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Littoral Combat Ship

Concept of Operations

Navy Warfare Development Command

February 2003


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Naval Power 21... a Naval Vision, approved by the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps in October 2002, describes the current shared vision for the Navy and Marine Corps. It articulates in part that

"...our forces will use the sovereignty of the sea and enhanced networked sea basing to operate without restrictions."

The vision is based on three fundamental pillars:

"Assuring sea based access worldwide for military operations, diplomatic interaction, and humanitarian relief efforts."

"Projecting power to influence events at sea and ashore both at home and overseas."

"Transforming concepts, organizations, doctrine, technology, networks, sensors, platforms, weapon systems, training, education, and our approach to people."

Sea Power 21, the Navy element of Naval Power 21, conveys the vision of a Navy that will be sea based, deployed worldwide, operating near foreign shores, projecting defense for the United States and allied forces and prepared to strike and remain engaged throughout a conflict. Sea Strike, Sea Shield and Sea Basing are the three pillars that support these warfighting concepts.

Sea Power 21 is grounded in current capability and force structure. Sea Power 21 describes ships, aircraft, submarines and units connected through a netted and distributed architecture. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a member of the family of future surface combatants, plays an integral role in the Sea Shield component of Sea Power 21 - that is, the projection of defensive power from the sea.

LCS will contribute to Sea Shield through its unique capability to respond quickly, to operate in the littoral environment, and to conduct focused missions with a variety of networked off board systems. The antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures and surface warfare missions associated with Sea Shield, will be enhanced through the employment of a distributed LCS force. Conduct of these missions, along with persistent surveillance and reconnaissance, will be the LCS contribution toward assuring access for the Joint force. LCS also will directly support Sea Strike operations by enabling forced entry for Joint power projection forces. This would include support to the Marine Corps and Special Operations Forces. LCS will be an enabler of Sea Basing by providing security for Joint assets and by acting as a logistics element for joint mobility and sustainment.

The LCS program specifically responds to guidance contained in 2002 Defense Planning Guidance: Fiscal Years 2003-2007 (DPG). The DPG mandates that the Navy develop the "capability to maintain an Aircraft Carrier Operating Area clear of submarine-delivered and floating mines." The Fleet also must "improve the capability to destroy or evade large numbers of submarines operating in littoral areas," and must develop "the capability to destroy large numbers of small anti-ship cruise missile-armed combatants, or armed merchant vessels in littoral areas, without relying on carrier-based air."

LCS sets in motion the capabilities that assure access to littoral regions and austere ports. In fulfilling Defense Planning Guidance, the LCS program enables the Joint Maritime Component Commander's persistent presence and power.


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The U.S. Navy is well positioned to continue performing in its global roles that range from presence operations to full-spectrum power projection. As part of a Joint force, the Navy brings formidable capabilities to fulfill a wide range of military options: air, surface and undersea surveillance; mobility and sea basing; command and control; mobile, flexible and responsive weapons systems; information operations; amphibious and vertical assault operations; Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) protection; sanctions enforcement. The Navy also plays a key role in sustaining peacetime confidence in the United States by frequent proactive conduct of humanitarian assistance, medical support, non-combatant evacuation, and by participation in exercises and training with allies and coalition partners.

The Littoral Niche Player Challenge

To accomplish our peacetime and combat missions, the concept of forward area dominance has become a key tenet of our national strategy and of Naval operations. With an adversary that is becoming more competitive for a much smaller investment, achieving this dominance over the "target set" of advanced littoral area denial systems will not be easy. Many of these systems are specifically built to deny the U.S. the ability to project power. A review of today's open source defense literature highlights the tremendous proliferation of many relatively inexpensive and commercially available systems, as well as the propagation of revolutionary advanced technology that will make future threat capabilities even more deadly and tougher for the Joint Commander to know where to position power projection forces at optimum locations and times.

In addition to the difficulties of navigating in foreign waters (especially at night, in shallow areas, and in poor weather), the littorals shelter unique threats, such as submarines in shallow water, minefields, and small craft that may hide among civilian shipping in preparation for a coordinated multi-unit attack. These and other threats -- employed by an asymmetrically thinking enemy that uses readily available off-the-shelf technology to exploit the seams and vulnerabilities in our current force mix - are the exigencies of Sea Shield's battlespace access component.

The challenge of access and the requirements to perform missions across the operational spectrum - including logistics, medical support, humanitarian assistance in inhospitable areas, non-combatant evacuation operations, force protection, and maritime interception / SLOC patrols - suggest that new capabilities may be needed to rebalance the fleet. The Navy could task the current force structure with these new littoral missions - but there are significant risks and costs associated with using expensive, high-end, power projection platforms against the enemy's fairly inexpensive air, surface, and undersea platforms with their associated combat and information technologies. Current fleet assets are sized for, and tasked with high-end missions and the associated training requirements to prepare for them. Declining force numbers further impair the ability of our capital ships to perform additional access missions. Further, it is unlikely that we would, in the foreseeable future, be able to afford the numbers of multi-mission, high end ships it would take to fill the gaps in needed littoral capabilities.

The access mission in the littoral suggests that a new type of platform - survivable, versatile, and less expensive - and comes early to the fight, and that it helps set the stage for sustained situational awareness. To develop access when needed (from peacetime through combat operations), to perform frequent non-combat related missions and to integrate into Joint planning and execution will require such a platform, outfitted with an optimally balanced battery of modular on and off board systems.

An effective Navy response to countering the littoral threat is the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). LCS, in groups, would serve as a complementary force multiplier to existing and programmed littoral capabilities, and would effectively and efficiently exploit maturing networks, off board systems, and advances in platform technology. The LCS force will be:

  • a distributed force deployed in groups, as compared to single, multi-mission capable ships
  • modular in design, mission flexibility, innovative crew manning
  • open architecture
  • interwoven, both tactically and operationally, with traditional power projection forces
  • able to integrate with and to leverage all-service information gathering and targeting capabilities.


