Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Must have been the tiddledeewinks of wargames

Once more unto the breach. 

Why does this bit from Michael Fabey over at AviationLeak give me flashbacks to breathless Russian commentary about the latest Soviet presidential election?

Awwww, heck; EagleOne took a swipe at it, so let's give it a swipe;
In the coming decade, enemy forces that focus on aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships of a carrier strike group and ignore the little Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will do so at their own peril.

Thus dismissed, the LCS will be able to sneak up on the opposition and deliver quite a punch with a surface-to-surface missile from more than 100 nautical miles out.

So much for questions about lethality.

That’s just a taste of what some of the U.S. Navy’s best and brightest wargamers are discovering in the last week of March during some sophisticated simulated action involving LCS models in production now.

Yes – now. The wargamers are not using some modified LCS or new small surface combatant as was ordered recently by the Pentagon.

“The ships we are playing are the ships we are building today,” says Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, director of surface warfare.
Wait for it ... wait for it ...
The LCS, he says, could swing out from the group, nearly unobserved, and deliver a sneak attack with missiles that can hit a target 120 to 130 nautical miles away. There are missiles now, he says, available or in development, that the Navy is confident will work with the ships.

Good googly moogly, where does one start.

First of all, "nearly unobserved" is like being "nearly pregnant." LCS is not a small ship by any measure. "Smaller" yes, but small? No. Depending on which version you are talking about, that huge wake is visible from space. While being part of the glorious "Battle Network" and controlling its drones, it is leaking enough stuff in to the electromagnetic spectrum that a 1980s RadioShack fuzz-buster could detect it. 

You don't need LCS to do a multi-axis attack. That whole paragraph is straight from the "teenager thinks he's discovered s3x" category of innovation.

That isn't even the funny part.

The funny part is,
... attack with missiles that can hit a target 120 to 130 nautical miles away. There are missiles now, he says, available or in development, that the Navy is confident will work with the ships.
Notional missiles do not count. We aspire to have such a missile, but we don't have it, and won't for quite awhile in any appreciable number. We aspire to have any post-NLOS ASUW missile on LCS, but we don't even have one with a longer range than the, ahem, primary gun. "Fairy Dust" is not a program of record. Yes, a new ASCM is in the works, but let's let it make it to the Fleet before we declare victory in WestPac and come home.

"...confident will work." Weren't we confident NLOS would work on LCS? You know, in 1987 I was fairly confident that the University of Georgia cheerleader would stick with me as I went to get a pitcher refill, but that didn't quite work out for me either - though at least I had a fresh pitcher of beer for my troubles.
LCS could be tasked to do some destroyer-type missions to free up the DDGs for other jobs.
Ouch, that whiplash hurts! Didn't we spend almost a decade telling everyone that LCS was transformational and didn't need to do the work that frigates do, because, well, we don't need frigates? We knew that it couldn't function as a multi-mission frigate anyway ... now we're going to jump an entire class of ships and say it can perform as a DDG? You and what spare displacement?

Or ... could it be that it is going to do some of the frigate missions that we have DDG doing right now because we don't have frigates in the numbers we need? OK, I will buy that. LCS will do some of the frigate missions that DDG are doing because we don't have frigates because we don't need frigates because we have LCS; and that LCS will do the DDG's frigate missions so our DDG can do CG missions as we aren't building CG anymore. Did I get that right?
...they can take a punch and deliver one.

“Are they lethal and survivable? Absolutely.”
OK, I'll take the whiplash from the other direction. I thought the LCS speed was its greatest weapon so it could run away and let its wake do the killing for it? I thought it isn't designed to take a hit, it isn't manned to take a hit, as a matter of fact - the CNO has even discussed the need to keep it out of the fight because ... it can't take a hit? What happened?
Other thing that’s also supposed to be interchangeable are the mission module packages and he says the gaming proves that out as well. But now the Navy is looking at making even quicker changes by swapping out whole crew sets – that is to move one module crew onto another ship with that module already in place.

“Say you have a crack ASW crew,” he says. In that case, it may be better to swap out crews instead of modules.
Now we're moving in to unicorn poop'n skittles territory.

All those who have actually done ASW, non-permissive ASW, I want you to ponder that a bit. Take awhile longer. Feel free to ponder equipment, crew coordination, crew fatigue ... go ahead; take your time ...

This gets kind of embarrassing to read.
And, despite concerns to the contrary, he says the ships are up to the job. The naysayers, he says, are just being unrealistic.

