Saturday, June 11, 2011

They're As Close As We've Got to Expendable

Littoral Combat Ships aren't expendable--not now after their cost skyrocketed over projections--but they are as close as we can get with our Navy. Deploying expensive ships close to the shores of a hostile power with any type of air force or anti-ship missile force is suicidal in the opening hours and days of war. So you want expendable ships on the front line. In peacetime they provide presence and in those first days of war, their loss won't break you. Again, we don't have truly expendable ships so LCS will have to do (until we can put unmanned surface vessels out there).

I've mentioned the notion of putting the LCS forward in the western Pacific by basing them in Guam so that they can fight around Taiwan.

Singapore would work well, too, as Secretary Gates mentioned:

In Singapore, we are strengthening our bi-lateral defense relationship within the context of the Strategic Framework Agreement and pursuing more operational engagement – most notably, by deploying U.S. Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore.

Australia provides a very nice supporting base for that forward position (assuming Indonesia isn't allied with China) that allows these lighter ships to operate both in the South China Sea and the Bay of Bengal and points in between astride China's sea lines of communications and in support of a number of allies.

I like putting the smaller ships there to hold the line (along with submarines and aircraft) until it is safer to bring in the heavier stuff. You don't want to base the heavier stuff in Singapore as long as a nearby powerful enemy has air power around.