Little Crappy Ships

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Those of you who know me, or who have followed this blog, will understand that I’ve been frustrated as an armchair sailor these days to see the US Navy build worthless Littoral Combat Ships.  Both the USS Independence and USS Freedom (pictured below) are different hull designs of the same class of ship.
USS Independence

USS Freedom
The original order called for 52 hulls, but now (mercifully) it seems that the number will be capped at 38.
Q – Can they defend themselves against an air or naval threat? – No, not really. They’re sitting ducks. 
Q – What is their operational range unrefueled? – They are essentially tied to tankers or shore bases because they drink navy distillate as if there is no tomorrow in any sea state. 
Q – The Navy says that they are multi-mission ships. – Yes, that’s what the navy says. They’re next to worthless as SPECOPS platforms because they are acoustically very loud. 
Q – The Navy says they will save money because they have small crews. A small crew is great if you are not worried about working them 24/7. In combat, it is proven that saving a damaged ship is largely a function of manpower, not computers.
My solution – ship all of them to the Mediterranean where they can form NATO support flotillas in Rota, Spain and Naples, Italy. Both bases are nice duty and they can swarm here or there on various exercises until their service lives end. In the event of real hostilities, they can be used as cannon fodder (targets) or bullet sponges, depending on how you want to put it. Mount a radar reflector on each them so that the enemy things that they’re engaging much more valuable ships with their missiles. The valuable ships can track the point of origin of sub launched missiles and engage the sub or other enemy vessel.
Maybe they can be sent out to engage Somali Pirates in open boats? They’d need a tanker with them to keep them fueled, because they drink copious amounts, but they’d work against that sort of low tech opponent.

22 thoughts on “Little Crappy Ships

  1. Then there's the PRISON HULK, RIO GRANDE and POTOMAC opions.

    Ready made Wall and a handy place to house top level traitors. When they get overcrowded and sink you can organize tourist dives on the wrecks at a hefty fee. Nice income stream.

  2. Prison hulks have been used successfully as prisons for a long time. And as tourist attractions/artificial reefs, they could provide local revenue to cities in need of a boost. Grand idea. The problem with using the LCS as a prison hulk is they're small. We'd need to prioritize who went on them (Hillary, Comey and the coup members could fit on one comfortably before we sank it).

  3. Puzzled. Common criticism of senior military is they are always planning for the last war fought. When have ships like those ever been used in war?

  4. Never.

    Maybe the philosophy is that they're not worth a torpedo?

    It all started with grand planning and swappable modules for ASW, Mine Warfare, etc. But the modules have been slow in coming, some were canceled. You might be able to use them (because of the helicopter) in a limited ASW role, or in the Caribbean, on anti-drug boat cruising?

    The Navy might try and pawn them off on the Coast Guard, but I doubt that the puddle pirates would want them, unless they were free.

    My concept of making them mini-cruise ships for the Med might get legs. Or if you sent out ten of them (with their pathetic little gun and no missiles), they might be of use in the Persian Gulf against Iranian Boghammers (an open boat with a machine gun on it). However the Navy has a blemished track record in that regard. We did surrender US Navy small combatant ships to Iranians without firing a shot, rather than fight it out with the rag heads to the bitter end. That stain should have resulted in air strikes and cruise missile strikes on Iran, but Barack didn't want to strain our friendly relations with the Ayatollah and his buddies. DON'T GET ME STARTED.

  5. I actually think they'd be great for the Coastie missions of interdiction and rescue.

    They're fast as hell, carry a helo and some boats, and have a decent sensor and weapons fit by Coastie standards. The Caribbean is small enough for their legs, too.

    Wouldn't be bad for port security either, or places like the Persian Gulf.

    Not really a blue-water USN asset, though.

