Tag Archives: USS Independence (LCS 2)

It’s official, first four LCSs headed to “Red Lead Row.” Why not Blow Row?

As we have talked about previously, the first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronado) have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use. In a  burst from the CNO last month, the word is now official: all four will be shifted to OCIR status (Out of Commission, In Reserve) on 31 March 2021, with the youngest, Coronado, being just six years old.

Oof.

In a case of bad timing, the Navy’s PAO just released this very well done “A Day in the Life of an LCS” video, filmed on the new Freedom-class USS Indianapolis (LCS 17).

Notably, the three Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft not up to their neck in the Persian Gulf (USS Zephyr PC-8, USS Shamal PC-13, and USS Tornado PC-14) are also to be disposed of on the same date.

MAYPORT, Fla. (Aug. 02, 2016) – The Cyclone-class Patrol Coastal USS Shamal (PC 13) returns to homeport U.S. Naval Station Mayport after a 62-day deployment to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility where they conducted counter illicit trafficking operations in support of Operation Martillo. Operation Martillo is a joint international law enforcement and military operation involving U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, targeting illicit trafficking routes in the waters off Central America. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Hendricks/Released)

The other 10 craft has been at Bahrain for most of the past decade while Zephyr, Shamal, and Tornado– two of which were formerly Coast Guard-manned out of Pascagoula’s old NAVSTA– have been based in Mayport under 4th Fleet’s control– just about the only Navy vessels that are regularly outside of ships transiting through or on training evolutions.

This of course begs the question of, why not give the “old” LCSs to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT)? Call em PCs? Get some tax dollars out of them.

Is this where I point out that the lastest 4th Fleet deployments have surged DDGs? Wait, wasn’t the LCS program designed to prevent billion-dollar Aegis ships from being used in constabulary work?

Whomp Whomp.

Cry Havoc, and let slip…the LCS?

The 1911 Treasure Island pirates by Wyeth.

This month’s USNI’s Proceedings has an interesting piece by COL Mark Cancian, USMC, Ret, entitled, “Unleash the Privateers! The United States should issue letters of marque to fight Chinese aggression at sea.”

As the title would suggest, Cancian pitches the concept that modern-day LLCs could outfit ocean-going raiders, legalized by old-school letters of marque and reprisal to cover what would otherwise be acts of international piracy. The targets, in said scenario, would be the 6,000-strong Chinese/Hong Kong merchant/fishing fleet in the event of a hot war with Beijing.

Notes Canican:

Capitalizing on Chinese vulnerabilities requires large numbers of ships, and the private sector could provide them. The ocean is large, and there are thousands of ports to hide in or dash between. While the Navy could not afford to have a multibillion-dollar destroyer sitting outside Rio de Janeiro for weeks waiting for Chinese vessels to leave, a privateer could patiently wait nearby…

My thoughts on the good Colonel’s interesting concept is that it is one possibility, even if it is simply used as a threat. Project the prospect of the boogeyman and the boogeyman becomes very real, even if he isn’t under your bed.

What about the LCS?

Alternatively, I think we may have finally found a use for those first flight littoral combat ships (Freedom, Independence, Fort Worth, and Coronadothat have been deemed too beta to be upgraded enough for regular fleet use.

The LCS in its current form is fundamentally a “peace cruiser,” akin to the light cruisers built in the 1920s which were used primarily to show the flag in areas where it would be overkill to send a battleship– which probably wouldn’t fit inside the local harbor anyway.

You know what peace cruisers were also theoretically good for in the event of a war? Commerce raiders operating under Cruiser Rules away from the warzone.

Just saying.

140423-N-VD564-013 PACIFIC OCEAN (April 23, 2014) The littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, and USS Coronado (LCS 4) underway in the Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney/Released)

Big Navy wants to bench the first LCS quartet to pass on the savings, or something like that

Going back to the old Zumwalt Redux “Streetfighter” concept, the littoral combat ship program was envisioned to crank out an armada of cheap (err, affordable) but deadly and fast ships ready to go into harm’s way in the dangerous shallows where you may not want to risk a billion-dollar Aegis cruiser or destroyer.

Streetfighter, in concept, 1999ish

After all, in the enemy’s coastal region, even dated weapons like Great War-era moored contact mines, speedboats with RPGs, and 105mm howitzers left over from World War II can be killers and don’t need a lot of C4I that can be easily disrupted.

When it comes to doctrine, the LCS were the outgrowth of the PT-boats of the 1940s, PGMs of the cold war, and Reagan(Lehman)-era PHMs of the 1980s.

