Reimagining LCS

April 2012


In many ways, for critics of LCS this evolution was as inevitable as it was self-evident. As more hulls were pier-side speaking truth than PPT illuminating briefing rooms, expectations would have to change to stay inside the lines of credibility.

Dreams of stopping the run and pivot to building a better platform reached the equal-time-point an election cycle ago. We will have LCS, and it will inside a little more than a decade form a larger percentage of our Fleet. The question remains – what will we actually be able to do with it given its known limitations, unknown tactical utility, and completely undeveloped mission modules that are the only thing that prevent it from being a +$600 million mobile 57mm gun with a flight deck?

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. at AOLDefense has a nice review of the CNO’s speech at the National Press Club breakfast 12 APR that touched on LCS. Let’s do a little light fisking this Friday morning, shall we?

“These are not large surface combatants that are going to sail into the South China Sea and challenge the Chinese military; that’s not what they’re made for,” Greenert said of the LCS class.

OK. A warship that is 1.5′ longer than a Fletcher Class DD is not a large warship … but she is not small. South China Sea?

The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The area’s importance largely results from one-third of the world’s shipping transiting through its waters, and that it is believed to hold huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.

The South China Sea contains over 250 small islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs, and sandbars, most of which have no indigenous people, many of which are naturally under water at high tide, and some of which are permanently submerged. The features are grouped into three archipelagos (listed by area size), Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal:

So, we have a warship that has both “Littoral” and “Combat” in its name that we do not intend to challenge a regional navy with in an area full of littoral waters? Do we really mean that – or are we trying to tell the Chinese that even though we are putting Marines in northern Australia and warships in Singapore; we are only there to have quick access to nice liberty ports? Either way – that isn’t impressive.

As Undersecretary of the Navy Bob Work likes to tell us, the United States Navy does not need frigates. Think back to how we have used our frigates since the Vietnam War, and then square this statement;

“Littoral Combat Ships will tend to displace amphibious ships and destroyers in Africa and South America. That will free up surface combatants, more high-end ships … “

That is what your classic multi-mission FF/FFG has been doing for decades – a much more useful ship than a low endurance uni-mission LCS. Just saying.

The next fisk is sad.

I intend to go in harm’s way.
– John Paul Jones

That is what we said once as a Navy. What do we say now?

“I don’t worry per se about its survivability where I would intend to send it,” Greenert said of the LCS. “You won’t send it into an anti-access area.”

Back that up a bit. Littoral is near land. Any land mass is, by its nature, going to be an anti-access area in a non-permissive environment. Are we really going to have a foundation Class of warship in our navy that we will not put in harm’s way?

That is just silly – of course we will. When it is the only ship around and you need things done, either you don’t do it or you ask LCS to. Also – why does it have weapons if you don’t need them against someone who can shoot back? We did build a Fletcher Class sized warship as “Level I” for a nation that is casualty adverse – so I guess that reality is sinking in.

This final bit of reimagining is actually a re-invention.

On that crisis, the CNO tried to strike a delicate balance between confrontation and conciliation. The US and its Asian partners must stand ready to “confront” the Chinese when they trespass on international norms, Greenert said, but the real solution is to prevent a crisis in the first place through quiet confidence-building — including the kind of low-profile partnership and presence missions for which the Littoral Combat Ship is suited.

That describes something the Chinese are very familiar with – the gunboat. I think he is humming CAPT Henry J. Hendrix, Jr’s tune, but others may hear it differently.

The thing is – in the 20th century, we didn’t plan to have such a large portion of our Fleet be gunboats. Most of the low-level missions described above were handled by destroyers and cruisers for most of the century, joined by frigates in the later part … which did a good job in peace, and when it came time for war – were of actual use to the Fleet commander. LCS?

On balance – all the snarky fisking aside – this was a very good admission by the CNO. Though we won’t know for sure until an actual FMC mission module makes an appearance later this decade (we think) – at least we are as an institution starting to talk clearly about the sub-optimal nature of LCS and its limited utility.

Why is that good? It is good because when you send under-armed, under-manned, fragile warships in harm’s way – Sailors die wholesale. It is better to admit that in peace, than to learn it in war.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy

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  • Adversus Omnes Dissident

    If this ship is not rated for action or even a standoff with Chinese forces, then why in the Blue Hell are we discussing forward deploying them to Singapore?!

  • Cap.n Bill

    I suggest that we give CNO credit for a small amount of realism. Perhaps the virus will spread to others.
    Let’s not overlook the fact that absent some rare discussions of Grand Strategy today’s Navy has no experience is surface warfare.
    Aviation strike warfare has been the forte as well as the many skills of the submarine force. Surface, Nada. It’s hard to renew a professional capability, ships and men, from a standing start.

  • C-Low

    The LCS will still need those destroyers as escort since they have anti-air themselves.

  • Very good.

    The CNO’s logic is tortured at best. I agree it is better to have this conversation now than when the shooting starts—that still does not ameliorate the fact that LCS is not survivable and will constitute a good portion of our Fleet.

    Perhaps only in DC, where the military industrial/Congressional complex rules and billions are thrown around like chump change (all borrowed mind you) could a navy and her Congressional benefactors peddle such an expensive and dangerous platform.

    Warships are designed to go in harms way; when the navy admits this one isn’t survivable—that’s when responsible leaders pull the plug. Navy leadership is less and less credible by the day.

