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The Wrong Ship at the Wrong Time
U.S Naval Institute (USNI) ^ | January 2011 | Commander John Patch

Posted on 01/31/2011 8:13:39 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki

The Wrong Ship at the Wrong Time

Issue: Proceedings Magazine - January 2011 Vol. 137/1/1,295

By Commander John Patch, U.S. Navy (Retired)

It is clear that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program cannot live up to expectations. Yet the surface Navy still badly needs low-end ships for littoral and maritime-security missions.

Since the concept phase of the LCS program, supporters and detractors alike have argued for or against the ship class. Recently, however, the debate has shifted away from pundits to official U.S. government assessors, with arguably damning conclusions about the ships. Navy leaders espousing the virtues of LCS-1 and -2 are increasingly in the minority amid a rapidly building case for the program’s dramatic restructuring—or demise. Instead of muddling forward to an almost certainly marginal outcome, the Navy should cancel the LCS program and acquire a proven single-mission hull.

Scrutiny on the LCS is nothing new. Still, summing up previous criticisms of the LCS is worthwhile—though the list of deficiencies and concerns is long:1

• Unaffordable. The near tripling of the expected hull price tag and unrealistic Navy cost estimates are well documented in current literature, but they become a stark program stigma amid current Department of Defense fiscal austerity. Life-cycle costs of the two “orphaned” LCS hulls after the down-select decision are also a factor.

• Too complex. All the higher-end, multi-mission capabilities not only increase costs, but also could make the crews’ tasks unmanageable.

• Excessive technical risk. Incomplete designs at production start exacerbated risk. Some LCS components are also technically unproven or exhibited problems during acceptance trials, such as water-jet tunnel pitting and corrosion and the need for additional buoyancy tanks.

• Impractical. Expectations of seamless integration of the many mission modules, unmanned vehicles, core hull systems (57-mm gun, radars, etc.) and net-centric capabilities were exceedingly unrealistic.

• Inefficient. The failure of the Coast Guard and Navy to conduct a combined effort to design a new cutter/corvette-sized vessel remains perplexing.

• Vulnerable. Many experts argue that the vaunted speed factor will not protect LCS from littoral antiship-missile or torpedo threats.

• Poor endurance. Both LCS versions rapidly deplete fuel stores—especially at the higher speeds envisioned for anti-access missions and with heavy MH-60R/S helicopter operations—requiring frequent bunkering in port or replenishment at sea.2

• Unstable. Excessive high-end requirements have driven up hull machinery and combat system weight, negatively affecting displacement and stability.

• Logistics-heavy. Staging of the mission modules and associated personnel requires a forward sea base or shore facilities.

• Imprudent. Insufficient analysis before program design and acquisition resulted in spiraling costs to address unanticipated problems.

• Insufficient hotel services. Berthing and support requirements for expanding aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and module detachments have exceeded ship capacity.

New Concerns, Changing Requirements

Several recent, authoritative assessments raise serious new concerns about the LCS. A 2009 assessment by the DOD’s Office of Operational Testing and Evaluation (DOT&E) criticized the premature LCS deployment, which delayed for years the office’s initial hull testing and evaluation, including survivability assessments.3 The wisdom of deploying a new vessel before a full evaluation seems questionable and suggests Navy eagerness to prove the new class amid growing criticism. The DOT&E assessment also expressed concerns about LCS-1’s stability: “The ship will exceed limiting draft in the full load condition,” reducing reserve buoyancy and “the ship’s capability to withstand damage and heavy weather.”4 The report also questioned the limited system-shock hardening, raising issues about whether the warship could actually fight it out in the littorals. The most disturbing statement in the report asserted, “LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment. . . .”5 Indeed, the LCS is no “streetfighter.”

An August 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment drew similar critical conclusions.6 The report questioned Navy decisions to continue to implement design changes even as the third and fourth hulls were being built, increasing unit and design costs significantly. Further, the promised warfare-module (also called mission-package) capabilities are in doubt. The GAO statement on the modules that resonates most focuses on the antisubmarine warfare (ASW) module: “Navy analysis of antisubmarine warfare systems has shown the planned [LCS] systems do not contribute significantly to the antisubmarine warfare mission.”7 The report also stressed development and procurement delays for all three mission packages—ASW, surface warfare (SUW), and mine warfare (MIW)—and asserts that those delays prevented their timely fielding, leaving them unproven and leaving the Navy at risk of “investing in a fleet of ships that does not deliver its promised capability.”8

The MIW package, for instance, has components that are not expected to be fielded before 2011, with some as late as 2017.9 Similarly, the Navy has not yet integrated the SUW package’s 30-mm guns into the ship’s combat-systems suite, and DOD canceled the non-line-of-sight missile-launch system in 2010, seriously limiting LCS SUW capabilities. In fact, as of August 2010, the Navy had taken delivery of only five partial mission packages. The report asserts that all of this boils down to two hulls (one already deploying operationally) with functionality largely constrained to self-defense, as opposed to mission-related tasks.