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Effective operations in the littoral will be characterized by speed, agility, integration with off board systems, survivability and signature control, for both the littoral force and individual platforms. Self-deployability (blue water endurance) is needed to allow the platforms to get to the contested area without the need for valuable and scarce open ocean transport or the support of an ever-present mothership. As with most craft, range and endurance is dependent upon the type of operations being conducted. A self-deployment range of at least 3500 nautical miles would ensure a quick transfer to another theater. This degree of endurance also would be invaluable for various, and, at times, lengthy mobility missions.

Thus, at the operational level, future force formulations should include a large number of networked, geographically dispersed platforms and off board systems that complement power projecting multi-mission ships. This future force must also be able to efficiently conduct the frequently required low-end missions and tasks that are less combat-related.

Distributed combat power in numbers

Wargames and field experimentation have demonstrated the value of distributing combat power among modular-mission platforms - small surface craft with reconfigurable on and off board systems which are networked to warfighters. Such craft create comparative advantage over an adversary because of many factors:

  • Enemy area denial capabilities are dismantled with reduced risk
    • reduced numbers of personnel at risk
    • reduced percent of combat power at risk
    • reduced replacement cost of off board systems
  • The enemy's ISR and targeting problems become more complex
  • Higher staying power in the littoral is achieved (nominally, the effort expended to locate and to mission kill elements of a distributed force would be greater than that necessary to locate and to kill a single, multi-mission platform)
  • Network and combat power survivability increase (through distribution of information and processing, as well as weapons firing, both of which permit graceful degradation of capability)
  • Maneuver is enhanced (earlier and greater massing of effects vice attrition, dispersal of forces, envelopment of enemy)
  • The Joint force is enabled to conduct simultaneous warfare operationsvice sequential rollback of area-denial capability, which would then be followed by power projection and other military operations
  • Rapid response for early situational awareness or for antisubmarine or anti-surface attack ("pouncer") missions.
  • Creating access to coastal areas, islands, and to ports that currently cannot accommodate larger combatants (enabled by LCS shallow draft).
  • Network expansion through their ability to serve as command and control (C2) nodes throughout the spectrum of operations
  • Reduced force protection requirements
  • Enhanced covert/clandestine operations

In addition, LCS can enable more efficient conduct of frequently conducted missions such as SOF support, maritime interception operations (MIO), force protection (FP), humanitarian assistance (HA), logistics (LOG), medical support (MED), non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO). These "long burn" missions need platforms with endurance, speed, payload capacity, seakeeping and mission reconfigurability. LCS performing these missions will free up multi-mission platforms to continue robust preparations for potential power projection missions.

Distributed Off-Board Systems

Littoral combatants with these attributes have been part of Navy concept development and experimentation since 1999 - in the Title X Global wargame series, in the DARPA-sponsored Capabilities for the Navy After Next wargames, in Fleet Battle Experiments and in other field and lab experiments. In experimentation, they have had capabilities ranging from Information Operations to mine countermeasures to anti-submarine warfare to supporting special operations. Fleet Commanders and Battle Group Commanders have praised their attributes, and have authored a number of products relating to LCS including: systems design, CONOPS and mobility attributes. The key features desired: provide LCS in numbers, with flexible, modular mission architecture, and the associated on and off board systems to permit distributed sensing and distributed combat power. The operational bottom line is that with these capabilities, and by operating as a squadron or division that is networked to the power projection force, LCS will have dispersed their fighting and information exploitation capabilities, while simultaneously they will have increased the adversary's information gathering and targeting requirements. Desired effect? Assuring access for a wide range of military options.

The need for the aforementioned additional mission performance, particularly in SOF support and other less combat-related assignments such as Joint and Naval logistics, medical support, humanitarian assistance, non-combatant evacuation operations, and maritime intercept operations (to include SLOC patrols and sanctions support), is evident when comparing the ratio of these missions to more combat-associated action such as MCM, ASW and countering small boats. For the 29-year period ending 1999, almost 60 percent of the missions conducted by ships were "mobility" related missions. The current practice, using multi-mission combatant ships to conduct mobility missions because of a lack of alternatives, has consequences of high operating costs/mission, increased operational and personnel tempo, high maintenance expense of complex units, and reduced availability and readiness for combat-associated missions. With modularity and open architecture, LCS has an inherent capability to remove the MIW, SUW and ASW mission modules, freeing up space and weight capacity to support a host of other non-access missions. With modularity and reconfiguration options, LCS increases both the sustainability and the quality of support for the ASW, MCM and SUW missions, while addressing the need for the inherent, mobility-related mission performance.

Not platform-centric: a distributed force in the littoral

Littoral combatant ships, with the appropriate network and off board systems, would be able to operate independently, interdependently as part of a littoral operations force, or as deployers with multi-mission fleet forces (Carrier Strike Groups / Expeditionary Strike Groups (CSGs/ESGs)) in a wide variety of tasks. These would include the aforementioned ASW, MCM, and counter small boats, and also lengthening and broadening surveillance horizons, conducting operational deception, probing/testing enemy intentions and plans, hindering/complicating enemy attack preparations, deploying, monitoring and protecting sensors and weapons grids, performing Special Operations Forces (SOF) insertion and extraction, providing force protection, and conducting scouting / manned reconnaissance, marker operations, and combat search and rescue.

Mission Spectrum

Along the spectrum of military operations, ranging from routine, peacetime operations to combat, LCS has an active role. At the left side of the graphic above, LCS conducts operations that support development of long term situational awareness (ISR systems deployment and management), as well as nation assistance, medical support, MIO and humanitarian assistance. As events move toward the threshold of flexible deterrent options and diplomacy, the LCS squadrons/divisions continue - in concert with Joint forces which would be deploying - sensor deployment, management and exploitation.