  • Andy (JADAA)

    I think we are seeing, publicly, what has been actual policy for quite a while. To reiterate what I have discussed over at http://www.informationdissemination.net/ the two “magic words” are: Trip Wire. These are indeed parts of the new gunboat diplomacy, or as we now tactfully phrase it, “presence” or more euphemistically, “soft power.” Those gaping, never-to-really-be-filled holds will have a berthing Conex and something like either a comms or medical Conex, depending on mission. With the exception of ad hoc mine warfare hulls with their most-likely-permanent mine warfare modules.

    But as Bob Work has said, it’s not the hull count, it’s the warfighting capability it kind of, sort of, will bring. Until they become flaming datums.

  • John K.

    I think it is important to recall the FULL quote from John Paul Jones:

    “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go into Central American ports and train the local Coast Guard to repair outboard motors, and host a diplomatic reception.”

  • Bill,
    The interesting thing is that there are two non-Flag Officer active duty officers that come to mind that are on the front lines of the discussion of Grand Strategy that you are asking for from the Surface community. Captain Henry J. Hendrix, Jr. and LCDR BJ Armstrong. Their background is as a P-3 NFO and a helo pilot respectfully.

    I know there are some very good serving Surface officers out there – but most are silent, subdued, or very well hidden from the public discourse. The fun questions, as always, is “why?”

    Of all communities in dire need of creative friction, the Surface community is at the top of my list. Fleet composition, maintenance, archaic ASUW, ASW, and more – it screams for debate, but ….

    We have two 4-stars in the persons of Admiral Stavridis and Harvey who are more than willing to join in the debate, but a vast desert with isolated oasis are behind them.

    Don’t get me wrong; it is good that the 13XX are filling the intellectual gap – but it isn’t healthy. You need to tap in to the retired ranks to get a Surface officer to engage (Bryan McGrath and John Patch come to mind – both retired as CDR) – but that is it.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    Interesting use of the truncated JPJ quote.

    Here’s the whole thing for context:

    “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

    How does the first part of this quote fit in with the good CDR’s well documented narrative of LCS?

  • Aubrey

    Too many sacrifices made for speed in this floating beer can. Speed costs, and in the case of the LCS it cost the equivalent of an effective ship. Let’s review where we are with this:

    1) It was not built to be survivable – this is known and admitted, so don’t bother arguing.
    2) The crew is too small to do effective effective DC even if the above were not the case.
    3) It is seriously under-armed….and don’t bother touting the “mission modules” until one actually exists, has been tested, and is in use.
    4) It has no legs whatsoever – this thing drinks fuel like a Marine drinks beer.
    5) it is way too expensive – when the mission modules are eventually added in, you are looking at a ship that costs north of $750 million per copy, and that cost is only going to go up, not down. At that price point, no flag is going to send it anywhere near harm for fear of damaging their reputation.

    So, what we have is a piece of engineering that is fragile, tempermental, expensive and ineffective at it’s stated mission. This poor program needs to be stopped, and stopped immediately – we have already poured too much of our limited money into this sinkhole, we need to get out before we have to decomming even more (actually effective) ships to pay for this monument to ego and poor design.

  • Working on a book review of Robert Leonhard’s The Principles of War for the Information Age (written in 98–I read in August 2010), and I found this quote from the Forward written by then-Commandant of the U.S. Army War College, Major General Robert Scales::

    “Increasingly, our young army officers do not include themselves n the great doctrinal debates, nor are they challenged enough to investigate the principles which form the very basis of our profession.”

    If we’re spred as thin with thinkers as CDR S advises (and I have the privilege to know both Hendrix and Armstrong and concur), perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that many still see a role for LCS.

    How many thinking sailors would want to serve on a ship their navy has certified to be “not survivable” and how credible is the leadership in the navy who seemingly find no fault with the assessment?

  • James

    I think I know a compromise we can use to make the LCS more effective. Take an empty mission module, half fill it with fuel, and the other half with gunners mates…

  • The Usual Suspect

    “On balance – all the snarky fisking aside – this was a very good admission by the CNO. …Why is that good? It is good because when you send under-armed, under-manned, fragile warships in harm’s way – Sailors die wholesale. It is better to admit that in peace, than to learn it in war.”

    Knowing and admitting it in peace, makes it homicide if they allow it to go to war.

  • Boat School Grad

    Perhaps CNO or SecDef will have their “A-12” moment of clarity and courage.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    There are plenty of sailors serving on ships built to the same survivability standards as LCS.

    Everyone on a:


  • Benjamin Walthrop



  • BW,
    The extended quote supports my position more.

    JPJ wanted to go fast in order to go towards the enemy. LCS advocated push speed in order to run away from the enemy.

    Very different concepts.

  • Spade

    “How does the first part of this quote fit in with the good CDR’s well documented narrative of LCS?”

    Fairly well, since I assume JPJ meant he was going to actually fight once he got there quickly.

  • Paul

    There are three Fletcher class and a couple of Gearing class ships still kicking around in museums. I bet it would cost less than one LCS to refurbish all of them as escorts for the LCS. They even have longer legs than the LCS.

  • Cap.n Bill

    Let me put forth two strange words–not seen very often in Washington.


    The Navy along with all other Pentagon residents are entering a new
    fiscal atmosphere. The folks back home are sick and tired of government waste. Right or Wrong, all military serices are deemed to be wasteful. A chronic shortage of funding is on the horizon. Paucity is certain to be the rule of the year. The only folks who will keep their heads above water under this changed situation are those who can prove they are frugal.

    I hope and pray there are some such folk wearing a suitable amount of gold braid.

