Betting on LCS in the South China Sea: on the advantages and disadvantages of coastal warships of the US Navy
On Monday, US Vice President Kamala Harris boarded the USS Tulsa in Singapore. This visit immediately drew attention to the ships of the class, which causes perhaps the most fierce debate about the appropriateness of its existence. We are talking about Littoral combat ship - coastal combat ships designed to perform a wide range of functions near the coast: cargo transportation, mine reconnaissance, providing special operations, protection from enemy submarines. Some experts believe such (littoral) ships are real weapons against China, others see them as a “floating problem”.
In the US Navy, the LCS is praised for its high speed and maneuverability. But critics are convinced that the ships are not very effective, as they have weak weapons and are prone to mechanical damage. As for Vice President Harris, it would be foolish to expect her to be well versed in coastal warships. Therefore, the speeches of the second person in the White House are based on what representatives of the US naval command say to her. The latter, in turn, are actively promoting ships of the LCS class.
The US Navy is convinced that the LCS will play a very important role in the future in providing protection against the Chinese threat in the South China Sea. Vice Admiral Bill Mertz, commander of the 7th fleet The United States until June, at the beginning of 2021, talked about plans to deploy up to eight LCS ships in the western Pacific Ocean, including four of them based in Singapore.
Naval commanders describe the LCS as ideal ships for the South China Sea. For example, they can enter smaller ports, which compares favorably with the destroyers of the US 7th Fleet. To increase the capabilities of the LCS, the US Navy has begun upgrading their firepower. Up to eight attack missiles are placed on board the ship.
However, many analysts are asking what exactly the coastal ships could do in the event of a naval conflict with the Chinese Navy. Now the Chinese fleet is developing very rapidly, and it is simply stupid to rely on the capabilities of eight coastal ships in a collision with the largest fleet in the world. Karl Schuster, an instructor at the University of Hawaii and a retired US Navy captain, said the LCS "won't last long" if faced with the Chinese Navy in combat.
Another expert, Blake Herzinger, finds it ludicrous to say that a large Chinese navy might be intimidated by a coastal ship with eight missiles. In addition, the analyst draws attention to the mechanical breakdowns of coastal ships, which limit the possibility of their deployment at the designated location. On the other hand, Herzinger acknowledges that the ship can be used to escort larger combat platforms such as destroyers or cruisers, as well as to demonstrate the very fact of the American presence. But these are auxiliary and symbolic tasks that cannot be compared with the independent conduct of hostilities at sea.
Siddharth Kaushal calls the LCS a "replacement" for the new frigates that were ordered by the US Navy in 2020 and are due to enter service in five years. However, only two ships have been ordered, and this, according to Herzinger, testifies to the very serious limitations of the combat and financial capabilities of the US Navy in the Pacific region. The American fleet can be called a “shrinking fleet,” Herzinger makes a disappointing forecast, and in this case it really remains to rely on the LCS, since the US Navy simply does not have anything else in this region.
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- Photos used:
- Twitter/U.S. Navy