LCS Freedom

This is the USS Freedom, first ship of the same type as USS Little Rock will be,

The Littoral Combat Ship has come under light fire from Congress because they worry especially about findings by operational testers that the ships cannot survive a firefight. Norman Friedman, a consultant at Gryphon Technologies with more than 30 military books to his name, argues in the following piece that critics need to consider that “change is at the core” of the LCS design, marking a welcome change in naval design. He believes LCS marks “the most fundamental change in warship design” in decades. Friedman compares the just-launched LCS ship USS Little Rock with the history of its predecessor, a light cruiser built near the end of World War II, mothballed a few years later and later rebuilt as a guided missile cruiser at considerable cost. Before critics dismiss Friedman’s argument, bear in mind that his book, “The Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War,” won the Royal United Services Institute’s Westminster Prize in 2001. The man knows his history, as well as the capabilities of the US Navy. Read on. The Editor. 

Warships are built to last a long time, so when they are laid down they are in essence bets on the future. But legendary baseball great and sometime philosopher Yogi Berra had it right, “It’s tough making predictions… especially about the future!” The increasing cost of modern warships makes it even more important that these platforms are capable of changing as threats evolve or new breakthroughs in warfare emerge.

Lost in all the discussions and debate swirling around the design, engineering, construction, and introduction of the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is the most fundamental change in warship design since the introduction of the Vertical Launching System or the AEGIS Weapon System decades ago, and that is the concept of modularity. One of the most important characteristics of the LCS program is its inherent modularity and how that will facilitate affordable and timely modernization of the LCS ships throughout its expected 30-year service life. As is often the case in these technical debates, a look at history is helpful in understanding and placing modularity into a 21st-Century context.

The history of the World War II-era light cruiser the USS Little Rock (CL-92) showed how right Yogi was; her life was full of operational and technical surprises. She was laid down in 1943 as one of a large number of light cruisers that were just showing how effective they could be in combat versus Japanese cruisers in murderous night gun battles in the Solomon Islands. By the time she was completed in June 1945, her mission had changed, and the same cruisers were now wanted primarily to protect aircraft carriers, the fleet’s main striking arm. The war ended, however, before Little Rock could see actual combat, and the world’s geo-strategic situation soon changed dramatically.

Amid the postwar political disorder, it mattered a great deal that the United States could deploy powerful cruisers. Little Rock spent the early postwar years patrolling the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas – regions where the new Cold War was brewing. By 1949, however, money for defense was short and many cruisers like Little Rock had to be laid up. In 1943, very few observers could have imagined a nuclear world in which the U.S. Navy’s main priorities would be strike carriers and anti-submarine warfare, while general-purpose gunships like cruisers would no longer be essential.

The real surprise, however was that Little Rock was still valuable – because she was large enough to adapt to undertake new missions and to accommodate new technology. The new jets of the 1950s out-classed the shipboard anti-aircraft guns that had been so useful against kamikaze attacks in 1945, so the Navy led in the development of the first generation of ship-to-air guided missiles. It took a big ship to accommodate these new weapons, and in its inventory of war-built cruisers the Navy had exactly the right ships for this new mission.

Removed from “mothballs” in 1957, after three years of shipyard work and hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades, Little Rock was re-commissioned in June 1960, as one of the first guided missile cruisers (CLG/CG-4) in the Fleet. Not only did she carry missiles, she was also large enough to be outfitted as a fleet flagship. Both the missiles and the flagship capacity made her extremely useful in the new Cold War.

USS Little Rock light cruiser fires missile

Little Rock returned to the Mediterranean as flagship of the Sixth Fleet, the most powerful Navy flotilla in that turbulent arena. As such, she was present when war erupted in the Middle East in 1967. After the Israelis inadvertently attacked the Navy surveillance ship USS Liberty, Little Rock provided medical aid and other emergency assistance to the stricken U.S. warship. As a command ship, she served as the hub of NATO forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. Besides Mediterranean operations, in 1961 Little Rock steamed off Santo Domingo to provide command and control capabilities for U.S. forces trying to stabilize that country after dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated. The crises may have changed, but the United States is still vitally interested today in both of those regions in which the original Little Rock once steamed. Little Rock was decommissioned in 1976, after two separate naval lives and providing valuable service to the nation.