  • Nicky

    My idea would one of three options.
    1. Kill the LCS Program in it’s entirely. Sell the remaining LCS to countries like Taiwan, Philippines or to Columbia. Use the Funds from the Sale of the LCS to finance the cost of building a patrol Frigate out of the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter and built based upon the NSC. The LCS program as it is now, is a Money pit and is as bad as the Canadians trying fix up their used British Upholder/Victoria class SSK. Both of which the LCS and the Victoria class SSK is huge money pit which were throwing away needles money away.

    2. The second option, would be to take all the Burke Flight I’s and Flight II’s and convert them to Frigate’s by adding a Helo hanger for 1 MH-60R or Fire scout. Put some automation into the Flight I and Flight II Burkes, which would reduce the crew manning. Cut the aft VLS in half to accommodate the single hanger for the MH-60R or Fire scout. I would keep the powerplant as is. Upgrade or replace all systems including the Aegis. Upgrade the deck gun and install two Mk 38 25 MM cannon on the midships. I would make all the Burke Flight I & Flight II to the same standard as the Spanish Navy’s Álvaro de Bazán class frigate.

    3 The third option would be, I would force the US Navy to look to Europe for a Frigate design such as the Álvaro de Bazán class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen class frigate. Buy the rights to the design and have it built in the US by a US Shipyard based on the design and blueprints they brought from Europe.

  • Mike M.

    This is a Very Good Sign. LCS is fine…if you want something to hunt pirates, chase smugglers, or do disaster relief. For a hot war, not so much. I think they are setting up the argument to buy the 20 contracted for – and then buy something a lot more suited for serious warfighting.

  • Spade


    There’s a fourth idea. Instead of buying those frigates from Spain or Norway we could call up Denmark and see if we can buy some of their stuff. Considering they managed to have frigates and patrol ships and stuff using flexible containers for years. Maybe we could learn something too.

  • LT Rusty


    The Fletchers could carry buddy stores and UNREP the LCS en-route to wherever they were going to need to protect it.


    The quality of your plan to strip half the BURKE’s weapons & horsepower, and almost half of her tonnage, hasn’t improved just by talking about it in a different venue.

  • Nicky


    I do like the idea of buying the design of the Absalon class Support ship and the Iver Huitfeldt class Frigate. Considering the Royal Danish Navy have perfected the STANFLEX system and that’s something the US Navy should have considered when they came up with the LCS crap. If I can’t get a Absalon class Support ship or the Iver Huitfeldt class Frigate, I would rather have the US Navy get a FREMM Frigate,Álvaro de Bazán class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen class frigate. You would need something for the medium level and a Frigate to do all the Traditional Frigate missions

    LT Rusty-

    The Burkes Flight I and Flight II’s are almost the equivalent of Álvaro de Bazán class frigate, Minus the Helo Hanger. I would simply convert them to the Álvaro de Bazán class frigate standards and keep all the Burke technology in place. How much would it cost to modify all the Burke Flight I and Flight II, vs keeping the LCS Crap going or going Frigate shopping. Use what we have and modify the Flight I and Flight II to Frigate standards. That would make all the Flight I and Flight II’s frigates that would meet the standards of the Álvaro de Bazán class frigate.

  • James (the other one)

    Nicky as others have said that does nothing for the us. We need frigates but we also need those destroyers.

    And once again we have had it proven what we need.

    The Danes used their Absolon to conduct the exact mission the navy wants the LCS for. Cheaper, 100 times better in everyway….

    The answer has been right infront of them the whole time. The Navy and congress just refuse to admit it.

    Cancel LCS. Buy the rights to build the Absolons in the US.

    Its kinda like buying a $20,000 junker with terrible gas mileage that can reach 95mph but can only go in a highway were the speed limit is 55mph.

    Or you can buy a brand new vehicle for $12,000 that has everything you need and a top speed of only 80mph but far better MPG.

    Only our navy could call that logical.

  • James (the other one)

    Nicky we dont need those. We need ALOT of frigates.

    Not 20 or so. And we need those destroyers. Absolon.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    We are out of FRAMs and consequently out of cans. FRAMing a Spru-can would be a viable option, but no mothballs, no FRAM. Fram the FFG’s – same problem.

    Littoral Combatant is just high falootin’ for coastal gunboat. Not a bad idea necessarily, but what can this lemon do that a PTG can’t at a hundredth the price?

    Minesweeping? Minesweeping is slow and takes a low magnetic signature, gained by fanatic exclusion of ferrous metals, but the interaction of iron and aluminum in a salt water bath is a major issue (stupid oversight of huge and potentially crippling magnitude, to be heartlessly specific). In addition, it needs to be done verrwy, verrwy qwietly unless you are utterly sure no acoustic mines are present (the intelligence shop bets your life).

    ASuW? With a 57mm and two 30mm and optical sights. Oh, please. And a missile…someday. Off the signal bridge, err, top of the pilothouse. ‘Taint funny – ludicrous, but I’m not laughing.

    ASW by robot small boat? Oh, we went back to the drawing board after wasted years and megabucks. Robot helo (Dash-Crash update).
    Last time went well, let’s try it again. It works pretty well from the factory airfield, and the results in local opareas on a nice day aren’t a horrible failure. What was the phrase…oh, yes, sea state and weather limited. In other words, useless in heavy weather.

    Useless and hopeless. Scrap it and buy something off the shelf that is useful, and hope.

    It’s not our fault, it is all that could be gotten given the circumstances, there is no replacement available for years, we’re stuck with them, etc, etc, and so forth.


