09 August 2017

News Story: LCS Lives - They Still Count In Age Of Frigates

Freedom class LCS

Yes, the Navy has cut short its Littoral Combat Ship program and started work on a bigger, tougher, better-armed frigate. But the small ships will still be big part of the future fleet, experts we spoke to agreed, and the frigate will carry on much of the LCS legacy.

It’s true the Navy’s needs have changed, because the world has changed, with rising threats from major powers eclipsing Third World pirates – but the Littoral Combat Ship has changed as well. In particular, an LCS design conceived during the days of the “peace dividend” is being upgunned with both short- and long-range missiles that increase its relevance for major war.

The shift to frigates is not just a rejection of LCS, either. While the frigate concept turns away from some aspects of LCS – its high speed, its small crew, its limited combat power – it embraces others, such as extending the ship’s reach with unmanned craft and fleetwide networks. In other crucial respects, especially the frigate’s offensive and defensive firepower, the Navy’s still making up its mind.

Independence class LCS
After studying the Navy’s Request For Information (RFI) on industry’s frigate designs, “I wouldn’t say the RFI repudiates the LCS approach, because the idea of having a smaller, less-expensive, shallow-draft, fast ship makes sense,” said retired commander Bryan Clark, now with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments. The new frigate isn’t really replacing the 3,400-ton LCS, he argued, but filling a gap between smaller coastal patrol craft like the 380-ton Cyclone class and larger multi-role warships like 9,700-ton Aegis destroyers.

To that end, Clark wants the future frigate to have both the weapons and radar to conduct wide-area air defense of nearby ships in a task force or convoy –a mini-Aegis like Spain’s Navantia frigates – rather than only defend itself – like the current LCS.

Read the full story at Breaking Defense