Saturday, April 18, 2009

Aluminium hull Combatant Wrong Match for Pirates

Video from sympathetic local Alabama media, notice the vessels in the background:

Now, here's a real evaluation of how useful or not LCS as configured would be with pirates:

From Information Dissemination

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Question From the Department of Dissent

I believe in the theories I opine through the blog. They do not focus on major power war and high intensity conflict in the maritime domain; rather they focus entirely on littoral warfare and low intensity challenges emerging in the maritime domain. I contend that the line between war and peace at sea is becoming blurred, and the approaches to dealing with both are evolving two very different directions, although with some convergence.

I believe it takes fewer people to kill more people in the 21st century due primarily to the advances in technology; we are simply more lethal than we have ever been in the past. I believe naval forces require more ships for peacemaking than they will for warfighting, and that the costs of warfighting with fewer ships will still be extraordinarily higher than the costs of fielding more ships for peacemaking. I believe that when the Navy takes risk in the development of fleet constitution, the Navy should take risks for peacemaking roles, not warfighting roles, but at no time can the Navy ignore the necessity to field low cost platforms for peacemaking.

I believe unmanned technology will continue to improve our lethality for warfighting, but peacemaking at sea begins with the fundamental requirement of manpower. I believe the platform that will make the largest difference in peacemaking in the 21st century is the mothership for both manned and unmanned systems, but while the mothership may be optimized for peacemaking the platform must be big enough to escalate violence as needed in its operational environment, which for me means the mothership will consist of both manned and unmanned systems.

As I observe the unfolding events off the coast of Somalia, I'm very pleased to find that virtually every one of the theories for peacemaking opined on the blog over the last 20 months are proving true. It is mothership operations with small boats and manned aircraft that is making the most significant impact in the fight against pirates, or said another way; the USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) is being used as a mothership.

I have been given a bit of smack from folks for calling the USS Freedom (LCS 1) a mothership. It is, it is a small mothership and designed specifically for operating unmanned platforms. With that specific design parameter, I believe the LCS is limited, because as a platform not really built for war but designed specifically for unmanned systems, it is intended for war. I have called out a number of folks for suggesting this is a peacemaker platform. It isn't, it can enable that environment with its unmanned systems and conflicting combination of speed and space, but I disagree with every single person who believes the LCS can do what the USS Vella Gulf (CG 73) is doing, and I can now prove it.

So as a vocal and visible member of the Department of Dissent, I'd like to ask a question to those advocating the 21st Century frigate can do everything, and this particularly applies double for the leftover Bush administration civilians who got their honorary PHDs on 'techno-centric naval requirements and solutions' from the University of Rumsfeld. Can you explain to me how the LCS can do what the USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) is doing, because I think based on just a few photographs it has become pretty obvious we see some fairly obvious flaws in the suggestion the LCS is the everything solution people have suggested.

Observe in photography. Keep in mind these photos appear to be taken from a helicopter, specifically from Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky who is on the USS Vella Gulf (CG 72). He would be the 5th person on any helicopter giving us all the photography, which I believe is an important part of this actually. In the top picture of the first incident I see 2 RHIBs with an 8 person team and 2 helicopters each with 4 person crews. In the bottom picture of the second incident I see 2 RHIBs with 12 person teams and 2 helicopters with 4 person crews. Add one more if you want photo drama. Click the images; use high resolution to count heads yourself if needed.

This means 25 naval personnel were involved in the first picture, and 29 naval personnel were involved in the second incident. The LCS has a maximum crew size of 75 by design, and there just isn't berthing space for more.

Will someone please explain how the LCS does this job? The Freedom (and I bet Independence) can carry 2 H-60s and 3 Fire Scouts in the hanger, although the current configuration calls for only 1 H-60 with the modules. Trust me, there is plenty of room for two on Freedom, I measured it myself. There is also plenty of space in the module bays for multiple RHIBs, indeed the LCS could deploy 2 manned RHIBS and 2 armed unmanned RHIBS with room to spare. It does appear the LCS can carry the equipment for this role, but there is a problem, where do the people come from? There is even room in the mission bay for the makeshift prison like what the Navy has done on the USNS Lewis and Clark (T-AKE 1).

A core crew of 40, a crew of 15 mission module, and a crew of 20 for aviation takes the total up to 75. Does anyone else think there might be a problem with the whole platform peacemaking model when your 3000 tons ship has to use 1/3 of its total personnel to round up a little dingy full of bad guys?

Think about the crew breakdown a minute. 40 core crew. I would assume we would want an 8 man Coast Guard LEDET team, which leaves 27 spots for the aviation crews to run potentially two H-60s and 3 Fire Scouts. For just 1 H-60 and 3 Fire Scouts, the current requirement is 20 people, so the extra H-60 would only give you 7 more people, 4 which would be the crew. That gives you three spare berths on the ship to fill, which I'd bet is not enough to help out the second H-60, so the question is whether those 7 would be enough to operate 2 armed USVs when the normal module requirement is more than double (15).

Anyone else seeing the problem here? The LCS is not built for joint operations with the Coast Guard, which is exactly what peacemaking is. The LCS is built for countering small boat threats... BUT PIRACY IS A SMALL BOAT THREAT... and the LCS can't even do 2 manned RHIBs and 2 H-60s while including a LEGIT detachment from the DOG. This is why the techno-centric requirement set is such a load of crap, in Rumsfeld's world we blow the living shit out of everything and ask questions later. In what world will our political leadership be allowing that kind of RoE short of major power war?

With all due respect to the advocates of the '21st century frigate' as a way to deal with peacemaking requirements at sea, do the math by counting heads, you are short on manpower! It takes people to fly Helicopters and conduct the work on RHIBS, but it also takes people to control Fire Scouts and operate USVs. When you are short on people, you have to make sacrifices. The 75 crew maximum on the LCS, which is our half a billion dollar littoral do everything platform, prohibits the LCS from actually doing just what we are seeing now. The LCS does not have enough berthing just to do this very simple 2 helicopter and 2 RHIB operation of rounding up a handful of pirates, and we think we need to build 53 more?

This platform is an abortion of requirements planning. The LCS does not have enough crew to do peacemaking. The LCS is built to deploy unmanned technologies, a warfighting capability, but is built to the lowest warfighting survivability standard allowed for Navy ships. The LCS is optimized for speed and space, despite the obvious problem of adding stuff in the space creating weight that slows down the speed. Why is it asking too much to build a littoral ship with characteristics that compliment rather than compete with one another?

This ship is proving my USS Langley analogy correct every day, because it can do what it was built to do, it just can't do it very well. We didn't convert towards 55 Langley class aircraft carriers; we learned our lessons and moved on. With so many obvious problems with the LCS, starting with the fact the ship is great right up until contact with the enemy (which is what 2 RHIBs and 2 H-60s is!), clearly this ship needs partners to utilize all that information gathering capability the ship actually can do.

Peacemaking at sea requires manpower. This is a solid example of how manpower intensive even a simple peacemaking operation like rounding up a handful of pirates off a tiny vessel at sea can be. This is also a solid example how the LCS cannot do what everyone wants it to do, not without the other platforms able to contribute the manpower needed for low intensity operations.

If I'm wrong, please explain how. 75 - 40 crew - 20 aviation crew = 15 people left to be divided among Coast Guard LEDET, another helicopter, and unmanned systems supporting operations. This is one of many problems the Navy faces by intentionally making reduced crew size a priority, as opposed to letting the actual requirements in the field determine how many sailors you need.

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