Sunday, September 25, 2016

Is This Navy Crisis an Army Opportunity?

The LCS is dead. Are LCS modules dead, too? Or is this an opportunity for building a modularized auxiliary cruiser for AFRICOM's land component?

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was designed to be a replacement for the frigate--a cheaper and less capable ship useful for escort and low-threat presence missions--as well as being able to do other jobs like mineclearing.

And it was supposed to be able to operate closer to shore in "green" or even "brown" waters really close to shore, as opposed to deep "blue" waters. This despite its lack of survivability in construction standards.

It stood out as being a class capable of carrying out different missions depending on the type of shipping container-housed mission modules were installed.

The innovative ship design isn't working out:

The United States Navy has decided to come full circle and turn its innovative LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) into what its designers had tried to avoid; a replacement for the 71 Perry class frigates. This change has been obvious since early 2015 when the navy decided to officially call LCS vessels frigates. By mid-2016 the navy decided to go one step further and drop the use of modules in the LCS. Instead the navy would equip existing and future LCS ships like MMSC (Multi-Mission Surface Combatant) version of LCS Saudi Arabia had requested in late 2015.

Do read it all.

We have already witnessed a wave of engineering problems with the first ships:

Montgomery’s casualty — only days after the ship was commissioned — is the latest in a string of engineering failures in both classes of LCS this year. In late August, Independence-class LCS USS Coronado (LCS-4) suffered a casualty in route from Pearl Harbor to Singapore for a planned deployment. Days earlier, the Navy confirmed USS Freedom (LCS-2) would have to have a main propulsion diesel engine replaced after sea water flooded the lube oil system. In January, operator error caused a complex gearing system in Freedom-class LCS USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) to suffer extensive damage which resulted in the removal of the ship’s commander. The year before a software problem in USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) caused a similar casualty in its gearing system.

On top of this, the modules themselves aren't working out because of weight, integration, and cost problems.

This is a problem for me because the LCS modules in shipping containers concept is central to my notion for a modularized auxiliary cruiser that would use such modules mounted on container ships to create auxiliary cruisers.

Indeed, in an article published by Military Review (see "The AFRICOM Queen" on page 50), I expanded the concept to propose more of a power projection platform for small land forces plus air power (drones and helicopters) capable (among other missions) of moving good--if small--land power around the African continent to aid Africa Command's (AFRICOM) missions.

Does the demise of the LCS concept for the Navy invalidate my idea for the Army?

I don't think so.

One, weight isn't an issue on a container ship already designed to stack containers pretty high as opposed to the small LCS.

Two, many of the modules for the modularized auxiliary cruiser would be more akin to mobile homes as barracks or related modules that are already commonly used in the military and civilian worlds.

Three, integration shouldn't be as much as a problem since the Army is already used to lots of individual armed vehicles integrated without a hull surrounding them. Why would artillery (tube or rocket) or anti-aircraft systems housed in shipping containers bolted to a container ship deck be more of a problem than such systems mounted on wheels or tracks moving around a battlefield?

And four, the Navy has already done a lot of the research on the "failed" modules (like the Hellfire-equipped module). The Army could pick up where the Navy left off with a sincere thanks and a lot of money already spent, no?

There are other examples the Army could adapt.

There may already be opportunities to get the hulls cheaply.

Could the Army flesh out from the failed Navy effort to build the LCS and run with the modularity concept to field containerized mission modules that I would like to see to build modularized auxiliary cruisers to enable AFRICOM to project power around that large continent?