    LCS delende est.

  • LT Rusty

    Nicky, have you ever actually seen a ship outside of a picture? I don’t think you have even the faintest idea of what would be involved in hacking a Flt-1 BURKE into an FFG or how much it would cost, or any understanding of what you’d be giving up just so you could have a hangar.

    Seriously. Put that idea STRAIGHT out of your head. It’s not thinking outside the box, it’s just … … have you ever seen Billy Madison?

    Talk all you want about buying a foreign FFG – that is more likely to happen. Talk all you want about LCS mission modules magically appearing on the pier tomorrow – that’s more probable. Hell, you could even advocate a sending cutting-out expedition to Pakistan to take MCINERNEY back and SLEP her. Even that’s a more feasible plan.

  • Nicky

    LT Rusty-
    Let’s put it this way, if we can reuse our Burke Flight II and Flight II’s as a Frigate. We might as well go to Europe for Frigate Shopping. I’m all for buying the design rights for a European frigate and having it built in the US. The frigates I think would be worthwhile are FREMM Frigate,Álvaro de Bazán class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen class frigate. Here’s the FREMM frigate that I believe would be perfect for the US Navy.

    As for the LCS, cancel them now and sell them to Taiwan or the Philippines. Use the money from the Sale to Finance the Frigate or use it to modify the US Coast Guard’s NSC and upgrade them to Patrol frigate standards,

  • The Usual Suspect

    Bill Walthrop,
    I understand your list; however, the mission of support ships is slightly different than that of combatants like the LCS. Your argument, however, does make a good point about the survivability of the LCS.

  • Senator Cynicus (R/D-TX/AL/WI)

    Look people, the contractors are getting paid and voters are being employed. I fail to see the logic in your objections.

  • Tim Choi

    Speaking only as a kid doing his Master’s in Strategic Studies, I’m going to offer the lone voice of opposition to what I see here is a massive anti-LCS circlejerk (no offence meant, though I’m certain most readers are tough enough to not care anyway).

    I’m of the position, the more I do my research, that the critics of the LCS are looking at it in terms of what they want to see it as, rather than what it is and what the Navy needs. The LCS is often viewed (whether consciously or not) as a replacement for the pre-de-toothed Perrys. I think this is the wrong way of looking at them. Rather, they should be viewed as evolutionary developments of the Avenger class MCM ships, with a mix of other capabilities thrown in. What the Navy needs are ships that can clear mines quickly, effectively, and safely – the capability gap there is much more significant than in ASuW and ASW, which the Burkes can already do well.

    Yes, the MCM modules are having problems, but the USN really has no choice other than to fix them and get them operational. Grandpa Bluewater notes the problems MCM missions face – well, those are exactly the problems that the LCS modules are supposed to address. By using aerial and unmanned vehicles, it doesn’t matter that the LCS is not made of wood and fibreglass, because it’s not meant to enter minefields like the old ‘sweepers. Same thing with acoustic mines – LCS is not getting anywhere near them: the drones and helos are.

    Sure, the LCSs aren’t supposed to be only MCM ships, but let’s face it – hunting subs and shooting boats can already be done by the Burkes.

    Operationally, if LCSs are going to be operating in hostile environments, it’s going to be doing so with the support of Burkes and other big ships. They’ll provide protection from high-end threats while the LCS does what it does best (or at least, specializes in), like MCM.
    During peacetime when they’re off by themselves, they’re doing show-the-flag duties where the ship’s combat-unworthiness is less of a concern than the fact that the ship represents the United States. In peacetime, sending an LCS to partner countries is not a deterrence measure against potential adversaries, but rather a show of American support (and all that entails) to that partner country. This last bit is what a lot of people are confused about, from what I see here – sending LCS to Singapore is not supposed to deter China by its combat abilities (or rather, lackthereof). The deterrence works by the LCS being a US representative that, if attacked, would result in the might of the rest of the USN coming down on the Chinese. This is how the LCS is supposed to assure allies – not by its individual combat capability, but by its identity.

  • Meanwhile the Philippines put an old Coast Guard Cutter in harms way, now replaced by a 184 foot cutter that is almost totally defenseless.

    I do hope the Navy will halt the madness with the ships they have currently contracted or optioned.

    Then build a cheaper, roomier, more survivable conventional ship that can use the modules, but has decent endurance.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    At least two of those classes (PC and MCM) are the targets for replacement by LCS. I believe that with the 57mm gun, the LCS radars (and higher position relative to the water), and Sea RAM/RAM, and the ECM suite the LCS is much more survivable than the two classes mentioned. That leaves littoral ASW which currently no ship in the inventory is really capable of achieving.

    Look, I’m not some wild-eyed LCS supporter, but the arguments against it really boil down to two basic categories:

    1) It’s not an FFxG. Go read the GAO reports on the early OHP ships. Replace OHP with LCS and towed array and Lamps II with mission modules. Send the old report to CDR S. as the latest LCS GAO report, and you’ll get a snarky (admittedly at least) post on USNI about the failure of Navy shipbuilding.

    2) It’s not a DDG. True. Get over it. When the USN finishes the DDG run they’ll have plenty high end ships for high end missions.

    I’ve always been skeptical of the LCS speed requirement, but there is some real utility there. At sprint speed responding to mining in not commonly though of areas for mining (ie, not the Straight of Hormuz (but rhymes with the other 6 major coke joints) is an certainly an asset. I was still not sure it was worth the trade-offs based on that argument.