The GAO report also criticized the Navy for accepting delivery of LCS-1 and LCS-2 with both hulls in an incomplete state and with outstanding technical issues.10 Addressing those issues has required the Navy to schedule extensive post-delivery work periods for each ship, adding to program costs and again delaying operational testing and evaluation. Despite the additional yard periods, launch-and-recovery system payload-handling cranes were deemed to have significant safety issues.

As of 2010, Navy leaders still seem to be adding requirements and missions to this already “top-heavy” ship class. The January 2010 LCS Request for Proposals called for adding an SPQ-9B fire-control radar—typically found on larger combatants—that would add complex equipment and increase topside weight and the LCS radar cross-section. The Navy is also purchasing and testing a new variable-depth sonar system for the LCS after it found problems with the existing ASW package.11 Even Marine Corps leaders are seeking to add to LCS missions and system requirements by modifying the ship to carry a reinforced company of Marines.12 Recent LCS-deployed operations also revealed the need for an additional 20 crew to cover missions that the existing 75 cannot, such as boarding operations, despite the fact that maritime interception operations were part of the original LCS mission.13 Add to that the training, equipping, and normal ship services for 20 extra crew, and a vicious cycle becomes apparent: ever-expanding crew requirements. Notwithstanding the fact that LCS is a poster child for platform-mission creep, the Navy is still adding more systems.

In November 2010, Navy leaders surprised many by indicating that they would ask Congress for approval to award contracts to both defense-industry teams for ten ships of each type. The Navy argument is that buying both hull types will “stabilize” the LCS program and support an increased ship-procurement rate.14 But the two ships have very different hull/mechanical and combat-systems suites, which would potentially double the maintenance and training requirements for two virtual ship “sub-classes.” This decision would seem to exacerbate many of the legacy issues described here, especially cost and efficiency concerns.

A Mixed Track Record

Navy accounts of recent LCS operations paint them as successes, but a closer look reveals more uneven results. While the LCS’ high speed did indeed support the interdiction of “go-fast” small craft during 2010 Caribbean counternarcotics operations, that mission itself is on the low end of promised LCS capability—involving none of the high-profile systems for which the LCS is touted. The agility and speed that a helicopter (from any ship) offers in the maritime counterdrug arena, for instance, arguably obviates the 40-knot LCS capability. The capabilities that drew the most praise from the operation were the 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat and the Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment—not especially exotic in nature and easily deployable on other U.S. warships. Finally, the loss of two ships’ service diesel generators during the operation, which required an in-port repair effort with a manufacturer’s service team flown in from the United States, is troubling. The loss of 50 percent of electrical-generation capability is serious, but the inability of the crew to effect emergent underway repairs raises bigger questions.

The basic problem with the LCS program is that from inception, it suffered the ills of Navy attempts to design, build, deploy, and sustain a small warship to do too many things. It comes down to a decision whether to field small combatants with expensive multi-mission flexibility or single-mission capability to handle the more likely lower-end operational missions in peacetime and war. Small-combatant success stories do exist (Meko, Visby, FFG-7), but a paramount factor in their development was strict limitation of mission scope and capabilities. The alternative is just too expensive and fraught with difficulties—both of which the Navy is dealing with today. Taken alongside the official findings noted previously, the question becomes: How bad does the prognosis for this ship class need to get before Navy or DOD leaders cancel it?

Keep It Simple

Fleet and regional combatant commanders clearly and consistently have a high demand for small combatants, especially frigate-sized warships.15 To meet this growing demand, several options still exist for Navy and DOD leaders to consider:

• Dramatically scale down LCS hull requirements (including 40+ knot speed and mission modules) to what amounts to a basic SUW model with self-defense and helicopter-support capabilities. Since many of the next-generation MIW, ASW, and SUW capabilities of the LCS reside on the MH-60R/S, carrying through with the helicopter-based upgrades and new systems seems prudent regardless of LCS hull or class decisions.

• Cancel the program and shift funds to a corvette based on the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter hull with basic SUW, self-defense, and helicopter-support capabilities.

• Restart Oliver Hazard Perry–class guided-missile frigate production as an acceptable compromise to cover littoral and low-end missions. The Royal Australian FFG-7 class upgrade is evidence that this basic hull type is still viable.

In all three options, SUW would be the primary-hull mission area, since it is the mission most likely in demand in peacetime and war. The armed helicopters could augment a 57-mm gun and a short-range antiship missile system. A limited-hull ASW capability, however, would be needed for independent littoral operations. Alternatively, an ASW version of any of these hulls is an option in addition to SUW hulls. The thrust here is to keep one primary mission area for optimizing combat systems and crew expertise.