  6. This was part of the "There will never again be a direct war between major powers", strategic thought post 9/11.
    This is the martial philosophy that took root in the McNamara regime that leadership was primarily managerial and that smart (read correctly credentialed) negotiators and accountants could supplant leaders and find ways around, rather than through, war.
    This inevitably suffused the entire officer corps and is directly reflected in the Farsi Is. fiasco of 2016, and the USN at sea collisions over the last 5 years.
    Big scary battleships bad, little cool boats good.
    Technology cool, old fashioned seamanship uncool.
    Personally I do not believe any flag officer of any service believes that an existential war is possible/worthwhile, much less winnable. They will run for the wardroom at the first whiff of gunpowder, if not before. They make their preparations accordingly.
    On the other hand these little hummers will be great for coastal blockading and guerilla interdiction. Now what country has enough coastline/estuaries to require 50 of them, with plenty of close by harbor/support/fuel facilities, not to mention readily available air support? Is a puzzlement.

  7. Concur, transfer to the Coasties, with increasing numbers of ships (Chinese) chasing decreasing fish stocks, the LCS can be used to better protect our waters. Get Canadian buy-in and we'll be in an even better position. But hell no, a small crew of sensor watchers cannot perform damage control duties effectively in combat ops.

  8. I was a land loving army guy, so I don't know jack about floating things: it seems to me that given the missile technology today, NO marine vessel would be safe in a combat environment, not even an aircraft carrier. All it would take would be one well placed missile, and it's Davy Jones locker bound.

  9. Men-of-War are, by design, not intended to be "safe" in combat. They are, hopefully, designed to go in harm's way and be competitive. That is all hardware can do; the rest is a function of leadership. For every new offense there is a defense, otherwise warfare would have ended at pointy sticks.

  10. The Coasties' National Security Cutter (a frigate by another name) is around the same price, but is a much more capable ship, able to fight, travel distances, HANDLE BAD SEA STATES (that the LCSs can't) and carry helos, boats, handle ASW, handle Gunnery, handle surveillance and interdiction much more handily than LCS.

    Coasties don't want them. They love their NSCs.

  11. What Anonymous said. Men-of-War are supposed to be designed so they can handle being damaged and keep on fighting. LCS cannot, being as or more fragile than plywood PT boats of WWII fame, but less capable in combat overall than the same PT.

  12. Yes, I know. The NSC would have been a better choice, or better still, a dependable, capable FFG. There are a number of options out there that we could build on license. I hate to say it, but we could even knock off Chinese frigates and be miles ahead of where we are.

  13. It's the wrong ship for the Navy, but once authorized, we kept building them and are building more of them as I type.

  14. They would only be useful as artificial reefs if we could shackle some of our deep state actors inside the LCS's before we open the kingston valves and scuttle them.

  15. We tend to make an error and then compound it these days. A trained chimp would know that the LCS is not appropriate for an American Naval purpose, whereas a Frigate, larger, better armed, can defend itself, has limited offensive capability, less expensive than a DDG is appropriate. Some admirals need to lose their pensions over the LCS boondoggle.

  16. At least the F-35 seems to actually be able to do it's job, even the Navy and Marine versions.

    The F-35 is the flying version of the M2 Bradley. Remember the conniptions and boondoggling over the Bradley? Yet, once it got out to the field, it turned out to be a nice ride, doing more than it was asked to do. Well, we're seeing the same out of the F-35. Actually performing, in some ways, better than the designers planned. Yes, there's a whole lotta room for improvement, but still, nice plane.

    Just… don't sell them to Turkey, please.

  17. And it's nice duty. It's not the Aleutians, or Greenland. We could have a flotilla stationed at Naval Station Key West and one at Rota or you can tack on Naples. I'm not into punishing sailors. Good liberty ports (but Key West is expensive).

  18. The F-4 Phantom had a lot of developmental problems too.

    But the LCS has not way to grow out of the problems that it has because it's simply too small. The designers lacked a basic understanding of what makes a warship successful. They went for 'cool little ship', and wanted 52 of them.

    A warship should be able to (1) defend itself or be the sort of vessel that is defended by other ships (fleet oiler, transport, etc.) and (2) take the fight to the enemy. The LCS can't do either.

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