    Today I thought of another pretty good reason for high speed. It may be only rationalization I admit, but I don’t think so. It deals with the way the USN is headed in terms of technological development and the way the three LCS missions are accomplished. It has to do with helicopters and other off-board systems and the range of those systems. Can you guess what speed brings to that equation?

  • eastriver

    “…what will we actually be able to do with it … a +$600 million mobile 57mm gun with a flight deck?”

    Give them to the Coast Guard, who Lord knows needs more ships. Some white paint and you’re all set. They could probably even catch some of those drug boats unaided!

  • James (the other one)

    Ben those reason make no sense.

    The ship is more survivable agaisnt long rang missiles than a PC true. Its also a far larger target worth many, many millions more. Cant hunt mines at high speed. Hell moduals arent even in to hunt them.

    No one is asking for a DDG. they are asking for a serious military vessel capable of projecting some deacent firepower and handling the common missions without having a DDG along to back it up. LCS cant do any of these. Shoot at pirates….cool as long as they only have AK’s and then those pirates stay out of range.

    At sprint speed (anywhere from 40-45kts in real life) the LCS will get around 600mi tops…….thats if it doesnt break down first. Oh but wait the Iranians have their entire military in the gulf so the ship cant do that. They might get attacked by patrol boats or jets or both…..

    This is the thing. The LCS cant carry all the moduals and they break………..alot. SO a limited number to do all the things needed around the globe…yep you guessed it there will never be any mine clearing because it will be in port being fixed and rearmed by then the straigh is mined.

    So explain why doesnt the Navy just look at what the Danes did and say lets copy it. Sense the absolon is a vessel that does litteraly everything the LCS does (except speed) better for less money and with the same or less manning details……?

    A complete fuck up of the naval ship building and design is what the LCS is.

  • James (the other one)

    No one wants or can really afford the LCS. The Phillippines are better off with the hamiltons. Which after they upgrade them (if they do) they would probably be better at carrying out the LCS job than the LCS could.

  • Nick, one pretty good reason to not cut down the Flt I and II Burkes is… we still need them as DDGs.

    The whole point of an LCS/FFG/low end warship is to free up the limited number of high end DDG/CG ships for high end missions.

  • Nicky- “Use the Funds from the Sale of the LCS to finance the cost of building a patrol Frigate out of the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter and built based upon the NSC.”

    Ingalls has already stepped up and has two patrol frigate varients of the NSC, to be offered for foreign sale.

    Patrol Frigate 4501 and Patrol Frigate 4921.

    Patrol Frigate 4501 is closely aligned with the basic National Security Cutter hull with limited design changes. The ships are 127 meters (418 feet) long with a 16.5 meter (54 feet) beam and displace 4,600 tons with a full load. The ship has a 12,000-nautical mile range and can operate in speeds up through 28-plus knots. They have an endurance of 60 days and accommodations for 148. The ship includes an aft launch and recovery area for two rigid hull inflatable boats and a flight deck to accommodate a range of aircraft, with twin hangars for storage of one H-60 class helicopter and two rotary-wing unmanned aircraft. The ships are equipped with various sensors and surveillance systems as well as a 57-mm gun, a 20-mm close-in weapon system and six 50-caliber machine guns.

    Patrol Frigate 4921 has additional mission capabilities for anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, anti-surface and mine-warfare provided by a 76-mm gun, a 12-cell vertical launch system, an anti-ship missile launcher and torpedo launcher, sonar dome and remote-controlled and manned 50-caliber machine guns.


  • leesea

    actually I believe the damaged stability of naval auxiliaries even built to commercail standards is probably better than LCS due to their sheer size and many more compartments, and they are mostly steel too.

  • G Lof

    As I stated elsewhere (http://www.informationdissemination.net/) While the current LCS deigns are not perfect, this not not a reason to cancel the program. It must be remember that like the modules, the seaframe itself can be improved and modernized. There is suppose to be a next generation ship, that can be improve over the current designs. One which adds weapons ( Harpoon and more RAMs), improve hull design, increase bunkers, and more crew.

    A quick question, I remembered that the NSC hull design was stiffen because a NARCH claim it would break to main weilds. I been told that such changes would make them less survival to mines thanother naval vessel. Is this true?

  • Pops

    Too bad the Navy has blasted all those old Spruance DD hulls to the bottom of the deep blue sea. From the sound of this discussion the LCS might be more useful as a target in target practice than sinking older DD/CG/FFG.

    I do like Paul and LT Rusty’s comments about the Fletchers though. A stock Fletcher-class DD from 1945 seems to have more capability and utility than this LCS “sea dawg.” A FRAM version with helo deck abaft would be even handier!

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    Lee brings to the front an important point. I suspect many of the commenters here define survivability differently. I’ll put it to a question.

    What does survivability mean? Some possible examples…..

    1. Fight through minor damage.
    2. Fight through major damage.
    3. Physical survival of the crew.
    4. Physical survival of the ship.

    Those are (I believe) the brood categories.

    How do you measure that survivability?

    1. Hull size.
    2. Self defense.
    3. Damage control.
    4. Compartmentalization.
    5. Structural strength.
    6. Armoring of critical components.
    7. Stealth.
    8. Effectiveness of offensive action.
    9. Distribution of the equipment (including ships) you are trying to protect.

    I think some of us are talking past each other based on different expectations.

    Based on survivability, I’d like someone to attempt to argue that the Fletcher (or Gearing class for that matter) is more survivable than the LCS with some fact based technical rigor. I only chose those because it appears those particular ships are the taste of the day during this particular LCS snark session (can’t really call it a debate or discussion).