At the higher end of the continuum, to include forced entry, strike operations and Ship-To-Objective Maneuver (STOM) / sustained ground war, LCS operations in the littoral employ deception, weather, and darkness as they conduct extensive Information Operations (IO) for battlespace access. Survivable, low signature ships and their unmanned and manned off board systems would seed the battlespace with sensors, decoys, countermeasures and weapons that would enable consecutive or concurrent CJTF-desired actions. Working hand-in-hand with power projection forces (including the carrier airwing, large combatant ships, submarines, Navy Special Warfare units and the associated mobility elements) LCS-deployed sensors and unmanned vehicles (some expendable) will assess combat effects, help reduce littoral clutter, provide target-quality tracks on new targets, and monitor adversary actions. Longer-range standoff weapons from the power projection force will engage fixed targets as needed throughout the operation. Early conventional and information operations strikes will target enemy surveillance, information, and defense systems, creating areas to which the adversary is denied access and from which campaign objectives can be achieved.

Survivability through a host of factors

The LCS force and individual platforms become less susceptible to detection and less vulnerable to attack through the employment of:

  • Agility (high speed in a variety of sea conditions and missions)
  • Speed: In ASW, speed would allow LCS to cut off an enemy submarine's avenues of approach, and would help in evading sub-fired torpedoes. Against airborne threats, it would allow LCS to more rapidly skirt an aircraft's search window and improve the effectiveness of antiship cruise missile countermeasures. Tactical speed benefits also would include faster wide-baselining for ESM and quicker combat search and rescue response.
  • Off board combat systems and on board sensors and weapons
  • Area maneuver by the large numbers of both the LCS force and its off board sensors and weapons
  • Powerful networking to power projection assets for increased awareness
  • Signature management
  • Force dispersal (decreases risk averseness in high threat regions

In addition to an LCS division's dispersion and maneuver, their operations in the complex and cluttered littoral environment will further serve to mitigate risk.

To summarize - maintaining the balance in U.S. favor

The Littoral Combat Ship is one element of building a balanced force - a force that can defeat adversaries that seek to adapt to our power projection strategies. Its numerical advantage, distributed nature and integration with existing and planned multi-mission forces can help shift the fulcrum point to reduce risk and to favor U.S. strategic, operational and tactical combat power. Our future will rely on a mix of traditional power projection forces along with the emerging LCS capabilities in order to successfully accomplish the full spectrum of future missions from HA, LOG and NEO to gaining, maintaining and reacquiring access for power projection. LCS and the related technology have the potential for transformational change: helping to enable a Fleet that conducts a wide variety of reduced-risk littoral operations in an information-rich environment.



Focused and continuing missions

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LCS most effectively operates throughout the continuum of operations as part of a distributed force, networked to off board systems and to power projection elements, from Carrier Strike Groups to Expeditionary Strike Groups to other Service capabilities for influencing events at sea and ashore. Two major categories of missions are envisioned:

  • Focused missions: The LCS will employ re-configurable modules tailored to specific missions such as ASW, MCM, and SUW, including high-density small boat attacks. As LCS generally operates as part of a distributed force of many LCS, groups of ships may be discretely configured so that more than one mission is conducted throughout the force. For example, one "squadron" (or division(s)) may be conducting ASW operations, while another is detecting and classifying sea mines.
  • Continuing missions: LCS will always self-defend, conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), deliver personnel and material, perform maritime interception operations/ SLOC patrols, conduct information warfare and participate heavily in force protection. The core capabilities of LCS (sensing, command, control, communications, processing capability and weapons) will support these continuing missions as well as off board systems which may be performing focused missions. It is important to note that continuing missions also are conducted in a distributed manner.

Employment scheme

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The number of LCSs available, the specific scenarios in different theaters, the requirements of the Global Naval Concept of Operations and other issues will affect how LCS is employed. The capability of LCS to operate in the littoral in peacetime, act as a primary ISR platform through periods of rising tension, conduct covert delivery of sensors and personnel, or support forced entry through active access assurance further influence the type of employment. Three basic employment methods are envisioned:

  1. Integrated with CSG/ESG: Several LCS, with tailored mission configuration(s), would deploy with a CSG / ESG to provide vanguard scouting, pouncing support, and other tasking as defined by the Commander.
  2. Division Operations: A number of LCSs would be forward deployed to maintain a continuous presence in critical theaters of operations. As a first response capability, the ships would build the situational awareness in the littoral in anticipation of sanction enforcement, forced entry, information operations, strike operations and land warfare. They would then integrate into Joint Task Force assets and continue the assured access mission.
  3. Limited Independent Operations: A single forward deployed LCS would be able to respond rapidly and conduct a wide range of inherent (mobility) missions in a low threat environment such as: SOF support, logistics, MIO, NEO, HA, medical, etcetera.

Open architecture, modularity, off board systems

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War games and Fleet field experiments have shown that a force of littoral combatants, with a wide-mission range of off board systems promote successful outcomes with reduced force protection assets, reduced attrition, reduced collateral damage and greater decision-making flexibility for the commander.

In addition to the core platform design elements of shallow draft, long endurance, high speed, automated systems ("Human Systems Integration"), and self-deployability, LCS modular capabilities will be maximized. These capabilities would include:

  1. open architecture
  2. modular, "plug-in" on board sensing, C4, weapons systems and displays
  3. modular, "plug-in" off board systems (including arrays, undersea/surface/air UVs and payloads, weapons)
  4. rapid modular reconfiguration capability
  5. manning by system specific-trained personnel
  6. mission packages that are scalable and transportable by air and sea
  7. adequate stowage and easy handling systems

LCS will have the mission systems and weapons that will provide both core self defense capabilities and the necessary compatibility with off-board sensors and networks. The mission systems that integrate a full range of off-board sensors will be the key enabling capability for the ASW, MCM and anti-small boat missions. The mission systems have four components - a host LCS platform, its organic associated mission systems, its networking capability and finally, the off board sensors/vehicles (focused mission modules). The mission systems include the Command, Control, Computing, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Targeting (C4ISR-T), weapons, and these systems must be made compatible with the widest range of both organic and non-organic off board systems required to perform the ship's missions.

