UPDATED Washington: The list of jobs being piled onto the Navy’s newest do-it-all ship might get a little bit longer in the near future.
The Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command have held informal talks with the Navy about the possibility of developing new mission module packages for the Littoral Combat Ship, to support their respective operations.
Speculation about the Marine Corps mission module has been floating around the Pentagon for months, with senior service brass publicly touting the option inside the beltway. However, in recent weeks, both Navy and Marine Corps leaders have suggested a SOCOM mission module also be thrown into the mix.
Along with the three existing mission modules already in development for the LCS for anti-submarine, countermine and surface warfare missions, the addition of the Marine Corps and SOCOM packages would bring the total to five.
Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cdr. Tamara Lawrence said there is no current requirement for a Marine Corps or SOCOM-specific mission module, but noted the Navy is working on add-ons for the surface warfare mission module, focusing on maritime security and irregular warfare operations.
Those add-ons, she said, will “provide some expeditionary capability” to potentially support Marine Corps and Naval Special Warfare detachments.
Even though the Navy has touted the LCS as the pick-up truck of the service’s future fleet that can conceivably go anywhere (in the littorals) and do anything, the question is how much is too much.
The Navy’s well-documented troubles in getting the original three mission modules up to spec should be enough to make DoD take pause. But beginning development on two entirely new packages could be a bridge too far.
Newly confirmed Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert expressed doubts on how the Navy was building up the LCS fleet, telling reporters after his confirmation hearing last month the ship’s current path needed refinement.
Aside from the challenges in even getting those two packages through development and on board the LCS, there mere addition of those modules will create even more confusion as to what the ship’s actual mission is.
In a recent article, Breaking Defense contributor David Axe noted that the Navy’s willingness to build a warship that is more Leatherman tool than pocketknife, the service is hedging its future fleet with a ship that is a jack of all trades, but a master of none.