The New York Times is running a story today that is interesting, but has left me confused. Is the Littoral Combat Ship a winner or a dud? It seems that the Independence class vessel – and there is an entirely separate and brand-new class of ship that will also be doing the same job, the Freedom class – is costly, and one example has developed a leak. Not a good sign in a boat. But the Navy promises that the costs will be brought down from $700 million a copy to a mere $400 million. I suppose that is a Pentagon bargain these days.
I have severe doubts about the concept of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). It is supposed to be able to operate close to shore – the littoral – but that seems like an iffy proposition. The prevalence of cheap antiship missiles and even cheaper mines will make going close to shore an unwise move. The argument is that the LCS will be well-suited for such missions with its mine-hunting capability. Let’s hope so. The LCS may be less expensive than an Arleigh Burke class destroyer with all the electronic bells and whistles, but sailing into an opponent’s “front yard” is hardly a good strategy unless you have already assured command of the sea up to the coastal waters. Even then, things can get ugly. The Royal Navy and French Navy both had a tough time of things during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign, and took severe losses from mines alone. Getting close to the coast without assuring dominance is just not a wise move.