  • Dee

    Building a patrol Frigate out of the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter and built based upon the NSC is the only real common hull option available. The other option: “Download” the Frigate design such as the Álvaro de Bazán class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen class frigate and build in a manner similar to the PLAN way of doing things. Or a third option: put an emphasis on building POD systems that arm the LCS and open it to competition.

  • LT Rusty


    USS LAFFEY (DD 724). She was an ALLEN SUMNER, an intermediate between the FLETCHER and the GEARING. Not quite either one.

    You want to talk about survivability and continuing to fight your ship? That’s a name you want to google, right there. We could probably come up with dozens more that were hit nearly as hard and survived.

    Let’s see an LCS take the hits like that.

  • Cap.n Bill

    On’t forget that survivability depends upon there being adequate remaining crew to get the job done,. both in the immediate future and on a longer term basis. Smartz, capability, and strength are necessary factors. Here’s another reason to ensure that all “seamen” are decent swimers.

  • Diogenes of NJ


    The way I remember it, the Perry class (FFG-7) was a euro-frigate. The fire control system was a European design. I believe that the CAS and STIR were designed by a Dutch subsidiary of Sperry. The radar was non-coherent. The only decent radar she had was the SPS-49; which is now obsolete. The gun was a OTO Melara 76 mm (not that the Italians make a bad gun) and a single rail SM launcher that was eventually removed.

    She did have a ship’s office space that any carrier would have been proud to possess (and probably larger than the magazine). So I think we have been down the euro-ship path before.

    When the US Navy is refocused from being a “Global Force for Good” and becomes a force that strikes fear into the hearts of the enemies of our nation. American shipbuilding will once again produce unsurpassed WARships. Stay healthy Byron, your country will need you.

    – Kyon

  • Tim Choi

    Regarding the definition of survivability, the Congressional Budget Office in their 2004 publication “The Future of the Navy’s Amphibious and Maritime Prepositioning Forces” defines it as consisting of the following three features, all of which must be balanced:
    1. Susceptibility – probability of the ship being hit
    2. Vulnerability – ability to withstand a hit
    3. Recoverability – ability to restore ship’s systems so the ship can continue its missions while damaged

    Any discussion on LCS survivability should take into account of these three elements. The focus here has overwhelmingly been on Vulnerability and, too some extent, Recoverability.

  • Nicky

    I’m all for killing the LCS crap. It’s the worse money pit that the US Taxpayers are paying for and it’s as bad as the Canadians paying to maintain their used and often tied to the pier British Upholder/Victoria class SSK.

    I think they should build a Patrol frigate based upon the hull of the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter and modify it to Frigate Standards. It’s far cheaper than paying the expensive LCS. I would rather pay $400 Million per NSC copy vs $700 million per LCS copy. It’s easier on the pocket and easier on the taxpayer.

    The other option, would be to force the US Navy to buy the rights and designs to the Álvaro de Bazán class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen class frigate. Have the work bid out to competing shipyards to build the Frigate based upon the designs the US Navy brought from Europe. The US Navy can modify the Álvaro de Bazán class frigate or the Fridtjof Nansen class frigate to their liking.

  • LT Rusty

    @Tim Choi-

    As you noted, we’ve pretty thoroughly discussed #2, Vulnerability. #3, Recoverability, hardly needs more than the briefest discussion, which begins and ends with “how much DC can you do with a crew of 40?”

    Since you seem to feel that #1 has been neglected … well hell, you know, you’re right. I never really thought about this before. Those extra 10 knots or so are going to make ALL the difference! My god, why didn’t anyone think to strip off all the weapons and fuel and just make the thing go 40 knots! Wow! We should do this with ALL the ship classes! Who needs weapons and radar when you can just do that.

    What’s that you say? Missiles go 500 knots? Some go faster than that? AS-4’s can go HOW FAST?!?!?!?!?

    Hm. Maybe we should have kept some of those weapons, and worked a little harder on #2 and #3.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    “When you sup with the devil use a very long spoon”. True enough, especially in minesweeping, but if the thing is a minesweep, you can get better and more effective without paying a huge penalty to get high speed which is of precious little utility if the ship is just a robot boat and helo tender. To clear a lane with robot boats you don’t need super hi tech R&D, just a lot of cheap noisy boats with a high magnetic signature. Clear 50 yards – boom, new cheap boat for 50 yards – boom, repeat. CH53’s tow mine sleds or did, because the sled is right good sized, has to be to work – so you need a big helo. Maybe a model helo with a roomba brain can do the job (!?) with a minisled in sea state 4 (?!)… maybe.

    “Few seamen are boatmen and few boatmen are seamen”, and damn few are aeronautical engineers too, but it’s the aircraft design guys who come up with malaprop terminology like “seaframe”, so they are the shepherds of this design goat rope, I guess. Which is why the whole thing looks like the science project of a bunch of drunken aero eng first year grad students told to use what you know to build a boat. Which reveals what they don’t know, too.

    Form follows function, so if this is a minesweep, show the form and how it will function.

    Me, I think somebody watched too many transformer cartoons and never used a C ration can opener, thus never learning the power, and convenience, and economy, of a simple, cheap, efficient single purpose tool. It becomes ubiquitous and and fills the niche, while opening capacity for more of something else needed for the mission…any mission.

