LCS Makes Bad Talking Points

good people in hard jobs

There is a lot going on in Megan Eckstein and Mallory Shelborne’s article on the discussions last week at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, so I’m going to try to focus on two things; LCS talk and talk in general. 

I think we need a public speaking safety standdown for Flag Officers. Seriously. We continue to over promise and under deliver. We say things that simply do not survive the follow on question … but don’t take those kind of questions and get away with it. It degrades credibility and makes everyone look like a bad used car salesman. 

Why do we talk like we are spokesmen for the defense industry as opposed to a customer? Anyway, here we go. 

Surface warfare leaders throughout the Navy last week mused about how to employ new classes of ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship and Expeditionary Sea Base …

Again, for the 1,000th time, LCS is not a new ship. LCS-1 was commissioned over 12 years ago.

Stop it.

Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener … “I talk a lot with [U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Bill Merz] out here, a big fan of LCS. If you look at the things we want to do in the 7th Fleet warfight, and you look at LOCE (Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment) and EABO and things like that, that’s what he wants to use them for,” Kitchener said.

Who here remembers when we had the most senior leaders discuss the need to keep LCS out of any kind of peer conflict? Now, we want them up close and personal? OK. 

For the last decade when it became clear we would never execute PLAN SALAMANDER, I said we would eventually have to find some way with lots of money and Sailor sweat to make something useful for these ships. Good people in hard jobs will have to grab all the welding torches, extension cords, and duct tape they can and kludge something together. We are … but don’t oversell what we have here. Don't get me wrong, we are making progress, but there is only so much marginal utility you can squeeze out of LCS. More the LCS-2 Class than the LCS-1 Class ... but not all that much.

In general, this CONOPS is sub-optimal, though I do like the neo-LSTs – but the LCS oversell here is comical;

The new Light Amphibious Warships will be the primary ships conducting EABO, carrying groups of about 75 Marines as they maneuver around island chains and shorelines, stopping to conduct missions ashore and then heading back out to sea to evade targeting by the adversary. Though the Marines will carry some land-based anti-ship missiles with them, integrating LCS into that mission set would provide a sea-based strike capability for the Marines as they move around and conduct their missions.

Who is giving you air and submarine protection? It ain’t LCS. 

Remember many moons ago I told you the LCS CONOPS was garbage because they will be asked to do things they were never designed to do because they would wind up being the only thing in the toolbox? Commanders would have to put Sailors in sub-optimal platforms with a greater risk of death and mission failure? People said all sorts of things in the comments section telling us how wrong we were. Well, kiss my grits.

In the coming years, the LCSs will only grow more lethal and survivable to take on whatever mission fleet commanders ask of them. … Kitchener said in his speech that the LCSs would be “on the front lines” in the Pacific and that the fleet would keep pushing to make them as lethal and as reliable as possible for any future fight.

All of it is coming to pass. All of it.

Moton added that the package included upgrading the Independence-variant ships to an Aegis-based common combat system, adding the Nulka decoy system and the SEWIP Lite electronic warfare package to all the LCSs in the fleet, along with other upgrades.

Note no mention of FREEDOM Class upgrades. 

In summary, they/we are trying to make LCS something like a light frigate … something like one. Close as you can given the limitations. Bookmark that. 

…and here we have our friend Rear Admiral Casey Morton, USN PEO for Unmanned and Small Combatants … I think he is trolling me here.

“I see it as a fairly youthful platform, and I think we’ve learned a lot with these deployments, and we’re figuring out how to make them more lethal, and we think we’ve figured out what missions we want them to do out there, and so I think it’s going to be kind of exciting,” he said.

It is 2021. Again, LCS-1 was commissioned 12 years ago with all the missions identified. All those mission modules … you know the drill. We are in the land Salamander promised you we would be in … and yet … and yet … we don’t learn.

“Talking to the Woody Williams skipper and the other ESB skippers, they are not at all fearful of mines because it’s highly survivable,” he said. “We’re going to get surprised – even though we want to keep the man out of the minefield, if you’re going to get close to a minefield, it’s probably best to be in an ESB because she can take a hit and keep on ticking.”

This quote has nothing to do with LCS per se, but it is unalloyed LCS mindset. Bullshit. 

We need to stop with the happy talk. “…not at all fearful of mines…”? Even if you hit one of the relatively small MN103 MANTA mines like Tripoli and Princeton did, you are at least mission killed. 

Something larger? 

I don’t want CO’s “…not at all fearful of mines…” You can call it “guarded respect” instead of fear if you wish, but I want someone in charge of such a high demand, low density asset as an ESB to have a healthy bit of it. We only have two commissioned, two under construction and one more ordered. 

How is that LCS mission module going anyway?

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