Former USS Little Rock as museum

In June 2013, the keel of a new USS Little Rock was laid. The latest incarnation is the Navy’s ninth Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-9), and her design reflects the great lesson of her predecessor’s life; ships last, but the world and missions can change quickly. The first Little Rock was never conceived to be re-built with entirely new weapons and electronics for new types of missions; no one could have imagined what those might be in 1943. The ship was worth re-building because she was large enough, fast enough and had a great deal of hull and machinery life still left in her. The second, latest iteration of Little Rock, on the other hand, is a very different proposition already. Change is at the core of her design. LCS-9 is conceived from the keel up to carry weapons and sensors that would be installed by placing standard shipping containers on board and connecting them to a “plug-and-fight” combat system.

Right now, the mission options are what might be expected for the littoral arena: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and mine countermeasures. To support those options, the new Little Rock can carry helicopters – manned and unmanned – and she can launch unmanned surface and underwater craft. She is designed to connect not only with craft she may launch, but also with other off-board sensors and systems. Both the unmanned vehicles and the off-board systems will undoubtedly become more and more important over her lifetime. We don’t know exactly what new missions she may be called upon to perform at a future date, but we do know that adapting to changing missions cannot take three years of shipyard work and hundreds of millions of dollars before she is ready to confront those changing operational demands.

As the new Little Rock is designed and built, the Navy remembered the lesson of the past: change is inevitable, and the service must build ships that can change as needed. Accordingly, the new Little Rock will be able to swap in-and-out tailored mission packages quickly – on the order of days if not hours—vice months or years.

The other lesson of the two Little Rocks is that the sea does not change. There is a reason the cruiser Little Rock spent years in the Mediterranean in both of her incarnations, and a reason she also spent time in the Caribbean. The sea is still the main way in which the United States connects with the rest of the world – and in a globalized world, we cannot lose that intimate contact. It is the primary way in which the United States supports its friends and Allies abroad, because only by sea can we move masses of material, including airplanes.

The new Little Rock is a littoral combat ship because more and more of the action at sea is likely to be in the littorals – that strip of land influenced by what happens offshore, and the strip offshore influenced by what happens ashore. That means mine warfare, anti-ship missiles and diesel-electric submarines – operational problems the containerized, modular LCS systems are intended to surmount.

If the modularity concept is so important, why then have the LCS mission modules taken so long to develop and field? The short answer would seem to be that the overall LCS program was uncertain until the decision was ultimately made to pursue the 20-ship contract. Why press ahead on mission packages when the basic hull itself and the need for 45-knot speed were in question?

It would appear that the program is now at the point where the Navy can place increased focus and resources on modular mission packages. If successful, these packages will be available to support matter-of-fact upgrades, as well as respond to unforeseen advances in technology, for Little Rock (LCS -9) and her sister ships. In short, modularity is a terrific idea and – apart from aircraft carriers, which are inherently modular – the LCS is the only modular ship we have. We need to get it right. Modularity is the future.

In many ways Yogi Berra was right, predicting the future is tough. But Little Rock LCS-9 and her sisters will have the flexibility to respond to — if not anticipate —  unforeseen change and take on new missions that we can only dimly forecast today.

Norman Friedman is an analyst in Gryphon Technologies’ TeamBlue National Security Programs. His recent naval works include “Network-Centric Warfare: How Navies Learned to Fight Smarter in Three World Wars;” “Seapower as Strategy; Terrorism, Afghanistan, and America’s New Way of War;” Naval Firepower; and his two-volume histories of Royal Navy cruisers and destroyers. He also wrote five editions of the encyclopedic “Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems.” He is not consulting for either the Navy program office overseeing LCS or for the companies building the ships.  

 

Comments

  • Ben Freeman

    Informative discussion of the original Little Rock. The author’s thoughts about the LCS incarnation, however, leave the reader wanting. Aside from stating the obvious intended capabilities of the LCS the author does not provide any evidence that this ship class will actually be able to deliver capabilities for “a world and missions that change quickly.” Factual inaccuracies (e.g. even the Navy admits the mission modules will not be interchangeable in hours & other ships with much greater available space than the LCS, like the DDG-1000, have at least as much of a claim to modular capabilities) can’t mask the fact that the LCS is a small, weak, and vulnerable ship. No amount of Yogi Berra quotes or allusions to useful ships of the same name will change that.

    • Zephon

      The author lost it with me with the statement: “After the Israelis inadvertently attacked the Navy surveillance ship USS Liberty”.