The open architecture of the LCS combined with its modularity and re-configurability allows the commander to create a mission tailored access force from a group of LCS. Depending on the level of each type of threat (mines, submarines, small boats, cruise missiles, etc.) and the operational plan for access and its phasing, the LCS squadron/division can be shaped to meet access requirements. Elements of mission modules would overlap in their applicability and ability to be reconfigured - for example, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) would be core assets that would be common to all focused and continuing mission modules. Reconfiguration of internal electronics or the addition of a sensor pod would be a relatively simple and rapid task for the crew to "shift gears" for a new mission area - an essential element of the ship's modularity. Initial focus for off board systems may be ISR and to support, for instance, SOF insertion, in order to gain a full appraisal of area denial infrastructure before dedicated MCM, ASW or counter-small boat operations commence. As threats are suppressed, sustainment, force protection and escort tasks may be necessary, and the associated changes to modules would be required.

The off board sensor payload carried by LCS is essential in assuring Navy and Joint access, particularly versus the potential "showstopper" area-denial capabilities of submarines, sea mines, surface craft high-density attacks, shore-launched torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles. The littoral combatant exploits speed, signature management (to include stealth), agility, maneuver, the knowledge from the expeditionary network, and an inherently designed modularity in its mission capability to emplace - normally in the contested littoral - those systems or personnel that will both sense and characterize the battlespace and changes to it, as well as provide remotely controlled or autonomous weapons capability. This sensor emplacement, which builds information and knowledge advantage for the warfighter, may be done clandestinely, covertly or overtly, may be part of an overall operational level plan or to achieve tactical aims, and should be accomplished across a wide enough geographic front to allow operations to be conducted in parallel along that front.

LCS, however, will not simply "emplace" sensors - it will support the full spectrum of making off board systems effective:

  • Deployment: the actual launch or dispatching of an array element or unmanned vehicle.
  • Management: the algorithm for processing which sensors or systems need attention of any sort at any time, and the determination of how to best accomplish this from a range of distances, considering operational and tactical circumstances.
  • Exploitation: the ability of LCS to operate as a node to take advantage of the data obtained from on board and off board systems in a network of deployed and reach back assets.
  • Refueling: fuel cell / battery replacement, liquid refueling, alternative energy methods of gaining more time and/or range from an off board vehicle. Would include a broader definition of rearming in the case of armed unmanned vehicles.
  • Repositioning: moving existing systems to better tactical advantage, in support of Commander's Intent, or to meet mission needs.
  • Recovering: bringing an unmanned vehicle or system back on board LCS for repair or maintenance or to retire the vehicle for a time. Precedes redeployment and may precede refueling and replacement depending on the tactical and logistics scenario.
  • Replacement: a substitution of an (or of many) off board system elements. The replaced component is not necessarily brought back aboard the LCS. Replacement may be necessary because of loss, enemy retrieval, expiration, disadvantageous location, etc.
  • Redeployment: the act of retrieving from stowage a previously deployed sensor or vehicle and deploying it on, under or over the sea.

This full service DMER5 (bulletized list, above) of off board systems requires LCS to have the launch, recovery, servicing, C4, crew and seakeeping capabilities appropriate to the individual tasks within the acronym.

Logistics for the platform and for the force

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LCS, unlike previous surface combatants, is envisioned to be a "seaframe," serving much the same purpose as an airframe for a reconfigurable aircraft or helicopter (or as an aircraft carrier with its reconfigurable air wing "module"). It will serve as a platform for "plug and play", mission packages that can be changed, modified, or removed in a short period of time. LCS will provide space, common open architecture, C4I, common control system for off board systems and unmanned vehicles, and seamless integration to ship services such as electricity, water, and air. Each module will utilize these common LCS capabilities through open interface, but would otherwise be self-contained, including logistics support and personnel. Modules would bring not only the personnel required to operate and maintain the mission equipment, but additional personnel to augment the core crew as required for tasks such as messing, admin, and medical support. Extra berthing and other facilities could be brought aboard and "plugged in" to the LCS hull, as well. Later LCS variants (as personnel become more proficient in operations and employment and as technology more integrates with human functions) would see reduced module detachments, relying on networking and autonomy.

Formalized logistics (which would include inter-theater lift, intra-theater lift, and other logistics type missions) is a potential additional focused mission. Because the Army and Marine Corps already have embraced this concept, LCS can offer a joint, shared capability. This logistics mission would exist even if LCS simply transported mission modules to/from the theater for reconfiguration of other LCS variants.

Basic module reconfiguration may be performed onboard and underway, necessitating the handling, stowage, tools and seakeeping to perform this task. Replacement or replenishment modules may be flown in, pre-staged in theater, reconfigurable at sea (CONREP/VERTREP), reconfigurable only in port or reconfigurable only in a shipyard type environment. Operational requirements will dictate the number and type of modules for a given scenario. Sea base or shore support for module reconfiguration / resupply will require Force Protection; the tyranny of distance from the operating area also is a potential factor.

Finally, each off board system / module must have some embedded onboard training (OBT) device to ensure crews remain proficient in the DMER5 of that module.

Organic weapons, force weapons and survivability

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LCS will require limited organic weapons to meet mission needs and for self-defense. Networking to power projection forces will allow LCS to employ force weapons for focused missions with LCS providing or managing the targeting sensors. Urgent attacks and targets of opportunity will require the LCS to have an organic weapons capability. Survivability is achieved by combining LCS characteristics of speed, agility, stealth and maneuver with organic sensors and weapons plus networked force capability - reach back assets provide an important component of LCS survivability.



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As crises develop, the primary role of LCS is to gain and maintain access for power projection and other follow on forces. LCS squadrons/divisions, which could have been developing situational awareness for perhaps months, would precede CSGs / ESGs in numbers to mitigate the coordinated, overlapping area denial threat. LCS will remain fully netted with the battle group - their capabilities being complementary. LCS will get "up close", and, as a force, deploy additional focused mission sensors to gain detailed knowledge of enemy threats and intentions, and to assure access and force protection during the transition from crisis to war. Power projection forces will position and maneuver accordingly, and use their combined arms against these threats. Littoral sea control - a haven of space, for a time of our choosing - will then be established. The reasons for littoral proximity are addressed in the figure below.

