Drop “Littoral Combat”: America’s 17 Independence-class ships are surveillance frigates

Throughout the debate over the battered and now widely ridiculed concept of the Navy’s “Littoral Combat Ship”, the Independence The littoral-class combat ship has been misnamed and constantly misunderstood. The Independence The class trimaran is best described as a surveillance frigate capable of propelling America’s cunning at sea.

While the old-school naval warfare planners of America’s cruiser / destroyer community have tied themselves in knots to make the aluminum trimaran a conventional “enemy swap” surface combatant, electronic lethality and Intelligence gathering potential of these flexible and comfortable and fast craft has been constantly overlooked.

Properly equipped, a Independence The class surveillance frigate can serve as an electromagnetic warfare threat, collecting everything from tactical target data to strategically relevant emissions. Potentially add a Marine Corps reconnaissance element, and things could get interesting.

The Navy’s current rush to add ship-killing naval attack missiles to the littoral combat ship fleet may offer a boost to conventional lethality, but these days more subtle surveillance data and “lethality” Sophisticated electronic attack capabilities that offer are no joke. .

Although the new missiles aboard a Independence Class ships will likely never be used more than once, America’s grizzled group of old Aegis-loving surface warriors love combat drive. But after each ship receives some low-cost adjustments to tweak the spectrum, combatant commanders around the world will demand constant access to the Independence Class intelligence gathering capabilities.

Make a few simple changes:

The main “littoral combat” missions of mine and submarine warfare are, at heart, sensor deployment and information gathering exercises, so why not extend the mission and make protected intelligence gathering and intelligence gathering? electromagnetic warfare are the real future of the Independence Class?

The aluminum trimaran’s additional combat capabilities demand better horizon-aiming capabilities anyway. Taking advantage of the long-range naval attack missile, the range of more than 100 nautical miles of the Independence The new class weapon extends beyond the range of the ship’s original sensor suite.

So, with that in mind, a first step towards boosting the Independence Class lethality in the electromagnetic spectrum could well be replacing the ship’s existing Sea Giraffe radar with Raytheon Technologies’ scalable enterprise air surveillance radar. That exchange expands the ship’s sensor range, providing better support for the new anti-ship missiles. But Raytheon’s new radar also offers additional capabilities and, with Raytheon’s little radar already programmed to go aboard the new Constellation CSmall frigate, buying a few extra sets now will help accelerate the development of the radar training infrastructure, boost platform compatibility, and lower the unit cost of the already expensive ‘old school’ multi-mission frigate.

Add a cooperative engagement capability, high-bandwidth datalinks, and a secure organic on-board command and control facility, an upgrade Independence The spy ship can pump data from a wide range of sensors into multi-agency data networks for analysis, guidance or action.

The requirement exists. Independence The surveillance frigates are already doing good service in the southern oceans, supporting the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction operations. But a modified Independence The surveillance frigate can do a better job servicing an extensive and persistent sensor network, potentially embarking on redeployable submarine sensors, a set of unmanned Boeing coastguards. ScanEagles or the suite of heavy duty surveillance drones from some other agency.

With a few other electronic adjustments, these next-generation electronic greyhounds can easily send target data to US Coast Guard interceptors or other friendly law enforcement assets. With plenty of space and speed, the Independence The surveillance frigate can help manage the regional data collection network as it circulates among the Coast Guard’s interdiction fleet, transferring detainees, or handling other ancillary things that reduce the effectiveness and “time on station” of the Coast Guard drug patrols.

Farther out to sea, when a swarm of China’s militarized fishing boats descends into friendly waters, a Independence The class surveillance frigate can be deployed and work with sensors capable of tracking the widely dispersed fleet in great detail, allowing friendly countries to identify, arrest or even sink heinous violators. Equipped with traditional weapons and electronic attack capabilities, a Independence The class surveillance frigate has the potential to disable and detain individual ships, or take less noticeable measures immediately to degrade the range or effectiveness of China’s militarized horde of fishing vessels as they sweep, like Genghis Khan, out of ports. mainlands of China.

Lessons learned from these law enforcement operations can then carry over to the Mediterranean, the Western Pacific, and the more “sporting” spots of Taiwan and some other democratic island nations that China is busy destabilizing.

There is much work to be done.

Instead of despairing of how the Independence The class is not a conventional frigate and then sidelined, the Navy needs to let the trimaran surveillance frigate play in the Distributed Maritime Operations battlespace. In contested waters, even large multi-carrier battle groups will appreciate any additional security that the electronic trimaran’s persistent surveillance bubble may offer.

TS Kuhn would approve:

Of course, all of this may never happen. The old Aegis mob is a cocky bunch, too focused on battle group defense, and they’re happily urging America to spend the money from the destroyer Aegis to get a conventional frigate. A former captain of the destroyer Aegis, Carlos Del Toro, awaits confirmation to become the next Secretary of the Navy.

Although they are good fighters, their vision is often too narrow. At its peak of service, the old Aegis mob despised its less capable rivals, poking fun at the rusting Soviet Union general intelligence auxiliary ships, intelligence-gathering “AGI” trawlers, laughing at the French. Floreal Class surveillance frigate and dismissing the critical contributions of the Falklands War by the ice patrol ship HMS Endurance. They view minor programs and missions with disgust, overlooking the handful of WWII-era destroyer escorts who were lucky enough to become successful. High speed transportor APD.

But these are precisely the types of ships that can shape the future of the 17 Independence Class ships that will remain in the Fleet once the first two experimental Independence Class ships, the USS Independence (LCS-2) and USS Crowned (LCS-4) are out of order.

As a “littoral battle ship”, the Independence The class will do well, benefiting from the Navy’s current focus on reliability, methodically solving mundane problems in certain parts. But, to really work, the ships need a surveillance-focused reboot, along with the relevant resources so that creative and astute users can show the repressed and risk-averse leaders of America’s legacy cruise / destroyer fleet. that ships without vertical missile launch systems can actually fight at sea as well.

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