WASHINGTON: The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship is now in the irregular warfare business, the top service official in charge of the program said today.
Naval Sea Systems Command is developing a new LCS mission package focusing on irregular warfare operations. Those capabilities will fall more toward the humanitarian and disaster relief-types of missions under the IW banner, LCS Program Executive Officer Rear Adm. James Murdoch, said during a speech at the Surface Warfare Association’s annual conference.The IW package will bring aboard additional medical and other support capabilities to care for victims of a natural disaster, Murdoch said. Once complete, the new IW package will be the fourth one designed for the LCS. The current ship modules cover surface warfare, counter-mine and anti-submarine operations. Along with the IW mission package, program officials are also developing a fifth mission package designed for maritime security operations, a NAVSEA official added.
The MSM package is tailored to support the more kinetic elements of irregular warfare. The specific weapons and communication systems tied to the MSM package will allow the LCS to support missions such as foreign internal defense or security force assistance — both key elements of IW. The combination of the MSM and IW mission packages will make the ship a vital tool in the Navy efforts to increase partner nation engagements around the world, especially in the Western Pacific.
Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of the service’s surface warfare division, said the Navy is pursuing an “aggressive fielding” strategy to get the LCS involved in more military-to-military cooperation operations. To that end, Murdoch said the warship — once equipped with the new MSM and IW packages — will likely be assigned to the Navy’s “partnership station” missions in Africa and South America. Those operations, designed to train foreign navies in modern combat tactics, techniques and procedures, are “part of the core mission” of the LCS, Murdoch added. Currently the Navy’s amphibious fleet handles a majority of the partnership station operations.
The addition of the IW and MSM packages could open the door to myriad mission packages, Murdoch added. NAVSEA officials have openly discussed the possibility of building in mission packages for special operations forces and the Marines in the not-to-distant future. But so far, the Navy has been less than clear about the type and number of mission packages it wants for the LCS. “The first step is what [does the Navy] want” for LCS, the command official said. Until program officials get a firm answer to that question, the hands of program leaders are essentially tied, official added.