Rational for Littoral Proximity

The LCS force, networked with other platforms in the Carrier and/or Expeditionary Strike Group(s), will use their speed, agility, and ability to link to manned and unmanned surface, undersea and aerial craft to contribute to projecting force defense. From SUW (small boats) to the extremely rapid deployment of torpedo countermeasures precisely on an inbound threat vector, the LCS rapid response capability will allow new concepts of operations in sea control to ensure continuous access for the Joint force.

The Naval Transformation Roadmap phrases it as:

Text Box:

 Transforming Littoral Sea Control

 . Assure freedom of operations for coalition and joint forces anywhere, anytime

 . Assure access from the sea for joint forces in the face of surface threats, quiet submarines and mines

It is more than rapid response. LCS has built actionable knowledge advantage over the adversary. Operating in numbers across a wide front, LCS will use slow speeds (sounding like civilian fishing craft on diesel engines), low signatures, dispersion, and a powerful network to DMER5 sensor fields and to operate unmanned vehicles. Exploiting reduced visibility, poor weather, and clutter, other LCS will conduct spoofing or delaying missions, as well as support for Special Operations Forces. Off board systems will provide targeting-quality information on the location of enemy submarines, minefields, small boats, and coastal defense cruise missiles, as well as the other air and surface threats. LCS will then conduct operations in cooperation with power projection forces to defeat these threats in focused areas to create the battlespace necessary to meet the Joint Force Commanders needs and to provide options and flexibility to maneuver commanders.

Additional LCS conducting integrated operations will conduct similar focused missions in support of the Sea Base (discussion beginning on page 15) to prevent constraining the maneuver elements of the power projection force.

LCS-deployed sensors and processing will assess the effects created by friendly action, providing a vital feedback loop. Their stealth, high speed, numbers and broad front will prevent the enemy from effectively concentrating his targeting and weapons and offer few high payoff targets to the enemy. The reconfigurability of LCS will permit various LCS to have different focused missions, but their networked nature, synchronicity with Commander's Intent and distributed combat power will combine to overwhelm enemy ISR capability, dominate the tempo and foreclose enemy options.


LCS is a force multiplier designed to provide shallow water ASW capabilities while operating in a contested littoral environment. Leveraging the multiple distributed sensors netted together as part of a system of unmanned vehicles, LCS continuously exploits real time undersea data, and uses maneuver and deception to enhance the detection, classification, identification and targeting of enemy submarines, while reducing risk for both LCS and CSG / ESG assets.

LCS features many advantages in the conduct of littoral ASW - summarized below:

  • Because of its high sprint speed, shallow draft, and its ability to operate over the horizon in the conduct of ASW, the need for escort/protection of ASW forces is greatly reduced, allowing other assets to be freed up for power projection missions / other tasking.
  • The stealthy nature of USVs, along with their numbers, mobility, flexibility of employment and network capability contributes significantly in assuring that the already distributed LCS force reduces the time and the number of combatants needed to achieve and maintain access in focused littoral areas critical to power projection.
  • LCS contributes significantly to achieving undersea access versus quiet diesel-electric submarines, while minimizing risk through reduced human presence and the use of major combatants in threat areas.
  • LCS can provide increased undersea battlespace awareness with a high level of detection and/or denial probability.
  • With active torpedo defense technology, LCS can play a role analogous to an area air defense AEGIS ship. Operating inside 6000 yards of a carrier on an anticipated threat bearing (provided through the application of sensors emplaced by the LCS force), LCS can sprint with towed or deployed anti-torpedo capability to counter attacks from quiet diesel submarines. CSG assets, cued by the sensor grid, can then conduct urgent attack with precision.

LCS ASW characteristics

  • Aviation facilities to embark ASW helos and UAVs.
  • USVs (Medium and Small) deployed by LCS, equipped with a mix of weapons and sensors including active/passive dipping sonar, sonobuoys, UUV(S), Mk 50 torpedoes, and various types of mobile and/or fixed arrays;
  • Communication suite allowing LCS and its organic assets (helos, UAVs, USVs) to be fully networked
  • Additional berthing and hotel services modules to support aviation, ASW and unmanned vehicle detachments

LCS ASW Concept of Employment

  • LCS is intended to provide a first response, shallow water ASW capability.
  • Using its USVs, LCS adapts to a number of missions:
    • Laydown of USW sensor grid
    • ASW prosecution in contested waters/choke points
    • Barrier ops / sustain CVOA
    • Direct support to a CVBG, ARG and MPF in a littoral environment
    • Coincident support for the MCM mission - LCS operates in parallel and simultaneous missions with MCM forces and is designed to be part of a larger network of ASW systems within the ESG.
  • LCS combines with CSG / ESG assets to expand search areas and incorporate negative search information to permit longer uninterrupted power projection operations.
  • LCS load out is tailored to the mission, the area of operation, ROE and the desired mix within the flotilla of USVs.
  • LCS ships operate effectively grouped in pairs or triplets, pooling their resources for mutual support and for optimal tactical advantage and sustainment. Working this way will allow them the flexibility to detach as necessary to refuel the ship or to conduct DMER5 without hindering operations.
    • LCS area coverage in a contested littoral is sizeable and sustainable. Optimal results can be achieved when operating in pairs/triplets by combining USVs for better area coverage and sustainment.
    • LCS survivability can be optimized through mutual support and the use of very shallow waters and speed to its advantage. By conducting over the horizon and remote operation of unmanned vehicles, and by exploiting optimal geographic positioning under the CSG envelope of area coverage, it can minimize its vulnerability while gaining or maintaining access.


LCS provides the Commander with a first response mine detection and avoidance capability. The low observable nature of LCS off board systems coupled with the stealthy, survivable delivery platform (LCS), enable MCM operations to be conducted ahead of power projection forces with reduced need for escorts. This effort would open egress lanes for STOM, as well as enabling protection for amphibious forces. LCS will provide the currently non-existent capability to conduct MCM covertly by unmanned vehicles with significantly reduced need for local air and maritime superiority to protect the dedicated MCM force. Thus, the Navy gains an opposed MCM capability. This will allow MCM operations to commence earlier, reducing the timeline for access to the contested littoral thereby providing more options and flexibility to the Joint Force Commander. Undersea battlespace awareness will be significantly enhanced, particularly in the early stages of conflict and the extensive use of unmanned systems reduces risk by minimizing human presence in the mine threat area.

