Photo: General Dynamics
The Navy’s much-awaited Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will fall below any expectations of standing up to a shootout with China if things get out of hand in the Asia Pacific region.The Pentagon is actively monitoring signs of Chinese aggression towards neighbours around the South China Sea, with countries in the region solidifying military partnerships with the U.S.
The Navy’s “fast, agile” LCS wouldn’t survive a war with China and here’s why:
The Pentagon’s independent Department of Operational Test & Evaluation evaluated the LCS program and the Navy’s plans to acquire 55 for its fleet. Contrary to the vessel’s designation of being a “Combat Ship,” the department’s assessment concluded the “LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment.”
Adm. Greenert told reporters yesterday, “These are not large surface combatants that are going to sail into the South China Sea and challenge the Chinese military; that’s not what they’re made for.”
Instead, the LCS fleet will “free up” the Navy’s more valuable warships by taking over the job of port visits, keeping tabs on maritime security, offering humanitarian aid, countering piracy and general “partnership-building missions.”
But the Navy’s official description of the LCS says something else about the new ship’s class: “It is designed to defeat asymmetric ‘anti-access’ threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.”
Adm. Greenert revealed he wouldn’t intend to send a Littoral Combat Ship to an anti-access area — not on its own anyway. He said the LCS would likely sail in groups of two to three to sweep mines under the protection of a more combat-suitable vessel such as an Aegis destroyer.
The LCS isn’t a total bust in the face of China though. Because of its lack of a combat threat, it could actually prevent maritime tensions from flaring up. A non-threatening presence of a relatively small ship — but with the ability to move quickly — can be a great asset to the U.S. in keeping any Asia Pacific maritime conflicts at bay.
Freedberg puts everything into perspective by saying exercises like port visits and humanitarian assistance can serve just as well, with these kinds of partnership-building efforts being “the best way to prevent a crisis from erupting in the first place.”
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