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Surface Forces: LCS In Action Against An Armed Enemy
   Next Article → ATTRITION: Marjah Mysteries Revealed
February 28, 2010: The US Navy's first "Littoral Combat Ship" (LCS), the USS Freedom (LCS 1), has entered service in the Caribbean, joining the U.S. Navy drug interdiction patrol. Operating out of a base (Mayport) near Jacksonville, Florida, the Freedom headed south on February 15th, and on the 22nd intercepted its first drug smuggling boat off the Colombian coast, recovering a quarter ton of cocaine. The LCS was built for this kind of coastal operations.

The USS Freedom completed its sea trials and acceptance inspections during August, 2008. The ship did very well, with far fewer (about 90 percent fewer) problems (or "material deficiencies") than is usual with the first warship in a class.

Five years ago, when construction began on LCS 1, it was to displace 2,500 tons, with a full load draft of under ten feet (permitting access to very shallow "green" and even "brown" coastal and riverine waters, where most naval operations have taken place in the past generation. Top speed was expected was to be over 80 kilometers with a range of 2,700 kilometers. The 378 foot long ship still has the range and top speed it was designed for. Basic endurance is 21 days, but displacement is closer to 3,000 tons.  

Built using "smartship" technologies, which greatly reduce personnel requirements, the LCS was expected to require a crew of about 40-50 in basic configuration, but will have billeting for about 75 personnel. The sea trials gave the smartship features a workout. These sea trials were very important, because the LCS is over budget, behind schedule and, worst of all, an untried new concept.

The LCS was designed for a variety of interchangeable modules (e.g., air defense, underwater warfare, special operations, surface attack, etc.), which allow the ships to be quickly reconfigured for various specialized missions. Crews will also be modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to operate specific modules. There is no special module for anti-drug patrol.

There are actually two different LCS designs, a semi-planning monohull from Lockheed-Martin and a trimaran from General Dynamics. LCS 1 was laid down by Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wisconsin, in June of 2005 and was expected to be commissioned in 2007, after months of sea tests in late 2006. There were delays, but LCS 2 (USS Independence) was finally commissioned last month.

LCS 2 was laid down by General Dynamics in late 2005. Ultimately, the Navy hoped to have between 50 and 60 LCSs by 2014-18, at a cost of $90 million each. The navy still plans to build 55 LCSs, but wants to get the price down to $460 million (after the first five.)

The USS Freedom ended up costing nearly $600 million, about twice what the first ship in the class was supposed to have cost. Only one of each type of LCS will be built now, and the one that performs the best will become the model for the entire class. LCS 1 ended up displacing 2,900 tons, and most observers in 2005 believed that it would end up closer to 3,000 tons, than 2,500.

The LCS is armed with a 57mm gun, four 12.7mm machine-guns, and an eleven cell SeaRam system for air and missile defense. The RAM (RIM-116 "Rolling Air Frame") missiles replace Phalanx autocannon. SeaRAM has a longer range (7.5 kilometers) than the Phalanx (two kilometers).

The LCS has a crew of 40, which is pretty small for a ship this size (which, in the past, would have about four times as many sailors). But the LCS is highly automated. On the Freedom, the captain decided that officers, including himself, would pitch in with maintenance and housekeeping chores. More so than in larger ships, sailors learn to do other jobs on an LCS, and, as a result, work is lot more interesting and less boring. But it can get intense at times, and there are still questions about whether the smaller crew, and all the "smartship" tech can really handle the kind of damage control emergencies that crop up on military ships.

Normally, an LCS would have another 35 crew manning its "mission package". The LCS is designed for a variety of interchangeable modules (e.g., air defense, underwater warfare, special operations, surface attack, etc.), which will allow the ships to be quickly reconfigured for various specialized missions. Crews will also be modularized, so that specialized teams can be swapped in to operate specific modules. Thus about 40 percent of the ship is empty, with a large cargo hold into which the mission package gear is inserted (and then removed, along with the package crew, when it is no longer assigned to that ship.) Thus the LCS has two crews when underway, the "ship" crew and the mission package crew. The captain of the ship crew is in charge, and the officer commanding the mission package is simply the officer in charge of the largest equipment system on board. In addition, the core crew of 40 is actually two crews ("blue" and "gold") who take turns running the ship. This makes it possible to keep an LCS at a distant posting for years, by simply flying in a relief crew every six months.