      We know now the Israelis deliberately attacked the USS Liberty and the POTUS Johnson administration worked to cover up that fact.

      • JoeOvercoat

        It certainly undermines the idea that the guy knows his history, and/or is honest about it.

  • PolicyWonk

    Ok – with all due respect to the author – IMO – he’s totally missed the point regarding why there are such severe criticisms of the LCS.

    No one is going to dispute that modularity is a good thing, and that designing a warship to simplify changes that can come with new technological advancements, etc., is prudent. The notion of the “mission package” is therefore sound.
    This is the overall premise of the article, justifying what the majority of people think is a good idea, is therefore a waste of time.

    The worst problem with LCS, is that its fundamental foundation – the sea frame itself – is the problem. The LCS sea-frame is built to the navy’s Level-1 standard, which is only marginally better than a civilian-grade hull. Contrast this to a common fleet oiler, which is built to the navy level-2 standard (the same as the OHP-class FFG’s). A Fleet oiler – which is a non-combatant – is therefore stronger than an LCS, which is supposedly a combatant.

    The 45-knot speed of the LCS might be useful for something, but the navy (from all I’ve read) hasn’t as of yet been able to state why that much speed (given the complexity of the power plant) is necessary (unless, its to run away from better armed opponents before they get within range). Furthermore, as anyone who has studied the history of littoral warfare knows – the LCS was seemingly designed and constructed without the burdens or hard-won lessons of such studies.

    At $400M per sea-frame, not counting any mission package, the LCS is abysmally expensive. It’s basic armament is far less than that of comparable ships, including those that are also designed for modularity and mission packages. Its lack of protection is so poor that even the Navy’s own report casts doubt on whether the LCS will be able to fulfill its mission, and/or adequately protect its crew. And even with its Surface Warfare package, the LCS is *very* weakly armed.

    Other navies have been able to build full military grade hulls, with stealthy designs, far heavier armament and protection, with mission packages, for 1/3 less. Hence – the US taxpayers are getting reamed, while the ships themselves are considered inadequate by the investigative arm of very service they were designed for. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough – every other nation that indicated interest in LCS during the initial planning stages has since voted with their feet, and walked away.

  • Curtis Conway

    The LCS hull is too small, lightly armed, and not able to
    handle the Northern Latitudes. If an LCS
    joins a battle force it will be a net negative to the formation, and a constant
    worry to the battle force commander. The
    LCS is not a multi-warfare capable platform.
    It only has one true friend and that is speed, and you can’t outrun a
    cruise missile. Anytime a US Navy
    combatant is required to go ‘show the flag’ at any location, it must be able to
    handle whatever tasking its finds. The
    LCS cannot do that. Should the LCS come
    under fire the crew is too small to fight the ship and conduct damage control
    at the same time. In the case of the
    LCS-2 class vessel, the entire ship is made of aluminum. If it takes any battle damage it will sink if
    the force is required to continue to meet the enemy in protracted operations
    over time. Our fleet is shrinking and
    every vessel will have to handle multiple warfare tasking. Every combatant must be as capable as we can
    make it. At present the $500 million
    paid for each LCS could purchase a dandy multi-warfare capable frigate from any
    number of navies Atlantic or Pacific.
    The US Navy needs a multi-mission Aegis Guided Missile Frigate.

    • wake _up

      Remember the Falklands ans why the Burke was built with steel I say

      • James Haney

        The US had several of it’s cruiser burn after collisions at sea I belive one was the USS Belnkap due to the aluminum alloy

  • Don Bacon

    the just-launched LCS ship USS Little Rock

    Just-launched? No. LCS-5 Milwaukee was just launched Dec 18, then next in the Freedom LCS-1 series will come LCS-7 Detroit and then LCS-9 Little Rock.

  • idahoguy101

    That was a sales pitch on the LCS, not a balanced critique

  • wake_up

    Understand modularity. As independent deployers this class needs to maintain a surface capability. PERIOD!!!!! Add torpedo tubes and UGM- 84 to launch from them tomahawk quad launchers for long range and hellfire for short range. RAM shld be standard. Won’t hurt the hull and gives it a good surface offensive capability to take on the chinese frigates that outgun them

    • Indie

      Agreed. There was a good article a while back about the Danish Frigates of roughly the same size as the LCS. They’re armed to the teeth with offensive and defensive capabilities and cost 1/2 the price of these tin cans.

