Anyone who’s read my previous posts may have guessed that I agree, to some extent, with Stalin’s famous saying: “Quantity has a quality all of its own.” Stalin was talking about military equipment, and so am I. Obviously, I’m not advocating we rely on low-end gear and make up for it with overwhelming, but costly, human wave attacks, but I think there is a very strong case to be made for a high-low mix of equipment in many areas. A modern western military needs capable air superiority fighters and strike aircraft, but there’s also a lasting role for relatively simple close air support planes – a modern version of the A-1 Skyraider. We need modern tanks, but a well-protected general purpose armored vehicle capable of carrying an infantry section and destroying lightly armored targets is going to be the backbone of ground capability for a long time to come. And let’s not forget the situation at sea.
In the late 1990s, the US Navy came up with the concept of the Littoral Combat Ship. The LCS would be a relatively small warship, well suited to operating inshore in support of ground operations, with a basic weapons and sensor fit that could be enhanced with mission modules. The idea was that these cheap ships could be built in large numbers, would offer a high level of capability through networking and module installations, and would be politically easier to risk than a large, expensive, guided missile destroyer with several hundred men on board. The cruisers, destroyers and frigates would still be in the fleet, but the existence of the LCS would mean they could be used for their proper function. For roles where a fully capable surface combatant wasn’t needed, such as anti-piracy, counter-narcotics, flag-waving visits or even inserting Special Forces, the LCS would stand in.
The LCS is a good concept – the Royal Navy is looking at a similar idea, dubbed the “Future Black Swan-class sloop of war” – but it met with a lot of resistance within the Navy and defense industry. Quickly renamed the Little Crappy Ship, the concept was ridiculed as not being sturdy or well-armed enough for combat. Finally the decision was taken to upgrade the existing ships and rename them frigates, and to focus on building guided missile frigates from now on.
The real issue, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have been any problem with the design itself. It’s more a case of a preference for more expensive, more capable platforms that look better on a commander’s personnel file and a defense contractor’s balance sheet. The problem is that those more expensive platforms are going to be bought in smaller numbers, so the number of places they can be will be reduced. It’s also incredibly inefficient. Why use 200 men and a frigate for anti-piracy operations? To defeat a Somali pirate force, you need five men and a .50 cal in a Boston Whaler, not a frigate. The trick is striking the balance – a ship that can support itself on station for weeks and has enough combat power to do the job. The LCS/Future Black Swan concept seems to strike that balance. Let’s not forget that while the Second World War at sea is remembered for battleships and aircraft carriers, it was won by unglamorous corvettes, sloops and motor gun boats. That lesson still applies today.
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.