LCS MIW characteristics

  • Flight 0: Aviation facilities to embark MH-60S helos fitted with AMNS, RAMICS, ALMDS, AQS-20 and OASIS MCM systems.
  • C4ISR facilities to support the MIWC. The Command Center will include GCCS-M / MEDAL, NMWS and SIPRNET connectivity to enable the full range of MIWC command functions including reach-back.
  • A full range of autonomous and remote-controlled UUVs, USVs and VSW crawlers.
  • Facilities to support VSW EOD teams and Marine Mammal Systems.
  • Mine stowage and mine laying (along with other autonomous and/or remotely operated weapons) equipment.
  • Modules to support MIWC staff and aviation/ unmanned vehicle detachments.
  • Later flights would be outfitted with punch through capability (single-pass neutralization systems would be in addition to a necessary survey, detection, classification, ID capability)

LCS MIW Concept of Employment:

  • LCS conducts coordinated all sensor search to locate and neutralize (limited) mines and to establish Q-routes.
  • Opposed MCM:
    • Use off board systems to detect potential mine laying events (splash, bottoming transients, visual) and provide a quick response to mine laying activity.
    • DMER5 of MCM unmanned vehicles / off board systems for search, classification, mapping, identification, reacquisition, tagging and neutralization operations.
    • Clandestine insertion and support of VSW EOD teams and Marine Mammal Systems.
  • Mine laying at high speed for force protection or enemy delay / constraint - with pinpoint accuracy
  • Overt and clandestine bottom mapping and survey using USVs (e.g., Spartan Scout with sidescan sonar/RMS) and UUVs (e.g., LMRS/BPUAV) in areas of potential conflict. This supports:
    • Identification of potential mineable waters
    • Determination of bottom characteristics and non-mine bottom objects to enable later change detection.
    • Identification of waters favorable for MCM as suitable Q routes and amphibious operations areas
  • Laying of tripwire sensors to determine activity of potential minelayers
  • Maintenance of Q routes and port access through regular surveys and the monitoring and recording track history of potential minelayers.
  • Support of SOF in operations to tag mines and minelayers thus allowing mine/minelayer movement to be tracked and mine deployment patterns identified.
  • AMCM support operations for search, sweeps and neutralization


LCS provides the Navy with a minimum risk capability to defeat the small boat threat and, in fact, deny the enemy the use of small boats as a credible deterrent to ESG/CSG and to Sea Basing operations. LCS provides the Navy with a minimum risk capability to defeat the small boat threat and, in fact, deny the enemy use of small boats as a credible deterrent to CVBG operations. The LCS will use its speed and off board systems to set a layered defense against small boats, ensuring they are defeated before they can threaten naval access to the littoral. Through the deployment of unmanned sensors and weapons, coordination of targeting assets and LCS groups with point and area weapons engaging enemy small boat high-density attacks, the LCS force has the ability to prevent small boats from narrowing the Joint Force Commander's range of options.

LCS SUW Characteristics:

  • High speed to allow interception, screening, and self-defense.
  • Electronic deception capability to confuse radar-equipped small craft.
  • Helos and UAVs/UCAVs fitted with surface radar and high rate-of-fire guns and missile launchers
  • Small UAVs with search, track, target and shadow capability
  • Deployable surface and bottom acoustic and RF arrays to act as tripwire and early warning of threatening small boat activity
  • USVs that can lay tripwire sensors, conduct ISR missions and act as floating magazines with their guns / missiles targeted and launched by helos / UAVs
  • Short/medium range anti-ship missiles to engage enemy C2 platforms as point targets.
  • Area engagement capability through a large caliber short-range gun or high rate of fire small caliber gun with dispersal fire control system.
  • Deployment of systems such as aerostats and robotic airships to extend the horizon and provide a stable antenna farm (further keeping LCS signature low) versus low observable targets such as small, fast movers.

LCS SUW Concept of Employment:

  • LCS provides detection, tracking and attack of small boats via off board and organic sensors.
  • LCS builds and manages the search, track and ID to engagement problem, which creates a common operational picture (COP) in the littoral.
  • USVs deployed to lay tripwire sensors at small boat operating ports/harbors.
  • LCS deploy acoustic/RF sensors to provide early warning of significant small boat activity on likely approach axis.
  • Manned and unmanned aircraft launched to identify and target small boat formations.
  • LCS in groups use speed to maneuver for interception, deception, distraction, screening and break up of high-density small boat attacks.
  • LCS off board and organic sensors detect and track formations of small boats.
  • Larger vessels and aircraft (C2 nodes) are attacked as point targets using targeting data from helo/UAV with missiles launched from LCS and deployed USVs or by CSG / ESG assets.
  • High densities of smaller contacts are engaged as an area target using large caliber area weapons or high rate of fire smaller caliber weapons with wide dispersal patterns.

II. Inherent (mobility) and other missions support

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LCS Special Operations CONOPS

LCS will enable a wide range of Special Warfare missions. The modular, SOF-configured LCS will have the capability to embark a Navy Special Warfare task unit (NSWTU) consisting of approximately 80 SEALs, support personnel, and a Special Boat Squadron detachment, along with two 11-meter rigid-hulled, inflatable boats (RHIBs). The C2 functions will leverage the existing installed C4ISR capabilities, along with some more specialized dedicated SOF communications equipment, INTEL support and vehicles. The SOF capabilities can be rapidly assembled and loaded. Experimentation has shown that in less than 24 hours, MIWC staff can be disembarked, C4I space reconfigured, and a fully capable embarked NSWTU staff can be fully functional. Specific missions would include:

  • Beach Survey. Conduct night insert and recovery of NSW beach survey team in preparation for STOM phase.
  • VBSS. Supported VBSS scenarios with successful day and night launches/recoveries in sheltered waters. C4I space provides TU CDR with impressive situational awareness while directing VBSS operations.
  • Launch and recovery of 11m RHIB for various missions
  • Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) day and night launch and recovery.
  • UAV Operations. Embarking mobile UAV control van on mission deck allows control of SENTRY UAV. UAV video feed available to NSWTU CDR.
  • Fully Networked Operations. TCDL links with VPU P-3 in support of VBSS missions brings a wide range of off board ISR capabilities to SOF commanders.
  • Helicopter Operations. Fully capable of day/night flight operations in support of SOF mission, including insertion/extraction, VBSS, surveillance, etc.