      • Mitchell Fuller

        Danish Frigates, yes, why are the Europeans building better ships at a lower price then we are??

        Our military industrial complex has lost it’s way re poor performance / astronomical cost of many projects (F-35 example) which leads to many projects being cancelled (FCS) and or too few produced to have any depth / reserve in operations (B-2).

        As a proponent / practicer of buy American, I have come to the conclusion many systems we should just buy outright from our allies and friends……… This arrangement would buy us better systems at lower cost = ability to purchase larger numbers = depth and reserve in systems (no matter how good a system is, you have to have depth in numbers to absorb losses and continue to be able to fight, German Panzer vs Sherman tank example).

    • Kevin Hale

      Agreed. Modules are effective, but swapping modules and making things adaptive don’t account for surface deficiencies in the design. As well as that the LCS is designed too heavy/weight, period. Too many capabilities, w/o a good base. As for it being the only modular ship besides aircraft carriers, I think it was built more as multi-function does all, than a swap/adjust this for this in this situation. Again, it is just too heavy, expensive, and outgunned for a large fielding of these ‘experiments’ in design. It’s very risky to use them when PC-1 Cyclones have an argument against them.

  • Bob

    Gryphon is obviously an advertising firm for navy contractors.

  • Don Bacon
    • 10579

      To me this sounds as if this is being done by design.These LCS’ are nothing more than floating targets for Air to surface missles.Just like in the Falken Islands.They may be light fast mobil and able to swap out moduals (if you can find a friendly port to accomplish this in ),manuverable,but they still can’t out run or shoot down a missle comming at them at mach1.They are sentencing the youth and experianced of America to an early death.These are not warships but mopping up ships.they are not built to sustain many hits and still be able to carry on like a aegis destroyer could.Why not try to incorporate some of the good things of the LCS into our realfighting ships

    • Curtis Conway

      Sales pitch, not a operational concept. Every US Navy combatant has to be able to function regardless of circumstances in which it finds itself. The LCS will be calling “Help Help” most of the time. LCS is ineffective in the arctic. Can you guarantee one will never have to go? We do not send CG-47s North of the Arctic Circle any longer than we have to. I was on the first one that went. That is precisely why the DDG-51 is designed the way it is (wide beam, shorter hull, high power density, and armed to the teeth). How about a platform that could go if required and have a good chance of coming back? Upgraded Type 4921 Patrol Frigate whose hull form is already Arctic qualified.

  • Don Bacon

    Let’s hear it for the team–

    Lockheed Martin Corp., Baltimore, Md., is being provided funding in the amount of $696,629,123 under previously awarded contract (N00024-11-C-2300) for construction of two fiscal 2013 Littoral Combat Ships. . .

    Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) was awarded a $17.4 million contract for systems engineering and integration services in support of the U.S. Navy’s Combat System Warfare Federated tactical Systems (SWFTS). , , The contract is funded for the first year and includes multiple options and award terms for up to ten years. Team members include General Dynamics Electric Boat; Anteon Corporation; Progeny Systems Corporation; Gryphon Technologies, LC; ASSETT, Inc.; and North Carolina A&T State University.

    Team Members / Experience — Each member of the Gryphon Team contributes the following highly relevant expertise:
    . .Lockheed Martin is the largest provider of IT services, systems integration and training to the U.S. Government. The remaining portion of Lockheed Martin’s business is comprised of international government and some commercial sales of our products, services and platforms.

    • PolicyWonk

      Yay!

      Let’s all applaud the success of yet another blatant corporate welfare program at the expense of US taxpayers, and lives of the unfortunate sailors the navy apparently doesn’t care about!

      :-P

  • Chernenko

    If we look to the 1980′s we see plenty of examples why this ship class should be axed. The Falklands and the Iran Iraq war should demonstrate what modern weapons do to modern ships. The Stark and Samuel B. Roberts suffered extreme damage yet remained afloat. Could you imagine the aftermath of a naval mine or Exocet detonation on either LCS classes? The Oliver hazard perry class program is a good example of how a weapons program should be run. You build a capable ship, and you build one that has customers for export. The OHPs pretty much ran their entire service life unlike Spurance class destroyers, and Virginia class cruisers. These LCS will be retired early, just watch.

  • JPWREL

    Firstly, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty could hardly be described as inadvertent.

