LCS/SSC – It’s Still the Wrong Ship for the Job

Earlier this year, I wrote about the LCS being (improperly) used as an ASW ship. Updates to the current LCS are planned, and on December 11, the Pentagon and the US Navy announced that the new Small Surface Combatant (SSC) will be a modified version of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

The Navy will increase the firepower, armor and sensors of both classes of LCS to create the SSC. Both variants of the ship will replace the last 20 ships in the initial order for 52 Freedom- and Independence-class ships that are currently planned. The design is based on the LCS with the ASuW module fitted.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a statement, “By avoiding a new class of ships and new system design costs, it also represents the most responsible use of our industrial base investment while expanding commonality in the fleet.”

USSIndepenenceThe major changes to the ship capabilities will include improving the sensors and giving the ship Over-The-Horizon (OTH) targeting capability and a phased array sensor suite. It also gives the SSC an anti-ship missile capability with Hellfire missiles. Anti-aircraft and anti-missile defenses are upgraded with the SeaRAM missile system. Additional 37 mm guns are added to the ship and some of the vital spaces are armored.

“We believe it’s affordable, but we didn’t put a cap on this,” said Adm. Jon Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, to Defense News. “But SecDef was clear — cost and the industrial base has to be a consideration. The Navy needs a small surface combatant. We need 52 to do the job, and this ship will meet that need.”

Although the new design has lost some of the modularity of the LCS vessel, it permanently retains the multi-function towed array and it will be fitted with torpedo defenses and countermeasures.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, the LCS design is flawed. It is too small, weak and underpowered to operate at any distance from a refueling/rearming point and the new design doesn’t do anything to fix the flaws with that problem.

“The Navy’s new proposal, like the LCS, will continue to have its critics,” Hagel said in a statement. “But considering the context of our broader naval battle force and the current strategic and fiscal environment, I believe it represents our best and most cost effective option. By avoiding a new class of ships and new system design costs, it also represents the most responsible use of our industrial base investment while expanding the commonality of the Navy’s fleet.”

The creation of the SSC from the existing LCS designs panders to the manufacturers of the ships, Lockheed-Martin and Austal. It does nothing to fix the problems with the design and tries to minimize the effects those flaws will have on fleet readiness.

There are good SSC designs out there. The upgraded Ghost, for example, but they are being passed over for this ship. That’s too bad for our sailors.

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.

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Matt Towns

Matt is a former military journalist who spent 10 years in the US Navy. He served in various posts during his career, including a couple of deployments on the USS Valley Forge (CG-50). After leaving the Navy, he worked in management for a number of years before opening his own businesses. He ran those businesses until 2012 when he chose to leave the retail industry and return to writing. Matt currently works as a freelance writer, contributing to the US Patriot blog and other websites about political affairs, military activities and sailing.
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