As an inevitable result we find ourselves involved in an effort to restore to the flotilla some of its old cruiser capacity, by endowing it with gun armament, higher sea-keeping power, and facilities for distant communication, all at the cost of specialization and of greater economic strain. Still judged by past experience, some means of increasing numbers in the cruising types is essential, nor is it clear how it is possible to secure that essential in the ranks of the true cruiser. No point has been found at which it was possible to stop the tendency of this class of vessel to increase in size and cost, or to recall it to the strategical position it used to occupy. So insecure is the battle-squadron, so imperfect as a self-contained weapon has it become, that its need has overridden the old order of things, and the primary function of the cruising ship inclines to be no longer the exercise of control under cover of the battle-fleet. The battle-fleet now demands protection by the cruising ship, and what the battle-fleet needs is held to be the first necessity.The 20th Century Surface Action Group (SAG), a trio or more of warships that forward deployed firepower to areas of the sea where aircraft carriers and amphibious forces were not needed, has evolved in the 21st Century into two very distinct forms. The first evolution is best articulated by the Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, which calls upon cooperation with partners to address the requirements of naval forces in the maritime domain. This SAG, is essentially a collection of coalition warships that operate together to serve a common purpose. Task Force 150 and the NATO Standing Groups represent examples of this concept in action today.
Judged by the old naval practice, it is an anomalous position to have reached. But the whole naval art has suffered a revolution beyond all previous experience, and it is possible the old practice is no longer a safe guide. Driven by the same necessities, every naval Power is following the same course. It may be right, it may be wrong; no one at least but the ignorant or hasty will venture to pass categorical judgment. The best we can do is to endeavor to realize the situation to which, in spite of all misgivings, we have been forced, and to determine its relations to the developments of the past.
It is undoubtedly a difficult task. As we have seen, there have prevailed in the constitution of fleets at various times several methods of expressing the necessities of naval war. The present system differs from them all. On the one hand, we have the fact that the latest developments of cruiser power have finally obliterated all logical distinction between cruisers and battleships, and we thus find ourselves hand in hand with the fleet constitution of the old Dutch wars. On the other, however, we have armored cruisers organized in squadrons and attached to battle-fleets not only for strategical purposes, but also with as yet undeveloped tactical functions in battle. Here we come close to the latest development of the sailing era, when "Advanced" or "Light" squadrons began to appear in the organization of battle-fleets.
Some Principles of Maritime Strategy, Chapter 2, Theory of the Means - The Constitution of Fleets, by Julian Stafford Corbett, pg 124-125
The second evolution has yet to be realized, but is clearly the missing requirement for the US Navy today. Despite all the intellectual energy expended, the Navy does not have an organizational task force developed yet for operating in the littorals, and the necessity to develop a capable, combat credible Littoral Strike Group is the elusive enigma the US Navy must overcome to be successful.
I hate the name Littoral Combat Ship, although I do like the acronym LCS. The Littoral Combat Ship has turned out to be a false promise in several regards. Starting with its size and cost, the LCS is unlikely to emerge as a real influencing capability in the littorals. The ship is too expensive to build in massive numbers, and too small to ever efficiently deploy the large numbers of unmanned systems necessary to meet the demand of naval forces deployed in forward theaters. It also has a core weakness we believe the Navy must address to find success dealing with asymmetrical peacetime challenges at sea, it lacks deployable manned vessels that can capitalize effectively on the information dominance the unmanned systems enable.
So why do I like the acronym LCS? In my world a Littoral Strike Group would consist of a large mothership (LSD-41 or LPD-17), a T-AKE for logistics supply, a DDG-51 for force protection to the mothership and T-AKE, 2 LCS, and either 2 FFGs built on the LCS hull or 4 corvettes capable of self deploying to forward theaters with the mothership and T-AKE as tenders.
The intention would be for the mothership to deploy manned and unmanned systems and act as a command and control node for the frigates/corvettes and deployed systems in developing a full regional littoral picture, otherwise considered a MDA solution in ungoverned spaces. The LPD-17, T-AKE, and DDG-51 would be the force intended to address the most pressing requirement of the region. As for the LCS? The Littoral Combat Support, which is what the acronym should stand for, would be the lightly armed naval truck that acts as the logistical ship connector from the T-AKE and LPD-17 to the frigates/corvettes and deployed manned/unmanned systems in the region.
In other words, instead of acting as a warship, which the LCS is not, I would operate the LCS as a lightly armed, flexible littoral logistics shuttle to insure the widely dispersed regional forces are supplied for operations, particularly because small vessels needed to operate in the littorals are constantly in need of logistical support. As an armed, fast logistics ferry the LCS makes more sense as a concept to me, for many reasons.
The LCS as is, does not have the facilities to repair damaged unmanned systems. There is no tender for the LCS, so how the Navy intends to deal with this problem remains a mystery to the ship concept. A large mothership could support a repair facility, and is also big enough to carry more unmanned systems so a replacement could immediately be deployed while a damaged or broken unmanned system is repaired. The LCS would act as the shuttle, retrieving a damaged system and deploying a replacement. With its large cargo capacity, the LCS can carry plenty of stores necessary to keep multiple small corvettes operating for several weeks, and the speed of the LCS enables the LCS to respond very quickly even over long regional coast lines to logistics needs of forward deployed small vessels.
Without the burden of being a mothership for deployable vessels, when not acting in its fast ferry role for regionally distributed forces, the LCS becomes a force enabler for other operations, specifically but not limited to Special Forces. The key to the LCS CONOP as a fast ferry, armed logistics ship is that the space becomes flexible for a strike group. It retains the capability to manage unmanned systems, but is not burdened by it as a primary purpose, rather shifts to a supporting role for that operation. The LPD-17, able to carry a dozen mission modules without breaking a sweat, becomes the primary mothership and combined with the ferry configured LCS, allows the Navy to increase not only the quantity, but distribution of unmanned and manned systems for low end spectrum operations over a larger regional area. Now, instead of a single purpose, limited capability ship the LCS becomes the enabler to all the purposes of the mission modules.
While many people discuss adding weapons and otherwise arming up the LCS, as a logistics ship I would do none of that. If was going to add anything to the ship, it would be a crane system able to support the movement of material in its role a ship-to-ship logistics shuttle.
Ultimately, I do not see the LCS as is capable of meeting the requirements the Navy is demanding from it. The LCS is too expensive to buy the number of littoral ships needed to dominate that battlespace. The LCS is too big to be risked in the littorals during wartime, not to mention having survivability problems if thought of or treated as a warship. The LCS is too small to deploy the number of unmanned vehicles necessary to be effective, and cannot repair those systems when they break. That does not make the LCS a poor addition to the flotilla, rather it would be a smart addition, if utilized in a way that supported a credible approach to littoral warfare. Ultimately, to deal with the challenges of both war and peace, a credible littoral solution will require numerous ships smaller than the LCS, but also smaller ships capable of delivering more offensive firepower.