USS Aries (PHM-5) back in her fighting trim

Somewhat less than a frigate/destroyer escort, and a bit more than a patrol boat. For lack of a better word, they were expendable, to turn a phrase

Now, heading out the door are the first four of the LCS fleet, the initial two of Marinette Marine’s Freedom-class monohull models– USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Fort Worth (LCS-3)— and the first two of Austal’s Independence-class trimaran design– USS Independence (LCS-2) and USS Coronado (LCS-4). Further, funding for more of either type is zeroed out after FY2020.

Now to be fair, all four ships were basically beta tests for the follow-on boats and have seen lots of unexpected teething problems on everything from hull design to propulsion, electronics to berthing areas, and everything in between.

The Navy is arguing in their latest budget justification that it would be a case of good money after bad to continue to upgrade these little tubs to make them worthy of keeping around.

“These ships have been test articles and training assets, and were key in developing the operational concepts leading to the current deployment of LCS ships today,” says the Navy in a statement. “But canceling their modernization allows us to prioritize lethality and survivability where we need it.”

However, these are low-mileage tin cans, with Coronado only in the fleet for five years and 10 months. Even the oldest of the four, Freedom, was commissioned in 2008.

Of note, the plan restores funding for USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75)‘s refueling and the carrier’s associated airwing– although let’s be honest, the Navy was never going to retire her with another two decades of life on the ship’s hull. It also includes around $350 million over the next two years for the planned Future Large Surface Combatant (LSC) and Small Surface Combatant FFG (X) while chipping in about $3B for the Columbia-class SSBNs.

Odds are, the Pentagon will be overruled by the Dems in the House or the Republicans in the Senate and the funding will be added to keep these four fairly young LCS around, which may be the gamble the Navy is banking on.

If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were swiftly passed on via FMS to Saudi Arabia in a warm transfer, as the Kingdom is eager for more hulls at a good price to both keep their oil lifeline going and continue their blockade of Yemen.

Speaking of which, USS Normandy (CG-60) just reeled in another undocumented (*cough, Iran, cough*) dhow off Yemen, a mission that could arguably be performed by an LCS with an on-board helo and a LEDET/VBSS team of some sort.

Included on the boat’s manifest were 358 missile components including 150 Delavieh anti-tank missiles, Iranian versions of the modern and uber dangerous Russian 9M133 Kornet, basically a budget Javelin.

200209-N-PC620-0005 ARABIAN SEA (Feb. 09, 2020) The crew of the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60), in accordance with international law, seized an illicit shipment of advanced weapons and weapon components, which held 358 surface-to-air missile components and “Dehlavieh” anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM), intended for the Houthis in Yemen, aboard a stateless dhow during a maritime interdiction operation in the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations, Feb. 9, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lehman)

And the beat goes on…

Navy gives LCS’s minesniffer a thumb’s up (finally)

The Navy last week announced the completion of developmental testing for Raytheon’s AN/AQS-20C mine-hunting sonar system at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division.

This thing:

For these things:

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 27, 2019) The Independence variant littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, USS Manchester (LCS 14), and USS Tulsa (LCS 16) are underway in formation in the eastern Pacific. Littoral combat ships are high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatants designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 27, 2019) The Independence variant littoral combat ships USS Independence (LCS 2), left, USS Manchester (LCS 14), and USS Tulsa (LCS 16) are underway in formation in the eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe/Released)

The presser:

The AQS-20C is the next generation of the AN/AQS-20 system designed to be incorporated into the Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures Mission Package. The system consists of four sonar arrays: two side-looking arrays; a gap-filler sonar array; and a forward-looking sonar array providing simultaneous detection, localization, and classification of bottom mines, close-tethered moored mines, and volume-moored mines.

The system delivers high-definition images of bottom mines, providing the operator with both range and contrast data that combine to form a three-dimensional image during post-mission analysis to aid in mine identification.

Developmental testing verifies that a system’s design meets all technical specifications and that all contract requirements have been met. During testing the Raytheon-developed towed sonar sensor conducted 12 underway missions in various operational modes and at different depths at four separate NSWC PCD test ranges. The missions were conducted aboard the test vessel M/V Patriot.

The AQS-20C will now be integrated with and deployed from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV), a long-endurance, semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum surface craft that supports the employment of various mine countermeasure payloads. The MCM USV can be launched and recovered by the LCS, from other vessels of opportunity or from shore sites to provide minesweeping, mine-hunting, and mine neutralization capabilities. The MCM USV is currently undergoing developmental testing as a component of the Unmanned Influence Sweep System at the South Florida Test Facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Test results will now undergo scoring and performance assessment leading up to a final developmental testing report that is expected to be completed in the spring. Findings from this report will be used for future performance improvements of the system.