The Navy has launched a special Small Surface Combatant Task Force to study alternative proposals for the Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, as directed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The March 13 memo, signed by Navy acquisition executive Sean Stackley and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, directs the new task force to consider alternative proposals to procure a “capable and lethal small surface combatant generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.”
The Small Surface Combatant Task Force, or SSCTF, will explore potential new designs as well as modifications to the existing LCS platform, according to the memo. Led by Marine Corps Systems Command, the task force will include large elements from Naval Sea Systems Command and the Navy’s surface warfare requirements office.
The memo comes on the heels of an announcement by Hagel that the LCS program would be reduced from 52 to 32 ships, leading the Navy to come up with these alternative proposals for the future of the LCS program.
The SSCTF will look at the full range of requirements for the small combatant to include speed, survivability, lethality, weapons and communications equipment.
“The direction is to find a more lethal and survivable ship. The task force is taking a hard look at the lethality and the offensive nature of the ship with survivability emphasized as well. Affordability is a common factor throughout this process,” a Navy official said.
Lethality assessments are directed to considered air, surface and undersea threats and take emerging threats into consideration. One of the principal reasons for this program is that the LCS was criticized for not being survivable enough.
Defenders of the program have pointed to its speed and weaponry, saying that the ship was intended for multi-mission shallow water assignments and was never meant to function as a destroyer. That being said, the task force’s exploration of a small surface combatant is heavily assessing survivability and lethality as key requirements parameters, according to the memo.
The SSCTF is directed to deliver an analysis plan to Stackley and Greenert by March 31 of this year and have their overall findings completed by the end of July, 2014.
The memo instructs the newly formed task force to perform a side-by-side trade space requirements analysis of the LCS and a frigate with a mind to determining what will be best for this new ship.
The mission of LCS is the focus of the task force because the alternative proposals could lead to specs for a new, heavier and larger ship that is more heavily armed and closer to a frigate.
Or, the Navy could build upon the mine and submarine hunting technologies built onto the current LCS platform. In fact, the alternative proposal effort may seek to combine these attributes into a single ship.
Affordability is a consistent tenet woven throughout the memo and held up as a standard informing and guiding decisions regarding the development of the new small surface combatant being taken up by the task force.