Logistics / Sea Basing

High Speed Vessels (HSVs) have operated as surrogates for LCS and have proven the capability to embark large payloads, transport them at high speeds, and deliver - to austere, shallow water ports or at sea - credible and potent combat power ready to fight. The LCS potential to rapidly transport up to a battalion and its combat equipment in one trip is of great advantage to a combatant commander. The metrics observed, lessons learned and conclusions drawn from the USMC and Navy experiences with HSVs are scalable and transferable for the open architecture LCS. They include:

  • A rapid on load / off load design means a very quick turn around time increasing tempo and reducing vulnerability. Dependency on movements which traditionally have taken two to three weeks using airlift, spread out over several lifts with shifting priorities, on often unreliable schedules at high cost would no longer be necessary.
  • The capability for one lift to accommodate one battalion. Combat power is kept intact, with Marines and equipment riding together. Load and unload times for this capacity: under one hour.
  • The capacity to transport over 400 tons of equipment, along with passengers; 750 tons maximum deadweight: 970 Soldiers/Marines/SOF in comfortable airline-style reclining seats and 152 HMMWVs or 12 AAVPs and 20 LAVs. Multiple load combinations of tractor trailers, water tankers and similar support gear in vehicle deck with RO/RO vehicles/trailers.

Note: Current Air Mobility Command strategic airlift support (AMC) to move same number of Marines and equipment would require 14 to 17 military aircraft spread out over a 14- to 17-day period.

  • Combined greater than 40,000 square feet of storage space.
  • Sizable reduction in the number of aircraft flights into and out of air bases, decreasing the noise impact on politically sensitive communities. Estimated decrease from a single HSV is more than 200 flights annually.

Adapting from the HSV experiences, LCS as a logistics support platform is not limited to the increased area of maneuverability from the sea base to intermediate sustainment for forces ashore (i.e., a lilypad). The litany of capabilities of an open architecture LCS include modularized liquid transfer to multi-configurable bulk/solid container storage; cargo transfer to/from a combat logistics force ship; helicopter refueling (and, because of surface movement of most-needed commodities, a reduction in helo flight hour requirements). Moreover, Littoral Combat Ships could continue LOG, exercise & training, and forward sea-based forces support, while incorporating Humanitarian Assistance, medical and Non-Combatant Evacuation missions, necessary tasks that assure allies and coalition partners. The in-theater re-configurability gives it mission flexibility, and deck and stowage space and handling gear make short work of taking on (and offloading) various kinds of payloads.

Non-combatant Evacuation Operations / Humanitarian Assistance / Medical support

Quick reaction capability enabled by high speed and self deployability make the LCS ideal to respond to crises requiring medical support and Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, as well as for the ship to provide Humanitarian Assistance. Through robust communications, telemed capability would allow LCS to function as more than simply a MEDEVAC platform. Capability to embark modular food, water, medical, transport and berthing equipment will give LCS a unique ability to support many humanitarian, United Nations and peacekeeping tasks. Equipment embarked to support a humanitarian or medical mission might include:

  • Radiological services
  • Medical laboratory including: pharmacy, optometry lab, and cat scan
  • Mobile oxygen producing plant
  • Portal between twin hulls providing a lee in order to take on patients at sea
  • Four semi-trailer hospital bed facility
  • Six semi-trailers with fully equipped operating rooms
  • Four water tankers
  • Four food trailers
  • Four toilet/shower trailers
  • Six HMMWV
  • Eight to Twelve passenger buses

Maritime Interception Operations

LCS is easily configured for the MIO mission by embarking boarding party detachments with their RHIBs, weapons and support equipment. A C2 element may be embarked if the LCS is to act as the local MIO commander. Other organic LCS equipment that supports MIO operations are:

  • C2 (network connectivity to support MIO commander)
  • Surveillance of designated MIO OPAREA (radar, helo/UAV, EO/IR)
  • Identify tracks for interrogation / intercept (ESM, helo/UAV)
  • Interrogate COI/CCIO (VHF radio)
  • Intercept (High Speed)
  • Stop (Armed Helo, LCS Gun)
  • VBSS (multiple RHIB, Armed top cover helo, Boarding Parties)

LCS is deployed in the designated MIO OPAREA and conducts surveillance of likely COI / CCOI transit routes using organic sensors and organic air. Off board systems such as acoustic arrays and USVs may also assist surveillance efforts. EO/IR sensors and ESM are used to identify tracks and to enable 24/7 operations. Tracks of interest are interrogated via VHF radio and, once confirmed, further action to board is taken. LCS uses high speed to intercept, assisted by air assets (helo/UAV). Multiple LCS may participate in this, depending on the nature of the threat posed or by the mutual module support offered. Organic gun and armed helos are used to enforce stop orders to allow boarding to proceed. Rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), manned by boarding party detachments, are quickly launched with LCS automated launch and recovery system. Vessels are then diverted or released based on boarding party investigation.

