The U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship Could Soon Be on the Comeback Trail

Littoral Combat Ship
April 30, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Littoral Combat ShipLCSU.S. NavyNavyMilitaryDefense

The U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship Could Soon Be on the Comeback Trail

The U.S. Navy is poised to repurpose its Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) as modern mine countermeasures vessels, a move that could redefine their role within the fleet. The introduction of the Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP) aboard the USS Canberra (LCS-30) marks a significant shift from traditional Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships to more versatile platforms.

 

Summary: The U.S. Navy is poised to repurpose its Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) as modern mine countermeasures vessels, a move that could redefine their role within the fleet. The introduction of the Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP) aboard the USS Canberra (LCS-30) marks a significant shift from traditional Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships to more versatile platforms.

-This package includes a suite of sensors, unmanned vehicles, and support systems that allow for remote mine detection, identification, and neutralization. The transition is set for its first deployment in Fiscal Year 2025, aiming to enhance mine countermeasure capabilities while phasing out older technologies like the MH-53 helicopters and Avenger-class ships.

 

-This development could give the oft-criticized LCS a crucial and effective role in the Navy's future operations.

U.S. Navy Repurposes Littoral Combat Ships for Advanced Mine Countermeasures

 

The U.S. Navy's Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships (MCS) are not the most famous of vessels, even though a fictional ship of the class was a subject of the 2023 film The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. No scenes appeared onboard the ship, but much of the dialog covered the typical missions and capabilities of an Avenger-class MCS.

Fourteen of the vessels were built, and eight remain in active service. The ships were designed as mine hunter-killers capable of finding, classifying, and destroying moored and bottom mines. Each employs sonar and video systems, cable cutters, and a mine-detonating device that can be released and detonated by remote control. They are also capable of conventional sweeping measures.

Along with MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters, the Avenger-class ships are the Navy's legacy mine countermeasures platforms. But soon another vessel could take over their mine-hunting duties. What is notable is that by doing so, these ships could solve another problem for the Navy, namely finding a purpose for its oft-maligned littoral combat ships (LCS).

Littoral Combat Ships: The Little Crappy Ships as Minesweepers

The Navy announced in late April that it placed the first Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP) aboard the USS Canberra (LCS-30). With the package now onboard this Independence-class LCS, the Navy will carry out the first MCM MP deployment in Fiscal Year 2025.

"The LCS Mission Modules program delivers to the fleet a modernized and integrated MCM mission package that removes Sailors from the minefield and allows for the future retirement of legacy MCM ships," explained Capt. Matthew Lehmann, program manager of the LCS Mission Modules program office.

As part of the embarkation process, the U.S. Navy has installed sensors, unmanned vehicles, support containers, and software that will enable sailors to execute MCM operations from the vessel. The embarkation marked the formal turnover of the MCM MP to the ship, signifying the crew is ready to train with and maintain the mission package as they prepare for its first deployment.

Suite of Systems

The MCM package is made up of an integrated suite of unmanned maritime systems and sensors, and it can be used to locate, identify, and destroy mines in the littorals while increasing the ship's standoff distance from the threat area. Embarked with the MCM MP, an LCS or another vessel of opportunity can conduct the full spectrum of detect-to-engage operations (hunting, neutralizing, and sweeping) against mine threats. These ships will use sensors and weapons deployed from the MCM Unmanned Surface Vehicle, an MH-60S multi-mission helicopter, and associated support equipment.

The sea service further announced that the MCM MP achieved Initial Operational Capability on March 31, 2023, following rigorous initial operational testing and evaluation of the full mission package, including its AN/AQS-20 system, during the fall of 2022 aboard the USS Cincinnati (LCS 20). With the deployment of the first MCM mission packages in Fiscal Year 2025, the Navy will begin the process of divesting from its aging MH-53 helicopters and Avenger-class MCS ships.

Littoral Combat Ship

Perhaps the U.S. Navy has finally found a mission suited to its "crappy little ships."

Author Experience and Expertise: Peter Suciu 

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu. You can email the author: [email protected].

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