    But I guess pull tabs mean the brave new generation doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about. But if anybody has a spare J. Wayne surgical can top remover, I’ve got a grandson getting about
    Cub Scout high who might find it useful. I’ll just sneak the physics and industrial design lecture into the demo on the QT.

  • Diogenes of NJ
  • Cap.n Bill

    Isn’t it just too damn bad that the LCS was not designed in the most simple manner possible with well prooven features ? Then the smart people might have been able to spend their time and expertise ensuring that the several drop on mission parts would be state of the art and not a dream yet to be fulfilled.

  • Paul

    Cap’n Bill–

    Perhaps a lesson for all of the smart people who designed her would be to take one of them to sea and then try it out without all of the whistles and bells. Put some of the uniformed program managers and the like (nothing below an O-6, please) on the deck plates and have them run these ships under combat conditions and see if they think they’re effective. That’s what they’re asking some 20 something seaman to do. When they’re willing to put their fanny where their mouths are in real time then I’ll start to think that there may be something here.

    Of course with their small crews, it’s not outside the realm of possibility of being boarded by pirates and seized for ransom either. Take out the 57mm with an RPG from surprise and swarm it with multiple boats with boarding ladders. Hard to fit a mission module in a ship with an enemy jack above yours.

  • pat

    I’m a bit out of my element discussing naval matters, me being an Air Force guy, but exactly how hard would it be to just mount some harpoon missiles on the flight deck of an LCS to at least give it some actual teeth? I mean if the Coast Guard could do it with the Hamilton class cutter (USCGC Mellon), then why couldn’t they do it with an LCS? The Freedom Class LCS and the Hamilton Class cutters are very close to each other when comparing size and weight characteristics after all.


  • pat

    Quick size comparison (via wiki):

    Freedom Class LCS:

    Displacement: 3,000 t
    length: 378 ft
    beam: 57.4 ft
    draft: 12.8 ft

    Hamilton Class Cutter:

    Displacement: 3,250 t
    length: 378 ft
    beam: 43 ft
    draft: 15 ft

  • Sperrwaffe

    Again interesting discussion. Good I forced myself into weekend time instead of looking here.

    To Grandpa Bluewater:
    I really have to buy you a beer sometimes…Prost Kamerad!

    To Tim Choi, April 13th, 2012 at 6:46 PM:
    Sorry mate, your are on the wrong track concerning the MCM capabilities of the LCS. So this vessel does not enter the minefield? When do you know you are not in a Mine Danger Area? When no one hits a mine?
    This is almost like that guy who called the Desert Storm MCM-Operation “Audacious”. Thank you very much coach. This “Audacious” Operation led to USS Tripoli and USS Princeton. And the aftermath, when the bloody europeans (who where acutally right about the risk, which nobody in the US chain of command wanted to hear. MCM? takes time? naah…I have to do my assault tomorrow, so go away fairy pinguin) had to clean up the mess left by USN. Operation Suedflanke (that was our name for that).

    Just because you have some fancy autonous stuff just doesn’t mean you will outside the field. At some stage you have to recover the thin in order to post process the whole data flow of the Side Scan Sonar (or even more with Synthetic Aperture). MCM is a lot more than just fancy stuff currently under development. HUGIN and REMUS are there. So why develop it knew? Right, national boistering of industry. How I hate that.
    but anyhow: Back to topic Minefield.
    Signature, Acoustic, Magnetic, UEP, Elfe? Anything familiar? Our Submariners (206A and 212) already love the acoustic signature of those LCS. ASW? Ah, I forgot, all Autonomous now. Remember the pictures from our 206A of USS Enterprise?
    So what about mines? Even a cheaper mine can do the job of finding it. Again the question: So when do you know when you are outside the danger area in the littorals/confined and shallow waters? I wonder.
    ASW, MCM, ASuW, AAW in the littorals. All are classical threats in that environment. Maybe not sexy anymore, due to ASYMM. And a lot of expertise has been burned in many navies during the last years.
    With regard to MCM, at a certain stage you will not be able to use organic means (AUV, USV or UAV). The operational area then requires dedicated means. I am not fighting the organic means. I like them a lot, because they improve my capabilities. But you have to keep in mind their shortfalls. And currently there are a lot. Some of them mentioned in the discussion above.
    You have to be able to use the whole “arsenal”. Dedicated and Organic. They both have their advantages and disadvantages you have to face and live with.
    Just some points which you should think about, influenced by my heritage having grown up in European Waters and that special Operational Areas whe have there.

  • Spade

    “1) It’s not an FFxG.”

    Well, it sure is being sold as a frigate. It wasn’t originally, but then the quotes changed.

  • Dee

    I recall a link and interesting website where a discussion similar to what is being had here was being debated in Canada


    Here is the prefix to the list above:

    Here is a little game that was originally conceived by David Axe at War is Boring, and which New Wars has put its own spin upon. For this particular post we will play around with some funds for the Canadian navy. Of late, budget difficulties and barely averted ship cuts has some questioning just what type of fleet does the world’s largest country needs.

    For the next few years the Canadian Government has allocated about $3 billion USD for the modernization of its 12 Halifax class frigates, plus an unknown amount for its Victoria class submarines. So lets say you had $3 billion USD to spend. Instead of modernizing older vessels which may or may not be right for modern and future problems of seapower, you could rebuild the fleet. Here are some choices of what you could buy with those same funds:

    And then additionally:

    Something to read as you bounce back and forth to information dissemination~~ My intent is not to trivialize the discussion however to remind people that this is not a discussion that is USN unique but instead what happens in democracies. Doesn’t make the passion of the opines any less valid.

