Flight Ops

Flight Ops

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Littoral "Combat" Ship Fantasy Goes On and On and . . .

Our friends at USNI News set out the "basics" of the Littoral Combat Ship and its amazing "mission
modules" in "LCS Mission Packages: The Basics"
The beating heart of both variants of the littoral combat ship (LCS) is the series of three mission packages the Navy is developing to handle some of the service’s most dire needs in the littorals.
On paper, the new capabilities and updates of existing functions will greatly increase the Navy’s ability to rapidly undertake some of its most dangerous jobs.

However, the mission packages have experienced delays of up to four years in fielding because of design problems, cost overruns, and manufacturing delays, according to the Government Accountability Office.
USNI News has an interview:
On Aug. 8, USNI News interviewed Capt. John Ailes, program manager for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Program Executive Office Littoral and Mine Warfare’s (PEO LMW) LCS Mission Modules, for an update on the embattled mission package program.

Ailes acknowledged past failures in the program but painted an optimistic picture of the way forward for the mission packages.

“It’s a wondrous time to be the mission package guy today compared to three years ago because you can point to the successes,” he said.

No mention of  an "anti-air" mission module.

Oh, wait, that's not an LCS mission set. Of course, since we "own" the sky - only close-in protection might be needed.

The common denominator for all the packages (anti-surface, anti-submarine and mine counter-measures) is the helicopter carried by the ship, along with a variety of drones and yet-to-be found missiles, etc. Looking at the pictures, what's the single thing that would make the LCS useless in its missions?

Why, of course, the loss of its helicopter.

The most important mission for the LCS is mine hunting and minesweeping.
In the 2015 OPEVAL the Navy plans to test the fundamental components of the MCM package: the helicopter-deployed airborne laser mine detection system (ALMDS); the mine-killing airborne mine neutralization system (AMNS); the remote minehunting system (RMS), composed of the remote multi-mission vehicle and the AQS-20A sonar.
Problems with the RMMV have delayed the MCM package more than any other component of the mission package. “It’s had a storied past,” Ailes said. “Mostly for reliability.”

The Lockheed Martin system operates just below the surface of the water paired with the AQS-20A sonar. The 14,500-pound, 23-foot long behemoth is deployed from the boat launch of an LCS and is controlled by an operator on board the ship.

Early iterations of the RMMV failed on average every eight hours. The Navy had improved the average to 45 hours before NAVSEA undertook a reliability program to improve the performance.
In June, NAVSEA completed its reliability work and now states that reliability numbers for RMMV has grown to more than 200 hours.
AQS-20A is the primary sensor of the mine-hunting systems on LCS. The Navy has largely corrected detection problems found in early developmental testing with training and software and hardware upgrades, Ailes said. A plan to field the sonar from the package’s MH-60S was canceled for safety reasons.

“We took the Q20 and flew it from a 60S for a long time but the problem was, if an engine failed you could lose the aircraft,” Ailes said. “It hardly ever happens but once you lose an engine it would be catastrophic.”
The fourth capability for the first part of the MCM package is the airborne mine neutralization system (AMNS).

AMNS is lowered by a helicopter in the water after the crew has detected mines and is guided by an operator on board the helicopter to neutralize the mine. The system struggled with breaks in the fiber-optic cord that tied it to the sled; operators also had difficulty engaging the mines.

Ailes said that improvements to the arrangement of the neutralizers and skilled operators have blunted some of the impact of earlier problems with the system.
The surface warfare (SuW) package for littoral combat ship (LCS) is the simplest and most-tested mission package the Navy plans to field.
In addition to the 57mm main deck gun, the SuW package includes twin 30mm Bushmaster cannons, a planned surface-to-surface missile, and an MH-60R helicopter.
The Navy canceled a version of the ASW package that would have used the RMMV to patrol for submarines in favor of a so-called “in stride” capability that would allow the ship to move at speed to detect submarine threats.
The offensive component of the ASW package is on the MH-60S helicopter, which fields Mk-54 airdropped lightweight torpedoes. The GAO was the least critical of the ASW package in its July report.
So, see, it's all on track.

By the way did you catch the concept that you need two variations of the MH-60 helicopter as part of the "mission modules?" A MH-60R for surface warfare and a MH-60S for ASW and MCM? Just out of idle curiosity - has anyone checked on the qualifications the crews of these birds are going to need to fulfill these mission sets?

Just asking.

By the way, no criticism of Capt Ailes is intended. He's playing the hand he got dealt.


  1. Yet, this is why the LCS is one miserable failure that should have been put down along time ago

  2. So can't use Q20 or OASIS from the MH-60S. How is it contributing to the MIW module again? Just AMNS plus ALMDS (which has its own issues)?

    IMHO, losing Q20 and OASIS from the airborne suite calls into question the entire rationale for the MH-60S in the MIW module. Maybe we need to look at bigger helos (e.g. AW101).

    Maybe we could find/develop a larger helo that could do ASuW, ASW and MIW with just component and crew switch-out.

  3. So...in other words the LCS if designed as its mission is stated is a Helicopter destroyer like the new Japanese Beauty.

    Or basically everything but the LCS.

  4. Anonymous9:50 PM

    What's there to like about the LCS? Scrap the LCS designation and give the ships to the Coast Guard. Start with a clean page.

  5. Anonymous6:54 AM

    What did the Coast Guard do to you?

  6. The Coast Guard can't afford ships with huge fuel usage that probably won't last 20-25 years.