as a dedicated FS platform. Hulls and propulsion systems, expensive components, that could have been modified for the tasks of littoral FS.

    But, we didn’t. And the opportunity is lost forever.

  • Retired Now

    By designing LCS essentially in secret with almost all primary inputs coming from one contractor, Lockheed Martin, then this method prevented recruiting the best brains in the fighting ship business for the next 55 warships. So now, years after LCS-1 and LCS-3 are already at sea, with LCS-5, 7, 9, 11 already planned / undercontract, then this “method” now results in many blogs which fire off posts informing the naval “world” of their shortcomings. Our future small warships for USN have been effectively “sabotaged” by limiting the number of minds that created the next generation 55 Littoral ships. Did we have the best and brightest minds to design the vital guts of LCS ? Guns, armor, propulsion ? LCS is the best America could come with ?!! Hardly any fuel or food, decks awash in light seas, one tiny offensive short ranged gun ! Gee whiz, the Navy can’t even figure out how to PAINT these new LCS’s ! Might as well “arm” them with some powerful searchlights for the Littorals to blind and disorient the many enemies to be encounted in coastal waters. At least do something to give LCS’s a chance all over the World’s shallow, confused littorals.

  • Byron

    The LCS-2 Flight would make great yachts….

  • USNVO

    Sperrwaffe,

    Copy all on your comments concerning MIW with a few caveats. I am well aware of the strengths and limitations of various MIW assets and the time required for various assets to perform their missions.
    1. Area surveillance and recon can be accomplished with helicopter towed sonars (and in the future UUVs or Remotely operated vehicles) far faster than with manned ships. Even with PMA and the time lag from system launch to information processing. Perhaps not as well, but probably good enough (depending on bottom type, threat mine, training, etc.) and orders of magnitude faster. Wide area clearance will obviously require a dedicated clearance asset. And of note, RAMICS is probably history as it never really worked as an MIW system (although it would make a great ASW system). However, AMNS is alive and well and entering the fleet.
    2. My point of mines not moving is that once they are in the water, they are stationary. If you can find them (a big if), you can avoid the area. Which leads to other points.
    - An helo/VTUAV capable ship can better keep the other side from mining the waters.
    - If you are remotely controlling the littoral battle space from a distance, you are safer from mines in the first place. No anti-helo mines, yet!
    - For the vast majority of mines laid, there will be no need to neutralize them. We just go around. Especially when you add in the precision navigation possible with GPS. Even in the SOH for instance, we would only need to clear (or find) a small (say 1000m wide channel where we want it to be) to reopen the straits. Considering that the miner has to close the entire strait, you are not talking about a lot of mines that require neutralization.

    Of course all of the above pre-supposes that you have the trained personnel to craft a strategy to identify and neutralize the mine threat.

    Again, in my opinion the LCS is a seriously flawed platform for a variety of reasons. But the fact that it has extensive aircraft capability gives it a huge advantage of choosing when and where to fight. All the guns in the world are worthless for that.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “- If you are remotely controlling the littoral battle space from a distance, you are safer from mines in the first place. No anti-helo mines, yet!”

    Eventually, you gotsta go there. And be there. Or your control is specious and temporary.

  • http://CGBlog.org Chuck Hill

    Priorities for War built craft are very different than for those built in peacetime. The planning horizon is very much shorter so operating costs like large crews and inefficient propulsion make very little difference, while producibility and minimizing impact on critical resources are more important, so you end up with many simple ships with high manning requirements.

    Still there is a documented shortage of Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS). The Cruisers and Destroyers that are equipped to do it are going to be doing ABMD, AAW and ASW and consequently out of position to do NSFS. They also are unlikely to apply all their energy to perfecting their NSFS techniques since it is only one of many tasks and certainly not the most glamorous.

    Makes me wonder what happened to all the old gun mounts that have been removed from decommissioned ships. Do we have a mobilization capability?

    Interesting these old ships, hardly bigger than the new Coast Guard patrol boats (http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/sentinel/default.asp) had a 5500 mile range and self deployed all over the world. Certainly similar sized vessels could do the same now with better navigation and weather forecasting.

  • traderjack

    If you want to hit a beach, you do it with airburst mini-nukes, sweep with the planes, and then go in with clad armor.

    Nothing like over-confidence in your offensive weapons , in the face of modern missiles.

    Who, among the war planners, have vizualed an enemy landing force on the USA and the possible success of such an attempt in force.

    If you can plan a successful attack on the USA in the face of USA opposition, you may have success attempting a shore landing anywhere in the world.

    Anything else is dreaming.

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