by DAVID AXE
Last year former naval analyst and incoming Navy official Bob Work told me the Navy’s controversial near-shore Littoral Combat Ship was “one of the best deals the U.S. Navy has made since World War II.” “The U.S. Navy is way ahead of the curve,” he said of the 3,000-ton fast, modular vessel, designed to carry small Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boats and robots. The Navy is buying three LCS in 2010, in addition to four previously paid for.
Navy Commander Don Gabrielson, skipper of the first LCS, said his vessel would make an excellent pirate-fighter, using its speed, boats and robots to spot and chase down the seaborne bandits. LCS is also supposed to excel at finding and destroying underwater mines.
Work pointed out that other navies are rushing to buy vessels similar to our LCS, and that should count as an endorsement of the U.S. Navy’s intentions to commission at least 55 of the ships. The Israelis announced they wanted a variant of our Lockheed-built LCS. The Brits are studying a similar “modular” small warship. But it’s the French, arguably the world’s best pirate-fighters, who are most serious about littoral warships, Work said:
The French navy thinks very hard about small ships. They just completed a big study that said, basically, if you look at what’s happening in the world, the demand for high-end combat ships is going down. The demand for anti-piracy patrol ships is going up. So they designed two different kinds ships: the “Gowind” corvette [pictured -- ed.] and FM400 combat-and-control flexible frigates. Both come in four different sizes. The things they said they absolutely had to have, the most important design aspect … was ability to deploy RHIBs and Unmanned Surface Vessels.
At the IDEX military trade show this year, French firm ECA unveiled another LCS-style warship, the Simba 45, emphasized for mine warfare. Just 145 feet long, with a 15-man core crew, Simba 45 is a fraction the size of the LCS, but is meant to carry surface and under-sea robots, much like LCS. For critics who’ve said LCS is too big for near-shore fights, Simba represents a vision of a smaller alternative.
(Art: Meret Marine)
Warships International Fleet Review: Facing a Shrinking Future
Meet the Navy’s Near-Shore “Influence Squadron”
How Fast Is Fast Enough for the Navy’s New Warship?
Video: How the Littoral Combat Ship Will Fight Pirates
Littoral Combat Ship = Mini Gator
Obama’s Defense Priorities