But the naysaying has had an impact on the program. The Navy had planned for an LCS fleet of 52. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, though, has told the service to halt contract negotiations at 32 ships because of concerns over survivability and lethality and he directed the Navy to look at a more frigate-like vessel for future small surface combatant needs.

Even a Frigate can be vulnerable, though.

“You put a missile into any ship, that ship is going to have a bad day,” Rowden says. “In any open-ocean fight, any ship – alone and unafraid – is vulnerable.”

Given the right conops, LCS will be a force to be reckoned with, he says.

“I see no issue with the survivability of these ships. The idea is to reach out and touch someone before they reach out touch you. With a destroyer, the LCS becomes very lethal.”
Unrealistic? What is unrealistic is to be this far in to a program and still not have one that can do anything more than permissive surface search with the reach of a patrol gun boat. What is unrealistic is to ask the taxpayer to trust a program that from NLOS, to manning, to not-even-IOC mission modules are at, "trust us, they're great on PPT" stage. What is unrealistic to run best-case-enemy-doesn't-get-a-vote wargames using notional weapons and then declaring victory. Can we ask LtGen Van Riper to play OPFOR at least?

A level-1 ship, optimally manned, and as thin skinned as it is - and you have "no issue with the survivability." I'm sorry, that beggars belief.

Wait, what? That quote again, "With a destroyer, the LCS becomes very lethal."

That when the LCS will, "...swing out from the group, nearly unobserved, and deliver a sneak attack with missiles that can hit a target 120 to 130 nautical miles away."

Anyone can click the LCS tab below and go back almost a decade - we don't need to rehash it all. This spin is a textbook example of when the customer (Navy) starts to speak like an industry spokesman.

It not only hurts the credibility of the person saying it, it hurts the credibility of the Navy.

Anyone who has been through a few wargames knows how it works. We play "what if" with imaginary weapons with assumed capabilities all the time, but we don't pretend they reflect revealed truth. To use it in this way ... sad. Might as well use the magazine capacity of Harpoon 1.0 as your benchmark.

One more article, this one from the recent Senate Armed Services Committee gaggleex;
Greenert explained that LCS meets or exceeds the same standards of those elements of survivability and recoverability. He said the attributes of survivability in the LCS is comparable to frigates and better than the ships it is designed to replace such as mine countermeasures (MCM) and patrol craft (PC). 

"We can work on the susceptibility, and we do have a plan in place," said Greenert. "I want better survivability.

 The LCS is an important small surface combatant the Navy needs now and in the future," said Greenert. 
Although he supports the overall LCS design, he indicated he is open to modifications that would increase both survivability and flexibility of the platform. 

In responding to more questions about the need for a small surface combatant, Greenert described that the next ship after LCS could look quite different although maybe the same LCS hull. Greenert compared it to the evolution of Hornets and destroyers. He pointed out that the Navy is coming up on a fourth flight Arleigh Burke destroyer which the Navy is very, very, satisfied with.

At least the CNO is with those who DO have an issue with survivability.

... but,
Soon after the hearing the Director of Surface Warfare, Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden, confirmed this with interested media.

"There's no doubt we're continually learning more about how we can best employ the ship as part of the integrated force, but the bottom line is that it meets the mission it was intended to do," said Rowden. "We have to remember that the overarching question when looking at survivability is 'how are we going to operate these ships?' LCS has a validated set of requirements - and it meets them."

Sigh. We have no idea if it can meet the mission or not. If the mission is to create enough CDR-Commanders so you can mint more SWO-CAPT, then sure it meets that mission. 

We are commissioning these things left and right and yet don't even have one that has deployed and operated with a single fully mission capable mission module. It can't fight any surface ship half its size even. That one 57-mm; who are you going to seduce into range for that? MIW, ASW, etc. All PPT and still in development.

That last line about survivability and "how we are going to operate these ships" - that is a dodge. That is the "we'll run away," we'll be "stealthy"," "we'll be under the umbrella of a DDG." All spin and smoke.

For the last 18-months or so, I thought we were making clear-eyed progress in trying to find the best way to use the LCS we have to serve the Fleet and provide our Sailors a solid platform. Now, well, we seem to have wandered back in to fantasy land. This does no one any good, and is a set back on multiple fronts.

UPDATE: As he reminded us in comments, I would highly recommend that everyone take time to re-read Sid's LCS Seminar from August of 2008 here.

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