Nonetheless, the Navy is apparently growing concerned about the LCS’s shortcomings. In December 2015, it downsized the order from fifty-two to forty ships. Then in 2016 the Pentagon announced the last twelve LCSs in the order would be upgraded to serve as “fast frigates” featuring extra armor, combined antisubmarine and surface-warfare modules, and tweaked armament. However, the up-gunned and up-armored ships will likely cost as much as more capable vessels, lose much of their speed advantage, and still currently lack over-horizon antiship missiles.
Proponents of the little ships are optimistic the platform is flexible enough to adapt currently missing capabilities in long-range missiles or mine-warfare capability. Harpoon missiles were tested on an LCS in July 2017, for example, and the Naval Strike Missile and Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles are also to be evaluated. Eventually, and at great cost, all the bits of tech may fall into place for the LCS to perform as expected. However, the Navy is apparently looking ahead to develop tougher and more heavily armed frigates in its FFG(X) program, to succeed boats conceived in a very different threat environment.
Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.
Image: U.S. Navy