|I think the LCS is currently the most misunderstood concept in the US Navy today. Whether it is the “Little Crappy Ship” nickname, or the observation that the LCS is limited in terms of offensive firepower, the LCS is certainly not popular among many. When attempting to shame the LCS concept, observers often distort the ship by using unfair comparisons by comparing it to other ships deployed by other nations, or illustrating some sort of disadvantage when performing a role it isn’t designed to do.
Examples of this would be comparing the LCS to European ships, like the common comparison of the Denmark Absalon class. I think it is a silly comparison, while the Absalon is obviously a fantastic ship; the comparison is the top line ship of one Navy to the future minesweeper of the US Navy, hardly a fair comparison. By that comparison, it is implied the LCS should perform the role of the US AEGIS Cruiser; after all, the Absalon role for Denmark is what the AEGIS Cruiser role is for the US.
What is almost never discussed is the statement that the ships the LCS is replacing do not have VLS. If the LCS is not replacing VLS ships, why is the expectation the LCS should perform some role that would be tasked to a VLS AEGIS ship? The assignment to the LCS by US Naval Commanders to perform those roles is not only unlikely, it is unreasonable. The LCS is a small combatant, designed to perform the small combatant roles by replacing the Avenger Class Minesweepers (MCM), the Osprey Class Coastal Minesweepers (MHC), and the Oliver Hazard Perry class Frigates (FFG).
There are 10 traditional roles for small combatants:
Battle Force Screening - Think Fletcher class in WWII, a defensive battle line ASW role and close in support screen.
Mine Warfare - Osprey and Avenger class which LCS is intended to replace
Protection of Shipping - Examples are ASW Patrol Frigates in WWII, Knox class ASW escort in Cold War
Scouting - The intended role of North European FACs if WWIII ever broke out. This has not been a role for small combatants of the US Navy since WWII due to satellites and air recon.
Anti-Surface Warface - PT Boats in WWII, Ashville Patrol Gunboats in Vietnam are a few examples.
Amphibious Support - Examples exist today, the LCU and LCM are examples. Typically small combatants performing this role were off-board craft deployed from larger vessels.
Close-in Fire Support - The WWII Landing Ship Medium, Rocket (LSM(R)) and Infantry, Gun (LCI(G)) are good examples. This function is no longer performed today.
Riverine Warfare - A few examples include Swift boats (PCFs) and River Patrol Boats (PBRs), River Minesweepers (MSRs), and Minesweeping Boats. Additionally specialized river infantry transport craft such as the Armored Troop/Cargo craft (ATC) performed this role. The US Navy recently stood up their new Riverine Warfare squadron, and speculation is a Riverine Warfare module may be built for the LCS at some point.
Naval Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support - during World War II. Over 100 small destroyers and destroy escorts were converted to serve as fast destroyer transports (APD). Today, the T-AK USNS Gunnery Sgt. Fred W. Stockham, after being modified with a large helicopter deck, is used exclusively as a large Special Forces platform.
Maritime Domain Awareness and Defensive Maritime Interdiction - This ranges from everything from the radar pickets (DDRs and DERs) of the 1950s for early warning to drug interdiction patrols in the Caribbean to the MSO operations in the Middle East region today.
To date, the US Navy has only released the details regarding the Flight 0 LCS Modules. While the expectations are that there will be other modules for later Flights of LCS ships, it is clear by the Flight 0 design that the LCS is a clear upgrade in capability by every measurement possible compared to the ships it is directly replacing.
The baseline capabilities, which are very respectable btw, have been discussed to death, so I will skip straight to the mission modules.
The Mission Modules
MIW Mission Package:
1 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment
The Mine Warfare Mission Package clearly gives the US Navy a major advantage over current minesweepers. Off board options include 2 helicopters (or 1 helo and 3 VTUAVs) for mine detection and neutralization, 1 RHIB or USV for mine detection, 8 UUVS with detection and neutralization options, and 1 EOC detachment. That is potentially 3 or 4 times the number of unmanned off board mine sweeping systems of current minesweepers, and additionally provides the range, speed, and capabilities of the baseline LCS. The LCS with MIW module will be the first dedicated minesweeper the US Navy has deployed that can go faster than 14 knots, EVER. The overall