The littoral combat ship is going to grow teeth in 2016 when ships Freedom and Coronado are armed with over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles.Yes, I will accept more, "you were right" ticker-tape parades ... but please, no more stripper-grams, they make Mrs. Salamander grumpy.
Both ships will deploy next year with either the venerable Harpoon missile or the Naval Strike Missile, a Norwegian-developed missile with a greater range than 100 nautical miles.
The missiles will likely be strapped onto the decks of the ships in box launchers and not fully integrated into the ship's combat system, ...
The money is that even though the Naval Strike Missile was tested in a one-off earlier this year, in the end it will be the less capable Harpoon. We have them, we have the equipment, training and support. That would be good for Phase 1. If we really want NSM, then we can do that in the next spiral. Well ... that is what I would do. Good now, perfect later and all that jazz.
We need to be upfront with each other about what this represents:
- First, this is an admission that we have a surface warship that cannot fight a surface battle. As we have discussed for roughly a decade here, LCS will be asked to do missions the transformationalists wished would go away, but those with a respect for historical reality knew would not. Even if the short range NLOS was made flesh, the LCS would still ...
- Even with this bolt-on weapon, LCS is at best a "shoot and scoot" platform in a surface battle. Once its missiles are gone, it has nothing else to effectively fight anything from a light corvette up. That is OK, if you don't mind having a ship the size of a WWII destroyer with with a smaller gun, fewer ASCM and less speed than a 1970s Pegasus Class hydrofoil.
- Low observability is gone. You can do a lot with an arc welder, bags of cash, and electrical cable duct-tapped to the deck, but when you do that, your RCS dramatically increases. You are also screaming beacons throughout the electromagnetic spectrum as you coordinate your non-integrated weapon in to a coordinated attack or at least getting a targeting solution locally or through your RC/manned helo.
- Irony is that Harpoon and NSM are not "littoral" weapons. They are designed for open ocean fighting for reasons your JAG can explain to you in detail. So, just CS not LCS.
- LCS was an exquisitely designed platform without much "white space" to make up for its many conceptual flaws. As such, no VLS, just bolt on and hope. This is something that will work, and in that note, we should be satisfied with.
On a positive note:
- As one of the worst kept secret in our Navy is that many of our DDG can only use a Harpoon if it is made of wood and steal and thrown by the BM1, having some additional ASCM shooters - shoot and scoot or not - is a great addition to any Strike Group Commander. It gives you more options, and makes the enemy's job more difficult.
- It give the crew of LCS something to actually fight with if called on to do it. As it stands right now, all they can do is order their helo det to commit suicide while they do a Banzai charge pop'n away with their 57mm saluting gun hoping it ricochets off of a wave and hits something. We don't do such things, so the crew can only go hide as everyone else fights. We don't do such things like that well either - hence the need to give Sailors something to fight with besides PPT slides.
James Holmes got it just about right a few days ago when it comes to the best that LCS/FF can ever hope to be;
Frigate-like combatants like the LCS, which fall into the cruiser or flotilla contingents under Corbett’s taxonomy, have their place in maritime strategy. In safe times they’re implements of choice. But these aren’t safe times. Low-end warships may not be enough to police important waterways in an age when great powers—not nonstate lawbreakers—pose the main threat to the maritime legal order. Rounding up Captain Jack Sparrow is one thing. Facing down the Chinese, Russian, or Iranian navy is quite another.
By all means, let’s station littoral combat ships or their ilk in, say, Singapore for constabulary and alliance-building duty. They’re fine for missions in permissive settings. But they do need a backstop in embattled settings, manifest in a vibrant, hard-hitting U.S. Navy battle force arrayed nearby. Without that backstop—without a fleet able to prevail in contested seas and skies—we’re trusting to China not to make trouble in places where it’s been doing precisely that. We’re assuming the United States, its allies, and its friends can enjoy the fruits of maritime command without defending it.
That’s a flimsy—and ahistorical, and counter-Corbettian—assumption.