Since Navy leaders first conceived of a small littoral combatant more than a decade ago, the Navy has repeatedly violated its own “keep it simple” golden rule. But it is not too late to alter the LCS program or cancel it altogether in favor of a small, simple, affordable, single-mission warship to provide an 80-percent solution for Fleet and combatant commanders. For now, however, the Navy plans to spend more than $25 billion to acquire 55 hulls and 64 mission packages.16 If the program follows current trends, by 2035 the Navy will have a large fleet of impressive-looking, fast, and fragile ships that cannot handle littoral threats and bring little real combat power to the fight.


1. For a more in-depth discussion of past concerns, see John Patch, “Jack-of-all-trades: the LCS serves too many masters with too many roles,” Armed Forces Journal (September 2007),

2. LCS-1 used more fuel annually than the larger Oliver Hazard Perry–class frigates, according to the Congressional Budget Office. See the 28 April 2010 letter from the CBO to the Honorable Jeff Sessions, pp. 3–5, at

3. Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, “FY 2009 Annual Report” (December 2009), p. 146.

4. Ibid., p. 147.

5. Ibid.

6. Government Accountability Office (GAO), “Defense Acquisitions: Navy’s Ability to Overcome Challenges Facing the Littoral Combat Ship Will Determine Eventual Capabilities” (August 2010).

7. Ibid, p. 12.

8. Ibid., p. 24.

9. Ibid., p. 17.

10. Ibid., p. 10.

11. “Navy Pushes Back against GAO Criticism of Littoral Combat Ship,” Inside Defense, 3 September 2010,

12. “Amphibious Operations in the 21st Century, USMC, Marine Corps Combat Development Command (18 March 2009), p. 27, .

13. Philip Ewing, “20 to join LCS crew on trial deployment” Navy Times, 16 November 2009.

14. Christopher Cavas, “U.S. Navy Asks Congress to Buy Both LCS Designs,” Defense News, 3 Nov 2010, The Navy is holding open the option to down-select a single hull, but must decide by 14 December (before press time) to avoid another round of contract offers.

15. Philip Ewing, “After the frigates are gone,” Military Times, 4 August 2010,

16. GAO, “Defense Acquisitions.”

Commander Patch is a retired surface warfare officer, joint specialty officer, and career intelligence analyst. He is currently an associate professor of strategic intelligence at the U.S. Army War College and adjunct faculty at the American Military University. He also serves on the U.S. Naval Institute editorial board.

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: lcs; littoralcombatship; navy; usn

1 posted on 01/31/2011 8:13:51 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Warships need more automation and fewer personnel. The emphasis on large crews is obsolete.

2 posted on 01/31/2011 8:17:33 PM PST by Southack (Media Bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Mobile Coastal Defence Systems

Mobile Coastal Defence Systems-The MCDS SHIP
The MCDS SHIP aims to provide an infinitely flexible self-defense capability for any country which has exposed low-lying, or estuary coastline, possibly unstable relations with its neighbours, and a presently limited presence. The Arabian Gulf States and the countries of USA, West Africa, Central and South America, and Indonesia and the Pacific Rim would all benefit from the MCDS SHIP.
For the cost of one traditional type multi-role ship, the MCDS SHIP can equip a country with a whole fleet of multi-purpose base units which can when appropriately fitted out, deter even the most determined aggressor. Also, whereas a traditional type ship would be several years in the design and build stages, an MCDS unit can be supplied within the relatively short period of six months from the date of order. An MCDS unit can be supplied, appropriately converted, from a base price of $45, 000, 000, which compares extremely favourably with a traditional type multi-role ship at circa $575, 000, 000.
Crewing of a traditional type ship usually consists of in excess of 250 men, but an MCDS unit can operate on a ships crew of 10 / 15 men plus the necessary weapons technicians-thus creating a vast saving in manpower and running costs.
Aircraft / Helicopter Carrier
Helicopter training and dispersal
Coastal and Inshore Installation Defence
Economic Exclusion Surveillance
Illegal Immigration Surveillance
Underwater Survey and Surveillance
Multi-role ship
PARA-Military and Commercial Transportation
PARA-Military Early Warning Capability
Submarine Hunter / Killer
Anti-Drug and Smuggling Protection
Anti-ship / Submarine Torpedo Launch Platform
Stealth Capability
Virtually Unsinkable Capability

3 posted on 01/31/2011 8:23:55 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. ~Lincoln)
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To: Southack
Smaller crews? The follow-on ship (below) has solved that problem.

