Duties and functions

Littoral Combatants: What Should the US Navy Do?

Coastal combat ships: what will the US Navy decide? Nine from the US Navy Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) were earmarked for disposal as part of the Department of Defense’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, USNI News reports. The nine ships are mostly in their infancy. Five of the ships are less than five years old. The construction and outfitting of the nine ships cost US taxpayers $5 billion, making the DOD’s proposal to scrap nine brand-new LCS an outrage. The LCS, once touted as the future of US naval warfare, now appears to be a failed and costly experiment.

Littoral Combat Ships, Explained

The US Navy’s LCS program includes two Classes small surface vessels built for coastal operations. The LCS was designed as a very useful panacea, capable of serving in a wide variety of mission profiles.

The futuristic vessel, intended to be smoothly and conveniently reconfigured, was to serve in anti-surface, anti-submarine, interception, logistics, reconnaissance, mine clearance and patrol roles.

Designed for speed and flexibility, the LCS can carry helicopters, autonomous vehicles, and assault teams – all of which help the LCS perform its various functions.

However, the LCS was never intended to serve in a direct combat role. Instead, the ship was intended to relieve larger frigates and destroyers from performing more “minor” duties, so the Navy’s heaviest and most powerful ships would be free to serve strictly in non-core roles. open combat.

LCS Nightmare

The LCS has come to be seen as an “albatross” program. Costing billions of dollars, the return on investment of the LCS program has been quite limited. Two of the ships were decommissioned last year – the Freedom and the Independence. Each was expected to serve for a quarter of a century. Freedom did all this for 13 years, and Independencefair 11. Neither vessel performed adequately to justify the price. Freedom mainly patrolled in Latin America. Independence never even reached the front line.

When the Navy was faced with the option of upgrading the two LCSs, for $2.5 billion each, to meet updated fleet standards, the Navy opted instead to scrap the relatively new ships. .

LCS issues

It wasn’t just price or lack of enforcement that inspired the Navy to decommission the first two LCSs. The ships had caused constant problems. The propulsion system, for example, was always in need of maintenance. The LCS, designed to operate at high speeds, required a complex propulsion system that “breaks so often…the type struggles to complete its deployment”, wrote David Ax for Forbes. In addition, maintenance of the LCS is so dependent on the contractor that the Navy finds it difficult to repair the ship’s systems without outside help. And ultimately, while the LCS was designed to serve in various alternate configurations, the process of readjusting the configurations was so finicky that the Navy decided to keep one configuration per ship – meaning the LCS is not that flexible. after all.

Remarkably, the LCS was not sufficiently equipped to survive in a hostile combat environment. “To reduce the approximately $500 million per ship cost of the hulls, the Navy chose to arm them only with light weapons – rifles and short-range self-defense missiles,” Ax wrote. The Pentagon admitted it, in a 2010 report report, which concluded that “neither the Lockheed ship, a steel monohull design, nor a competing aluminum-hulled trimaran design built by General Dynamics Corps were expected to be able to survive in a hostile combat environment”. However, the LCS is “too big and too expensive for scouting,” Ax reported. So the ship that was designed to do everything, can do nothing.

If those problems weren’t enough, last month the Navy Times reported that “half of the Navy’s coastal combat vessel fleet suffers from structural defects that have resulted in hull cracks in several vessels, limiting the speed and sea states in which some vessels can operate”. Apparently the cracks can widen if the LCS moves faster than 15 knots, in seas with “a maximum wave height of about eight feet.” Limiting cracked LCS ships, which were designed to travel over 40 knots, to just 15 knots is another humiliation for the program.

The House and Senate panels, reluctant to burn taxpayers’ money so casually, will scrutinize the DOD’s proposal to mothball nine LCS ships – but the trends seem clear: the LCS is unfit for service and will be decommissioned well before its quarter-century shelf life. , whether or not Congress shows resistance.

Harrison Kass is defense editor at 19FortyFive. A lawyer, pilot, guitarist and minor professional hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a trainee pilot, but was discharged for medical reasons. Harrison is a graduate of Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and New York University. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.