    Secondly, the ships communications suite seems to have failed even basic tests.

    Thirdly, the LCS as constructed would be likely be incapable to performing its mission with even moderate battle damage unlike like the original USS Little Rock.

    • PolicyWonk

      Indeed, the LCS nearly commercial-grade sea-frame and lack of protection has been cited in the navy’s own internal reports (plus that of the GAO, amongst other scathing reports, articles, etc.).

  • ROYSTOLL2

    I served on the U.S.S. Boston CAG-1, which was the worlds first guided missle cruiser. Prior to that I served aboard the U.S.S. Albany CG-10, which was the best of all of them. The 8″ gun turrets and the 5″-38 gun mounts were valuable as in 1967 we did shore bombardment in North Viet Nam and the “DMZ”.

  • Larry A. Altersitz

    As I said in a prior discussion, the LCS concept is woefully underarmed for offense and defense. Does the Navy envision/hope for/wanna build an LCS “tender” to sail with an LCS squadron to allow modules to be swapped our quickly without the need to visit a friendly port where these desired modules have been miraculously transported? Better have a lot of defensive firepower on any such “tender” or the identifying initials will be LCT (Large Conspicuous Target).

  • Curtis Conway

    Under the following circumstances:

    Austere economic environment worldwide (except
    in Russia & China), not just in the United States

    Arctic region heating up

    Russian & Chinese increased interest in the Arctic Region

    More importance of Arctic region to the US economy

    Both Russia and China building new, and
    improving/expanding old Blue Water Navies

    Important US Navy tasking increasing in the
    Pacific

    Importance of Ballistic Missile Defense on as
    many naval platforms as we can be installed adding as much capability as
    possible

    Increased weaponry & propulsion operational
    flexibility in whatever situation the US Navy Surface Combatant finds itself

    Shrinking US Navy fleet requires as much
    capability on every platform as can be incorporated into the design of as many
    multi-warfare capable surface combatants as a priority

    A necessity for the US Navy to remember its historic
    roots and stay true to those US Navy/NAVSEA/SUPSHIPS Regulations which has been
    purchased with our most precious blood (sailors who have gone before), in favor
    of money driven influence and expedience by self-serving historic revisionist and spinmisters

    Rapid upgradability with Railgun and Directed
    Energy weapons as they mature

    These points necessitate the US Navy reconsider the adoption
    of, and blind charge forward with, the ill fated LCS program that will build an
    anemic combat platform that is undermanned to perform damage control, and does
    not meet minimum standards of US Navy combatant construction due to the goal
    post being moved.

    The US Navy needs a multi-mission Aegis Guided Missile
    Frigate that possessed a non-rotating 3D multi-mode radar that can perform
    detect/track/fire control on any target, surface or air, near instantaneously,
    periscope detection, counter battery direction, as well as air control
    functions. Air engagement capability
    should be of Theater Ballistic Missiles (TBM) defense minimum. This platform must have a large Mk 41 VLS
    magazine with at least multiple Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM), SM-2 Blk
    IV, SM-6, Anti-Submarine Rockets (VLA), Harpoon Missiles topside, and SeaRAM
    for self defense. The ship should be
    COGAG (COmbined Gas turbine propulsion And Gas turbine generator) all electric
    ship with integrated power distribution system to facilitate damage control and
    expansion of future system improvements.
    The propulsion system should be of Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) providing
    propulsion diversity and efficiency for extended low speed operations, yet
    robust enough to perform Plane Guard. A
    robust small boat facility should be present for anti-piracy and boarding
    operations. A robust aviation capacity
    must be present.

    The LCS is not large enough to possess, and cannot be
    modified to provide, all of these facilities.

    Just my ‘2 Cents’.

    • richardtheIV

      excellent article to expand the debate. However, one serious misstatement and therefore a required correction: the Israel military did not “inadvertently attack”…the USS Liberty. It was a planned, sustained, and intentional act of war against the United States, with a purpose of intent. We were very fortunate that they did not sink this ship, as this was the IDF intent, and we were also fortunate that the loss of life was not total, as it was the clear intent to kill as many of the crew as was possible. Let’s get this right and not allow the record to be blurred or the event misrepresented.

      • Curtis Conway

        The LCS would have sank on the first attack.