The USS Freedom was initially based at San Diego, but has since moved to Mayport for its first operations.

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wcollins    LCS in the Caribbean   2/28/2010 8:21:39 PM
Drug smugglers are an armed enemy now.  This first job of a $600 million dollar ship is to chase down drug runners in the Caribbean Ocean.  It should make for a good workout for the ASuW module, assuming it is available. 
 
Scrap the LCS and build a proper replacement frigate for the Perry-class frigates.
 
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Berova       3/1/2010 1:20:06 AM
The navy needs to stop scrapping new designs and start building ships (to replace ships that are more costly to operate and maintain).  Buy more Arleigh Burke's were the right move.

Having said that, I've never seen the full rationale behind swapping specialized teams and remain skeptical they will turn out to be adequate in numbers (will there be shortages and the Navy will have to suck it up and "make do"?), they will save the money they expect, or we will build anywhere near the 55 ships envisioned (can we say "spiral of death" where fewer numbers necessarily mean ammo for the critics as the per unit skyrockets out of control?).
 
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trenchsol       3/1/2010 2:52:56 PM
"Corvette" is not a trademark, it is not protected or patented, so why not call LCS a corvette ? It was some 30-40 years ago, when light cruisers were called frigates, and frigates were called corvettes, but that classification is abandoned, right ?
 
DG

 
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StobieWan       3/2/2010 5:14:39 AM
Anyone got any thoughts on Seafighter? That does look like a small, agile and cheap craft to do much of what the LCS was intended to perform. LCS looks like an unhappy medium - it's chuffing big for a cheap corvette (most countries ships of that type are half the size!) and it's too lightly armed for the size of target it makes. 

The concept is an interesting one and the idea of being able to preposition LCS with a basic config and air lift in a mine hunting package is very engaging, compared to the pain in getting dedicated mine hunters to an area.

LCS is a novel and possibly flexible approach to tackling some areas of work that the USN is stretched on at the moment and I don't actually think it's necessary to buy a set of mission packages for every hull - most of those hulls could be doing useful work in patrol etc. The ability to rapidly remission, possibly while underway is a fascinating one for sure however,


Ian

 
 
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warpig       3/2/2010 9:14:06 AM

"Corvette" is not a trademark, it is not protected or patented, so why not call LCS a corvette ? It was some 30-40 years ago, when light cruisers were called frigates, and frigates were called corvettes, but that classification is abandoned, right ?

 

DG






Not trying to be insulting as you likely already know this, but USN has never used the classification of "corvette."  That doesn't mean they can't start, of course, but they haven't so far.  Perhaps it's just a "we're not Europeans" thing.
 
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trenchsol       3/3/2010 1:07:15 PM




"Corvette" is not a trademark, it is not protected or patented, so why not call LCS a corvette ? It was some 30-40 years ago, when light cruisers were called frigates, and frigates were called corvettes, but that classification is abandoned, right ?

DG


Not trying to be insulting as you likely already know this, but USN has never used the classification of "corvette."  That doesn't mean they can't start, of course, but they haven't so far.  Perhaps it's just a "we're not Europeans" thing.


Didn't know....sorry.  What was the name for the ships smaller than destroyers back in 60's or so, when vessels like USS Leahy  (CG 26) were classified as frigates ?
 
DG

 
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eldnah       3/3/2010 5:37:05 PM

Drug smugglers are an armed enemy now.  This first job of a $600 million dollar ship is to chase down drug runners in the Caribbean Ocean.  It should make for a good workout for the ASuW module, assuming it is available. 

 

Scrap the LCS and build a proper replacement frigate for the Perry-class frigates.



