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Navy Leaders Frustrated by Littoral Combat Ship Naysayers

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The undersecretary of the Navy has an ardent message for anyone who would doubt the Littoral Combat Ship’s capabilities: Don’t.

Undersecretary of the Navy Robert O. Work told a large audience April 18 that he is fed up with criticism of the Navy’s new vessel. The latest wave of negative press has been fueled by reports that the ship is less survivable that other top-line Navy craft.

The ship has previously come under fire for cost overruns caused by mid-construction design overhauls and reports that its offensive and defensive capabilities are lacking.

It was a familiar theme at the Navy’s League’s annual symposium, where service leaders, both uniformed and civilian, were repeatedly asked to defend what will become the largest class of surface ships in the Navy's fleet.

“It is a warship,” Work said.“It is a WAR-ship. We have to prove it’s a good platform. … I know there are a lot of skeptics, but this ship is the right ship at the right time for the right fleet design and this will be the best U.S. battle force that history hasever seen.”

The Navy plans to eventually buy 55 LCSs, of which two are afloat now – one built by Lockheed Martin and the other by General Dynamics. The two companies are each expected to build 10 ships over the next decade.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus called the ship “a capability that we need very badly.”

“It’s very fast with a very shallow draft and can operate in littorals,” he said. “It is fully capable of going into combat situations. We’re not going to have the LCS out there by itself.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert last week said the LCS was less survivable than other ships in the Navy’s fleet. He was responding to a question regarding the ship’s performance in an anti-access, area denial environment that would be encountered in a potential war against an advanced enemy.

Work sought to temper backlash from that comment, saying Greenert’s words were taken out of context.

“When the CNO said it would not be survivable … of course it’s not going to go into the straits. The only thing that would survive in the straits if a war was started would be a submarine.”

The ship was designed to operate close to the shore, where it might encounter enemy mines and other threats. The Navy plans to equip LCS with unmanned mine-hunting systems and surveillance drones.

“It is a platform for unmanned systems and that’s the future, that’s where we’re going,” Mabus said. “It’s also modular. As technology gets better, you won’t have to build a new ship.”

At around 400 feet, the ship and its relatively small crew of about 80 sailors is intended to be a cost effective alternative to the much larger destroyers and cruisers. 

"Today we're using DDG-51s which are multi-billion dollar warships, we're using [big-deck amphibious assault ships] which are multi-billion dollar warships to do some of these engagement activities that LCS could do," Mabus told reporters."We're going to use LCS to free up some multi-mission ships."

Though the first two LCSs came in way over initial bids at $600 million, they are projected to eventually cost around $350 million apiece — significantly less than the almost $2 billion price tag for an Aegis missile destroyer.

Another criticism of the LCS is that its 80-sailor crew is too small to sustain it at sea for long deployments,which have already been reduced from six to four months because of crew fatigue, said Work.

Definitive crew requirements will not be known until the ship is fully integrated into the fleet, he said. It could end up being higher than 80 sailors.

“This is a new concept. We’renot stupid,” Work said. “We’ll make that damn change if we need to.”

Other critics have panned the ship's shorter endurance. Work countered that under normal conditions, running on diesel engines, the LCS will have “plenty of endurance” if not more than a destroyer.

The LCS is seen as a critical program that would allow the Navy to reach its target fleet strength of 300 ships in 2019, a goal both Work and Mabus said would be achieved and maintained based on the new strategic guidance rolled out earlier this year.

“It’s all about fleet design,”Work said. “People who don’t get the LCS don’t get the [fleet] design we’regoing for.”

Pushed on the efficacy of the LCS, a semi-experimental design that became the centerpiece of the Navy’sfuture service fleet, Work offered a challenge to enemies that would seek to attack it.

“It will kick their ass,” he said.

Comments

Re: Navy Leaders Frustrated by Littoral Combat Ship Naysayers

The LCS (like its predecessors) the WWII Destroyers (DD) and Destroyer Escorts (DE) is in reality an expendable warship.  The WWII era DDs and DE’s were in no way as survivable as the battleships (BB) and cruisers (CA) of the day and were considered “expendable”.  During WWII we needed a large number of surface combatants for sundry duties such as escort work, anti-submarine warfare, etc, tasks not suitable for large and expensive BBs and CAs, and building large numbers of DDs and DEs was the only affordable and timely way to achieve building a fleet of sufficient size to win WWII.  Today, we also need an affordable “low end” ship for “sundry duties”  The basic concept of the LCS (equipped with interchangeable mission packages and modular weapon systems) is sound.  However, in addition to the difficulty of getting these ships built due to bad contracting and specification decisions made in the 1990’s,  the naval leadership oversold the utility and timeliness of achieving credible mission packages, and it may be years and millions of dollars more until the original LCS concept reaches full fruition.  At the present time the navy is grappling with maintenance support for the current fleet, so anouther area of major concern is: will the navy actually deliver on the shore side maintenance support envisioned for the LCS class ships? If not, the small primary crew of approximately 40 is going to burn out fast
charles Grotenrath at 4/20/2012 2:45 PM

Re: Navy Leaders Frustrated by Littoral Combat Ship Naysayers

The thing is...most of the criticisms are pretty accurate!  Without recapping all of that, the LCS does look like a fast boat with just a 57mm cannon.  Even the Oliver Hazard Perry frigates are armed this way, only with 76mm cannon. 

Add Mission Modules and how much would that slow down the ship?  The catamaran design doesn't even have a sonar and this is a ship that will operate in the littorals?

Furthermore, the NLOS-Missile "punch" has been cancelled due to poor performance of the seeker in certain environs.  This shrinks the missile range from 40KM to supposedly 5KM with the substitute missile.  We now have a ship that's approaching three-quarters of a billion dollars!

With a Mission Module of radar and ESSM, the LCS could at least have some anti-surface and anti-air missile defense outside of the CIWS and C-RAM.

The good aspect of all this is that the U.S. Navy is reading about these criticisms so the USN should know about them at the very least. 
P at 4/21/2012 12:56 PM

Re: Navy Leaders Frustrated by Littoral Combat Ship Naysayers

Have you ever heard of the fable called "The Emperor's New Clothes?" When I hear someone throw a temper tantrum like the one above, I wonder just how much they know about the program?

The steel hulled vessel can be given at least a 3" gun system. The aluminum hulled ship can't. The berths on these two ships are for 75 seamen, not 80. Where do guests sleep?

Sure, the Destroyers and Destroyer Escorts of WW 2 could be disposable, but there was a chance the men could get off. My Great Uncle died on the USS Strong off Guadalcanal. A larger crew with better damage control equipment might keep it afloat until it can go a safe distance! The price has gone from $200 million to about $400 million plus. It will go up from there. You could have upgraded the OH Perry class for much less money and got a better ship.

From what I have read the unmanned mine seeker does not work yet! The system for launching and recovering it does not work either. The gun system that was supposed to detonate mines has been cancelled.

Why isn't there a VLS system or Harpoons? Why not put two each CIWS and SEARAM launchers? Torpedo Tubes would give it at lest a chance if a Diesel Submarine gets too close.

Put some weapons on it from the inventory. If you get some new weapons that work you can replace the old ones.

Since we built a couple, might as well keep them. Maybe the Commanders of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet can use them for pulling skiers?

Richard Pruitt
Richard Pruitt at 6/8/2012 11:42 PM

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