    • James Brown

      Curtis, your 2 cents is right on target. I remember the launch day for LCS-1 and talking to a Naval Architect who helped design her, telling him it was a piece of crap and explaining the main reason which you mentioned, in combat there are not enough crew members, should one get hit, to do damage control and at the same time continue to fight the ship. He told me I just didn’t understand. I told him to think about a cruise missile hitting the superstructure and the aluminum burning then think about the fact that many of her 50 man crew will be dead or severely wounded, that there are just not enough people to do all the jobs necessary, fire fighting, structural damage control, troubleshooting and repairing the various electronic/electrical systems, providing medical care to the wounded and the list goes on and on. He repeated that I just did not understand because I was not taking into consideration that much of the fire fighting would be done by automation. So I reminded him that those automated systems need electricity to power them, which likely would be lost on the first hit because even in normal conditions the LCS electrical distribution system is unreliable imagine what it will be like in combat conditions, also those automated systems would likely be rendered useless since many of their components would be destroyed in any attack, and, I said, please explain how shoring up of bulkheads will be done by automation. At this point he claimed I did not know what I was talking about and he didn’t want to discuss it anymore, so I told him the prosecution rests because you just pleaded guilty as charged.

      • Curtis Conway

        Having served on a cruiser that experienced a fire at sea on an aluminum superstructured ship, that also burned into he hull, and experienced exactly the failures you just described, I whole heartedly agree. Our OPNAVINST 9070.1 design
        criteria exist for a reason, and that reason is not so tenured professors who have never “been there and done that” can tell us how the cabbage is cut. Murphy will always strike and that is one if the lessons we have learned while shedding some of our more precious blood learning the lesson. These guys tell us the lessons don’t exist, and violate the rule. We Will Learn The Lesson Again!!!

        • James Brown

          I do not think 9070.1 has any bearing anymore since naval ships are constructed according to ABS standards, not the former navy standards. Also it should be noted that following the Forestall and Enterprise fires, due to lessons learned, everybody aboard a navy ship was trained as a firefighter. That lesson has now been lost to history, no longer are all personnel trained to fight fires. This is a lesson that will be relearned in spades in the coming years.

          • Curtis Conway

            If the standard, what ever is used, is not addressing problems that are unique to Combat Vessels, then the discussion is irrelevant. Power Distribution, Damage Control and Fire Fighting, distributed control systems, must be present and function in auto, and manual mode. Far too many times manual mode is what saves the ship. This is what training is all about. If the US Navy is no longer doing that, then we are just building ships for other nations to sink.

          • James Brown

            Curtis, you have no idea how many op tests on systems are simply gun decked and sadly with the help of naval personnel whom are tasked with not letting that happen. If they had been doing their job properly LCS would never have been accepted by the Navy with problems it had but the desire to avoid institutional embarrassment and big money and promises of jobs in the future led several people astray. It is a sad but true fact.

          • Curtis Conway

            I kept pressing for the fire test results for the synthetic superstructure on the DDG-1000. Never say it or heard anything about it. It is interesting to note the last DDG-1000 superstructure was made of Stainless Steel.
            We are sending our sailors to die in a Littoral Combat Ship whose only weapon is speed, and you cannot outrun a cruise missile. So much for facts and the real world. The US Navy has been eclipsed by those who believe that technology can fix anything. The real world is not so forgiving. it’s a shame we will have to learn this lesson all over again. It’s like Benghazi . . . . it makes no sense to a reasonable thinking person with just a little experience. $$$$reins.

          • James Brown

            It’s the military industrial corruption complex. As for LCS it is just a Lockheed cash cow, they made the lowest bid and everybody knew it was totally bogus, several high ranking officers bet their careers on it and now the Navy as a whole is trying to avoid institutional embarrassment. They do not want to admit it was a mistake because doing so would mean they would have to admit that honor in the high officer corps is almost non-existent in today’s military. Most of the senior officer corps running the military seems now to be made up of careerists and not warriors. Bill Clinton started the trend of promoting officers based upon their willingness to be PC rather than their actual competence and that form of promotion has only accelerated under Obama. IMHO

  • Gary Church

    We are better off with container ships and jumbo jets able to load dispensers of missiles and containers of sensors in time of war. Whine all you want but if we want a fleet of hundreds of ships and an air force of tens of thousands of planes then these two platforms are going to have make money as well as be available for periodic training and duty. The entire surface navy and peacetime bomber fleet should indeed be “modular” and consist of large hulls and airframes able to take on weapons and sensors and in a matter of days go to war. In a real war the only warship that will survive more than a few minutes is the attack submarine and these are the only dedicated combat vessels we should be building in this age of austerity. After drones and submarines have defeated the opposing forces then the ships and planes enter the area to be occupied. The main weapon in most cases used to fight a land battle is the Main Battle Tank.

