It is time to realize that the LCS is not a suitable replacement for frigates, but makes one heck of a Coast Guard cutter. As the time approaches when the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class ships is retired, the need for a dedicated frigate is becoming more acute.
Frigates have been used for fleet protection – both Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) – and independent duties during their life spans. Although they did not have the capabilities of the larger, more expensive destroyers and cruisers, they were able to do a number of different jobs without having to rely on the fleet to back them up.
The OHPs were not perfect ships by any means. They looked like floating bricks, they were slower and less maneuverable than the ships they were expected to keep up with but they had enough firepower to do the job they were expected to.
The LCS, on the other hand, is incapable of doing anything well except for moving quickly. The onboard weapon systems are anemic (the surface-to-surface range of the Griffon missile has a range of 3.5 miles – which assumes that the surface warfare module is installed) and the modularity problems have continued.
The LCS’s advantages, in addition to its speed, include a large hanger to carry two SH-60B helicopters (the OHP embarked one) and a stern ramp to rapidly deploy small craft. Speed, helicopters and small craft are exactly what the Coast Guard needs for drug interdiction and homeland security issues. With its small crew and advanced computerization, the LCS would be a perfect fit with the Coast Guard.
A replacement frigate could be designed and, until it becomes active, there are a number of companies in other nations that produce escorts for export that the Navy could purchase. Of course, this won’t happen. The Navy has gambled almost $40 billion on the LCS program and there are too many companies that have a huge stake in seeing it succeed. Instead of building or buying the best solution, we will continue with a ship that is neither suitable nor cost-effective and the role that the frigates filled will end up being absorbed by the destroyers.
Unfortunately, there are not enough Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to do their job either.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.