Getting Back to Basics on LCS-Bashing

The Littoral Combat System has recently taken another round of beatings, this time regarding its missile woes. Blogger CDR Salamander compared LCS advocates (members of the Church of Latter Day LCS Advocates) to The Thing in the dog kennel (Warning: The Thing). Salamander is upset, mainly, at the issue surrounding the Griffin Missile. He writes:

Never before has so much been spent for so little capability…

Let me help you with the math with that 13-lb warhead.. 1/6th of 25nm is 4.17nm. Let that soak in. Target 2nm inland … close shore … some goober pulls a 57mm AZP S-60 out from behind the goat shed .. etc, etc, etc … I guess we could just use that awesome speed to run away from a threat. That has such a wonderful pedigree in the Navy.

We have recognized the Griffin’s shortcomings and are now working for something else. OK, fine. Something beats nothing for now. But, as a result – more money falling in to this money pit; money that could have been used to equip our fleet with something useful – a good general purpose light frigate or heavy corvette.
The best time to execute Plan B was four years ago – but alas the PPT was too strong. It can still be done, though less effectively at more cost – but is still better than the swampy and pestilence filled path we continue to go down. Blinkered stubbornness is not how one wins at war. It is how one finds yourself sunk or surrounded.

There was no competitive procurement for the Precision Attack Missile (nee PAM and/or NLOS) replacement, it looks like they just decided to stick with Raytheon – and now – here we go.

Would you really want one of your kids to go to war in one of these death traps any time soon? Marines or SOF ashore – like this as your cover and support? Ponder.

Ares, however, quickly reminds us of the LCS’s existential crisis that remains unsolved.

LCS advocates in the Navy would jump in here and say, now look, the whole point of this is that it’s a different kind of warship. Yes, it can’t get into a slugfest with a Sovremenny — but it was never built to do so. LCS is supposed to show up two days before the strike group and be sure it’s clear of mines, submarines and villains in small boats.

The problem, of course, is that this explanation — like the Marines’ insistance that their former Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle didn’t need protection against IED because, well, it would just never drive where there were IEDs, OK? — sounds embarrassingly rigid. “LCS doesn’t need a heavier main battery because it will never get into serious combat — we’ve CC’d all potential enemies on this doctrine so they’ll know to play by the rules just in case.”

In short, we have an expensive ship carrying woefully inadequate capabilities into an environment where it cannot serve a tactical purpose. However, I don’t think focusing on each new controversy surrounding the LCS does much other than fog over the existential crisis to which Ares points. Lets take a broad stroke at the LCS in the Taiwan Strait. A small number of LCS platforms are supposed to remove mines, battle the PLAN submarine fleet, conduct operations against small boats (most likely fast-attack missile boats), but not get caught up on combat with larger ships? Sure. The LCS narrative is built upon a self-contradictory justification fairy tale.

With that said, I do believe that by spending energy focusing on the Griffin’s shortcomings, or any other specific issue, we give LCS advocates a battleground away from the important node of contention–the mission it can’t complete–out of which they can wiggle themselves. Instead, by hammering away at the core, existential issue upon which all over LCS issues are merely frosting, we can have better discussions about the fate of the LCS program in our greater strategic framework.

 

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