    • Gary Church

      I think Mr. Friedman is on the right track but trying to get numbers with these small hulls is a mistake. The only small hull strategy that works is the coastal submarine that can drift into a forest of wrecks to hide it’s magnetic signature and wait in ambush for the enemy to come within a couple hundred miles of the missiles it is carrying. Air Independent Propulsion modules can supply hotel loads for small conventional subs and allow them to go silent for weeks at a time. Such vessels are not a tradition in the blue water U.S. Navy. With that being said the only large hull strategy that works is to go back to the tradition of the sailing ships when the first large merchantmen could all be retrofitted with guns as warships or as troop transports when needed. The modern container ship can certainly carry a tremendous load of missiles and sensors all sized to fit the standard shipping container. These containers can be loaded very quickly! So in the inevitable buildup to any military action that has occurred and will occur there is time available to reconfigure these ships and aircraft for military missions. They will not perform as well as specialized ships and aircraft but the sheer volume and the ease of upgrading these containerized systems means such a merchant cruiser fleet will be a very large force and the latest models of missiles available will deployed on short notice. When there is no dire emergency these ships and aircraft will make money for their shareholders; When the nation calls this is turned off temporarily and the crews become military.

      • Jacobite

        First of all your assuming their will be time to retrofit ships (which you can’t guarantee), secondly your assuming they can be retrofitted and turned into proper warships, which they can’t. Because there is simply no more room to add things like MK41 VLS to fire intermediate range SAMS or future ASMs or ASROCs (anti-submarine rockets), there is no room to add tall radar masts etc..etc…

        The idea that you can take a ship that is full and stick more weapons in is as silly as the idea that container ships are proper fighting vessals. A container ship has no anti-submarine capacity, no sonar, no radar masts for guiding semi-active interception missiles like i believe sea-sparrow/mica, no radar to detect planes to launch missiles at, no interception systems. It also has no ability to detect anything other than binoculars. These would be hard to build into a modern container ship. What you can do is take a ship like the T-AKR watson class, stick something like CLUB-K containerised missile system on it, and have it fire at ships that are detected by a battlegroup.

        It would be easier just to build actual warships, capable of operating indepently if need be in a warzone, that can defend itself, an area, and others from subsurface, surface and aerial threats, which is something that many modern frigates can do (even if they lack longer range anti-air missiles, prefering to stick with something like ESSM). That can detect and nuetralize mines through sonar, through onboard helicopter(s), through the use of subsufurface drones… Something akin to the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate or the Absalon class support ship (for mine warfare, transport and logistics ships). A ship with 32-40Mk41 cells, possibly upto 62 (in the center). A ship capable of Anti-ballistic-missile services.

        Such ships would make alot of sense, especially considering that there could be alot of export potential to friendly countries in the pacific for a affordable (with prices similar to denmarks ships) high-end, ABM capable frigate and some decent support ships.

        • Gary Church

          “It would be easier just to build actual warships”

          Obviously not, or we would not be having this discussion.

          • Jacobite

            No it is impossible because there is no room, no provisioning on these ‘LCS’ ships to put such equipment in/on them. The equipment required to make these into proper warships capable of operating independently just will not fit, period!

            Furthermore these ships are bad, they are a liability (as they require assets to protect them), they have numerous serious defects and cost significantly more than much more heavily armed ships, even ships with significant transport capacity like the Absalon Class Support Ship, which is vastly supperior as it is able to defend itself and others from Sub-Surface, Surface and Aerial threats.

            Additionally its Smart-L radar unit is capable of tracking ballistic missiles, which combined with a VLS system in the ‘bath tub’ would allow it to perform anti-ballistic missile duties.

          • Gary Church

            Oh yeah….I am a non-believer in anti-missile systems after the 90 billion spent on star wars over the last 10 years. They still can’t hit anything and from what I have read it is so easy to improve the survivability of missiles against these systems that no matter what we do very simple tricks like making the warhead wobble a little in mid-flight will defeat the intercept. Can’t hit a bullet with a bullet. Basic physics cannot be changed. If you think so then you might want to research the performance of the patriot missile in the gulf war. Of course that was a long time ago. But a scud is still as dumb and as big a target as you could wish for.