Armed with a single MA-2 .50 caliber Browning, this much feared naval vessel carries up to 30 rounds of aluminum piercing ammunition. It is the first in an entirely new naval architecture class -- technically, “clitoral” (not to be confused with “littoral”) -- being pushed on the Pentagon by the defense minded wussies in the Obama Administration as a cost-saving measure. If you look closely, you can see the heavy-duty seat restraint which prevents the pilot/gunner – Kamakazi Kowalski – from leaping from the vessel prior to engaging the enemy. The 12 V trolling motor – which lacks a reverse function -- propels this sophisticated craft forward at a top speed of 4 knots. Reverse travel – at approximately 35 knots -- is achieved by firing the Browning.

The no-bid contract to build 200 of these fearsome warships was to have been awarded to Obama-Soros-Emanuel Shipbuilding and Stormdoor Manufacturing (formerly General Dynamics) and will be administered by trusted Obama associate and former Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel who commented that, at $12 million each, they are a bargain. They will be constructed exclusively at the company’s facility in Kenya with major subcomponent production (rivets and miscellaneous fasteners) at the company’s Harlem and Skokie plants. Delivery is expected to begin in 2024 (or as soon as the subcontractors’ funds are safely in the contractor's Swiss account).

4 posted on 01/31/2011 8:26:44 PM PST by Dick Bachert
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To: sukhoi-30mki

I would design a catamaran hull with enormous horsepower and a speed in excess of 50 knots, multiple vertical launch missiles, mine dispensers, and a lot of guns but hey! What do I know?

5 posted on 01/31/2011 8:30:36 PM PST by 43north (BHO: 50% black, 50% white, 100% RED)
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To: Dick Bachert

Oh really?

You think the obamao-sorios-immanuelle navy would consider something as large as a .50cal BMG?

I think a single shot chicom .22LR with a maximum of 10 spare rounds would be more in line with the world view of those losers.

6 posted on 01/31/2011 8:35:56 PM PST by 43north (BHO: 50% black, 50% white, 100% RED)
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To: Southack

Note wake on tri hull easily tracked by satelite.

7 posted on 01/31/2011 8:45:35 PM PST by mosesdapoet ("To punish a province Let it be ruled by a professor " Frederick The Great paraphrased)
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To: mosesdapoet

Yes, but it’s going hella fast in that photo.

8 posted on 01/31/2011 8:55:47 PM PST by null and void (We are now in day 741 of our national holiday from reality. - 0bama really isn't one of US.)
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To: null and void
Our USN guys and USAF guys that do the dirty work are good men. And they deserve good equipment that won't let them down.

It's about time to slap the crap out of all of the Departments (and Congress) over equipment acquisition. It's time to go back to the WWII model and the Kelly Johnson model.

It may cost marginally more lives during development (ie, fly-then-fix vs fix-then-fly) but in the long run will save lots of blood and treasure.



9 posted on 01/31/2011 9:09:35 PM PST by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Southack
Intensive automation is done on commercial carriers to cut labor costs, but warships are different animals. I worry about crew exhaustion due to doing the usual shipboard maintenance tasks, watches, and other evolutions. However warships go in harm's way and can (and do) take hits that cause casualties. Casualties have to be treated, damage control has to be done, and the ship has to be fought while all is going on. I don't think the LCS with a crew of 45 has the people to do this.

Worse still, the LCS is deigned to take on additional personnel to do certain tasks and these “extras” are accommodated in berthing modules that can be brought aboard on a temporary basis. The problem is the messing and shower/bead facilities were designed for 45 and not 65. Such inconveniences can be tolerated for a time, but overcrowding gets old after several months.

Things haven't changed all that much since I used to cruise with the Navy as a job.

10 posted on 01/31/2011 9:19:44 PM PST by MasterGunner01 (To err is human; to forgive is not our policy. -- SEAL Team SIX)
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To: Southack
Warships need more automation and fewer personnel. The emphasis on large crews is obsolete.

The Navy tried "optimum manning" on the DDG-51s and it was a disaster within a few years; they're putting all the crew they took off them, back.

Maintenance and crew morale went to pot.

11 posted on 01/31/2011 9:27:33 PM PST by Strategerist
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To: Strategerist

Think: UCAVs versus B-52.

12 posted on 01/31/2011 9:29:28 PM PST by Southack (Media Bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: Southack

Keep in mind there’s no such thing as an unmanned vehicle.

Check out the total number of people involved in Predator or Global Hawk maintenance, operations, analysis of the intel they produce, etc. sometime.

13 posted on 01/31/2011 9:32:32 PM PST by Strategerist
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To: 43north

The original specs called for the .22 LR but that limited the speed astern to .0156 knots, making the swim back to the mother ship far too long for the operator after his vessel was swamped by the wake from enemy craft.

14 posted on 01/31/2011 10:07:51 PM PST by Dick Bachert
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