And thats not counting the cost of the modules. I assume there will be more than 1 per ship otherwise you'll be playing pass the module as each ship's assigment changes.
 
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doggtag       3/5/2010 7:31:47 AM
....
Didn't know....sorry.  What was the name for the ships smaller than destroyers back in 60's or so, when vessels like USS Leahy  (CG 26) were classified as frigates ?


 

DG

What's strange about the whole way ships are classified is,
back in the days of fighting sail,
a frigate was no laughing matter when compared to other ships of the line,
not like how today's frigates (what WW2 USN folk would've labeled as "destroyer escorts") compare to cruisers or battleships.
 
And look where we end up with the madness: a 14,500 ton ship the USN swears is a destroyer (DDG1000) because, technically, that's the mission the ship is supposed to perform,...even though it seems more likely that cruisers (typically 6"-8" guns)
would be better surface fire support ships than destroyers (which in the past were almost never armed beyond 5" guns).
 
Weird.
 
Now we have these destroyer-sized (at least as far as older destroyer designs: 3000 tons range) vessels we call littoral combatants (read as: near coastal areas, somewhere it's not going to be easy to hide a ship of that size from prying eyes),
expecting them to engage targets with a 57mm gun, 30mm guns if equipped with surface warfare mission modules
(are these same MK44 guns giving reliability problems like the similar installations in the USMC's EFV and the USN's new San Antonio amphib?),
and these impressive-on-paper missiles called NetFires (PAMs) that as of late haven't been performing as well as was hoped for in the most recent testing.
Even worse that the Fire Scout UAV, once envisioned as a principal asset for the LCS, has been hindered also because the US Army was pulling its involvement from the program, leaving the USN solely to foot the bill.
 
These LCS ships are going to come up woefully lacking when compared to other surface combatants: seriously, what good is all the networked connectivity bullsh*t when you just don't have the weapons to make use of what all that sensor integration and network connectivity offers?
 
It's going to end up another combined arms thing that the US military is becoming too dependent on anymore: without other assets backing them up, these ships won't be able to stand their ground on their own for very long at all, not against similar-sized (or even lesser-sized) vessels equipped with far more weapons (more guns of heavier calibers, more powerful surface attack missiles...and from vessels far cheaper in price that threat nations can purchase many more of).
 
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AThousandYoung       6/16/2010 2:55:52 AM
From Wiki:
 
Coastal defense ships are those whose primary function is coastal patrol and interdiction.
 
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Juramentado       6/29/2010 3:46:25 PM

Drug smugglers are an armed enemy now.  This first job of a $600 million dollar ship is to chase down drug runners in the Caribbean Ocean.  It should make for a good workout for the ASuW module, assuming it is available. 

 

Scrap the LCS and build a proper replacement frigate for the Perry-class frigates.



It is ironic that the OHPs are serving as the proving ground for their replacements. Case in point - McInerney was the base for the first known operational counter-narcotics intercept using FireScout. The aging but hardy figs have been conducting intercepts and live fire engagements of pirates in the Somali Basin - a much touted mission for when LCS is more numerous.
 
To be fair, Freedom had to have a first deployment somewhere. Given the lack of forward-deployed Mission Package Support Facilities, the incomplete state of the SuW module and the developing integration of the S-version Seahawk, the Caribbean was a good first choice with proximity to a major US Navy base, even with the "gimmie" aspect. Let's face it - putting Freedom into the Horn of Africa would have been asking for trouble - no MSPFs and no intermediate repair yards should something decide to go seriously kaput during a hot chase with pirate skiffs.
 
SECDEF Gates' comments at the Navy League and the heavy notation in the Naval Operations Concept 2010 recently released all say the same thing - LCS is here to stay. The question is, will a missile solution be found and integrated in time following the down-select? Otherwise the Navy will have, for a period of years, what it has already - a collection of low-end gunboats that need Tico or Burke umbrellas against anything heavier than a gun-equipped helo. But, oh yeah, at least Perrys don't have to go home to switch modules to do something else. They already carry towed arrays and ASW gear...
 
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