  • Tim Choi

    Yay replies!

    @Lt Rusty

    The LCS is not supposed to be able to outrun and/or blow up everything that gets shot at it – hell, a Burke can’t do that, nevermind a small surface combatant. The speed, at the tactical combat level, is more for outrunning torpedoes and maintaining range against non-missile-armed swarm boats – 40 versus ~55ish may allow the ship to exhaust the torpedo’s batteries before it gets hit and for the 57mm to sink any of the small boats before they get in RPG or rocket range.

    “But what if the enemy DOES shoot missiles at the LCS?” you say. Well, what is the Navy doing fighting a war against a well-armed enemy with just LCSs? Foolish would be a plan that sends in LCSs without a Burke or Tico in the background for defence against more advanced threats.
    “But that’s idealistic! The enemy will not wait for you to gather all your fleet nicely before shooting!” So what’s the alternative? Turn those 24 MCM LCSs into Burkes with a full suite of MCM capabilities? I’d love to see that, too, but in this (hell, any) economy? Let’s be realistic here. Admittedly, the LCS isn’t exactly cheap either, but it’s still significantly cheaper than a Burke.

    @Grandpa Bluewater
    Influence sweep by unmanned surface vehicles and helos are great, but only against influence-triggered mines. There are still the old fashion contact mines that require you to sail your minesweeper into in order to take care of them…unless we go ahead with all the new fancy gadgets.

    It is a fair point – how do we know when we’re outside the minefield? To some extent, the advent of the ALMDS, if it can be taught to not mistaken sunlight for mines, will allow the ship’s helicopter to check far in advance for moored and floating mines. Bottom and buried mines do remain problematic, admittedly. But that’s where ISR comes in, right? What ships the Iranians have that are capable of deploying those kinds of mines, whether they’re in port, etc.
    I don’t know enough about European MCM systems to comment on them, other than the fact that the European navies have practiced it a lot more than the Americans and any effort to clear the Strait in the near future will be tedious without European help.

  • Sperrwaffe

    @Tim Choi
    Thank you very much for replying.
    We are certainly not that far away.
    And as said before, I don’t refuse the new developments. Just some points to add to your post.
    During last MINWARA “Symposium on Technology and the Mine Problem” I had a long discussion with the guys from Northrop Grumman about ALMDS. It opens possibilities. If it will have the same performance of around 11-15m depths in areas like the North Sea or the Baltic, with a lot of sediments in the water column and algae, must still be proven. But if it gives you 6m thats already something and it contributes to the overall MCM Performance. Know your capabilities, their shortfalls and how to make the best out of it or even use it to improve your mission. But I will not elaborate on my favourite and beloved “Auftragstaktik” 😉
    ISR is good and the first step. However, for deploying mines I don’t need special vessels. This makes the job of ISR somehow difficult. Remember the Oil Platform Tenders with their decks crowded with drums which were filled with russian lugems (moored contact mine, also influence possible)? Those things have to be taken into account.
    You mentioned the straits. From my point of view currently the most important thing is to develop a database for the strait(like Route Sourvey)and for the channels which must be used for concentrating and controlling shipping. To know what is happening in the watercolumn.

  • Byron

    Best way to “re-image” LCS is paint “Budweiser” on the side and pop the top.

  • Rich B.

    The LCS elephant is the mouse built to government standards.

    With LCS all we are doing are purchasing a less effective platform than current world designs. If you look at the new Franco-Italian FREMM Class, or even Britain’s much older Type 23/Duke Class, both outclass it in combat capability.

    We have already declared victory on a ship that is incapable of performing any of it’s primary missions.

    I would rather server on smaller corvettes like Israel’s US-built, $260 million Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class, and Sweden’s ultra-stealthy Visby Class and you could create a small forward deployed fleet for a portion of the cost.

    The Danish Stanflex ships include modules with a Mk 48 vertical launch system that can handle longer-range air defense missiles, and mounts launchers for Harpoon anti-ship missiles. These ships offer true modularity compared to our struggling ship for 1/5 of the proposed crew.

    The LCS crew will suffer from being overtasked in combat or even specialized operations as evidence by numerous studies which declare technology development and navy policy/procedure have not yet evolved sufficiently to make such a low manning feasible.

    I rebut the notion that young officers are not voicing their concerns. I have sat across from the Naval Architect and offered to show him where a 5.56 round penetrated through decking on an Aegis CG to the radar room and asked how a “littoral combat ship” made from aluminum was intended to protect the interior mission critical components and crew from .50 cal, 7.62 AK-47 and RPGS (some of the most prolific weapons) in a littoral environment.

    The problem is those closest to the problem are ignored often due to “inexperience.”

    Straifing fire from .50 would jeopardize this nearly billion dollar warship; and it wouldn’t exactly be that hard to hit.

    The simple truth stated astutely in a Defense Industry Daily article, that so many of our upper echelons are ignoring is many nations field large Fast Attack Craft equipped with anti-ship missiles. Despite being 1/3 the LCS’ length and less than 1/3 of its displacement, their employment would create a threat that could attack an LCS from beyond its range of reasonable retaliation, with a weapon that the LCS’ lower damage tolerance would handle poorly.

    I would rather they bring back a Gearing; throw on a one armed bandit and a flight deck and you would have a more battle tested and functional design than the gross expenditure which is LCS.

    Perhaps I’m a bitter old retiree… but there is not “one ship to rule them all.” Every other nation in the world recognizes this; except us.