  • James Haney

    Very weak gun and weapons systems. Could it survice an attack by a long range attack aircraft with long range anti ship missiles ? The Soviets and Chinese have sold the super sonic anti ship missiles around the world. The British found out the hard way in the 1980′s with light weight aluminum upper decks

  • Jack Everett

    Just what we don’t need is another pig in a poke wonder weapon that will never work. Better get rid of the military industrial complex soon or start goose stepping to it.

  • James Brown

    The LCS is a piece of crap, one can ask the sailors who man her. I helped build LCS-1 in Marinette and it was obvious from the beginning that it was flawed. In fact NAVSEA has done many studies and labled it “unsurvivable in a hostile environment”. Twice it has lost all power while on patrol, once in the Gulf and once off of Baja. It has already been in dry dock several times to replace the main shaft bearings. It has mirrored cracking on the superstructure and two places on the hull due to design flaws that Lockheed will not acknowledge. It wasn’t even able to transit to Singapore on it’s own, it had to be piggy backed for fear of structural failure in Sea States greater than 3. The entire program is a mess and the only reason it has been kept alive is because Lockheed is very effective at bribing the right people, not the typical kind of bribe. It goes something like this, Hello captain/admiral we at Lockheed understand you have an important decision to make regarding the future of the LCS program, just keep in mind, the correct decision will open up good paying jobs not just for shipyard workers but also soon to be retired captains and admirals. I could tell stories about the corruption of the process that led to LCS-1 costing 3X the $220 million budget. I can state with much assurance that when the LCS has to actually go into combat that they will sink with such frequency, they will be called the Widow Maker Class.

  • KellyJ

    The post WW2 conversion of these missile cruisers required stripping them down to the main hull, major reworking of interior spaces to accommodate missile and launchers, then rebuilding the ships super structure. While a major rebuild, it was faster and cheaper than building new ships from scratch.
    Trying to equate what is essentially building a new purpose built ship (anti-air missile cruiser) with the modular concept of LCS is ridiculous, at best.
    LCS was built with 1 main requirement…40+ knots speed. And at that speed the ships systems get beat pretty hard. LCS already has a history of constant air leaks in the system and on her recent “deployment” their were multiple times where the ship lost all power (and that is instant death for any warship). The modules that were a huge selling point (the modularity) are behind schedule, over cost, and already are being reduced in capability (the ASuW module has already lost the cancelled NetFires missile system).
    The Navy was supposed to purchase 1 of each type (monohull and tri hull) to perform a runoff, with the winning design being built. Instead we now have numerous hulls of each type being built (effectively making this a class of 2 very different ships) with no clue which gives us the best bang for the buck.
    And at the price now over 500 million a copy, the selling point of being inexpensive is also now lost.

  • WireguidedMarine

    Lots of good points made here. Just want to add my two cents.

    First, I’m struck by Friedman’s comments. Yes, war built cruisers were used to carry the first SAMs like Terrier and Talos. But the ships were often stripped down to the main deck. Major rework was done in the hull to accommodate the revolving drum missile magazines.

    The resulting ship handled poorly in high winds and had a lively roll. And I think the source for this is in Friedman’s volume on US cruisers!

    And the real reason war built cruisers like the Little Rock and Essex class carriers were rebuilt so extensively post-war was because Congress felt the Navy had no right to ask for new hulls when so many mothballed ships with plenty of good years left in them were around. Even if the cost of modifying them was almost as expensive as building a new hull. Again, I think Friedman cites this in his volumes on cruisers, carriers, and destroyers.

  • ycplum

    The Little Rock was fortunate to have a large hull when the world was minituring everything. The new Little Rock is designed to be modular from the get go and is one-fifth the size of the original Little Rock.
    I keep hearing that the LCS will not survive a stand up fight, but I don’t think the LCS was designed to to survive a stand up fight against a first class navy. It seems to me that the mission of LCS is simialr to that of the old destroyer-escort, PT boats, and corvettes. Also, there seems to be a focus on one battle. we need lots of ships to cover more ocean, particularly for anti-pirate duty. In this regard, I think the LCs concept is sound. Ithink peopel tend to forget how small the LCSs are.
    Not to be confused with the radically new design-build appropriation and management concept that was used for the LCS. That was a disaster.