February 11, 2020

THE NAVY PLANS TO RETIRE THE FIRST FOUR LITTORAL COMBAT SHIPS: “…the oldest of the vessels was commissioned just 12 years ago, the youngest a mere six years ago.” Why retire relatively new ships? Too many “troublesome” problems. Here’s StrategyPage’s take from 2019, a “Leadership” post entitled “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time.”

The U.S. Navy is trying to salvage what it can from its ambitious but poorly implemented “Littoral Combat Ship” (LCS) program…From the beginning, there were two different LCS designs and some of both were built and put into service. Problems were encountered and that was expected. The much smaller crew required some changes in how a crew ran a ship and how many sailors and civilians were required back on land to support a LCS at sea. It was found that the interchangeable mission modules take far longer (2-3 days instead of 2-3 hours) to replace. The LCS has still not seen combat and the Navy wants the first violent encounter to be successful, or at least not disastrous. It is expected that there will be surprises, which is about all that can be guaranteed at this point.

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In the last few years, the LCS design has been found to have structural and other flaws. The first LCS, the monohull USS Freedom, entered service in 2008 and over the next five years suffered major problems.

The StrategyPage post suggests the LCS might (might) make it as a mine warfare ship and might be able to hunt diesel-electric enemy subs in “coastal waters.” But that was 2019.

In 2017 I weighed in on the Navy’s need for a new blue water frigate and the need to “get a ship designed to do the job.” This is a photo of a U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class National Security Cutter, the USCGC Bertholf. Several Navy officers have argued that a more robust variant of this ship would be a cost-effective solution to the Navy’s frigate problem.

Here’s a photo of the LCS USS Coronado on patrol. The ship is an Independence-class LCS variant. Here’s the USS Freedom, obviously a Freedom-class variant. Pretty pictures? Sure, but the LCS program is not a pretty picture.

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