The Littoral Combat Ship
The Littoral Combat Ship is the newfangled savior of the Navy’s fleet. It’s no longer in the interest of the tax payer or the Navy to own a massive fleet of massive ships. Hear me out: at the end of the cold war, the United States Air Force got rid of the contracts for massive amounts of fighter jets and bombers, because we didn’t need air superiority any more. At the start of the “war on terror” the military (all branches) changed their style of fighting because it was outdated. At the current moment in our timeline, the Navy and the tax payer doesn’t want or need gigantic ships which are losing capability and value from the second they are put into the ocean. Furthermore, the current United States Naval capacity is over 4 times any competing country’s conglomerate fleet size.
We have many times more the fleets than most of our nearest competitors, namely China.
We have the support crews, the fleet ships and the training/technology/tactics to set the stage for smaller, faster, more agile and yet, fully capable fleet additions.
We have potential battle scenarios that support such designs and now with the recent Lockheed Martin contracts starting to be fulfilled, we have the Littoral Combat Ship, which can put us into a strategic advantage in places like the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran hates Israel, they are positioned to cause problems in the region with the Saudi’s and other specific strategic partners for the United States, and we have a situation that is a bit like a domestic violence dispatch for a local police department. The United States is the police department, the Aggressive domestic partner is Iran, and the “victim” is Saudi Arabia, or Israel, or some other country in the region. The current course of action that the United States would deploy is akin to bringing the SWAT team to a simple domestic disturbance. The aggressor hasn’t made any contact yet, the “victim” isn’t about to allow the situation to die down, the tension is there, but the only remedy needed is an intermediary. A single pair of cops with guns in holsters, fact finding are rally all that’s needed. Enter the Littoral Combat Ship, the cop, with a holstered weapon, a cool head, but just enough capability to deter a further escalation in the conflict. Ordinarily we would place multiple (we actually have) MASSIVE carrier ships into the Strait, and wait for a move to be made. Well, as soon as we leave (which we can’t) the conflict escalates. We are on the hook for the cost of the fleet, the drama of adding more fuel to the “fire” and we really still don’t have a ship to match the scope of the situation. We can’t leave, so we would be sitting, paying, and wasting money for a situation that we could be avoiding by having a ship to fit the situation in a port nearby taking care of other concerns, or deploying men in other capacities.
Like I said: enter the Littoral Combat design. It’s fast, 40 mph fast; maneuverable, turn on a dime maneuverable; capable of deep water operation, and made specifically to engage in shallow water with extreme prejudice.
The Lockheed Martin Contracts
The Lockheed Martin Contracts are fulfilled through the Variant of the Littoral Combat ship with the “Freedom” variant. At its core, the Littoral Combat ships are “modular” sea-frames, and in essence look like something you would find in the later years of “G.I. Joe”, specifically from the Cobra troopers contingency. It’s sleek but big, sharp and angular, but brooding, and it’s built for action. It seems capable of housing several different command posts on its decks, perhaps an answer to JSOC requests for fully integrative equipment capable of servicing multiple special teams during one operation.
It can handle helicopter landing, it’s relatively lightweight and operates under a principle that the Lockheed Martin contracts call “Maximum Warfighting Capability”, which in the case of the LCS just happens to be the lowest cost per warfighting capability “unit” of any ship in any of the Navy’s fleets.
The different modules can support manned or unmanned detachables that can provide support services to the LCS or another ship in the vicinity. Specifically these units can help in mine laden waters and with sea to land missions, as well as open water confrontations. The 10 ships ordered, cost 3.5 billion dollars: a sum that is massive in many minds, but pales in comparison to the $4.5b+ cost of the Nimitz class Carriers, the Naval has built its recent reputation on.
In a theme that has seen unprecedented technology derived from healthy free market competition, the Navy and DOD, decided to put on a competition, whereby the contract would be awarded to the better of two ship designs made from either: Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics, in the form of a 20 ship purchase from 2010-2015.
The LCS that won was eventually the smaller and more agile Lockheed design, which was about 42 feet shorter than the GD design, and a tiny bit over half the width of the GD design, nicknamed the Independence variant. Both designs displaced about 3k metric tons, which meant that they could be used in smaller shallower bodies of water, allowing unprecedented strike capability for the United States Navy, and hosted military special operations counterparts. The Lockheed Martin Contracts were fulfilled with partner Austal USA corporation, and saw immediate action in Mid February 2010, with a drug smuggling interdiction on open water against “go-fasts” and seizing upwards of 5 tons of cocaine, in its first real operation.
In testing during its first deployment, the Littoral Combat Ship showed it could play well with others, successfully handling multiple strike operations in support of the USS Carl Vinson CSG (Carrier Strike Group), and then moved through the locks at the Panama canal, proving that it could go virtually anywhere, eventually docking at San Diego, Ca.
The LCS caught a bit of flak on the heels of a DOD report that criticized the actual combat effectiveness in open battle, and even more intensely questioned the mine resistance and laser barrier technologies of the LCS. It remained in strong favor with the Commander and crew, but there was some confusion in the media when the two variants got mixed up and the contract providers of technology refused to take the blame for the add-on part’s failures.
It seems a couple of years later, the growing pains the LCS designs had, have begun to iron themselves out. It is thanks to this testing and the early problem recognition in the new designs that has led to a ship, now almost fully capable of entering a hostile conflict and coming out the victor.
The LCS 4, the fourth production model is finishing and launching this first quarter 2012, and will be named the Coronado.
The 57mm gun, the deck payload capabilities and the specialized unit housing, as well as the unique high tech mind sensors and sonar will be likely enough to help the LCS outclass the Iranian naval fleet’s best ships, or any other nation’s best offering of similar size.
From the perspective of a leaner, meaner and greener Navy, much like the leaner Air force we saw at the end of the Cold War, and the change in fighting styles from the infantry troops at the start of the “war on terror”, the Littoral Combat Ships are the right way to move into the next phase of Military domination on the horizon for the United States.