One operational scenario might look like this:

A Sea Shield force, consisting of a six-ship LCS squadron and associated off board systems, is underway to investigate what may be violation of a U.N. brokered sanction on Country X. In this violation, maritime interception has been ordered as a means to investigate suspected arms shipments by a merchant vessel. Two UAVs, deployed from the LCS that are more than 200 nautical miles from the location, are vectored to intercept a suspected merchant vessel approximately 120 nm from Country X's coastline. The UAVs act as a satellite communications relay and conducts several bridge-to-bridge VHF radio calls to the ship. One UAV also deploys several smaller, autonomous UAVs - all netted to the larger airborne platforms, to the LCS and to power projection assets still many hours from the area. Over the radio, the master's remarks regarding his intentions do not coincide with his airship-radar-tracked course, and the visual data from the UAV now displays unusual topside activity. Analysis of this video (conducted in CONUS) suggests possible preparations for hostile action. Three LCS set an intercept course, and two hours later video shows small arms fire being directed toward the UAV, which takes evasive action, but which is hit nevertheless. In another two hours the combatant intercepts the merchant to enforce sanctions. Other UAVs, launched when it became apparent that the first was shot down, continued to provide radar coverage. The smaller UAVs continue to cover a wider surveillance envelope. Two LCS perform a hostile takedown of the ship, while a third sanitizes the area and provides area defense. After the arms dealers are subdued (the master, it turns out, was killed during a struggle shortly after the ship left its port of departure), the boarding team identifies an arms shipment that would be bound for Country X. The ship is disposed of in a manner directed by the Fleet Commander.

The distributed power of the network and combat systems permits operations characterized by relatively small risk, in terms of numbers of people at risk, percent of combat power at risk and the potential replacement costs.

Force Protection

LCS arrives with a complete force protection augmentation capability, with minimal set-up time. Each vessel can provide a platform base of operations to support standoff zone around USN ships. Level of force protection is scalable to threat and host nation considerations. LCS has organic capability to provide C2 for embarked boats, equipment and security force personnel. Equipment embarked includes:

  • Security force
  • 11m RHIBs
  • Working dogs
  • Armed helo
  • EOD mammal pool
  • Supports USCG HH-60 or FIRE SCOUT VTUAV
  • Boarding parties
  • Small craft interdiction
  • Naval Coastal Warfare
  • Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare

One possible operational scenario:

Advanced liaison personnel arrive and coordinate with host nation authorities / US country team. LCS arrives ahead of power projection assets - surveys transit route, harbor and ship berthing area including:

  • Explosives survey by EOD and Military Working Dogs as required
  • Establish security zone and procedures to ID
  • Inspect and clear vehicles and boats for approach to USN ships

LCS provides small boat stand-off zone for arriving USN ships during transit and while berthed. LCS augments ships force protection capabilities - provides full spectrum landside/waterside security for ship visits to foreign ports. Technology of modules permitting, distributed LCS also could serve in a traditional Navy area defense role, as discussed earlier (countering small boats, torpedo defense, etc.).


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The LCS role in theater situational awareness is a bonanza for Fleet Commanders. Powerful C4 - a design must - enables LCS to "reach out" and leverage U.S. and coalition experts and historical data. (The CONOPS assumes a network capable of performing desired push and pull of information.) Along the continuum of operations (routine through combat), LCS will provide the means to conduct precursor and combat-underway operations such as:

  • USW bottom surveys
  • route mapping
  • covert, clandestine, unmanned, remote and/or autonomous reconnaissance / scouting of potential OPAREAS (multiple phenomena-enabled)
  • future target analysis (optimum sensor placement, terrain limitations)
  • organic and unattended sensors monitoring and tracking of littoral activity - physical and communicative, commercial and military - to establish patterns and baselines from which extraordinary activity can be detected in the future
  • a full range of information operations missions, using appropriate modular capabilities necessary to support strategic, operational or tactical effects
  • early integration of subject matter experts for time-late information exploitation

The LCS niche is its ability to conduct a variety of tasks, in numbers, in the littoral environment enabled by a robust network.

A possible operational scenario:

Peacetime, and LCS are on routine forward deployment off the coast of Country X. Under the cover of darkness and poor weather, sensor grid elements are deployed by four squadron or division units, while another three from the squadron/division conduct operational deception and activity monitoring / intelligence collection. Months later, tensions begin to rise. The four module-deploying LCS retreat to a pre-arranged venue for off board system replenishment. The remainder of the squadron/division assets continue as before, and establish and maintain contact with friendly forces / partners. Environmental data is closely tracked in all operating domains. As flexible deterrent options are played out, the sensor grid is augmented and expanded, as well as the number of LCS. Along with building situational awareness, the level of information operations increases dramatically. Identification and tracking becomes a priority, and remote and autonomous systems are deployed, with relay to CSG / ESG elements, as well to as appropriate theater/Fleet Commanders for analysis. This world class data exploitation leads to refinement of off board systems deployment, and, ultimately, for precise targeting, to permit high value and power projection units to avoid enemy area denial, or to enhance the application of effective non-kinetic measures. As forced entry for ground and Air Force assets becomes necessary, LCS identify and neutralize mines, control and/or alleviate the small boat threat, and localize and prepare for prosecution of diesel submarines. All LCS continue as a C2 node in the network and persist in sustaining the sensor grid.


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The current world environment requires us to operate in the backyards of tough, unyielding zealots. They have acquired and will continue to build an inventory of sophisticated and overlapping sensors and weapons to oppose our requirement for access - to be where we need to be for a wide range of military options. What we want is unrestricted admission to the battleground's domains of time and space. We need to operate freely in the area we choose, at a time of our choosing - and we need to be able to control the nature and the flow of information across the spectrum. We must attempt to ascertain the enemy's intent, true centers of gravity, and vulnerabilities. We need a force that can be in charge of the operational tempo. For this, we must have access.

They don't want us there. They want us to stand off, farther and farther. To what degree do we influence events at sea and ashore - at a time and place of our choosing - if we are compelled to remain at arm's length for every power projection transaction?

The Littoral Combat Ship is driven by 21st Century warfighting imperatives that compel the Navy to operate in the contested littoral and to significantly improve its ability to counter growing anti-access threats. LCS will contribute to the success of future joint operations by playing a role in gaining, sustaining and exploiting littoral maritime superiority to ensure access for a wide range of U.S. military actions - including the not trivial requirement to extend combat reach. Forward deployed, innovatively manned, and operating in groups fully networked, LCS will host a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles, and exploit highly advanced stealth, survivability, automated systems and seakeeping ability to each other, to maximize the Joint warfighter's ability to conduct operations throughout the littoral.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias